Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Daily Beast Exclusive, Behind The Scenes

So I'm in the press room at the Rio today charging my computer while covering the liberal blogger confab called Netroots Nation for AOL News and I listen in as Fox News interviews DailyKos contributor Dante Atkins. He has some things to say that are germane for the tack I'm planning to take -- and, in fact, he makes the bold prediction that the Democrats will PICK UP seats in this fall's election.

When he's done on camera, I ask him to sit with me for an interview. He does. When we're finished, Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron immediately strikes up a conversation with Atkins about some of what he had said on camera.

The rest is what you can read on TheDailyBeast.Com right now, comments in which he tacitly agrees with Atkins' claim that conservative Fox News personalities essentially created the Tea Party Movement, Cameron's raising the Shirley Sherrod drama as an example of an effort by some at Fox to influence the news and about his remark that Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle.

AOL News passed on this bit, so I moved on to pitch it elsewhere and The Daily Beast grabbed it eagerly. I emailed Fox's spokeswoman for comment and got a response that Cameron claimed I had taken his comments completely out of context. When Cameron reached me, he claimed all he was doing was sticking up for the integrity of Fox's news division. Evidently at the expense of the rest of the schedule.

Thing is, Atkins, the blogger, was there, too, and not only backed up accuracy of the quotes but the context in which I wrote them. And Cameron claimed first that I didn't hear the whole thing and then that it only lasted maybe 40 seconds, and Atkins said it lasted at least 4 minutes. I thought it was even longer, but OK.

Now, those of you who follow this blog know I'm not new to analyzing and reporting on the media. I routinely defend the Review-Journal against charges of conservative bias in its news pages, I've taken journalists to task at the Las Vegas Sun, The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. I've appeared on KNPR and several TV stations discussing media matters as an analyst. In this case, I don't even know if I believe what Cameron said was inappropriate because I don't actually have a problem with reporters expressing certain types of opinions.

But I did know it was news. And so did Cameron, which is why he moved the conversation with Atkins out of the room and away from my observation.

You may wonder if it's ethical or appropriate to report on overheard conversations. Journalists do it every day. It is not necessary to be a party to a discussion to find its contents newsworthy, but as you can read in the piece, I became a party to this conversation and Cameron began it while I was still interacting with Atkins. Plus, he said stuff about his own news organization within earshot of journalists, and there were others in the room, though I don't know who they are or what they heard.

Also, Cameron hasn't questioned whether I should have been listening or even whether the quotes themselves are accurate. He just has an elaborate explanation for what he was really saying that makes little logical sense. He chose to raise the Sherrod matter and he offered the snark about Angle. If there was some deeper, more complex point of view he hoped to express, he didn't express it in this discussion.

He also complained to me that I wasn't being fair with him because I was refuting his version of events. The good news is, I was there. I heard it. I'm not taking stories from witnesses and reconciling them as journalists normally must. So when he gives his version and it is so clearly different than what I witnessed and what the other person in the conversation had to say, I am comfortable saying that Cameron is either misremembering or being deceptive. If I wasn't there, then I certainly would be dutibound to assume his version was as likely and valid as Atkins'. In this case, that's not necessary.

Will be interesting to see where this one goes and if Atkins offers up his version of the situation on his considerable forum on Daily Kos.

As an aside, I have defended Fox's news division as well. I went to college with Brett Baier and think the world of his work. Just as with the R-J, the opinion shows and the news shows are usually significantly different and differently managed. I haven't seen Cameron much, but I suspect he's a fair reporter who strives to be accurate and balanced. Then again, he did try to rewrite an entire conversation that two other people bore witness to, so now I'm not so sure.


Anonymous said...

How would Cameron have any credibility to make that claim? It still wouldn't make any sense. Fox News doesn't create a political party or movement. The Tea Party is a decentralized organization of conservatives and libertarians with a focus on fiscal issues and focus on small government.

As for Shirley Sherrod, what she said is clearly racist despite any change of her story at the NAACP. She was racist. She practiced racial discrimination. Sorry, she should not have gotten a pass. And she was a victim of the NAACP and President Obama Administration that made knee jerk rush to judgement without learning about all the facts.

Even with the facts, Shirley Sherrod is a racist. Too bad for the truth.

sanford said...

Even with the facts she is a racist? That makes a ton of sense. As for Fox have you ever seen the video of one of their reporters urging on the crowd of tea baggers. The tea party has been financed by Fox, Dick Armey and others. By the way there is a Saudi Arabian that owns a ten per cent share of Fox. Isn't there some conflict there?

atdnext said...

"By the way there is a Saudi Arabian that owns a ten per cent share of Fox."

And don't forget, sanford, that Rupert Murdoch invests heavily in China. Aren't the teabaggers anti-China?

And yes, they DID distort what Shirley Sherrod actually said. And yes, Faux News is NOT news, but is trying to distort the news to make it sound as pro-Republican as possible. And yes, at the very least they turned the "tea party" viral among right wingers by promoting their rallies by way of "reporting" last year.

It just sounds to me like Anon 11:23 has fallen for yet another of Faux's tricks in trying to demonize Shirley Sherrod like they have done to so many other Obama Administration officials.

Btw, good catch, Mr. Steve! And thanks for covering NN while I was busy with "real life" and a number of other bloggers were focusing on other stories like the Kenny Guinn death. (May he RIP.)

Anonymous said...

Atdnext: I don't watch FOX news. I don't have cable or satellite. It seems like any news that is inconvenient to you is passed-on as conservative propaganda, which is a false accusation.

The vindication of Shirley Sherrod is ridiculous. It appears she is now on various news programs race baiting Andrew Breitbart and conservatives.

"I'd tell him he's a liar. He knew exactly what effect that would have on not only - he knew what effect that would have on the conservative, racist people he's dealing with. That's why I started getting the hate mail. And that's why I started getting the hate calls. He got the effect he was looking for," Sherrod said on John King, USA.

She already presumed conservatives are racists. The hate mail is not proof of racism or that the senders are conservative. They are a reaction to the awful racist speech that she gave. She should look at how the White House and the NAACP reacted as the proof of their racism.

The charge of Saudi Arabian and Chinese collusion on FOX contradicts what you believe is FOX's conservative bias. Wouldn't the coverage be favorable rather than negative? You guys don't make any sense.

atdnext said...

Anon 11:23-

Actually, you're not making any sense. sanford and I were discussing the hypocrisy of Faux News whipping up this nativist "tea party" frenzy while owner Murdoch makes his billions in overseas deals, including SkyTV in China.

And actually, it was Breitbart doing all the race-baiting. He tried to call her "racist" and create an "OBAMA SCANDAL!" where none had existed. The full context of Sherrod's speech showed that she was explaining how she helped a farmer save his family farm. Breitbart just cut out portions to make it sound "racist", then Faux and the other right-wing noise machines repeated it (falsely) as such.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You don't know the facts. You're just making things up. Breitbart said he received the clip already edited. NAACP had the original unedited version, yet they still denounced her and had to recant. Breitbart said the reason for releasing the video is to show the NAACP crowd reaction.

The vindication of Shirley Sherrod is a bunch of bunk. She might have helped the farmer, but AFTER she already dissed him and forwarded him to a white lawyer, "his own kind". She decided it wasn't about black and white, but rich and poor, as if class warfare is worse than racism.

Your argument about FOX News doesn't make any sense AGAIN. It is possible to make money and report the news at the same time. In fact, more profit the better.

Here's more reading about Shirley Sherrod.

"She was likened to a modern day Rosa Parks or Nelson Mandela, but former the Ag official, according to the Washington Post, was not interviewed on a single major Sunday morning talk-show following a week that can only be described as a Shirley Sherrod media frenzy. Though the conversation on Sunday morning focused on race in America, noticeably absent from the discussion was the woman behind the controversy. Earlier this week a handful of people in the blogosphere began to speculate Sherrod would pull off a “full Ginsburg,” or become only the thirteenth person to appear on all major Sunday talk-shows on the same day since the feat was first accomplished by William H. Ginsburg in 1998. However, this was before a clip of Sherrod suggesting Andrew Breitbart wants blacks “stuck back in the times of slavery” went viral. Sherrod also drew extensive criticism late in the week for blasting Fox News as racist."

atdnext said...

Ah, so the anon troll is from BREITBART'S BLOG! Now it makes sense. He's just trying to defend his fave blog buddy.

Btw, here are the REAL facts on "Sherrod-gate":

I don't care what Breitbart's latest excuse is. He cut and pasted and twisted Sherrod's words to make them sound "racist", and now he's throwing a hissy fit because he was caught red-handed.

Anonymous said...

Atdnext: Real facts? Your Media Matters link does not provide any facts. (Can I call you a Media Matter troll?) They are criticism of Andrew Breitbart, but tell you nothing of the truth, which you haven't provided yet.

Sherrod's words are damming because they tried to justify her racial discrimination and her racial smearing of Andrew Breitbart (Sherrod: blacks “stuck back in the times of slavery”).