Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Drinking Liberally - Liberal Media? Where?

Earlier this week a representative from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) was in town, flanked by a few local activists of note - including one that I'm sure you're familiar with - to hold a press conference on the steps of Asheville City Hall to discuss Charles Taylor's many ethical peccadilloes and what they, as an organization, were doing about it.

Now, the whole idea of a press conference is to present information to the press. And boy oh boy what a turnout of the local journalism community the CREW event had! Let's look at some of the luminaries that were present at the press conference:
  • WWNC, 570 on your AM dial! The one place in the Asheville area where a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, log-cabin or otherwise, can listen to the fair and balanced punditry of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage the way nature intended - with lots of static and sibilance. They were covering the press conference, but their coverage amounted to a short report (read the transcript here) that was very favorable to Taylor. (Okay, okay, I can't harsh on WWNC too much - they do have Art Bell in their lineup. He's a guilty pleasure. So is Paul Harvey; the fact that both he and Keith Richards are still alive are testaments to something, but I'm not sure what.)
  • The Asheville Citizen-Times? Our local Gannett mouthpiece, the same paper that endorsed Taylor for re-election in 2004, did run an announcement that the press conference was going to be happening, but didn't even bother showing up.
  • WLOS was there, but they glossed over the event almost completely, paying it lip service by including roughly ten seconds of footage of the event itself and about ten seconds of an interview with CREW's deputy director, Naomi Seligman-Steiner, as part of a general story about the 11th District's Congressional race. Guess who got twice as much face time and soundbites than the challenger, Heath Shuler? Big surprise! In case you've forgotten, WLOS is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative media conglomerate that pre-empted that one episode of Nightline a few years ago because, you know, honoring our soldiers who were killed in Iraq up to that point was unpatriotic.
  • Mountain Xpress was there, but since the deadline of our own little homespun version of the Village Voice is on Saturday, we won't know what their coverage was like until the next issue hits those purple plastic boxes next Wednesday.
  • As of press time there was no word as to whether or not the Global Report, the Tribune, the IWANNA or the Town Tooter covered the event.
This is just a small, local example of media bias. And to think that all of those conservative pundits accuse the media of being liberal. Where the hell were the so-called "liberal media" when this event was happening? It's almost as if our local media outlets are so comfortable with the status quo that they're more than willing - dare I say happy - to ignore illegal activities.

If you're like me, I'm sure you're sufficiently pissed about this.

So... let's get pissed!

Come join us for another episode of Drinking Liberally @ the Asheville Brewing Company (77 Coxe Ave., Downtown), where we can talk about media bias, where we get our news, what we can do to help support independent news outlets on all sides of the ideological spectrum... and ways that we can heed the advice of Jello Biafra: "Don't hate the media, become the media!"

Besides, the Brewing Company has some tasty 'za, great beer, complimentary wi-fi access... and you never know what kind of surprises will pop up at these things.

See you tomorrow!
syntax (co-host, Asheville Drinking Liberally)

(PS - Don't forget about the First Annual Drinking Liberally West Asheville Haywood Road Pub Crawl this Saturday!)


Screwy Hoolie said...

I can't wait to talk about this.

Edgy Mama said...

I think you guys are being a bit harsh here. From what I know about the local media, their resources are stretched pretty thin. And yet, they seem to, for the most part, have a clear and thoughful decision-making process about what is newsworthy on any particular day and what they can cover given said resources.

Personally, I've been to a number of so-called press conferences that were just spin and agenda setting--no "real" news. Not that this one was that. I don't know as I wasn't there.

But, sheesh, go with the Biafra quote. Be proactive. Don't just sit around and complain. I think there is a way to express opinion, and okay, be disappointed, without personally attacking the folks who are working their heinies off to bring you news. It may not be all the news you want all the time, but that's life.

Screwy Hoolie said...

We're bringing it, Edgy Mama. Proactive is not what we're doing. It's who we are.

But when the newspaper announces a press conference on its pages, suggesting the conference is newsworthy, and then doesn't show up for the newsworthy event, it smacks of apathy.

Edgy Mama said...

Yeah, but the newspaper and other media outlets announce tons of stuff that they don't actually cover--again, resources and priorities. It's easy to get an event listed in the paper, more difficult to procure coverage.

On one hand, it's great that people feel passionately about the media and what they produce. On the other hand, I wish every person who bitchs and moans about the media could spend a week working for a daily paper or a television news program.

Yeah, we all make mistakes, including the media, but the media gets beaten up constantly. Maybe that's as it should be? I don't know.

Screwy Hoolie said...

I hear you, Edgy. They can't do it all. But here's my own personal beef: It's one thing to announce a craft fair or community center opening and not attend, but to skip a press conference that Congressman Charles Taylor's Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff felt was important enough to attend seems lax. Given the national attention focusing on this race and the fact that control of Congress hangs in the balance, one might think they'd send somebody out to cover it. Instead we got Taylor walking around the airport and reports of Edwards coming to stump for Shuler. Maybe the CREW event was simply buried in a busy news day, or maybe Taylor's malfeasance isn't considered news. I tend to think the latter is more true.

Journalists work very hard. I just wish that the local media's idea of balance was more than downplaying Charles Taylor's shredded credibility. Right down to reprinting a 16-year old photo of Charles Taylor next to current news stories, there is no effort to portray Taylor within the context of his incumbency. They say people love him for bringing home the bacon without mentioning that he's one of the least effective members of Congress at doing so. They say he's a fiscal conservative without mentioning he voted Yea on every Bush budget, driving us into record deficits. They say he's appearing here or there without mentioning he's voted to cut the funding for the places he's visiting.

I know I'm agenda driven, but I also know that there are tens of thousands of people who have never heard of Cagle or Martin, never heard of Ivanovo, never heard that Taylor doesn't like to pay his taxes, never heard that Taylor voted against democratic reforms in Russia...

I could, of course, go on and on.

You're nice to offer us a picture of an overstretched media that's doing the best they can. It's very compassionate, and I can understand what you're saying. The media will get "beaten up constantly", and that's because everyone has their own ideas about what is and isn't important.

But here's the deal. If you report about a press conference that you don't attend, you're either disingenuous about the newsworthiness of the conference or unwilling to report the news.

Ladydawnelle said...

Hey Ya'll!

New meet up friend - Ladydawnelle aka Dawnie

(I was the fat old lady sitting with Deb and Jeff)

Since I'm the disabled one that doesn't drink and can't walk real far w/out trouble. I'd say, have fun this Saturday - I WOULD iffin I COULD but I caint!

I appreciate all the love for the newbie! I'll be returning hopefully many Thursday nights to come!

My website is and you can read about my disablility on the links page titled Ladyfishy's site. (My old nic name as I am the FISH) ;-)