The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Turbo-Tax Tim Does 3 Sunday Shows UPDATE: Geithner Praises Obama’s ‘Incredibly Effective’ Economic Policies

Posted on | April 15, 2012 | 17 Comments

The Treasury Secretary is ubiquitous on Tax Day:

  • ABC This Week: Timothy Geithner.
  • NBC Meet the Press: Timothy Geithner; Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
  • CBS Face the Nation: Timothy Geithner; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
  • CNN State of the Union: Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee; Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
  • Fox News Sunday: Ed Gillespie, adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney; David Axelrod, adviser to President Obama’s re-election campaign.

UPDATE: Kool-Aid? Anybody want some Kool-Aid?

President Obama’s economic policies “were incredibly effective,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Sunday, crediting the president with having prevented a depression.
While admitting it is “still a very tough economy out there,” Geithner said the administration is “making a lot of progress” and said “the broad indicators are pretty encouraging.”
Interviewed on ABC’s This Week, Geithner was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about the gloomy forecasts from economists such as New York University professor Nouriel Roubini, who called the current recovery “anemic, subpar, below trend, below potential.”
Geithner suggested Obama could not be blamed for that, saying “if he’d had more support from his opponents in Congress, then we could have got more things passed that would have put more people back to work more quickly.” . . .

Read the whole thing at The American Spectator, which I hope citizen-journalists will study as a lesson in Neutral Objective Journalism. One of the basic jobs of a D.C. political reporter is the Sunday show round-up: What did the “newsmakers” (government officials, party leaders, candidates, etc.) say on the Sunday shows?

If you can do nothing else from the comfort of home, you can always report What People Say on TV. The key to doing that effectively, however, is to write it as straight news: “Joe Friday, Just-the-Facts-Ma’am” is a style that anyone can learn by study and practice. Repress your bloggerly temptation to snark it up, resist any urge you might have toward sensationalism, and just tell it straight. Identify the key quotes and facts and assemble them into the kind of basic reporting that wire services do.

When doing a Sunday show roundup, you generally want to work pretty quick: If your version isn’t online by noon or 1 p.m. Eastern, you might as well not bother. But on other occasions and with other kinds of What People Say on TV stories, you may have time — if you think nobody else saw the significance of the interview, news story or C-SPAN segment you saw — to fill in the background from other sources.

Some may ask, “Where’s the value-added? Anybody can see what people say on TV. Why should I do my own version of the story? Why not just link the Associated Press or Politico story and add my own caustic ideological sarcasm?” I reply that the way other sources assemble the quotes and facts — the way they do Neutral Objective Journalism — inevitably introduces a certain angle or bias to the story.

You will discover, if you try your hand at writing the What People Say on TV story, that there is no such thing as neutrality, no matter how straightforward and factual your account may be. Other than transcripts, every news story on a subject of political controversy (and what Tim Geithner said Sunday was obviously such a case) includes elements of selection and emphasis that amount to a slant.

Let us compare (via Memeorandum) the Geithner story as told by Jonathan Easley of The Hill:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner ripped presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday, calling Romney’s argument that women have been disproportionately hurt during the recession “a ridiculous argument.”

Easley thus focuses on Geithner’s criticism of Romney, while my story at The American Spectator focuses on Geithner’s praise for Obama.

There will always be a surplus of conservative pundits available to slam liberal bias in the media. What we have is a shortage of conservative reporters providing a competitive alternative in the form of Neutral Objective Journalism. Basic stuff like reporting What People Say on TV is something that any literate person can learn to do, and I would argue that such basic reporting — not punditry, nor the pursuit of sensational “exclusives” — is the kind of useful work more citizen-journalists should be encouraged to provide.

If you were a student at the R.S. McCain School of Journalism, I’d make this assignment: Record a TV interview with a “newsmaker” and then transcribe the interview. Use that interview as the material to write a short news story (250-450 words) and then append the full transcript at the end. Only after you’ve done that a few times — and compared your stories to whatever other versions of the same story are published by other news outlets — will you begin to understand the value of such basic reporting. By attempting to improve your product to match what other outlets provide, by a process of comparison study, you will build your chops as a straight-news reporter.

One thing every reporter in Washington gets used to is when the editor comes over to show him an exclusive by another news organization and says, “We need to match this,” which is to say: Call some sources and re-report the story, verifying (or not) what the other organization has reported and, somewhere in the third or fourth paragraph, include the mention that this was “first reported by” whoever got the original scoop.

Again, people may ask, “What’s the point? Why do something like that? If Politico has the scoop, why should we knock ourselves out verifying what they’ve already reported?” The answer is that what your sources tell you may add some new angle on what Politico‘s sources told them. And if the exclusive is important enough, there will be new opportunities for other organizations doing reporting for second-day and third-day follow-up articles about a continuing story.

Journalism is not rocket science, as I’ve said a thousand times. And I just wish more people would concentrate on basic reporting.

UPDATE II: We shall now proceed to our next lesson, Advanced Methods in Online Aggregation. Again via Memeorandum, we see how ABC News Neutral Objective Journalist George Stephanopoulos reports his own Geithner interview:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he believed the economy is “gradually getting stronger,” but said “we can’t tell yet” whether growth has stalled as it has in previous spring months during the Obama administration.
“We can’t tell yet,” Geithner said on “This Week” when asked if the same pattern from previous years was repeating, with strong growth in early months of the year, followed by a slow-down, as happened the last two years.
“But if you look back at what happened in 2010 and 2011, you’re right that you saw some early strength in the beginning of the year,” Geithner said. “But then what happened was, the crisis in Europe in 2010 and 2011 and then the crisis in Japan and then the oil shock caused growth to slow. And then in ’11, it was made worse by the – by all the political drama around the debt limit, which was very damaging to confidence.”
Geithner said the economy is still showing signs of improvement, despite the March jobs report showing just 120,000 new jobs created — far below predictions, and lower than the 200,000 — jobs created in the last three months.

For comparison, see this headline by Ed Morrissey:

Geithner: Hey, how about that “remarkably successful”
Obamanomics that might not produce growth this spring?

Professor Morrissey provides this video of Geithner’s appearance on Meet the Press with NBC News Neutral Objective Journalist David Gregory:

Via Susan Duclos at Wake Up America, we have this interesting headline by Wynton Hall at Breitbart’s Big Government:

7 Devastating Facts About the Obama Economy

Now, if any student in the R.S. McCain School of Journalism wishes to get extra credit, let them attempt this simple exercise:

  1. You are the reporter who has drawn the short straw in the newsroom, and are assigned Sunday duty, your job being to provide the front-page Monday story about What People Said on TV. However, while your story is largely based on these quotes — readily available to anyone with access to the Internet — your story should present this (as will similar stories in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, etc.) in the context of a legitimate economic/political controversy, reporting the opening salvos in the 2012 presidential campaign.
  2. The network sources of the quotes should be tucked into attributions stuck in the middle of paragraphs, and you should not mention before the third paragraph that what Geithner (or any other source) “said Sunday” was said during a television interview.
  3. “Balance” and “fairness” to remarks by Geithner can be provided by reference to statements by Republican officials, economic data, and/or sarcastic putdowns from right-wingers, e.g.: “Geithner’s comments were greeted with widespread derision from conservatives, including syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who remarked on Twitter . . .”

What is desired is an in-depth news article, as Neutral and Objective in its basic factuality as whatever the “mainstream” media produce, between 700 and 1,000 words in length. The sources for your story should be linked, either in the body of the story, or in a series of bullet-points at the end. Deadline is 11 p.m. ET.





17 Responses to “Turbo-Tax Tim Does 3 Sunday Shows UPDATE: Geithner Praises Obama’s ‘Incredibly Effective’ Economic Policies”

  1. King Shamus
    April 15th, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    Ummmmm, does anyone in the White House understand the crappy optics of having a tax cheat on the Sunday shows for Tax Day?

    Guess not. 

  2. Randy G
    April 15th, 2012 @ 8:40 am

     Looks like a good morning to go stand in the rain.

  3. Wombat_socho
    April 15th, 2012 @ 11:03 am

     I don’t think anyone at the White House understands optics, period.

  4. ThePaganTemple
    April 15th, 2012 @ 11:39 am

     The only optics that crew understands is the optics of having the first black president and the extended optics of how anyone that opposes him on anything looks like they might possible be a racist, to hear them tell it. Little things like competence, common sense, and integrity are incidental.

  5. richard mcenroe
    April 15th, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    When you listen to these people, you realize very quickly that none of them has the slightest idea what the real world consequences are of their flailing.  They’ve lived inside the hothouse for so long their only contact with reality is the manure their 20-something staffers and lobbyists feed them.

  6. richard mcenroe
    April 15th, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    Meanwhile Governor Whitman McCain trips over his own tongue again…

  7. Taxpayer1234
    April 15th, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    OZero’s  “incredibly effective” economic policies = Effectively destroying the American economy.

  8. New Kool Aid flavor, Geithner Grape debuts, its Obamaliscious « The Daley Gator
    April 15th, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    […] Other McCain notes that Tim Geithner, of Turbo Tax fame, is getting high on his own supply!  Kool-Aid? Anybody want some […]

  9. Pablo
    April 15th, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    Geithner suggested Obama could not be blamed for that, saying “if he’d
    had more support from his opponents in Congress, then we could have got
    more things passed that would have put more people back to work more
    quickly.” . . .

    Yeah, if only he’d had control of both house, with a supermajority in the Senate…

    Something tells me Timmy has been using TurboHistory.

  10. Dianna Deeley
    April 15th, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    I don’t usually watch the Sunday gab-fests, mostly because listening to politicians lie to me strikes me as a severe waste of valuable relaxation time. But Axelrod was on Fox News Sunday, and said something really funny:

    choice in this election is between an economy that produces a growing
    middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a
    chance to get ahead and an
    economy that continues down the road we’re on.”

    And here’s the link:

  11. TR
    April 15th, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    RSM, you and Roger Ailes should throw back a few.

    His recent discouraging remarks to future journalist “majors” buoyed against your obvious zeal and pedantic sensibilities, no change that, to your personal quest towards Neutral Objective Journalism might work out well together?
    Just an ideal, pal?

  12. Adjoran
    April 15th, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    There is very little actual reporting going on these days, and no Obama official is going to get anywhere near it.  Of the Sunday talkers, only Wallace takes his job seriously and even he has to tone down his toughness or no one would come on his show – the Democrats would just claim “Fox bias” to avoid him.

    Russert could get away with asking tough questions because he was a liberal and his show came to prominence in the days before cable news stations were real competition for the networks.  But he is as dead as the concept of “American exceptionalism” is in the Democratic Party.

    What is particularly galling is when the talking heads not only accept the blatant lies of Democrats as gospel truth, but when the guest stumbles a bit they even help him get back on the path of the talking points.   I just can’t watch the crap flinging any more.

    Newspapers and news mags are dying fast – revenue down 50% in five years, and circling the drain.  I mark their demise as being rooted long ago in two particular events:  1) the appearance of “news analysis” in the news pages instead of op-ed, and 2) the founding of the Department of Education which began the process of federal takeover of public education, effectively destroying it.

    The peak of newspaper circulation and US adult literacy was just before Carter established the DOE to pay off the teachers’ unions for making him President.  Coincidence?  I think not.

  13. robertstacymccain
    April 15th, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    The problem, TR, is that while I have many influential “friends,” none of those friends — the ones with influence — have ever seen fit to recommend my abilities and achievements as deserving of recognition. There seems to be an inverse relationship between (a) favorable opinions of my work, and (b) meaningful influence within the conservative movement. “A Venn Diagram might be helpful,” as I remarked last October.

    One might ponder the significance and possible causation of this, but with rare exceptions, I think that no one in the conservative movement has ever benefitted from praising me, nor suffered any misfortune for badmouthing me behind my back. Thus, my enemies multiply and prosper, while my friends are few and obscure. This is an unpleasant topic I’ve attempted to avoid discussing recently, and which I mention simply because of its obvious relevance to your suggestion: Why should Roger Ailes pay attention to a blogger who is Not Good Enough for BlogCon?

  14. David Axelrod is Right – The Choice is Between a Growing Economy or Staying on the Road We’re On | The Lonely Conservative
    April 15th, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

    […] made the news this morning. He pretty much blamed the current state of the economy on Congress, but then spent his time arguing that the economy is great. Or not. I think he’s confused. Who knows, maybe he’s […]

  15. TR
    April 15th, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

    Roger Ailes has been snarky to Sarah Palin lately too, saying she had “No chance to be president”. 

    She then said a deftly parrying remark.  She said,  “Interesting. I haven’t heard all of his remarks, but I wonder if he is
    aware that the same thing was said about me when I ran for city council,
    mayor, and eventually governor. No doubt many people who are told they
    can’t do something will work that much harder, and they succeed”

    Todd Palin and Mark Levin both have not suffered from knowing you or your writing.  Could be a good time to repopulate or reconfigure that Venn diagram?

  16. AnonymousDrivel
    April 15th, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

    Agreed. Much of the media is so choreographed and managed to set narratives that they are useless. The sins of commission and omission so rampant that to watch it is to become less educated than you were before.

    And this doesn’t even include outright mistakes apart from unavoidable bias. Ask yourself if the story, any story, about which you are personally knowledgeable or expert is correct and accurate. Sure, there can be differences in perception (which you have to acknowledge yourself so as not to ignore self-possessed bias) but, having conceded bias, are the facts presented true and representative of what is known tangibly? My guess is that almost every time, the answer is “no.” So, knowing that the accuracy in reporting facts is wrong in a topic about which you are informed, why would you proceed to read other content and then accept all else that is reported? That would be foolish, of course.

    And that’s where contemporary media is now: untrustworthy, often untrue. The advantage we do have, however, is that 1) we can fact check the fact-checkers much more easily than before and 2) the filters we used to have from monopolists no longer dominate. Free people will have to keep fighting that fight, which is to say fight for free-flowing information, as opposed to just fighting the legacy media bias since a media of some sort will always exist. The battlefield needs to have more participants rather than just “better.” (Please don’t interpret that as saying we need more “journalists.” We don’t necessarily. What we need is for more individuals to exercise critical thinking more often and to encourage dissemination of thought.)

  17. sheryl
    April 15th, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

    Unfortunately,  when people hear something long enough they tend to believe it.