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Adios (For Now)

Just a quick note to say that it’s been a pleasure swimming around here. Thanks to the tipsters and anonymous sources who have helped out over the past 16 months.

I’ll be back from time-to-time, but until then, happy fishbowling. Patrick will have more details later Monday.

Snow Under A Microscope

Vaughn Ververs has a thought on Tony Snow‘s first day gaggling with the White House press corps: “Given Snow’s background as a high-profile journalist and conservative commentator, is it safe to say he might be the most-scrutinized White House press secretary ever?”

AP’s Jennifer Loven says he “suffered a couple missteps in his first question-and-answer session with the White House press corps Friday.”

More: “Snow danced around several queries by saying he did not know enough to answer. And although he had at times been harshly critical of President Bush as a Fox News commentator and conservative radio host, Snow clearly was being careful not to step on the wrong toes now that he speaks on behalf of Bush.”

Will Snow become a bigger story in the briefing room than Scott McClellan ever was?

Is USA Today Story Old News?

USA Today is attracting a lot of attention for phone call data mining this week. Here’s the rub: To a lot of people who cover this subject closely the USA Today story didn’t break any news. It was just a more prominent story than the others that had been reported already this year.

As early as the first James Risen and Eric Lichtblau NSA wiretapping stories, they reported the NSA program involved “data mining” of thousands of phone calls. In January Shane Harris and Tim Naftali wrote a piece for subtitled “Why the NSA’s snooping is unprecedented in scale and scope.”

Harris’ March National Journal story still “stands as the most comprehensive look at how all this pattern analysis and data mining actually works,” one emailer explains, and follow-up stories have shed even more light on it.

Plus Patrick Radden Keefe wrote about this in March for the New York Times magazine in its “Idea Lab” forum.

“So, why are so many in the media falling all over themselves to say USA Today ‘broke’ this story? The only real new items in the piece don’t substantively advance the story. For instance, they named three telecom companies in the lead. But so what? AT&T was implicated in this long ago, and is currently fighting a lawsuit about their work for the NSA. Verizon and Bell South have been named too, I believe. And go back to February in USA Today itself and you’ll see that these same reporters outted some major telecom firms, not all of which are in this new story,” says the emailer, who reports on intelligence matters. “The fact that NSA is doing pattern analysis on phone traffic is the substantive issue here, and that was reported months ago.”

“This is an example of 1.) some in the media’s very short memory, and 2.) a sad commentary, in my opinion, that in order for some journalists to really grasp an issue, you have to practically beat them over the head with old information wrapped up in a new and flashy front page story with a big photo on it. No one I’ve talked to in the intelligence community or on the relevant congressional committees believe this is a new story, and most of them are left scratching their heads. From the political perspective, some in Congress are just using this as an opportunity to raise hell at Mike Hayden‘s hearing. That’s to be expected; after all, USA Today has a huge reach and provides great fodder for lawmakers to wave around at the hearings. But the media reaction is far more troubling. When I hear Soledad O’Brien or even respected reporters on NPR going out and saying ‘USA Today broke the story,’ it makes them look stupid, and by extension the rest of us. It makes them look like they’ve had their heads in the sand about this NSA program. That’s not good! This is one of the most important public policy stories in years. Journalists need to be on the ball here.”

“Why are so many of our colleagues just going along with the notion that USA Today has blown the lid off something? Do we only read front page headlines anymore? Are we just willing to give credit to whoever has the biggest megaphone? There’s more at risk than danger to our egos and pride here. This is sloppy reporting, and if we keep it up as an institution, we’ll pay a price,” the source said.

One bright spot on the West Coast: Warren Olney‘s NPR show “To the Point” invited Harris on last night and concluded that this was mostly all old news.

WUSA’s Haber Gets To Gloat

bretthaber.jpgDave McKenna writes up the amusing saga of the Lerners, the Nationals, and how Brett Haber of WUSA scooped everyone else.

“Haber’s bosses at WUSA-TV were so proud of his work that they commissioned a congratulatory commercial to tout the Nats-related news-breaking. ‘Sometimes you’re first. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re both,’ reads the copy of the CBS affiliate’s promotion, which also mocks Haber’s many naysayers by flashing the very words used while trying to discredit his report, chief among them ‘Erroneous!’” McKenna says.

“And among the losers–besides the unchosen bidders, who’ll have to find another way to spend $450 million–is George Michael. The WRC-TV mainstay and sportscasting legend gets about twice as much airtime as Haber each night, and he used an awful lot of it to shoot down his competitor’s reportage–right up until Haber was proven correct. Again and again, Michael pooh-poohed Haber’s work with the sort of excitement he normally reserves for rodeo highlights,” he continues.

The story is quite fun.

Naming Names

So there’s a debate going on the bulletin boards about a regional magazine that’s having trouble paying freelancers.

Poster #1: “I wrote for a regional quarterly magazine for the first time a couple of months ago. They pay on publication, which is not my preferred, but the assignment was interesting and the editor seemed to have her s*it together. My piece was due on Feb. 16th and I met the deadline, she accepted the piece, and it came out as scheduled the first week of April. In the meantime, she assigned me two new pieces for the summer issue, which I accepted on the same terms. I’ve turned in those two pieces but have still not been paid for piece #1. I called to check if they had received my invoice–they had–and was told they were having some cash flow problems and they would send it out later in the week. That was two weeks ago.”

Poster #2: “If this is taking place in an Eastern Seaboard state that begins with a P, with additional editions in a state that begins with M or a nonstate that ends in DC, these people are shysters.”

So, um, which could it be:

A) Capitol File (with other magazines in New York, California, and Colorado)
B) DC Magazine (with other magazines in Illinois, Georgia, Texas, and California)
C) DC Style Magazine (with another magazine in Pennsylvania)

Anyone else have insight they care to shed on this topic?

Times’ ‘Ignores Rosenthal’s Well-chronicled Homo-hating Bigotry’

A reader yesterday took issue with the Times’ obit Abe Rosenthal, saying it covered up some less nice parts of his story:

“The NYT obit of Abe Rosenthal is not masterful. It is an incomplete hagiography that ignores Rosenthal’s well-chronicled homo-hating bigotry. If someone was a notorious racist, it’s in their obit. If they were a notorious gay-hater, it almost never is.

“Rosenthal would not allow the use of the word ‘gay’ in the paper, lamely calling it a political term or saying that to most people it meant ‘happy.’ The NYT was preposterously slow to cover AIDS during Rosenthal’s tenure, and it was widely believed that was because of Rosenthal’s homophobia. The NYT ‘[set] the tone for [AIDS] noncoverage nationally,’ Randy Shilts wrote in And the Band Played On.

“‘Under Rosenthal the Times newsroom was a hostile place for gays, many of whom feared the editor and remained closeted. Rosenthal’s brand of homophobia became institutionalized, outliving his stepping down in 1986,’ Michelangelo Signorile wrote in 1990.

“Many other journalists are quite certain that they weren’t hired by Rosenthal’s Times because they were out.

“It’s fine to honor an ex-editor with a front-page obit, but not when it serves to cover up Rosenthal’s record.”

So how about it? Did the New York Times gloss over its own foibles?

Fox Moves Top Reporters Around

baier_brett.jpgOur cousin TVNewser has lots of changes at Fox News: Brett Baier (left) will be the new chief White House correspondent, as “Campaign Carl” (aka Carl Cameron) returns to the campaign trail as chief political correspondent. (Cameron moved to the WH in Jan. 2005.)

Mike Emanuel will replace Baier at the Pentagon covering national security and Major “Best Last Name Ever” Garrett has been promoted to congressional correspondent to replace Brian “Not the Singer” Wilson has been named the permanent anchor of Weekend Live.

A New Era in Press Relations?

Bill Sammon writes today about how Tony Snow is laying the smackdown on the White House Press Corps. The press office has been putting out a pile of backgrounders “setting the record straight” since Snow took over Monday.

“‘The New York Times continues to ignore America’s economic progress,’ blared the headline of an e-mail sent to reporters Wednesday by the White House press office. Minutes earlier, another e-mail blasted CBS News, which has had an unusually rocky relationship with the White House since 2004, when CBS aired what turned out to be forged documents in a failed effort to question the president’s military service…. ‘USA Today claims “poor, often minority” Medicare beneficiaries are not enrolling in Medicare drug coverage,’ the press office complained,” Sammon reports.

Now here’s today’s installment: “Setting The Record Straight: AP’s Misleading Military Recruiting Article”:

Read more

Johns v. Stevens, The Throw-Down

tedstevens.jpgDid Joe Johns screw it up for everybody or was he merely doing his job? Is Ted Stevens a cry-baby or did he get ambushed unfairly?

Paul Kane reports in Roll Call today that the Alaska senator is filing a complaint with the Radio/TV Correspondents gallery over a piece that CNN’s Johns filed for Anderson Cooper last week, just as congressional correspondents launch a campaign for more Hill access.

As Kane explains, “In an incident that could have repercussions for TV journalists’ access to the chamber, Stevens is furious with CNN correspondent Joe Johns for an interview conducted outside the weekly GOP policy luncheons, but far away from the usual bank of TV cameras set up for such interviews next to the storied Ohio Clock.”

“This was not a formal interview request. This was an ambush in the
hallway,” Stevens spokeswoman Courtney Boone complained to Kane. “He was asked to go on camera and declined.”

Current Hill policy prohibits TV crews from roaming the halls with cameras. All reporters may move freely, but all cameras must stay at back exit of the chamber–and the cameras are only allowed in that spot with prior permission from the leadership, mostly for press conferences.

As Kane says, “It’s unclear what steps would be taken by either the gallery or the committee, or if there would be any punitive actions against Johns or
the network if his report is found to have broken chamber policy.”

Abe Rosenthal, 1922 – 2006

abetimes.jpgFrom the NYT: “A. M. Rosenthal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent who became the executive editor of The New York Times and led the paper’s global news operations through 17 years of record growth, modernization and major journalistic change, died yesterday in Manhattan. He was 84.”

In a masterful obituary, Robert McFadden writes, “Brilliant, passionate, abrasive, a man of dark moods and mercurial temperament, he could coolly evaluate world developments one minute and humble a subordinate for an error in the next. He spent almost all of his 60-year career with The Times–he often called it his life–but it was a career in three parts: reporter, editor and columnist.”

It is perhaps ironic that he died just before the anniversary of the Jayson Blair saga exploded. A little bit of his newspaper died that day too.