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August 5, 2005
Air America: Arizona Republic Notices It Before NYT

For most newspapers, having an out-of-town paper beat you to a story in your own back yard would prove terribly embarrassing. Not for the New York Times, apparently, as a paper publishing over 2,000 miles from the Bronx has managed to notice the unfolding scandal of Air America's misappropriation of almost a million dollars in city grants and other monies from a non-profit. Arizona Republic columnist Doug MacEachern scolds the Exempt Media, especially the Gray Lady, in allowing this story to continue, as he puts it, moving forward "like a Mack truck in first gear":

A private media start-up with huge political pretensions and meager financial underpinnings uses taxpayer dollars from a Boys & Girls Club to help pay the salaries of high-profile hosts like comedian Al Franken. As a result of these dubious loans and other self-dealing, the Gloria Wise club will be sending no more poor kids from the Bronx to summer camp. It will be providing a lot fewer services, if any, to the Alzheimer's patients it helped. ...

For the Boys & Girls Club, meanwhile, the results have been disastrous. The New York Department of Investigation announced in June that city grants and contracts to Gloria Wise - about $10 million worth - were to be suspended because its officials had approved "significant inappropriate transactions and falsified documents that were submitted to various city agencies."

You don't have to be a Columbia School of Journalism grad to sense that this developing story might have legs.

So far, the evidence shows that the j-school grads may be the only people failing to comprehend the newsworthiness of the story. While a few mainstream media sources like the New York Post and New York Sun have covered the story, and the Washington Times and now the Republic have issued commentaries on it, no other significant newspaper has devoted a column inch to it. None of the broadcast networks has given it a minute of airtime. On the other hand, none of them could give us enough stories about Tom DeLay, Rush Limbaugh, and so on.

It doesn't take a poli-sci graduate to understand the difference in coverage that the Exempt Media gives for scandals involving partisan political players. Take Joseph Wilson, for example. While he busily leaked or outright broadcast falsehoods about his trip to Niger, he garnered huge media coverage, as his opposition to the Iraq war matched their own biases. As soon as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence showed him to have lied on several occasions about that report and the nature and origin of his assignment, the media ran and hid from the entire mess. Almost exactly a year ago, Howard Kurtz pointed out the dramatic difference:

Outlet.........Wilson Before....Wilson After
Washington Post........96.............2
New York Times.........70.............3
Los Angeles Times......48.............2

The Air America story has the same dynamic, only here we don't have any "after' coverage at all. If the Exempt Media has it their way, that will continue to be the case.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 5, 2005 6:38 AM

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