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January 10, 2004

Adopt a Campaign Journalist in 2004: The Drift of a Suggestion

Over the holidays, an idea gained some Net traction: webloggers "adopting" a campaign reporter. That means you monitor and collect all the reporter's work, and then... And then what? Follow the turns as the suggestion is taken up and debated.

Saturday Night, Jan. 10: Link flow and blog authority have been combining in the atmosphere. In sequence:

Dec. 23. At the Daily Kos, Vet 4 Dean reacts to discussion at Blog For America, the Dean campaign’s main gig:

Earlier today on DFA, there was a good bit of discussion of the latest piece of “journalism” committed by Ms. Jodi Wilgoren in the NY Times. Well, I decided it was time to lose my blogging virginity and created The Wilgoren Watch.

Dec. 23. And he does. The Wilgoren Watch: “Dedicated to deconstructing the New York Times coverage of Howard Dean’s campaign for the White House.” (The inaugural post.)

Dec. 28. At Steve Gilliard’s News Blog, Gilliard says he has had enough: Time to Take the Gloves Off:

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them…

I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people’s reporting the way we track other services….

Keeping score of who’s right and wrong, how many times they repeat cannards like Al Gore invented the Internet and make obvious errors. Not accusations of ideology, but actual data and facts.

Dec. 30. Reacting to Gilliard’s idea, Atrios gives it a second. Hardball: “We should have an ‘adopt a journalist’ program. As Steve suggets, people should choose a journalist, follow everything they write, archive all their work, and critique and contextualize it where appropriate.”

Dec. 30. Atrios returns to the subject, noting that the Wilgoren Watch already exists: “I’m not going to organize this but feel free to forward on links. I’ll set up a special blogroll section.” But he cautions:

…ideally whoever does this shouldn’t just be doing instant reaction. I’m thinking of archiving all of their work (on your hard drive - copyright and all), and really tracing through and providing context for all their work. This includes talking heads appearances, too.

Dec. 30. Ex Lion Tamer: “Gilliard’s Modest Proposal.”

Dec. 30. See Why? “Eschaton has a cool idea.”

Dec. 31. At Liberal Pride, an Adopt-a-Journalist Forum is created, “to facilitate the project that was conceived at Eschaton.”

Jan. 1. Shadow of the Hegemon: “I’d like to see two versions of it.”

The first is that it should be per-journalist. I think that makes sense, and will provide a real impetus to change when the journo figures out that the only way to get this guy off his back is to stop pandering to the right.

The other idea is a per-issue focus, where specific falsehoods like “Al Gore created the internet” are targeted.

I don’t think these two are incompatible. What would be most useful is if those who were focusing on specific falsehoods create “falsehood FAQs…”

Jan 3. PressThink on horse race journalism: “Meanwhile, the weblog world is starting to stir a bit with the idea of monitoring individual campaign reporters. (But for what?)…”

Jan. 5. Halley of Halley’s Comment in the comments at PressThink: “I especially liked the idea of bloggers tracking reporters (per Steve Gilliard) and anticipating what they will say. Their no-story reporting style is lamentably obsolete.”

Jan. 6. Pipeline: “Look for the way they use various labels for unnamed sources to insert their own ideas and biases into stories. David Brooks isn’t really a reporter, but I feel like I’m covering his columns every day they come out, so maybe I’ll adopt him.”

Jan 6. Reporter Alan Judd of the Atlanta Constitution emails PressThink: “The idea of ‘tracking’ individual campaign reporters—as on Wilgoren Watch—is absurd. The people behind such efforts would be satisified with nothing other than stories effusively praising Howard Dean and blasting Bush as the great satan. What they advocate isn’t press criticism, it’s stalking.”

Jan. 9. Wilogren Watch, “Welcome Ms. Wilogren: “…my little blog has attracted 16 ‘regulars’ who have signed up for the Yahoo Group! e-mail list to be notified of new posts. Including, it seems, one Ms. Jodi Wilgoren from the NYTimes. Welcome, Ms. Wilgoren.”

A Reference Point. The Charen Watch has been in existence since Jan. 17, 2003. Mission statement:

Mona Charen is a Media Whore.

What exactly is a media whore? A “journalist” in name only, perfectly willing without any hesitation to distort, obfuscate, exaggerate, skew, or hide the Truth to advance their personal views or agendas….

Charen Watch is a site devoted solely to critiquing Ms. Charen as her work is posted bi-weekly from the Creators Syndicate site.

I have ideas and questions about this, which may come later. (They did. Go here.) Meanwhile the bar is open, people. Hit the comment button and say what you think. (So 24 hours later…)

Sunday Night, Jan. 11 Discussion has picked up in Blogistan…

Ex Lion Tamer: Pressthink adopts a somewhat dismissive tone toward the ‘adopt a journalist’ meme— um, maybe because they’re journalists? Call me crazy…”

Dan Gillmor: “I like the idea that people are watching what I say and correcting me if I get things wrong — or challenging my conclusions, based on the same facts (or facts I hadn’t know about when I wrote the piece.) This is a piece of tomorrow’s journalism, and we in the business should welcome the feedback and assistance that, if we do it right, becomes part of a larger conversation. But if the idea is to create some kind of organized collection of Truth Squads, I’m less comfortable.” (Posted in comments here also.)

Jeff Jarvis: “When you know something or find out something that somebody in the press got wrong, shout it from the mountaintop and people will listen. When, instead, you keep harping that you can’t stand Dowd or Krugman or Dan or me, well, you’re only further spreading the Internet’s ill-deserved reputation for personal attack and innuendo.” (Also in comments here.)

Laurence at AmishTechSupport: “Adopt a Campaign Journalist for what amounts to stalking and fact-checking the press-credentialed lapdogs of each campaign.”

Matthew J. Stinson: “In the end it seems like the primary goal of the ‘watch’ blog folks is to force polarization and destroy nuance in the media rather than correct the record. Iím not disturbed by the notion that journalists should be fact-checked, but I find it more than a little troubling that some in the blogosphere think we need a Ministry of Truth.”

Tom Mangan in comments: “I’d have more optimism if any of the volunteer press watchdogs had an ounce of objectivity about them.”

Ex Lion Tamer in comments: “Mr. Mangan and his skeptical colleagues might be wary of appearing disingenuous here—after all, as a news editor he stands in the direct line of fire of we self-appointed pointy-eared blogger media watchdogs. Is there something disconcerting about being held to account by one’s readers? There’s not much difference between what we do and a letter to the editor, except that you don’t do the editing, we do.”

Jesse in comments: “For many of the ‘watchers,’ the goal is not to talk to the journalist, but instead to readers of their work, to not let falsehoods, whether real or perceived, stand. That’s part of the point of public debate, is it not?”

cat in comment thread at Atrios: “Rosen is viewing this movement with apparent alarm and ridicule, mentioning Atrios, Kos, Steve, et al. Most of his commenters are media/jounalism types who take a dim view of our out-of-the-mainstream efforts.”

Mary Hodder in comments: The Wilgoren Watch doesn’t have an About section, we don’t know who he is or what he does, and in the same way he wants to criticize other’s work, he’s left out information that would allow his audience to know his biases and experience, and take those into account when reading his work.”

And… they’re listening in Germany.

Atrios returns to the subject at Eschaton: “be in depth about it. Archive all of their work, look for inconsistencies across their own writing. It doesn’t have to be all nasty criticism. Criticism can be both good and bad - it’s important to remember that….mostly what I’m talking about are people covering the ‘04 campaign, and mostly what I’m talking about are straight journalists and not the pundits.”

Al Giordano in comments here: “If there is any journalist out there who is afraid of this wave that is pounding upon our shores, it is time for him and her to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask: What have we become? And how did that happen? It happened because we only get scrutinized from inside our own clubhouse, and, then, only according to rules established to keep the lie alive.”

Doc Searls writes in with Watching the Detectives: “As members of The Press his last week at Macworld and CES, Dan [Gillmor] and I belonged to an exclusive club, with its own private rooms, free food, wi-fi Net connections, and other freebies, not to mention special treatment by vendors. We’re insiders. Yet many markets—politics and technology are just two—include a growing number of outsiders with online journals who are just as important to the market’s ecosystem as credentialed journalists.”

KHayes in comments here: “Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler writes excellent media criticism and has been doing it daily for four years. He’s been doing for multiple reporters what the blogosphere is suggesting for individuals. Bob earns his living at standup comedy. Horrors! He’s not a ‘pro’…”

William of Wilgoren Watch replies with Tsunami: “I hate the term ‘Media Whore’ because of its misogynistic implications, although Iím sure Iíve used it once or twice online, as it is pretty much part of the popular jargon in the blogosphere. I have nothing personal against Ms. Wilgoren and I have attempted to be nothing but respectful to her on this blog Ė I just want to make sure she and her editors know we are paying attention to how they portray our party and Gov. Dean.”

Monday morning, Jan. 12. Debate continues…

The Patricia Wilson Watch is founded. (Reuters reporter)

Jan. 12: Tom Mangan rethinks in Reporters For Adoption: “Bloggers adopting journalists could be the best thing that happens to journalism, because it creates a class of people who elevate the perceived importance of journalism. In the same way that sports coverage is as important as the games themselves, blog coverage of the news could actually reignite the attention of a public that, by and large, tunes out the press.”

Rogers Cadenhead: “As a former newspaper journalist, I’m amazed by some of the hysteria that journalists are exhibiting about a plan for webloggers to follow and critique specific political journalists during the 2004 presidential campaign.”

Halley Suitt of Halley’s Comment emails PressThink with this advice: “Has anyone offered to organize this? I will be happy to. I need you guys to give me a list of which journalists you think we should be adopting and then I’ll dole them out and keep track of it, make it easy to access. I’m new to politics and relatively unbiased (though an obvious Dean supporter). I think it’s a great idea.”

Nick Douglas of Broken Hammock in comments here: “Could the journalist-watching be done in a purposely mixed manner, rather than a negative bent only? I know I’d enjoy following a journalist and bragging about how accurate he’s been. Adopt-a-journalist can run both ways, rewarding the good as well as punishing the bad.”

Ex Lion Tamer refines in an updated post: “Think of bloggers as the ‘garage band’ model of journalism, if you will. the hectoring and lecturing tone of the paid and/or degreed professional journalists telling us we ought to pipe down and stop swearing and all that - man, does that get my goat, but it’s also ahistorical. All movements in media since Gutenberg have been tidal, not linear.”

Mike Adamick emails PressThink with his resource site for tracking political journalists: Poliwonks.

The Wilgoren Watch makes Howard Kurtz’s media column in the Washington Post: “She laughs about Wilgoren Watch (whose author remains anonymous), saying she and her fiance were among the few who signed up for updates. The fledgling site had 2,715 visitors as of last week. ‘I don’t think this is a big movement,’ Wilgoren says. ‘I get e-mail every day from Dean supporters who think I’m insane, and I get some very thoughtful reactions. This is a campaign filled with people on the Net voraciously communicating with each other.’”

Fact-esque, a watch weblog for AP reporter Calvin Woodward, is born. (DOB Jan. 11.)

Here is another, a second Woodward watch.

Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly “adopted.”

For part two of this discussion, See PressThink: Why I Love the Adopt-a-Reporter Scheme. Why I Dread It. (Jan. 14)

Listen to a segment about adopt-a-journalist on NPR’s “On the Media,” via WNYC, Jan. 24-25. With host Brooke Gladstone, and guests Jody Wilgoren of the New York Times, Jay Rosen, and the author of the Wilgoren Watch.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 10, 2004 6:10 PM