The best of the worst: The Media Research Center's 'Notable Quotables' for 2014
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Published: 06-Jan-2015

OKLAHOMA CITY – To avoid confusion, it is perhaps best to call the Media Research Center's annual collection of shocking commentary and reporting from the mainstream press corps “the worst of the worst.” That is the shorthand the MRC staff adopted several years ago to capture more attention for their magisterial collection of good examples of bad journalism.

I still think of this annual product as a compilation of the “best” examples of stunningly inappropriate and disproportionate knife-throwing and bile under the cover of journalism.
Each year, I hope and pray that in the once-hallowed national press corps there will be more signs of moderation and a renewal of journalistic traditions will emerge from the MRC's monitoring process.

Alas, that is never the case. Things get worse, year after year.

Consider the dreadful 2014 “quote of the year,” as selected by the panel of professional journalists of the old school, including yours truly.

Carol Costello, the anchor for CNN “Newsroom” introduced an audio in which Bristol Pallin, daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Pallin, described an incident in which a man shoved her, dragged her on the ground and repeatedly cursed at her.

Costello said, “I’m just going to come right out and say it: This is quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across — well, come across in a long time anyway. A massive brawl in Anchorage, Alaska, reportedly involving Sarah Palin’s kids and her husband. It was sparked after someone pushed one of her daughters at a party....And now police have released audio of that interview. It does include some rather colorful language from Bristol. Here now is Bristol’s recollection of how that night unfolded. So sit back and enjoy.”

Read that again. “Sit back and enjoy.”

These are the words of a mainstream journalist, introducing a story, talking about the daughter of an American politician. You can't make this stuff up.

Lest anyone think CNN's Costello was without serious competition, I had a different choice for quote of the year. It did not win the overall “competition,” but was selected first place in the category deemed, “The Planet in Peril.”

A staff writer at Gawker.com, Adam Weinstein called for the imprisonment of those of us Americans who remain dubious about global warming (or, as it is now called, “climate change”), especially if we are willing to express that skepticism in public.

In a web post last March, Weinstein wrote “Man-made climate change happens. Man-made climate change kills a lot of people. It’s going to kill a lot more. We have laws on the books to punish anyone whose lies contribute to people’s deaths. It’s time to punish the climate-change liars. ...Denialists should face jail. They should face fines. ...

“I’m talking about Rush and his multi-million-dollar ilk in the disinformation business. I’m talking about Americans for Prosperity and the businesses and billionaires who back its obfuscate propaganda....Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.”

This is the stuff of tyranny, and it was expressed with utter sincerity.

Mind you, some of my best friends are committed environmentalists. In fact, it was one such individual who told me (and later apologized) that when in a column I referenced the Medieval warming period (which lasted several hundred years, and featured a “greening” of the southern part of what we now call Greenland) I was repeating a recently invented conservative fable, with no basis in the historical record.

You get the idea.

With depressing regularity, many of the leading lightts in the national mainstream press corps, which regularly dispenses counsel to Tea Party activists, ardent constitutional conservatives and other women and men of the Right to mind their tongues (something most of us need to do from time to time) seem never to look in the mirror, or listen to themselves, or re-read their own words.

As an advocate of civil discourse and of fair reporting, there is no way adequately to describe the despair that entered my soul again as I read this year's nominees in the well-named categories of the MRC competition: Mean-Spirited, Nasty, Belligerent Chris (MSNBC, as in Chris Matthews), Damn Those Conservatives, Blue State Brigade (for boldly biased political campaign coverage), Obama's Orderlies, Twisted Tweets and the “Audacity of Dopes.”

Is MRC's analysis a reverse form of “Hard-Ball”? Sure it is. And, until things change, what's the alternative?

Those demanding accountability often need to exercise more of it themselves. The guardian of the public interest, the independent press corps, too often acts as lackeys for organized power, and too rarely defenders of (let alone pracitioners of) healthy skepticism.

It would require an essay of several thousand words adequately to condense the bile and meanness found in mainstream coverage over the past year; still, the “greatest hits” (each winner, two runners-up and other information), complete with videos, can be accessed at MRC's website here.

In addition to your humble servant, this year's judges panel included MRC staff members L. Brent Bozell III (founder and president), Brent H. Baker (vice president), Tim Graham (director of media analysis), and Rich Noyes (director of research).

Others participating in the annual critique of the mainstream press corps were Midge Decter, author and Heritage Foundation Trustee, Erick Erickson of RedState.com, Eric Fettmann of the New York Post, Quin Hillyer of National Review, Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, radio talk show host Mark Levin, Kate O'Beirne of National Review, James Pinkerton of Fox News, columnist Cal Thomas, columnist Walter Williams and Tom Winter of Human Events.

I only rarely see these old friends these days, but I cherish each of them for lighting a candle or light, rather than building walls of darkness.

The complete list of media jurists can be read here.

NOTE: The editor of CapitolBeatOK.com and publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper in Oklahoma City, Pat McGuigan has been a judge for the Media Research Center (MRC) Notable Quotables for more than two decades. 

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