Media Pros Analyze Media Bias, Call for Harder-hitting Journalism at CSP Conference

From The Jewish Voice

by HEATHER ROBINSON

Last Tuesday in Manhattan, media leaders tackled the subject of media bias at the National Security and New Media Conference & Mightier Pen Award Luncheon organized by the Washington D.C.-based Center for Security Policy (CSP).

The mainstream media’s coverage of the September 11th attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya and Presidential election coverage were among the subjects addressed at the event, which featured numerous speakers including CSP’s Frank Gaffney, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy in the Reagan Administration.

The conference and award luncheon, held at the Union League Club on Manhattan’s East Side, included two panels. The first “Beyond Bias: the Mainstream Media” addressed the media’s handling of Benghazi and Hurricane Sandy and analyzed reasons for media bias, and a second panel, “To the Rescue: the New Media” discussed what one participant termed the media’s “voluntary surrender of its role as watchdog” during the Obama years, and efforts of new media, including conference participants, to reclaim the role, especially via investigative reporting.

Following the panels, FOX News’ Monica Crowley received the Mightier Pen Award.

Andrew McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, kicked off the first panel, asking “Three questions: Who told President Obama Americans were under siege in a terror attack? When, in the seven and a half hour siege, did he hear about this? And what did he do to protect these Americans?” These questions, he asserted, “would be in every American’s mind were a Republican President.” (McCarthy is known for his successful prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing).

Panelist Richard Miniter, author of several best-selling books on foreign policy and terrorism and a columnist for Forbes, spoke about the way the “structure of the media leads to bias.”

Most news stories that wind up in influential newspapers come from a handful wire services, such as Associated Press (AP) or Agence France-Presse (AFP), he pointed out.

Generally, each wire service has no more than “three or four” reporters covering a certain region or country – all of whom usually know each other and tend to hold similar views.

Most news that is picked up by television stations comes from a handful of newspapers, “The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times and to some extent The New York Post” Miniter said.

“Many people in newsrooms would like to work for The New York Times. So there’s an incredible desire to ape and follow The New York Times.”

Historically, conservatives have tried to provide counter-narratives to liberal-slanted reporting by writing letters to the editor and opinion pieces and, more recently, starting conservative publications, Miniter noted.

Miniter said there should be more emphasis on investigative reporting.

“It’s great to write op-eds, but op-eds are reactions to news stories and events; they don’t start conversations, they add to them,” he said. “Conversations are started with reporting, especially investigative pieces.”

Panelist Bill Gertz, senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon, cited what he views as a double standard in press coverage of the Bush Administration’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the Obama Administration’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy.

His publication reported that FEMA has equipment, but can’t get it [to people in need,]” he said, adding, “You won’t hear any criticism of Obama for this.”

Gertz ripped the mainstream media’s handling of the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and the Obama Adminstration’s response.

From the earliest stages the administration knew “there was an al Qaeda component,” Gertz asserted.

“People came to me and said, ‘This is false … it’s been covered up because it goes against the President’s statement that al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and a week later al Qaeda attacked [our embassy.]”

The second panel, entitled “To the Rescue: The New Media” featured Tiffany Gabbay, assistant editor of TheBlaze.com, a publication recently founded by author and television personality Glenn Beck; Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a non-partisan watchdog group dedicated to investigating use of taxpayer funds; and John Nolte, Breitbart.com editor-at-large.

Gabbay condemned what she characterized as the mainstream media’s “voluntary surrender of its role as watchdog of government.”

In its pre-election coverage, the media favored Obama, she maintained. In 2008, she said, “they did nothing to vet this man,” and in 2012, “His missteps were spun into triumphs, his failures swept under the rug.”

As a recent example of media bias, she cited the heavy coverage by many mainstream media outlets of a death of a Palestinian boy that was widely attributed to Israeli shelling, but in fact was caused by a Hamas rocket, and the paltry follow-up done by news outlets that had circulated the story widely.

She argued that mainstream media, due to its own biases, created conservative media.

“When new media like [conservative] bloggers and news outlets came on the scene, we were reviled,” she said. “But if established outlets were doing their jobs, there wouldn’t be this huge market.”

Next, Schweizer stressed the need for “fact-based, fact-driven journalism to change the narrative of the debate” adding that to have credibility, “We must have total willingness, based on principle, to go after both sides.”

He described two projects GAI undertook this year. The first was a detailed investigation of whether President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were adequately screening donations so as to avoid accepting foreign funding. Their investigation yielded the information that “Candidate Romney did, President Obama did not” adequately screen donations, according to Schweizer. ABC News, FOX News, and The New York Post eventually covered the story, he noted.

A second investigative project revealed that President Obama missed more than half of his daily intelligence briefings. That story made its way to news outlets including The Washington Post.

John Nolte, Breitbart News editor-at-large, spoke about what he characterized as the media’s failure to vet Obama.

During the question and answer session, Nolte discussed the idea that many view the work of journalists during Watergate as “bringing down Republicans” and miss the larger point that the press must act as a check on government, regardless of party.

“’All the President’s Men’ isn’t about bringing down Republicans, it’s about exposing the truth,” he said.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal’s opinionjournal.com, gave a benediction in which he referenced Moses and Joshua, each of whom, when transferring the mantle of leadership, said, “Be strong. Be courageous.” He concluded, “May we be strong in what we know and may we have the courage to continue speaking it. Amen.”

This entry was written by and posted on December 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm and filed under Commentary.