Priorities.

by matttbastard

If it felt like the US cable news media became ‘all-Anna-Nicole-all-the-time’ during the month of February, well, your instincts were at least partly correct. MediaBistro’s TVNewser blog points to this recent study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which, according to the Associated Press, found that “cable news programs devoted 22 percent of their airtime to the Smith story from Feb. 8 to March 2, double the amount given the second-biggest story, the presidential campaign… .”

The biggest offender? Fox News (surprise surprise) with nearly 1/3 of its programming focused on the death of Anna Nicole (FYI: it was teh DRUGS!!!1 Shocking, I know.)

Flashback: Think Progress compares the MSM’s disproportionate coverage of the death of Anna Nicole and events in Iraq that occurred on the same day.

Update: Courtesy Spiegel Magazine, Larry King has some interesting things to say about the Anna Nicole feeding frenzy and what it says about the state of modern broadcast journalism:

SPIEGEL: How do you prepare for the guests on your show?

King: Not much. By the way, (he says turning to his assistant) what’s on the show tonight, Bridget?

Assistant: Anna Nicole Smith, her autopsy report is coming out today.

King: Oh, no, not again. I hate this show, but it’s the news of the day, so we have to do it. It takes no brains to do Anna Nicole Smith tonight. There is no inventiveness to it, no challenge.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you just refuse to do these tabloid stories?

King: Of course I could say no. But then they (the network) would say you’ve got to keep up with the ratings. And I do understand what they are facing. You win some, you lose some. But if they were to go too far, then I wouldn’t do it. A colleague once told me that, “If I put a couple having intercourse on TV at 9 p.m., I could win tonight.”

SPIEGEL: The character of news has changed, hasn’t it?

King: That’s the downside.

SPIEGEL: Even a star like you is powerless to stop it?

King: Sometimes it’s easier for management to take the easy way. If you want to do a show on the Middle East you will not get good numbers. Even though you can certainly say that the Middle East is certainly more important than Anna Nicole Smith. Who would deny that?

SPIEGEL: How do you deal with the competition?

King: An absurd competition has broken out between the talk shows. They have Anna Nicole’s brother? Then we need her doctor. Or sister. But it isn’t important. I mean, it has no effect on your life. Would we have done that years ago? In my radio days and in early television maybe one show would have been done about Anna Nicole. But Anna Nicole Smith wouldn’t have been a figure 40 years ago because she didn’t do anything. So it’s a story because it’s a story. Corporations today are run by accountants. In those days they were run by broadcasters, and they understood better what a broadcaster did. Now it comes from accounting and accounting is all about the bottom line

Wonder if King would be so candid and outspoken if this interview had been with a domestic media outlet?

Spare change.

by Isabel LaCoeur

One thing that has always disturbed me is the amount of contempt that people express towards the homeless, and how utterly acceptable it is to express it. No one bats an eye, it seems. It’s as though people think that they themselves are immune to financial crises or unexpected disasters. I can think of dozens of reasons why someone would end up in the unfortunate situation of living on the streets, yet most people’s imaginations seem only to stretch so far as “They just don’t want to get a job.”

Do you know how hard it is to get a job with no address? If that is too hard to fathom, I wouldn’t suggest trying to answer the riddle of how to get an address without a job.

“Even if I WERE homeless, I would never sink so low as to hang out on the streets, dirty and begging,” you might think to yourself. I would disagree. If you were homeless, hungry, had finally run out of people who would help you, and had come to the bleak realization as to how poor the resources for the homeless are in your city, you would beg. You would beg as though your life depended on it. Because IT WOULD.

It’s attitudes like “Homeless people are lazy, and deserve to be where they are because they have no ambition” that help ensure that the federal and municipal programs that help the poorest among us will continue to languish, underfunded. If few tax-paying, voting individuals care, then what incentive is there for the various levels of government to care either?

(I’m not even going to touch upon the stigma directed towards mental illness, that is an entirely different post altogether.)

“A full contact sport”

by matttbastard

Despite the confident assurances of Gen. Petraeus and and Sen. McCain (kudos to Ware for calling everyone’s favourite faux-maverick out), the security situation in Iraq remains highly problematic (to say the least). Countering the misplaced (perhaps disingenuous) optimism of some US officials, BBC News reports today that civilian casualties rose by 13% in March, bringing the total number of deaths almost back up to pre-surge levels:

Data compiled by several ministries put civilian deaths in March at 1,861 – compared with 1,645 for February.

The apparent ‘success’ of the ‘surge’ (the BBC notes that despite the nationwide increase in civilian deaths, violence in Baghdad is down 25%, according to US military officials) may be largely illusory:

A BBC correspondent in Baghdad says insurgents seem to have shifted their focus outside the capital to avoid recently introduced security measures.

[…]

US military commanders had expected a switch in tactics, and the latest figures released by the interior, defence and health ministries appear to bear that out, says the BBC’s Jonathan Charles in Baghdad.

[…]

Health ministry estimates for civilian deaths in violence in January and December were both more than 1,900.

I’m sure both Petraeus and McCain feel completely secure strolling through the markets of Baghdad, what with their respective heavily-armed security contingents on high alert the entire time. (Too bad the average Iraqi doesn’t possess the same luxury.) But, like Ware, I’d love to see either one attempt an unaccompanied morning constitutional through the heart of Iraq’s capital.

Something tells me both would refuse without hesitation.

Related: Keith Olbermann has a typically pointed response to Sen. McCain’s overly rosy assessment of on-the-ground conditions in Iraq:

Update: Paul Rogers notes that the decrease of sectarian violence is likely partially due to both a temporary tactical maneuver on the part of the Mahdi Army and internal instability:

…[T]he Shi’a militias that make up the so-called Mahdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr have been largely withdrawn from action, senior officials in the movement have gone to ground, and Muqtada al-Sadr himself has kept out of public view. This does not mean that this powerful faction has accepted the notional new reality of US power; it is much more likely to be a temporary tactic that actually allows the US forces to concentrate its energies more on curbing the Sunni militias.

At the same time, Pentagon sources report rifts in the movement which they claim are inhibiting its ability to function effectively (see Ann Scott Tyson & Robin Wright, “Mahdi Army rifts extend Iraq calm“, 29 March 2007).