Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Company that Dares Not Speak Its Name

Mark Hyman continues to violate every known rule of journalistic integrity even as he lectures others about their supposed shortcomings.

In the
latest "Point," Hyman goes after the New York Times, specifically Andrew Rosenthal, editor of the Times’ op-ed page. (This is the same New York Times that now admits it willingly bought into the Bush administration's claims about WMDs and repeated them uncritically during the lead up to the invasion—gosh Mark, where’s the love?).

It seems like a small point, but we have to begin with the context Hyman conjures up for his piece. He claims he talked to Rosenthal in connection with the “brouhaha” over John Kerry’s “snub” of Vietnam vets. This is a classic Hyman technique that he’s used several times in connection to Ted Koppel and Nightline. When Sinclair drew fire from pretty much the entire nation for refusing to let its stations air the episode of Nightline that honored fallen troops in Iraq last April, Hyman referred to the incident as “Koppelgate,” as if the controversy involved Ted Koppel and ABC, not Sinclair.

This time, Hyman laughably suggests that controversy over Sinclair’s airing of “Stolen Honor” was actually about John Kerry turning down an empty offer by Sinclair to participate in a “panel discussion” of the film. So, I guess in Hyman’s world, Kerry not only single-handedly lost the Vietnam War, but also is responsible for the death plunge that Sinclair’s stock has taken in recent weeks.

One would think that if Hyman and the Smith clan who run Sinclair actually had the courage of their convictions, they’d be straightforward about the issue, and simply say, “During the controversy about Sinclair’s decision to run “Stolen Honor,” we spoke to Andrew Rosenthal . . . etc.” Such a statement doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing, so why doesn’t Hyman have the guts to own up to his company’s decisions rather than lamely trying to shift responsibility onto others?

There are two answers. The first and most obvious is a simple lack of any intellectual spine whatsoever. Hyman makes a living spinning facts, and taking responsibility for what one says and does tends to make this more difficult.

But there’s another, more subtle, reason as well. If Hyman actually addressed Sinclair’s decision to run “Stolen Honor” (or not to run Nightline’s “The Fallen”), he would have to say the word “Sinclair” on the air. Of course, that’s a non-starter. It would be virtually impossible to do this without acknowledging his own connection to Sinclair, as well as that of the stations on which he appears. Remember that Sinclair’s modus operandi is to give viewers the illusion of local news, while actually giving them nothing of the sort. Calling attention to his own attachment to Sinclair would break down the façade he tries so hard to keep up. Notice that in fact “The Point” never identifies who Mark Hyman is, that it’s coming from Sinclair’s Baltimore headquarters, or even that it’s not local. That’s not an accident. It’s all part of the systematic dishonesty that’s at the heart of Sinclair Broadcasting’s approach to what can only loosely be described as journalism.

Given this inherent shadiness, it’s not surprising that Hyman abuses his fellow journalists in unfair ways, this time taking a conversation he had with Rosenthal and distorting it into a strawman to be abused. Even given that Hyman pulls quotations out of context, it’s painfully clear that he’s conjuring his interpretation from thin air. He quotes Rosenthal as saying that he’s “tired of hearing about Vietnam” and is sick about the way the Right wingers are doing to this war (i.e., Iraq) what they did to the Vietnam War.

Hyman then simply says that Rosenthal and the New York Times hate our troops and our veterans.


Even in these Hyman-picked quotations, all Rosenthal is saying is that Vietnam isn’t an important issue in the current political race (or shouldn’t be) and that conservatives are using any objection to the policies behind the war as “evidence” that those voicing the objections “hate America” and are “against our troops.” Hyman makes no attempt to actually explain how these comments suggest that Rosenthal and “his liberal friends” have anything but the highest regard for the actual men and women serving in Iraq.

But in doing this, Hyman proves Rosenthal’s point more clearly and eloquently than even Rosenthal himself could.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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