Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Falling Housing Market Creates Superstition

These types of stories are one reason that a lot of people have no regard for journalism. Do Wall Street Journal readers really need to know about some silly superstition about St. Joseph statues helping to sell homes?
Cari Luna is Jewish by heritage and Buddhist by religion. She meditates regularly. Yet when she and her husband put their Brooklyn, N.Y., house on the market this year and offers kept falling through, Ms. Luna turned to an unlikely source for help: St. Joseph.

The Catholic saint has long been believed to help with home-related matters. And according to lore now spreading on the Internet and among desperate home-sellers, burying St. Joseph in the yard of a home for sale promises a prompt bid. After Ms. Luna and her husband held five open houses, even baking cookies for one of them, she ordered a St. Joseph "real estate kit" online and buried the three-inch white statue in her yard.

"I wasn't sure if it would be disrespectful for me, a Jewish Buddhist, to co-opt this saint for my real-estate purposes," says Ms. Luna, a writer. She figured, "Well, could it hurt?"

With the worst housing market in recent years, St. Joseph is enjoying a flurry of attention. Some vendors of religious supplies say St. Joseph statues are flying off the shelves as an increasing number of skeptics and non-Catholics look for some saintly intervention to help them sell their houses.

Some Realtors, too, swear by the practice. Ardell DellaLoggia, a Seattle-area Realtor, buried a statue beneath the "For Sale" sign on a property that she thought was overpriced. She didn't tell the owner until after it had sold. "He was an atheist," she explains. "But he thanked me."

Statues of St. Joseph sold online can be as tall as 12 inches. One, made of colored resin, portrays St. Joseph cradling the baby Jesus. Yet most home sellers favor the simpler three- or four- inch replicas -- most of which are made in China and often depict St. Joseph as a carpenter.

Most statues come in a "Home Sale Kit" that is priced at around $5 and includes burial instructions and a prayer. One site, Good Fortune Online, recently added another kit with a statue of St. Jude -- known as the patron saint of hopeless causes -- "to help those with a difficult property to sell," the site says.

There are several other superstitious people quoted in the piece. I have to wonder where Journal reporter Sara Schaefer Muñoz dug them up from, one hopes that there isn't an online forum catering to them.

I can understand the human interest angle here but at the very least, Muñoz ought to have held their silly beliefs up to just a little bit of scrutiny.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ann Coulter Loves NewsBusters

Earlier this month, Karl Rove said he was a fan of NewsBusters. Count Ann Coulter, author and humorist, as another prominent conservative who is a fan.

Moments ago, I spoke with her during a conference call for bloggers in which I asked her for her thoughts on MSNBC host Chris Matthews.

Before I got to my question, however, Coulter interrupted. "I love NewsBusters," she said and then turned to my question.

"Chris Matthews is the perfect example of the media's 'it girl' mentality. He's been on TV forever and been shoved into America's face for years and what does he have like 26 or 27 viewers?

"The media is always trying to pawn these 'it girls' of the moment off on us, I mean look at Ashleigh Banfield who was talked about as if she were the Second Coming. But no one watched. I have no idea where she is today. The same thing applies to Matthews."

At the end of the call, I asked Coulter if she'd be interested in doing an interview with NB. She readily agreed so expect one in the coming days.

NewsBusted 115

Monday, October 29, 2007

An Opportunity for Center-Right Journalists, Bloggers

Are you a journalist or writer or interested in furthering your career in the media? If so, consider applying for the 2008 Phillips Foundation's fellowship program.

This year, the foundation is expanding its program to make it so anyone with 10 years or less of professional journalistic experience, up from 5 years or less. Winning participants will receive grants of $75,000, $50,000 or $25,000.

Here are the details:

The Phillips Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2008 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship Program. Print and online journalists with less than ten years of professional experience are eligible. The Foundation created this program to provide fellowships for projects to be undertaken by journalists who share the Foundation's mission to advance constitutional principles, a democratic society and a vibrant free enterprise system.

The Phillips Foundation awards $75,000 and $50,000 full-time fellowships and $25,000 part-time fellowships to undertake and complete a one-year project of the applicant's choosing focusing on journalism supportive of American culture and a free society. In addition to the regular fellowships, the Foundation awards separate fellowships in specific topic areas: The Environmental Fellowship for a project on the environment from a free market perspective; The Shelby Cullom Davis Fellowship for a project on the impact of free enterprise on society; and The Law Enforcement Fellowship for a project focusing on law enforcement in the United States.

Three Phillips Foundation Trustees serve as judges: Thomas L. Phillips, Chairman of Eagle Publishing, Inc.; Robert D. Novak, prominent national journalist and syndicated columnist; and Alfred S. Regnery, Publisher of The American Spectator.

The Foundation is looking for journalism projects which are both original and publishable. The winning projects will be delivered in four installments with the potential to be published sequentially in a periodical or as a book.

Applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2008. The winners will be announced next May at an awards dinner at the National Press Club in Washington. The starting date for the fellowships will be September 1, 2008. Applicants must be citizens of the United States.

Go to the link above if you are interested in applying.

Boston Globe Actually Notices 'The View' Is Biased Against the Right

Most everyone on the center-right knows the media are biased in a leftward direction, much fewer on the left are able to see this phenenomenon--they are just saying the truth. Because of this, it's always refreshing to see a liberal news organization sit down and notice something that's left-biased such as the Boston Globe did recently when it correctly observed that ABC's "View" is skewed against conservatives and religious people.

The paper made this observation in a profile of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, "View's" sole conservative who is going to be leaving the show for two months' maternity leave.The profile is also remarkable in that it notices the sheer amount of hatred that is heaped upon a woman who is by anyone's standard a soft-spoken and nice person:

When Elisabeth Hasselbeck bade farewell to her cohosts on "The View" Tuesday, it was all hugs, well-wishes, and baby-product endorsements. But as Hasselbeck begins her 2 1/2-month maternity leave, the political landscape is shifting, as well. America's most dangerous conservative - or so some liberals see it - is leaving TV for a while.

Hasselbeck, the apple-cheeked blonde with the football-player husband, consistently draws a brand of hatred from the left that Hillary Clinton generates from the right; "screechmonger" is one of the more printable slurs hurled at her from the blogosphere. Barry Manilow has called her "offensive." Alicia Silverstone once refused to touch her. And that an America's sweetheart-type would generate such vitriol says a lot about the state of debate in a polarized country.

Hasselbeck is a far cry from the most prominent conservative women on the cable talk-show circuit, the ones who deal in slick sarcasm, publish books that vilify liberals ("Godless" and "Slander" both by Ann Coulter, "Unhinged" by Michelle Malkin) and take obvious pleasure in a claws-out fight. The youngest member of "The View" lineup is hardly a master debater; she's always outnumbered and usually outargued. But she has a prominent daily forum for her antiabortion, pro-war views - "The View" often reaches more than 3 million viewers each day.

And Hasselbeck represents "an audience that the left just can't crack: traditional, God-fearing red state women, well-intended, who have made up their minds and won't hear it. Won't hear otherwise," said Matthew Felling, editor of Public Eye, the media commentary site.

To her like-minded fans, Felling said, Hasselbeck's lack of slickness is a strength. "Regardless of how much effort or thought she puts into her views or stances, it comes across as just from the heart. Or from the gut. Which is one of the strengths of the conservative conversation."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Facebook Provides Fascinating Glimpse Into Society's, Media's Demographics

As the popularity of personal web spaces continues to skyrocket, their usefulness as a demographic research tool has increased dramatically, both as a means of studying the general public but also to study the ideological bent of the self-described mainstream media.

On the second point (see below for a very interesting discussion of the first) a recent study of Facebook profiles of BBC employees finds, surprise surprise, that Britain's taxpayer-funded network is utterly dominated by socialists:

A survey of BBC employees with profiles on the site [Facebook] showed that 11 times more of them class themselves as "liberal" than "conservative."

Critics seized on the figures as evidence that the supposedly impartial corporation, paid for by the licence fee, is dominated by liberals. [...]

Research by the conservativehome. com website showed that 1,340 staff put themselves in the "liberal" or "very liberal" category, compared with just 120 who were "conservative" or "very conservative". Some 340 regard themselves as "moderate." [...]

[S]eparate research revealed that nearly 80 per cent of those who describe themselves as "liberal" on Facebook either vote Lib- Dem (49.9 per cent) or Labour (38.5 per cent).

Just 3.9 per cent in the liberal category said they vote Tory. The research was carried out by Samuel Coates, the deputy editor of conservativehome, a Tory grassroots Internet site.

On the general demographic angle, Republican political consultant Patrick Ruffini has been doing some interesting analysis of American Facebook profiles.

According to Ruffini's research, liberals are far more likely to be taking advantage of Facebook than conservatives, except for the younger generation of righties. For the political right, this is both a strategic difficulty in the present internet age but also an opportunity:

Out of idle curiosity, I started running an ideological breakdown of Facebook users by age, starting at Facebook’s minimum age of 14 and working my way up. The spreadsheet is here so you can follow along.

It was after I started reached the mid-20s that I stumbled upon something that may help quantify the early adopter bias. High school and college users were pretty consistently about 4-8 points more liberal than conservative. That’s sort of where you’d expect them to be given the 18-29 year old vote. And Facebook’s market penetration with this cohort is such that this is likely to be a highly representative sample of Americans that age.

But the older you got, through users in their 20s, the more liberal the user base became. It was inexorable. Each year, liberals picked up a couple of points on conservatives. My fellow 29-year olds on Facebook are +25.3% liberal. The 20-year old bracket is +4.5% liberal.

Given how stable the numbers were for college/high school users, with much higher numbers, this seemed unlikely to suggest an actual demographic shift in Generation Y.

But something else was going on. As liberals were picking up steam, the number of Facebook users were getting progressively smaller with each age cohort. [...]

This is pretty strong evidence of a liberal/early adopter correlation. Non-college Facebook users in their late twenties are two to one liberal where their college age counterparts are pretty closely matched.

That two-to-one ratio probably correlates with usage of other high-end web services and even traffic to the candidate sites themselves. It also gives quantifiable backing to the idea that Republicans stand to gain as the universe is widened entering the general election, as I’ve long suspected. [...]

Most campaign sites are probably getting visitorship in the tens of thousands of visitors per day, if that. That’s still within the early adopter universe. As politics online becomes more mainstream, the Democrats’ potential for growth is considerably constrained. Actual online engagement among people who are fully comfortable with the medium (the Millenials) is no worse than the D/R split in voting. That’s still a problem for Republicans given our challenging numbers with 18-29 voters, but the problem then becomes merged with the electoral one rather than being compounded by online-specific trends. As the popularity of the tools grows and the Millenials go mainstream, the 2-to-1 split Democrats have counted on could be a thing of the past.

While this data seems to indicate a natural increase in the online audience for right-oriented publications, it also means that there is a large, untapped market out there for existing conservative and libertarian readers. Activating this audience to take the next step beyond just doing email would be another great opportunity. It will also be necessary if the right wants to keep those new potential online political news consumers engaged and active in the future who would take to the web anyway. Here's hoping that the conservative think tanks, policy and activist groups realize this trend and act accordingly. This effort will also require conservative online activists (such as 97% of you reading this) to educate and motivate their friends and family to start taking part in the political and social web.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Republic: We Still Believe!

After weeks of saying nothing, the editors of the New Republic magazine have stepped out of their batcave to inform the world that they still believe in Scott Beauchamp's "reports" from Iraq.

For his part, Beauchamp is starting to look more and more like Memogate's Bill Burkett, the Texas moonbat who repeatedly told different versions of his story to Dan Rather and Mary Mapes:

Beauchamp’s refusal to defend himself certainly raised serious doubts. That said, Beauchamp’s words were being monitored: His squad leader was in the room as he spoke to us, as was a public affairs specialist, and it is now clear that the Army was recording the conversation for its files.

The next day, via his wife, we learned that Beauchamp did want to stand by his stories and wanted to communicate with us again. Two-and-a-half weeks later, Beauchamp telephoned Foer at home and, in an unmonitored conversation, told him that he continued to stand by every aspect of his story, except for the one inaccuracy he had previously admitted. He also told Foer that in the September 6 call he had spoken under duress, with the implicit threat that he would lose all the freedoms and privileges that his commanding officer had recently restored if he discussed the story with us.

The magazine's editors, meanwhile are getting all Ratherian, demanding the Army to completely disprove Beauchamp's "reports" instead of the other way around:

The New Republic is deeply frustrated by the Army’s behavior. TNR has endeavored with good faith to discover whether Beauchamp’s article contained inaccuracies and has repeatedly requested that the Army provide us with documentary evidence that it was fabricated or embellished. Instead of doing this, the Army leaked selective parts of the record—including a conversation that Beauchamp had with his lawyer—continuing a months-long pattern by which the Army has leaked information and misinformation to conservative bloggers while failing to help us with simple requests for documents.

We have worked hard to re-report this piece and will continue to do so. But this process has involved maddening delays compounded by bad faith on the part of at least some officials in the Army. Our investigation has taken far longer than we would like, but it is our obligation and promise to deliver a full account of our findings.

Peggy Noonan has a good column in today's OpinionJournal that pretty much sums up the situation here:

Everyone in journalism thought first of Stephen Glass. I actually remember the day I read his New Republic piece on the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in 1997, a profile of young Republicans as crude and ignorant pot-smoking alcoholics in search of an orgy. It, um, startled me. After years of observation, I was inclined toward the view that there's no such thing as a young Republican. More to the point, I'd been to the kind of convention Mr. Glass wrote about, and I thought it not remotely possible that the people he painted were real. I also thought: Man, this is way too convenient. The New Republic tends to think Republicans are hateful, and this reporter just happened to be welcomed into the private world of the most hateful Republicans in history.

On the Thomas stories, which I read not when they came out but when they began to come under scrutiny, I had a similar thought, or a variation of it. I thought: That's not Iraq, that's a Vietnam War movie. That's not life as it's being lived on the ground right now, that's life as an editor absorbed it through media. That's the dark world of Kubrick and Coppola and Oliver Stone, of the great Vietnam movies of the '70s and '80s.

If that's what you absorbed during the past 20 or 30 years, it just might make sense to you, it would actually seem believable, if a fellow in Iraq wrote for you about taunting scarred women, shooting dogs, and wearing skulls as helmets. This is the offhand brutality of war. You know. You saw it in a movie.

Bryan Preston at Hot Air also nails it:

[New Republic editor Franklin] Foer can spin and twist his conversations with Beauchamp and various Army officers all he wants. He can suggest that the Army is being devious with him, that it’s strong arming Beauchamp, whatever. But if he can’t verify, after all this time, the existence of that mass grave, and since he now has official records documenting that his reporter has lied to somebody, Foer has no choice but to consider Beauchamp’s credibility as beyond repair and his stories as fatally flawed.

But he’s not going to do that. He’s going to continue to focus on the leak and make the Army out to be the villain. That’s been his standard tactic throughout, and that attitude probably contributed to TNR’s publishing Beauchamp’s fables in the first place.

NYT: Nepotism Is Wrong

Sometimes chronicling media bias and hypocrisy is just too easy. You couldn't have asked for better material than what was provided Wednesday by the New York Times which ran a thousand-word-plus article discussing the alleged nepotism of Commentary’s hiring of John Podhoretz to run the magazine. (Hat tip: Ace.)

I’ll grant that this type of character assassination article is typical when it comes to the liberal press’s normal gorillas-in-the-mist view of conservatism. Still, you’d think that the Times might be a little more inclined to avoid such journalism when its prestige and profits have been on a downward spiral ever since publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. was handed the reins to the New York Times in 1992 by his father.

That’s not the case, however. Instead, Times reporter Patricia Cohen finds a former Commentary writer who accuses the magazine of violating its foundational ethical principles. She finds others to grouse about the Podhoretz appointment, quotes author Adam Bellow speaking of “the new nepotism” and then ends—after a few pro forma quotes praising Podhoretz—with nary a mention of her boss.

And these are the same folks who accuse President Bush of being intellectually incurious? Surely, an article with the phrase “new nepotism” in it ought to have a mention of young Pinch. Sadly, no.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

To some within the neoconservative movement, the announcement of John Podhoretz as the next editor of Commentary magazine — the same job his father, Norman, held for 35 years — is the best of all possible choices. It is a model of what Adam Bellow (son of the Nobel-winning novelist Saul) called the “new nepotism,” combining the “privileges of birth with the iron rule of merit.”

But to others the decision reeks of the “old nepotism,” in which the only credential that matters is the identity of your father — in Mr. Bellow’s cosmology, less like the Roosevelts than like Tori Spelling getting an acting job because her father was Aaron Spelling.

“I think some people are pretty shocked,” said Jacob Heilbrunn, whose book “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons” is coming out in January. John Podhoretz, movie critic for The Weekly Standard magazine and a political columnist for The New York Post, “isn’t seen as a heavyweight intellectual,” said Mr. Heilbrunn, who has discussed the appointment with several neoconservatives. Rather, “he is seen as being a beneficiary of his parents’ fame in the George W. Bush mold.” [...]

As for charges of favoritism, Mr. Podhoretz said: “It’s silly for me to respond because I don’t accept the premise. I have a professional career that’s dated back 25 years. I’ve started two magazines, worked at three others. I am who I am. I have millions of words that you can read on Nexis.” He has also written three books.

Mr. Podhoretz’s supporters agree. “John happens to be in the family,” said Tamar Jacoby, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has written for Commentary, “but he is also more than qualified to carry the tradition forward. John is a serious person and takes ideas personally.”

Still, of the more than 30 people contacted for this article, several who have written for the magazine or have contributed money to the Commentary Fund said they were troubled by the family connection, the lack of an open search process and what they consider to be Mr. Podhoretz’s lack of intellectual credentials for such a highbrow journal, partly because he has written so much about popular culture. A former writer for Commentary said the appointment repudiated one of neoconservatism’s founding principles, a commitment to meritocracy.

The hypocrisy is almost palpable. Here we have a newspaper that is forever insisting that despite the fact that it’s run by a bunch of pampered Manhattanites and headed by the unqualified offspring of the former publisher, it really is a true advocate for the poor, the dispossessed and the little guy turning around and accusing another publication of violating its own principles.

You really have to wonder if the editors at the Times are even trying nowadays. An editor with even half a brain would’ve put the kibosh on this article the moment it crossed his desk.

The fact of the matter is that John Podhoretz is eminently qualified to edit Commentary. He has a long record as a political journalist and essayist. He helped start the Weekly Standard and turn it into a must-read in the political world. He’s written three books. That’s a lot more than you can say for Pinch Sulzberger who was appointed assistant publisher of the New York Times just 13 years out of college and publisher just 5 years later.

The NewsBusters Interview: Evan Maloney

This week I introduced a new feature to NewsBusters, a regular interview series with various figures in the media and political worlds. My first subject is Evan Maloney, creator of "Indoctrinate U," the important documentary on academic censorship.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Karl Rove, NewsBusters Fan

Living in DC has its interesting moments. Flying into town from Atlanta Sunday night, I happened to bump into former White House adviser Karl Rove. In the process I learned two things: Karl Rove flies coach class now that he's left the White House and that he also is a fan of NewsBusters.

The story:

My girlfriend and I had gone down to Atlanta to visit some friends for the weekend. On our way back Sunday night, we flew into Reagan National in coach class. After the plane landed, I realized that we'd been sitting not to far away from Rove. I only realized this, however, after some guy (a short, reporterish-looking fellow) started accosting Rove on the plane badgering him with questions about his post-White House career.

As a national figure, I'm sure Rove's gotten used to strangers coming up to him on the street but it's got to get annoying. He seemed irritated but was being nice to the guy--not answering the questions and hinting that he'd just like to be left alone.

Finally, the guy blurted out "Can't you at least give me your email address? I promise I won't give it to anyone."

I'd had enough of the idiocy at that point and interjected: "Because it's not like anyone else is overhearing this conversation. I'm sure your address would be completely confidential."

That provided enough distraction for Rove to blow the guy off--he left soon after. As we exited the plane, I mentioned that I ran NewsBusters, the blog of the Media Research Center.

"Thanks for doing that," Rove said. "You guys do great work there." He also said he was a fan of MRC president Brent Bozell.

After that, I left Rove to his Sunday evening.