Tag Archives: Yahoo News

Open The Closet And Walk To The Outside

Marc Ambinder:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ambinder was apparently pushed to run the story two days early after Mike Rogers, whose track record on outing conservative politicians is very good, reported on Blogactive that Ambinder was preparing a story that would confirm that Mehlman was gay and the story was slated for Friday or early next week.

Within an hour of Rogers going public with his scoop that Mehlman was about to come out as gay, Ambinder posted his story.

It’s a rumor that has circulated around Washington, D.C., for years.  Mehlman–who was recently in the news for buying a condo in New York City’s very-gay Chelsea neighborhood–has previously denied he’s gay but now he tells Ambinder that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently” and “anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.”

[…]

In 2006, Mehlman’s sexual orientation led to an uncomfortable moment for CNN after they edited a transcript and a video that featured Bill Maher outing Mehlman on Larry King Live. That story was later told in the documentary Outrage, which featured Rogers and his work to “out” closeted  gay conservatives who work against the LGBT community.

Ambinder seems like a natural to break the Mehlman story.  In 2006, he wrote about the challenges that Mark Foley scandal created for gay Republicans, including the lavender mafia that surrounded Foley and reached into the Republican establishment. A well-connected openly gay reporter, Ambinder would have the connections inside the web of gay Republicans to convince Mehlman to give him an exclusive.

According to the story, Mehlman and Ambinder have been talking for a number of years about Mehlman coming out and his views on gay issues.

Honestly, I thought the guy came out years ago. Remember when Bill Maher talked about the rumors surrounding him on Larry King’s show — back in 2006? I guess you were the last to know, Ken.

He’s doing this now, it seems, because he wants to drum up publicity for the cause of gay marriage and figures that “Republican whom everyone thought was gay actually is gay” headlines will do the trick. Could be, although Ambinder’s careful to remind readers of the sort of social con initiatives that the GOP pushed during Mehlman’s RNC tenure. That won’t endear him to gay activists, and his newly public identity won’t endear him to social cons. Maybe he should have just worked for gay marriage like Ted Olson and kept his orientation private?

Joe My God:

Andy Towle is reporting that Mehlman has already agreed to chair a “major anti-Prop 8 fundraiser” for Americans For Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies’ outfit. Gee thanks, shitbag. That’s like offering to help rebuild a house when YOU were the fucker that helped BURN IT DOWN.

Towleroad:

Just got off the phone with Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, regarding former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and reports that he is about to come out of the closet.

Griffin tells me that Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer’s home.

A large number of other Republicans are co-hosts of the fundraiser including Mary Cheney, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt. Dick Gephardt is also among the hosts.

Said Griffin to Towleroad:

“Mehlman has committeed his own resources and been an integral part of the team at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Our goal is to get as many people who aren’t on the side of gay marriage on our side, and once they are here, to welcome them.”

Said AFER board member Dustin Lance Black:

“Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states.”

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Good for Ken. I know a lot of people will want to criticize him for heading up the GOP as a closeted gay man. He says he only recently came to terms with being gay. I suspect he always knew he was gay, but recently came to terms with accepting it, and embracing it. And good for him. He’s now doing the right thing, helping support marriage equality. I’m not going to fault him for that. Coming out is a horrendously difficult and complicated thing. It’s not rational.

Now, does that mean I oppose efforts to out people who are hurting our community? Absolutely not. I was there with the rest of them calling Mehlamn out for being a closeted gay man running a homophobic political party. Our long-time readers will remember Mehlman Mondays on AMERICAblog. I long talked about Mehlman being the only closet-heterosexual I’d ever heard of – a man not willing to admit he’s straight.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace him now. And not just for strategic reasons. Mehlman, from what Ambinder says, is doing the right thing. He’s now using his position in the GOP to help our community on our number one issue: marriage. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Now, let me say, the GOP was happily anti-gay under Mehlman, so I don’t buy his story that he helped temper their nastiness. They were still homophobic bigots, regardless of what Mehlman did or didn’t do, and he chose to remain as their head. For that, he gets no thanks. But is he making up for it today? You betcha. It’s a start, and a damn good one.

As for the Democratic party, I hope someone at the DNC is starting to sweat. We now have the former head of the Republican party who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage. There’s a virtual groundswell of senior Republicans coming out for marriage equality. It can’t be going unnoticed in the gay community. And while it doesn’t mean 70% of the gay vote will now go Republican instead of Democrat, it does mean that growing numbers of gays and lesbians will starting thinking of the GOP as a legitimate alternative to the Democratic party.

And finally, how about that religious right? The Republicans lied to them about Mehlman for years. And Mehlam himself admits that he used his position as RNC chair to help stop the GOP gay-baiting. The religious right was totally pwned.

Ann Althouse:

Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He’s calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friendssupportive… he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don’t hate me because I’m/I’ve been a Republican. Love me, because I’m gay, and oh! how I’ve anguished in the company of Republicans.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Gabriel Arana at Tapped

Maria Bustillos at The Awl

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Filed under LGBT, Political Figures

Another Primary Night: Hot State, Hot State, Cold State

In Arizona:

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2008, has won his nomination for another term in the Senate by a landslide, against the right-wing challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

With 11% of precincts reporting, McCain leads by 59%-30%, and has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.

As we noted this morning, McCain was heavily favored to win going into today. To his credit, McCain recognized early on that there was a restive environment among the GOP base, shifted to the right, and refocused himself to not lose that crowd to the anti-illegal immigration champion Hayworth — and he also outspent Hayworth by a ratio of about 10-1.

Weasel Zippers:

McCain Crushes Hayworth in Arizona GOP Primary, Will Now Shape-Shift Back Into a RINO…

Allah Pundit:

I can’t believe, in this year of all years, we couldn’t find a better challenger for McCain than this guy. It’s 60/29 as I write this. What a travesty.

Wonkette:

You’ve still got John WALNUTS! McCain to laugh at for another six years, assuming his bullshit genes are strong enough to fend off death until then. And then he will return to Arizona to make some more hilarious commercials, looking for all the world like he has never once seen the Dr. Seuss desert all around him.

In Florida:

Alexander Burns at Politico:

Multimillionaire health care executive Rick Scott narrowly captured the GOP’s nomination for governor of Florida Tuesday night, shocking both Republican and Democratic insiders who believed the free-spending newcomer’s fortunes had taken a sharp turn for the worse in the final weeks of his campaign against state Attorney General Bill McCollum.

On a night that was supposed to favor political insiders from coast to coast, and even as another self-funding Floridian – real estate billionaire Jeff Greene – crashed and burned in the state’s Democratic Senate primary, Scott’s victory stood out as a triumph of scorched-earth campaign tactics and relentless outsider messaging.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

Can this be right?

In the GOP primary in Florida, a foregone conclusion for Rubio, 787,122 total votes cast.

In the Democratic primary, an actual competitive race between Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene, 489,384 total votes cast.

UPDATE: Similar disparity in the gubernatorial primaries, although my assumption is that you get more votes in more closely divided and harder-fought primaries:

Vote in GOP primary for governor:  806,123 total votes cast.

Vote in Democratic primary for governor: 469,230 total votes cast.

Were Republicans more interested in their gubernatorial primary than Democrats were in their senatorial primary?

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

On the day of the Florida primary comes word of a new PPP poll that shows Marco Rubio 8 percentage points ahead of Charlie Crist in a three-way race also involving Kendrick Meek, who expected to secure the Democratic nomination. Crist has been leading in most polls I’ve seen, including the previous one by PPP, which had him up by 6 points.

The 14 point swing is due, not surprisingly, to a change in the dynamic with both Democratic and Republican voters. Democrats seem to be “coming home” to Meek, a traditional liberal Dem. According to PPP, they are now breaking for Meek 39-38, whereas before they favored Crist 44-35.

Republicans also seem to be “coming home.” Rubio’s 54-23 lead with GOP voters in July has now increased to 69-20. Crist still has his core of Republican support, but the undecided Republicans are moving into Rubio’s camp, if the latest poll is correct.

Crist faces an obvious dilemma. The more he reaches out to Democrats, the less popular he becomes with Republicans. But his real problem seems to be that, even as he has reached out to Dems, these voters are swinging towards Meek. And since Meek is an African-American, he has a large built-in advantage with a substantial portion of Florida’s Demcratic electorate. In addition, if Meek becomes the actual nominee, instead of just the leading contender in a tough race, more Democrats may be inclined to come home to him.

Even so, Crist is a formidable candidate; one poll certainly doesn’t change that. This race is best viewed as a toss-up.

Holly Bailey at Yahoo News:

After weeks of looking as though he might lose the race, Rep. Kendrick Meek soundly defeated financier Jeff Greene in Florida’s Democratic Senate primary — a major victory, since Greene spent more than $26 million of his own cash in the race.

With more than half the vote in, Meek was beating Greene by double digits. Greene, who led the polls up until about a week ago, had campaigned as an outsider, but Florida voters ultimately soured on his candidacy after weeks of bad press over his celebrity-studded yacht parties and thin political resumé.

But now Meek now faces an even more difficult challenge: Can he keep Democrats from defecting to Charlie Crist’s campaign? All summer, polls have found Meek running a distant third behind Crist, who quit the GOP to run as an independent, and Republican Marco Rubio — in part, because Crist has been pulling significant Democratic support away from Meek.

But a new Public Policy Polling survey out this week found that Meek has now a 1-point advantage over Crist among likely Democratic voters in the race — a narrow edge that has taken away Crist’s overall lead in the general election. According to PPP, Rubio now leads the race at 40 percent, compared with 32 percent for Crist and 17 percent for Meek. The poll’s margin of error is 4 points

And in Alaska:

Doug Mataconis:

The biggest news coming out of Tuesday’s primary elections comes from Alaska where incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski is fighting for her political life

Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator:

The New York Times, Roll Call and Anchorage Daily News reported this result cautiously — Murkowski was “imperiled” and “battling for her political life,” etc. — but with Miller at nearly 52% of the vote, it appears evident that the challenger has won an upset.

Shortly before 4 a.m., Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto told me by phone he was “cautiously optimistic,” and a few minutes later, campaign scheduler Harmony Shields said that the result would, at least officially, be “inconclusive” pending completion of the vote-count later today. However, other sources close to the campaign said privately they were confident of victory.

The come-from-behind triumph of Miller — whom I profiled for the American Spectator in early July — would be the second time that Sarah Palin had dealt a defeat to the Murkowskis. She upset the senator’s father, Frank, to win the governorship in 2006, and her endorsement was a key factor in helping Miller, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, mount a strong surge in the final two months of the primary campaign.

David Weigel:

OK — you’re wondering how Joe Miller, a lawyer who has never won an election, is currently leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in a primary she seemed to have in the bag. Didn’t Murkowksi have all of the money? Weren’t Miller’s rallies pretty listless affairs?

Yes, but since at best Murkowski is going to win closer than any polls suggested, here are two things that affected the race. The first: The Tea Party Express threw around half a million dollars into the campaign on Miller’s behalf. That’s huge money in Alaska. Second: Measure 2, a parental consent ballot initiative, brought out pro-life voters who have never trusted Murkowski. Sarah Palin’s early endorsement also handed Miller credibility and media attention which, in a GOP primary, was more important than Palin’s increasing unpopularity in the state.

Summing it up:

Marc Ambinder:

Says John Dickerson: “The national lesson from the primaries today is clear: a;sdlfk jp9r;tyh##”

Hewing to my “good analysis is victory agnostic” nostrum, here’s what I’m taking away from a night of surprises and triumphs.

One: J.D. Hayworth was a wannabe insurgent who was toppled by his own arrogance. He was too smooth for a year where anyone who sounds like a politician…really, anyone who sounds fairly coherent and talks in crisp, reasonable-sounding, consultant-approved sound bites…is suspect, particularly for Republicans.

Two:  Show me a low turnout primary election, and I will raise you polling that just does not capture likely voter enthusiasm swings. But turnout in Alaska was high — higher, in fact, than expected. I’ve always wondered how you poll Alaska anyway, and the tightness of the race suggests that models up there aren’t working very well. BTW: it’s likely that a parental notification ballot initiative drove conservatives to the polls in Alaska, boosting Joe Miller, a Gulf War vet and ally of Sarah Palin’s, to striking distance and possible victory over incumbent Lisa Murkowski.

Three: It is fairly clear that the anti-establishment / anti-Washington / pro-radical revolution plankton are feeding more off Republicans than off Democrats. As the year has unfolded, it has become easier and easier for formerly fringe candidates to find funding sources, get key “outsider” endorsements and shock complacent frontrunners.  When it comes to the Tea Party factor, remember: about issues it ain’t. Bill McCollum was one of the attorneys general who filed a lawsuit against Obama’s health care reform bill. He is as conservative as a Blackberry at an Apple convention.  But he has ties to the state’s now-discredited Republican establishment (think of the indictment of the former party chairman) and his avuncular, amiable, comfortable-as-a-leather shoe style just doesn’t fit with the times.  Rick Scott didn’t need the money, but the Tea Party Express helped him build a volunteer base. In Alaska, the same group ponied up $500,000 to help Miller (probably) defeat an incumbent U.S. senator.

Four: For the four statewide races in Florida, 5 Republicans turned out for every four Democrats.  500,000 Florida Republicans chose as their gubernatorial nominee someone who the Democratic Party can easily label a “corrupt health care CEO” and not get sued for libel. Note: Sink outpolled Scott by 75,000. Obviously, a large chunk of the 500,000 Republicans who voted for Bill McCollum (last seen on Fox News, 24 hours a day) will enthusiastically support their new nominee, but Sink begins the general election, even in a Republican year, with a lead. Health care will be a major part of her race because Scott claims credit for running ads that substantially slowed down the progress of the Congressional debate and because of his own record.  Scott begins the general election with a pot of gold. Democrats will need to spend money to pick up a seat that could well determine how Florida is redistricted next year, which means that the White House and Congressional Democrats have a stake in what happens.

More Republicans voted for Marco Rubio than Democrats did for all four Senate candidates combined, an ominous and unsurprising sign that enough Democrats are probably going to align themselves with Charlie Crist so that Crist wins or Rubio walks away with the seat.

Five:  in Alaska, Sarah Palin’s endorsement does seem to matter. It’s not like no one predicted that Joe Miller could be the next senator; former Gov. Tony Knowles told me a month ago that Murkowski was not taking Miller seriously and that he could easily organize a campaign to beat her in the primary.  Absentees won’t be fully counted for a while, but Miller’s victory can be reasonably inferred from the outstanding ballots.

UPDATE: Murkowski concedes. Robert Stacy McCain

Michelle Malkin

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Let’s Play A Game Of MSM Musical Chairs

Elise Viebeck at The Hill:

The White House Correspondents Association voted unanimously Sunday afternoon to move Fox News to the front row of the White House briefing room.

The seating change was prompted by the resignation of veteran UPI reporter Helen Thomas.

According to Ed Henry, the senior White House correspondent for CNN and member of the WHCA board, the Associated Press will move to the front-row middle seat formerly occupied by Thomas.

Fox News will replace the AP in its former seat, also in the front row, and NPR, which lobbied for Thomas’ seat along with Fox and Bloomberg News, will take Fox’s former seat in the second row.

Michael Calderone at Yahoo:

The idea of moving the AP—which normally gets the first question at presidential press conferences—was under discussion in recent years, long before Thomas retired. Bloomberg remains in the second row, while NPR moves up from the third row to Fox’s current seat.

Several news organizations also petitioned to get regular seats in the briefing room (or keep their current seats).

The Financial Times will now get a regular seat, while U.S News & World Report—a news organization that has been scaled back in recent years—lost its seat. The foreign press pool also now gets its own seat.

In addition, Politico and American Urban Radio Networks moved up to the third row. The Washington Times, which has cut back significantly in the past year, moves from the third to fourth row.

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Update: Fox is apparently pleased with the decision. From Bill Sammon, Vice President of News and Washington Managing Editor, FOX News: “We are pleased with the decision of the White House Correspondents’ Association and look forward to working with our colleagues in the front row and the rest of the James S. Brady briefing room.”‬‪

Update again: Major Garrett twitters: Those of us who will sit in the front owe a debt to Jim Angle, Carl Cameron, Bret Baier and network that supported them.

Ed Morrissey:

Congratulations to Garrett and Fox News.

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Imagine how close Fox News would be if they weren’t an “illegitimate news organization” — they’d be sitting on Robert Gibbs’ podium. Clearly the White House Correspondents Association respects the ratings strength of Fox News — either that or the WHCA has a “racist Tea Partier” streak a mile wide.

Is it too much to hope for that Major Garrett will call in sick on Fox’s first day in front and to fill in for him they’ll hire Andrew Breitbart as a temp? I thought so.

Meanwhile, even though Helen Thomas might be out of the front row in the briefing room, money is being raised to put a statue of her in the front row of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn (pic of Helen with statue here). I keep one just like it in my attic because it seems to do a good job of scaring the bats away.

John Cole:

Who cares about these people. It isn’t like any news has ever been broken in the briefing room.

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These Colors Don’t Torture, They Just Waterboard

Andrew Sullivan:

This blog, along with others, compiled some anecdotes and research to show how the New York Times had always called “waterboarding” torture – until the Bush-Cheney administration came along. Instead of challenging this government lie, the NYT simply echoed it, with Bill Keller taking instructions from John Yoo on a key, legally salient etymology. Now, we have the first truly comprehensive study of how Bill Keller, and the editors of most newspapers, along with NPR, simply rolled over and became mouthpieces for war criminals, rather than telling the unvarnished truth to their readers and listeners in plain English:

Examining the four newspapers with the highest daily circulation in the country, we found a significant and sudden shift in how newspapers characterized waterboarding. From the early 1930s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was torture: The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% (44 of 54) of articles on the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles (26 of 27).

By contrast, from 2002‐2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to waterboarding as torture. The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%). The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63). The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%). USA Today never called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture.

In addition, the newspapers are much more likely to call waterboarding torture if a country other than the United States is the perpetrator. In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or implied it was torture while only 7.69% (16 of 208) did so when the United States was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in 91.3% of articles (21 of 23) when another country was the violator, but in only 11.4% of articles (9 of 79) when the United States was the perpetrator.

So the NYT went from calling waterboarding torture 81.5 percent of the time to calling it such 1.4 percent of the time. Had the technique changed? No. Only the government implementing torture and committing war crimes changed. If the US does it, it’s not torture.

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

Wow. So, not long ago, America’s major newspapers basically decided that waterboarding was somehow okay. American waterboarding, that is! In the same time frame, the same newspapers made it clear that if any other country practiced waterboarding, it was torture.

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

One of the most telling details from the study is the description of how newspapers admitted that waterboarding is torture without their omniscient editorial voice describing it as such: they quoted other people.

All four papers frequently balanced their use of softer treatment by quoting others calling waterboarding torture. Except for a brief spate of articles in 1902‐1903 in the NY Times which quoted mostly military officials and senators, almost all of the articles that quote others calling it torture appeared in 2007 and 2008.

More telling still, newspapers barely began to do that until 2007, three years after they started talking about torture, and they most often relied on John McCain to state what–before it became clear the US engaged in such torture–their own pages had stated fairly consistently beforehand.

When quoting others who call waterboarding torture, there is a shift in who the LA Times and the NY Times quoted over time.

Before 2007, the NY Times had only scattered articles quoting others. However, beginning in 2007, there is a marked increase in articles quoting others, primarily human rights groups and lawmakers. Human rights representatives predominate during the first half of the year. However, beginning in October, politicians were cited more frequently labeling waterboarding torture. Senator John McCain is the most common source, but other lawmakers also begin to be cited. By 2008, the articles’ references are more general such as “by many,” or “many legal authorities.” Stronger phrases such as “most of the civilized world” also begin to appear.

The dead tree press, apparently, couldn’t find an expert they believed could adequately voice the long-standing consensus that waterboarding is torture–a consensus recorded in their own pages (at least those of LAT and NYT)–until after McCain started speaking out on the topic.

One more point. The study only examined the four papers with the greatest circulation: NYT, LAT (both of which had extensive archives the study measured for previous uses of torture), USA Today, and WSJ (which didn’t have the same range of archives). So it did not include the WaPo in its study–the paper notorious for torture apology from both the newsroom and Fred Hiatt’s editorial page. So the numbers could be even worse!

What a remarkable measure of the cowardice of our press. And what a remarkable measure of how it happened that torture became acceptable. It’s not just that the press failed in their job, but it’s clear that’s a big part of it.

Glenn Greenwald:

As always, the American establishment media is simply following in the path of the U.S. Government (which is why it’s the “establishment media”): the U.S. itself long condemned waterboarding as “torture” and even prosecuted it as such, only to suddenly turn around and declare it not to be so once it began using the tactic.  That’s exactly when there occurred, as the study puts it, “a significant and sudden shift in how newspapers characterized waterboading.”  As the U.S. Government goes, so goes our establishment media.

None of this is a surprise, of course.  I and others many times have anecdotally documented that the U.S. media completely changes how it talks about something (or how often) based on who is doing it (“torture” when the Bad Countries do it but some soothing euphemism when the U.S. does it; continuous focus when something bad is done to Americans but a virtual news blackout when done by the U.S., etc.).  Nor is this an accident, but is quite deliberate:  media outlets such as the NYT, The Washington Post and NPR explicitly adopted policies to ban the use of the word “torture” for techniques the U.S. Government had authorized once government officials announced it should not be called “torture.”

We don’t need a state-run media because our media outlets volunteer for the task:  once the U.S. Government decrees that a technique is no longer torture, U.S. media outlets dutifully cease using the term.  That compliant behavior makes overtly state-controlled media unnecessary.

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect:

Greenwald says this proves the media’s “servitude to government,” but I think it’s actually the conventions of journalism that are at fault here. As soon as Republicans started quibbling over the definition of torture, traditional media outlets felt compelled to treat the issue as a “controversial” matter, and in order to appear as though they weren’t taking a side, media outlets treated the issue as unsettled, rather than confronting a blatant falsehood. To borrow John Holbo‘s formulation, the media, confronted with the group think of two sides of an argument, decided to eliminate the “think” part of the equation so they could be “fair” to both groups.

Of course, this attempt at “neutrality” was, in and of itself, taking a side, if inadvertently. It was taking the side of people who supported torture, opposed investigating it as a crime, and wanted to protect those who implemented the policy from any kind of legal accountability. Most important, it reinforced the moral relativism of torture apologists, who argued that even if from an objective point of view, waterboarding was torture, it wasn’t torture when being done by the United States to a villain like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, but rather only when done by say, a dictator like Kim Jong Il to a captured American soldier.

Like they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In this case, journalistic conventions helped pave the way for an unaccountable national-security apparatus.That doesn’t mean that some journalists have skewed perceptions of whom they actually work for, but I think that’s the lesser issue here.

Kevin Drum:

As always, where you stand depends on where you sit.

James Joyner:

The fact of the matter is that the United States Government was engaged in this policy against Very Bad People for reasons the American people enthusiastically supported.   Most Americans were nonplussed when news broke that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times because, after all, KSM was a Very Bad Man who did Unspeakably Horrible Things.

This puts the decisionmakers of the American press, whether they agreed or not, in a very difficult situation.  To have insisted that the U.S. Government was engaged in torture when the leaders of said Government adamantly denied that what they were doing constituted torture and most citizens supported the “enhanced interrogation techniques” and dismissed as buffoons those worried about poor widdle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would have not only been taking sides in an ongoing debate but taking a very unpopular stand.

Additionally, the use of the word “torture” has legal and propaganda implications.  To have matter-of-factly stated that the U.S. Government was engaged in torture was to say that those carrying it out are criminals.  The press doesn’t do that with accused criminals, even when there’s incontrovertible video evidence.  And, of course, saying that the U.S. Government is engaged in “torture” is a propaganda victory for the enemy.  That’s a tough thing to do in wartime.

Further, while the press doubtless came to despise some members of the Bush Administration, they naturally had close relationships with the team and saw most of its members as good people trying earnestly to protect the country from another 9/11 type attack.  It’s  psychologically and professionally difficult to dismiss their insistence that they’re not committing torture as simply untrue.  Simultaneously, it’s easy to believe that waterboarding done under the auspices of a despotic regime for the sole purpose of maintaining tyranny is something inherently different and thus worthy of a different name.

Does this amount to “servitude” to the government and “cowardice”?   Maybe.  But I think it’s more complicated than that.

Michael Calderone at Yahoo News:

But the New York Times doesn’t completely buy the study’s conclusions. A spokesman told Yahoo! News that the paper “has written so much about the waterboarding issue that we believe the Kennedy School study is misleading.”

However, the Times acknowledged that political circumstances did play a role in the paper’s usage calls. “As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture,” a Times spokesman said in a statement. “When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture.”

The Times spokesman added that outside of the news pages, editorials and columnists “regard waterboarding as torture and believe that it fits all of the moral and legal definitions of torture.” He continued: “So that’s what we call it, which is appropriate for the opinion pages.”

Clearly, the Times doesn’t want to be perceived as putting its thumb on the scale on either side in the torture debate. That’s understandable, given traditional journalistic values aiming for neutrality and balance. But by not calling waterboarding torture — even though it is, and the paper itself defined it that way in the past — the Times created a factual contradiction between its newer work and its own archives.

More Sullivan:

But it is not an opinion that waterboarding is torture; it is a fact, recognized by everyone on the planet as such – and by the NYT in its news pages as such – for centuries. What we have here is an admission that the NYT did change its own established position to accommodate the Cheneyite right.

So their journalism is dictated by whatever any government says. In any dispute, their view is not: what is true? But: how can we preserve our access to the political right and not lose pro-torture readers? If you want a locus classicus for why the legacy media has collapsed, look no further.

So if anyone wants to get the NYT to use a different word in order to obfuscate the truth, all they need to do is make enough noise so there is a political dispute about a question. If there’s a political dispute, the NYT will retreat. And so we now know that its core ethos is ceding the meaning of words to others, rather than actually deciding for itself how to call torture torture. Orwell wrote about this in his classic “Politics and the English Language.” If newspapers will not defend the English language from the propaganda of war criminals, who will? And it is not as if they haven’t made this call before – when they routinely called waterboarding torture. They already had a view. They changed it so as not to offend. In so doing, they knowingly printed newspeak in their paper – not because they believed in it, but because someone else might.

This is not editing. It is surrender. It is not journalism; it is acquiescence to propaganda. It strikes me as much more egregious a failing than, say, the Jayson Blair scandal. Because it reaches to the very top, was a conscious decision and reveals the empty moral center in the most important newspaper in the country.

Brian Stelter at NYT:

Representatives for The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today said their newspapers declined to comment.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper has written so much about the issue of waterboarding that, “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”

In an e-mail message on Thursday, Mr. Keller said that defenders of the practice of waterboarding, “including senior officials of the Bush administration,” insisted that it did not constitute torture.

“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and human rights advocates as a form of torture. Nobody reading The Times’ coverage could be ignorant of the extent of the practice (much of that from information we broke) or mistake it for something benign (we usually use the word ‘brutal.’)”

The Times does not have an “official, written rule on when or how to use the word “torture,” Phil Corbett, the newspaper’s standards editor, wrote in an e-mail message. “In general, when writing about disputed, contentious and politically loaded topics, we try to be precise, accurate and as neutral as possible; factual descriptions are often better than shorthand labels.”

Some critics, like Greg Sargent, a blogger for The Washington Post, asserted this week that The Times had indeed taken a side in a political dispute, and in a legal one as well.

“The decision to refrain from calling waterboarding ‘torture’ is tantamount to siding with the Bush administration’s claim that the act it acknowledged doing is not illegal under any statute,” Mr. Sargent wrote Thursday. “No one is saying the Times should have adopted the role of judge and jury and proclaimed the Bush administration officially guilty. Rather, the point is that by dropping use of the word ‘torture,’ it took the Bush position — against those who argued that the act Bush officials sanctioned is already agreed upon as illegal under the law.”

The Times and other newspapers have also written about the is-waterboarding-torture debate at length, and many columnists and editorial writers have called the practice a form of torture.

Although the study assessed only the four newspapers identified above, other major newspapers reached similar conclusions about the use of the word after waterboarding re-entered the national lexicon in 2004.

Asked for comment on Thursday, Cameron W. Barr, the national security editor for The Washington Post, wrote in an e-mail message, “After the use of the term ‘torture’ became contentious, we decided that we wouldn’t use it in our voice to describe waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration.

“But we often cited others describing waterboarding as torture in stories that mentioned the technique,” Mr. Barr wrote. “We gave prominence to stories reporting official determinations that waterboarding or other techniques constituted torture.”

The Harvard study made no claims about the reason for the change in depiction of waterboarding, but concluded that “the current debate cannot be so divorced from its historical roots.”

“The status quo ante was that waterboarding is torture, in American law, international law, and in the newspapers’ own words,” the students wrote. “Had the papers not changed their coverage, it would still have been called torture. By straying from that established norm, the newspapers imply disagreement with it, despite their claims to the contrary. In the context of their decades-long practice, the newspapers’ sudden equivocation on waterboarding can hardly be termed neutral.”

More Greenwald:

Whether an interrogation technique constitutes “torture” is what determines whether it is prohibited by long-standing international treaties, subject to mandatory prosecution, criminalized under American law, and scorned by all civilized people as one of the few remaining absolute taboos.  But to The New York Times‘ Executive Editor, the demand that torture be so described, and the complaint that the NYT ceased using the term the minute the Bush administration commanded it to, is just tendentious political correctness: nothing more than trivial semantic fixations on a “term of art” by effete leftists.  Rather obviously, it is the NYT itself which is guilty of extreme “political correctness” by referring to torture not as “torture” but with cleansing, normalizing, obfuscating euphemisms such as “the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks” and “intense interrogations.”  Intense.  As Rosen puts it:  “So, Bill Keller, ‘the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks’ is plainspeak and ‘torture’ is PC?  Got it.

Worse, to justify his paper’s conduct, Keller adds “that defenders of the practice of water-boarding, ‘including senior officials of the Bush administration,’ insisted that it did not constitute torture.”  Kudos to Keller for admitting who dictates what his newspaper says and does not say (redolent of how Bush’s summoning of NYT officials to the Oval Office caused the paper to refrain from reporting his illegal NSA program for a full year until after Bush was safely re-elected).  Senior Bush officials said it wasn’t torture; therefore, we had to stop telling our readers that it is.

And then there’s this, from Cameron Barr, National Security Editor of The Washington Post, which also ceased using “torture” on command:  “After the use of the term ‘torture’ became contentious, we decided that we wouldn’t use it in our voice to describe waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration.”  Could you imagine going into “journalism” with this cowardly attitude:  once an issue becomes “contentious” and one side begins contesting facts, I’m staying out of it, even if it means abandoning what we’ve recognized as fact for decades. And note how even today, in an interview rather than an article, Barr continues to use the government-subservient euphemism:  “waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration.”  Just contemplate what it means, as Keller and Barr openly admit, that our government officials have veto power over the language which our “independent media” uses to describe what they do.

I’m not one who wishes for the death of newspapers, as they still perform valuable functions and employ some good journalists.  But I confess that episodes like this one tempt me towards that sentiment.  This isn’t a case where the NYT failed to rebut destructive government propaganda; it’s one where they affirmatively amplified and bolstered it, and are now demonizing their critics by invoking the most deranged rationale to justify what they did:  political correctness? And whatever else is true, there is no doubt the NYT played an active and vital role in enabling the two greatest American crimes of the last decade:  the attack on Iraq and the institutionalizing of a torture regime.  As usual, those who pompously prance around as watchdogs over political elites are their most devoted and useful servants.

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“I’m So Happy. Cause Today I Found My Friends.”

James Risen in The New York Times:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

Were it not for the byline of James Risen, a New York Times reporter currently in a legal battle with the Obama administration over the identity of his sources, a second read of his blockbuster A1 story this morning, U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan, would engender some fairly acute skepticism. For one, a simple Google search identifies any number of previous stories with similar details.

The Bush Administration concluded in 2007 that Afghanistan was potentially sitting on a goldmine of mineral resources and that this fact ought to become a central point of U.S. policy in bolstering the government.

[…]

The way in which the story was presented — with on-the-record quotations from the Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, no less — and the weird promotion of a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Undersecretary of Defense suggest a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war. Indeed, as every reader of Jared Diamond’s popular works of geographic determinism knows well, a country rich in mineral resources will tend toward stability over time, assuming it has a strong, central, and stable government.

Risen’s story notes that the minerals discovery comes at a propitious time. He focuses on lithium, a critical component of electronics. One official tells him that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium” — a comparison to oil. (I can see it now: “We must wean ourselves off our dependence on foreign lithium!”)

The general perception about the war here and overseas is that the counterinsurgency strategy has failed to prop up Hamid Karzai’s government in critical areas, and is destined to ultimately fail. This is not how the war was supposed to be going, according to the theorists and policy planners in the Pentagon’s policy shop.

What better way to remind people about the country’s potential bright future — and by people I mean the Chinese, the Russians, the Pakistanis, and the Americans — than by publicizing or re-publicizing valid (but already public) information about the region’s potential wealth?

The Obama administration and the military know that a page-one, throat-clearing New York Times story will get instant worldwide attention. The story is accurate, but the news is not that new; let’s think a bit harder about the context.

Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:

Wow! Talk about a game changer. The story goes on to outline Afghanistan’s apparently vast underground resources, which include large copper and iron reserves as well as hitherto undiscovered reserves lithium and other rare minerals.

Read a little more carefully, though, and you realize that there’s less to this scoop than meets the eye. For one thing, the findings on which the story was based are online and have been since 2007, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. More information is available on the Afghan mining ministry’s website, including a report by the British Geological Survey (and there’s more here). You can also take a look at the USGS’s documentation of the airborne part of the survey here, including the full set of aerial photographs.

Nowhere have I found that $1 trillion figure mentioned, which Risen suggests was generated by a Pentagon task force seeking to help the Afghan government develop its resources (looking at the chart accompanying the article, though, it appears to be a straightforward tabulation of the total reserve figures for each mineral times current the current market price). According to Risen, that task force has begun prepping the mining ministry to start soliciting bids for mineral rights in the fall.

Don’t get me wrong. This could be a great thing for Afghanistan, which certainly deserves a lucky break after the hell it’s been through over the last three decades.

But I’m (a) skeptical of that $1 trillion figure; (b) skeptical of the timing of this story, given the bad news cycle, and (c) skeptical that Afghanistan can really figure out a way to develop these resources in a useful way. It’s also worth noting, as Risen does, that it will take years to get any of this stuff out of the ground, not to mention enormous capital investment.

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

In one way, at least, Ambinder is obviously right. By its very nature, a story like this couldn’t be “news.” This isn’t Jed Clampett popping off his scattergun at a gopher and discovering Texas Tea. The “discovery” of vast mineral resources in a number of geographically distinct sites scattered across the country isn’t the sort of story that “breaks” over the course of hours or days. Rather, it moves at the speed of, well, at the speed of rocks. As Ambinder himself notes elsewhere in his post, the Soviets knewAfghanistan might be a jackpot way back in 1985, and the Bush administration was already building-in the political economy of mineral discoveries into itsAfghanistan policy in 2007.

So no, this isn’t “news” news, but that doesn’t necessarily make it hand-fed from the Obama administration. Perhaps I’m being credulous here, but the sourcing and timing of the story, and the fact that there is now at least a rough dollar-figure — $1 trillion — attached to the cache could just as likely indicate that what were heretofore diffuse bits of information and speculation have now cohered, reached a critical mass and crossed over from abstract-future-opportunity to bona-fide-policy-challenge.

Ed Morrissey:

My first thought on reading this was that the Soviets may have had better reasons for invading Afghanistan than first thought.  There has been no real reporting on whether the Soviets attempted to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral resources, but had they succeeded in keeping their grip on the nation, they could have found a new way to stay in business against the West rather than going bankrupt in the Cold War economic warfare that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher conducted against Moscow.

That is pure speculation, but don’t expect that to end just because the Soviet Union collapsed.  We’ve spent over eight years in Afghanistan attempting to subdue the radicals and fight those across the border in Pakistan’s frontier provinces, and many people have questioned why we’re spending so much blood and treasure in a country known for its ability to bankrupt empires.  We have plenty of good strategic reasons to attempt to salvage Afghanistan and keep it from becoming a failed state, but this find will definitely have those inclined towards conspiracy theories cranking up new plots and dark cabals as the real reason we’re attempting to salvage Afghanistan.  A trillion dollars in new mineral deposits don’t come along very often, after all, and some of these minerals will be critical to energy and military applications.

Still, this is a blessing for the Afghan people.  They will need a massive improvement in infrastructure in order to get the materials out for export, but that investment will come a lot faster with this find.   It gives them a real alternative to narco-trafficking, which because of the poverty and Stone Age infrastructure of the country, has been the only option for many Afghans.’

Spencer Ackerman:

So if you were still operating on the presumption that the real reason we remain at war after nine years is something to do with the world’s least efficient way to establish and control an oil pipeline, you’re so 2000-and-late. What, you thought it was a coincidence that the Center for a New American Security established its natural-resources/defense program so soon after the first wave of its leadership entered the Obama Pentagon and State Department? It’s a shame we can’t manufacture cellphone batteries from your vast deposits of naivete.

But I digress. This could potentially work out well for Afghanistan’s opium-and-foreign-aid dependent economy. But Risen details the ways in which the so-called “resource curse” is primed to take effect after the discovery: massive official corruption; weak legal understandings controls delineating ownership and revenue-sharing between national and provincial authorities in mineral-rich areas; decades of warfare. And now, naturally, someone’s telling Risen about the specter of great-power resource competition that just so perfectly implies a new rationale for extended war and post-war foreign influence:

American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Hey, just because something aligns with a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it lacks geopolitical impact.

Matthew Yglesias:

So Afghanistan is going to be “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”, but a more prosaic way of putting the point might be that Afghanistan is, if it’s lucky, poisoned to become the next Bolivia. Indeed, when last we saw geopolitical lithium hype this was the concern and thanks to lithium’s use in batteries for the hypothetical fleet of electric cars that will allegedly save the planet, Bolivia’s been called “the Saudi Arabia of the green world”. But it’s also an impoverished backwater.

Part of the problem, as you can read here and here is that it’s simply difficult in practice to put this kind of wealth to good use.

Kevin Drum:

I have a very bad feeling about this. It could quickly turn into a toxic combination of stupendous wealth, superpower conflict, oligarchs run wild, entire new levels of corruption, and a trillion new reasons for the Taliban to fight even harder. And for the cynical among us, this line from Risen’s piece — “American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan” — suggests that the Obama administration might be eagerly thinking about these discoveries as a shiny new reason to keep a military presence in Afghanistan forever. I can hardly wait to see what Bill Kristol thinks of this.

On the other hand, maybe it represents lots of new jobs, enough money to suck away the Taliban’s foot soldiers, and the stable income base Afghanistan needs to develop a modern infrastructure. I doubt it, but you never know.

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:

Here’s an idea: rather than asking Americans to trod across this minefield in hopes of getting some of the treasure on the other side, let’s take a lesson from history, fully appreciate all the buried danger, and ask ourselves how we can best withdraw ourselves from the situation, sending someone else across the minefield in our stead. The United Nations? The World Bank? The China Mineral Corporation? Whoever it is, better that they suffer the consequences of this find than that we do.

Rod Dreher:

I told a friend the news that the U.S. has discovered vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan. She said sarcastically, “Oh great, now we get to ‘Avatar’ those people” — by which she meant that the U.S. stands to economically colonize Afghanistan, like the earth people did to the N’avi in “Avatar.”

I don’t think that’s the danger here. Rather, I think that this means US troops will be permanently stationed in Afghanistan, protecting US access to those mineral deposits. It is to be hoped that the money to come will help Afghanistan stabilize itself. I am skeptical, though. There’s this comment from the Times story:

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

Yeah, that’s just what we need: another hyper-wealthy Islamic extremist state with the financial resources to export its radical interpretation of Islam. There may be a realist case for keeping US troops in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from gaining control of the mineral wealth and using it to export radical Islam.

Whatever the truth, I am very sorry these resources were discovered in that cursed country. It’s going to mean no end of trouble. I expect that I’ll live to see Chinese soldiers in the Middle East.

It’s very hard to imagine that a country as misgoverned as Afghanistan will be an exception to the rule that whom the gods destroy, they first make rich in natural resources.

UPDATE: James Risen interviewed by John Cook at Yahoo News

And everyone chimes on that interview:

James Joyner

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post

Dan Amira at New York Magazine

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CW Watch: Arrows Down On Newsweek

Images from Instant History

Newsweek:

The Washington Post Co. announced Wednesday that it has retained Allen & Company to explore the possible sale of NEWSWEEK magazine. The newsweekly, which has struggled in recent years, was launched in 1933 and purchased by The Washington Post Co. in 1961.

Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham came to New York to tell the magazine staff at a 10:30 a.m. ET meeting on Wednesday. “We have reported losses in the tens of millions for the last two years,” he said. “Outstanding work by NEWSWEEK’s people has significantly narrowed the losses in the last year and particularly in the last few months. But we do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management.”

Graham said the company decided to go public with the news to invite as many potential buyers as possible, and said the sale could be completed within a few months. “Our aim will be–if we can do it–a rapid sale to a qualified buyer,” he said. “We’re a public company and we have to consider the price offered. But we’ll have a second and third criteria: the future of NEWSWEEK and the future of those who work here.”

In a later meeting, NEWSWEEK Editor Jon Meacham told the editorial staff that he continues to believe in the mission of the company. Meacham said he would do everything he could to ensure the continuation of the magazine, including personally pitching potential buyers. He also reminded the staff that NEWSWEEK wasn’t closed today, but was put on the market.

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

The writing was on the wall a few weeks back when news broke that Newsweek would be moving its staff, from its brand-new and cushy Tribeca offices, to its more mundane confines in Midtown Manhattan. These would be the offices that they JUST MOVED INTO last June, and the fact that Kaplan would be taking over…well, it just reinforced what everyone already knew. Kaplan is another subsidiary of the Washington Post company, that has become a cash cow best known for its higher education programs, professional training courses and test preparation products. So it would make sense for them to have the coolest offices.

But while moving was admittedly a pain, sources within the magazine spun this as a smart move, not just because it solved a serious space problem for Kaplan, but also saved Newsweek significant money each year. Cynics might see this as a “cheap” and effective way to quickly improve the bottom line, ostensibly to impress prospective buyers.

And what of prospective buyers? Who would want to buy a weekly title that lost a bunch of money last year? Well the truth is that the financial picture of Newsweek is much healthier than one might think. Last year was a big financial loss, which made a number of headlines. But as we said then, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was reported.

It is true that Newsweek lost roughly $28 million in the last year. But to fully appreciate that number, one need remember that roughly two-thirds of that amount came in the the first quarter of last year, and included a write-down of over $6MM in severance packages. Further, Q2 of ‘09 saw roughly $5MM in losses, and Q3 roughly $4MM. Q4? Newsweek actually turned a small yet significant profit of $400k in Q4 of 2009.

Sources close to the title tell us that the first quarter of 2010 was also encouraging – ad sales efforts met their budget and print ad numbers for the months of March and April, perhaps owing as much to the end of the ad recession as anything else. The bottom line is that Newsweek is seeing ad revenues return to pre-recession levels, and combined with a rather dramatic reduction in losses, the weekly news title is moving very close to hitting their break even target for 2011.

Matthew Yglesias:

And I’m actually sort of surprised Graham took such a dour line. I would have just said that in a digital paradigm it doesn’t make sense for one company to own both a daily news product and a weekly news product. In an “ink on paper” world, there’s a big difference between a good Newsweek story and a good Washington Post story but in a “pixles on the internet” paradigm there isn’t. If the Washington Post Company is going to operate two different web products they would have to be differentiated along a different axis—one could be a local news site about the DC metropolitan area and one could be a site about about politics and national affairs. But the Post/Newsweek alignment didn’t make sense. The two print publications were supplements while the two websites are competitors.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

In today’s meeting, at which the announcement was made that Newsweek was being put up for sale by the Washington Post Company, the magazine’s editor Jon Meacham said that he will be lining up financiers and trying to make a bid to buy the magazine himself. He has already had inquiries from some very well-off types this morning. Tonight’s “Daily Show” appearance—he’s been booked for ages—should be really something! Meacham is currently talking to reporters and juggling calls, so expect more soonish.

John Koblin at New York Observer:

Newsweek is up for sale, and editor Jon Meacham is going to explore the possibility of rounding up some bidders to buy the magazine himself.

“I believe this is an important American institution,” he said in an interview. “I just do. Maybe that’s quixotic, maybe that’s outdated, but it’s what I believe.”

He said he had two voicemails from “two billionaires” after the news was announced this morning that The Washington Post Company was going to try to sell the magazine. He said he had not called them back.

Mr. Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize last year and he has a new TV show that will debut on May 7 on PBS. In other words, he has plenty of options he can explore.

But for now, he said he’s dedicated to figuring out how to save Newsweek.

“We have to figure out what journalism is going to be as the old business model collapses all around us,” said Mr. Meacham. “And I want to be–I want to try to be–a part of that undertaking. Will it work? Who the hell knows. But I’m at least going to look at this.”

Jon Friedman at Market Watch:

I have another idea: Why can’t the Washington Post Co.  combine Newsweek and Slate, another of its well regarded media holdings, into one all-online operation?

The move would accomplish one big priority: saving money. Newsweek would go forward with a smaller staff and still preserve some of the jobs of staffers currently at the magazine.

The news that the Post Co. may unload the money-losing Newsweek should hardly come as a shock. All over the industry, big names, new and old, have been vanishing, such as Gourmet and Portfolio. BusinessWeek received a stay of execution when Bloomberg stepped in at the 11th hour and acquired the publication from McGraw-Hill.

Traditionalists have bemoaned the changes that Bloomberg has put in place. They seem to forget that without Bloomberg’s involvement, BusinessWeek would probably have disappeared by now.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

The Washington Post Co. is looking to sell Newsweek, its vaunted but money-losing magazine jewel. Media analysts are in a frenzy, and many are envisioning a future in which Newsweek has no paper edition. Some are wondering whether the magazine should merge with Slate, an all-online magazine also owned by the Post. Others like Gabriel Sherman are worried about branding: will the company struggle to find buyers considering the words “news” and “week” don’t really work on the Web?

The sale and possible electronificiation of Newsweek just a year after its redesign is one of those stories that epitomizes the challenges of the media landscape. Newsweek is still one of America’s two most famous newsmags, the other being Time. Its rebranding effort last year tried to merge the soul of a weekly news digest with … well, something else. The first few issues looked as though a design team had been instructed to empty their brains onto all 50 of its thin pages. Large pictures peeked out of unexpected corners of the magazine, faint blocks of color invaded the feature section, and the back of the book looked more like a collage of design ideas than a unified theory of magazine layout.

[…]
Newsweek grew up learning how to tell people what happened. Today, everybody knows what happened. So Newsweek’s reinvention needs another reinvention. I wish them the best of luck.

UPDATE: Rod Dreher

James Fallows

UPDATE #2: Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

UPDATE #3: Ross Douthat

UPDATE #4: Jim Newell at Gawker

UPDATE #5: Mike Allen at Politico

Meenal Vamburkar at Mediaite

Nat Ives at AdAge

UPDATE #6: Peter Lauria at Daily Beast

Stephen Spruiell at The Corner

Michael Calderone at Yahoo News

UPDATE #7: Jack Shafer at Slate

UPDATE #8: Chris Rovzar at The New York Magazine

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic

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