Failing to shoot straight with network viewers

In an article in Business Insider by John Dorman called “Ex-Fox News editor Chris Stirewalt says network viewers would’ve been more prepared for a Trump loss in 2020 if they’d been given ‘a more accurate’ view of the race: book,” the title of the piece tells the reader what happens when pseudo news networks do not shoot straight with its viewers. The same can happen on the more progressive sources, which is ample reason why we should focus on getting our news from more reputable sources.

Here is the gist of the article, with a link available below. Let’s start with summation at the beginning:

  • “Chris Stirewalt in his forthcoming book wrote of coverage lapses he noticed during his time at Fox News.
  • In the book, “Broken News,” Stirewalt was critical of how the 2020 election was covered by the network.
  • Stirewalt was part of Fox’s decision desk, which in 2020 called Arizona for Biden before other major news outlets.

Former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt in his forthcoming book said viewers would have been more prepared for former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election had they been given a ‘more accurate’ assessment of the race through the network’s coverage.

In the book, ‘Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back,’ Stirewalt — who was fired from Fox in January 2021 — said that over his 11 years at the network, he increasingly saw coverage that didn’t fully capture what viewers needed to hear.

Stirewalt said that such coverage became commonplace during Trump’s White House tenure, and pointed to the ‘rage’ that he encountered after the Fox News decision desk called the pivotal state of Arizona for now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

‘Amid the geyser of anger in the wake of the Arizona call, Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, called for my firing and accused me of a cover-up,’ Stirewalt wrote.

He continued: ‘Covering up what, exactly? We didn’t have any ballots to count and we didn’t have any electoral votes to award. Had viewers been given a more accurate understanding of the race over time, Trump’s loss would have been seen as a likely outcome. Instead of understanding his narrow win in 2016 as the shocking upset that it was, viewers were told to assume that polls don’t apply (unless they were good for Trump) and that forecasters like me were going to be wrong again.'”

One of the misconceptions that is played upon by news networks is polls are not accurate citing what happened in 2016. Of course, polls are only a prediction, so we must start from that premise. Yet, what too many fail to do is look only at the median likelihood and not the range of what could happen. Using the 2016 election as an example, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump in the polls ten days before with a full standard deviation of outcomes showing she was likely to win.

After the infamous James Comey announcement about possible emails on Clinton’s aide computer at home which was also used by the aide’s husband who resigned his seat for sexual misconduct, the polls’ lead shrank so that the median expectation was still in Clinton’s favor, but a Trump win was now easily within one standard deviation meaning it could happen. All it took was to get a solid number of Clinton voters to stay home or vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

I was not surprised by the Trump win in 2016 nor was I surprised by his loss in 2020. I was disappointed in the former and quite relieved in the latter. I was also not surprised by Trump making a stink about the election results as he had been preparing to do so for at least six months hiring so many attorneys and belittling the mail-in process, while hobbling the mail governance. I wrote a post about this in September 2020 and Senator Bernie Sanders told talk show viewers with eerie accuracy what Trump would do on election night a month before it happened. What has consistently surprised me is sycophants who do not have the spine to tell the former president repeatedly and loudly he lost so get over it.

Our country was divided before the 2016 election, but is now more so because of the last seven years of Donald Trump as a candidate, president and former president. His greatest skill is marketing getting people to fear the other and think he is the solution. So, he took advantage of this divide and pitted folks against each other, which he does as a manager as well. This is why this strategy works in marketing, but is a horrible management approach. This was the conclusion of business analysts who covered the Trump organization well before 2016 – great marketer, poor manager.

News networks must remember that first word and give us the truth. And, when they offer opinion, I would prefer it to be broadcast in a banner below the talking head – the above is the opinion of the speaker and it should not be considered as news. This should occur whether the network is Fox News, MSNBC or Sinclair Broadcasting who requires its many local TV news stations to air the same opinion at the end of each show. And, if you get your news from a QAnon, InfoWars, or social media, stop. These are not news sources. The first two are propaganda and the latter is opinion

What I have shared with Congresspeople, Senators, and pseudo news people dozens of times is you owe us the truth. Readers and watchers believe what you say, so you need to be the best steward of that trust as possible. When I see these folks lie on purpose, it is very frustrating as they know they are lying and choose to do so anyway. That is Machiavellian. It matters not if the liar is a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or Green Party candidate. What is even worse is when they know you know they are lying. That is just inane.

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Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News allowed to proceed

In a telling article called “Fox News in real trouble for spreading ‘pure bunk’ about Trump’s loss — and OAN could be ‘wiped out’ by lawsuits” by Travis Gettys in Raw Story, a judge has ruled to allow the defamation lawsuit brought forward by Dominion Voting Systems to proceed. Per select paragraphs:

“A judge ruled last month that Dominion Voting Systems could move forward with its lawsuit against Fox Corp., the conservative news network’s parent company, for amplifying bogus claims that it rigged the election for Joe Biden, and Judge Eric Davis made clear the $1.6 billion suit was not frivolous, reported The Guardian.

Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News – and against OAN for that matter,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a constitutional law professor at Stetson University and a fellow at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. ‘The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other rightwing news outlets repeated vicious lies that Dominion’s voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump for Biden. But all of these conspiracy theories about Dominion’s machines were just pure bunk, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of the big lie a megaphone.

What’s particularly bad for Fox is [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the record in real time,’ she added, ‘and Fox persisted in spreading misrepresentations about the voting machine company.’”

The entire story (which can be linked to below) tells of inappropriate contact between the network and the former president who has continued to make unprovable claims of election fraud. He has lost over 65 court cases, winning one small one in PA, and has lost every recount, audit and review of election results. What Fox is learning late in the game is folks that fly to close to the former president usually get burned. The truth matters, especially if you report to be a news agency. This one may come with a hefty price tag, if proven liable.

Chris Wallace rides off into the sunset

Chris Wallace’s leaving Fox News is telling and should raise more than a few eyebrows. Yet, we should not forget last month Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hays left Fox because of the Tucker Carlson supported false flag documentary of the January 6 insurrection.

And, we should not forget the former president having Shepard Smith fired by Fox as he had the temerity to be critical of the then president. William Barr met with Fox executives and Smith was gone the next day. Smith, like Wallace, were actual news people. And, Goldberg and Hays had a lot of crediblility. Carlson, Hannity et al are just opinion hosts who look to sensationalize not report. 

In an article called “Fox news host confronts Lindsey Graham over backing tax cuts that add $2T to deficit,” by Jason Lemon of Newsweek, why Wallace will be missed is in evidence as he put Senator Lindsey Graham on the spot.

“Fox News anchor Chris Wallace confronted Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, on Sunday over supporting former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts—which are projected to add some $2 trillion to the national debt—while criticizing Democrats for pushing forward legislation that is not entirely paid for.

Graham, along with other Republican lawmakers, has strongly criticized President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better Act, raising alarms that it will add hundreds of billions to the deficit if passed into law. Last month, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that the social spending package ‘would result in a net increase in the deficit of $367 billion over the 2022-2031 period, not counting additional revenue that may be generated by additional funding for tax enforcement.’

Wallace pointed out to Graham during an interview on Fox News Sunday that he supported Trump’s signature tax cuts in 2017, despite CBO estimating they’d add some $2 trillion to the deficit. When those tax cuts were passed, Republicans claimed that the tax cuts would pay for themselves, despite the CBO scoring.”

A link to the full article is below. The above is just one example of what Wallace does. He was an outlier at Fox News, but now he is not even that. This is telling.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/fox-news-host-confronts-lindsey-graham-over-backing-tax-cuts-that-add-2t-to-deficit/ar-AARK0U6?ocid=msedgntp

To defeat bullies, punch them in the nose with facts

With the proliferation of social media, it has never been easier to lie, misinform and disinform. To autocrats like Vladimir Putin, who was trained as a KGB agent on disinformation, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. People might say Putin is not such, as he stands for election, but jailing your opponents and controlling the airwaves, does not lend itself to a fair election. This is disinformation in its own right.

The only way to beat bullies who lie, misinform and disinform, is to not believe them and do our homework. Folks like Trump, Kim, Xi, Cuomo, Morrison, Johnson, Nunes, Gosar, Taylor-Greene, Cawthorn, Gohmert, DeSantis, Abbott, et al, do not want to be questioned on facts. They do not handle it very well.

I have many favorite stories about the last former US president not being aware of details, but when one reporter questioned him after the umpteenth time he had said he passed a bill, she pointed out the bill had been passed in 2014 and he was not president until 2017. He was clueless that he did not sign the bill. It is harder to argue when you just don’t know.

If you read Kim’s bio, he is God-like with super-human powers. Really? I expect people like Xi, Putin, and Kim to control the narrative. That is what they do. The uptick in right wing extremism is correlated to Putin’s hackers and trolls controlling the narrative in other countries. He has succeeded in making the west more unruly, due to his shenanigans. My guess is even Putin is amazed at how easy it has been. Common sense is not all that common, Mark Twain is alleged to have said.

What frustrates me is how gullible Americans, Brits, and Australians have been to elect people who overtly lie and bully people to submission. The fact they do this is not newsworthy. The fact that people elected these folks is. Here in the states, we could very well reelect a person who is trying his best to mask evidence that he betrayed his country on top of trying to “burn it all down” as his niece put it, because his shallow ego cannot take losing.

Johnson, who would daily thank his lucky stars for Trump, as he looked better in comparison to the US president, is ironically Prime Minister during the sluggardly Brexit execution as his selected blindness to facts helped precipitate the leave vote. Of course, seeing Johnson get elected was stunning to me, but pales in comparison that we Americans elected a person who has a measurable track record of being untruthful and cheating people as did Trump.

So, what do we do? Read and watch several credible sources of information. What is credible? First, they are not opinion shows. Second, the decibel level is lower with less screaming and yelling and more civil debate. This is a reason I like NPR as one of my sources – thoughtful people sharing news and their opinions whether you fully agree with them or not. Third, the amount of namecalling and labeling is less. Fourth, they will disclose conflicts of interest and provide errata when they get something wrong.

People used to be upset when they found out they were fooled. Now, when fooled by misinformation, they just go back to the source to confirm the facts are not real. The last former US president will have many legacies which will go down in infamy, but the one which may be the worst legacy is calling criticism “fake news.” This term is now used worldwide.

Here is a person who has lost about 64 out of 65 court cases (I lost count above sixty), saying the election was stolen from him and lost every audit and review of election results, and his fans still believe him. That is an unfathomable track record of losing, yet it is fake news according to the former president. Those followers may want to ask why his attorneys are forking out $175,000 in court costs for frivolous cases in Michigan, announced last week. And, one attorney of his has been suspended in two locations (DC and New York) and another is facing disbarment.

Facts. Details. Questions. An untruthful and bullying person’s worst fears.

News that is not news

While I do like reading and watching less biased and more credible news sources, I have dialed it back some. A key reason is even the better sources focus too much on whose tribe is winning or losing on an issue and less on the issue itself. As a result, fewer issues of import are discussed. 

One reason is the politicians focus more on getting or keeping their job and less on doing their job. What results is a mind-boggling amount of time spent keeping things from getting done even when the action is helpful to people and the majority actually want it done. And, it is even more frustrating when politicians are against something they have supported in the past only because the other tribe brought it up

This blocking of actions is aided and abetted by pseudo-news sources and opinion hosts. These sycophants play a heavy hand in the BS that is a poor substitute for facts and data. I sadly expect this from pseudo-sources and opinion host, but it frustrates me when better news sources speak on who is winning or losing as much as they do.

Our infrastructure bill is at least ten years overdue. There are have been multiple bipartisan pushes to get something passed. Even the preceding president mentioned it during his campaign and Democrat leadership actually welcomed discussion, in spite of efforts to rewrite history that they did not. It has finally gotten passed and yet the tribal protections have gotten in the way of saying this is a good thing even though Americans favored it.

So, let’s encourage our elected officials and news sources to focus on the issues and less on zero-sum games of winning and losing. Accelerating action on climate change, addressing global water concerns, addressing the huge plastic island floating in the Pacific, dealing with debt and deficit issues, expanding health care access further, etc. are all issues that need to be discussed and dealt with.

News that is not news can be ignored. And, citing the latest name calling or labelling of a perceived enemy tribe is just reporting on childish behavior. I don’t need the news to tell me some politicians are being childish.

That broad brush

I responded to a comment on another post and felt the general theme needed a brief mention here. I will leave off the specifics, as the general theme could apply to almost any subject. We tend to paint people and groups with too broad a brush when we read or hear criticism. I know I do, so I need to guard against that tendency and back off.

Two key points. First, bad behavior sells more readily than good behavior. The doctor who performs 19 perfect surgeries, will be publicized poorly if he messes up the twentieth. The good will from the 95% accuracy rate will get lost. A poor outcome is hard for anyone to swallow, but we need context.

A few members of a group who do poor things will get a great deal of social media attention. The entire group will be painted with a broad brush, which is unfair. This is why the group who should be most zealous in policing bad behavior is the group itself. The Catholic Church failed for many decades to adhere to this policy and all priests were tainted due to the actions of a few. The same goes for political groups – when leaders defame the office they hold, the group they belong to should be leading the way to fix it, not hiding such behavior.

Second, a social media analyst said in an interview that the Facebooks and Googles know that fake news is six times more likely to be read and routed than factual news. The sensational made-up stories sell more readily. Students of disinformation, like Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders and wanna-bes, know this already. It just needs a hint a believability to sell.

In fact, someone who studies the Russian troll factories noted that often, the trolls would take a sensational story that had some truth in it and then blow it up into a contrived piece and drop it into social media. Their goal is to get a conspiracy outlet like Infowars or QAnon to pick it up. Then, when an elected official picks it up and mentions it, the more serious pseudo-news people will cover it enough that the officials will say “people are talking about this.” When the real news outlets start reporting it, the trolls slap high fives for success. It is a sophisticated version of a circular rumor validating the original source.

So, what do we do? Read and watch multiple sources of information. Look at the sources. A piece from Fox News personnel may be slanted, but it is far more credible than something from one of their opinion hosts, which is not news at all (using Fox leaders’ own words under oath in court).The same could be said for MSNBC and other sources that have opinion hosts.

Then there are sources that should be avoided at all costs who are selling conspiracies. A judge told Infowars to pay restitution to the families of the twenty-seven Sandy Hook victims its host defamed, eg. And a North Carolina man served in prison for four years for believing Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring from a Washington pizza parlor and besieging it. She may be imperfect, but a child pornography ring?

So, consider those conspiracies sources as a can of ugly paint. And, leave that broad paint brush in the garage. When you paint in the corners and crevices, you need a very small brush. Use it finely and with better looking paint that will stand the test of time.

Negative news has a larger echo than positive news

We should remind ourselves that bad news has a larger echo than good news. This is why good news articles and social media posts are so needed. News agencies publish “conflict” as it sells better. The doctor who does things well 19 times out of 20 is not newsworthy, until he messes up that one time. The best offensive tackle is not newsworthy unless he is penalized or his opponent gets by him to the quarterback.

No question, division exists and civility is lacking to too many in discourse. But, what we don’t see and hear are the countless folks who are living their lives and getting along. Most people do not pay attention to the blathering untruths of people named Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, et al. We are too busy paying attention to our own lives.

If we do watch news, it is more often entertainment or sports news or something someone shared on social media that was more provocative than accurate. In fact, much of what finds may way into my browser could qualify as gossip – some one reacting to the inanity said by an opinion host who is just trying to sell ratings. My reaction before I pass on reading it is “Oh, (insert name) must have said something stupid again.” Next.

Some have prophesized this will cause our extinction. It does threaten our democracy, but will likely not cause our extinction. On that front, what we need to worry about is too many people chasing too few water and food resources. So, before we are pronounced extinct, please note it is not as bad as portrayed, but it still needs to be a lot better. Our real problems are hard enough without some opinion host masquerading as a news person making up inane things. My advice is to ignore blather and check other sources.

Just a thought

Where do you get your information? I ask this because our President seems to get his information from less than reliable sources and then criticizes more legitimate sources for disagreeing with him.

Here are a few questions to ask of your sources:

– if a source of information screams at his audience while his head is turning a very scary shade of red, he might not be a good source of information.
– if a source of information has such a raspy voice from shouting at the wind and name calls everyone who he deems appropriate, then he might not be a good source of information.
– if you get your information from Facebook or Twitter, you need to look carefully at sources cited and use the Twitter feed for headlines only to cause you to dig further on more legitimate sources.
– if you are getting your information from a source that must advertise they are fair and balanced to make up for their bias and inconsistent veracity, then you might want to consider another source for validation.
– if you are getting your information from the current President, stop because he is an unreliable source and has been most of his life.

I encourage you to check multiple sources. I am often asked where I get my information. Several places – PBS Newshour, BBC World News America, NPR, Reuters, and The Guardian. I read articles from my browser feed which come from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, Time, etc. And, my local paper, The Charlotte Observee is a good source for local and state news.

A good sign a news source is reputable is they print errata or correct portions of stories that prove to be inaccurate. Admitting mistakes is a sign of intelligence.

I would also ask people who say inane things about their sources. Our President cites a couple of sources that are known for making things up or creating conspiracies. He even put one on the White House. And, he has actually appeared on one where the host is on record that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged, as an example of his lack of veracity.

Before someone claims fake news, he needs to make sure the things he is saying are legitimate whether it is about his electoral college landslide, voter fraud or unemployment or crime rates.

If you believe this, you may want to check your source

In our new post-truth environment, where people have made election decisions off information they believed to be true, but was not, it is time to do a few litmus tests. If you believe the following, then you may want to check your sources of information.

  • If you believe the unemployment rate in the US is around 40% rather than beneath 5% per the Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS), you may want to check your source.
  • If you still believe President Obama is either born in Kenya, a Muslim and/ or the anti-Christ, you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe we are the most taxed country in the world, you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe Hillary Clinton had a Lesbian affair with Yoko Ono or has staffers running a child pornography ring out of a pizza parlor in DC, you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe that climate change is still a hoax and that 97% of scientists and every major science organization on the planet are wrong, you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe President Obama caused a hurricane to hit President-elect Trump’s development and home in South Florida, you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe Trump did not use his Foundation’s money for his own benefit, then you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe Hillary and Bill Clinton had staffer and friend Vince Foster killed when he actually committed suicide, you may want to check your source.
  • If you believe Donald Trump did not sexually assault and/ or harass women and has not had multiple affairs, you may want to check your source. There is a reason he won’t bring suit against these women, as he is their best witness.

The sad part of the above examples is I could go on. News sources are not all created equal nor are some sources even news based. Too many sites offer fake news designed to confuse the public. And, they do so at a price as there is an industry around fake news creation.

Please verify unusual stories and sources of information. It is more than OK to tell a Facebook friend that his or her source is sketchy or you do not believe that to be true.

In the quiet of the morning

My favorite time of day is the quiet of morning. As an early riser, thanks to taking kids to school for so many years, I enjoy the peace of reading the newspaper with a cup of hot coffee.

I read a great deal online, but I still prefer the feel of a newspaper in my hands. Even if I may have read a story online the day before, rereading lets it sink in more for digestion and understanding.

While I am closer to being a news junkie than not, it is important to consider the news and the sources. Not all news is created equal, so the veracity of the source and data cited is relevant. This a key reason I read, watch and listen to multiple sources.

For those who would prefer not to read the news, I would guide you to NPR, PBS Newshour or BBC World News. Al Jazeera is also good, but I get few chances to watch it. I am visiting my sister and she watched PBS with me last night. The stories are well reported and analyzed by people who are more expert in their field. They are also civil to one another and cover stories that are more relevant and less influenced by bias or conflict of interest.

I am blessed to have access to an excellent daily newspaper in The Charlotte Observer. They continue to do in-depth reporting on topics for which they win numerous awards. They just completed a four-part series on our regional future water crisis and have exposed the problems of overworked and understaffed medical examiners in our state which has led to change, e.g. Plus, I appreciate reading the editorials from a variety of vantage points, even if I don’t agree with everything or much of what the writer says.

So, I am thankful for this time to read and reflect. I feel I am a better citizen and person in being informed. How do you stay informed? What are your favorite times of the day?