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The NY Times' pointless pursuit of right-wing "buzz" stories

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Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was "slow off the mark," and blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies.
-- New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt, September 26 column [emphasis added]

Talk about great timing!

Just after The New York Times announced it would appoint somebody to monitor the partisan opinion media more closely, and right after editors were chastened for reacting too slowly to buzzworthy news scoops launched by the conservative media, the right-wing press went into overdrive last week.

Like a proud peacock showing off its feathers, the right-wing media was in full bloom, showing the Times all the tricks that have made the movement's trade so renowned. There was outright lying, lying by omission, attempted guilt-by-association, U.S.-bashing, hateful smear campaigns (lots of those), fearmongering, incompetence, and just batshit crazy stuff. (Did I mention the heavy dose of crazy?) All the key notes were hit -- and in just one epic week.

I hope the Times is enjoying its new-found, front-row seat to the right-wing media's slow-motion crack-up, where I doubt even the denizens can keep track of the avalanche of falsehoods, smears, and lies that now tumble out on a daily (hourly?) basis. The whole enterprise has come unglued by Obama's presidency. And where serial mendacity was once the rule, a whole new level of crazy has been achieved in 2009. Even conservative blogger Rick Moran last week called out the "lunacy" that fuels so much of the Obama hate; a hate that's stoked around the clock by conservative media.

And now the Times can chronicle it every day because editors there think they might uncover news leads.

Good luck with that. The truth is, the partisan right-wing press this year has morphed into a minefield of paranoia, distrust, and hate. But, hey, if The New York Times thinks it's going to mine some news nuggets in the fever swamps, be my guest. Whoever is tasked with tracking the right-wing media, though, ought to get combat pay because, trust me, monitoring the endless layers of misinformation and sheer lunacy that now power the conservative movement's media deadens the senses pretty quickly. It's a permanent port hole into the dark recesses of American hate politics.

Nonetheless, in honor of the Times' (highly questionable) decision to pay even more attention to the stories that are bubbling up on the far-right blogosphere, talk radio and Fox News -- to get hip to all that right-wing "buzz" -- let's examine what just a seven-day span looked like.

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The right-wing media last week offered up a smorgasbord of delicious news treats, with the Beck/Drudge/Malkin brigade producing some Grade-A news leads. Indeed, the scoops last week practically came gift-wrapped, courtesy of the conservative media, which was en fuego.

Check that. The right-wing media's been en fuego for weeks now! Who can forget Michelle Malkin's big scoop on the day of the September 12 anti-Obama rally in Washington, D.C.? Two million protesters had taken to the streets, according to Malkin's "reporting." Buzz? That one was off the charts, with all the big-time bloggers and Fox News personalities helping to spread the blockbuster news. (Pajamas Media's Roger Simon: "[T]wo million people on the Washington Mall. Wow!")

OK, it's true that Malkin's estimate was off by, oh, 1.93 million people. But, still, that was a perfect example of how right-wing bloggers don't just sit around and wait for the news to happen. They get out there and make (up) their own. They create their own buzz, and the Times ought to respect that.

Let's take a look at what other right-wing "buzz" stories the Times was treated to last week.

There was the big Drudge Report scoop about how a Fox TV affiliate in Chicago was "ordered" to not air a report it had done highlighting the fact that not all Chicagoans were behind the city's push to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The New York Times wants "buzz"? Drudge's breaking story got wall papered online, with Breitbart.tv, Townhall.com, Don Surber, Scared Monkeys, Gates of Vienna, Riehl World View, and Confederate Yankee all cheering it on. (i.e. "Silence! Do Not Speak Ill of Chicago!")

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Were there some holes in that story? Sure. For instance, there was the screaming Drudge headline:

FOX-TV Chicago Ordered Not to Run Anti-Olympic Story

It turns out that according to Drudge's own "reporting," the innocuous 60-second news report had already aired, which, of course, meant the headline about the station being "ordered not to run" was completely misleading.

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Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a (more...)

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If we miss the nine repititions of FOX's latest ha... by Jason Paz on Wednesday, Oct 7, 2009 at 6:56:54 PM