Weekend Edition: May 16-17, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.05.30 AMGEORGIE BOY III

ABC News chief anchor and bottle-washer George Stephanopoulos may not have put the Clinton cash scandal behind him.

Erik Wemple of The Washington Post is outraged that ABC gave the story to Politco.com after The Washington Free Beacon inquired about Mr. Stephanopoulos’ $75,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation.

Politico, however, did another story, which listed numerous contributors from media organizations to the foundation, including Comcast, NBC Universal, News Corp., Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting, Thomson Reuters and Viacom. The list also includes individuals, including Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecom magnate and largest shareholder of The New York Times; and James Murdoch, the chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox. Both Mr. Slim and Mr. Murdoch gave between $1 million to $5 million.

Judy Woodruff, a PBS anchor, contributed $250. For more details, see http://politi.co/1Fj5Zpc

Mr. Stephanopoulos has few defenders among his former colleagues. According to a Facebook page, ABCeniors, the rather liberal bunch of former network staffers discussed the problems with his contributions. “That shows either indifference or arrogance. Or a nice cocktail of both,” wrote one former ABC hand. A former producer noted: “He knew what he was doing, and he didn’t want us to know. That’s deceit.”

Media critic Jack Shafer wrote: “One reason [Mr.] Stephanopoulos made such a graceful switch from pol to pressie is because there isn’t much to making the switch. As long as you can do the work, the journalism profession doesn’t care if your last port of call was a federal penitentiary. Other politicians who have successfully crossed over to the TV news racket include Mike Huckabee, Joe Scarborough, Tim Russert, John Kasich, Jerry Springer, Susan Molinari, Diane Sawyer, Mary Matalin, Chris Matthews, Bill Moyers, Bay Buchanan, Al Sharpton, Bill Bradley, Dee Dee Myers, Dana Perino, Lawrence O’Donnell, Nicolle Wallace, Karl Rove and others.”

For more details, see http://politi.co/1GewFZ2

Former Obama chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly had a daily morning briefing with former Clinton staffers, specifically Paul Begala, James Carville and Mr. Stephanopoulos, the triumvirate of the so-called “War Room.” We think it’s odd that the only “journalist” was the ABC anchor.

During the 15 years we worked for ABC News we remember that we had to sign a yearly disclosure of gifts worth more than $25 and contributions. Perhaps these documents no longer exist in the muddled world of TV news.

We have frequently written about ethical standards, or lack thereof, in the media. After The Rolling Stone and NBC debacles, we emphasized the need for accuracy and transparency rather than objectivity, fairness, balance and neutrality. For more details, see http://bit.ly/1cFZZf2

We hope the contribution story has legs. It’s time we look behind the curtain.

AMTRAK REDUX

Speculation is perhaps the second deadly sin in journalism–second only to outright falsification of information. So why did CNN’s Chris Cuomo and others immediately go to the default supposition that poor infrastructure may have caused the crash of Amtrak 188?

Over the course of the week, here is what we have learned:

–The train was traveling at 106 mph when it rounded a curve that had a speed limit of 50 mph.
–The train suddenly speeded up before the curve.
–A speed control system may have prevented the crash.
–The speed control system was in place, but it had not been activated.
–The engineer considered safety important to his job.
–Authorities have subpoenaed the engineer’s cell phone records.
–A projectile, such as a bullet or a brick, may have hit the train before it crashed.

Therefore, here is one apparent fact and some other possibilities for speculation:

–Infrastructure apparently had nothing to do with the crash–other than Amtrak’s inability to get the safety system up and running. Money wasn’t a problem; bandwidth for the system was.
–The one-year-old train had a defect that made it speed up.
–The engineer was on the phone when the crash occurred.
–The projectile had something to do with the crash.

Why not wait until the investigators do their job rather than speculate about the cause? The answer from the TV networks apparently is we can’t do that anymore in the 24/7 news cycle. What nonsense!

For more details, see http://bit.ly/1HmMGxt

GARO, WE KNEW THEE WELL

Garo Yepremian, one of the finest kickers ever in the NFL, may only be remembered for his gaffe in the 1973 Super Bowl when he tried to throw a pass after a botched field goal. The pass was intercepted and went for a touchdown. The Miami Dolphins, the kicker’s team, won the game anyway. We remember Mr. Yepremian for all the right moves he made as one of the first soccer-style kickers in the league during a 15-year career. He died this week at the age of 70. RIP. For more details, see http://es.pn/1RToDt6

Send suggestions and tips to charper@temple.edu

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