The News Cycle as a Fear Machine.

Reading Tom Englehardt’s TomDispatch is always a sane few moments in which to contemplate the insane.  Take today’s post, for example:

…the 24/7, all-hands-on-deck news story obliterates context, or rather becomes the only context of the moment. To offer the most obvious recent example: in the days in which the San Bernardino shootings ate the screen, most Americans would not have noticed that the fate of the planet was being seriously discussed and negotiated in Paris by representatives of just about every country.  There was next to nothing but those shootings available — the exploration of the backgrounds of the two killers, their marriage, their arsenal of weaponry, apledge of allegiance by the wife to ISIS, the contents of their house, what relatives and friends in Pakistan had to say, their bank account, heart-rending tales of those killed, testimony from survivors, and on and on.  Even more than a week after the event, it was still the lead story on NBC Nightly News evening after evening.  (“San Bernardino ShootersDiscussed Jihad in 2013 Before Engagement,” “FBI Divers Search Lake Near San Bernardino Massacre for Clues.”)  Viewers might be pardoned for thinking that Islamic terrorism was indeed an apocalyptic threat for most Americans rather than the distinctly minor one it is.

Here you go, read, and subscribe….

BBC to Re Calibrate Climate News

To Improve Accuracy, BBC Tells Its Reporters To Stop Giving [So much] Air Time To Climate Deniers

In order to be neutral when covering science … the BBC noted it needs to avoid “false balance,” a fallacy that occurs when two sides of an argument are assumed to have equal value.

“Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given,” the report said.

The type of “false balance” news segment that the BBC is now actively trying to avoid is one that is fairly common in American network news’ climate change coverage. It involves putting one person who is well-versed on climate science next to a person who denies climate science, and having them debate.

Editorially, this type of debate makes the network look like it’s being balanced, giving equal opportunity to opposite viewpoints. However, because 95 to 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are causing the planet to warm, that balance is false, giving disproportionate time to a viewpoint that is widely rejected in the scientific community.

What’s the matter with 60 Minutes?

Updated below:

“What’s the matter with 60 Minutes?”

That was the question asked by many, after the program on Sunday aired what has since been slammed as an inaccurate portrayal of the cleantech industry.

Besides the fact that the piece made no mention of climate change — which is one of the stronger arguments behind cleantech — the report largely passed over the recent explosive growth in wind power, solar power, LED lights and electric vehicles.

But it’s not like 60 Minutes wasn’t told about the recent major successes in the clean tech industry. Robert Rapier, Chief Technology Officer at Merica International, was interviewed by 60 Minutes, and spoke to them at length about cleantech’s many successes. But the only comments included were ones about cleantech investor Vinod Khosla, who CBS asserts is “known as the father of the cleantech revolution” (he is not).

Rapier spoke with ClimateProgress on Monday about what got left out of the interview. Some of the answers below were edited for clarity.

See all at Climate Progress.

Smashed StopwatchIt was a sorry sight to see last night as Leslie Stahl made the case that somehow the Chinese were benefiting from tax-payer funded start ups, implicitly saying the Chinese were doing something wrong, and that government –read tax payer– funding was misguided.  She said nothing about US VC reluctance to invest in clean -tech, or what pathology keeps them focused on tomorrow but not next week.  This follows a number of other dubious shows — which suggest to me that a libertarian, if not tea-party troll is at work inside the once great show.

Update from The Nation:

“I’m exhausted,” claimed 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl on Sunday, as she ticked off a list of clean energy companies that have failed in recent years.

What’s really getting exhausting is the amount of shoddy reporting that has aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes in recent weeks, from a retracted account of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi to segments on the National Security Agency and Amazon’s drones that were more infomercial than news.

The latest hack job is “Cleantech Crash,” a report on the green technology sector. Stahl claims that cleantech has become “a dirty word,” and highlights a handful of failed companies to suggest that private and public investment in renewables has led to “ a string of expensive tax-funded flops.” The report is anecdotal, and ignores key evidence in favor of handwringing about wasted taxpayer dollars.

Update from Joe Romm at Think Progress /Climate

For those who want the facts of the cleantech boom, a good place to start is the DOE report:

  • In 2012, wind was America’s largest source of new electrical capacity, accounting for 43 percent of all new installations. Altogether the United States has deployed about 60 gigawatts of wind power — enough to power 15 million homes.
  • Since 2008, the price of solar panels has fallen by 75 percent, and solar installations have multiplied tenfold. Many major homebuilders are incorporating rooftop panels as a standard feature on new homes.
  • In that same five years, the cost of super-efficient LED lights has fallen more than 85 percent and sales have skyrocketed. In 2009, there were fewer than 400,000 LED lights installed in the U.S.; today, the number has grown 50-fold to almost 20 million.
  • During the first six months of 2013, America bought twice as many plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) as in the first half of 2012, and six times as many as in the first half of 2011. In fact, the market for plug-in electric vehicles has grown much faster than the early market for hybrids.

You Think The Media is Bad Now?

AS Madison Avenue continues debating the pros and cons of a hot trend in marketing known as native advertising — digital pitches styled to look like the editorial content of the publications in which they run — Vanity Fair magazine is voting “aye” by bringing out its first such effort, for Hennessy Cognac, that is to begin Friday on

… the close resemblance between native ads and articles is raising eyebrows — and hackles — among critics who complain that they are inherently misleading or deceptive. Those critics were heard on Dec. 4 during a daylong conference in Washington titled “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?” that was organized by the Federal Trade Commission.

NY Times

And Twitter is already running so called native advertising.

Twitter’s recent acquisition of MoPub has fired up a native advertising business that will launch with in-stream ads on the Tango messaging platform and with other partners.

The new ads will launch on Tango — among other partners — with in-stream posts that look like other Tango updates, but feature a small ‘sponsored’ mark in the upper corner. Native ads are fairly hot at the moment, with most social networks looking to fuse them with their core timelines or feeds in some manner. Because they’re less jarring and easier to pass off as ‘content’, they’re being treated as the next big thing for focused mobile experiences like those found in apps like Instagram. These in-stream ads will be presented by the apps themselves, templated to match their surroundings, but served up by MoPub.


Amd they are investigating neuronal placement of advertising streams.  You will be able to sell brain advertising rights to the highest bidder, though of course if you’re a low spender the rates will go down for you.

Rich Buffet of Right Wing News Outlets

I do not believe this can be said of vaguely liberal, much less “left” news outlets.”

Since the advent of the Internet, a diverse constellation of conservative news outlets has sprung up across the country, creating a rich buffet for GOP-loving readers-and a major logistical challenge for the advertisers hoping to reach them.

And because this is so:

Salem Communications, a public media company based in Camarillo (Ventura County) outside Los Angeles, announced this week that it is purchasing Twitchy, a blog run by conservative pundit Michelle Malkin, for an undisclosed sum.

The Twitchy acquisition adds to Salem’s growing Internet portfolio, which includes conservative opinion sites (such as and and Christian faith sites (such as and

SF Gate

60 Minutes Banghazi Follow Up

As I thought would happen….

NEW YORK — Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of ‘”60 Minutes,” informed staff Tuesday that Lara Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, would be taking a leave of absence following an internal report on the news magazine’s discredited Oct. 27 Benghazi report.

Though, I didn’t know this:

Ortiz also wrote that Logan’s October 2012 foreign policy speech, in which she spoke of the need for “revenge” for the Benghazi attack, was also problematic. “From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story,” Ortiz wrote.

One question that remains unanswered is how “60 Minutes” first reached Davies and what role his writing a book for Threshold Editions -– an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of CBS –- could have played in him appearing on air. There’s been speculation that Logan’s husband, a former defense contractor, could have been involved in getting him on air as well.

So, added to the rush to get a new angle, and the failure to notice the flying red-flags, there is a bit of an ideological issue here….

60 Minutes and the Benghazi Report Debacle

60 Minutes, the venerable and highly respected Sunday new magazine at CBS aired a report on October 27 featuring a claimed participant in  the defense of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept 11, 2012.  It turns out that Dylan Davies was either at the consulate and lied to his employer, XXX and the FBI in several interviews, or he was not there and lied to 60 Minutes.  It also turns out that he has a book coming out under the right wing Simon & Schuster [owned by CBS] imprint, Threshold Editions.

There is plenty available to get you up to date, here, here and here.

What is baffling to me however, is what was pushing 60 Minutes to put together the story at all, much less to depend so exclusively on one source who had outright told them he had lied to his employer — that the story 60 Minutes had was the true story.  Why on earth?!

The nasty suspicion is that CBS was trying to curry favor with the rabid right — known for loyalty if not to accuracy.   At least one former 60 Minutes producer shares the suspicion.

“My concern is that the story was done very pointedly to appeal to a more conservative audience’s beliefs about what happened at Benghazi,” Mary Mapes told Media Matters. “They appear to have done that story to appeal specifically to a politically conservative audience that is obsessed with Benghazi and believes that Benghazi was much more than a tragedy.”

Another thing no one is talking about is that Lara Logan, the lead reporter on the piece, is the same Lara Logan who was attacked and sexually assaulted in Cairo February 2011.  One wonders if her terrifying experience led her to press into a similar story which, by reporting on, she could control, or by imagining in detail could quiet her own personal trauma.

CBS is apologizing.  Firings may follow — if only to put a serious face on trying to stop the hemorrhaging of the 60 Minutes brand.  It would be too bad if Logan is attacked again, but it may happen.

Most important is to understand who led the charge?  Who decided that the much debated and investigated attack and failure to defend the consulate in Benghazi, was worth re-visiting?

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham who was in quite a tizzy after the first (erroneous) report, praising 60 Minutes [not a typical gesture from the right] for its sterling reporting and proof that the Obama administration was indeed covering up their failure to defend, has gone silent.  Next thing we know he’ll point out that 60 Minutes is a known liberal outlet and not to be trusted — but he’ll keep his promise to put a hold on all Obama’s appointments — just in case.

Upworthy Rising Up

For the past several weeks, perhaps longer, my Facebook timeline has been spotted by posts from something called Upworthy.  Usually I’m very annoyed when advertisers/spammers crowd my ‘private’ space but Upworthy often catches my attention — more, it must be said, than some of the ‘here’s me and my cat’ posts left by friends.  Not always, but often, I click the offering and not always, but often, I remain to read or listen to what is said.  Good news, yes.  But relevant good news to my mind.  People doing things outside the norm on behalf of others, pushing back against the cultural tide of selfism, adrenaline-porn and cynicism.

It turns out this is not just happenstance. is a start up, like many others in the techno age, and one of the founders has a familiar name to all those who were attracted to, among other grass-roots efforts, raising a banner and a place to gather against the tide of ignorance and vitriol of the last decade: Eli Pariser he is.

…, whose goal is to make more serious content as fun to share as a “video of some idiot surfing off his roof.” Surfing idiots are tough to beat, of course, but Upworthy has shown that by selecting emotional material and then promoting it with catchy, pretested headlines, it can fulfill its mission: to direct Internet audiences to what it deems socially worthwhile subjects. Already the site has drawn millions of people to share videos about sober topics like income inequality and human trafficking. A video featuring Patrick Stewart discussing domestic violence was uploaded more than six million times after it was posted in May.

Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley, Upworthy’s 32-year old founders, say the effects have gone beyond simply tugging at the conscience of viewers to inciting them to action. The two point, for example, to a 20-minute biography of a young musician dying of a rare bone cancer that persuaded Upworthy viewers to donate about $100,000. A video by the founder of GoldieBlox, a company aspiring to make toys that will encourage young girls to be interested in engineering, was also a hit; Upworthy viewers bought enough toys to ensure a first production run.

NY Times

And be sure to check out for more like this.

Bezos and the Washington Post

Update below

Jeff Bezos, multi-billionaire (25B) founder and owner of has purchased the Washington Post for $25 million.  The two questions that rise are: What he will do? and Why did he do it?  The What is of most concern to the reporters and staff and to those who read the paper as their first source of news.  If the What he does has to do with technology and marketing — making the gathered news and opinion available to more, and finding a way to pay for that– everyone is happy.  His record of putting shareholder value behind customer satisfaction at Amazon promises well; his record of technological innovation is of course what most are hoping will be the turn-around magic.  If the What has to do with change of reach (localize the paper, turn attention further away from international concerns) or change of editorial policy the happiness will not be far reaching.

As to the Why, it’s anybody’s guess, and there are plenty.  I’d go along with sheer curiosity, the challenge of bringing old-media into  a new-media business model.  I’d discount, though not dismiss,  a strategic Washington D.C. power play or ideology-driven purchase such as Rupert Murdoch has shown.   Which isn’t to say ideology won’t begin to leak into the decisions he makes.  The itch will be one difficult not to scratch.  Jeff Bezos, as most,  has business interests and values which under-gird those interests, some of which, as we can see from his donations and actions in recent years, suggesting a profile of  libertarian leanings.

Bezos … does not seem to be a conservative in the Rupert Murdoch mold, at least when it comes to social issues. His biggest foray into politics came in 2012, when he and his wife, MacKenzie, donated $2.5 million to the Seattle-based pro-gay-marriage group Washington United for Marriage.

The contribution is widely believed to be the largest donation to a same-sex marriage advocacy group in American history, and it was made to fund what ended up being a successful referendum drive to legalize gay marriage in Bezos’ home state. It was a donation that significantly raised his political profile, and it far outweighed any previous political donation he’s made.

But the largest outlays Bezos made in support of other issues reveal the other side of his political persona, the one that may prove to be more consequential in the long run. Bezos has a very strong libertarian streak, which feeds some views that may not sit well with many in the Post newsroom.

For instance, in 2010 he donated $100,000 to oppose a state measure that would have raised taxes on the wealthy; and in 2004 he gave $100,000 to support a charter schools proposal, according to the Seattle Times.

International Business Times

IBT incorrectly characterizes the Post as ‘liberal, ” which if it ever was has not been — especially in matters of defense and national security– for a decade.  It’s editorial page strongly supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Other pointers to Bezos’ values surfaced in a confrontation at the Amazon shareholder meeting in May of 2012.  As The Nation reported:

Amazon has received intense and well-deserved criticism for working conditions in its warehouses, where temperatures can reportedly rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The people working inside them are underpaid, overworked, subject to firing without cause and deprived of employee benefits. Amazon gets away with this because it uses a variety of legal tricks, like demanding that its employees call themselves “independent contractors.”

Amazon has also taken heat for its membership in ALEC—the American Legislative Executive Council—a corporate-funded group that backs right-wing politicians. ALEC also drafts and promotes laws like those that effectively disenfranchised large numbers of minority voters, the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that has resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and a number of other people, and the anti-union laws brought to national attention by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.


Until recently Amazon/Bezos refused to collect sales tax for items sold on the web site — sending several states to the courts.  Recently, however, the company has supported such a tax.   

One fierce critic of Amazon and Bezos is Dennis Johnson, co-founder and publisher of Melville House.  He will see nothing good in this acquisition.   And more on Bezos politics, here.

I agree with one of the commentators on this morning’s KQED Forum, the Bezos may not know himself how his purchase will play out.  He may well have bought it for pocket change out of entrepreneurial challenge.  Once he moves into ownership he may find hands on management irresistible .  He may well find uses for it he has not considered.  As he told the Washington Post employees in an e-mail — much about this is going to be an experiment. Experiments like these have unknown results.

There will be many watching not only the editorial pages but the editorial choices for the newspaper going forward: what is being covered, with what biases, for what audience?  The first major fire or hire will be an indicator, as will be the time frame in which it happens. Standing by.


More on Bezos, Amazon and high power lobbying: [might be subscription protected.  SF Chronicle, Jonathan D. Salant, 8/8/13], whose founder, Jeff Bezos, is purchasing the Washington Post, ranks among the biggest spenders among high-technology companies seeking to influence the work of the federal government.

Former U.S. Sens. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, are among those working for the Seattle company, which spent $1.7 million on lobbying from January through June, ninth highest among high-tech companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington research group that tracks lobbying.

The company weighed in on issues with Congress, the Commerce Department and the Federal Trade Commission on matters such as Internet sales taxes and privacy, patent laws, cybersecurity and online wine sales, Senate filings show.

…”There are certainly competing loyalties,” said [Bob] Steele, director of the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. “If he handles it very well, it’s possible to manage those competing loyalties, but it’s also possible for competing loyalties to turn into conflicts of interest that could erode the integrity of his journalistic obligations.”


MSNBC Gaining On FOX

Fox is being chased hard by MS. NBC (in honor of Rachel):  NY Times

During Mr. Obama’s first term, MSNBC underwent a metamorphosis from a CNN also-ran to the anti-Fox, and handily beat CNN in the ratings along the way. Now that it is known, at least to those who cannot get enough politics, as the nation’s liberal television network, the challenge in the next four years will be to capitalize on that identity.

MSNBC, a unit of NBCUniversal, has a long way to go to overtake the Fox News Channel, a unit of News Corporation: on most nights this year, Fox had two million more viewers than MSNBC.

But the two channels, which skew toward an audience that is 55 or older, are on average separated by fewer than 300,000 viewers in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers desire. On three nights in a row after the election last week, MSNBC — whose hosts reveled in Mr. Obama’s victory — had more viewers than Fox in that demographic.

I personally would like some down-amped shows in the line-up.  How about an hour a night on the science and politics of climate change?