Ten Things That Totally Sucked About The Media In 2009
So, earlier today, I offered up the Ten Things That Did Not Suck About The Media in 2009. You know what's coming now! The stuff in 2009 that straight up sucked canal water! Let's hit it and quit it.
CHRIS MATTHEWS' "OH GOD" MOMENT
Back in February, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal provided the rebuttal to an address from President Barack Obama, where he would go on to express his passion for not paying attention to volcanoes. If you were watching MSNBC that night, you were treated to the sound of somebody muttering "Oh, God" as Jindal walked to the cameras. That person was Chris Matthews, who isn't exactly known for being able to keep his internal monologue from manifesting itself externally. He offered this weird explanation for his outburst:
I was taken aback by that peculiar stagecraft, the walking from somewhere in the back of this narrow hall, this winding staircase looming there, the odd anti-bellum [sic] look of the scene. Was this some mimicking of a president walking along the state floor to the East Room?
Blame it on the architecture!
CNN BLOWS THE BALLOON BOY STORY
There were a multitude of reasons to put CNN on this list in 2009. There was that time they called an 84-year old woman, stuck waiting tables in this recession was "lucky." There was CNN reporter Susan Roesgen pointlessly manufacturing a confrontation at a Tea Party protest so she could work out her grievances with Fox News. There was also that time they fact-checked Saturday Night Live, because they are just so FEARLESS. But for me, the Golden Moment came when CNN took credit for the balloon boy scoop THAT THEY ACTUALLY MISSED WHEN IT HAPPENED.
GEORGE WILL ABUSES WAPO'S READERS, WITH WAPO's PERMISSION
The Washington Post's "worst opinion section in America" offered their readers a healthy amount of pure, sneering contempt this year, but they truly hit their stride when they allowed George Will to make a malformed argument about climate change in a column that "contained outright misrepresentations of scientific data, on a level that goes far beyond honest differences of opinion." Fred Hiatt idiotically responded by saying:
If you want to start telling me that columnists can't make inferences which you disagree with--and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject--I think that's really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject -- so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don't make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn't be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.
Yes! Let's have a debate between people who pursue actual science and draw conclusions from their evidence and a columnist that counters by saying, "No, no. What you really mean to conclude is the opposite, because I say so!"
George Will would go on to yammer about pants. Fred Hiatt would go on to provide readers with a column criticizing the Nobel committee for not giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a dead Iranian protester, blissfully unconcerned with the fact that the Nobel committee do not, have not, and never will give the award posthumously. Why is circulation at the Post down again?
GLENN BECK ATTACKS NEW YORK CITY OLIGARCHITECTURE
Of all the captivatingly bizarre segments in which Glenn Beck indulged his paranoia gland, none were as magical as that time he went around New York City, yelling at the buildings for being socialists.
MARK WHICKER PENS THE MOST TASTELESS COLUMN OF THE YEAR
Earlier this year, Jaycee Dugard was rescued after years as the captive of her abductor and rapist, Phillip Garrido. How to make sense of her terrible privation? Well, if you are Orange County Register sports columnist Mark Whicker, you dust off that listicle of great sports moments of the decade that's been moldering in some file cabinet and use it as a disgusting framing device for human tragedy!
It doesn't sound as if Jaycee Dugard got to see a sports page.
Box scores were not available to her from June 10, 1991 until Aug. 31 of this year.
She never saw a highlight. Never got to the ballpark for Beach Towel Night. Probably hasn't high-fived in a while.
And so commences the most flat out INSANE piece of writing that was belched into this world in the past calendar year. Here's how it ends: "Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard." And then, you start bleeding from the brain.
O'REILLY CREEPILY STALKS AMANDA TERKEL
Here's the backstory. Bill O'Reilly was asked to deliver a keynote speech at a luncheon for an organization that raises money for victims of rape. That was strange, because previously, O'Reilly had publicly been contemptuous of rape victims. A blog called NewsHounds picked up on this and produced some pieces about it. The matter got more attention when MSNBC's Keith Olbermann picked up on the piece and took to the airwaves to repeatedly bash O'Reilly over it. Because of Olbermann's broadcasts, the matter got a lot of attention from a lot of sources. One of the many people who provided some boilerplate coverage of the matter was Amanda Terkel, of ThinkProgress.
O'Reilly was terribly aggrieved by all of the criticism, so he did what he always does: send out his creepy ambush team, led by Jesse Watters, to settle his scores for him. Here's the intoxicatingly dumb thing about this! The person who they chose to stalk WEREN'T the bloggers that originally broke the story. It wasn't anyone at MSNBC, who widely broadcast the story and garnered the lion's share of eyeballs to it. No! It was Terkel, who was one of many people to blog about it. What compounds the ridiculousness of this whole matter was that Terkel hadn't done ANYTHING to actually advance the story...until O'Reilly decided to stalk her while she was on vacation!
Why Terkel? Well, I'm guessing that O'Reilly's team had deduced that of all the people they could confront, she was of the smallest physical stature and the most female! Such bravery!
POLITICO CUDDLES WITH DICK CHENEY
Dick Cheney is an unemployed man with a lot of dyspeptic grievances to bleat out into the world. But for whatever reason, he lacks the means to type out his malingerings himself, so it's a lucky thing that John Harris and Jim VandeHei have agreed to be the webmasters of his LiveJournal, which people call The Politico. There, he can make all sorts of nonsensical assertions without ever being asked a follow-up question. This is the journalistic equivalent of watching two succubi re-enact some of the more graphic and degrading scenes from Requiem For A Dream, on the internet. I could say a lot more, but let's face it: I'd only be repeating Alex Pareene's excellent summation of this wonderful, life-giving relationship.
THE NEW REPUBLIC SMEARS SOTOMAYOR
In May of 2009, everyone was curious about the people that President Obama might end up naming to the Supreme Court, but only one journalist was willing to take a bunch of blanket assertions, anonymous quotes, and pure spin and then package that in a story that pretended to be the definitive "Case Against Sonia Sotomayor." That journalist was The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen -- who presented this as "a series of reports...about the strengths and weaknesses of the leading candidates on Barack Obama's Supreme Court shortlist." Strangely, that "series" never really ended up materializing, and based upon the timing of it all, one wondered if that was, in itself, a little bit of pretense. But what was most preposterous was the state of Rosen's research before he attempted to write this piece, which Rosen admitted to:
I haven't read enough of Sotomayor's opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor's detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths.
But...but...but...I thought this was "The Case Against Sotomayor?" Maybe it should have been called, "A Collection of Rumors and Semi-Thought Through Ramblings About Sotomayor."
NEWSWEEK'S SARAH PALIN COVER
In November, Newsweek rolled out a cover story on Sarah Palin, headlined on the cover with the title, "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sarah." Whatever "solutions" they had on offer ended up being irrelevant after they decided to run a picture of Palin, dressed in athletic gear, on their cover. The image, which previously was featured in an appropriate context as an image in Runners World magazine, immediately drew fire from Palin. Newsweek EIC Jon Meacham responded with some incomprehensible sentences, fashioned from words in the English language that he had bludgeoned to death:
"We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do," Meacham said, in a statement provided to Huffington Post. "We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."
And people say Palin's Tweets are a mess of word soup! What Meacham would say, if he were being honest, is: "We had so little confidence that readers would understand our substantive criticism of Palin, we were compelled to drive the point home with a pointless and superficial jab at her."
WASHINGTON POST PLANS SALONS WITH LOBBYISTS
Ugh. This was the story of the year where journalistic crapulence was concerned. Basically, the Washington Post, in search of a new revenue stream, decided it would be a good idea if they charged lobbyists between $25,000 and $250,000 to attend a series of fancy parties, with the promise of access to lawmakers, reporters, and canapes. Attendees were promised the opportunity to hobnob with members of Congress and officials from the White House. Politico caught them with their pants down, and the paper's higher-ups all pretended to not know anything about it -- or at least anything about the more seamy aspects of it. Eventually, some poor middle-manager schmuck was made the fall guy, and the Post washed their hands of the whole thing.
As I said, "Ugh." More eloquent responses came from Thomas Frank, who called it "A moment of rare, piquant hypocrisy," and Bill Moyers, who sadly gets it exactly right when he says it was "a glimpse into how things really work in Washington."
Fox News got caught out basically reciting talking points they were handed by the GOP and pretending it was enterprise reporting. The New York Times devoted column inches to the important issue of teens, hugging each other, which BAFFLED them. Thanks to a media merger, Editor and Publisher is getting shuttered after a long and storied run -- we hope that they carry on their work in one way or another. Meghan McCain got mad at the media, for some reason that's impossible to fathom. And, in a meta moment, there was that time Rush Limbaugh accused us of ignoring the Iranian election and its aftermath, which surely baffled our national editor Nico Pitney, who had logged long and sleepless hours very pointedly not ignoring it! Still, it was better than getting Dickwhispered, a term I shall now retire.