New Hampshire or Bus: Sarah's No-Campaign Campaign Tour

by WALTER BRASCH

 

Speeding along city streets, going from somewhere to somewhere else, was the Sarah Palin "One Nation I'm Not Running for Anything But Follow Me Anyhow" bus chase.

 Following her were about two dozen reporters and photographers from the national news media, and now and then some local news teams, many of whom violated traffic laws in order to keep the Palin Convoy in sight.

 The news media told others how much they were suffering. Sarah wouldn't tell them where she was going. She didn't issue press releases. She wouldn't give them interviews when they wanted. The media had to call, text, and radio each other just to get information. They couldn't even get proper bathroom breaks because they had to chase that danged bus and the two Sarah SUV escorts. They believed their lives were more like those of combat correspondents under heavy incoming fire, and not the celebrity-chasing paparazzi they had become.

 What little information they got, they had to go to Facebook and Twitter, where Team Sarah posted nightly updates. And, oh yeah, if you have a few bucks, please contribute to Sarah PAC, which was funding the trip.

 On the second day, 10-year-old Piper Palin had sarcastically told a photographer, "Thanks for ruining our vacation." Of course, it wasn't the media who "ruined" what Piper thought was a family vacation. Sarah Palin's own website claimed the purpose of the tour was "part of our new campaign to educate and energize Americans about our nation's founding principles, in order to promote the Fundamental Restoration of America." To "promote" that education campaign, Piper's mother commissioned a luxury bus, and wrapped it in a professionally-created design, complete with a Sarah Palin signature larger than anything John Hancock could have written. Since Mother Sarah always emerged from the bus wearing ready-for-prime-time campaign makeup and conservative "glad-to-meet-ya-but-I'm-not-really-running" conservative suits, it was questionable just whose vacation it was.

 In Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day, Sarah put on a helmet, black leather jacket and, still wearing high heels, jumped onto the back of a Harley, and seized the spotlight from thousands of Rolling Thunder bikers who were in the capital to honor POWs and MIAs. Sarah was in the capital to honor Sarah.

 In the nation's capital, she wore a large cross. In New York City, the fundamentalist half-governor whose church believes that Jews will never get to heaven unless they are baptized as Christians, wore a Star of David.

 At Fort McHenry, Mt. Vernon, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and several other historic sites on her six-day erratic trip up the eastern seaboard, she stopped for minutes here, minutes there, in an attention-deficit span of pseudo-patriotism, long enough to make sure the media saw her, that there was ample opportunity for photo-ops, and then moved on. Where? No one really knew. It was as freewheeling as her own political style.

 At Gettysburg, she stayed long enough to take advantage of numerous photo-ops. In New York, the media breathlessly told us about Sarah and newly-incarnated birther Donald Trump having pizza in a restaurant on Times Square.

 On I-90, near Worcester, Mass., her caravan rolled into a storm, just behind a tornado, not stopping for either their own safety or to help those affected by severe damage from the tornado.

 In New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney was announcing his campaign for the presidency, Sarah managed to have her own show about five miles away, drawing the national media to her star power, and then claimed she didn't mean to upstage Romney. It was just an accident, she said in the state where the nation's first primary for the 2012 presidential election will be held.

At Ellis Island, she misinterpreted potential immigration law. In an interview with Fox News reporter Greta van Susteren, the only reporter allowed on the bus, Sarah mangled the truth about Social Security, the Obama stimulus plan, and the foreign aid package to Egypt.

    In Boston, she reinvented history and complained about "gotcha" journalism. You know, like the "gotcha" question Katie Couric asked in 2008 about what she read. This "gotcha" had come from a Boston reporter who had thrown an even easier puff ball—"What did you learn in Massachusetts and what did you take away from it?" Apparently, she didn't learn much. Instead of spending enough time in Boston to learn about America's revolution, she informed the nation that a bell-clanging Paul Revere went out to warn the British not to mess with America's right to bear arms—or something to that effect. When historians politely disagreed with her curious interpretation of history, she steadfastly maintained she knew American history, and that everyone—including, apparently, Paul Revere's own notes and letters— was wrong. 

     Some of the Sarah Zealots even tried to manipulate information in Wikipedia to parrot what Sarah believed was the reason for Paul Revere's ride, thus giving revisionist history an entirely new dimension.

     Although Sarah thought the media were into "gotcha journalism," the truth is that the wily politician, who tiptoed into broadcast journalism after college, now assisted by a media-savvy campaign staff, managed to do everything right to manipulate the mass media to give her more coverage than a Puritan in a clothing factory.

     Her handling of the media was the ultimate "gotcha."

     You betcha, Sarah.

     

     [Walter Brasch, a journalist for more than 40 years, has reported on almost every presidential campaign since 1968. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at amazon.com]

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    The News, It Is a-changin': bin Laden and the Mass Media


     

    by Walter Brasch

     

    It was a little before 9 a.m.

     I was chatting with two students.

     Another student came in, and asked if we had heard a plane had hit a building in New York City.

     We hadn't, but I assumed it was a light private plane, and the pilot had mechanical difficulty or problems with wind turbulence.  

     A minute or so later, another student came in. It was a passenger jet, she said.

     The first student had read the information in a text from a friend, who had received it from another friend, who may have heard it somewhere else. The second student had read it while surfing a news site on the Internet. In a few moments I became aware of how news dissemination had changed, and it was the youth who were going to lead the information revolution.

     A half-hour later, in an upper division journalism class, we were flipping between TV channels, and students were texting with friends on campus and in other states.

     By 12:30 p.m., the beginning time for my popular culture and the media class, every one of the 240 students heard about the murders and terrorism that would become known as 9/11. Most had not seen it on TV nor heard about it from radio. There was no way I was going to give that day's prepared lecture. The students needed to talk, to tell others what they heard, to listen to what others had heard. To cry; to express rage. And, most of all, they needed to hear the conflicting information, and learn the facts.

     For the first century of colonial America, news was transmitted at the pace of a fast horse and rider. But even then, most citizens read the news only when they wandered into a local coffee shop or tavern and saw the information posted on a wall. The first newspaper, Boston's Publick Occurrences, lasted but one issue, dying in 1690. The next newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, wasn't published until 14 years later. Fifteen years passed before there was another newspaper. By the Revolution, the major cities along the eastern seaboard had weekly newspapers, with news from England taking up to three months to reach the American shores and be printed. News from one colony to another might take a couple of weeks or more. All of it was subject to censorship by the colonial governors.

     By the Civil War, reporters in the field could transmit news by telegraph—assuming that competitors or the other side didn't cut the wires. Even the most efficient operation took at least a day to gather, write, transmit, and then print the news.

     Radio brought World Wars I and II closer to Americans. Photojournalists—with film, innumerable developing chemicals, and restricted by the speed of couriers, the mail service, and publication delays—gave Americans both photos and newsreel images of war.

     Television gave us better access to learning about wars in Korea and Vietnam.

     And then came the Persian Gulf War, and the full use of satellite communication. Although CNN, the first 24-hour news operation, was the only network to record the destruction of the Challenger in January 1986, it was still seen as a minor network, with audiences of thousands not millions. The Persian Gulf War changed that, along with the nature of the news industry. CNN built an audience during Operation Desert Shield, from late Summer 1990 to Jan. 16, 1991. On that evening, the beginning of Desert Storm, CNN was the only American-based news operation in Iraq. From the al-Rashid Hotel, its three correspondents and their teams transmitted news and video as the U.S. sent missiles into Baghdad.

     Two decades later, individual media have almost replaced mass media as sources for first information. Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, and innumerable ways to text message now link individuals and groups. Individuals can also transmit photos and video from cell phones to You Tube and dozens of other hosts, making everyone with a cell phone a temporary reporter or photojournalist. It also leads to extensive problems in discerning the facts from rumors and propaganda. The media—individual and mass—have united a world's people.

     In Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt, it was Facebook and Twitter, not state-run mass media, that gave the people communication to launch their protests that would lead to the fall of two authoritarian governments.

     On May 1, in a nine-minute television address beginning at 11:35 p.m., EST, President Obama t old the world that Navy SEALs had successfully completed their mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Those not at their radio or TV sets learned about it from messages and video on their cell phones or computers.

     It is still be the responsibility of the mass media--of radio, television, newspapers, and magazines--to give in-depth coverage and analysis of the events. But, for millions worldwide, it is no longer the mass media that establishes the first alerts.

     

    [Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, the author of 17 books, and a retired university journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow.]

     

     

    "The List" of Journolist Participants is Fake

    There is now a list going around in conservative websites purporting to be "The List" of media participants in Journolist. It's fake. How do I know? I'm on The List. And I was never on Journolist.

    Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have been on Journolist. It sounds fun. I'd like being on The List even more. That sounds bad ass. Someone I know was on Nixon's Enemies List - I've always thought that was the single coolest distinction anyone could have. This is as close as I got. As much as I would have loved it, I shouldn't be on The List.

    Why do I make this painful admission? Is it because I don't want to be associated with those no good libs secretly controlling the media? Hell no. Would have loved that, too. It's because you should know that people that are on that so-called "confirmed" list were not necessarily on Journolist. As usual, the conservative media seems to have completely made this up. Seen this movie before?

    I guess I should consider it a compliment that I was on the made up list. In other words, someone thought if there is going to be a liberal media conspiracy I was probably involved. That's pretty cool. But I have a more important question about this purported scandal.

    The conservative critics claim this proves the media is all a liberal conspiracy. And as part of the proof, they show e-mails from Journolist trying to sway the media to cover things with a liberal slant. But if the media is already liberal why do the liberals have to convince them?

    Some of the e-mails seem to show people strategizing over how to swing the narrative in the press. Well, if it's a conspiracy, why don't they just call up the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, etc. and just get them to run their liberal buddies' ideas as facts? Why do they have to try so hard to figure out a way to influence them through their own articles?

    Wouldn't this prove the opposite - that the mainstream media is not liberal? They hardly ever listen to these self-avowed liberal journalists. The people on this mailer seem to be on the outside looking in, trying to figure out how the influence the conversation (presumably the same exact thing conservative journalists and advocates are doing).

    In fact, in one of the first stories that The Daily Caller ran, they share e-mails from the list about anger toward George Stephanopoulos for asking about Rev. Wright during the 2008 debates. Well, if they run the media, why didn't the liberals just get George not to ask that question? Why did the so-called liberal media ask such a conservative question in the first place? If it's a conspiracy why won't Stephanopoulos listen to them?

    In other words, why won't the liberal media listen to the liberal media?

    Now, for the extra irony - one of the other questions Stephanopoulos asked in that same debate was planted by ... Sean Hannity. Stephanopoulos was on Hannity's show when pressed about Obama's connection to Bill Ayers and decided that he would ask it in the debate. So, is there then a conservative media conspiracy?

    Of course, the reality is that the media has many forms. There are straight news reporters and there are advocate journalists, like some people on Journolist and almost everyone at Fox News (I had to say "almost" because of Shep Smith, damn him for making things complicated).

    Of course, many of the people on Journolist freely admit that they write for liberal publications like The Nation, whereas Fox News claims to do fair and balanced reporting. So, they're both advocates, just one side is lying about it (I'm always amused by this lie; how can anyone say with a straight face that Fox News doesn't have a conservative perspective?).

    Finally, let me ask you one more question. If the liberal media is so strong how come all of the liberals in the country don't have as much influence as just Glenn Beck? That's really painful to write, but clearly true.

    Here's my proof. Every progressive organization, leader, advocate, journalist, congressmen, etc. have said that Elizabeth Warren should be nominated as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yet, they still can't get the job done. It is at best a 50-50 proposition right now. Yet, just the thought that Shirley Sherrod might be on Glenn Beck's show on one night is enough to get her fired.

    The mere threat of Beck swings the Obama administration immediately. That's power. That's influence. All of the progressives and liberals in the country put together can barely move the president on Warren. And this is supposed to be a liberal president with a liberal media? What an unbelievable joke.

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    "The List" of Journolist Participants is Fake

    There is now a list going around in conservative websites purporting to be "The List" of media participants in Journolist. It's fake. How do I know? I'm on The List. And I was never on Journolist.

    Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have been on Journolist. It sounds fun. I'd like being on The List even more. That sounds bad ass. Someone I know was on Nixon's Enemies List - I've always thought that was the single coolest distinction anyone could have. This is as close as I got. As much as I would have loved it, I shouldn't be on The List.

    Why do I make this painful admission? Is it because I don't want to be associated with those no good libs secretly controlling the media? Hell no. Would have loved that, too. It's because you should know that people that are on that so-called "confirmed" list were not necessarily on Journolist. As usual, the conservative media seems to have completely made this up. Seen this movie before?

    I guess I should consider it a compliment that I was on the made up list. In other words, someone thought if there is going to be a liberal media conspiracy I was probably involved. That's pretty cool. But I have a more important question about this purported scandal.

    The conservative critics claim this proves the media is all a liberal conspiracy. And as part of the proof, they show e-mails from Journolist trying to sway the media to cover things with a liberal slant. But if the media is already liberal why do the liberals have to convince them?

    Some of the e-mails seem to show people strategizing over how to swing the narrative in the press. Well, if it's a conspiracy, why don't they just call up the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, etc. and just get them to run their liberal buddies' ideas as facts? Why do they have to try so hard to figure out a way to influence them through their own articles?

    Wouldn't this prove the opposite - that the mainstream media is not liberal? They hardly ever listen to these self-avowed liberal journalists. The people on this mailer seem to be on the outside looking in, trying to figure out how the influence the conversation (presumably the same exact thing conservative journalists and advocates are doing).

    In fact, in one of the first stories that The Daily Caller ran, they share e-mails from the list about anger toward George Stephanopoulos for asking about Rev. Wright during the 2008 debates. Well, if they run the media, why didn't the liberals just get George not to ask that question? Why did the so-called liberal media ask such a conservative question in the first place? If it's a conspiracy why won't Stephanopoulos listen to them?

    In other words, why won't the liberal media listen to the liberal media?

    Now, for the extra irony - one of the other questions Stephanopoulos asked in that same debate was planted by ... Sean Hannity. Stephanopoulos was on Hannity's show when pressed about Obama's connection to Bill Ayers and decided that he would ask it in the debate. So, is there then a conservative media conspiracy?

    Of course, the reality is that the media has many forms. There are straight news reporters and there are advocate journalists, like some people on Journolist and almost everyone at Fox News (I had to say "almost" because of Shep Smith, damn him for making things complicated).

    Of course, many of the people on Journolist freely admit that they write for liberal publications like The Nation, whereas Fox News claims to do fair and balanced reporting. So, they're both advocates, just one side is lying about it (I'm always amused by this lie; how can anyone say with a straight face that Fox News doesn't have a conservative perspective?).

    Finally, let me ask you one more question. If the liberal media is so strong how come all of the liberals in the country don't have as much influence as just Glenn Beck? That's really painful to write, but clearly true.

    Here's my proof. Every progressive organization, leader, advocate, journalist, congressmen, etc. have said that Elizabeth Warren should be nominated as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yet, they still can't get the job done. It is at best a 50-50 proposition right now. Yet, just the thought that Shirley Sherrod might be on Glenn Beck's show on one night is enough to get her fired.

    The mere threat of Beck swings the Obama administration immediately. That's power. That's influence. All of the progressives and liberals in the country put together can barely move the president on Warren. And this is supposed to be a liberal president with a liberal media? What an unbelievable joke.

    Watch The Young Turks Here

    Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter:www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks 
    Become a Fan of The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

     

     

    It's Snow News

    by Walter Brasch

     Up to two feet of snow hit the Mid-Atlantic and New England states last week, the second storm within two weeks. Wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour and temperatures in the 20s created severe wind chill and extreme hazardous driving conditions. Pennsylvania ordered all commercial trucks off many of its major highways and Interstates. Schools and colleges throughout the Northeast cancelled classes, many for two days.

     We were warned that this would be a severe storm, because days before we received minute-by-minute predictions from TV weather persons. The snow will be two feet deep. Or maybe only 3 to 5 inches. No, wait, that was last hour's prediction. It's now going to be 5-9 inches. Or, maybe 10 inches. No, wait. That's wrong, it'll be 15 to 20 inches. It'll bury buildings and wreak a path of destruction unlike anything seen in the past four thousand years! It might also be only a half-foot. We'll be revising our prediction to some other number as soon as our assignment editor throws a dart at the Snow Inch Board.

     Most residents, unless they were forced to work, were smart enough to stay home. Also smart enough to stay indoors were TV news directors who sent their reporters and camera crews into the middle of snow-covered roads. Deep-voiced anchors introduced us to the infotainment promotion that has become TV news: "Now, LIVE from the middle of the Interstate, and bravely facing blizzard conditions with EXCLUSIVE coverage ONLY on Eyewitless News 99, your hometown station for LIVE EXCLUSIVE weather coverage is our LIVE reporter, Sammy Snowbound."

     Reporters and meteorologists were soon entertaining us with wooden rulers, which they pushed onto snow-covered tables and snow banks to report snow accumulation, not unlike a radio reporter doing play-by-play announcing for a high school basketball contest.

     The previous week, the local news stations and TV all-news networks identified a crippling snow as "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalyse." This week, with its winds, we learned about "Snowicane."

    And so for two back-to-back snow-somethings, we had almost unlimited Team Coverage. The teams interviewed business owners—"So, how's the snow affecting your business?" They interviewed residents—"So, how's the snow affecting your plans?" They even interviewed public officials—"So, how's the snow affecting your budget?"

    If Jesus came to the Northeast, he'd be watching all-snow all-the-time coverage, and waiting in a green room for his one minute interview. "So, Jesus, how you surviving the snow?"

     The problem of the extended coverage is that when there isn't any snow, local TV news gives us a five minute weather report on the Evening News. Excluding commercials, teasers, and mindless promotion, that's more than one-fourth of the news budget. We learn all about highs and lows, Arctic clippers, temperatures in obscure places, and the history of snowflakes. When a weather "event" occurs, TV has to ramp up its coverage, 'lest we think we can learn what we need to know in only five minutes.

    Every weather person will tell you there are no two snowflakes the same. But, we can always count on the same coverage, storm after storm, from the same flakes covering the weather. While the reporters are in the middle of a blizzard showing us snow—and how brave they are—they aren't giving us significant information about how to prepare for and then survive a storm, which may cut off electricity for up to a week. Nor are the TV crews telling us what happens to the homeless, or how the storms are affecting everything from insects to black bears.

    Long after the storm passes, we'll still be seeing TV weather reports of about four or five minutes—"It'll be sunny tomorrow, and here's a history of sun." It would be nice if local TV news would spend as much time as it does delivering semi-accurate weather reports to discuss significant governmental and social issues along with its diet of car crashes, fires, and the latest Pickle Festival.

     [Walter Brasch was a reporter and editor before becoming a professor of mass communications and journalism. He is an award-winning syndicated columnist and the author of 17 books, including the recently-published third edition of Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture.]

     

     

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