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November 12, 2014

FDR Ruthlessly Manipulated Political Process



(p. D8) Michael C. Janeway, a former editor of The Boston Globe and executive editor of The Atlantic Monthly who wrote two books chronicling what he saw as the intertwined decline of democracy and journalism in the United States, died on Thursday [April 17, 2014] at his home in Lakeville, Conn.


. . .


The second book, "The Fall of the House of Roosevelt: Brokers of Ideas and Power From FDR to LBJ," published in 2004, measured some of the ideas in his first book against the history of the New Deal. It focused on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's inner circle of advisers, a group of political operatives and thinkers often called Roosevelt's "brain trust," who helped conceive ideas like the minimum wage, Social Security and federal bank deposit insurance.

Mr. Janeway's father, Eliot Janeway, an economist, Democratic hand and columnist for Time magazine (a portfolio not unheard-of in those days), was a prominent member of that group.

Michael Janeway suggested that in undertaking the radical changes necessary to yank the "shattered American capitalist system into regulation and reform," Roosevelt and his team manipulated the political process with a level of ruthlessness that may have been justified by the perils of the times. But in the years that followed, he wrote, the habit of guile and highhandedness devolved into the kind of arrogance that defined -- and doomed -- the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, Roosevelt's last political heir.



For the full obituary, see:

PAUL VITELLO. "Michael Janeway, 73, Former Editor of The Boston Globe." The New York Times (Sat., APRIL 19, 2014): D8.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has title "Michael Janeway, Former Editor of The Boston Globe, Dies at 73.")


The book mentioned in the passage quoted above is:

Janeway, Michael. The Fall of the House of Roosevelt: Brokers of Ideas and Power from FDR to LBJ, Columbia Studies in Contemporary American History. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.






September 25, 2014

Insider Reports on Crony Journalism at CBS and ABC




You hear a lot these days about 'crony capitalism' which no-one, including me, much likes. (The version I like is entrepreneurial capitalism.) But we too often forget that adjective "crony" can modify other nouns besides "capitalism." Here are a couple of examples of crony journalism.


(p. A11) . . . skip to the second part, which is mostly a memoir and almost all about journalism. It includes one of the toughest critiques of television news ever written by an insider. From 1977 to 1989, Mr. Lewis worked for ABC News and then for CBS's news program "60 Minutes."


. . .


The most acute of Mr. Lewis's frustrations came when Hewitt, the executive producer of "60 Minutes," refused to broadcast a Lewis report on former government officials profiting as U.S. lobbyists for foreign interests unless the name of Hewitt's good friend Pete Peterson, then chairman of the Blackstone Group, was excised from the script. In the story, a photograph showed five smiling Blackstone executives, all former federal appointees, in a Japanese newspaper advertisement seeking business for their lobbying efforts. Mr. Peterson was singled out by name in the voice-over narrative. Correspondent Mike Wallace, for whom Mr. Lewis worked directly, implored him in a shouting match to remove Mr. Peterson's name, to no avail. But Hewitt was more subtle, simply refusing to schedule the piece for airing. Mr. Lewis bitterly relented to Hewitt's implicit demand and quit the day after the story was broadcast.

As for ABC, Mr. Lewis reports that its legendary news chief Roone Arledge killed a tough story on tobacco at the request of "the Corporate guys," who were fearful that the network could complicate its position in a libel suit that Philip Morris had already filed against the broadcaster.



For the full review, see:

RICHARD J. TOFEL. "BOOKSHELF; Media Manipulation; At ABC News and CBS's '60 Minutes,' producers would regularly kill stories critical of the powerful and connected." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 16, 2014): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 15, 2014, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; Book Review: '935 Lies' by Charles Lewis; At ABC News and CBS's '60 Minutes,' producers would regularly kill stories critical of the powerful and connected.")


The book being reviewed is:

Lewis, Charles. 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity. New York: PublicAffairs, 2014.






May 28, 2014

Psychological Theorizing Based on False Facts



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Source of book image:
http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/k/kitty-genovese/9780393239287_custom-113f9b45a7b76ac664f82c62c6604fd07d7ad5f9-s6-c30.jpg



(p. C7) The Kitty Genovese myth has turned out to be as enduring an urban legend as the tale of alligators prowling the New York sewers. In March 1964 the young Queens bar manager was stabbed to death at three in the morning outside her Kew Gardens apartment while 38 neighbors watched from their windows and did nothing to save her--or so the tale has gone for the past half-century.

In fact, hardly anything about the Genovese story is what it first appeared to be, although it has calcified into a metaphor of urban alienation and prompted research into a psychological phenomenon that has come to be known as the "Genovese syndrome." As Kevin Cook writes in his heavily padded but provocative new book, "Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America," the tale is as much about the alchemy of journalism as urban pathology.


. . .


. . . , as it turns out, only a few neighbors understood the attack for what it was and failed to respond.


. . .


Journalism is a blunt instrument, and allowances must be made. Even so, it's plain that the original story was more hype than first draft of history.



For the full review, see:

EDWARD KOSNER. "BOOKS; What the Neighbors Didn't See; A woman was stabbed and raped steps from her door. Did no one call the police?" The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 1, 2014): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Feb. 28, 2014, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; Book Review: 'Kitty Genovese' by Kevin Cook; A woman was stabbed and raped steps from her door. Did no one call the police?")


The book under review is:

Cook, Kevin. Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2014.






August 5, 2011

Banker Rhodes Saved Murdoch from Bankruptcy



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Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.







(p. A13) In "Banker to the World," Mr. Rhodes tries to distil the "leadership lessons" he has learned from his remarkable career on the "front lines of global finance."


. . .


. . . , Mr. Rhodes does succeed in hammering home three lessons that we need to take to heart if we are to have any chance of navigating the troubled waters that lie ahead. The first is that there is no substitute for the human touch: For all banking's bells and whistles today, it is much the same business it was in Florentine Italy. Consider one of Mr. Rhodes's greatest exploits: coordinating the rescue of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. from bankruptcy in 1990. Mr. Rhodes was worried that the collapse of Mr. Murdoch's heavily-indebted media empire would tip the world economy back into recession. But he decided to bet on Mr. Murdoch only after the two had sat down for a three-hour heart-to-heart over dinner in New York.



For the full review, see:

ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE. "BOOKSHELF; A Conspiracy of Hunches; A rare master of both the financial and political realms reports on what a half-century of experience taught him." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., June 8, 2011): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: online version of article had the date JULY 13, 2011.)


Book being reviewed:

Rhodes, William R. Banker to the World: Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines of Global Finance. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.





April 30, 2011

Press Routinely Puffs Up Phony Scares



(p. 107) In the winter of 2001, . . . , a New York Times page-one lead story declared in breathless phrasing that the White House had just "canceled" regulations limiting arsenic in drinking water; taking their leads from the Times, all national newscasts that night declared that arsenic protection had been "canceled." The Times went on to editorialize that government actually wanted Americans to "drink poisoned water" because this would serve the sinister interests of corporations, though how the conspiracy would serve sinister corporate interests was not explained, since the arsenic in drinking water occurs naturally. Government poisoning your water--a report you don't want to miss tonight!

Except that nothing had been canceled. The White House had held up a pending rule to make arsenic protection more strict; while the pending rule was reviewed, prior rules remained in effect. The Environmental Protection Agency continued regulating arsenic in drinking water during the entire period when such protection was supposedly "canceled." Then, in November 2001, the White House ended its review and put the much stricter rule into force. The New York Times did not play this as (p. 108) a headline lead, where the original scare story had been; enactment of the strict rule was buried in a small box on page A18. Network newscasts that had presented a shocking scandal of "canceled arsenic protection" as their big story also said little or nothing when instead stronger rules went into effect. This sort of puffing up of a phony scare, followed by studious ignoring of subsequent events that deflate the scare, is not rare. It is standard operating procedure in many quarters of journalism, including at the top.



Source:

Easterbrook, Gregg. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Paperback ed. New York: Random House, 2004.

(Note: ellipsis added; italics in original.)





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