Red herring run

Red herring run

: RatherBiased and now a Pittsburgh columnist and now Instapundit are all nattering that CBS is in some payola scandal or conflict of interest — take your pick — because (a) CBS interviewed Bill Clinton and (b) CBS’ web site has an Amazon affiliate.

Oh, come on.

That’s the most crimson of herrings. These people all know in their sane moments that no one at CBS is choosing to interview the former President of the United States and now author of what may be a record-setting biography beause they might make, oh, 20 bucks from Amazon. Yes, and when they put on TV’s 10th home improvement show, it’s obviously because Amazon sells tools, right?

These critics better be careful, for if they set this as the standard for conflict of interest, then all bloggers who open up for ads are going to find themselves tied in knots: Take an ad for Walmart and Walmart sells books and so you’re tainted, eh? And what about the columnist who complains: Shouldn’t he start off every column with a disclosure of all the paper’s sponsors who pay his salary? Oh, yes, then there’d be no room for a column. But in this case, that may be a good thing.

Come on, folks.

: By this same logic, the LA Times is engaging in payola every time it reviews a movie since, on its web site, it has a deal with Fandango to sell movie tickets.

: UPDATE: Now this is just too beautiful. I go to the aforementioned columnist’s page and what do I see? Why, yes, an ad for the aforementioned Clinton book. So this columnist is sucking at the Clinton teat. Spit out that milk of commerce, boy! See for yourself:


: UPDATE: Let’s imagine this scene: Sumner Redstone calls in Don Hewitt and Dan Rather and giggles as he says, “Let’s get Bill Clinton onto 60 Minutes and when his book comes out our secret Amazon deal — well, actually, it’s not a secret; anybody can see it — will make us hundreds, I tell you, hundreds! That will cure our pathetic stock price, boys! Hee-hee-hee!”

Folks, this is about the most ridiculous meme I’ve yet seen. It makes Michael Moore’s almost-seven-minutes-in-the-classroom meme look like Pulitzer-calibre reporting.

If you want to complain about Dan Rather’s questions, fine. I’m no Rather fan; in a major national magazine, I called him the dumbest anchor alive. You want to complain about Bill Clinton’s answers, cool. I like Clinton; you don’t; that’s politics.

But this is below naive. In New Jersey, we have a word for it: It’s dumb. And, frankly, it doesn’t speak well for weblogs. Imagine you’re a first-time reader, having heard about the balanced, intelligent, nuanced, sophisticated, savvy discussion that occurs on weblogs. You come into the middle of a discussion about how 60 Minutes had on the former President of the United States and author of a record-selling book because they’d make a few Amazon affiliate bucks. It would make you run back to the comfort of old media. But you’re better than that, aren’t you?

: Q&O castrates this meme with a swift and sharp knife. [via Instapundit]

Max Black says:

Of course, Jarvis is right but I’m still fuming about the CBS 60 minute Clinton infomercial. In any case, CBS should have noted the apparent conflict of interest.

Oliver Willis does a little digging — didn’t take much; anybody could have done it; good on Oliver for doing it — to point out who owns the aforementioned Pittsburgh paper. Why, its none other than the behind-the-scenes bad guy of The Hunting of the President, the Clinton hater of Clinton haters, Richard Mellon Scaife. Says CNN:

Scaife’s tax-exempt foundations disclose their grants on the Web. Among them: $2.4 million over several years to American Spectator to pay for anti-Clinton reporting, even a private eye to dig up dirt. And millions more went to other anti-Clinton groups.

Hmmm. Shouldn’t the columnist have disclosed that: “My money to write this very column comes from the guy who spends his money to smear Clinton.” Not doing so is what I’d call, well, a conflict of interest to beat all conflict of interests. But I expect no more of the likes of these.

Says Oliver: “Nothing to see here, move along.” Yes, sir, officer!

  • I have given up sending laughing notes to Glee with his knee jerk full support of Bush and Company…some see a glass with water and say it is half full; others say it is half empty…he says there are 6 glasses and they are all filled and overflowing, thanks to the GOP.

  • O’McSomething

    Shouldn’t warblogger Instapundit Glenn Reynolds be focusing his brilliant mind on how the hell the Bush administration is going to pull off handing sovereignty over to Iraq in a few days? Big question–Will Glenn and the Fighting 101st Keyboard Brigade be covering the Iraqi civil war as carefully as they covered the Bush war?

  • Shame on you, O’McSomething…. you used the “should” word. Very bad form to use in the blogosphere etc. Tsk-tsk ;-)
    It’s about CBS. It’s every A-Lister’s solemn duty to take a pop at Big Media whenever possible. Didn’t they teach you anything at blogschool? Sheesh…. ;-)

  • O’

    Ah hell, Hugh, I haven’t even matriculated to a blog of one’s own yet (well I actually set one up, but it became a statistic). What is this CBS you speak of? I see no mention of them on Technorati. Are they a new Nick Denton outfit? I a’larned bloggin’ the old-fashioned way. I earned it. I been a’throwing flames in the trenches of winger comment boxes since early in aught-two (back when the Iraqi war was just a bad, ugly idea).

  • Joe Baby

    Is CBS trying to corner the market on crusty old guys?

  • The point is this: that wasn’t an ‘interview’ any more than sitting down with Cher to discuss her latest make-up line would be an ‘interview’…it was an infomercial and it should have been labeled as such…
    In order to protect consumers against pseudo-scientific infomercials which might be misunderstood by the extraordinarily gullible, all commercial TV stations must place the disclaimer that ‘The following is a paid program blah blah blah’…
    Bill Clinton repeating the same lies and trying to even political scores while turning a profit in order to hawk a book from which CBS is deriving profits is not news. Had there been anything approaching actual candor in the book, it might have been. But I have yet to see a single reviewer claim there was “fresh information” in the book. So by what standard is it anything other than an infomercial?
    Because he’s a former President? Funny, I don’t remember any prime time interviews when other former Presidents published their stories. So if it wasn’t news then, it’s not news now either…sorry, try again…
    Snide comments about CBS making $20 off sales of the book is just flat out disingenous as well. Amazon pays 15% commission for directly linked items and is one of 1,000 most highly trafficked websites on the Internet. According to its statistics, 1% of their visitors visit their store…That adds up quickly to large amounts of money, and trying to dismiss the profit potential by claiming there’s no money in it for CBS is to be ‘Clintonesque’ about the subject…
    This wasn’t news – it was a mixture of partisan and commercial self-interest. If CBS had a business interest in generating those sales, then the program should have been labeled as an infomercial – as is required by everybody else.
    I find it the height of humor that the same people who want to complain about how huge corporations are the ruin of media (no one here would do that would they…or should we ask Clear Channel about where they think you might stand on that particular topic?) would now – because it happens to suit their partisan interest – suddenly claim that it’s ridiculous to make the reasonable connection that CBS would do something from which it stood to make a profit…Can you smell the hypocrisy from where you’re sitting?
    The rules apply to everybody…end of story…

  • O’McSomething

    Clinton has tits now? I knew he had a great big powerful penis (Everyone’s talking about it! See also Clenis). And he obviously has balls. But tits now? You go, Bill!! You da man!!
    Hey Jim B…..neener, neener!

  • zorel

    Jeff Jarvis,
    So you don’t see any difference between an Ad on a weblog and an infomercial run on a broadcast network under the label of “investigative journalism” (I believe that is what 60 min calls itself)? That too without disclosing their ties to the publisher and retailer?
    No one is against Ads (and making money). When you don’t disclose your conflict of interest ESPECIALLY when you are a NEWS program, that is not right. Even opinion journos do the disclosure thing, for heaven’s sake!
    As for the rest of the idots like O’Mc, hugh, grow up! Read your stupid posts again and see if you add anything worth to the topic of discussion.

  • zorel

    I had neglected to include freddy poo to the list of idiots in the above post. My bad.

  • There is a huge difference between ads by google and being an Amazon affiliate.

  • Andy

    It’s no different than CBS running Survivor News Updates in the midst of their regular nightime news.
    It’ all entertainment. It’s all Viacom. One side of the house helps the other side. It’s all about making money and keeping it in the family of companies.
    CBS News and 60 Minutes long ago surrendered their credibility as a news organization. They do as much cheap production as they can get away with (Maximize those corporate margins-!). “If It Bleeds, It Leads” has given way to “If It Shocks, It Sells”. Quantity has overwhelmed quality. Volume speaks volumes. Keep the cycle spinning and soon everyone will surrender their integrity.
    Clinton’s book is a upermarket, sold-by-the-pound verbal sludge. CBS is more promotion verbiage masquerading as News, Commentary and Entertainment. It’s all the same. Its been run thru a blender and there is no difference between reality, fiction, appearance, truth, lies. They are all the same. Just stay tuned in and keep buying the same stuff in pretty new packages.

  • Trump

    Really Jeff, if you don’t think it’s a breach of journalism ethics, you’re a bigger fool than I thought.

  • swear to Allah, I’m calling CondeNasty hijinks!
    Jeff, you are, no matter how you slice it, Big Media. I’ve never understood how PuppyBlender call you a “pure blogger.”

  • ajf

    It’s ok Jeff, no one expects you to understand the concept of ethics any more than oh, I don’t know… Free Speech.

  • Pj

    Why can’t I see the gif, clintonad…is it just my computer?

  • O’

    Lighten up zorel (are you Superman’s father or am I mixing you up with someone else?). I was here before you. Jeff is an entertainment writer. Some of us just come here to be entertained…..I say neener, neener to you too! Lighten up! I realize Bush is getting heckled and hassled by protesters by the thousands wherever he goes, Clinton has a record-breaking book that is selling like hotcakes and folks are lining up for blocks’n’blocks and spending the night in lawnchairs just to get a chance to meet him, Micheal Moore’s film is breaking box-office records and Iraq isn’t anywhere near ready to be “handed over” to the Iraqis. I know it is hard. But lighten up.

  • O’

    Oh, btw zorel–What are idots? Does Apple have a new gizmo out I haven’t heard about yet?

  • Zorel, so now you’re Jeff’s self-appointed Conversation Gestapo? “Vee have vays of making you more relevant, Ja?”
    “He’s Cluetrain’d, he’s lucid, he’s on-message and goshdangit, he’s angry!”
    Well, I’m off to Barbados…

  • O’

    Have fun, Hugh! But don’t think you are off the hook just cuz you are on vacation. They have the Interweb in Barbados, too. Well, I’m off to Brooklyn…

  • O –
    1) Reagan was heckled by thousands when he faced down the Russians over intermediate range missiles in Europe and forced them to back down…We all know how that turned out….
    Revisionists now claim that they supported Reagan all along, but those of us old enough to remember know the truth. Being heckled by the ignorant isn’t something to worry about…
    2) Clinton’s book is selling well in the blue states, but not at all in the red states. The choir is singing, but he’s not winning any converts. Color me less than impressed…And personally I think it’s a good thing to remind people from time to time why it’s such a good thing he’s not tarnishing the office any more, so if you think that’s something that should upset those on the opposite side of the aisle from you – you’re just engaging in a little wishful thinking…
    3) Moore broke box office records in two – count them two – theaters in New York where they essentially closed down the theater to turn them into Moore extravaganzas…Wow! Is it doing decent box office for a propaganda film, sure it is…But it’s not exactly going to compete with the take of an average Hollywood film – so get yourself a little perspective.
    And once again, he’s preaching to the converted. Polls on people coming out of the theater show that the people going to see the movie are those who weren’t going to vote for Bush anyway, so he’s not changing minds…Good propaganda changes minds, his doesn’t…What does that say about the quality of his propaganda? Only that P.T. Barnum was right all along…
    3) If by saying “Iraq isn’t anywhere near to being handed over” you don’t count nearly every single ministry, sovereignty and the handover being an entire 72 hours away…then I’ll agree with you. If you mean anything else, you’re only fooling yourself.
    …none of which has anything to do with this thread…You’ve substituted partisanship and rhetoric for argument – an obvious admission that you have lost the argument…
    When the best “gotcha” that can be found is a contextual Google ad, the argument is self-evidently an extraordinarily weak one. Jeff is more than bright enough and quite obviously net savvy enough to know the difference between that type of ad and an explicit Amazon affiliate relationship but out-clevered himself in thinking he could slip that by his readers.
    Only two possibilities follow: 1) he doesn’t respect the ability of his audience to also understand the difference, or 2) he recognizes the weakness of his own argument and is desperately looking for whatever “gotcha” he thinks will buttress it…
    Either way…Ask yourself this: If you substituted the Oxy-Clean guy for Dan Rather, would it still be ‘news’? It wouldn’t have changed the substance of ‘the Clinton interview’, or its purpose so trying to say anything different is ridiculous.
    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s obviously a duck….Unless, of course, you have an ideological blindness which makes you think it’s a swan…

  • People actually care what’s on CBS news…?

  • O’

    Yeah Jim B…whatev…convince yourself….

  • O’McSomething

    Ummh…Jim B, you wrote:
    3) Moore broke box office records in two – count them two – theaters in New York where they essentially closed down the theater to turn them into Moore extravaganzas…Wow! Is it doing decent box office for a propaganda film, sure it is…But it’s not exactly going to compete with the take of an average Hollywood film – so get yourself a little perspective.
    You were saying something about perspective?
    Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” took in a whopping $21.8 million in its first three days, becoming the first documentary ever to debut as Hollywood’s top weekend film. …
    Adding the film’s haul at two New York City theaters where it opened Wednesday, two days earlier than the rest of the country, boosted “Fahrenheit 9/11” to $21.96 million. …
    Fahrenheit 9/11″ opened in 868 theaters, a wide release for a documentary but narrow compared to big Hollywood flicks. The film averaged $25,115 a theater, compared to $7,190 in 2,726 cinemas for “White Chicks.”

  • As a veteran newsman, I’m surprised that you’d comment on this issue w/o doing a little research first, Jeff.
    First of all, we don’t believe that the FCC would fine CBS for its policies. However, if you’d poke around the other network sites, you’d see that CBS’s book-selling is far more aggressive and in-your-face than its competitors. If it takes a federal fuss to restore some of CBS’s lost credibility then that is a necessary evil. One thing is for certain, the legendary CBS News president Richard Salant would never have consented to this practice. He wouldn’t even allow CBS programs to say that a particular segment was “sponsored by Company X.”
    Even if everyone else on the net did this, it would still be wrong. People inside the network share our opinion as well.
    There’s also nothing wrong with making some money from ads but directly urging readers to buy books is worlds apart from an AdSense textad which displays adverts almost totally beyond a site’s control. A blog site is also very different from a news site which presents itself as objective, nonpartisan journalistic operation. Bloggers are really just digital opinion columnists so there is nothing wrong with them endorsing a book or person and trying to pick up some loose change in the process.’s main complaint is of a journalistic nature as I will lay out in an upcoming article.

  • Let me also add that Jim B’s first comment is right on the money. Media consolidation is a serious issue that ought to be taken seriously by everyone.

  • O’McSomething

    Sorry for taking the post in another direction, Jeff, but as you and Oliver are saying, nothing to see here, move on. So we did.
    Hugh wrote: People actually care what’s on CBS news…?
    Experiencing 9/11 up close and personal in NYC was bad enough, but its hellishness knew no bounds. The only network not knocked out in the city was CBS. Imagine. The scariest, biggest news event in the history of the U.S. happens right in front of you and all you got is Dan Rather. Since most of my freelance work went down with the towers it was not a good time to put out the $$ for cable. Luckily ABC started broadcasting on NY1 a couple days later. My tv was on its last legs anyway and I would have to fiddle with the wires to get a good picture and sound. I remember the morning the plane went down in the Rockaways, I heard it on the radio and thought, “Oh boy! Here we go again. I better turn on the tube.” Then I thought “Nah, I don’t have to.” I unplugged it and didn’t get another tv ’til after the Iraq thing started. Didn’t miss a thing. But I did become a blogoholic.

  • Matthew: I’m afraid you’re the ones who lost credibility with me today.

  • Oh good! For a nanosecond there, I felt a twinge of guilt for being an Amazon Affiliate and Google Ad whore. Now I feel better …

  • zorel

    an “idot” is a blind idiot (i.e. an idiot with an “i” missing). see, I dig entertainment too .. ha, ha, ha…
    I have no problem with Clinton’s book selling well or Moore’s “documentary” doing well. That is not my point. But then you don’t care about what the point is about, right? btw, Why do you think (if you are capable of such an action) that I am a Bush supporter?

  • Michael Zimmer

    It’ all entertainment. It’s all Viacom.
    Right on, Andy!

  • I’m sorry you feel that way, Jeff, but I still haven’t seen you make a valid criticism of anything that we said on our site.
    You’re free to believe that the FCC wouldn’t throw the book at CBS (as I do) but it sounds to me that your problem is more with the T-R than with RBDC.
    Imagine if you had taken your position regarding this story and applied it to your recent appearance on Aaron Brown. Do you really think that it would’ve been proper to start lecturing him about his show’s faults after he had given you some free air time to voice your opinions, and with no one there who was pro-Moore to counteract you?
    Our problem with CBS’s policies isn’t that they conspired to make money off of Bill Clinton but that a) they are much more unethical about selling books than the other nets and b) they have, according to Peter Collier who is a conservative publisher and a former liberal author, a tendency to promote liberal media figures with much greater frequency than conservatives. A truly objective news organization would eschew both policies most vehemently.

  • O –
    I’ll cite the quote within your own post:
    “Fahrenheit 9/11″ opened in 868 theaters, a wide release for a documentary but narrow compared to big Hollywood flicks.”
    …which is exactly what I said…
    Like I said, get some perspective…
    Back on the subject…
    Jeff Jarvis, in calling people “dumb”, cites Max Black who calls the interview an “infomercial” and says CBS should have “disclosed conflict of interest”…So how “dumb” is Max Black, Jeff?
    With regard to other conflicts of interest, did anyone say they shouldn’t be disclosed as well? Trying to say that people who point out the obvious conflicts and commercial self-interest in CBS’ actions are “dumb” is an indefensible position…
    Imagine this…You get caught robbing the bank, but when you go before the judge your entire defense consists of “But there were so many other people robbing the bank, you can’t single me out…” How many years do you think that would get you off your sentence?
    I was a small child when I learned “but other people do it too” isn’t a valid line of defense…

  • O’

    Hey JB–You said exactly this:
    But it’s not exactly going to compete with the take of an average Hollywood film –
    And–It beat all the “average Hollywood films” this weekend:
    “Fahrenheit 9/11” took in a whopping $21.8 million in its first three days, becoming the first documentary ever to debut as Hollywood’s top weekend film. …
    What don’t you understand?
    Also, did you catch the meaning of this part?
    The film [Fahrenheit] averaged $25,115 a theater, compared to $7,190 in 2,726 cinemas for “White Chicks.”
    It means that even though it was released in fewer theatres, it still beat all the other average Hollywood films this weekend. You made the claim in the first place. So you are just plain wrong.

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