28 July 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment: Part VII, Objective Journalism

Let me begin by commending Ray Ring's excellent article in High Country News from July 24th.

Unlike my writing, it actually makes sense. And ...

Every so often, one must take a break from pulling on the same old thread as the sweater unravels; every now and again, it's refreshing to tug on a different thread and see how much unravels there. If you've read this far, you don't know any of these people, but have some patience. It will all come out in the wash, white or otherwise.

And, to respond to the critic who blogged last week that blogs are automatically suspect: I report 'internet' material that is authoritative, with a high degree of confidence. When I use sources like, say Wikipedia, or SourceWatch, I check another source, and only use information that is clearly factual. Sometimes, I go to Right Wing websites and sources to confirm facts, just to filter out any ideological bias.

I do this because "objectivity" per se doesn't actually exist. In order for "objectivity" to be real, you would have to have an objective being, e.g. a Supreme Being, and the S. B. doesn't seem much inclined to write. Objectivity is a paradigm that philosophers and gonzo journalists have quibbled with and derided extensively, but, all in all, it is still a good and useful paradigm.

[We can retreat into utter solipsism, in which case no one can prove to you that they actually exist. Or we can accept imperfection and move on.]

But, from a human perspective, reporting a temperature and adjudging it 'hot' or 'cold' is a matter of fact and not mere opinion. Disbelieving in gravity don't make it so.

On the other hand, value judgments and opinions are 'subjective' journalism (and, increasingly ARE journalism), and the presumption that bloggers are automatically suspect by virtue of their 'facts' and their automatic, presumed 'subjectivity' implies that Objective news organizations are automatically objective and factual.

I make no claims of 'fair and balanced.' I try to give you the story, and enough verifiable information that YOU can double-check my facts, rather than trusting that I've transcribed a phone call or tape (that you can't verify) in the actual news.

What newspaper cedes you that courtesy?

There are sleazy bloggers and there are sleazy newswriters, and caveat lector: let the reader beware. Read critically. Think. Keep an open mind. In other words, and to paraphrase that paragon of journalistic integrity, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News:

"I'll distort; you deride."

Now, fasten your seatbelts.

i. How Objective Journalists Are Born

Conservativenews dot com didn't get around to changing their domain name when they changed it to Cybercast News Service:
"(also CNSNews.com) is a conservative news website operated by the Media Research Center. It was founded on June 16, 1998 under the name "Conservative News Service"; "Conservative" was changed to "Cybercast" in 2000 after the MRC was unable to trademark the name "Conservative News Service."[1]. CNS sees its role as serving an audience which puts a "higher premium on balance than spin" by covering stories that mainstream news organizations ignore." [Wikipedia]
They published this oxymoronic 'news' item at for Christmas of 1999:
Phillips Foundation Promotes "Objective Journalism"
By the Phillips Foundation
CNS Information Services
16 December, 1999

(CNSNews.com) - The Maryland-based Phillips Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1990 to advance the cause of objective journalism, is now accepting applications for one full-time fellowship ($50,000) and two part-time fellowships ($25,000 each) for working journalists who wish to complete a one-year project focusing on "journalism supportive of American culture and a free society."

Working journalists (US citizens) with less than five years of professional experience in print journalism are eligible to apply for the Year 2000 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship Program.

The Foundation said it established this annual journalism fellowship program to assist print journalists who share the Foundation's mission to advance constitutional principles, a democratic society and a vibrant free enterprise system....
"Oxymoronic" because the news story is a press release about setting up a program to increase press 'objectivity.' And uncritically reprinting a press release is the nadir of objective reporting.

I suppose that "objectivity" is best served by seeing who's on the board of directors of the Phillips Foundation.

From their webpage:
The Phillips Foundation Trustees

Thomas L. Phillips, Chairman
Mr. Phillips serves as Chairman of Phillips International, Inc. and Eagle Publishing, Inc.

Becky Norton Dunlop
Mrs. Dunlop is Vice President for External Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

Thomas A. Fuentes
Mr. Fuentes is Senior Vice President of LFC in Orange County, Calif., and Senior Fellow at The Claremont Institute.

Robert D. Novak
Mr. Novak is a prominent national journalist and author of one of the longest running syndicated columns in the United States.

Alfred S. Regnery
Mr. Regnery is Publisher of The American Spectator.

Ronald E. Robinson
Mr. Robinson is President of Young America's Foundation

Trustee Emeritus
Donald P. Hodel
Mr. Hodel is on the Board of Directors of Focus on the Family and served as Secretary of both Interior and Energy during the Reagan Administration.

Foundation Secretary
John W. Farley

Foundation Assistant Secretary
D. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

Foundation Treasurer
Peter De Angelo
Gee. Who are these guys? From SourceWatch:
In 1993 Thomas L. Phillips founded and is the chairman of Eagle Publishing, the parent company of the conservative publishing house, Regnery Publishing.

Phillips is Chairman and President of Phillips International which he founded in 1974 to publish newsletters.

"The firm's 500 employees produce widely respected newsletters and on-line information services for the consumer investment and health marketplaces. Phillips International is also recognized for its thriving vitamin and nutritional supplement business. The company closed calendar 2000 with more than $350 millions in sales," his biographical note states.

According to his biographical note Phillips was a founding member of the Newsletter Publishers Association and "serves on the Board of Young America's Foundation*, sponsor of the Ronald Reagan Leadership Program."

[NOTE: "Young America's Foundation" -- a 501(c)3 -- and its sister entity, "Young Americans for Freedom" -- a 501(c)4 -- are the lineal descendants of the group "Young Americans for Freedom" founded at William F. Buckley's estate in 1960 and merged with "Students for Goldwater" in 1961. The Libertarian Party has deep roots in the old YAF organization. The point is to keep the old YAF acronym. YAF was reactivated in its current dual configuration in 1974 to promote Ronald Reagan for president. The YAF bought Reagan's "Western White House" ranch in 1998, and maintains and runs several additional Reagan shrines. -- HW]

"He is on the Board of the Fund for American Studies and Chairman of the Board of Visitors for the Institute on Political Journalism. Tom also serves on the Board of the National Legal Center for Public Interest," his biographical note states.

"He is also a member of the Republican National Committee's Regents Program, and the Advisory Board of the Claremont Institute. Tom is Chairman of the Chairman's Council of the Republican Party of Orange County, California, and a member of the World Presidents' Organization, an international organization of business leaders," his biographical note states.
The Phillips Foundation is a 501(c)3, just like the Girl Scouts, the Red Cross, or Save The Children. Donations are fully tax deductible. Luckily, the Phillips Foundation gets nearly all of its donations from other Foundations.

What's really fun is how the Directors are linked to Phillips: According to SALON's Mary Jacoby:
[Robert] Novak's son's employment at Regnery, revealed by the New York Times on Aug. 30, isn't Novak's only tie to the Washington publisher of conservative polemics. Novak also has a long-standing professional and personal relationship that he did not reveal -- with Regnery's owner, newsletter magnate Tom Phillips. Phillips owns Eagle Publishing, whose subsidiaries include Regnery; Human Events, a 60-year-old conservative newsweekly; and the Evans-Novak Political Report, Novak's subscription-based newsletter ($297 a year). In addition, Novak is an unpaid member of the board of Phillips' private foundation, the Phillips Foundation, which awards journalism fellowships to young conservatives.

(Salon, October 1, 2004)
Phillips controls one of America's most potent print media feifdoms: through his various subsidiaries, he publishes THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR (which was, you might recall, originally funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, and was the source of the so-called "Arkansas Project" and "Troopergate" -- see David Brock's BLINDED BY THE RIGHT for details), and HUMAN EVENTS which has a stable of writers that's a veritable who's who of Republican/Conservative poisoned penmanship: Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Robert Novak, Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchanan etc. etc.

Regnery Publishing? THE conservative publisher. Gleaned for their website:
Best Sellers

Recent bestsellers of the company [Regnery] include Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access, Barbara Olson's Hell to Pay, Goldberg's Bias and several others. The company is presently located in Washington, DC. It is a sister company of conservative newspaper Human Events.

Notable books published by Regnery in 2004 include:

* John E. O'Neill and Jerome E. Corsi, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. ISBN 0895260174.

* Robert Patteron, Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security. ISBN 0895260867.

* Michelle Malkin, In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror. ISBN 0895260514.

* David Horowitz, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. ISBN 089526076X.
Oh, and let's not forget the book that started a certain Neocon writer on her quest for bestsellerdom:

High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton
Ann H. Coulter, Hardcover, 358 Pages, Regnery Publishing, August 1998. According to Wikipedia: "One of the first well-known books [Regnery] published (in 1951) was God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, Jr."

Thomas A. Fuentes is, surprise! director of Eagle Publishing, parent company of Regnery.

Alfred S. Regnery is the publisher of the AMERICAN SPECTATOR (whose editor-in-chief is R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.)

Ronald E. Robinson is President of Young America's Foundation, of which Phillips is a Board member -- among several other interlocking foundations, etc. It's a sort of youth recruiting service for conservatives.

Donald P. Hodel served in the Reagan Administration, as did Becky Norton Dunlop, who seems to be the Heritage Foundation liason (Heritage Foundation is the 1000 lb. gorilla of Right Wing foundations) and who serves on several other Boards with Phillips. Hodel served as President and CEO of Focus on the Family 2003-2005 ($137,848,520 came in the FOF door in 2004, according to FOF's IRS form 990 tax filing).

All nice and cozy, right?

It gets even more incestuous.
National Conservative Campaign Fund

Edwin Meese, III., Honorary Chairman
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Honorary Vice Chairman

Thomas L. Phillips, Chairman
D. Jeffrey Hollingsworth*, Executive Director
[* Hollingsworth is the Phillips Foundation's Assistant Secretary]

Directors include: Becky Norton Dunlop, Thomas A. Fuentes

National Advisory Board includes: George A. Alcorn, Sr., Gary Aldrich, L. Brent Bozell III, Angela "Bay" Buchanan, Ann Coulter, C. Boyden Gray, Donald P. Hodel, G. Gordon Liddy, Ralph Reed, Jr., Alfred S. Regnery, R. Emmett Tyrrell.

Well, let's make this easy. The only National Conservative Campaign Fund names missing from the Phillips Foundation Board are Treasurer Peter De Angelo and Secretary John W. Farley.

But not to worry: Peter De Angelo is the CFO & VP of Operations Eagle Publishing, Inc. And John W. Farley is Phillips International's Corporate Vice President. From their website:
Mr. Farley is responsible for corporate communications, government relations and corporate contributions. He joined the company 23 years ago as Executive Editor for business-to-business newsletters and later served as Group Publisher for The Defense Group...
There. Now we have some sort of notion as to what kind of "Objective Journalism" the Phillips Foundation is promoting.

I probably shouldn't mention that the Foundation is funded by Charles W. Koch's Foundation -- the Cato Institute's sugar-daddy -- $20,000; and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation ($50,000).

According to Media Transparency: "With over $700 million in assets (down to $489 million in 2002), the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the country's largest and most influential right-wing foundation. As of the end of 1998, it was giving away more than $30 million a year...."

There are a couple of others, but Phillips International contributes the lion's share: $150,000 in 2004.

One of those others is Robert Novak himself, who was the 2003 "Lifetime Achievement Award" winner from the Phillips Foundation has contributed $10,000 for 2003 and $10,000 again for 2004 (the last 990s available -- they file for extensions to prepare their taxes quite often, it appears).

The 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award winner was Rupert Murdoch. For a priceless photograph of the award ceremony, CLICK HERE. According to the 990s, they pay about $30,000 a shot for the annual dinner at the National Press Club.

Some prior recipients: William Rusher, who retired as publisher of National Review in 1988 (1999), George F. Will (2000), and James J. Kilpatrick (2001), William F. Buckley, Jr. (2002), Robert D. Novak (2003), Robert L. Bartley, editor of The Wall Street Journal (posthumous) (2004), and "Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and former editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest” (2005).

Objective journalists, one and all.

And that's how objective journalism is being encouraged by the Phillips Foundation.

But, that's only half of the story. Tomorrow, in part ii of part VII (this blog seems to be rapidly metamorphosing into a borg), we will meet someone I've already told you about, and tell you about the Phillips Foundation connection in all of this. The picture that forms when you connect all of the dots might just astonish you. Stay tuned!



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