TV REPORTERS WEIGH IN ON WHAT HAPPENED?

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin appeared to be backing away from her comments Wednesday night that in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, reporters, herself included, were "under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings." Her remarks came during a discussion on Anderson Cooper's CNN show concerning former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened? On a CNN blog today, Yellin conceded that in early 2003, while then working for ABC, she was never asked to change a line in her scripts. "I did not mean to leave the impression that corporate executives were interfering in my daily work," Yellin said, "My interaction was with senior producers. What was clear to me is that many people running the broadcasts wanted coverage that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the country at the time. It was clear to me they wanted their coverage to reflect the mood of the country." Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that McClellan received an advance of only $75,000 from the little-known publisher PublicAffairs after leading publishing houses turned the book down. Almost overnight it has topped Amazon's best-seller list, and the publisher has doubled its printing from 65,000 to 130,000.

MORE MEA CULPAS

In perhaps the most unqualified mea culpa by a top network news anchor following former White House press secretary Scott McClelland's claim that the media became "complicit enablers" of the administration's war policy, Harry Smith, anchor of the CBS Early Show, told an audience in Rochester, NY Wednesday that he had made a trip to Iraq just before the war began in 2003. "The regret I'll take to my grave is not standing up and saying, 'What are we doing here?'" he said. Reporting on Smith's speech, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle said that when it was over, people in the audience approached the television morning host and asked him to run for office. On Thursday, Phil Donahue, whose MSNBC show was canceled one month before the invasion as he kept up a steady drumbeat opposing it, declared, "The board members of the large megamedia companies, while America is waving the flag and supporting the president, do not want their cable or television channels to be occupied by dissent, protest, all the rights that have been fought for and died for in past wars." In a television documentary last year, Bill Moyers disclosed that an NBC memo about Donohue at the time claimed that he "presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

ACLU BACKS FIRED TV HOST

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has criticized the decision by Comcast to fire veteran journalist Barry Nolan for protesting against the decision by the Boston chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to award a special local Emmy to Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly. The ACLU did not indicate whether it was considering filing a lawsuit against the cable operator -- the nation's largest -- on behalf of Nolan. In a statement released Thursday, the ACLU said that Nolan's firing was "most unfortunate, as it suggests that independent journalism is not valued -- or perhaps even understood -- at Comcast." At the same time the ACLU fired its own salvo at O'Reilly, saying in its statement that his "struggles with fact-based journalism have been well documented by numerous independent sources, making Mr. Nolan's firing all the more disturbing." Earlier this week Nolan observed that he had merely passed out a leaflet containing O'Reilly's own words and quotes from a sexual harassment lawsuit that O'Reilly settled out of court. "I got fired from my job on a news and information network for reporting demonstrably true things in a room full of news people." Neither CN8, the Cox-owned channel that fired Nolan, nor O'Reilly has commented on Nolan's firing.

WWE'S MCMAHON SAYS HE'LL GIVE AWAY $1 MILLION

Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, which continues to draw top cable TV ratings with Monday Night RAW, Smackdown and ECW, said Thursday that he will give away $1 million to fans in North America over the coming weeks. In a statement, McMahon indicated that he plans to announce details of the publicity stunt on next week's RAW -- an announcement that will likely boost the show's ratings on the USA Network even higher. "I think the fans deserve something epic, something that is truly monumental," said McMahon. "This is not a hoax. This is not a trick of some kind. This is from my own personal bank account. I'm going to give away cash money in the sum of $1 million."

STAR TREK DIRECTOR, COMPOSER DIE ON SAME DAY

Joseph Pevney, who directed some of the most memorable episodes of the original Star Trek series, and Alexander Courage, who created the series' theme, both died on Thursday. Pevney, who also directed dozens of other movies and TV shows, was 96. Courage, who orchestrated such classic musicals as My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly, Gigi, and Fiddler on the Roof was 88.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.