Pew research findings on what media sources we trust

Conservatives love Fox News. A lot. And they trust it. No surprise there. Slightly more stunning, conservatives dis-trust virtually every other source of news. Can that really be possible? The Pew Research Center’s report — Political Polarization & Media Habits — finds it to be the case.

The Pew study placed individuals into one of five groupings from “consistently liberal” to “consistently conservative” based on their answers to 10 questions. The five groups were then analyzed with regard to news and information choices. Published this month, here’s one of many interesting comparisons appearing in the final report — what media sources are trusted and to what degree. Media sources trusted by less than 50% of group members are not shown.

Pew Research - Media Polarization-12

 

Wisconsin State Journal endorsements

WSJ EndorsesIs it puzzling that the Wisconsin State Journal is endorsing candidates for the November election?

It is if you recall the State Journal’s multi-part editorial war against Wisconsin’s rigged voting districts. That little war — we think of it as a little jihad, but a “jihad” in the good sense, a holy crusade, well-intended — was quite clearly the best thing the State Journal editorial page crusaded for in recent memory. They even enlisted other Wisconsin newspapers as allies. Nice!

Still, it was far too timid: all they did was ask for an old-fashioned public hearing.

Asking the Republican leaders of the legislature to put aside their own interests to do the right thing was thoroughly destined to fail. And fail it did. Those self-same leaders had worked very hard and spent plenty of [taxpayer] money to accomplish the intended goal of safely-rigged voting districts, and they weren’t going to abandon that lovely self-serving project just because some editorial board(s) asked them politely to do so.

So, whadaya know? It wasn’t a real jihad. It wasn’t serious. It never escalated.

In fact, here, with these candidate endorsements, we see that the State Journal editors have lost the thread of their own thinking. The voting districts are all safely pre-allocated for either Republican or Democratic victory. (Mostly Republican, of course, because Republicans drew the districts.) It’s too late to jump in with endorsements. It honestly makes no sense.

It would make more sense for the Wisconsin State Journal to publish, in advance, the easily-predicted voting results based on the gerrymandered districts. Instead they’re endorsing general election candidates as if their endorsements matter. They don’t.

 

State Journal criticizes Republicans? No weasel words?

Over the weekend a teensy-tiny little thing happened in the Wisconsin State Journal. They published an editorial criticizing Wisconsin Republicans, namely the gov and his loyal minions majorities in the legislature.

Minions

The thing is, there was no fuzzy language, no ambiguity, no blaming ill-defined “state leaders” or “state gubmint” in general. No random speculation that Democrats, too, had they been in charge, would have done the same. No, they just said “Republicans”, who are, after all, undeniably in control of every branch of our state government.

It’s a tiny thing. (Yes, very tiny.) But it’s unusual (and refreshing) to see the State Journal editorial board just say the obvious — their pals are screwing up.  As we all know, it’s hard for them to criticize Republicans without some fig leaf of fuzziness or both-siderism to obscure and soften the point.

Seriously, this is a newspaper that somehow (hard to believe but true) blamed “Congress and all of Washington” for the dangerous and ill-advised debt-ceiling fiascoes of 2013 which were, of course, motivated not by “Congress and all of Washington” in general, but specifically by the Tea Partying zealots of the Republican House. Somehow the State Journal editorial board was careful never to assign the blame where it actually belonged. It was actually a bizarre pattern of misinforming, performed over and over as we noted repeatedly.

So, are we giving them too much credit for one tiny event on Sunday? Well, sure. Almost certainly. But we try to encourage even small progress when we can.

 

That $700,000 from Gogebic

Jim Rowan writing at The Political Environment doesn’t normally gripe about the state’s newspapers. Not the way we do. But he does today.

He’s waiting for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to use its editorial page to say something about that secret $700,000 donation from Gogebic mining. Thus far, on the editorial page, the Milwaukee paper has said not a word.

And Rowan correctly criticizes the Wisconsin State Journal for delivering a weak ‘they’re-all-doing it’ editorial opposing secret money in politics, in general.

Boo to the State Journal for insulting readers and voters with false conflation that helps give Walker – – whom the paper endorsed in 2010 – – a pass

Does Rowan know the Wisconsin State Journal the way we do? (actually? of course) But nothing else could be expected. Wisconsin Republicans can do anything they want. It doesn’t need to make sense. It doesn’t need to match any previous or current stance. It doesn’t need to pass any “smell test”. No matter how odious their actions, the worst that Wisconsin Republicans can expect from the State Journal is a general sermon blaming everyone (and thus no one) and urging everyone to be better.

drinking gameYes, it’s boring. And predictable. And completely worthless. Although it does form the basis for our famous Wisconsin State Journal editorial drinkin’ game

 “…the drinking game requires no actual facts or actual journalism. It simply requires the WSJ editorial board to do what it obsessively does. They apparently cannot help themselves.” 

Remember to always read responsibly

 

“taxpayers should know: Walker has cost them millions of dollars”

Reince PriebusThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a fine editorial describing Scott Walker’s “good-for-himself but bad-for-Wisconsin” decision-making:

…taxpayers should know: Walker has cost them millions of dollars by refusing to fully expand the state’s primary health care program for the poor under the Affordable Care Act.

Wisconsin would have saved $206 million over two years 

Exactly so. And continuing they say

It was another example of this governor’s penchant for sacrificing good policy on the altar of expedient politics.

Well, OK. “…the altar of expedient politics” is one way to put it. It’s a quick reference, but only for those who already know full well what’s going on in Walker’s self-interested calculus. The Journal Sentinel might better have said “on the alter of Walker’s own Presidential ambitions,” and even that’s not enough. Tell us. WHY exactly is he wasting millions of Wisconsin taxpayers’ dollars?

“Some” — OK, it was us — have called turning down millions of federal dollars — in a Wisconsin that badly needs more dollars circulating — a bow to “the insane wing” of the Republican Party by a governor who spends an awful lot of time imagining himself as the most powerful man in the world. The Journal Sentinel’s style guide doubtless doesn’t permit such language, no matter how true it might be. But the editors could’ve done better than “sacrificing good policy on the altar of expedient politics”. Too much left unsaidToo bloodless.

But rarely is anything entirely perfect.

Here’s the point. This was a fine editorial emanating from Milwaukee news headquarters.

Will the Wisconsin State Journal ever do the same for Madison? We have a precious gold star waiting to be awarded………………….

 

Who’s editing this mess?

Ever wonder how news editors decide what stories to put on the “front page”? We do.

Now we have never worked as a news editor. But we have always figured that, among their most important duties, editors are supposed to evaluate the various potential stories and put the most important ones up front.

Newspaper_editor_R._Sanderson_Taylor_Brisbane_ca 1925

But if that’s so, where were the editors of the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday? Their front page story highlights a downtown “bath house” that’s going to be prosecuted for giving more than “baths”. Sexy! But actually not very important. Meanwhile, not on the front page — inside the paper instead — is a very important story.

Turns out Governor Walker’s decision to refuse Medicaid expansion was really, really dumb… wasteful for Wisconsin taxpayers, higher costs and insuring fewer than simply saying yes to the “Obamacare” fully-paid-for Medicaid expansion. The Legislative Audit Bureau says we’re currently losing out on $206 million federal dollars, and we will lose half a billion.

That is a big, big, Big Story!  Why is it not on the front page? Why is it anywhere else?

Is it because the editors are reluctant to print hugely damaging front-page stories about the governor they endorsed? Because, make no mistake about it, this IS a hugely damaging story for the governor if people come to understand it.

a hugely damaging story for the governor

Why did Scott Walker turn down 100% funding from the feds to expand Medicare? It was, of course, purely political, serving a constituency of one — namely Scott Walker himself. Scott Walker thinks he’s Republican Presidential timber. And in order to get the Republican nomination, he’s got to demonstrate inchoate opposition to “Obamacare” in order win support among — oh, what should we call them? oh, let’s just say it — the insane wing of the Republican Party.  This angry neoconfederate wing happens to be pretty influential right now. So Scott Walker decided to royally screw Wisconsin taxpayers, to once again harm Wisconsin’s economy, and probably indirectly hasten a few deaths because hating Obamacare (even though it was originally Romneycare) would be helpful to him in his quest for the nomination.

Not helpful to Wisconsin in any way. Just helpful to him. It says a lot about Scott Walker.

It’s a true story that people can understand. If they hear about it.

 

The incredible shrinking Sunday audience

davidgregory_chucktoddOh boy, after months of rumor, NBC drops handsome, gray-haired David Gregory as host of ‘Meet the Press’. Average-looking Chuck Todd will take over.

As everyone knows, this has nothing to do with the show’s supposedly noble public purpose. It’s just a matter of declining viewership and thus revenue. That’s of course what draws attention at corporate headquarters.

Will this reverse the slide? Nope. This 67-yr-old show (and, yes, it is a “show”) is for and about Washington spin. Replacing one multi-million-dollar “host” with a different multi-million-dollar host who will — count on it — continue the same dismal questioning isn’t going to make it interesting. The whole hour deserves to be ignored by anyone who isn’t hospitalized and without a remote control.

And it’s equally true of the other Sunday morning shows.

Commenter ‘marylou’ at Politico explains:

These Sunday shows are geared toward Washington insiders rather than the audience that wants accountability, ideas and solutions. You can always tell when spin is about to occur. Gregory asks a question and the guest (usually McCain, Cheney, Kristol or Graham) will immediately belt out talking points they’ve been fed ahead of time, and often their answer has little to nothing to do with the question. And Gregory doesn’t stop them, doesn’t say you didn’t answer my question, doesn’t give facts that dispute the answer, and doesn’t do anything but let them off the hook when he should just keep repeating the question until the guest either answers or is rebuked and then not asked back…

 

Front page voter ID nonsense

This dismally stupid headline makes the routinely credulous reporting a real eye-catcher. Front page, Wisconsin State Journal — Voter ID ruling stirs confusion, raises fraud concerns. What?!?

Look, dear friends at the State Journal, there IS no evidence of felony-committing, fake “voters” masquerading as someone else on Election Day. Never was. It’s a scam, and a rather obvious one, intended to fool the gullible and the lightly informed, and to hide the real self-serving motives of powerful state politicians, to skew the vote, maybe just a percent or two, in their own favor.

Pixies! Babies!

If these same politicians offered a bill to stop pixies from kidnapping babies, how would you play it?pixie

How would you report this “problem”? Would you bring any kind of skepticism to it? Or would you just report what the politicians were saying? If the politicians didn’t have actual evidence of pixie criminals… if they claimed simply that lots of people were “concerned” about the possibility (and indeed, if you’ve ever read a poll, you can be certain that some us will say, yes, very concerned about pixies)… would you produce stories and headlines that seem to take this “concern” seriously? Because, you know, that not only misinforms readers, it makes you look very gullible. And “gullibility” is one of the last things we need in our journalists.

 

Madison Cap Times: Editor Fanlund fans on an easy pitch

Paul Fanlund — editor of the Cap Times (aka The Capital Times, aka CT…. Note to business office: too many brand names.) — pissed us off this week when he bungled what should have been a perfectly easy gripe about the sad state of our media information systems. And, hey, that’s our beat — “the incredible shrinking news”™! — but there’s plenty to go around.

Somehow, however, in mid-grumble, Fanlund lapsed into American journalism’s signature error! — pointless False Equivalence. In particular he seems to imagine that Fox News and MSNBC are similarly horrible. Has he ever really watched ‘em?

Let’s look at a recent YouTube in which British comedian Russell Brand is watching Fox News. Now Mr. Brand has a particular look. Often (but not always) he tends to look like a borderline maniac, the kind of guy who gets on the subway and causes everyone else to think, uh-oh…. Here, he’s watching an attractive lady who has her own show on Fox News. Can you guess which one of them will seem dangerously crazy?

There is nothing like that at MSNBC. Fanlund could search and search and search. He will never find. Now you could say — fairly — that both Fox News and MSNBC attract “tribal” audiences, right and left. That’s true. But that can’t possibly be a part of Fanlund’s gripe, can it? Fanlund is the editor of the Cap Times! (Here we will add, for the benefit of readers outside Dane County, the Cap Times is a distinctly and consciously liberal media operation which calls itself “your progressive voice”™.)

(Wait. “Your voice”? As in my voice? Well, not today, thank you.)

Look, Fanlund’s not always like this. He’s capable of good work. We can only assume he got some bad clams at lunch. Really bad clams, because he also held out PBS’s dismal Washington Week in Review  as commendable.

Jesus, he didn’t have stroke, did he? Well, no, we assume it was very bad clams. He’ll probably make a speedy recovery, but we’re keeping an eye on him, just to be sure.

***

Meanwhile, in actual news about why our news is pitiful, Rupert Murdoch — a man who has already done SO much to hurt so many — is hoping to add Time Warner to his gigantic portfolio of corporate media.

Supreme Court rescues one particular religious liberty

Joan Walsh at Salon.com asks:

How did it happen that the only issue on which religious liberty trumps existing employment law, for the court’s conservative majority, is the issue that pertains to women’s freedom and sexuality? 

US Supreme CourtIt’s a good question.

And it’s odd, too — or at least coincidental? — that the majority was all-male.

And all 3 female justices disagreed.

No doubt the prestige of being on the U.S. Supreme Court is nice, but there’s some chance the workplace environment stinks. The New York Times has a front page story, “Birth Control Deepens Divide Among Justices” — subhead “Female Minority Angry”.  It has — yow! — 2,476 online comments, now closed. Thar’s too many, of course, but always remember the Times’ comments are moderated (12 moderators, some of them part time). Trolls are bounced, and the readers vote for the best comments. The Times comments are different from the articles and often a welcome and thoughtful sidebar.