Sunshine Week, a nationwide event taking place this week (March 12-18), is an annual reminder that access to government information is not something we can take for granted. In fact, prior to July 4, 1967, when the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) took effect, access to federal government information was not a given at all. It took an act of Congress to counteract the tendency of government bureaucrats to over-classify, obfuscate, and procrastinate when it came to making even innocuous information available to the public.
Sunshine Week was created by the American Society of News Editors in 2005 and is now coordinated by that group in partnership with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. With these groups heading the effort, it would be easy to think of Sunshine Week as something primarily by and for journalists. Of course having access to public information is of great interest to journalists. That kind of access is essential if the press is to perform its role as a watchdog of government at all levels in this great democracy.
Continue reading “Sunshine Week: A Timely Celebration”
It’s safe to say that nobody alive today has ever seen anything like it: A newly elected president who, so far from being a professional politician, says off-the-cuff things in conversation or midnight tweets that positively invite indignant responses – and a media and entertainment industry that has been loudly marching against him ever since he won the nomination.
The consuming question in these parts is less how it began than how it will end, and with what consequences. It’s pretty clear now that it’s open warfare between the White House and the mainstream media (MSM) – the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN in particular – and Hollywood.
Of course it could come to an end with a kind of detente with no clear winner, but that seems unlikely given the hubris of the combatants. So it probably comes down to one of two results: (1) The president is undone politically by GOP defections or through impeachment proceedings; or (2) Trump and his supporters engineer an anti-media campaign with teeth, causing the media to back down.
Everyone is familiar with the practice of activists harassing advertisers, starting letter-writing campaigns, picketing the homes and offices of businesses and executives, and promoting boycotts » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on March 2, 2017.
It would be amusing if it weren’t so serious.
Seemingly incapable of letting pass even the most trivial challenges, like the media’s invidious comparison between the size of the inaugural crowd and the numbers assembled for the so-called Women’s March on Washington, President Trump responds with a claim that not only can’t be corroborated but is plainly false. He responds similarly to the tiresome and sophomoric criticism of him by Meryl Streep, with the claim that Ms. Streep is an “over-rated” actress.
And he suggests, as an explanation for why he lost the popular vote, that it was because 3 million people voted illegally, rather than the much better explanation that he didn’t even bother to campaign in states like New York and California, where he knew he couldn’t win the electoral vote, and where, as with California’s strange election laws, there wasn’t even a Republican on the ballot for the open Senate seat.
But for all the president’s foibles, it’s the post-election breakdown of the media and entertainment industries that is the most revealing and the most disturbing.
The beginning of wisdom in understanding why this is of such importance is in knowing that the vast majority of Americans » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on Feb. 8, 2017.
The presidential election has lit a fuse on discussions about the present and future of the mainstream media (MSM). Opinions are hot and heavy, and predictable for the most part according to the political mindset of the commenter.
Some people, for instance, attribute Trump’s win to the media’s extensive coverage of him during the primaries, while others see the influence of so-called “fake news” as a factor. People of these and kindred opinions tend not to see, or acknowledge, any significance in the election results for the future of the MSM.
Other people think that Trump won precisely because he characterized the media as being part of the “corrupt establishment,” with Michael Wolff, for instance, writing in the Hollywood Reporter that the election was not between the Republican and Democratic parties but between the Trump Party and the Media Party. As Wolff puts it, “The media turned itself into the opposition and, accordingly, was voted down.” Many such people, Wolff excluded, tend to see (indeed, hope for) a dismal future for the mainstream media.
Yet other commenters see in the election results the damaging effects on the MSM and the country as a whole of the social media, » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on Jan. 6, 2017.
The Washington Post has for years been a newspaper that favors Democrats and liberalism generally. This has been seen in the kind and quality of issues covered, and not covered, in its feature and investigative stories, and in its editorials. But not until this year has the paper so grossly abandoned the practice of separating news from opinion in its news stories.
And that is something that, for all his distractions and grandeur, the Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos, must now correct — that or he needs to accept personally the decline and opprobrium that is coming the Post’s way.
Under normal circumstances the owner of a media company is best advised to steer clear of editorial matters, but that won’t work at the Post any longer. It’s become obvious that, with the election of Donald Trump, none of the editors at the paper can be trusted to uphold even the most basic of journalistic standards.
This has been true since Trump first announced his candidacy, but it has escalated gruesomely since his election. Witness, for instance, what is perhaps the shoddiest piece of feature writing since Rolling Stone published its blatantly false story about a campus rape at the University of Virginia. » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on Nov. 29, 2016.
There are many losers in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory. They include Hollywood, pollsters, the Bush family and the GOP’s donor class, and neocons. But the biggest losers are the mainstream media (MSM) and journalism itself.
And it’s the damage done to journalism, not the fate of pundits or media outlets, that is the most disturbing. After all, it’s been reported for years that Republicans and conservatives in ever larger numbers deem the MSM to be in the Democrats’ and liberals’ corner, and if that perception is okay with media moguls it’s their choice to make — and to live with the consequences in the marketplace.
But when, as happened this year, so much of the media openly and willfully suspended the practice of separating news from opinion, they crossed a boundary of what’s rightly theirs and what’s ours. It’s our right and need to know about civic matters, fully, fairly and accurately, that is the public virtue in journalism and the sine qua non of democracy.
Although virtually all of the MSM violated this boundary in their frantic support of Clinton, some were worse than others. As is often the case, CNN led in this category, » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on Nov. 15, 2016.
As the mainstream media pillory Donald Trump, and in doing so reveal the hypocrisy lurking in their news standards, Trump’s supporters find themselves caught between the rock of the MSM and the hard place of the conservative intelligentsia. And it may be the latter that are doing the most damage.
Because academia and the legacy media are so hostile to them, intellectuals of the right have for years congregated in think tanks and publications. Places like the libertarian Cato Institute, the conservative National Review and the Wall Street Journal, and the neoconservative Commentary (and more recently the Weekly Standard) have incubated and nurtured some of the best pundits and policy analysts in the country.
Yet today, not one of them supports Donald Trump’s candidacy, and several (particularly the neocons) are in full-throated opposition. Taken together, these “Never Trumpers” fault the GOP nominee for his stands on immigration and international trade, for his personal style, and for his lack of familiarity with, much less fealty to, conservative policy positions.
In other words, they have their reasons. Yet for all of that, there’s a look and feel about their efforts that smacks of vanity. Sadder still, their collective posture reveals an embarrassing lack of discernment » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on Aug. 31, 2016.
The New York Times’ media columnist, Jim Rutenberg, penned a recent piece suggesting that biased news coverage of Donald Trump, at the Times and among other mainstream media, is justified and rarely observed in the context of other partisan or ideological issues.
Rutenberg’s claim is that because Trump says things that are rude, politically incorrect, or debatable, and “conducting his campaign in ways we’ve not normally seen,” there is no need for news reporters to treat him to objective reporting.
As the gentleman puts it: “It may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters. But journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment. To do anything less would be untenable.”
So … by this standard, which has been honored more in the breach than the observance by the Times for years, Rutenberg justifies the open vilification of Trump’s statements in things written not just by opinion writers but by reporters as well.
It’s as fine a piece of hypocrisy clothed in “journalistic idealism” as you’ll ever see, » Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on Aug. 15, 2016.
No administration in memory has more thoroughly undermined freedom of speech and of the press than that of President Obama. From the White House itself, as well as the independent and executive branch agencies, have come a steady stream of policies, initiatives, and pronunciamentos that have threatened or compromised both of these constitutional rights.
Indeed, the Administration’s example has inspired like-minded actions outside of the White House. For example, those Democratic members of Congress who actively encouraged IRS action against conservative nonprofit organizations before Lois Lerner turned to the task.
And the 16 state attorneys general, Democrats all, who have recently embarked on a campaign designed to silence people who are skeptical of the evidence of anthropogenic global warming and/or its effects and remediation.
But it’s the example of the Administration itself that is most notable. Who could forget the performance of then-UN ambassador Susan Rice who, five days after the Benghazi attack that took the life of the American ambassador, went on national TV and blamed the attacks on an anti-Islam video shown on YouTube?
This followed by two days Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s similar claim, and all of it despite the fact that senior Administration officials knew at the time that Benghazi was a premeditated attack that had nothing to do with the video. >>Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Hill on July 13, 2016.
The news that pro wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker has been financed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has sparked many opinions, some of them erroneous, some duplicitous, and some deeply shameful.
Before providing examples of each, a little background. In 2007, Valleywag, a now-defunct blog site then owned by Gawker Media, outed Thiel, against his express wishes, as a homosexual. Though he is in fact gay, Thiel was angry about this, and angry too about what he saw, and sees, as Gawker’s bullying journalism in its coverage of Silicon Valley’s tech industry.
For some apparent combination of these reasons, Thiel subsequently offered to covertly pay for Hogan’s legal fees in connection with the wrestler’s invasion of privacy suit against Gawker. The gravamen of Hogan’s suit is that Gawker published online a secretly taped video of Hogan having sex with the wife of a friend of his. At trial the jury awarded Hogan $140 million.
So right off the bat a couple of things are clear: Neither Hogan’s lawsuit nor Thiel’s payment of his legal fees are First Amendment issues, despite allegations to that effect in stories published by such as the New York Times. >> Read More
Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors. The full version of this article appeared in The Daily Caller on June 9, 2016.