Most Deceitful Magazine Name of the Year: “Newsweek”

With its current, shocking, attention-seeking and pathetically pandering cover story, Newsweek, once a respected name in news coverage, has officially jumped the shark and self-identified as chum. “Hit the Road, Barack” the cover shouts, in a lame spoof of the classic Ray Charles song. The subtitle: “Why We Need A New President.” Naturally, the Daily Beast, which, like Newsweek, is a left-leaning newsy thing owned by Tina Brown, plugs the issue as its #1 event.

Here is what makes the cover significant: it shows that there is no longer even a pretense of integrity in the business of journalism, only show biz, shock, and tabloid tactics. Newsweek, in its recent incarnation, if it stood for anything other than the demise of weekly news magazines in the internet age, stood for the deification of Barack Obama,  fairness and facts be damned. During the 2008 campaign the magazine ran so many beatific photos of the candidate on the cover that it became laughable and monotonous. Since the election, Brown has stocked the magazine’s  pages with Obama-worshipers who had to turn in their independent judgment and objectivity at the door. The Daily Beast is a bit more diverse, but still hits the same mind-blowing notes of partisan fantasy. Beast regular Peter Beinart pronounced the election a guaranteed stroll for Obama months ago. Michael Tomasky, who also stalks the pages of Newsweek, recently wrote that an Obama landslide was sure thing, so undeniably successful has his term been. The red meat Blue crowd laps it up; never mind that such articles have the approximate enlightenment value of being hit over the head repeatedly with a 9-iron. The President has now devolved into a mere prop for Newsweek to brandish in the pursuit of sensationalism. Remember the cover with Obama wearing a rainbow halo and being hailed as “the first gay President”? This has nothing to do with news. It is only about commerce. Continue reading

Time and Newsweek: Reaching The Dregs, and Ethics Be Damned

Dishonest or tasteless? Irresponsible or sensational?  A lie or a crime? The nation’s two, sad, archaic, useless, shameless, diminished news magazines, Time and Newsweek, both reached new lows this week as both magazines desperately brayed for readership with eye-catching covers that are to good journalism what Britney Spears will be to good judging in her new gig as a panelist on “X-Factor.”

I was going to make this an ethics quiz—which is more unethical?—but decided it was futile. The Time cover is colorable kiddie porn, using a (God, I hope!) photoshopped image* that no child should  be permitted to see on a news stand. The Newsweek cover, in addition to continuing the publication’s unconscionable deification of Barack Obama no matter what he does, is a lie. Obama isn’t gay. Newsweek is making a rhetorical link between Obama’s (vastly over-praised and still tepid endorsement of gay marriage) empathy with gays and Bill Clinton’s faux-status as the nation’s “first black President, but it is fatally flawed, logically and graphically. Everyone knows Bill Clinton isn’t literally black (except, perhaps, in the way Elizabeth Warren is Native American), but we can’t see that Obama isn’t gay from his image on the cover. All there is the copy: “The First Gay President.” There are people who will believe that, and who will see the cover without buying the magazine, since almost nobody buys either magazine any more.

Neither cover is responsible journalism. Both are graphic desperation, with neither magazine showing respect for readers, their topics, or their own distinguished pasts.

* Boy, was I wrong.


Graphics: Time and Newsweek

Dear Newsweek: We Can Figure Out That Michele Bachmann Is A Little Off Without The Crazy Photos, But Thanks For Your Concern.

Holy Crap!

When I put up yesterday’s post about Nancy Pelosi’s excessive and uncivil accusations about Republicans, I went searching for an appropriate photo. I found one that I came this close to using, because it was angry, like the quote, and just a little bit deranged-looking. (Pelosi has a lot of photos out there that make her look quite mad.) I didn’t use it. I decided it wasn’t fair.

Of course, I have to try to be fair; I’m an ethicist, and this is an ethics blog. Journalists, however, don’t…wait, aren’t they supposed to be fair too?

Not in Tina Brown’s book, or rather magazine. Newsweek made the choice to be the MSNBC of pulp even before Brown took over, and now it is officially shameless. Because Newsweek, like its almost as moribund rival Time, once was a respected journalistic enterprise, some of Newsweek’s now non-operable reputation for integrity remains. It can still do damage with its cheap tricks. That’s why its wild-eyed cover photo of Michele Bachman is so despicable. Continue reading

“Lie of the Year”? Hardly.

PolitiFact, the political fact-checking website, has once again announced its “Lie of the Year”:

“PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections. Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year’s most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)”

This tells us a lot about PolitiFact. Continue reading

Newsweek’s Biased Cover Ethics

I am looking at the current cover of Newsweek. I am frightened.

According to the magazine, change is coming, and the cover photo makes it clear that it can’t be good. Some monster named “John Boehner”  seems to be involved, and he is a vampire, or cannibal, or something worse. A serial killer, maybe, like Jason in “Friday the 13th.” One whole side of his face is dripping with what looks to be blood. There is blood around his mouth, and a scary, demonic eye looks out from a mask of blood on his right side.  He is clearly from Hell.

Or a Republican. Continue reading

The Left’s New Black Panther Rationalizations

“All looks yellow to the jaundiced eye” (Alexander Pope, 1711)  could have been written about the media handling of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. To conservatives, it is ominous proof of race-conscious law enforcement in the Obama Justice Department. To liberals, it is more proof that the Right is determined to stir up racial suspicion about Barack Obama’s administration.

I don’t think the incident proves anything conclusively at this point, except this: liberal journalists and commentators are embarrassing themselves and misinforming the public by arguing that the case is trivial, and employing intellectually dishonest arguments to do it.**

Whatever the case is, it isn’t trivial. Voter intimidation isn’t trivial; it strikes at the core of our system of government. I would argue that the government should be unequivocal, strict and unyielding regarding the prevention and punishment of it, by white or black, no matter how manifested. If you don’t think so, then I challenge you to explain why. If there is any conduct that should receive no tolerance by law enforcement, this should be it. There is no excuse for it.

Nevertheless, supposedly respectable commentators like columnist E.J. Dionne feel compelled to make excuses for the Justice Department’s actions while intentionally or incompetently misrepresenting the facts.  Continue reading

The Trouble With Sarah

A toxic mixture of elitism, class bias, sexism and the liberal slant of the media has made Sarah Palin the most unfairly treated public figure in memory. Even when the double standards were obvious–Palin  derided as “unqualified” to lead, when the Democratic presidential choice had even less relevant experience; non-stop portrayals during the 2008 campaign as a loose-cannon flake, while the Democratic vice-presidential candidate was largely ignored despite a long and hilarious career as…a loose-cannon flake; David Letterman’s long refusal to apologize for his joke about Palin’s young daughter being sexually assaulted, despite the taboo against using the young children of public figures as joke fodder—the attacks have never abated or retreated to any reasonable standard of fairness. Continue reading