David Folkenflik

Geraldo Rivera of the Fox News Channel once described David Folkenflik as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, gave him a "laurel" for his reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.

Folkenflik is NPR's media correspondent based in New York City. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines and shows, including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation. His reports offer insight into the operation of the media amid tectonic shifts in the industry and cast light on figures who help shape the way the news business works. NPR's listeners were first to learn how the corporate owners of the glossy magazine GQ sought to smother distribution of its provocative story about Russian Premier Vladimir Putin. They also found out, amid the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church, how a small, liberal Catholic weekly based in Kansas City had been documenting allegations of abuse by priests for a generation. Folkenflik provides media criticism on the air and at NPR.org on coverage of a broad array of issues — from the war in Afghanistan, to the financial crisis, to the saga of the "Balloon Boy."

Before joining NPR in 2004, Folkenflik spent more than a decade at the Baltimore Sun, where he covered higher education, Congress, and the media. He started his career at the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun. In 1991, Folkenflik graduted with a bachelor's degree in history from Cornell University, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Cornell Daily Sun.

A three-time winner of the Arthur Rowse Awards for Press Criticism from the National Press Club, Folkenflik won the inaugural 2002 Mongerson Award for Investigative Reporting on the News, presented by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies. Folkenflik's work has also been recognized with top honors from the National Headliners Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. He was the first Irik Sevin Visiting Fellow at Cornell and speaks frequently at colleges across the country. He has served as a media analyst on such television programs as CNN's Reliable Sources, ABC News' Nightline, Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

The urbane Mike Wallace, a CBS News correspondent equally at home questioning con men, celebrities and chiefs of state, died Saturday in New Canaan, Conn. He was 93.

Part 4 of four

Some weeks ago, I paid a visit to an eggshell-blue house in Newtown, a neighborhood on the west side of Sydney, to Wendy Bacon and her husband, Chris Nash.

As we sat on the porch of their book-lined home, they pointed with pride to the Australasian trees and blooms defining their interior courtyard.

And then Bacon delved into her own harvest: the results of a case study about how the country's newspapers handled a pressing and contentious issue.

Part three of four

Robert Manne, one of Australia's top public intellectuals and journalists, tells me the first thing to know about The Australian.

"It is by far the most detailed paper in regard to national politics," he says. "And it's also at a higher level of analysis, in general, than the other papers."

Second, he says, the paper is "smarter, sharper" than the others — with more resources and fewer profit demands to boot. Manne explains why:

Step up to any newsstand in Australia, like the one in Melbourne's Central Business District, and ask who Rupert Murdoch is, and you might get an appraisal like this one from Tom Baxter, an officer with a local disability foundation: "Long time in newspapers, ruthless; dedicated to their craft; a global citizen."

First of four parts

Ultimately, all roads lead home for Rupert Murdoch.

"The story of our company is the stuff of legend: from a small newspaper in Adelaide to a global corporation based in New York, with a market capitalization of about $44 billion," he said last October, when he addressed a News Corp. shareholders meeting in Los Angeles.

Australians view the company's history differently.

Last night a bewildering debate broke out on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight over video posted online yesterday of a young Barack Obama speaking at a student protest at Harvard Law School more than two decades ago.

The debate focused on whether the new BuzzFeed website or Breitbart.com deserved credit for the scoop.

My bewilderment stemmed from the question of why anyone would consider this video to be a scoop at all.

An increasing number of corporations have announced that they will no longer advertise on the show of the undisputed king of political radio talk, Rush Limbaugh, in the wake of caustic and sexually charged comments he made about a Georgetown Law student.

An apology over the weekend failed to quell the controversy, as both corporations and conservative commentators denounced Limbaugh's latest provocative remarks. It is far from his first such episode. Part of Limbaugh's appeal involves getting listeners to tune in to hear just what shibboleth-bursting thing he'll say next.

The senior police official investigating wrongdoing by journalists in London says there was a culture of illegal payments at the Sun tabloid to create a network of paid informants across the British government. The Sun is the second tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to be the focus of wrongdoing.

Philadelphia's financially troubled newspapers — the jointly owned Inquirer and Daily News — may be sold for the fourth time in six years. Circulation and advertising are down. A new set of layoffs has been announced, and the papers' newsrooms are about to be combined with the news site Philly.com.

But reporters and editors there are outraged by something else: the actions of their own publisher to influence their coverage of the company's sale.

The twists and turns of the Republican presidential campaign have been practically made for — and watched on — live television. And despite predictions of new media tools like Twitter and Facebook dominating election coverage, Americans are continuing to rely on an old standby: cable TV.

After coming in second in the Nevada caucuses, Newt Gingrich assured reporters that national news exposure would be a surefire remedy for catching up with Mitt Romney.

The voice mail and computer hacking and police bribery scandal that has roiled the British newspaper industry has also led to calls for government regulation of the press in one of the world's greatest democracies.

Some newspaper executives, such as Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of the Mail on Sunday, are attempting to draw the line.

This may well be the worst story you've come across yet on politics.

Really, I beg you: You should have very, very low expectations for this story.

And this expectations thing is important stuff.

Pundits, reporters and the campaigns themselves have devoted a lot of energy to setting expectations for the candidates' performances.

With election season in full swing now, the sheer amount of media coverage can be daunting to anyone trying to follow the races.

For the press covering politics, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has this reminder: Most people are visitors to the land of political obsession, not full-time residents.

Folkenflik tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin that much of the campaign coverage "assumes that everybody is up to date on real minutiae."

Some people don't have the time to keep up with minor — or even major — developments.

At the start of his show yesterday morning, MSNBC's Chuck Todd could not contain his glee: "It's caucus day. Finally! I've been waiting for this day for 3 1/2 years."

Speak for yourself, Chuck.

In the build-up to the Iowa caucuses, we heard about the ground game, the expectations game, the endorsement game, and the super PACs. And we get the justification: It's blood sport, it's a vetting process, it's a surge, it's a generous slathering of awesome on an Iowa corn dog.

The fact-checking movement has been gaining momentum and gaining fans. Journalistic fact checkers serve as referees by calling foul — and fair — on various assertions by politicians, public figures and pundits with heavily documented analyses. But a slow-burn backlash flared into the open this past week.

Fact-checking sites like PolitiFact referee assertions by politicians, public figures and pundits. The fact-checking movement has been gaining momentum — and fans. But PolitiFact has come under fire after announcing its "Lie of the Year": a claim by some Democrats and liberals about a House Republican plan to change Medicare.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It was a reversal for CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan yesterday. He had to answer questions about journalists in Britain hacking into phone messages and bribing police. A scandal about press practices has struck at the heart of Rupert Murdoch's media empire in the UK and has led to more than 20 arrests.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports that Morgan insisted he had no involvement in or knowledge of any of it back when he was a high profile tabloid editor in London.

Plenty of folks have their unshakable obsessions. Indiana Jones sought the Holy Grail. Captain Ahab pursued the Great White Whale. For New York Times columnist Gail Collins, it's her fixation on the voyages of an Irish Setter named Seamus.

"For some reason, the idea that you've got this guy who would drive all the way to Canada with an Irish setter sitting on the top of the car — it absolutely fascinated me," Collins says.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to remember now the acerbic, controversial and always compelling writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens. Vanity Fair, where he was a contributing editor, announced last night that he had died from complications of cancer. He was 62 years old.

The influential writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday at the age of 62 from complications of cancer of the esophagus. Hitchens confronted his disease in part by writing, bringing the same unsparing insight to his mortality that he had directed at so many other subjects.

Over the years, Hitchens' caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a newfound eagerness to talk to reporters — some of them, at least.

To hear Romney tell it, you'd think he had always welcomed the press corps.

"You're going to see me all over the country, particularly in early primary states," Romney said last week to Fox News host Neil Cavuto. "I'll be on TV — I'll be on Fox a lot because you guys matter when it comes to Republican primary voters. I want them to hear my message and have an opportunity to make their choice."

Off Mic, On Script

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The British government continues investigating the phone-hacking scandal at newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. More than a dozen journalists and editors have been arrested, top police and media executives have lost their jobs and an official ethics investigation may challenge the whole idea that the British press can regulate itself. And then, a former features editor for one of Murdoch's papers stole the show at a government hearing yesterday.

Here's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was once written off as a footnote in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. But, for the moment, polls now show him among the leaders.

Gingrich may have found his voice, in part, by turning the tables on the political press. Republicans have been doing this for decades — quite explicitly at least since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in 1968.

In Gingrich's case, it was a strategy masquerading as a tactic — one that he adopted over the summer at a time of desperation.

A distinctive voice — and character — in television news has died. Andy Rooney was a signature essayist on the CBS news program 60 Minutes for decades. He was 92.

CBS said Rooney died Friday night in New York of complications following minor surgery last month. Just a month ago, he delivered his last regular essay on the CBS newsmagazine.

On Friday, News Corp. held its first shareholder meeting since a phone-hacking scandal in the U.K. led the company to close a major tabloid. Outside the meeting at Fox Studios in Los Angeles, about 100 demonstrators assembled to condemn the Murdochs and News Corp.'s leadership.

But the complaints that followed inside were far more specific. There was a vote to approve the board of directors, but it was largely a formality because the Murdoch family and its allies control so many voting shares.

Rupert Murdoch wasted little time in reminding investors of his track record.

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