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NewsBusted: The Blumer File

For a guy who's supposed to be criticizing the media, NewsBusters' Tom Blumer is remarkably clueless about how the media works.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/8/2009

NewsBusters has its share of blowhards like Warner Todd Huston, as well as those who willfully misrepresent things, like Mark Finkelstein and Noel Sheppard. But to really get stuff wrong, it takes Tom Blumer.

Blumer's day job is operating Monetary Matters, an Ohio-based firm that claims to offer "objective, unbiased money management, retirement, and financial education to help people take control of their financial lives and make informed choices." He also runs his own blog, BizzyBlog, from which much of his NewsBusters output is cross-posted. BizzyBlog is chockablock with the usual right-wing pro-business rhetoric, which makes him the kind of guy NewsBusters likes to post.

Now, if only he could get his facts straight. Blumer is particularly clueless about the media that he is supposedly criticizing in the name of the Media Research Center, which operates NewsBusters.

Blumer is one of the promoters of the idea that the only possible reason newspapers are in financial trouble these days is because of their purported liberal bias. ConWebWatch has previously noted Blumer's embrace of this theory -- which conveniently ignores more plausible and demonstrable explanations, such as the paradigm shift from print to online and the growing commoditization of news. Blumer's promotion of this discredited theory has continued:

In a November 2008 post, Blumer chortled at the declining value of New York Times Co. stock (denigrating the Times as "Manhattan's quaint little alternative newspaper"), accused the Times of "insufferable bias," then claims: "Yours truly and many others saw deep trouble ahead for the Times as early as the summer of 2005 if the paper didn't stop its Bush-deranged, standards-compromised march towards the cliff." "Yours truly" was referring a 2005 BizzyBlog post in which he ranted against the Times for covering the leak of Valerie Plame's identity by Bush administration officials, which Blumer designated as "Nadagate" and a "non-scandal about which I refuse to blog in detail" with "main players, whose full names I refuse to type." Apparently, obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury is "nada," as far as Blumer is concerned.

Blumer asserted in a Jan. 16 post: "As the once mighty continue to fall (the latest being Minneapolis Star Tribune), what will the history books say about the relationship between the perilous condition of most of print media outlets and the seven years or so many of them spent suffering from full-blown Bush Derangement Syndrome?" Not only does Blumer ignore the Star Tribune's current right-leaning orientation -- it endorsed Republican Norm Coleman in the Minnesota Senate race over Democrat Al Franken, and its coverage of the race has skewed pro-Coleman -- he overlooks the analysis of media economist Robert Picard, as reported by Editor & Publisher:

It wasn't the economy, but Avista's own business decisions that brought the Strib to bankruptcy, Picard argues.

"They're blaming the changes in the industry, they're blaming the economy, they're blaming the unions -- when clearly the blame belongs in New York with the managers of Avista," Picard told E&P today.


"This is a company that's still making a profit," he said. "They can't withstand (economic conditions) now because their debts are so high. It was almost all debt in the financing of the acquisition."

Blumer's cluelessness extends far beyond questions of bias. In a Feb. 17 post, Blumer purported to be offended that President Obama's "team" was preselecting who "be allowed to submit a question to His Excellency," adding: "What would the press be saying if Bush had employed these crutches?"

In fact, Bush did. As blogger Glenn Greenwald and Media Matters have pointed out, Bush regularly conducted press conferences by calling on reporters from a pre-selected list.

A Feb. 25 post by Blumer bashed the Associated Press for issuing a story on President Obama's address to Congress, written in past tense, several hours before the speech was given. But Blumer clearly doesn't understand the purpose of such a story.

The AP issues such a advance story for many such addresses, based on an advance copy of the speech. Why? To allow morning newspapers that publish early editions with a publication deadline before the speech is delivered to have a story on the speech. Newspapers with later deadlines would not run this story because it would be updated with reaction to the speech and other details. Since many news websites that publish AP copy are set up to do so automatically, advance stories such as this appear online as well.

Because Blumer didn't understand what he's criticizing, he chose to make fun of it, touting its "comic relief."

Blumer demonstrated further lack of understanding in a Nov. 14, 2008, post bashing a Greenville, S.C., newspaper reporter for referring to Catholic priest Jay Scott Newman -- who declared that parishioners who voted for Barack Obama should not accept Communion until they have done penance -- as "the Rev. Jay Scott Newman":

Note to Greenville News reporter Ben Szobody: It's "Father Newman" or "Fr. Newman" every time his name appears, not "The Rev" when you feel like it. This should not be "controversial" (a favorite media word for "majority or accepted opinion we journalists don't like"), but it almost surely will be.

In fact, as any newspaper journalist can attest, Szobody correctly followed longstanding AP reporting style, which is to use "the Rev." for all ministers and priests -- including Catholic priests -- on first reference and the last name only on subsequent references. There's noting "controversial" about what the reporter did.

Blumer displayed problems with reading comprehension in a Feb. 4 post complaining that an AP article stated regarding the tax woes of some of President Obama's nominees for federal posts, "An old story, with new actors, played out Tuesday: A new president's team imperfectly vetted top nominees. The nominees, it turns out, had not paid taxes for household help or other services when they were private citizens." Blumer responded by asserting that the AP writer "knows full well that Tim Geithner's and Tom Daschle's tax problems went way, way beyond 'household help or other services.' Geithner's nanny tax problems were relatively small, and had long since been addressed. The real biggie was his failure to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on his 2001-2004 income earned when he was at the International Monetary Fund."

The problem, as County Fair's Jamison Foser pointed out, is that Geithner was not involved in the events on the Tuesday being referenced.

Blumer later updated his post to respond to Foser, and still got the basic facts wrong:

As to the accusation of misreading the fifth paragraph -- Nice try, no sale. Of course, "Tuesday's nominees" in the fifth paragraph weren't Geithner or Daschle; but the "old story" [AP reporter Charles] Babington referred to was all about them. Babington made it look as if Tuesday's nominees had the same problem as the previous nominees (taxes on "household help and other services). That's obviously not the case.

To which Foser responded:

Blumer wants you to think he knew all along that "Tuesday's nominees" wasn't a reference to Geithner. This is nonsense for a couple of reasons, the first being that the phrase "Tuesday's nominees" didn't appear in the AP article. Blumer invented it, then put it in quotes.


Does that sound like someone who knew that the paragraph wasn't about Geithner? Of course not. He thought it was about Geithner, it clearly wasn't, so now he's trying to pretend that he knew all along that it wasn't. Except that he's also asserting that it really was about Geithner, by claiming "the 'old story' Babington referred to was all about them."

Blumer also has problems with business-related news as well. In a July 2008 post, Blumer was offended that Obama said at the time the U.S. was in a recession: "Of course, we're not in a recession yet, because there hasn't even been one official quarter of negative growth, let alone two." Blumer might want to revisit that post since history has proven Obama right: The committee of economists responsible for dating the nation's business cycles determined that the recession started in December 2007.

A Jan. 3 post by Blumer criticized the Huffington Post for allowing William Ayers to post there, asserting that "The mainstreaming of a domestic terrorist continues apace." Blumer goes on to complain that Ayers' HuffPo bio contains "no mention of his violent Weather Underground history." If Blumer is so worried about the "mainstreaming of a domestic terrorist," he need not look farther than the organization that publishes his blog posts.

The Media Research Center, owner of NewsBusters, has given prominent roles to G. Gordon Liddy several times over the years despite Liddy's record of planned domestic terrorism:

  • G. Gordon Liddy was a featured "accepter" (who takes the awards for the supposed liberals they lampoon) at the MRC's annual awards dinner in 2007 and 2008. An April 2005 CyberAlert reprinted a Washington Times article noting that Liddy was among the guests that "roared at the assembled clips and commentary" during the 2005 awards gala.
  • Liddy also served as a judge for the MRC's year-end Notable Quotables awards in at least three years, 1992, 1995 and 1997.
  • The MRC further sought to whitewash Liddy's 1994 statement on his radio show that "if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests" by insisting in a November 1995 MediaWatch that "Liddy meant shooting in self-defense."

Blumer might want to ask MRC honcho Brent Bozell about his relationship with Liddy before criticizing Ayers any further. But then, offering an informed opinion is simply not what Blumer does.

Blumer is also oblivious when he's working at cross-purposes with his MRC bosses. For instance, a November 2007 NewsBusters post by MRC official Seton Motley railed against polling:

The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.

And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have "reported," or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.

In an August 2008 post, Blumer essentially admitted that his side essentially did the same thing:

Based on Rasmussen poll results reported today, it looks like twenty or so years of very hard work by the Media Research Center and affiliates, including just over three years at NewsBusters, has paid some dividends.

Despite the years of hype over how money is the root of all campaigning evil by the press, the respected polling organization reports voters' belief that there is a bigger problem in political campaigns: media bias.

Indeed, the MRC, Accuracy in Media and related conservative organizations have spent millions upon millions of dollars bashing someone or something they do not like -- in this case, the media -- and are seeing the results in polls like the one Blumer cited. By their own admission, the claim about "liberal bias" is overblown -- as ConWebWatch noted, MRC director of media analysis Tim Graham conceded in 2006 that "the great majority of what we watch and read is not noticeably unfair or inaccurate."

Thanks to Blumer's obliviousness, we now have further confirmation that the "liberal bias" argument is all about peddling a view and not necessarily reflecting the truth.

If Blumer can occasionally offer up the occasional insight, however inadvertent, it might be asking too much of him to change his factually deficient way of doing things.

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