ABC Pressured Reporters

As I said yesterday, McClellan’s contention that the networks were complicit in the War Propaganda campaign, were as damning as anything said about Bush. Now Jessica Yellin, who was at ABC during the run up to the war has spilled the beans on her bosses on Anderson Cooper’s show last night.

“The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings,” Yellin said.

“And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives – and I was not at this network at the time – but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president, I think over time….”

But then a shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, “You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?”

“Not in that exact…. They wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces,” Yellin said. “They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience.”

Michael Eisner (Disney/ABC), Bob Wright (GE/NBC), Rupert Murdoch (News Corp/Fox) and Sumner Redstone (Viacom/CBS) should be hauled before Congress to explain this. The broadcast licenses they hold are in the “public interest, convenience, or necessity” not in the Bush administration’s “interest, convenience or necessity.”

UPDATE-Turns out Yellin was working for MSNBC, not ABC in the run up to the war.

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0 Responses to ABC Pressured Reporters

  1. Billie Mae says:

    The stock market isn’t the only thing being manipulated. So much for freedom of speech in the good ol’ USA.

    Speaking of manipulation, here’s an excerpt from “A Profitable Refuge From Market Intervention & Data Manipulation”
    by DeepCaster LLC, posted May 9, 2008:

    “…Moreover, regarding the assets at The Cartel’s disposal, if one tracks the Repurchase Agreement Pool daily, as Deepcaster does, and is aware of the other Interventional tools that The Cartel has at its disposal, then one gains a considerable edge.

    “Consider just one example. If one visits the Bank for International Settlements (the Central Bankers Bank) website ( and follows the path Statistics>Derivatives>Table 19 and following, one can see the entire range of trillions of dollars worth of OTC Darkly Liquid Derivatives available for use in Market Manipulation.

    “For example, over $7 trillion in Derivatives was available for Commodities price manipulation as of June, 2007 – – a large chunk of these are available to manipulate the Crude Oil price. Also, as of June 2007, something in excess of $48 trillion in OTC Derivatives were available for Foreign Exchange Price Manipulation, and a whopping $346 trillion in interest rate contracts were available for Interest Rate Manipulation all along the Yield Curve and not just at the short end…”

  2. Hugo says:

    Haul them into court, Jon?

    [Exhale…] I really don’t mean to be snide—this is going to sound snide—but truly, the Press is no more. It does not exist. You cannot credibly name it or its address. Much less could it ever be dragged into court to answer for its frivolities.

    It’s over, man.

    Let’s go.

  3. Patrick Freeman says:

    If you believe Redstone, Murdoch, et al are the least concerned with the “public interest” then I hope the tooth fairy leaves you a quarter under your pillow.

  4. Dan says:

    The fall and winter of 2002 was one of those Twilight Zone times for me, when it seemed like I was the only person who could see that the news reporters on the TV were actually space aliens plotting the destruction of Earth, or something. “In other news, the president has agreed to meet the people’s demand for Human Destruction Centers on every street corner. All Hail the Persei Insectoids! Back to you, Kronon.”

    The interesting part of this story is Yellin herself. (What a great name for a reporter.) She’s not yet a Scott McClellan, with a career finished and entombed, and selling a kiss-and-tell book, so it’s not easy to see a profit motive behind this. Presumably, making these kinds of statements carry at least some risk to her career. Or maybe PressCorp Amalgamated has decided that it’s time to switch political toothpaste brands and curl up for a nap in the lap of the Democrats. In which case she’s just an early conscript.

    I have a hard time believing that a Persei Insectoid is being brave and noble.

  5. Dan says:

    “making these kinds of statements CARRIES at least some risk to her career”

    Even then, it’s an awkward construction.

    I used to be so careful about my syntax. You hit your middle forties and you let it all go.

  6. Hugo says:

    You’d be a sou poorer for that, Dan, were there an actual sin tax. And I’d be in the poorhouse by now for all the sinning my middle-aged belly betrays. Grammar ain’t the only thing to go at our age. As Mailer might have said, Tempus Fuggit.

  7. zak says:

    I fail to see how this sort of admission it remotely shocking. If print publications merely rely on subscribers to get to advertisers, surely it would follow that televised media relies on eye balls to get the advertising dollars. Corporate America is n’t handing over advertising moolah for news stations to return the favor by running exposes on sweat shop labor or government finger pointing. Corporations rely on the gov’t to look the other way, and bail them out in times of crisis (free markets be damned), so they can’t be associated with commentary critical of situations and politics they rely on.

  8. Hugo says:

    Jon, I still say, “It’s over; let’s go.” So if you want to do other than announce the latest certification of the death of the American Press, and prefer the quick and constructive—over the dead and morbid—as much as you say, then I’ll offer one stab at moving forward. (And I’m glad that zak’s on this, because in my majestic opinion she has the makings of a crack journalist.)

    Process journalism, and lots more of it, and continuously improving. The journalists and documentarians who can take a very complex process—such as the gray-market trade in vaporous financial derivatives, or the subborning of a legislator’s vote, or the exercise of power within and by the NEA, or the rigging of a presidential debate, or the hijacking of science—and make it comprehensible even to me. You know, the simple business of making the opaque transparent. This exists still, in long-form & slow journalism, but seems no longer within the reach of the dailies—much less of the imbecilic, hidebound and emotive daily broadcasters. Even the television newsmagazines are now given over to repackaging crime stories from the local affiliates to milk the last dollar out of their production costs. The value added is minimal.

    As I say, the “Press” has gone the way of Abercrombie & Fitch; the qualitative changes add up to a species saltation, a change in kind, an ontological shift of category. If you look up “Press” in the Yellow Pages, the book now reads, “See listings under ‘Media'”.

    Just as there are specialized sports outlets galore that obviate much of the daily Sports page or broadcast sports segment, I could see a daily e-newspaper producing only investigative and process stories. Slow-baked, but full of wholesome natural goodness. It’s expensive stuff to gumshoe and compose—even without HST’s budget for drugs, booze and primitive mojo wires—but on the other hand, the publishing and distribution costs are “virtually” nil.

    And the best part of course is that any of us can do it as an avocational or even wildcat proposition anytime we like. Nonprofits could do it, individuals could do it—even educated fleas could do it. But you could also make good money and a hell of an impact doing it. The niche is wide open, best I can tell.

  9. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo- I’m sorry I was so slow responding to this important post of yours. I just spent the weekend with my friend David Fanning who has produced Frontline for PBS. Check out this post, because it shows some of the potent process improvements you describe in your second paragraph.

  10. Hugo says:

    Looked at your futurist post on journalism, Jon, and pondered it for a couple of days. The Frontline productions are potent all right, the more so now that the estimable Mr. Fanning has set a precedent in publishing the source-interviews and related material on the Internet. I can’t imagine how Frontline could get any better at turning rigorous investigative journalism slowly into masterfully tendentious news analysis that doesn’t get any less tendentious for the publication of its sources.

    Because of your several recent invitations to do so I’ve been thinking about what it might take to re-establish a kind of bridgehead on the abandoned terrain of a working daily Press that sweats the quaint niceties such as accuracy, honesty, and the minimization of schmaltz, schtick and ideological spieling. I don’t believe there’s a daily in America that still bothers to do this, and of course the old news networks are all shot.

    So in the past couple weeks I’ve entertained this fantasy of establishing a virtual daily that, instead of running the usual hodgepodge or else specializing in sports or features or opinion or travel or a particular business sector or business in general; instead of republishing wire stories; and instead of trying to fill a particular ideological niche—a daily that, instead of doing any of that, would be distinguished by the following: (a) its accurate and in-depth presentation of the big story or two or three of any given day, often with follow-up installments on stories warranting ongoing investigation; (b) its quick-turnaround team reporting; (c) its “process stories” explaining to readers the increasingly complex structures and systems that shape their lives, mainly through careful reporting of stories too complicated for the superficial news media; (d) the soundness of its prose; (e) the ecclecticism of its stable of writers and of their ideological vantages; (f) the conspicuous absence of any particular editorial agenda other than (g) to offer responsible, transparent daily journalism.

    I fancy the enterprise as a lifeboat for good, hard newspeople who long for the old rigor, for serious treatment of significant events, for a modicum of literary pride, and above all for more depth and less world-saving. An enterprise in which the only ideology that counts is solid newspapering itself. A press.

  11. Ken Ballweg says:

    I suspect that several web sites would like to claim that honor already, however I’m not sure they have the level of rigor that your are hoping for Hugo. That they may evolve into it is a hope.

    However, as a master of the obvious, I would like to point out that few print newspapers were as pure as your nostalgic lens portrays them. A few, such as (but not limited to) the Grey Lady, and the LA Times worked hard at it. Most of the rest had an easy to figure out slant set by whoever was setting the tone in the news room. All you needed to do was look at the editorial endorsements at election time to suss it.

  12. Ken Ballweg says:

    Oh, I was going to add that honest journalism probably has some sort of floating ratio like art vs. entertainment in other areas of media.

    One hope for the future is that I can get affordable cameras, and editing equipment and produce documentaries much and more visually appealing in my den. Similar to the music industry being cut loose from the major recording studios, this has already created a more diverse content stream and may make it easier for young rebels to call foul when they see it without having to be beholden. Of course the price is that the noise level will go up the same way hideous flyers and brochures proliferated when desktop publishing became easily accessible.

    Damn, no free lunch.

  13. Hugo says:

    Yep, Ken, it is nostalgic of me (a grave confession for an historian), but as Lennon sed “I’m not the only one”. Besides, I remember—I think, accurately—how the old editors worked, how little patience they had for wine-sipping, ideologically purified Masters of Digital Journalism out to right the wrongs they so often perceived as the wrong-headedness of the hoi polloi. Far from nostalgia, that’s something worth remembering.

    Admittedly I do also remember the blue-pencil days of clackety upright Underwoods and ink-stained print monkeys scurrying with their galleys, and all hands racing to beat the clock. That’s nostalgia, sure. It’s emotive stuff that no longer serves.

    I don’t think it’s nostalgic, though, to recall the ironclad, openly published editorial policies; the retractions and corrections and occasional public apologies; the publishing of letters-to-the-editor sans comment; the rigorous sourcing and copy-editing; the prideful publication design; the fearlessness in the age before journalistic impunity (cf. Jewell v. Cox Enterprises); the astonishing investigatory resourcefulness; the hard-earned trustworthiness. The often uncomfortable fairness of it all.

    So sure, there were Midwestern presses in the tank for the GOP; and sure, Hearst remained a populist muckraker; and sure, the Chandlers were shameless boosters of sprawling WASP autopia. But in retrospect it strikes me as remarkable that there were so many news organizations that didn’t care, day-to-day, whether a reporter was a Marxist idealist or a a capitalist one, or a Minnesota Progressive or a Texas libertarian or a New York aesthete, so long as the regulating ideal, at work, was the American free Press.

    You’re right about the floating ratio. I try to sequester that important nuance, though, in the interest of taking the current temperature of the frogwater. It seems that, at present, it’s more than hot enough already to kill most micro-organisms, including the First Amendment.

    If you can do at home what Fanning does, then I’d say it’s time for you to cash in!

  14. Richard Baskin says:

    My take on this is that the press must bear it’s share of responsibility, but the far greater burden lies upon we, the citizens — Americans who continue to be both the most blessed and the laziest, most complacent people in the world. We get the government we deserve, and George Bush is the perfect reflection of who we have become. When large numbers of people wake up, this kind of bullshit will be impossible to maintain; but until then we’ll be living in a pizza/doughnut/videogame/American Idol/SUV universe.

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