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Tom - According to a new study conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard, the news media are more obsessed than ever with the horse-race aspects of the presidential campaign. Despite the campaign’s early start, the media have not been more reflective on the issues, the study said, but have focused on tactics and strategy. The report examined 1,742 stories that appeared from January through May in 48 news outlets and found that overall, Democrats received more positive coverage than Republicans (35% of stories vs. 26%). For both parties, a plurality of stories, 39%, were neutral or balanced.” The report found that almost two-thirds of all stories (print, television, radio and online) focused on the political aspects of the campaign, while only 1 percent focused on the candidates’ public records. Only 12 percent of stories seemed relevant to voters’ decision making; the rest were more about tactics and strategy.
Linda - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, got the most coverage, but Mr. Obama got the most positive coverage (47 percent of stories about Mr. Obama were positive, compared with 27 percent for Mrs. Clinton). Just 12 percent of stories about Mr. McCain were positive. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards, a Democrat, got more attention than 10 of the 19 candidates then in the race and nearly as much as her husband. The study found that campaign coverage has been sharply at odds with what the public says it wants, with voters eager to know more about the candidates’ positions on issues and their personal backgrounds, more about lesser-known candidates and more about debates. But the media is even more obsessed this time around with questions of tactics and strategy, despite what the study described as a “generational struggle” in both parties. Horse-race stories accounted for 63 percent of reports this year compared with what the study said was about 55 percent in 2000 and 2004.
Tom - According to an article from the AP, The Federal Communications Commission last Friday approved a $24.7 billion buyout of Alltel Corp., the nation’s fifth-largest wireless carrier, to a private investment group. The agency approved the transfer of licenses held by Alltel to Atlantis Holdings LLC, a holding company consisting of TPG Capital, formerly Texas Pacific Group, and GS Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. Alltel is a major beneficiary of the Universal Service Fund, a national program funded by a fee attached to the phone bill of telephone customers nationwide. The fund provides subsidies to carriers that do business in hard-to-reach areas of the country. As part of the approval, the agency imposed an interim cap on the amount of money the new owner receives under the program. The cap will remain in place until “fundamental comprehensive reforms” are adopted, the agency said in a press release.
Linda - Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin did not release a statement on the merger. Democratic commissioner Michael Copps voted in favor of the transfer but objected to the universal service fund cap, saying “piecemeal” reform of the program is “counterproductive to the far more important goal of rationally implementing comprehensive reform.” Copps went on to say ““I vote to approve today’s transfer of control. While I cannot be pleased at the current levels of concentration in the wireless industry, I do not see that this transaction makes the situation any worse. I do, however, renew my plea that the agency conduct a general rulemaking to assess the public interest consequences of private equity firms holding Commission licenses.” In the last several years, private equity firms have increasingly become players in the media ownership market, most notably with the acquisitions of radio giant Clear Channel.
Tom – According to the New York Times, The Fox News Channel sent notices to the campaigns of the leading Republican presidential candidates ordering them to stop using images from their Fox appearances in their campaign ads. The notices were sent out after the network was criticized for singling out only Senator John McCain’s campaign in barring use of the images. Earlier in the week, Fox had demanded that the McCain campaign cancel an advertisement that prominently featured his performance in a debate Sunday night that Fox News had sponsored. The advertisement featured a video clip of Mr. McCain’s shot at Senator Hillary Clinton for pushing a $1 million earmark for a museum commemorating the Woodstock festival in 1969, ending with the biting observation that he was “tied up” during the concert. Mr. McCain was in a North Vietnamese prison at the time.
Linda - The Web site Talking Points Memo pointed out that the campaigns of Mr. McCain’s rivals, specifically Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, made liberal use of footage from Fox images to promote their candidates, but had not been told to remove the images. Rival campaigns have privately suggested that they believe Fox unfairly skews its coverage in Mr. Giuliani’s favor, citing his long history with Roger Ailes, who runs the cable outlet. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican operative, worked as a media consultant on Mr. Giuliani’s first, failed bid for mayor of New York City in 1989 and the two have remained close ever since.
Tom - On Tuesday of last week, while “wildfires raged” in California, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), held a press conference at FEMA’s Southwest D.C. offices that was “carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.” In the press conference, Johnson said he was “very happy with FEMA’s response” while praising “the good messaging” of federal and local government responders. But as noted by the Washington Post, the questions lobbed at Johnson seemed a bit like softballs, due to the fact that they were reality asked by FEMA employees posing as journalists. The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reports that the reporters were actually Cindy Taylor, FEMA’s deputy director of external affairs, “Mike” Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs and Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin. At no point in the pieces that ran on FOX or MSNBC was it stated that the press conference was staged or that the reporters were staff.
Linda – Upon being exposed as a staged event, homeland security chief Michael Chertoff denounced the press conference calling it “one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I’ve seen since I’ve been in government.'’ Chertoff said he knew nothing about the matter until after it happened and that he “can’t explain why it happened.'’ John "Pat" Philbin, FEMA's director of external affairs, the man responsible for organizing the staged conference, quickly announced his resignation saying "It was absolutely a bad decision. I regret it happened. Certainly...I should have stopped it." It was then reported that Philbin had been awarded the job of Director of Public Affairs for the Director of National Intelligence. After being pressed by Associated Press, The DNI office has stated that it was withdrawn the job offer to Mr. Philbin.
Tom – According to the