Maybe I'm naieve. I just think that if you're in charge of something, you ought to know what you're in charge of. The liberal media, knotted up by paranoia, disagree.
Here's the NYT's Frank Rich
on yesterday's revelation that Clinton-appointee Kenneth Tomlinson, chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, had several PBS shows monitored for their liberal/conservative content:
That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. ...
There's only one obstacle standing in the way of the coup. Like Richard Nixon, another president who tried to subvert public broadcasting in his war to silence critical news media, our current president may be letting hubris get the best of him. His minions are giving any investigative reporters left in Washington a fresh incentive to follow the money.
... Look instead at the seemingly paltry $14,170 that, as Stephen Labaton of The New York Times reported on June 16, found its way to a mysterious recipient in Indiana named Fred Mann. Mr. Labaton learned that in 2004 Kenneth Tomlinson, the Karl Rove pal who is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, clandestinely paid this sum to Mr. Mann to monitor his PBS bête noire, Bill Moyers's "Now."
Now, why would Mr. Tomlinson pay for information that any half-sentient viewer could track with TiVo? Why would he hire someone in Indiana? Why would he keep this contract a secret from his own board? Why, when a reporter exposed his secret, would he try to cover it up by falsely maintaining in a letter to an inquiring member of the Senate, Byron Dorgan, that another CPB executive had "approved and signed" the Mann contract when he had signed it himself? If there's a news story that can be likened to the "third-rate burglary," the canary in the coal mine that invited greater scrutiny of the Nixon administration's darkest ambitions, this strange little sideshow could be it.
So this is the tape on the door of the Watergate office? This is the story that will bring down a president viciously fixated on controlling all aspects of communication about his presidency?
Get real. If Bush were so fixated on dominating the message, he might just be dominating it instead of losing control of it so often. And where, in all of this, is there any evidence that any of the information gathered was used against perpretrators of anti-Bush messaging? Who was fired? Who was demoted? Who's show was moved to go up against CSI? No one.
So, Rich old boy, you're a reporter; ask the obvious question: If the information hasn't been used in a personnel sort of way, how has it been used?
It's been used to make a case, and it's a case that Rich and others like him don't want to cover. That is, public funds which are something like 53 percent Republican by the last count (Nov. 2004), are being used to fund something biased against the Republicans. You can't make that case -- and it's an important case -- unless you have the data. And Tomlinson went after the data.
Admitedly, he did it very clumsily. He should have contracted the study internally, in the broad light of day, allowed spirited debate (which would have been fun, as libs would have shouted, "Don't look at the Emporer's clothes!"), and gotten on with the study.
As a PR firm, we regularly analyze media content, looking for how our clients' messages and their opponents' messages are showing up. It's useful information. It helps us hone our messages and occaisionally, we use it to show reporters that why we feel their coverage has been unfair.
We never have, and never would, use it to get someone fired. Neither has Tomlinson.