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January 12, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

January 12, 2006

Trying To Cow The Next Governor

A Hearst Watch Article

The Hearst-owned Times Union has begun campaigning for the as yet nonexistent Republican Party candidate for governor by attacking Attorney General Elliot Spitzer’s “temperament.” Hearst content provider Elizabeth Benjamin kicked off the propaganda piece on Jan 10 on page 1, by saying that Mr. Spitzer “was forced yet again to address the issue of his temperament, a subject that has dogged him for weeks.” The article was recycled in some editions of the newspaper, bad picture of Mr. Spitzer and all, prominently in the middle of page A3 on Jan 11.

This is an old corporate media trick, one which the Hearst Times Union managers happily use often. The idea is to get Democratic politicians to become afraid to speak up or challenge foolish and ridiculous nonsense floated by Republicans and their corporate media allies. If the Democrat does challenge their idiocies, then the Republicans and their media collectively wag their bejeweled fingers and simper, “Temper, temper.” The Democrat then is supposed to lower his or her head and whimper an apology.

The tricks pulled by the Hearst Times Union are, sad to say, important. Although based far away in outer Colonie, and run mostly by managers who live a 45 minute drive away in Clifton Park and even further out, the Times Union claims to be an Albany newspaper. And since Albany is the state capital, the corporate paper’s distortions and manipulations have an effect on the conduct of state government.

And, sad to say, more than one state Democratic politician has allowed him or herself to be compromised by their crapola.

It should go without saying that Republican politicos have never been subject to this technique. For example, current lame duck governor George Pataki, like many Republican politicians, is known to fly off the handle uncontrollably if he is challenged, or simply doesn’t get his way. Here is an example of Pataki’s behavior from an article I wrote back in 1996 for the Save the Pine Bush Newsletter.

The following quote from the article is my take on an encounter with Pataki described by notable man about town and sometimes journalist Jeff Jones, who was working for the environmental lobbying group Environmental Advocates at the time:

‘Earlier this year, Environmental Advocates (EA), along with several other groups, issued a well documented "report card" on Governor Pataki's environmental record. As in most areas of his failed administration, his environmental conduct was poor, rating bad in 59 of 78 areas surveyed, and good in only nine. Although the report was relegated to the back pages of the press, it was politically devastating .

‘In response, Pataki, during one of his rare visits to Albany, called the executive director of EA into his office and threw a tantrum in her presence, yelling at her and making vague threats. He ended this extraordinary scene by insisting that as retaliation he would never speak to any of them ever again.

‘Six weeks later, in response to this report, to intense public criticism, and pressure from Republican Party bosses that he "appear more green," Pataki presented the state with a hastily drafted Bond Act, and has been forced to consult with EA and other environmental groups. Mr. Jones feels that, in the end, issuing the report was very much worth all of the ruckus it caused. "I learned," he said, "that you should always tell the truth."’

Do you think that such an embarrassing scene by an enraged Republican would ever make it into the Times Union? The Hearst corporation would never have allowed such a thing back in 1996, and it is doubtful that they would allow it today. Even with declining advertising revenues because of declining sales, there is still an extreme partisan ideology among the managers and content providers at the Times Union offices.

After all, the Times Union is, first and foremost, a local corporate outlet. From time to time the corporate suits swoop down on the local outlet and demand explanations for slowly but steadily declining sales. These descents by the suits are inevitably followed by “suggested” changes to the newspaper and to the local organization.

It seems that during the last round of “suggestions” the suits imposed a policy of more local inclusiveness. This new policy, a slight loosening of control of content, is clearly a desperate attempt to compete with internet journalism.

Yet Hearst and the Times Union are trapped in the Corporate Media Conundrum. They believe that they must control the information content of their newspaper, because information is a salable commodity. For this reason, the content providers at the corporate newspaper must be controlled by a dictatorial manager, called an “editor.”

But there is a tradeoff. When you have a dictator, the first thing you lose is flexibility. If all written articles must be presented to the editor before printing, precious time is lost. The other thing lost is quality. If articles must follow the political dictates of the editor or of his corporate bosses, then truth and ultimately credibility become irreparably compromised.

As for Mr. Spitzer, will he fall for this trick? Will he behave like John Kerry during his presidential campaign and cower in the corner, afraid to speak up and challenge the corporate media while campaigning?

Surely Mr. Spitzer is savvy to these routines, and is made of stronger stuff. I don’t agree 100% with Mr. Spitzer’s positions, for example, his preference for centralizing power in the executive, and his inexplicable support for the scam operations known as “charter” schools. Yet Mr. Spitzer has consistently demonstrated a strong spine and an even temperament... qualities that George Pataki has not displayed.

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