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Protester Reality Gap: Go read this perfectly concise post by Dr. Frank.

2/2/2002 06:34:16 PM

Report From New York: IMF Managing Director Horst Kohler told World Economic Forum delegates today that the U.S. and Europe better get busy with eliminating protectionism:
We need to focus on giving developing countries better access, and this includes the phasing out of these subsidies, which are absolutely distorting and devastating sectors in the poor world.
You go, Horst! Meanwhile AP is reporting that “police scuffled several times with protesters.”
Hundreds shouted "Capitalism? Shut it down!" and "Racism? Shut it down!" as police helicopters flew slowly overhead. About a dozen counter-protesters set up a sound system that blared "The Star-Spangled Banner" and waved a sign saying "Seek therapy."
That’s pretty funny. Yesterday, another New York-based media professional friend of mine, who describes herself as “a Clinton democrat raised in a mixed-party household,” sent along these thoughts about the protest kids:
If they come through my neighborhood with so much as a tomato in their hand, I'm kickin some ass.

The sentiment you printed from the democrat new yorker -- maybe i didn't write that, but i thought i did.

I'm watching it on cnbc. i have very unusual pro-cop anti-protester feelings these days so i have no [desire] to go uptown and hear the drivel from the peaceniks. i ran into a few of them at union square a week ago. i read their flyers and politely gave them back to them without pointing out the fatal flaws in their argument. a little bit of education is a dangerous thing.

Then later, when she was more drunk:
Helicopters are circling overhead -- though I assume that has more to do with the Davos crowd than the goofy protesters. Though I'm not so excited to have the Davos folks here either, come to think of it.

The city had just started to feel safe again - as we got away from the New Year's Eve unscathed. But now the cops are on ultra-high alert through the weekend and not responding to low-rent crime around here. More sirens in the street, more planes flying low and loud and more helicopters circling. Very unsettling in ways that never bothered me before.

I happened to walk by Revolution Books (they mean it) this evening. I've been in there in the past and it's normally empty - just a clerk and me just about every time. Tonight it was totally packed.

Around mid-day I thought about heading uptown to get some of their flyers for you, but then I figured I'd get mad and start arguing with them. But why bother? I mean, there's a group up there advocating the end of all debt -- even consumer debt. What the hell? Great, forgive your credit card and college loans, buddy. But oops, can't get a loan to buy a house, can't charge those books yer buying, let alone the ticket that got you here. Whatever, hippies. I wonder if they have the balls to head down to ground zero and talk to the office workers who fled in horror as they confronted evil head on.

You know, it makes me really really angry to think about this. Sorry. Must sign off. Very pissed, want to get on the subway and go punch them now. maybe they're back at Union Square defacing the Washington Statue like they did after Sept. 11.

I mean, I can't think about the little shits and not remember exactly how I felt as I first watched the towers fall. We are confronting something that is such pure evil. It is beyond words for me how anyone can fail to understand that. You don't persuade someone like that to suddenly play nice. You go to war. Period.

And I know I'm mixing the pro-globalization folks in with the pro-peace babies, but there's nothing wrong with that is there?

Not when they’re doing it themselves.

2/2/2002 03:10:50 PM

Two Great New Blogs: Ted Barlow, an ex-Enron employee who likes to call Republicans on hypocrisy, runs a terrific one, where I learned about Sophismata (that’s “logical fallacies,” in fancy-language), run by a Wall Street portfolio strategist named (I believe) Raghu Ramachandran, who enjoys picking apart “sloppy thinking, especially with regards to math and junk science.” In practice, Raghu does a good job nailing reporters on their innumeracy, which is fun & educational.

2/2/2002 02:52:46 PM

I Have Health Insurance! After four comical years of trying, I finally convinced a company to let me pay them hundreds of dollars a month to insure me on the odd chance I get hit by a car or something. For all you uninsured out there, especially free-lancing self-employed types, let me recommend the Alliance For Affordable Services, which has agreed to cover both of us (without me having to lie) for $250 a month. If you’re in Southern California, I can give you the name of the friendly Aussie/Pirate agent who translated all the forms for us. This is great news.

2/2/2002 02:37:35 PM

Another Take on Afghan Civilian Deaths … and Lives: Nicholas Kristof estimates in the New York Times that U.S. bombing has killed 1,000 Afghan civilians, 8-12,000 Taliban fighters … while saving “one million lives over the next decade.” Here’s some of his math:
In each of the last few years, without anyone paying much attention, 225,000 children died in Afghanistan before the age of 5, along with 15,000 women who died during pregnancy or childbirth. There was no way to save those lives under the Taliban; indeed, international organizations were retreating from Afghanistan even before 9/11 because of the arrests of Christian aid workers.

But now aid is pouring in and lives are being saved on an enormous scale. Unicef, for example, has vaccinated 734,000 children against measles over the last two months, in a country where virtually no one had been vaccinated against the disease in the previous 10 years. Because measles often led to death in Afghanistan, the vaccination campaign will save at least 35,000 children's lives each year. […]

Heidi J. Larson of Unicef says that if all goes well, child and maternal mortality rates will drop in half in Afghanistan over the next five years. That would mean 112,000 fewer children and 7,500 fewer pregnant women dying each year.

All this depends, he says, on stability in Afghanistan, and the West living up to its promises.

2/2/2002 01:14:33 PM

Triple-Barreled Americanism: Last night, Jon Stewart ran some video of Steve Forbes criticizing the anti-globo dodos by pointing out that they don’t make much sense and arguing that allegedly evil businesses actually create jobs. The screen-shot of Forbes’ terrible chinless face then froze, Stewart paused, and said “I can’t believe it’s got to the point where I’m agreeing with this guy!” (Not a verbatim quote.) Anyways, to a much lesser degree, I find myself frequently agreeing with and enjoying people who could certainly be described as more unilateralist, hawkish and anti-European than I. There are three great examples of that today, each worth a careful read: Victor Davis Hanson on the decline of multi-culturalism, Moira Breen on the dishonest rhetorical devices of the Guardian’s Hugo Young, and Steven Den Beste on how Europeans can’t understand that the U.S. is the anti-Europe. Oh, and I forgot to point out last week that Stewart punctuated a report about some Saudi criticism of the U.S. by saying (and this is a direct quote): “You know what? Fuck the Saudis.”

2/1/2002 01:43:57 PM

What Happens When You Visit Budapest: So I call up my friend Mike Lindsay & say “Hey we’re coming to Budapest on New Year’s Eve.” He says “Er, can you make that the 29th? I’ve booked studio time.” Show up on the 29th, buy a case of Dreher, play a new song we’d never rehearsed and record it live, and one month later it’s right here, on the Innernut. The reviews are coming in … “Don’t give up your day jobs” is the title of one. Go check it out, and tear me a new one on the comments page!

2/1/2002 10:50:38 AM

Common Ground With the Anti-Globo Bozos: Just because people are foolish and silly, doesn’t mean that each and every one of their causes is asinine. So before the pillory-the-anarchists orgy gathers any more steam (on this site, starting tomorrow, when I finish digesting this week’s awful LA Weekly), I thought it might be useful to mention the beliefs I share in common with the protest kids currently befouling wounded New York City.

1) The World Trade Organization is too secretive. That’s true – it is. And pressure from the turtle-puppet crowd has forced the WTO to confront that, at least somewhat.
2) It is shameful when the rich world maintains hypocritical tariffs that shut out poor-country goods. Ditto the last point (the most recent WTO meeting dealt extensively with the rich-poor balance of decision-making, largely in response to the noodle-muppets). Of course, I don’t believe that trade is a scam by which the rich screw the poor, and I think people who believe this should be forced to read an entire year’s worth of The Economist.
3) End the Death Penalty! Legalize Pot! Don’t know what that has to do with the World Economic Forum, but I imagine it’ll come up once or twice.
4) Corporate Welfare is disgusting. It is! Taxpayer-financed baseball stadiums, 10-year tax breaks for greenfield factories that pull stakes after six years, ridiculous subsidies for U.S.-based multi-nats to advertise in foreign markets … screw all that noise. Our companies would be forced to be more competitive without it, we’d probably get a bit more tax revenue, and competitors in poorer countries wouldn’t have to fight against the deep-pocketed U.S. government. Hear hear!
5) It is a travesty how, through the current campaign finance system, industries have ended up buying off the legislators who are supposed to regulate them. Isn’t it? I mean, if you believe in regulation, which I do. People on the House Banking Committee receiving hundreds of thousands per annum from banks … that spells corrupt regulation, don’t it? I don’t know what to do, exactly, about the campaign finance conundrum (don’t write me any letters, fanatics!), but I think it’s important to emphasize that it has created some unhealthy governance.
6) It sure would be nice to eradicate poverty, make sick people healthy, encourage democracy and justice throughout the world, etc. But who doesn’t believe that?

If the protest kids ever read The Economist, they’d see that most of this six-point program is perfectly consistent with the editorial views of the world’s leading “neo-liberal” publication. If people who described themselves as “liberal” would actually embrace “liberalism,” the left 25% of the American Left wouldn’t strike everyone else as so ridiculous, irrelevant, and (post-Sept. 11) infuriating as all hell. Then again, if free-traders explained their position more convincingly, instead of just sneering at the dwarf-tossers and calling them "bozos," maybe the kids would start to think twice. Maybe.

1/31/2002 10:34:08 PM

How To Bury a Drunk: More warblogger triumphalism, via the most beautiful girl from the future.

1/31/2002 10:00:30 PM

Kevin Whited’s Added Value: I am glad to discover, belatedly, that the Reductio ad Absurdum publisher has started to type his own observations in addition to his promiscuous linkage.

1/31/2002 06:38:50 PM

Eric Neel, One-on-one With John Wooden: An interesting, intelligent interview with the UCLA basketball Backatcha, Jesse: Tony Adragna responds to Jesse Walker’s letters-page criticism of QuasiPundit’s fact-check of John Pilger. Facilitating the debate, etc.

1/31/2002 12:24:46 PM

Henry Hanks’ Croooow Blog : In attacking my in-box (it’s down to 412 now!) I have noticed that, in my sloth, I have failed to recognize that seemingly all but six of my most faithful e-mail correspondents have started their own weblogs. This one is by Henry Hanks, who is known to most of the world as TVsHenry, for reasons I’ll let him explain.

1/30/2002 11:51:02 PM

The D.A. Is ... a Weblogger: Did you know that the assistant district attorney for the state of Delaware runs a cracking good weblog? If you didn’t, allow me to introduce Fritz Schranck. “Commentary from a practical perspective,” indeed! UPDATE: Schranck clarifies
I'm one of about 130 deputy attorneys general, not THE Assistant District Attorney. The fact is that we don't have D.A.s in Delaware, and, it sounds like I'm much farther up the food chain than I really am.
Sorry, Fritz!

1/30/2002 10:57:03 PM

Eight New Letters Up: Including one from Reason’s Jesse Walker, who was not impressed by Tony Adragna’s fact-check of John Pilger.

1/30/2002 09:06:31 PM

Handy List of Post-Sept. 11 Robert Fisk Headlines: By Gary Farber.

1/30/2002 07:16:03 PM

More on Kinsley’s Konflicts: Howard Kurtz has a tidbit today about journalists who clean up on the corporate lecture circuit. One of the more prominent ones he mentioned was
Michael Kinsley, who memorably said: "I didn't do it for years, but it became more socially acceptable."
You’ve almost got to admire the guy’s consistency.

1/30/2002 01:08:37 PM

NYC: ‘We Don’t Want Protesters’: Jeff Jarvis, liberal, wrote the other day:
If the anti-world-trade bozos coming to New York cause me the slightest inconvenience or fear as I head into the city, I swear, I will bite their noses off and spray them with mace and spit on them and find any way I can to humiliate the little twerps. The last thing New York needs is trouble and we will not tolerate it.
This morning I received an e-mail from another New York City media professional, who is a born and bred Democrat:
So the anti-everything protesters are set to play in the Big Apple tomorrow as Bono and other world and business leaders meet at the Waldorf. I am sure you will end up blogging something about the events, especially if there is any sort of riot. So, since you cannot be here to enjoy all the fun, let me tell you the general opinion and feeling from most tired, stressed, battered, grieving New Yorkers I have spoken with: We don't want protesters. The bigwigs paying 25 grand a pop to gather here are more than welcome. We need their money. But the over-fed, white-boy, black-wearing trouble makers protesting instead of working, well, they can stay home. We have been through more than enough during the last four months. I have heard predictions that average New Yorkers will beat the shit out of the protesters if the boyz in black even get the slightest bit out of line. Never mind how the NYPD is feeling. Baton Rogue!
I’m guessing the cops will be protecting protesters from New York residents.

1/30/2002 12:18:44 PM

United Closes Down SFO in Shoe-Bomb Bungle: The French radio called this morning, hoping that there was some kind of high-speed helicopter chase of the 40-something white guy who “disappeared” in the United Terminal at SFO after screeners discovered explosive material on his shoes. I turned on the teevee, only to find a CNN babe breathlessly asking some child actor “what was it like to work with Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer!” MSNBC mentioned it briefly, then moved onto a lengthy bit on Enron. The local stations had the terrible morning shows, talking about Boy George and whatnot. Eventually, CNN and MSNBC (my evil cable company, Adelphia, doesn’t carry Fox on its basic package) got up to speed … and, just as expected, it was another case of breathless incompetence by United Airlines.

They detected bomb material on some guy’s shoes, then lost him, even though he didn’t run. According to reports, they didn’t even get him on video. So they had to close the terminal (which is about half the entire terrible San Francisco airport), and force the thousands of passengers to stand outside in 40-degree temperatures. According to one passenger interviewed on CNN, no one was told what was going on, they originally lined up against the windows (great place to wait out a bomb scare), and then were only communicated to by incomprehensible bullhorns, even as the overhead speakers warned people not to smoke. MSNBC showed a little live footage of a United guy shouting into a bullhorn outside, and he was rudely telling people that they need to get their laptops & other questionable gadgets ready for inspection if they want to get this line moving again. Incredible.

I’ve traveled a little bit in my life, and there is no airline worse than United, no airport worse than SFO. I’ve taken United to SFO exactly once, when the ticket was bought on my behalf. I was told my carry-on needed to be checked, and then when I arrived my suitcase was missing. When I inquired about the bag, they told me it didn’t make the flight, but that they’d send it along to my hotel after the very next flight. I waited for a few hours, called up, and a very rude person told me it wouldn’t arrive until the next day, even though United has about 427 flights from L.A. to San Francisco. The next day I called, and United asked if maybe I didn’t want to go out to the airport to pick it up myself, because “that would definitely be faster.” I respectfully declined. Ten hours later – about 29 hours after I arrived in San Francisco – my bag arrived. When I see those little patriotic commercials they run, and think of all the hundreds of millions of tax money they’ll receive in that buyout, I always flip off the TV, like a mature adult.

1/30/2002 11:33:29 AM

Pilger Pummeling: Tony Adragna, whose terrific site I have heretofore failed to praise, does a valuable and extensive fact-check on the latest fantastical column by anti-America crusader John Pilger. So does Kathy Kinsley. It’s getting harder and harder for ideologues (and the rest of us) to lie.

1/29/2002 10:10:29 PM

Get a Load of These Readers! Despite or maybe because of Donald Rumsfeld’s management tip of not letting your in-box dictate your schedule, I have been attempting to chop down my Shame Count from a high of 644 sometime yesterday. What this means, of course, is that my letters page is back after a two-month hiatus. And man, is it good … despite my chronological ineptitude.

First up: Bill Magaletta reminds us that conspiracy theorists who dwell on the media forget that journalists “show every day that they don't even know or understand some elementary things.” Next, Andy Freeman theorizes that the Gitmo scandal is actually a Bushite plot to smoke out the “euroweenies,” and Brad Martin makes a sarcastic connection between “truth” and Euro-centric white males. Magaletta comes back with an incisive disquisition on my misuse of the word “irregardless,” Alex Bensky admonishes the Golden Arches for forcing the French to eat burgers at gunpoint, Mike Terry argues convincingly that the political spectrum should be recast as a Cartesian graph, and Ed Collins makes the eloquent case for why university degrees are overrated. Lastly but firstly, the marvelous 1/29/2002 09:02:22 PM

This Kid Is Just Astonishing: Remarkable essay/refutation from Bjørn Stærk, who, it shall be remembered, is a 21-year-old Norwegian (whoops! I mean 23!) with a worse haircut even than mine. His section on Orwell, flagged by Glenn Reynolds, would make Norman Solomon cry with shame, if Solomon had one-tenth of Stærk’s commitment to critical thinking, humility and good writing. Reynolds and Stærk are the two most inspiring media stories of the last four months, in my narrow-minded estimation.

1/29/2002 08:12:27 PM

Beato Tweaks Reynolds, Breaks Down Blog Costs: Greg Beato has some fun at the expense of “Glenn Harlan Roberts,” tries to unravel the economics and math of blog bandwidth costs, and issues an explainer on why he made the “effort to satirize Glenn Reynolds and his brand of ‘Weblogger Triumphalism.'”

1/28/2002 10:27:38 PM

Two Small Quakes and Counting: Felt one jolt and a five-second shake; my roommate felt nothing. KNX says there were two quakes – a 4.2 six miles northeast of Simi Valley at 9:53, and a 3.9 six miles west of Valencia. I think that’s the one I felt. Drudge is already calling this a “flurry”; you can play along at home by clicking here.

1/28/2002 10:11:34 PM

Denton-orama: Nick Denton, who has been both a terrific journalist and a successful dot-com entrepreneur (quick – name anybody else who can say that), has several interesting items worth a look: On Global Crossing giving Poppy Bush $14 million for one speech, the importance of bad parties, Andy Grove’s secret Hungarian childhood, and the benefits of Blogger Pro. Speaking of which, I’d love to hear about those who’ve made the upgrade; I will hopefully follow suit very soon.

1/28/2002 08:01:09 PM

More on David Shaw’s Sloppiness: As mentioned below, L.A. Times media-critic-for-life David Shaw wrote a stinker of a story about Enron coverage Saturday, yet it’s already being touted by journalism people who should know better. My bearded neighbor points out tonight that Shaw’s lead – singling out Fortune magazine for scorn – obscures the inconvenient fact that Fortune helped break the story, which is misleadingly presented in paragraph 32.
This is typical David Shaw. He spins a big media theory and then wastes several pages trying to hide the facts that unravel it.

1/28/2002 07:05:23 PM

Weird Aside in the Weekend Box Office Report: I’m really not the type to say stuff like, “See! What if they said the same thing about the Jews/homosexuals/blacks/etc.,” but this Hollywood Reporter paragraph about the new film “A Walk to Remember” struck me as the kind of thing that makes such people turn purple:
"Walk" was perceived by some industry observers as a boxoffice gamble because it is a teen movie whose main character is a Christian portrayed in a relatively normal light. In the past, films have tended to demonize Christian characters or depict them as extremists or psychotic. In this case the gamble paid off.

1/28/2002 06:31:03 PM

More Challenger Memories: Rand Simberg was over at Rockwell’s Downey facility when the news struck, in a large meeting about launch systems. My Dad worked for Seal Beach Rockwell for 20 years (sometimes contributing to Shuttle stuff), and would head up to Downey all the time for various meetings and softball tournaments, though by '86 he had moved on to Aerojet. Ever meet him, Rand? Happy birthday!

1/28/2002 04:54:52 PM

Challenger Anniversary Story: Today is the 16-year anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger blowing up. On the one-year anniversary, my college newspaper, UC Santa Barbara’s Daily Nexus, published a little column by a free-lancer paying tribute to the dead astronauts, who were all listed at the bottom. All, that is, except Ronald McNair, who the columnist had inadvertently left out. Ronald McNair was black.

I think it took about two weeks for the ensuing brouhaha to reach such proportions that the Los Angeles news stations sent camera crews 90 miles up the 101 to check out the “embattled college newspaper accused of racism.” I was the assistant news editor, barely 18 years old, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. One morning, most of our 11,000 print run was just stolen (I believe we traced the incident to the Black Student Union, but nothing came of it). Protesters heckled us from outside the office. We were given several demands, to confront our “institutional racism” and such.

I should point out – this paper was so far to the left in early 1987 that it’s official unofficial motto, printed up on T-shirts, was “Commie Rag.” We wrote frequent editorials condemning most U.S. foreign policy, and supporting the various activist movements stirring on campus. Several prominent staff members were gay or bi-sexual (so was the free-lance Challenger columnist, if my memory works at all); the photo department doubled as a narcotics emporium, the former EIC (then a typist) was forever trying to launch a unified state-wide college radical organization, and so on. I was looked at like a strange neo-fratboy from that alternative, icky universe where people played competitive sports and listened to Led Zeppelin … but they welcomed me anyway.

I should also point out that, like most of the rest of the campus, we were basically all-white, with a few Native Americans thrown in. I think the numbers back then were something like 18,000 undergraduates, with less than 400 black students. If there was anything the paper felt vulnerable about, it was its ability to be authentically non-racist. To make a long story short, there were many soul-searching staff meetings, community outreaches, and I believe some policy changes as well (if I’m not mistaken, we started using the then-newfangled term “African-American”). Things eventually died down.

Besides giving me an early glimpse at newspaper political correctness under fire, this episode was notable for serving as my introduction to the Sex Pistols: On the morning when our editor in chief was set to be grilled by KCBS, I came in very early to compile the day’s story list from the campus and county editors. Much to my surprise, they were already there, and they had acquired new mohawks, perhaps with the aid of the empty case of Schaefer and almost-finished bottle of Stoli placed triumphantly on my desk. I tried to speak with them, but they simply cranked Never Mind the Bollocks as loud as a ghetto blaster can bear, and handed me a piece of paper. The contents of that sheet are another story, but one I won’t tell until long after UCLA has purchased my archives. I remember cursing my upbringing for shielding me from punk rock, and laughing like a jackal.

Here’s a bit of irony that never occurred to me until right now: The Nexus, one of the country’s best and more left-wing college papers, was condemned for being racist and intolerant for inadvertently leaving out one astronaut’s name from a memorial column written by a free-lancer. Just a few months before, on the same campus, Jello Biafra (who was then dating one of our staff members) gave a lecture whose signature bit was called Why I’m Glad the Space Shuttle Blew Up. Instead of protests, he was greeted with standing ovations by a sold-out crowd … and a glowing front-page write-up in the Daily Nexus.

1/28/2002 04:21:38 PM

Another Funny J-School/Hiring Story: From the fine Media Minded weblog.

1/28/2002 03:06:30 PM

Don't Throw Stones, Welch: Whoops! I just confused George Christy with Peter Bart in the sanctimonious post below. Thanks, Seipp!

1/28/2002 10:12:53 AM

The Media Critic Who Hates the Media: If every Sullivan has his Krugman, mine would certainly be the L.A. Times Pulitzer Prize-winning media writer, David Shaw. Shaw is everything I don’t like about the media criticism profession – he is a tedious writer and shameless self-promoter who equates his own laborious pomposity (and that of his employer) with universal “journalism values.” (For an example of all three unpleasant characteristics at work, check out this 4,700-word love-letter to himself in the Columbia Journalism Review on “How I Got That Story” – in this case, how he wrote a 33,000-word dirge about the Times’ Staples Center fiasco in just two months, which is record time for him.)

Shaw is the kind of guy who reacts to the Rodney King beating by putting together a four-part, 17,500-word series that doesn’t get published until after the friggin’ riots (and well after the landmark Christopher Commission report on LAPD abuses). He’s the kind of reporter who launches a 28,000-word series about the Internet with a 3,600-word confessional called “A Reporter Lost in Cyberspace” (subhed: “The Internet … Sure Can Be Confusing”), in which we learn such useful information as:

I am a technological idiot. I can't do any home repairs more complicated than changing a lightbulb. If I dare try, our 7-year-old son, Lucas, immediately suggests that I should "call Michael Collins," a contractor friend of ours. I am even more helpless when it comes to a car.
A year ago, Shaw wrote a four-day, 17,500-word series about Hollywood and the media … only to be humiliated two months later when L.A. Magazine ran an expose on Variety Editor Peter Bart’s long and humorous rap sheet of ethical transgressions. But for all Shaw’s sins of untimeliness and ego, there is nothing I find more unseemly than his haughty dismissals of media outlets that are not monopolist newspapers. This, finally, is the sin of the modern-day Media Critic or (shudder) Ombudsman: No matter how independent they claim to be, they end up serving as apologists for their masters’ mores, and attack dogs against all “lower” forms of journalism.

Why am I prattling on about this? On Saturday, David Shaw wrote a 2,400-word front-page story entitled Media Missed Clues to Enron’s Troubles. As I mention in a shorter post over at LA Examiner, Shaw’s thesis is:

For the most part, until the Enron collapse was well underway, the nation's news media -- including the presumably sophisticated financial outlets -- missed a number of early warning signs and failed to alert the public to the company's potentially precarious situation.
Enron is headquartered in Houston. Houston, like Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Jose, Austin, Nashville, Tampa Bay and nearly every U.S. city of size, has a weekly Business Journal. The Business Journal concept is one of the more interesting and noticeable newspaper success stories of the desktop-publishing era. The LABJ sitting on my desk right now packs several times more tangible stories about Los Angeles in its 48 pages than the local alt weeklies can muster in 200. So, you’d think that a 2,400-word story on the “presumably sophisticated financial outlets” bungling the Enron story might include a word or two about the performance of the largest financial outlet in Enron’s hometown, right?

Wrong. Not one word. We hear about more than two dozen other media organizations – the Detroit Free Press, Denver Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, whatever – but not about the paper that’s been publishing scores of Enron stories every year since at least 1997. Yet Shaw has the audacity to write sentences like this:

Why did most of the national media -- and the home-state Texas media, for that matter -- miss the Enron story? […]

Many other journalists also had long been dubious about Enron's meteoric rise. A few -- very few -- had even written about their concerns.

Here Shaw states two facts that he can’t possibly back up, if he doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of a publication that has probably printed more stories about Enron than anyone over the last 10 years. This from a man who stated flatly that Matt Drudge was bad for journalism (because he doesn’t check his facts, don’t you know). Among the “warning signs” Shaw says the media ignored, was that Enron’s “top executives were selling huge quantities of the company’s stock.” Well whaddya know? Spend five minutes on the Business Journal’s site, and you’ll see stories to that effect from June 30 and Feb. 18 … of 2000. And here’s a little bit from January of 1999 about an $81 million dispute with the IRS having to do with "‘disguised sales’" of assets to partner companies” and other such accounting gimmickry.

Maybe it’s just an oversight, you say. Everybody makes mistakes (even media writers who are supposed to keep in vague contact with, uh, developments in the media profession). Well, consider this – the LABJ broke the first Staples Center story. This is how Shaw later described it:

Few Times reporters or editors read the Los Angeles Business Journal, and those who do don't pay any attention to it. Initially, that story had no impact.
At the time, of course, the L.A. Times had 57 different subscriptions to the Business Journal, but never mind that for now: Imagine that your top media reporter, the guy who is supposed to apply tough in-house scrutiny while tracking breaking media developments, has so little regard for perfectly decent local publications, and such hostility toward people who don’t share his “values,” that the first time he gets excited about the biggest media story of the year is only after the New York Times and Wall Street Journal publish articles about it. This is the guy who many newspaper people are happy to anoint as the industry’s conscience, or taste-maker. And they wonder why people under 40 don’t read newspapers.

1/27/2002 10:46:25 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

ts 48 pages than the local alt weeklies can muster in 200. So, you’d think that a 2,400-word story on the “presumably sophisticated financial outlets” bungling the Enron story might include a word or two about the performance of the largest financial outlet in Enron’s hometown, right?

Wrong. Not one word. We hear about more than two dozen other media organizations – the Detroit Free Press, Denver Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, whatever – but not about the paper that’s been publishing scores of Enron stories every year since at least 1997. Yet Shaw has the audacity to write sentences like this:

Why did most of the national media -- and the home-state Texas media, for that matter -- miss the Enron story? […]

Many other journalists also had long been dubious about Enron's meteoric rise. A few -- very few -- had even written about their concerns.

Here Shaw states two facts that he can’t possibly back up, if he doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of a publication that has probably printed more stories about Enron than anyone over the last 10 years. This from a man who stated flatly that Matt Drudge was bad for journalism (because he doesn’t check his facts, don’t you know). Among the “warning signs” Shaw says the media ignored, was that Enron’s “top executives were selling huge quantities of the company’s stock.” Well whaddya know? Spend five minutes on the Business Journal’s site, and you’ll see stories to that effect from June 30 and Feb. 18 … of 2000. And here’s a little bit from January of 1999 about an $81 million dispute with the IRS having to do with "‘disguised sales’" of assets to partner companies” and other such accounting gimmickry.

Maybe it’s just an oversight, you say. Everybody makes mistakes (even media writers who are supposed to keep in vague contact with, uh, developments in the media profession). Well, consider this – the LABJ broke the first Staples Center story. This is how Shaw later described it:

Few Times reporters or editors read the Los Angeles Business Journal, and those who do don't pay any attention to it. Initially, that story had no impact.
At the time, of course, the L.A. Times had 57 different subscriptions to the Business Journal, but never mind that for now: Imagine that your top media reporter, the guy who is supposed to apply tough in-house scrutiny while tracking breaking media developments, has so little regard for perfectly decent local publications, and such hostility toward people who don’t share his “values,” that the first time he gets excited about the biggest media story of the year is only after the New York Times and Wall Street Journal publish articles about it. This is the guy who many newspaper people are happy to anoint as the industry’s conscience, or taste-maker. And they wonder why people under 40 don’t read newspapers.

1/27/2002 10:46:25 PM

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