Saturday, March 12, 2005

The older stuff, before I moved the HV PR weblog here

Date: March 10, 2005
One day my son Eugene came home and said "Mom, our World History class has a Fox Blocker and they aren't showing any more of 'Fox, the news in 80 seconds." I wanted to know is one reason, but not the ENTIRE REASON on next Sunday's Boston Legal. Perhaps DavidEKelleyand company are 'chickening out'.--Kilroy2005

ALTERNET: Free Speech Impediment
Rory O'Connor, AlterNet.

This Sunday's episode [airing March 13th, William H. Macy is 55 to-day] of ABC's Boston Legal focusing on censorship was itself censored, purged of all references to Fox and Bill O'Reilly. And nobody's talking.

David E. Kelley - the Emmy Award-winning creator of such memorable series' as Picket Fences, Doogie Howser M.D., Ally McBeal, Boston Public, The Practice, and its current spin-off, Boston Legal - is probably the most prolific and successful writer/producer now working in television. Coupled with the fact that he is married to film star Michelle Pfeiffer, Kelley's talent makes him one of the most influential people in the entertainment world. But apparently even Kelley's power pales before the might of Disney and the MausHaus.

Case in point: the next episode of Boston Legal, to be broadcast Sunday March 13 [ditto] on the Disney-owned ABC network. AlterNet has acquired both the original and the revised script for this episode from a source who prefers to remain anonymous. The original penned by Kelley focused in large measure on Fox News and its loofah-loving star Bill O'Reilly. The script also featured substantial excerpts from the independent film Outfoxed, which documents how the allegedly "fair and balanced" cable channel acts as a propaganda arm for the Republican Party and other conservative interest groups.
But the final script - the one that was actually shot for the show that will appear on Sunday - has been thoroughly scrubbed on orders from top ABC network executives, and all mention of Fox News and O'Reilly has been sent down the Memory Hole.

Why was the original script, which ironically centered on issues of free speech, censored?
Kelley won't say why the changes were made - and no one at his production company, his producing partner 20th Century Fox, ABC or even Fox News is talking.

But a comparison of the original script and the censored script speaks for itself. In the original, Chi McBride (principal of the high school featured in Kelley's previous hit Boston Public) installs a "Fox Blocker" on every television set in his school, on the entirely reasonable grounds that what appears on Fox News is not news but in fact "hate speech." One of his students, Stuart Milch, believes McBride's decision to be censorship, and takes his case to the attorneys of Boston Legal.

Here's a taste of what millions of viewers will now miss next Sunday:

Stuart: "It's called a Fox Blocker. Sold off the internet. You attach it to the coaxial cable on your television and it basically blocks out all Fox News transmissions. My high school principal attached these liberal, left-wing devices to all the televisions in the building. Meanwhile, the kids are free to watch CBS, CNN, NBC, even ABC, But not Fox. It's censorship."
It's called censorship, all right - just not on Boston Legal anymore. Here's what the final, scrubbed-and-censored script says instead:
Stuart: "It's called a news blocker. Sold off the internet. You attach it to the coaxial cable on your television and it basically blocks out news transmission.. My high school principal attached these devices to all the televisions in the building. The problem is. turns out it only blocks out one network, the most fair and balanced one. All the others, kids can watch."
Here's another example, this time of an interchange between two Boston Legal characters - attorney Chelina Hall and Catherine Piper, secretary to attorney Alan Shore (played by Boston Legal star, James Spader.) Again, original script first:
Chelina: If you had to watch the news, Mrs. Piper, which network would you go to?
Catherine (simply): Fox, of course.
Chelina: Can you tell us why?
Catherine: Well. For starters, we're winning the war on Fox. The economy's better there. And Brit Hume. Sometimes I close my eyes and.go to him.
And now, the censored version:
Chelina: If you had to watch the news, Mrs. Piper, which network would you go to?
Catherine (simply): I don't know. I'd probably seek out the station where we're most likely to be winning the war.

Where I can find a better economy. Maybe some weapons of mass destruction.
And so it continues, page after expurgated page. No Fox. No Bill O'Reilly. No Brit Hume. . And no free speech?

No way to know - because no one will speak, not even the articulate, prolific and powerful Mr. Kelley.
Speaking of free speech, there's another, related issue to consider as well - the unexplained fact that Robert Greenwald, creator of the
Outfoxed documentary (which curiously is still excerpted and mentioned by name in Sunday's episode) was unable to purchase time on the ABC network to advertise his film.

According to Greenwald's distributor Gary Baddeley, a representative of the Broadcast Standards and Practices Department at ABC named Joel Resnicow indicated that ABC would not accept an ad for Outfoxed to run adjacent to Boston Legal, "although he was reluctant to come out and say so directly, I suspect for political reasons," says Baddeley.

"I really pushed him hard to say what we would have to do to edit the ad to make it acceptable and he said he ?can't think of anything,'" Baddeley says. "He also said that ?it seems like there are insurmountable issues' and [he] ?wouldn't want us to invest time' in re-editing. So although he wouldn't actually say ?we will not approve an ad for this film no matter what' - that is the practical effect of what he is saying. The door has been closed in our face."

In keeping with the overall vow of silence accompanying the Boston Legal "free speech" episode, neither Joel Resnicow nor indeed anyone at ABC's Broadcast Standards and Practices Department was willing to comment. When pressed for an explanation of why the ad was refused, ABC's media relations rep Susan Sewell said only "No comment." The non-answer answer was the same even when she was asked for an explanation - or indeed any articulation whatsoever - of ABC's "Broadcast Standards and Practices."
And Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes - usually good for at least a quip, if not an actual quote - also declined comment.

To see the ad that ABC censored, click here.

And while you're at it, why not ask David E. Kelley what pressure was brought to bear on him to censor an episode of his series - one supposedly devoted to the issue of free speech. The telephone number for David E. Kelley Productions is 650.853.9100.

In the interest of free speech, maybe he'll even talk to you.
Robert Greenwald is a board member of the Independent Media Institute, the parent organization of AlterNet.
This and other articles by Rory O'Connor are available on his

Date: March 9, 2005

NETSCAPE sez there's a Blogger at the White House

Political blogs have made another leap into the domains of the mainstream news media. [huzzah! Huzzah! It is the "new media. Period.] The first blogger was issued a coveted, daily White House press pass.
The controversy over James Guckert (a.k.a. Jeff Gannon), who wrote for a Web site owned by a Republican operative, [who HV PR has directly urged to come clean about GOPAC and tell his "true story", and yup, I am considering repping him -- but I am a tad concerned about the 'angle'] raised questions about who was a "real" reporter and how the White House granted access to the somewhat exclusive press briefings.
Garrett Graff, a 23-year-old blogger, [who was Deputy Press dude for Howard Dean, no less, but is there anything wrong with that?] decided to try to gain access to the daily press "gaggle," after White House officials said it was easy to get a pass. Mr. Graff tested that premise and chronicled his journey through the labyrinth on his blog,

On Monday, he became the first blogger at the White House briefing with a press credential that entitles him to the informal morning gaggle and the televised briefing in the afternoon.
It took Mr. Graff 20 phone calls that got him nowhere with the White House Press Office. Only after pressure from USA Today, CNN and Knight Ridder's Ron Hutcheson and others, the blogger was admitted. [Luck and persistence work! Aha! moment here--K2005]

For the record, he writes the FishBowlDC blog published by, which provides online and offline services for online, print and broadcast industry professionals.

What was his first impression of the gaggle?

"As glamorous as the beat itself may be, there's little glamour to be found in the briefing room. The conditions of the briefing room, famously built over the old White House swimming pool, um, leave something to be desired," he wrote after the morning session.

And his first day at the White House was turned out to be "remarkably uneventful."
Blogs were born as an easy-to-use online journals for anyone. The self-publishing tool quickly became an anti-mainstream media tool which flexed its muscle and got "Jeff Gannon" kicked out of the White House. So are bloggers disappointed at Mr. Graff for sleeping with the enemy?

At least, the bigger bloggers have started blogging the blogger, Mr. Graff.
Do you use, read or write blogs? What do you think about them?

************************* @ ************************
[Views expressed are those of the author(s) [and Kilroy2005], and do not necessarily reflect those of CompuServe, any government, agency, or news organization.]

Date: March 7, 2005
New York Post: Martha Media-Thon
By Christopher Byron -- March 7, 2005 --

TO the world's store house of knowledge, we may now add the following: That on a day last week, Martha Stewart returned home from an extended absence to offer coffee and donuts to waiting reporters. She also walked a dog, petted a horse ? and learned that her cappuccino machine was broken.
We know these things because the American media pulled no punches last week to ferret them out, from the regiments of reporters who waited in the cold for her return to Xanadu East, to the shock-and-awe roar of air superiority from the helicopters circling above.

It was the media's own Operation Good Thing, designed to show the world that five months behind the wire in a West Virginia federal prison had indeed brought about the redemption and rebirth of Martha Stewart.

Here for example are the words of one imbedded reporter, waiting in the 5 a.m. darkness on an otherwise empty street somewhere near Xanadu. His words carry the promise of big things to come when a studio desk anchor asks, "What's the scene like there now?" and the CNN man answers: "Well, right now quiet, of course. The sun just rising."

Alas for them all, that's about as exciting as things got, for although viewers last Friday must surely have expected Ms. Stewart's arrival to have featured multitudes of delirious and adoring fans tossing their spatulas in the air at their first glimpse of their idol, it was, in the end, only the reporters who turned up.

And of them all, only one ? David Segal of the Washington Post ? seems to have fully savored the desperate pointlessness of the entire affair.

In fact, save for a brief 9:30 a.m. Martha Moment when milady swept past a knot of cold and huddled reporters and asked if they wanted some coffee and donuts, then later shouted from the doorway that her cappuccino machine was broken, it was all snow and mud and a cop who occasionally drove by to keep tabs on the inactivity.

By 1 p.m., Segal said, "Reporters were trolling around the adorable main street of Katonah,[N.Y.,] hunting for Stewart-related quotes from locals and reduced to the most debased act in all of journalism: interviewing other journalists. 'Usual stuff,' grumbled one TV reporter, standing on the sidewalk and scavenging for anything. 'Boring. Nobody cares.' "

FROM all this, we may begin to tease forth the truth behind the Martha Stewart Rehab Soufflé. That truth can be found lurking in the endless lava flow of unsupported claims made on her behalf by her various acolytes and proselytizers in recent days, then echoed uncritically by the media as if they were passing along the latest wisdom from Moses.

In that way, nearly every major media outlet in America has thus far proclaimed Stewart a "transformed" person from her five months in prison, while citing no actual evidence of that transformation since no such evidence exists.

Instead, we have the journalistic equivalent of a card trick. In it, the media have fastened on to the most hopeful and marketable transformation the Stewart woman "might" have undergone, followed sui sponte by the declaration that she actually underwent it and that we now behold the result ? a new, improved, and "softer" Martha Stewart.
This amounts to some of the weakest and most transparently one-sided business reporting the American media has produced since Fortune magazine broke out the pom-poms for Enron Corp. as "America's Most Innovative Company" in the 1990s. Now, in spite of all the navel-gazing that has followed the collapse of media darlings like HealthSouth and Worldcom, with the most over-the-top reportorial cheerleading yet.

Thus, we now read that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is already rebounding. But where is the evidence? The most frequently cited proof of that rebound is the company's stock price, which has slightly more than doubled since she went to prison, from $15.60 per share at the start of last October to $37 by the beginning of last week.
Yet every reporter on Wall Street knows perfectly well that the shares of Martha Stewart Living have climbed not as a result of any improving fundamentals but from a technical distortion known as a "short squeeze", and that they are bound to return to single-digits once the squeeze lets up.

Even the company's own insiders, including Martha Stewart herself, agree, and as the stock has climbed, they have collective dumped close to five million shares onto the market. Not surprisingly, every analyst who currently covers the stock rates it either an "underperform" or an outright "sell."

Yet, most media outlets have ignored all this, just as they have ignored the company's felicitous inconsistencies and misstatements regarding its allegedly improving fundamentals.

TWO weeks ago the company's new CEO, Susan Lyne, went on CNBC cable TV to declare that the core operation of the entire business, Martha Stewart Living magazine, was enjoying "very, very strong circulation numbers."
Earlier that same day Lyne spoke to investors in a conference call and stressed the same theme ? pronouncing the magazine's circulation to be strong, thus repeating the upbeat message that had appeared only hours earlier in a press release that quoted her regarding the magazine's "positive circulation trends."

In fact, no such trends are in evidence anywhere, as a separate section of the press release makes clear.
The release, covering the company's quarterly and full-year financial results for 2004, discloses that circulation for the mag ? which has fallen by roughly 25% since the start of last year has continued to slide right on through the fourth quarter.

Nor have reporters seemed interested in the possibility that the two TV shows that Stewart has now signed with NBC to star in will fail to benefit her company and might actually be flops. The first is for a syndicated daytime show designed to replace the programming that was dumped as her legal woes mounted.

Yet even at the peak of its popularity, the show accounted for less than 11% of the company's revenues, and its viewership was already declining before Martha's legal woes even began.
The other TV project ? a series of reality TV shows modeled on Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" Hit ? seems equally problematic. Nearly all the revenue from that show will flow to Martha and not her company, leaving MSO nothing but the reflected publicity of its namesake.

Sure, "The Apprentice" has made Trump 10 times the household name he was previously. But it hasn't brought a single new customer to his publicly traded casino and hotel business, which has since filed for bankruptcy. So why should Stewart's company fare any better?

In the end, Martha Stewart is just a clever, driven and self-absorbed marketer who built a successful business out of a brand image of herself as the perfect American woman. But her spiel was growing tired even before she finished it off by lying to the law and landing in prison. [ And what, exactly is so bad about that????? ]

Now she's back, an unrepentant and defiant ex-con, once again trying to spin herself back into the limelight, with the press and the networks egging her on. Will it work? For a while maybe. After that, I don't think so.

Date: March 5, 2005
New York Times: Martha Stewart Gets New Body in Newsweek
PRNewsFoto / Newsweek
New York Times: Martha Stewart's face on a model's body. No deception was intended, a Newsweek editor said. Yeah. Right. Sure. -Kilroy2005

Date: March 4, 2005
TINA BROWN: Martha Stewart and the Pros of Being a Con
By Tina Brown
Washington Post: Thursday, March 3, 2005; Page C01

The Jail Thing is working so well for Martha Stewart it may become the PR strategy of choice for other public figures who have run afoul of the image police.

((( Poster child for Greed? You tell us.)))

Jennifer Lopez didn't have to go to all the trouble of designing a new fashion line, toiling over a new album and rebounding into a doleful marriage to Marc Anthony. She should just have stood up in court and said, "Your Honor,
I committed the crime of being on the cover of Us magazine with Ben Affleck 100 times too often. My lips were too shiny. I made horrible movies. For my penalty I accept five months in Alderson jail in West Virginia."

Ditto Bernie Kerik. Why hang around waiting for some fresh embarrassment to surface? Just tell it to a judge: "Your Honor, I milked the 9/11 aura once too often. I shilled for Bush on cable shows past the point where I was bearable. I refused to admit that Homeland Security czar was where my overreach had hit the ceiling. As penance, I will be a stand-up guy and do my 90 days in the image clink."

It used to be that going to jail gave a positive aura only to moral gurus, spiritual leaders and revolutionaries. Gandhi in a British raj prison after the Salt March. Martin Luther King Jr. and the pantheon of civil rights heroes. Lenin in Siberia. Eugene V. Debs, polling nearly a million votes from his cell in 1920. Vaclav Havel. The ultimate: Nelson Mandela, from breaking rocks in solitary for 27 years to state president and sainted father of his country. But all that was before the Age of Privatization. Now it's vanquished CEOs and burned-out celebrities getting the martyr's halo. The new century's "Letter From Birmingham Jail" could be from Paris Hilton, via her T-Mobile Sidekick.

The useful thing about going down for a few months is it fast-tracks the process of Humbling Up. A spell behind bars can be the equivalent of a visit to the Betty Ford Center for status abuse. The biggest peril of multiple media is multiple resentment. It was never Martha's public that forsook Martha. The women who followed her went on liking her recipes, her products and her domestic advice. That's why, despite three years of the hazing of Martha herself, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia hung in there when everyone thought it was doomed to go the way of Bon Vivant. Like the Cheshire cat, she was able to disappear, her annoying, controlling personality vanishing from view, leaving only the smile behind.

Martha's offense was a crime of lifestyle for which she's already overpaid. She was just doing what the rest of her set was doing. People don't forgive such people their trespasses; they envy them. How many of us even have the opportunity to abuse executive authority, or manipulate markets? The level of venom Martha experienced was all about how she made every other mini-player in the media firmament feel like a wallflower. Status rage is always the ugliest.

There's a strange lightness now to all the coverage, like the lifting of a curse. As Martha Agonistes she is finally interesting for reasons other than envy. She's been through something the tabloid narrative can agree is "real." Jailed women are the stuff of country-western songs, not Bobby Short doing Cole Porter. All the manic goodwill about her release this week demonstrates the national need for a theater of atonement. It's as if jail time is the only thing that eases the pangs of a culture jealous of its own excess materialism.

You can see why prison might actually be a rejuvenating experience for Martha. Cruelty toward public figures in trouble has gotten so out of hand. No mug shot could be worse than the bleak portrait of Dan Rather in this week's New Yorker. No treachery from the cons inside could be more wounding than the harshly dismissive comments about Rather by Mike Wallace, Don Hewitt, Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney in Ken Auletta's piece that accompanied it. As for Michael Jackson, three days into the trial it had already degenerated into a Roman bacchanalia of media sadism. "Jacko Is Blubber Boy" ran the New York Post headline yesterday after he wept in court.

Prison can at least shut out all that. Once those big steel gates are locked, they effectively silence the moralizing of the pundits, the gassing of the cable shows, the baying of the blogs, the torment of the tabs. Only the chosen few are on the visiting list and all they are appointed to bring is good cheer.

At Alderson, Martha Stewart has mixed with women who never have a visitor from one year to the end, women who have nothing to return to when they come out, women who think Martha Stewart is so lucky and clever they just want to learn everything she has to teach them. Maybe she has learned a thing or two herself. As a friend who recently visited Martha told me, "It's amazing. After everything she has been through there is no stress on her face."
© 2005, Tina Brown

WONKETTE: Back by popular demand: Translating Tina Brown's
Thursday column in the Washington Post. We understand it so that you don't have to. WWW.WONKETTE.COM

Date: March 4, 2005

HighViz article:
Damage Control, You Do Need It

What is Reputation Management? - What Does Damage Control Mean? What Could Happen to My Firm?
Guest Columnist Abbe Buck, Principal Consultant,
HighViz Consulting Group

Most citizens like you and me use the Internet and the broadcast media in our daily lives with the impact of the World Wide Web. Whether we get our morning news on Yahoo! or not, millions of people watch news, entertainment and other programming 24 x 7. Many of these same people among us are participating in online public discussion groups and starting their own web logs. This has made the Internet the people's forum - everyone contributes and every opinion counts. It has lead to more of a political "vox populi" (Latin for voice of the people) than we have seen in decades. This is what the daily newspaper used to do. But now, the news - good or bad, rumor or fact - travels faster on the Internet than any other medium.

Here is a leading example of this trend, which seems here to stay: As you may have noted in politics, the Internet has quelled Dan Rather's career as CBS News anchor (with the Bush National Guard "letter" that was certainly misreported This was not brought to the forefront by national "network" news, or on cable news networks, or on talk radio, but by "bloggers" (web-loggers, who have developed their own private "VOICE OF THE PEOPLE" websites. If you can read email you can receive their opinion in your in-box, and it can topple an entire news organization when many band together as a United Front. One of the best examples is here: for other "Rather-Gate" blogs, click here.
It could happen to you!

Now think of this: a single unhappy customer, misinformed consumer, or disgruntled employee can spark an online and offline reputation disaster for your company. Having a Public Relations firm planning ahead to avert a potential PR disaster for your company before their comments become "breaking news" is a market savvy approach.

Putting An Organizational PR "Battle Plan" In Place:
When damaging news, derogatory rumors, or misinformation "catch fire" on the Internet. We advise that you have a communications person on your management team who is well-versed in a range of verticals. It will be this person's job to find out where the negative mention started, and to be able to counter as a spokesperson any negative statement or written word that has been picked up by media or on the internet. This person must quickly and effectively find every negative mention of your company online and offline, and immediately strike back with a (counter) strategy to safeguard your company or organization.

Damage Control -- What Should Be Done?
When a PR crisis erupts, it is important to execute a timely response to derogatory or misleading information about your company. Working closely with top management and communication staff to disseminate the corporate messages, personnel should quickly present your side of the story and direct audiences to favorable sources of information - dampening the flames and exposing the biases of your detractors.
In addition, to an assembled rapid-response team a PR crisis management website that explains a company's position to the public and presents all favorable evidence, arguments, and media coverage is a must have. The address of this website should be distributed to concerned audiences online through news, search engines, and other channels. Your selected PR firm's job is to make sure that the public also has the opportunity to hear your company's side of the story before negative sentiments can take hold. This can also done with broadcast reporters and talk-show hosts, who "glom" onto any negotiable sentiment because it becomes top news. To respond is a must!

Media Contacts and Online Monitoring
While marketers and communicator specialists are in contact with top media outlets in broadcast and print, your PR firm should also has an Online Monitoring team sweeping the Internet constantly, looking for any and all mention of your company or organization. Concerned management must stay informed about the perception of their brand and the opinions of their customers, employees, and professional analysts both online and in print.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions about your public relations needs at You can also visit us on the Web at for more articles and information.

Date: March 3, 2005
Publicist for Jacko - Wacko for six days
No confidentiality agreement. Hmmmmmmmm.
From The Smoking Gun:

Inside The Jackson Grand Jury: Ann Gabriel
Hired as part of a post-Bashir damage control effort, Gabriel testified that she was made "sick to my stomach" by the maneuverings of some Jackson associates. "I felt personally like this was something out of a very bad 'B' movie," she told jurors. Gabriel also recalled a conversation with Jackson lawyer David LeGrand during which the attorney gleefully told of plans to smear Jane Doe as a "crack whore."

Date: March 2, 2005
Opinion : Is Jeff Gannon The New Matt Drudge?

By Ken Hughes When the media goes after someone with the varsity they've targeted Jeff Gannon it makes us all take a second look. I recall when they went after Matt Drudge. The media couldn't find enough bad words to describe the Drudge incompetence. In the beginning, one had to go to page 44 on a Google search to find the drudge report. Now the Drudge Report is King of the Internet news. Matt Drudge is quoted more frequently than Shakespeare. Will the same fate befall Jeff Gannon, I'm sure he hope it will. Lets examine the real issues. There is an elitist attitude among Whitehouse reporters. A reporter must pay his dues to be assigned to the Whitehouse, say who? It certainly isn't a Whitehouse rule. The people not the press own the Whitehouse. In America, there's no privileged class, there's only the rule of law and the media doesn't make the law.It seems Jeff Gannon was upsetting the one sided liberal bias in Whitehouse press conferences. Jeff Gannon was giving the President an opportunity to explain policy and not to have to defend it. This new Civil Journalism couldn't be tolerated. The media is convinced it's they're mandated to paint the president in a bad light at all times. [good isn't news, only bad is news.]Where does this media arrogance come from? The first amendment guarantees a free press not an arrogant press, not an elite press, and certainly not an unaccountable press. Activist courts have guaranteed those rights to the media. I live in a large county with two [physical] divisions of the Republican Party, North and South. Several months age a friend invited me to attend a meeting of the local chapter of the party. When we arrived the chapter leader was having a conversation with a gentleman I was introduced to as the political reporter for the local newspaper. My friend introduced me as an Internet Columnist. My credentials were immediately dismissed as irrelevant. The local reporter was seated up front I on the other hand was seated in back of the back of the room. What the people running the meeting didn't realize, My columns reaches a hundred times the audience of the local reporter. The meeting was to gain support for President George Bush's reelection. They were concentrating on the local population, Had they been a little more courteous I may have given them a few words in an article giving them broader recognition than what they were getting between the local Used-Car Dealer and a Food Store.My point is not about me, its about the power of the internet. The internet is providing more news, more opinions than the National Media. By the time we reach the 2008 elections there'll be more Jeff Gannon's [ Bloggers] reporting election results than Old Fashioned Media types. The times they are a changing. The internet to will go through changes. The more credible columnists will survive and those of lesser quality will go by the wayside. That's as it should be, no one should have the power to judge except the readers. If you wish to reply e-mail

See no Gannon, hear no Gannon, speak no Gannon
Why has the mainstream media ignored the White House media
access scandal?- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Eric Boehlert - Salon Feb. 25, 2005

On Feb. 17, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams introduced a report on controversial White House correspondent James Guckert by informing viewers that the saga was "the talk of Washington." Nine days later the mysterious tale of an amateur, partisan journalist who slipped into the White House under false pretenses remains the buzz of the Beltway. Yet most mainstream reporters have opted not to cover the story. Two of the television networks, as well as scores of major metropolitan newspapers around the country, have completely ignored it. "It's stunning to me that there are questions about the independent press being undermined and the mainstream press doesn't seem that interested in it," says Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary during President Clinton's second term. "People in the mainstream press have shrugged their shoulders and said, 'It's a whole lot of nothing.'"

"It's difficult to explain," adds John Aravosis, who publishes, which has been instrumental in breaking news on "Gannongate." "What more do we need for this story to be reported on seriously? It's everything Washington loves in a story. But the response is literally, 'Ew, we can't touch this.'" (The story itself refuses to die. On Thursday, while Guckert's former employer Talon News was going dark, Guckert relaunched his Web site, complete with a request for donations to "fight back against the well funded attack machine on the Left.")

Ordinarily, revelations that a former male prostitute, using an alias (Jeff Gannon) and working for a phony news organization, was ushered into the White House -- without undergoing a full-blown security background check -- in order to pose softball questions to administration officials would qualify as news by any recent Beltway standard. Yet as of Thursday, ABC News, which produces "Good Morning America," "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings," "Nightline," "This Week," "20/20" and "Primetime Live," has not reported one word about the three-week-running scandal. Neither has CBS News ("The Early Show," "The CBS Evening News," "60 Minutes," "60 Minutes Wednesday" and "Face the Nation"). NBC and its entire family of morning, evening and weekend news programs have addressed the story only three times. Asked about the lack of coverage, a spokesperson for ABC did not return calls seeking comment, while a CBS spokeswoman said executives were unavailable to discuss the network's coverage. Perhaps nobody is surprised that Republican-friendly Fox News has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid covering the Guckert story and the embarrassing questions it raises for the Bush White House. Since the story began to take shape earlier this month, Fox News has filled more than 500 hours of programming. During that span the name "Jeff Gannon" has been uttered just five times on the air, according to a search of the LexisNexis electronic database of television news transcripts. And at no point have the facts surrounding the story been explained to Fox's viewers. (Dependable Republican ally Matt Drudge, who in the past has gleefully trumpeted media scandals, has also been allergic to Gannongate, posting just one link to date on his Web site.) But it is surprising that a program like MSBNC's "Hardball," which touts itself as the home of authentic Beltway chatter and which has aired 15 episodes since the Guckert story first emerged, has dedicated just one segment from one show to the Guckert controversy. MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," however, has been much more aggressive in covering the story. Only CNN has covered the story with any kind of consistency among the 24-hour news channels. Meanwhile on the newsstands, through Thursday, there had been no meaningful coverage in USA Today or in the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Francisco Chronicle, Indianapolis Star, Denver Post, Oakland Tribune and Philadelphia Inquirer, to name a few that have effectively boycotted the White House press office scandal. Leo Wolinsky, deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, says the Times is running its first Guckert story on Friday, focusing on the guidelines for securing White House press passes. "It's a bit late," he concedes. "We may have been a bit slow to recognize it had become a story of public interest." Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Miami Herald, did not return calls seeking comment on that paper's decision to not report on the story. At some papers there has been a confusing disconnect for readers between the opinion pages and the news pages when it comes to Gannongate. The Miami Herald, for instance, ran a column by Leonard Pitts decrying the candal and the lack of outcry it has sparked. The column generated some letters from readers who agreed, criticizing the mainstream media's relative silence on the story. Yet readers who stuck only to the news pages never saw any reference to the Guckert story; it simply did not exist. The same is true of the Detroit Free Press and the San Francisco Chronicle: Both papers published stinging editorials denouncing the White House for letting a fake reporter into briefings, yet neither paper's news sections bothered to cover the controversy. As for the editorial pages, it's curious that the nation's five largest papers, all pillars of the media establishment (the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today), have been silent on the Guckert saga -- especially when dailies in more out-of-the-way places such as Tulsa, Okla.; Bangor, Maine; Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Augusta County, Va.; and Pensacola, Fla., have all deemed the story troubling enough to require attention, as noted by Media Matters for America, a liberal advocacy group that first raised questions about Guckert and Talon News. Addressing the media's timidity, Aravosis suggests there's still a reticence on the part of the press, post-Sept. 11, to be tough on President Bush and the Republican White House. "It's getting ridiculous," he says. "It's been three and a half years, and we're still treating him with kid gloves." Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page recently wrote, "If America's mainstream media really were as liberal as conservatives claim we are, we would be ballyhooing the fiasco of James D. Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, with Page 1 banner headlines and hourly bulletins." Instead, the mainstream media is averting its eyes. It's possible that when the Guckert story took an unexpected turn into the world of gay male escorts some news organizations became skittish about pursuing it, despite the fact that the specifics were laid out, complete with on-the-record confirmation, on Web sites like Howard Kurtz, who has covered the story for the Washington Post, told the Boston Phoenix this week, "I was surprised at how many major news organizations lagged in telling their readers and viewers what everybody on the Internet already knows: that this guy has a history of posting naked pictures of himself on gay-escort sites." The truth is that many major news organizations have yet to even mention Guckert's name to their viewers and readers, let alone detail his past as a male escort.

What's also curious is that last December another media controversy erupted over the role a journalist played in posing a controversial question to top White House officials. It involved a reporter for the Chattanooga Free Times Press, Edward Lee Pitts, who helped a National Guardsman craft a tough question posed to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld regarding the lack of body armor for U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq. Rumsfeld's at-times-cavalier response created a small firestorm. ("You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.") The revelation that Pitts was involved in formulating the question, and the debate over whether he overstepped a journalistic boundary, soon became a story onto itself in the mainstream press. Unlike Guckert, who was criticized for bending the rules to toss softball questions to administration officials, Pitts was accused of bending the rules to ask a question that was too hard. Although the Pitts story lasted for only one 24-hour news cycle, it was covered by virtually every major news outlet, including ABC, CBS, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Francisco Chronicle -- the very same news organizations that, three weeks into the Guckert saga, have failed to acknowledge the story even exists.

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