Dizzy was right

Trumpeter John 'Dizzy' Gillespie was one of jazz's all—time great performers. With his colorful on—stage antics and trademark bent—bell horn, Gillespie was widely recognized as a prime architect of the influential be—bop movement of the 1940's and 50's, and he remained a vital force in jazz right up until his death in 1993. Once, when asked how his playing always sounded so fresh and creative, he answered with his characteristically dry wit,

'It ain't the notes you play that count, man. It's the ones you leave out.'

Dizzy's point is especially relevant as it applies to the coverage of today's major issues. The degree to which certain stories are covered by the media—or ignored completely—has a tremendous influence on the public's perception of people and events.

Take for example the case of Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele's stolen credit history. As readers of this column are aware, Steele is regarded by both Republicans and Democrats alike as a potential rising star in the Republican Party. In an effort to sabotage his impact on the upcoming Maryland Senate campaign, two members from New York Senator Chuck Schumer's staff illegally obtained Steele's confidential credit report, presumably on the behest of the national Democratic Party, with the apparent intention of looking for skeletons in Steele's closet.

Both staffers have since resigned, claiming to have done nothing wrong.  Schumer admits to no knowledge of the entire matter and has thus issued no statement of explanation for his staffers' actions. The FBI is investigating, and Steele himself has indicated he will press the matter, as he considers himself to be the victim of a crime. But the media is clearly not pressing the matter. Since the story initially broke in mid—September, it has quickly faded from sight, despite the egregious nature of the affront to Steele's privacy.  The 'Paper of Record' had devoted nary a word to it.  Yet it's not difficult to imagine the resulting national media outcry if two of, say, Senator Rick Santorum's staff on behalf of national Republican leadership had pulled the same thing on a potential Democratic candidate. The media would hound Santorum without letup, until they extracted their pound of humiliating public flesh.

The public debate over global warming in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is another prime example. There has been far more coverage of noted personalities like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Barbara Streisand espousing their views about how these recent hurricanes prove the existence and deadly consequences of global warming than there has been about the many well—researched, well—documented scientific studies that call into question the reality or severity of global warming. Exactly when did Barbara Streisand earn her credentials as a geoscientist? Why would the media accord her a forum—with implied credibility—to talk about scientific matters? Why would the mainstream media choose to not give equal coverage to the scientific community that embraces an opposing view?

A third instance of 'creative musical arrangement' by the media was the story that surfaced just before last year's election about President Bush's and Candidate Kerry's respective scores on a military intelligence test. Contrary to the popularly—held opinion that John Kerry had a vastly superior intellect to President Bush, it was President Bush who scored higher.

When discussing the test results with then—NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, Kerry said he must've been drinking the night before, implying that the only way President Bush could best him intellectually would be if he (Kerry) were drunk or hung over.

The story, as reported on Newsmax.com goes on to say:

'John Kerry told NBC newsman Tom Brokaw last week that the reason President Bush outscored him on military intelligence tests was that he had likely been drinking the night before his exam.

Brokaw revealed Kerry's off—camera excuse in an election—morning interview with radio host Don Imus.

"I asked the question of John Kerry because the New York Times had reported that a man by the name of David Sailer had analyzed their military aptitude tests and then had had IQ experts do an analysis as well — or the Times did," the NBC anchorman explained. "And they concluded that George W. Bush might be a point or two higher than John Kerry in IQ."

Brokaw continued:

"And John Kerry was caught a little off guard, he said. 'Well, more power to him. I thought that that was not public.' And when the interview was over he said, 'I must have been drinking the night before I took that military aptitude test.'"

This story had an incredibly short shelf life, so abbreviated that the vast majority of the electorate was completely unaware if it. The notion that President Bush—hardly a glib, lithe, spontaneous speaker—might actually be the intellectual equal (or superior) of John Kerry was simply not a story that the media were interested in promoting. Additionally, Kerry's use of the sophomoric 'I must have been drunk' excuse cast him in a particularly unflattering, petty, immature light—all the more reason for the media to squash the negative story about their favored candidate as quickly as possible. (Of course, it has since come out that President Bush's grades at Yale were also higher than Kerry's, and that story has been similarly brushed aside by the media.)

It will be most interesting to see how the media handles the still—unfolding Tom DeLay indictment story. When Senator Robert Byrd (D—WV) used the 'N' word on Fox News Sunday a few years ago, the entire instance (as well as Byrd's former high—ranking position in the KKK) was quickly downplayed into non—occurrence by a sympathetic media. In contrast, Senator Trent Lott's (R—MS) ill—advised but essentially harmless comments to Senator Strom Thurmond at the latter's birthday party in December 2002 led to such a media—fueled witch hunt that Lott was forced to resign his Senate leadership position.

As the media have come under ever—tightening scrutiny for fairness and balance in the past several years, will DeLay be treated differently than President Bush and Senator Lott? Or will the media be playing the same old tune?

Steve Feinstein is a frequent contributor.

Trumpeter John 'Dizzy' Gillespie was one of jazz's all—time great performers. With his colorful on—stage antics and trademark bent—bell horn, Gillespie was widely recognized as a prime architect of the influential be—bop movement of the 1940's and 50's, and he remained a vital force in jazz right up until his death in 1993. Once, when asked how his playing always sounded so fresh and creative, he answered with his characteristically dry wit,

'It ain't the notes you play that count, man. It's the ones you leave out.'

Dizzy's point is especially relevant as it applies to the coverage of today's major issues. The degree to which certain stories are covered by the media—or ignored completely—has a tremendous influence on the public's perception of people and events.

Take for example the case of Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele's stolen credit history. As readers of this column are aware, Steele is regarded by both Republicans and Democrats alike as a potential rising star in the Republican Party. In an effort to sabotage his impact on the upcoming Maryland Senate campaign, two members from New York Senator Chuck Schumer's staff illegally obtained Steele's confidential credit report, presumably on the behest of the national Democratic Party, with the apparent intention of looking for skeletons in Steele's closet.

Both staffers have since resigned, claiming to have done nothing wrong.  Schumer admits to no knowledge of the entire matter and has thus issued no statement of explanation for his staffers' actions. The FBI is investigating, and Steele himself has indicated he will press the matter, as he considers himself to be the victim of a crime. But the media is clearly not pressing the matter. Since the story initially broke in mid—September, it has quickly faded from sight, despite the egregious nature of the affront to Steele's privacy.  The 'Paper of Record' had devoted nary a word to it.  Yet it's not difficult to imagine the resulting national media outcry if two of, say, Senator Rick Santorum's staff on behalf of national Republican leadership had pulled the same thing on a potential Democratic candidate. The media would hound Santorum without letup, until they extracted their pound of humiliating public flesh.

The public debate over global warming in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is another prime example. There has been far more coverage of noted personalities like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Barbara Streisand espousing their views about how these recent hurricanes prove the existence and deadly consequences of global warming than there has been about the many well—researched, well—documented scientific studies that call into question the reality or severity of global warming. Exactly when did Barbara Streisand earn her credentials as a geoscientist? Why would the media accord her a forum—with implied credibility—to talk about scientific matters? Why would the mainstream media choose to not give equal coverage to the scientific community that embraces an opposing view?

A third instance of 'creative musical arrangement' by the media was the story that surfaced just before last year's election about President Bush's and Candidate Kerry's respective scores on a military intelligence test. Contrary to the popularly—held opinion that John Kerry had a vastly superior intellect to President Bush, it was President Bush who scored higher.

When discussing the test results with then—NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, Kerry said he must've been drinking the night before, implying that the only way President Bush could best him intellectually would be if he (Kerry) were drunk or hung over.

The story, as reported on Newsmax.com goes on to say:

'John Kerry told NBC newsman Tom Brokaw last week that the reason President Bush outscored him on military intelligence tests was that he had likely been drinking the night before his exam.

Brokaw revealed Kerry's off—camera excuse in an election—morning interview with radio host Don Imus.

"I asked the question of John Kerry because the New York Times had reported that a man by the name of David Sailer had analyzed their military aptitude tests and then had had IQ experts do an analysis as well — or the Times did," the NBC anchorman explained. "And they concluded that George W. Bush might be a point or two higher than John Kerry in IQ."

Brokaw continued:

"And John Kerry was caught a little off guard, he said. 'Well, more power to him. I thought that that was not public.' And when the interview was over he said, 'I must have been drinking the night before I took that military aptitude test.'"

This story had an incredibly short shelf life, so abbreviated that the vast majority of the electorate was completely unaware if it. The notion that President Bush—hardly a glib, lithe, spontaneous speaker—might actually be the intellectual equal (or superior) of John Kerry was simply not a story that the media were interested in promoting. Additionally, Kerry's use of the sophomoric 'I must have been drunk' excuse cast him in a particularly unflattering, petty, immature light—all the more reason for the media to squash the negative story about their favored candidate as quickly as possible. (Of course, it has since come out that President Bush's grades at Yale were also higher than Kerry's, and that story has been similarly brushed aside by the media.)

It will be most interesting to see how the media handles the still—unfolding Tom DeLay indictment story. When Senator Robert Byrd (D—WV) used the 'N' word on Fox News Sunday a few years ago, the entire instance (as well as Byrd's former high—ranking position in the KKK) was quickly downplayed into non—occurrence by a sympathetic media. In contrast, Senator Trent Lott's (R—MS) ill—advised but essentially harmless comments to Senator Strom Thurmond at the latter's birthday party in December 2002 led to such a media—fueled witch hunt that Lott was forced to resign his Senate leadership position.

As the media have come under ever—tightening scrutiny for fairness and balance in the past several years, will DeLay be treated differently than President Bush and Senator Lott? Or will the media be playing the same old tune?

Steve Feinstein is a frequent contributor.