Two stories involving media puts spotlight on officials

General Manager/Editor Ron Schott

For some time, many voters who didn’t color in the oval next to President Barack Obama’s name on election day believed the media was biased in favor of the winning party. Two stories that broke this past week involving the administration and the media do bring to light some reasons for concern no matter what side of the political aisle a person is on.
First came the report of showing direct ties between executives for three major news networks and the Obama administration.
It has been reported that current CNN Vice-President and Deputy Chief of the network’s Washington bureau Virginia Mosely is married to Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.
This can be confirmed at the website http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/15/style/virginia-moseley-thomas-nides.html.
CBS News President David Rhodes is the brother of President Obama official Ben Rhodes. Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor, has been pointed to in multiple reports as the official who changed the so-called Benghazi talking points.
Finally, ABC News President Ben Sherwood is a brother to President Obama’s Special Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood.
This can be confirmed with an article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/fashion/13SHERWOOD.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
While this doesn’t prove any type of bias, it does provide fuel to those who all along have believed much of the media was in the back pocket of President Obama and his administration.
I’m the last person to believe in “conspiracy theories.” That being said, it is very difficult for one not to believe there is a questionable presentation of coverage given by these three influential news groups with ties so close to the administration.
An example of this would be in relation to the Benghazi crisis, where one U.S. Ambassador was killed.
Due to a key figure head being killed, President Obama’s administration had no choice but to speak publicly about the incident. I say this because the incident itself was no different than several similar embassy and consulate attacks during former President George W. Bush’s term in office.
With a staffer in a key position killed, the administration quickly responded but said the attack was due to a response from a video that gave a bad depiction of Muhammad.
Too caught up in a presidential election year, most of the coverage last September was given to President Obama for his response of poor foreign policy charges made by Gov. Mitt Romney. The media wasn’t asking the tough questions it needed to be about the video assertion.
Recently, George Will was on ABC and said the following as it appears he gets it. “Was security lax in Benghazi? Demonstrably. Could forces have been got there to rescue them? Doubtful. Has the nation been systematically misled? Certainly. Now, we need a select committee in congress because the State Department’s misnamed accountability review board neglected to interview even the secretary of state.” I know it was an election year but the media should have been asking the tough questions to present the public the facts of the case. Three hearings later and now the answers are starting to surface to a point that the “mainstream media” has no choice but to cover what is happening.
While one story offers fuel to the fire for conspiracy theorists, the Obama Administration clouded that view when the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of phone records from Associated Press journalists. Some would argue the administration is “biting the hand that feeds them.”
Now that we’re talking about an attack on the freedom of the press, which was established to hold the government accountable, things just got personal for me.
The AP, in which we are partners with online and mobile content, revealed this past Monday the department had obtained records listing outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of AP reporters and various AP offices. The government reportedly seized more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to journalists in April and May 2012.
The Justice Department also got records for the main AP number in the House of Representative press gallery.
Even the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D) has expressed his concern about this recent move. While I never personally cared for Michael Steel (R), he did provide a strong quote on this situation.
“The First Amendment is first for a reason. If the Obama administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation,” he said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was quick to put distance between this decision and the White House saying that the administration had no knowledge of this measure. He said in a press conference on Tuesday that the President is for the freedom of the press but also notes there is an important balance between freedom of the press and national defense.
So what’s the big deal? I believe AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said it best.
“There can be no possible justification for such an over-broad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news gathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s news gathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” Pruitt said.
Speculation is an U.S. attorney in Washington had been conducting a criminal investigation on who might have provided information to the AP regarding a May 7, 2012 terror plot. Among the numbers retained were those of five reporters and an editor who were involved in the story.
Even the ACLU has its concerns as shared in a quote from Laura Murphy, the director of the ACLU’s legislative office in Washington.
“The attorney general must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again,” she said.
I know this editorial is long but I thought it was an important one. Regardless of whose oval you color in on election day, we all should agree that the press better serves the public by doing its job and not catering itself to one political party over another. Meanwhile, the freedom of the press should always be protected.  Both parties need to be held accountable. Our Founding Fathers knew this would be important because, after all, people gaining power are human. For some, the power can easily persuade them so someone needs to hold them accountable before it’s too late.

Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm