Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hoisted By His Own Petard

I can’t help but wonder why Mark Hyman and Sinclair Broadcasting are targeting Linda Foley, the president of The Newspaper Guild who recently made comments some have mischaracterized as accusing U.S. troops of murder. Hyman would have you believe that it’s simply because he’s sticking up for the honor of American troops that he feels have been slandered by Foley. But that’s nonsense. As we’ve seen any number of times, Hyman and Sinclair will happily let the troops hang out to dry if supporting them gets in the way of supporting their right wing political allies in the administration and elsewhere.

So why was Hyman paying such close attention to the various statements of Ms. Foley that he would be immediately aware of an unscripted (and off-topic) comment she made at a conference?

What’s Really Behind Hyman’s Attack on Foley?

It might be because
Foley has been a longtime critic of media consolidation, the dynamic that is the lifeblood of Sinclair Broadcasting. Sinclair owns more duopolies than any other television conglomerate, something that would have been impossible back in the good ol’ days when there were restrictions meant to keep any one person or company from owning multiple chunks of a given media market. As an outspoken critic of consolidation and its effects on the quality of journalism, Foley ranks high on the Sinclair Broadcasting corporate enemies list.

It might also be that as the head of a journalism union,
Foley and the Newspaper Guild are advocates for better working conditions for men and women in the news business. That by itself is enough to rankle Sinclair, a company infamous for its draconian labor practices. As the recent story in Rolling Stone reported, Sinclair bullies its employees to an egregious extent. I’ve personally received a number of accounts from former employees of Sinclair-run stations that have detailed the abusive nature of Sinclair/employee relations. And of course, the most famous example is that of Jon Lieberman, who was summarily fired for having the temerity to suggest that the airing of a propaganda piece as news would taint whatever journalistic credibility Sinclair might have.

Foley, then, was certainly perceived as an enemy long before her comments about the safety of journalists in Iraq. Sinclair, along with its fellow inhabitants of the conservative echo chamber (such as Fox News and have created a perfect [expletive deleted] storm, the goal of which is to drive Foley from the public sphere, not because of anything she said at a conference, but for her much more public words and actions on behalf of independent, quality journalism (something that is antithetical to Sinclair’s modus operandi).

Coverage of the Foley Affair

Of course, Hyman uses the occasion not just to attack Foley, but to go after the supposedly “liberal media” that has supposedly ignored the story, suggesting that this is why broadcast news and newspapers have smaller audiences (Hyman doesn’t offer an explanation for the
similar decline in local news). Well, the story was covered by the prestigious journal Editor and Publisher, but perhaps the tone was a bit too objective and balanced for Hyman’s taste. Hyman got himself booked on The O’Reilly Factor, but I’m sure O’Reilly is seen as the exception that proves the rule of slanted journalism. But what about “Democracy Now,” one of the very few media outlets that could reasonably be characterized as liberal (standing out, as it does, among a handful of conservative corporate conglomerations that own 90% of the existing media outlets)?

As it turns out,
“Democracy Now” not only covered the story, but included a panel of journalists who spoke intelligently and rationally about the issue. Their opinion? Journalists do face a highly dangerous atmosphere in Iraq that keeps them from doing their job, and too many have been injured and killed in “friendly fire” episodes, but the use of the word “targeting” is unfair and wrong in that it suggests that the soldiers on the ground are intentionally shooting journalists because they’re journalists. These implications, whether intentional or not on Foley’s part, are false.

In other words, the “Democracy Now” segment actually dealt with the allegations in a responsible way that explained both why Foley might make such comments as well as why they way she expressed her views did not accurately represent the real problems journalists face in Iraq.

If Hyman’s characterization of the media were anything close to accurate, you’d certainly expect an avowedly progressive media source like “Democracy Now” to either ignore the issue or to rally around Foley without reservation. That’s not what happened.

Ignoring the Downing Street Memo

You’d also expect that if Hyman’s assertion that the media has a liberal bias and reports stories that support this view of the world, there would have been a feeding frenzy on another story that came out this month: the Downing Street Memo. This memo, among other things, shows that the Bush administration “fixed” the evidence around Iraq to justify a preemptive invasion. You certainly don’t have to be a flaming liberal to understand the importance of such a story, one that suggests that the deaths of soldiers, journalists, and civilians in Iraq were all the result of systematic misrepresentation on the part of the Bush administration. Obviously the famously left wing media would pounce on this, right?

Not so much, as it turns out. In fact, much of the little coverage the story has received has been (paradoxically enough) about
the lack of journalistic attention to the story. Instead, we got daily updates on runaway brides and Michael Jackson from our supposedly left-wing media. If there was a media conspiracy to push a liberal political agenda, it’s so laughably inept that it might as well not exist.

Let’s Play By the Same Rules

But let’s return to Hyman’s apparent position on the remarks of Ms. Foley: if someone associated with a journalistic organization makes unwarranted and unsubstantiated claims that an American serviceman targeted and killed a noncombatant in a war zone, that person should be fired by their parent organization.

Fair enough, Mark. Let’s go with that. What about the time
you accused a serviceman of killing an unarmed, wounded teenager who was running away from a firefight? No, not in Iraq; in Vietnam. The soldier in question was a guy by the name of John Kerry. Too bad you had no evidence to back up your reckless claim. In fact, the military itself says that Kerry shot a full grown man who was about to fire a grenade at Kerry’s boat. So do all the sources checked by the nonpartisan urban legend debunking site, So do the sources checked by the nonpartisan And so does the one other man alive who witnessed the actions firsthand that day.

Need any help cleaning out your desk, Mark?

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one Ted, I'd like to help Hyman clean out his desk, but it's probably already empty, kind of like the space between his ears. He obviously doesn't use any references other than Republican talking points or something else he can use to benefit himself or his friends financially or politically. We see Mark Hymans 'Points', but it's nothing a nice tall hat wouldn't cover - both of them!
Thanks Ted, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC

At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Malum Regnat said...

The local station that used to be owned by Siclaire was purchased last month by Viacom so I no longer get to listen to the 'Point', but I enjoy keeping up with Hyman's shinanigans through your blog.

At 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent as always but you forgot one thing, hyman's claim that he broke the story. He may have, I don't know, but isn't he a commentator? it says "commentary" on the screen. But now he's breaking news. I thought reporters break the news. So which is he, commentator or reporter? In the past, when accused of being biased, he's pointed out that it's clearly opinion unlike (in his view) the mainstream media which conceals its bias. so what is his job title then? My head hurts.
gwb in dc

At 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice point, GWB. Yes, I've touched on Hyman's shifiting identity in some previous posts. When it suits his purposes, he's a "reporter" (as with his pieces from Iraq last year), but when criticized, he's simply a "commentator" offering his own individual views that (of course) have absolutely nothing to do with Sinclair Broadcasting . . .



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