Sunday, May 8, 2011

60 Minutes Interviews Obama

Tonight President Obama gave what willl reportedly be his only interview on Osama bin Laden's death to "60 Minutes." After the first half of the interview, which dealt largely with the feelings surrounding the days leading up to the operation that ended in the killing of America's most infamous enemy, a few probing questions arose.

The first of these questions asked why Obama chose not tell Pakistan about the operation. President Obama answered that secrecy was vital to the success of the mission to which the interviewer responded "So you don't trust them."

Obama was also asked what this means for the United States going forward. His answer was that we are gearing up to take our troops out of Iraq, but our job isn't finished.

Not the most probing interview I've ever seen, possibly because it comes so soon after the operation and becuase even the media recognizes this proud moment for America.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama: Good for Obama.

In other bin Laden news....
 Bin Laden gives Obama 11-point approval bump

Bin Laden's Dead. Who Wants To See Pics??

There have been many debates surrounding the recent mission resulting in bin Laden's death: Does this mean the U.S. was successful or not? Is it wrong to celebrate the death of a human being, no matter who? Was the mission legal? Is Pakistan our ally or foe? Today a new debate surfaced, this time, about President Obama's decision not to release the pictures of bin Laden's body. CBS discusses both sides of the issue in their article "Many in Congress happy bin laden's photos won't be released".

No doubt the release of the pictures would create a media frenzy, sparking yet another debate often had surrounding war coverage about whether or not images of death and conflict have a desensitizing or a humanizing effect on civilians. Personally, I think the death of bin Laden in and of itself is empowering enough for the American people. As Michigan congressman Mike Rogers said, "There's no gain by doing it. The conspiracy theorists aren't going to be believe the photos...they're going to be doubting Thomases forever."

Friday, April 15, 2011

House Passes Budget Plan

The GOP recently succeed in pushing their 2012 RSC budget plan, which is estimated to cut anywhere between 3.5 trillion and 6 trillion (news sources vary) over the next ten to twelve years. During my skimming of the news on this latest GOP success, I noticed that that different news papers chose to include different details in their titles.

The New York Times:    "House Passes GOP Budget Budget Plan with no Democratic Votes"
The Wallstreet Journal: "House Passes GOP Budget Plan"
The Associated Press:   "House Passes GOP Budget Plan Cutting 6.2T from Obama Budget, Promising Medicare Overhaul"

While all of the details are factual, the titles frame the issue in a specific way so that while reading the articles, the reader is focused on some issues over another. Is it bias, or simply an angle? The Wallstreet Journal seems to have the most accurate and least biased title out of these three papers. Maybe in the newspaper article titling business, less is more.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obama v. Oprah

This weekend, during a precious hour of free time, I was reading through GQ magazine and I came across an interview with Andrew Breitbart, prior editor of "The Drudge Report" and current head of right-wing news aggregate website "" According to Breitbart "The media is dominated by the academic Marxist crowd's worldview  [I know; I didn't know this either . You learn something everyday]". Accordingly, Breitbart's mission is "To expose the counternarrative that has been hidden by those controlling the reins of popular culture." I am intersting to find out what this "counternarrative" is ( I tried by visitng; it was extremely unhelpful) but I am even more intersted in what Breitbart says about culture. He argues that

"The right has focused its energy on the political process and shrugged off culture. But culture is everything  in this country."

There seems to be a kernel of truth in Breitbart's web of extreme (and mostly unclear) statements. Culture occupies a salient position in our society, and its power is often weilded through the media. Social networking sites, in addition to allowing us to make more "friends" than we ever thought possible, allows us to share music and videos--much of which can be found on youtube. Politicians are already tapping into this media. Obama's "Yes We Can" video is full of popular music and popular musicians and actors. This phenomenon of combining media with culture is not new; we've seen campagain ads from past elections featuring famous people throwing in their weight with one candidate or another. However, in a political enviornment in which the use of new media is already recognized as essential for awareness, fund-rasing, advocacy,  and rallying, the power of culture when linked with the media for political purposes may be even more potent.

Who knows? Maybe Andrew Breitbart will come out with his own beautiful and inspiring popular-culture oriented video in order to demonstrate this phenomenon...and reveal his mysterious "counternarrative."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Stewart and Baier on Quality News

In an interview with Bret Baier, John Stewart joins many others in bashing Fox News:

Both Stewart and Baier make some interesting points about the Fox News phenomenon(although it's an interesting dynamic between the two since Baier is geuninely trying to defend his show and Fox News, and Stweart is hosting a political satire show), there is one part of the interview that is particularly interesting. Baier argues that there is a news segment of Fox and an opinion segment of Fox, and that the distinction can be clearly perceived. Stewart strongly disagrees, and then says, "I wasn't aware that quality and ratings were the same." Clearly the two are not the same, and Baier's use of Fox's top ratings as a defense against accusations of extreme bias is flawed in some major ways. However, this idea brings up an interesting question: do liberals, and perhaps the segments of the media that are liberal, operate on the assumption the average American citizen cannot tell the difference between news and opinion (Stewart praises the New York Times for clearly labeling which sections are which) while conservatives, and especailly Fox News, believe that Americans are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what is news and what is opinion?

The answer to the question of whether or not the average citizen is capable of discerning what is news and what is editorial could have some important implications for the media--is it necessary to specify? If there is no articulated distinction, will the actual line between the two itself blur?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Media Impresses with Libya Coverage

For a change, the media has been doing an impressive job of covering the recent war in Libya. Today alone I have already seen eleven different headlines about Libya, covering everything from African crticism of the air strike to Obama's decision to take action without Congressional approval.

I believe the media's constant coverage of the situation is extremely important for our country. America has been involved in several wars since Vietnam, yet due to our volunteer based army and the absence of violence on our homeland, we do not feel it. It is easy to forget that we have been in Iraq for more than seven years now. The media coverage of Libya has brought the nation's attention to the fact that America has now entered another war. Also, the broad variety of covergae which reports not only on the events of the war, but criticisms and positive remarks as well allows for a more informed national conversation. It remains to be seen how long the attention will last.

That being said, I do believe the media is falling short in one particular area. We have discussed the media's consistent failure to ask the right questions. In the case of Libya, the political objectives of the war are extremely ambigious. It's possible that politicans are keeping it this way on purpose, and also possible that the political objectives are difficult to articulate since the war is multilateral operation. If only there was some institution to ask these questions...