Weekly Roundup 11/16/2010

Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news
Ted Koppel, The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2010

Synopsis: The former longtime host of ABC’s “Nightline” regrets the contemporary cable news universe, where unrestrained partisanship reigns on two channels: Fox News and MSNBC, each of them commercially successful by appealing to a politically defined “niche” audience. He longingly recalls the era relatively unbiased reporting from the legends of TV news: Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, Reynolds, Smith.

Takeaway: The need for clear objective reporting remains, Koppel argues, but the model seems unlikely to re-emerge. “That’s the way it is,” he says, recalling (for those too young to recognize) Walter Cronkite’s famous daily sign-off.

Postscript: Olbermann responded in an extended commentary on Monday night: A false promise of “objectivity,” he says, proves that “truth” is superior to “fact.”

Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor, CQ Researcher

Seven Classic Bad Calls in Business Journalism
Charles Wallace, Daily Finance (AOL), Nov. 6, 2010

Synopsis: You know how they say that the individual investor can't time the market? Business journalists can't do it either, based on this kind of alarming summary of journalistic pronouncements on investments that turned out to be so so wrong -- and often pretty quickly, too. "Paul Montgomery, CEO of Montgomery Capital Management in Newport News, Va., is a stock market aficionado who has studied this pattern. According to Montgomery, within a year of a Time or Newsweek financial cover story appearing on newsstands, the market moves in the opposite direction 80% of the time."

Takeaway: When it comes to finance, maybe betting AGAINST journalism's current predictions is better than a coin flip!

Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher


On the Trail of the Mumbai Terrorists
Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, Nov. 13, 2010

Synopsis: A riveting two-part series on the horrific Mumbai Massacre in 2008 appeared on the front page of The Washington Post on Sunday and Monday. The in-depth report focused on the search for Sajid Mir, who allegedly led the bloody rampage that left 166 dead and has eluded police on four continents. Of special journalistic note, the series was produced by a team from Pro Publica, an independent, nonprofit investigative journalism operation.

Takeaway: The report provides a breathtaking, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of anti-terrorism intelligence. It also offers hope to those who worry that solid, investigative journalism will go the way of the dodo bird because major, for-profit media can no longer afford it.

Thomas J. Colin, Managing Editor, CQ Researcher


Long Time Coming
Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker, Nov. 15, 2010

Most of America only found out about her when she sang at President Obama’s inaugural. But Bettye Lavette can trace her career back to the time in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, when the mixture of blues, gospel, jazz and country music that was dubbed “rhythm and blues,” and later, “soul music,” was breaking into the national market. Lavette didn’t hit the big time back then, for a series of reasons that New Yorker staff writer Wilkinson explores, but she kept on singing in her own category-breaking style. Her personality doesn’t find any molds either, this fascinating profile makes plain.

Peter Katel, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher


The Battle of Rio
Brett Forrest, The Atlantic, Dec. 2010

Synopsis: With Rio de Janeiro preparing to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, police are waging a dangerous and daunting battle against drugs, arms trading and other crime in the Brazilian city’s lawless shanty towns, or “favelas.”

Takeaway: Rio’s reputation as a fun-loving vacation paradise belies the existence of a grim underbelly of poverty and crime that could shake the city’s image as the games approach.

For background, see Eliza Barclay, “Crime in Latin America,” CQ Global Researcher, September 2010.

Thomas J. Billitteri, Assistant Managing Editor, CQ Researcher