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August 3, 2005
Air America: Exempt Media's Dead Air

And on the eighth day after the revelation about the financing scandal at Air America, the Exempt Media (or, as NY Times managing editor Bill Keller called it on Charlie Rose last night, the "quality media") remained ... silent. Not a word so far about the deceptive transfers of almost a million dollars in non-profit donations and government grant monies to the liberal radio netlet has appeared in any major media outlet except for the New York Post and the Washington Times, and two excellent articles at the New York Sun that showed how deep the scandal runs.

Today Michelle Malkin and I attempt to address the issue ourselves. Michelle has a new column out today (also here) about why the usual suspects in the civil-rights establishment have not erupted in outrage over the theft of government grants intended in part for poor and overwhelmingly minority children:

If a conservative radio network had been entangled in a scam to steal from black children to line the pockets of wealthy white con artists, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would already be staging hunger strikes in protest. But both have hefty political and financial stakes in Air America's success and the big mouths aren't about to badmouth their friends.

Air America's flagship New York City station is housed on Park Avenue at WLIB-AM, owned by Inner City Broadcasting. The company shunted aside its black-themed talk format at WLIB to accommodate Air America. In return, Air America made room for a few minority radio hosts and also entered into lucrative lease management agreements with Inner City Broadcasting, which owns and operates 17 radio stations in five markets.

The co-founder of Inner City Broadcasting is New York media mogul Percy Sutton, best known as Malcolm X's lawyer and former Manhattan borough council president. Sutton helped bail Sharpton out after Sharpton was ordered to pay former Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones over the Tawana Brawley race hoax. Sutton also raised and donated money for Sharpton's 2004 presidential bid. Sharpton still broadcasts a Sunday radio show on WLIB. Sutton and Jackson are longtime friends and partners. Sutton served as Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign finance chairman. Jackson has lobbied on Sutton's behalf. Sutton sits on Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund. As original investors, Jackson and his wife reportedly hold more than 23,000 shares in Inner City Broadcasting.

Michelle does brilliant work in uncovering these financial ties between Air America and the spokesmen who hold themselves out as protectors of their constituencies. Don't bet on any of these men to call attention to the financial shenanigans surrounding Air America and Evan Cohen. The poor kids of Brooklyn have little standing next to the commercial interests of their supposed champions.

In my new Daily Standard column, I look at the absence of the Exempt Media, wondering what it takes to get journalists interested in a story:

We often hear journalists claim that their mission consists of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. One crucial element must therefore put powerful people under a spotlight. Some journalists say that they fight for the little guy, the downtrodden, which means that the story must include victims. Still others like investigative work, digging through arcane paperwork and doubletalk to reveal misdeeds that otherwise would never come to light, which means that a crime or at least unethical conduct would help draw interest. And finally, big money always attracts a crowd and helps audiences relate to the disgraceful actions unveiled by the reporter.

Thus, the perfect journalistic storm would arise when powerful people victimize the poor and downtrodden, breaking laws or at least ethical constructs, by taking money meant for their benefit. That sort of story will get anyone's attention. All it takes is one reporter to tell the story, and the rest of the media will jump all over it. Right?

Actually, this perfect-storm story is already percolating in the blogosphere, and oddly enough, hardly anyone in the mainstream media is paying attention to it.

Brian Maloney, who broke the story in the blogosphere, continues to work hard to keep the pressure on the Exempt Media to start covering the scandal. Eventually the demands of their audience will force the media outlets to start providing coverage of this scandal.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 3, 2005 5:34 AM

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