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Thursday, August 6, 2009

The New York Times and Brian Stelter Specifically Have Big Time Egg On their Faces (Updated)

This piece ran in the New York Times last Friday. It purported to make the supposition that a feud between GE and Fox that mostly pitted cable news anchors Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann in an often included serious and harsh charges leveled by the two at each and at each other's employers. The piece made it seem as though higher ups talked to both Olbermann and O'Reilly and had them tamp it down on the other. The piece even claimed that stories by one of the other had gone down since mid June.

It was perhaps the fiercest media feud of the decade and by this year, their bosses had had enough. But it took a fellow television personality with a neutral perspective to help bring it to at least a temporary end.

At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft
in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud.

Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.

In early June, the combat stopped, and MSNBC and Fox, for the most part, found other targets for their verbal missiles (Hello, CNN)

So, this story purported to suggest that a corrupt administrative structure at two giant corporations was trying to censor their two biggest stars on cable news. The undercurrent of this article was that there were forces at both corporations that could get their anchors to adjust their message if they put enough pressure on them. This story supposedly had multiple anonymous sources. The story was also total and complete nonsense. As if on cue, here is the Worst Person of the Year bit from Olbermann in his first day on the job after the story broke. (he was on vacation when it did break)

In his piece, Olbermann gave Stelter the bronze medal in his "Worst Person in the World" rundown. Because can you think of three worse things in the world than writing an article that Keith Olbermann disputes? I believe I speak for everyone when I say that I cannot.
(Olbermann, by the way, reveals the shocking fact that Stelter wrote the article even though Olbermann has denied a deal to him "on and off the record." The only other way one could learn of this scandalously covered-up fact was by reading Stelter's article, in which he quoted Olbermann's denial directly.)

Meanwhile, here is O'Reilly's Talking Points Memo from last night.

This was a TPM that focused on President Obama's cozy relationship with General Electric.

Thus, this story was totally bunk. It was only featured in their Media section but the charges were startling and so the idea that it was totally wrong is shameful. The author, Brian Stetler, has plenty to explain here. His article had several supposed insiders. How could his conclusion have been so wrong? Olbermann is quoted in the article as denying this but that is referenced ina paranthesis statement.

Stetler essentially accused two major corporations of silencing their top two commentators in their criticism of the other. This was no small charge. If Olbermann and O'Reilly accepted this deal, they would have absolutely no journalistic integrity. Clearly, they didn't accept this deal. Yet, the article was written as though they had anyway. I don't know enough about Stetler, though he acted like a hack on this story. If the New York Times were run like it was 50 years ago, he'd be fired on the spot. Even now, Stetler must explain himself. Here is his email contact information. Here is my pithy email.

Mr. Steltzer, will you be issuing an update on your story about O'Reilly and Olbermann? As it is, you couldn't have been more wrong in your reporting. Don't you think you owe the public an explanation?


Mr. Stelter responded to my email and he says he stands by his story. You can decide for yourself if it is accurate here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

You probably should contact the ombudsman, Clarke Hoyt. But there is, apparently, an attempt to shut up an anchor - over at CNN. Some poobah said the 'birther' story was dead already - a way of telling Lou Dobbs to put a cork in it.



Anonymous said...

Are you for real? Its CNN's president whose taking the flak for NOT trying to silence Dobbs!