Friday, July 25, 2014

The Clintons and the Media

At Politico, Daniel Halper writes about his work on a book about the Clintons:
  • While I was still reporting on my book, James Carville’s office called, seemingly out of the blue, to grill me on whom I’d already spoken to. I obviously refused to indulge the questioner.
  • Someone from Bill Clinton’s publisher went to mine, HarperCollins, asking questions about my book and what I might be planning.
  • I write in my book that “Clintonites are known to scour through magazine articles and books to try to decipher blind quotes and tie them to a suspect.” I believed that was true. But now I know it is. This is in fact happening with my book as I write this, I’ve learned, and has been happening for days, if not weeks. Some are throwing other people to the wolves.
  • Other Clintonites named in the book are heading for the hills. Some preposterously denied that they ever talked to me. Perhaps it’s buyer’s remorse—but more likely they know the Clinton code of omerta.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Evaluating Breaking News

On the Media has a list of guidelines for evaluating breaking news:
1. In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.
2. Don't trust anonymous sources.
3. Don't trust stories that cite another news outlet as the source of the information.
4. There's almost never a second shooter.
5. Pay attention to the language the media uses.
Whether you realize it or not, the language the media uses tells you how reliable it is. Here's a helpful glossary:
  • "We are receiving reports" - sources are claiming something has happened, but it has not been confirmed.
  • "We are seeking confirmation" - the news outlet is confident, but still can't confirm.
  • "We can confirm" - information has come from multiple sources, and the news outlet feels confident that it can claim something as an actual fact.
  • "We have learned" - how a news outlet declares it has a scoop. As Andy Carvin says "on the one hand, it could mean that they’re the first ones to confirm something. Or they’re going out on a limb and reporting something that no one else has felt comfortable reporting yet."
6. Look for news outlets close to the incident.
7. Compare multiple sources.
8. Big news brings out the fakers. And Photoshoppers.
9. Beware reflexive retweeting. Some of this is on you.

Also see the "airline edition."

Knowing Your Representative's Party

Pew reports:
Asked whether their House member is a Democrat or a Republican, 53% of registered voters correctly identify the party of their congressional representative; 22% pick the wrong party and 26% say they don’t know.
Voters with college degrees are more likely to correctly identify their lawmaker’s party: 71% of those with post-graduate degrees and 60% of those with bachelors’ degrees correctly identify the party of their member of Congress. Among those who have not graduated from college, far fewer (47%) answer correctly.
About six-in-ten Republicans (59%) know their representative’s party, along with 53% of Democrats. About half (47%) of independents know the party of their representative.
Men are more likely than women to correctly identify the party of their representative (60% vs. 46%), but no less likely to provide the incorrect answer (women are less likely than men to offer a response).
 Roughly Half of Registered Voters Can Correctly ID Representative’s Party

The White House, the Media, Anonymous Sources, and Minders

Erik Wemple wrote Monday at The Washington Post:
At today’s White House briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest expressed some displeasure with The Washington Post. Asked about a story in The Post asserting that the White House had specific warnings about the ongoing border crisis involving unaccompanied minors, Earnest ripped, “I’d first point out that you’re asking about a story that’s based entirely on anonymous sources, so that should be reflected in the record.”
As Wemple points out, Earnest's assertion was false:  the story included named sources and a link to a public document.
In the course of debate over sourcing, Earnest remarked that The Post “wasn’t here to defend themselves. They didn’t show up today.”
Barr on that: “As to our chair being empty today – we staff the briefing very consistently. On the rare occasion when we are not there, as was the case today, we cover the briefing remotely.”
In light of Earnest’s words, the New York Times’s Peter Baker tweeted:

Also at The Washington Post, Paul Fahri writes:
When NBC News White House reporter Chuck Todd conducts background interviews with government officials these days, he and his source usually aren’t the only ones in the room or on the call. Typically, there’s a third party: A representative of the White House’s press staff monitors the conversation.
Sometimes, the press monitor interjects to clarify a point the official makes. Other times, he or she remains silent. Each time, however, “it feels like having a third wheel on a date,” Todd says. “It’s like having a chaperon.” He adds, “There’s so much precaution now in the way people in power interact with the press.”
The press-minder phenomenon isn’t limited to the White House. Reporters who cover other parts of official Washington, such as Capitol Hill, can usually count on encountering an official escort, turning a one-on-one interview into a one-on-two. The same thing happens irregularly to journalists who interview sports, entertainment and business figures.
One reporter says she beats the minder system by calling officials at home or on their cellphones on weekends. After doing so, she’ll cover her tracks and her source’s by requesting an “official” interview with the person she’s already interviewed. If her request is approved, she and her source will pretend that they haven’t spoken previously.

Other reporters say officials are often happy to have a minder present because it gives them cover in the event they are suspected of leaking information to the news media.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rating Religious Groups

Pew reports:
Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher). 
Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part. 
These are some of the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, among 3,217 adults who are part of Pew Research’s new American Trends Panel, a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults.1

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Demographics of Gun Ownership

Pew reports:
To examine the demographic and political characteristics of gun-owners and their households, we examined data from the new Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 3,243 adults conducted April 29-May 27, including 1,196 who said they or someone in their household owned a gun, pistol or rifle.
Other longstanding beliefs about the makeup of America’s gun-owning households are confirmed by these data. For example, rural residents and older adults are disproportionately more likely than other Americans to have a gun at home.
Americans with a gun at home also differ politically from other adults. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be members of a gun-owning household. Political independents also are more likely than Democrats to have a firearm in their homes.