Thursday, November 21, 2013

The MISSING Fact from Bank Settlement Stories

Every news organization has reported what appears to be a huge number.   The USA Today headline blares:  JPMorgan to Pay Record $13B for Toxic Loans.

In the same story, USA Today's Kevin McCoy points out JPMorgan had set aside $23 Billion - that's twenty-three billion U.S. dollars - for litigation costs.   So JPMorgan was prepared to spend $10B more to defend itself than it eventually paid to settle.  

How much did JPMorgan make selling toxic loans?   On story after story about white collar crime one major fact seems to be missing.   How much did the organization make with its crime?   How big were the bonuses for the people who perpetrated the crime?   

What and how did the U.S. Justice Department calculate how much the criminals made?   Did the criminals have to give back ALL the money or just some of it?    Did executives have to return bonuses, or did they get to keep their cash?   How much of a penalty above beyond all the money it made by violating the law did the criminal organization have to pay?   That's a number that needs to be in every story on white collar crime.  

The Center for Public Integrity has done some excellent reporting on what has happened to the executives who helped steal the country blind.   Its series of reports are well worth reading.  As the Center reports:  "As borrowers defaulted at increasing rates in 2006 and 2007, global financial markets tightened, then froze. The result was the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. Today, millions of Americans still face foreclosure. Yet few subprime executives have faced meaningful consequences."

When journalism fails, bad things happen, particularly in the land of greed.   

(PS:  If you have profit calculations from the sale of toxic loans, please post or send.  Thank you)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why We Need Reporters, Not Human Microphone Stands

Read Nancy A. Youssef's piece on the 60 Minutes Benghazi report and what you see is a reporter doing what reporters are supposed to do:  asking questions that need to be asked and ALWAYS asking for verification.

Journalism requires verification.   Reporters ask for verification.   Human microphone stands don't.

Youssef's piece should be read by every journalism student in the country.   It should also be read by every network news executive and by every major shareholder of CBS (their silence is disappointing but not surprising).

Regarding Lara Logan's apology, the McClatchy foreign staff reporter writes, "But Logan's mea culpa said nothing about other weaknesses in the report that a line-by-line review of the broadcast's transcript reveals."

Line-by-line.   That's how any editorial review should be done.   What's your evidence?   What's the proof?   How do we know what we're saying is accurate?   How did CBS fail to do basic editorial review of such an important piece?

The 60 Minutes report says the Americans were attacked by al Qaida and 60 Minutes repeatedly points out that al Qaida was solely responsible for the attack.   As Youssef reports, "al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator.  Rather, it is believe a number of groups were part of the assault..."

Youssef points out problem after problem with the 60 Minutes report.   That's understandable.   Youssef is a reporter, not a human microphone stand.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Corporate Alzheimer's at CBS

CBS must have corporate Alzheimer's disease.   It's forgotten how to apologize.     It's forgotten how to vet a story.  It's forgotten viewers aren't totally stupid. 

What's the possible cause?   Corporate incest and wanting sales for a book?   Or might it be that age-old affliction of pandering to an audience, in this case the far right?   

How has 60 Minutes forgotten how to vet a story?   

Consider for a moment, just how easy it is to vet this one.  The intern could do it.  

Dylan Davies wasn't alone in Benghazi.  And he must have kept fairly detailed notes; he wrote a book.   There's going to be fact after fact any intern at 60 Minutes could check. Who are some of his fellow employees, where were they that night, what are their names, their phone numbers, their emails?   Who did he talk to that night and the day after and the day after that?  Who did he email?  Who did he text?  Since he's already admitted to 60 Minutes that he lied on his report to his employer, did he tell anyone else?   These are men who work and bond together; they protect each other's lives.  How many people did 60 Minutes call to vet this story?    Did it even bother to call the fact checker at the book publisher?   

Even the original 60 Minutes interview with Dylan Davies doesn't ring true.   Davies tells Lara Logan he scales the wall and hits a guy with the butt of his rifle who goes down "like a stone."  So in the midst of incredibly violent situation the welcome-to-Benghazi terrorist just walks up to say howdie-doo to Dylan Davies and does nothing, takes no defensive action as Dylan decides, "hey, I think I'll nail this guy in the face with the butt of my rifle."   Does anyone besides Fox News and 60 Minutes believe that?   Huffingtonpost Live shows the response that a lot of viewers probably had in this clip.  

Lara Logan says the "most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth."   If that statement is true, then Lara Logan will deliver a far more detailed explanation of how 60 Minutes failed to properly vet Dylan Davies.    Currently, that statement is contradicted by her own unacceptably weak apology.   

Tina Brown is right when she says American journalism is having a "pathetic moment."  60 Minutes has proven that.   Corporate Alzheimer's is not an acceptable excuse.  

When journalism fails, bad things happen.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

U.S. Citizen Requirement: Read the Guardian

Medical doctors take an oath to "do no harm."   That oath apparently gets flushed down the toilet when it comes to the CIA and torture.    As the Guardian reports:  The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services "designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees".

Check your local television station, check your local newspaper.   Do you see any local reporters questioning their members of Congress asking if they approve of doctors assisting with torture or if they approve of such a policy by the CIA?

Of course not.  

The Guardian asks questions that need to be asked and reports on stories that need to be reported.  To be an informed American citizen, it's essential to read the Guardian, a news organization headed by journalists, not state-supporting lapdogs.  

When journalism fails, bad things happen.