Think Twice

We’re not sure how long ago we began to distrust ThinkProgress as a news source, but it’s been awhile. Our rule of thumb before sourcing them is to source their sources — we can’t even run their transcript of a posted video without checking the text.

Monday brought Yet Another Example why ThinkProgress makes our teeth grate:

EXCLUSIVE: 140 Companies Drop Advertising From Rush Limbaugh

It’s not Exclusive! — ran the scoop on Friday. It’s also misleading — there’s no demonstration that the advertising was “dropped”.

But let’s hear the pitch:

ThinkProgress has obtained an internal memo from Premiere Radio Networks listing 96 national companies that have “specifically asked” their advertisments not be played during the Rush Limbaugh Show. Premiere is the distributor of Limbaugh’s program. The advertisers have also requested to be excluded from other right-wing hosts including Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. According to the memo, the listed companies’ advertisements should be excluded from these programs because they have been “deemed to be offensive.”

And let’s compare it to the memo itself — which ThinkProgress “obtained” by Googling the partial text posted Friday by, and finding the whole thing on another website:

To all Traffic Managers: The information below applies to your Premiere Radio Networks commercial inventory. More than 350 different advertisers sponsor the programs and services provided to your station on a barter basis. Like advertisers that purchase commercials on your radio station from your sales staff, our sponsors communicate specific rotations, daypart preferences and advertising environments they prefer…

They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity). Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.

“Traffic Managers”, in radiospeak, are the folks who schedule ads. And the ads here are not the spots that might (or lately, might not) be included in a program’s national feed — instead, they’re other ads that a station agrees to run as part of the deal for getting the national program free. Commercial radio is a complicated business.

So what is the memo requesting? Or, to put it another way, what can journalists safely report? Simply this: That the listed advertisers don’t want to run during the Rowdy Hours.

And here, for comparison, are a few things a journalist can’t say:

1. Exclusive!

As noted, ThinkProgress didn’t get the scoop. They were enterprising enough to find the full memo — including the list of advertisers — in Google’s trash, but that’s it.

2. Rush!

It’s not about Rush. It’s not even that advertisers “have also requested to be excluded” from other trash-talkers. The entire list is presented in one parenthetical clause — and Rush is listed second.

3. Offensive!

One man’s “offensive” is another man’s “environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public”. That’s not just us — it’s “defined” that way in the memo. You’re welcome to read between the lines — like pornography, we all know what we’re talking about — but don’t put your reading in somebody else’s mouth.

On the other hand, ThinkProgress did credit the original source for their story, and they did post the full memo — so we’ll give them Brownie Points for providing us the means to unpack their packaging. But they didn’t, um, think about it.

Unlike Greg Sargent at WaPo, who wasn’t satisfied with the pieces as given, and decided to ask Premiere about it:

“This is a routine communication that notifies our affiliates’ traffic managers of advertisers that prefer not to be in ANY potentially controversial programs. It is prepared and disseminated on a quarterly basis.”

That sounds legit to us — radio is a business, after all — and it would sound even more legit if previous Routine Communications could be found for comparison. Only Premiere wouldn’t pick up the line when Sargent called for clarification.

So there may be a story there yet — and it may be a story not about advertisers avoiding Rush Limbaugh, but advertisers steering clear of the entire crew.

But we don’t know that. And neither does ThinkProgress. All we know is that if the Left fancies itself citizens of the Reality-Based Community, it would help if they stuck to the facts.


While we’re at it, I really want to like Addicting Info, but they also tend to insert opinion in their news articles, as well as use misleading and inaccurate headlines á la Arianna’s online rag. I guess this is the risk you take when your cause becomes a full-time business.

Thanks, Nojo. I had begun some time back to have suspicions that Think Progress was not entirely reliable, and I was glad when you first began to warn us to be wary and keep our skeptics’ thinking caps on when reading there. I seldom go there now.

@lynnlightfoot: It’s too bad, really. They’re good scouts, but I can’t trust their posts as served. They’re too eager to provoke Outrage!, which leads them to spin their stories in the harshest way possible. This makes them no better than any other political hacks out there — a Progressive Breitbart is still a Breitbart.

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