Joseph A. Palermo: Media Coverage of Haitian Earthquake Can’t Go There

The most devastating natural disaster to hit the Western Hemisphere in decades inundates the American news media. The humanitarian effort from across the globe in response to the disastrous earthquake in Haiti has been astounding. Mainstream television has produced an array of shocking and heroic visuals sandwiched between car commercials and ads for Viagra and processed food. The media attention paid to Haiti is a welcome development. Publicizing the catastrophe has generated tens of millions of dollars in relief donations. That's a good thing. But why were Haiti's long-suffering people deemed so un-newsworthy before the quake? Passed over in the process have been some uncomfortable truths behind the outpouring of compassion toward the plight of the Haitian people.

For over two centuries the U.S. has been on the wrong side of history in Haiti. It has propped up military dictatorships that enriched a tiny oligarchy at the expense of Haiti's population. Decades of abuse have created a country with a level of food insecurity on par with Sub-Saharan Africa, a per capita income of about $390 a year, and a sizable underclass forced literally to eat mud to sustain itself.

A curious little article appeared in the Sunday New York Times co-written by Marc Lacey and Simon Romero, titled "Quake Ignores Class Divisions, Leaving Both Rich and Poor Shaken." In it, Lacey and Romero offer the puzzling "analysis" that the earthquake in Haiti was a great social equalizer since many members of Haiti's ruling elite also lost their homes. The article is a good example of the hidden class assumptions that blinds many journalists who write for the nation's mainstream news outlets. Contrary to Lacey and Romero's argument, the Haitian earthquake certainly did affect the lives of far more poor people than wealthy people. How could that not be the case when over 80 percent of the population lives below a very low positioned poverty line? Thousands of cinder block shacks on the barren mountainsides and in the teeming shantytowns around Port-au-Prince didn't stand a chance against a 7.0 quake. And wealthy people have resources they can tap to get them through the crisis or maybe even get out of the country. These are options the vast majority of Haitians simply do not have. Finally, you can be sure that members of the oligarchy in Haiti will reap the greatest benefits from any reconstruction effort that is organized in the weeks and months ahead. Lacey and Romero's piece glosses over the class oppression in Haiti and with it conveniently disposes of the pivotal role U.S. foreign policy played in perpetuating that class oppression.

Haiti could be seen as the nation where "Wilsonian democracy" met its most glaring hypocrisy. It was President Woodrow Wilson who sent the Marines there in 1915 and after a 19-year occupation (1915-1934) the U.S. left behind an indigenous "security" apparatus aimed not at fighting foreign invaders but at repressing its own population. After World War Two the U.S. supported the Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1971) as well as the miserable rule of his son Jean Claude "Baby Doc" (1971-1986), who was 19 years old when he took power. The School of the Americas trained many Haitian officers and American arms found their way into the hands of the notorious Tonton Macoutes death squads as well as the right-wing paramilitary "Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress" (FRAPH), a recognizable pattern to anyone familiar with the history of El Salvador or other states south of the border.

More recently there was a terrible injustice inflicted on Haiti that the same American news media that are currently showing such compassion toward Haiti helped sell: the February 29, 2004 overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Frustrated at its failure in 2002 to oust the democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela the George W. Bush Administration turned its attention to Aristide. The right-wing fanatic, Roger Noriega, who was Bush's Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, had it in for Aristide from the moment he assumed his post. I'll never forget seeing the first African-American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, lying to the American people about the U.S.-engineered coup against Aristide. "He was not kidnapped," Powell told the press. "We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly, and that's the truth." Like his February 2003 presentation to the United Nations about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction," Powell's posture on the Haitian coup one year later was nothing but lies.

As George W. Bush teams up with Bill Clinton to raise relief aid for Haiti no one in the mainstream news media seems to remember that it was Bush who gave Aristide a one-way ticket to the Central African Republic. Everything Bush did while he was president hurt Haiti, but now he is seen as a great benefactor of that nation in its time of need. I even saw John King of CNN, David Gregory of NBC, and Major Garrett of FOX ask Bush what he thought should be done on the ground in Haiti to better orchestrate the relief effort. I think Bush's true feelings toward the plight of thousands of poor black people desperately needing help in the face of a natural disaster were amply demonstrated by his response to Hurricane Katrina. Yet there he is rehabilitated and legitimized in the eyes of the world. David Gregory said to Bush: "You're Back!"

The heartfelt charity from all corners we see going to Haiti is good to see as is the role of the U.S. military in providing relief efficiently and quickly. It really shows what a force for good in the world the Pentagon could be -- no other organization comes close to the logistical capabilities of the American military. But we should at least be cognizant of the historical context for the newfound compassion toward Haiti. When the television cameras stop whirring and the famous correspondents leave Haiti and move on to the next Tiger Woods scandal, we should take a hard look at the power relations between the United States and Haiti that not only tolerated but helped create the Western Hemisphere's best known economic, medical, political, judicial, educational, and ecological disaster long before the natural disaster hit.


Coakley Vs. Brown Manifests Online In Daily Kos Vs. RedState Rumbles

No one ever said it would be easy. As the Senate race in Massachusetts approaches the zero hour, last minute scrambling has turned ugly — and online. First there was MSNBC’s Ed Schultz possibly encouraging voter fraud, then there was the liberal blogs and their Scott Brown birther video, and it all culminated with the president getting yelled at during a speech for Martha Coakley. Now, two pillars of the political web — Daily Kos and Red State — have declared war.

Early in the weekend, Red State’s Erick Erickson posted the addresses of some Coakley phone banks, encouraging Brown supporters to “go by and laugh.” Daily Kos did not take so kindly to what they perceived as intimidation and sabotage.

One Kos user, pinback, wrote that Red State users were “taking the hint, and in the comments were making various suggestions to show up and disrupt the phone banks.” Some examples were provided:

Jot down there callback number… put it on autodial…
Reminisce about “the good old days”…
Ask about their grandkids and family and ask if they’re voting for coakley… are any of them in the military? Why not? What’s wrong with that…
when they eventually hang up start calling them back on autodial to talk…
Anyone have access to any robocall setups?
just a thought… Off to conventionland again in AM… Good luck up North next Tuesday-don’t forget to be ready to call shenanigans etc…
Post callers numbers so we all can call them back. We can tie them up more!

All in all, some pretty standard online trolling, and with no proof that anyone really took action against Coakley and her supporters. Still, the 260 comments beneath the Daily Kos post about defending Coakley from the phone bank disruptions represent a telling response from a community that felt threatened. Now, in eight follow-up posts on Daily Kos, RedState and Erickson have been challenged, with some even charging that their actions were illegal.

Erickson countered:

The not so very bright readers of Kos want to send Martha Coakley and me to jail.

Why us?

Well, I published the list of union organized phone banks for Coakley on Friday night.

Some genius who probably thinks Joe Stalin was just misunderstood now is convinced I must go to jail. WITH A POLL!!!!

I assume s/he (that covers everything including transgendered I hope) also wants to send Martha Coakley to jail. She did the same thing I did, but offered up even more details, including the phone numbers of the locations and email address of the contact person.

Idiots.

By the way, points off to the Koskidz for misspelling my name.

The entire skirmish does indeed seem petty, in a very obvious way, and yet, the groups’ dedication to a crucial special election is somehow endearing — activism through online media — name-calling and all. And whether it has any effect on getting out the vote in Massachusetts tomorrow, we may never know. But you can be sure that it’s only going to get uglier in the next 36 hours. And whoever comes out on top will make it clear that they had a hand in it. God bless the internet.


Australian TV Crew Pulls Young Girl From Rubble In Haiti (VIDEO)

An Australian TV cameraman who rescued an 18-month-old girl from the rubble in Haiti apologized to his news director back home for not filming the dramatic moment -- and instead letting a rival network's correspondent appear in the footage that was shown around the world, according to Australia's Herald Sun.

Richard Moran, who works for Australia's Channel Nine, put down his camera and lifted pieces of concrete out of the way so that his interpreter, Deiby Celestino, could climb down and pull the young girl, Winnie Tilin, from the rubble on Friday.

After the girl was freed she was handed to Mike Amor, a reporter for the network Channel Seven, who was then filmed by his crew pouring water over the girl and giving her something to drink.

As The Adelaide Now explains:

Images from the dramatic rescue were broadcast on both networks on Saturday night - with both channels saying they helped bring the little girl out.


However, the footage showed only Channel Seven's Amor, standing above the hole in the ground.

Footage of the rescue on Channel Seven's site bills it as "Mike Amor's amazing rescue." However, Amor did acknowledge to the Australian that it was the Channel Nine crew that were the heroes.

"That moment, it was beyond news," Amor said.

And Channel Nine's director said in a statement to the AFP that he was happy with the way his team responded:

"I'm proud of the Nine News team, who put the welfare of the little girl before their own safety, and placed their personal convictions before professional pressures.Yes, they put down their camera to help. But they also filed their story. And most importantly, they helped save a life."

WATCH the rescue footage:


A report on the rescue from MSNBC:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy




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Inside the White House Press Corps: An Interview With Helen Thomas

In an attempt to give our readers a view of the inner workings of their most direct link to the President, Mediaite has begun conducting a series of interviews with members of the White House Press Corps.

We think it’s fitting that our first entry is Helen Thomas, the legendary Hearst Newspapers White House correspondent, occupant of the front row center seat, and the toughest questioner you’ll find in that briefing room.

Helen has been making news lately by grilling counterterrorism czar John Brennan, which prompted a rebuke from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. This is the balance of the interview to which O’Reilly responded.



Mo’Nique’s Golden Gift: “It’s Now Time To Tell. And It’s Okay.”

One of the most memorable — and important — moments of lasts night’s Golden Globe Awards was the first award of the night, given to Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. In Mo’Nique’s heartfelt and moving speech she thanked her husband and Precious director Lee Daniels — but she ended it by addressing a very specific audience: abuse victims. In Precious, Mo’Nique plays an abusive mother to Gabourey Sidibe’s downtrodden, browbeaten, abused title character. “I celebrate this award with every person that’s ever been touched,” said Mo’Nique as she raised her Golden Globe. “It’s now time to tell. And it’s okay.”

As Trish Kinney noted on the Huffington Post: “Survivors of sexual abuse will tell you that the abuse itself is hideous and destructive leaving deep emotional scars that take years to process. The film delves into a secondary but equally difficult piece of the dynamic which is the betrayal of the victim by family members other than the abuser.” Kinney wrote this piece before the Globes, and called it “Mo’Nique Gives a Precious Gift to Abuse Survivors” — at last night’s Golden Globes, Mo’Nique went one step further with that gift, by confronting the shame that goes hand in hand with sexual abuse, and sending a message to abuse survivors who may have been watching that it wasn’t their fault, and they weren’t alone. Pretty powerful stuff. Video below.



Related:
Mo’Nique Gives a Precious Gift to Abuse Survivors [HuffPo]


‘Don’t Blame Leno,’ Says His Staff; But Should You Blame You?

Most of the defense we’ve seen in the press in NBC’s late night chaos during the past two weeks is from Team Conan, and as the Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno fate is sealed (likely today), we’re hearing from Team Leno today.

So Team Leno wants to convey it’s not Jay’s fault – but is it our fault?

The Associated Press’ Lynn Elber reports what some Leno staffers are speaking out to say today: “their boss isn’t the bad guy in NBC’s late-night upheaval.”

“The network asked him to make a compromise,” said Jack Coen, a producer who has worked with Leno for 14 years. “He’s being a good soldier, and he’s being trashed.”

Maybe he’s just “being a good soldier,” but as clips, like his on-air handover to Conan in 2004, keep circulating around the web and in the media, Leno’s reputation continues to take a hit. And even as several staffers come to his defense, Elber closes by acknowledging what may be the next storyline when The Tonight Show with Jay Leno returns in March. “If Leno emerges with ‘Tonight’ but with his image scarred, it could have ramifications for him and his show,” she writes.

The New York TimesDavid Carr writes about the Tonight Show mess in relation to new media. And suggests maybe Conan’s (and Jay’s) lower ratings are, in part, our fault:

But as things stand now, by the end of the day, we all have been bombarded by news and commentary from all manner of media, making “The Tonight Show” and its ilk increasingly seem beside the point, no matter who is delivering the monologue…
Bedtime used to mean some quality time with your late-night host of choice, but the bedroom has gotten pretty crowded. The nightstand is groaning with options, including Netflix, laptops and a remote that can pull up favored prime-time programs on the DVR. Let me see, that episode of “House” I missed or Conan O’Brien?

In this sense, it doesn’t really matter who ends up hosting The Tonight Show. And while O’Brien feels he wants to protect the franchise, the franchise may be forever changed already due to the new way viewers consume news and media.

Earlier: “Jay Leno Would Like You To Know This Is Not His Fault

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Andy Plesser: New York Times: Does Politico, Other New Content Syndicators, Have an Agenda/Bias?


As newsrooms shrink, newspapers are looking to a new crop of outside reporting organizations  for specialized content. These new outlets might have their own agenda and bias, reports Richard Perez-Pena in The New York Times. 


He raises issues about possible conflicts with The Fiscal Times, a new provider of financial reporting which appears on the pages of The Washington Post . 

He writes that some experts have raised questions about ProPublica and Politico.

Politico has created a very successful syndication business which provides content, including text and video,  to many newspapers. 

The company became profitable last year, according to co-founder and editor and John Harris in this interview with Beet.TV from last year.  Harris explains his syndication strategy in this video.

Here at Beet.TV, we expect that the demand for niche, quality content by newspapers and other news organizations will increase --  and editors will need to carefully vet these new content sources. 

As Perez-Pena said, the new demand for vertical, specialized content will rise.  This might bubble up on newspaper pages or it will be delivered directly by content creators playing on the level playing field of the Web.