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The Media Needs Watchdogs

By Ben L. Kaufman · January 16th, 2008 · On Second Thought

Media watchdogs to watch during our quadrennial masochism include www.factcheck.org and www.mediamatters.org. Rather than stenographically report campaign charge and countercharge, they identify significant errors, distortions and misrepresentations and present evidence of what was said/done.

Last week mediamatters.org faulted WLW's Bill Cunningham for playing phony religion and race cards against Obama. Quoting his nationally syndicated Sunday show, mediamatters.org said the Cincinnatian repeatedly called Obama "Barak Mohammed Hussein Obama," accused him of being "raised in madrassas in Indonesia" and attending a "black racist" church. Mediamatters.org noted:

� Mohammed is not part of Obama's name.

� Obama's elementary school was a Jakarta public, secular institution -- not a Muslim religious school.

� Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ is "unashamedly black" without being anti-white.

Mediamatters.org caught Rush Limbaugh "falsely" asserting that no Senate bill has Obama's name on it. Mediamatters.org says, "In the 110th Congress, Obama has so far introduced 55 bills for which he is the primary sponsor."

Mediamatters.org also accused The New York Times and politico.com of misquoting Hillary Clinton during her "Muskie Moment" at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H. The Times: "I have so many ideas for this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards."

Ben Smith of politico.com: "I have so many opportunities for this country. I don't want to see us all fall back."

Mediamatters.org quotes a video of Clinton's conversation: "You know, I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards, you know?"

For or from, ideas or opportunities: Words matter, and among partisan bloggers Clinton is red meat to the fly swarm. If you think an uncorrected misquote doesn't matter, recall how Swiftboating sank John Kerry.

Curmudgeon notes
� Journalists limit our choices for president. They create and discard conventional wisdoms and use them to justify greater or lesser coverage of candidates. They anoint ever-changing "front runners," and others must follow the parade with shovels or quit show biz.

� National interest in Iowa caucuses erupted when The New York Times discovered them in 1972 -- 126 years after Iowans wrote them into their state constitution. It recalls James Stockdale, who opened the 1992 vice presidential debate by asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?" Can we ask the same of hog-pen and snow-bank reporters?

� For alternatives to our inchoate state primaries, read "Primaries Gone Wild!" in The Nation (Jan. 21 issue).

� If you believe your vote will be counted correctly, what news media fuel that fantasy? It's time for editorial writers and talk show hosts to demand that international election observers abandon Russia, Georgia, Kenya and Pakistan for the United States.

The Kentucky Post is reborn as "Life in the (859)" at www.kypost.com.

� Why did it take The Times to reveal disabling gaps in statewide Kentucky dental health?

� For sheer fun, read obits of George MacDonald Fraser, biographer of Brig. Sir Harry Paget Flashman, VC, whom the London Times called the "outstanding Victorian soldier, coward, bully, womaniser, cad, bounder and hugely admired all-round bad egg."

CONTACT BEN KAUFMAN: letters@citybeat.com



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