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Newsweek uses gross misinformation to paint grim, untrue picture of New Orleans and U.S. poverty.

For two weeks since hurricane Katrina made landfall, America’s media have been presenting startling images of an impoverished New Orleans. Unfortunately, many journalists have been as inaccurate with their economic assessments of this region as they were in estimating how much time it would take to drain all the water from the city.

While cover stories at TIME and U.S. News and World Report this week focused on the flawed response to Katrina and who was to blame, Newsweek’s senior editor, Jonathan Alter, presented an array of inaccurate statistics to exaggerate socio-economic problems nationally as well as in the hurricane-affected areas of New Orleans.

In his cover story, “The Other America,” Alter painted a picture of life in this country, and on the Bayou, that is substantially worse than reality: “But this disaster may offer a chance to start a skirmish, or at least make Washington think harder about why part of the richest country on earth looks like the Third World.”

Pre-Hurricane Katrina, in early August, I noted how CBS's The Early Show ignored the FBI raid on the home of Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson. Over a month and a week later, Jefferson is at the center of another controversy, this time involving the National Guard. The Early Show so far has ignored this story as well.

Wilking's picture
Did Reuters photographer Rick Wilking falsely imply that President Bush asked permission to go to the restroom during his trip to the United Nations?

Yesterday, as I noted here at NewsBusters, Wilking took a picture ("destined to become one of the most joked about photos of the month" in the words of Editor & Publisher) of a note allegedly being written by President Bush. Here is the caption which Reuters assigned to the photo according to Yahoo News:

U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war.

With the caption worded as it is, the casual observer (including me last night) is very likely to conclude that Bush was asking Rice for leave to go to the men's room.

Romenesko has highlighted for journalists across the country today a Washington City Paper article pounding for more attention to be paid to an article on Socialist Worker online. Contributors Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw were in New Orleans during the hurricane and its aftermath, and claim that police in Gretna, Louisiana, would not let them cross the bridge, and even fired weapons at the evacuees.

During PBS's coverage Wednesday of the Senate hearing with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, analysts ridiculed the concern of some conservative Senators over the Supreme Court's recent eminent domain ruling and mocked the role of naive talk radio hosts. During a break at about 4:45pm EDT, Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant was befuddled by "the vigorous nature of this opposition to a rather mundane eminent domain case from New London, Connecticut, this Kelo thing. I mean, as you know, this issue has been around for decades, especially connected with urban renewal." New York Times columnist David Brooks pointed out that "talk radio exploded on this issue, and it was a big popular issue." That prompted NewsHour reporter Ray Suarez, host of the roundtable, to take a slap at talk radio: "Well, when eminent domain was remaking the face of cities across America, there really was no talk radio, and that may be a big change in the United States." Also, in his Tuesday column, Oliphant proposed that while Roberts may know the law, "there is almost no evidence of his understanding of justice."

Video excerpt: Real or Windows

Full CyberAlert item follows. For today’s MRC CyberAlert.

The New York Times buries its latest poll story on Bush on Page 18, perhaps recognizing the lack of news in the findings. Yet reporters Todd Purdum and Marjorie Connelly try their best in, "Support for Bush Continues to Drop as More Question His Leadership Skills, Poll Shows."

Is the Today show stuck in a time warp? Could Today be trying to stem its dipping ratings by doing a reality-show version of 'Groundhog Day,' the hit movie in which every day was the same for Bill Murray?

Well, we didn't hear Cher singing "I Got You Babe" in the background, as she did when the alarm would go off for Murray, but other than that, there was an eery resemblance.

Readers might want to check my blog. They'll find that the very last entry was entitled "Today Show Revels in Prez' Polls."

Well guess what? Different day, same . . . stuff.

Following President Bush's Tuesday news conference in which he took responsibility for federal mistakes following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, some news organizations left out the word federal in their reportage, creating the possible impression that Bush had shouldered blame for state and local failures.

National Review’s Stephen Spruiell noticed this later in the day when he spotted a story which left out the federal. He blogged on it Tuesday and again yesterday after CBS News acknowledged the problem, albeit only on its blog and not in the story itself.

"We could have been more clear higher up in the piece, adding the word federal before government," director of news and operations Michael Sims is quoted as saying.

He's right, of course, but this episode raises a question about the CBS editorial process since the web story has yet to be fixed (as of this writing), despite the fact that the AP story on which the CBS page was based was changed later in the day. Click here for the first version of the AP report, and here for the revised edition which corrects the record.

As Mark Finklestein noted in his earlier post Today can't seem to stay away from the same old themes.

Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show first with Ophelia news but quickly got to Bush's falling poll numbers: "Good morning the storm that won't leave. Hurricane Ophelia is battering the North Carolina coast for a second straight day. Damage control. President Bush heads back to the Gulf Coast for a primetime address. Can he turn around those plunging poll numbers?"

This year's national Emmy awards (set to air Sunday night) are scheduled to include a salute to the three anchormen of yesteryear, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw. Quoting the Hollywood Reporter:

The end of an era in television news will be commemorated during Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards telecast with a lengthy segment that will pay tribute to the careers of long-serving news anchors Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and the late Peter Jennings.

Ken Ehrlich, producer of the Primetime Emmy telecast, to be telecast live on CBS, said plans for the salute to the trio of newsmen were in the works long before 40-year ABC News veteran Jennings died in August of lung cancer at age 67. [...]

"These are the guys through whose eyes we've watched the world change," Ehrlich said, noting that the intense news coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina during the past two weeks has only underscored how much the TV news landscape has changed amid the changing of the guard among the Big Three news anchors.

In the week leading up to former FEMA director Mike Brown’s exodus, the media spent a lot of time castigating the president for hiring someone with such poor qualifications. Yet, a video report (to follow) from CNN of all places states that the Democrats had a large hand in this appointment.

Of course, that hasn’t been the media’s position up to this point. Here is an article from this week’s edition of The New Republic:

“By now, the basic contours of Mike Brown's ascendancy to director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema) have come to light. Journalists have uncovered that Brown had almost no relevant experience for the position and got hired by fema because he was a longtime friend of George W. Bush's close associate Joe Allbaugh. The story being reported, in other words, is that Brown was a lawyer who ended up with a crucial post in the Bush administration because of rank cronyism.”

“Yet, far from being a caricature, this description, if anything, understates the absurdity of the situation. The real story of Brown's meteoric rise from obscurity is far more disturbing, as well as a good deal more farcical. It's clear that hiring Brown to run fema was an act of gross recklessness, given his utter lack of qualifications for the job. What's less clear is the answer to the question of exactly what, given Brown's real biography, he is qualified to do.”

The media continue to use the 60th anniversary of the United Nations as a platform to criticize U.S. foreign aid as “second lowest of any wealthy country.” This is part of an ongoing, celebrity-filled push to get the United States to give billions of dollars in aid – totally ignoring the massive contributions already made by American charities.

Is the Reagan Revolution finally coming to an end? “Progressives” like Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift certainly would like to think so. In fact, in a recent op-ed, Eleanor contends that the wake of Katrina is the death knell for such heinous things as tax cuts and smaller government:

“If there’s an upside to Katrina, it’s that the Republican agenda of tax cuts, Social Security privatization and slashing government programs is over. It may be too much to predict an upsurge of progressive government, but the environment and issues of poverty, race and class are back on the nation’s radar screen.”

Of course, never one to suppress an opinion no matter how caustic, Eleanor couldn’t resist giving President Bush a few kicks while he’s down:

As reported here yesterday, the Associated Press thoroughly misrepresented and understated better than expected inflation data that was released by the Labor Department. Today, Reuters botched a report released by the Commerce Department concerning retail sales:

“U.S. retail sales dropped by a larger-than-expected 2.1 percent in August, the sharpest drop in almost four years, after car purchases collapsed from July's near-record level, government data showed on Wednesday.”

Unfortunately, Reuters chose not to inform its readers that the drop in car sales was expected for a number of reasons. First, July was a blowout month for automakers due to huge incentives. Second, August is historically a bad month for the car industry as it prepares to rollout the new model year in September.

Here’s how Bloomberg reported the same data: