October 4, 2004
Political Jihad and the American Blog: Chris Satullo Raises the Stakes
On September 26, in 668 precision words, Chris Satullo, editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, significantly advanced a debate that Nick Coleman, Dan Rather, Alex Jones and others have trivialized by dumping on the bloggers from a "higher" position. Satullo abandons that, in favor of widening the circle. He says journalists should pay serious attention to bloggers. And he has a warning: Orwellians in the mist.
A pizza-stained paper plate sat between Moulitsas and Atrios. Together, they have more readers than The Philadelphia Inquirer. — Matthew Klam, New York Times Magazine, Sep. 26.
When journalists go after bloggers, op-ed style, they typically have one thing to say: these bloggers, they’re not real journalists. And they don’t have to meet our standards, so don’t trust them.
Two days ago I wrote about an exceptionally pure case in point: Nick Coleman’s Sep. 29 column in the Star-Tribune. (See PressThink, Nick Coleman’s Classic Hit.) It’s too bad he veered from it to “bloggers are scum,” for he was on to something serious that morning.
Coleman—a metro columnist in the Twin Cities who has worked for both local dailies: the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Star-Tribune—saw a “war against the media” being fought out today. “A lot of it, we deserve,” he added. “The traditional media have faltered badly, from the run-up to Iraq to the Rather-CBS fiasco over forged memos.” He said he was worried about what was going to happen now.
“We are rattled, and in danger of losing our way.”
Nick Coleman had this sense that the bloggers were involved in the rattling, and the danger. But it was confusing to him. How had professional journalists allowed themselves to be attacked by these information vermin, the bloggers? It was unbelievable that such lowlifes could be credited with a story that was dragging the mighty CBS down.
And if CBS goes down who is going to scrutinize power? Coleman wanted to know. (It’s a good question, too.) A banker, a lawyer, writing a blog in his spare time? “That’s the job of journalism,” he wrote. “To scrutinize the actions of those in power. If you think bankers will do it, your brain is blog mush.”
But Coleman let his hostility—“most bloggers are not fit to carry a reporter’s notebook”—get in the way of his analysis, and so his point about the war and being rattled was never carried through. Perhaps feeling spat upon by particular bloggers, he decided to spit on the bloggers as a group.
But this won’t help anyone understand the “war against the media.” In more vivid language, Tom Brokaw talked about the war at a New Yorker event this weekend. (All three anchormen spoke there, making it newsworthy.) “What I think is highly inappropriate is what’s going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS News that is quite outrageous,” Brokaw said. (See this and this.)
If the worries of Tom Brokaw won’t, the writings of Hugh Hewitt will help you understand this war. Read him consistently, you begin to get it. He gave a public warning to Jim Lehrer before last week’s presidential debate: You saw what happened to CBS, Mr. Lehrer. Be smart, and don’t tilt the debate for Kerry, as we know you want to… (Hugh Hewitt, On Notice: “Jim Lehrer and the rest of the old media should know that they have to play it straight tonight.” Weekly Standard, Sep. 30).
Jim Lehrer takes his seat as debate moderator with the PBS brand as firmly affixed to his back as CBS is to Dan Rather’s. Moderating a presidential debate never carried much of a risk for the mother ship in the past, but in this era of new media, any detectable bias on Lehrer’s part will result in a cyber-tsunami headed towards PBS affiliates across the country.
Hewitt (who said he was only arguing for balance, as in “play it straight, PBS”) made a prediction:
If Lehrer goes in the tank for Kerry, expect an enormous blowback—as predictable as the one which followed CBS’s foisting of forgeries on the public. Only PBS is much more vulnerable to viewer dismay than the Boss Tweeds at Black Rock.
“Vulnerable” is the key word to Hewitt and company on the cultural and Internet right. They believe they have the mainstream news media on the run, in a weakened state, and “on notice” about liberal bias.
Andrew Sullivan’s Sep. 12 column in the Times of London is the best synopsis of the war that Coleman and Brokaw talked about, and that Hewitt also sees happening. (Media Wars: “The Election’s Other Battle.”) There’s also this backgrounder about the “tension between bloggers and news media” from Staci Kramer in OJR. Both are valuable.
But the best column yet written about that tension came and went recently with almost no notice from bloggers or media critics, though it made Romenesko five days late. In fact, Technorati showed zero references at the time this was posted. For me it is the most consequential piece of its kind, and the ideas in it are too important to let pass without comment. (So when you’re done, hit the button and comment.)
On September 26, in 668 words, Chris Satullo, editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, significantly advanced a debate that Alex Jones, and Nick Coleman, and Dan Rather, and many others have trivialized by dumping on the bloggers from a “higher” position. Satullo abandons this position, in favor of widening the circle. He gives the best argument yet for why journalists should pay serious attention to bloggers and what they have to offer. Then he lets the newcomers, the bloggers, have a hit of realism.
His case begins where I would begin. Before you criticize journalists, you should think about your answer to a thousand dollar question: what are journalists for? (In your mind.) I wrote a book about it. Satullo has thought about it. Roll tape:
For any journalist who understands his real job— helping the public life of this nation work well…
Stop right there. The ultimate job of the press, in Satullo’s world (and in mine), is a pragmatic one: “helping the public life of this nation work well.” This view, we should tell you, has rivals. One of them says the ultimate job of the press is to help no one, advance no agenda. “We’re the watchdogs and the truthtellers and we advocate nothing. End of story.” I call it the View from Nowhere. Satullo isn’t on that side. And this affects what he thinks about the bloggers. Roll tape:
For any journalist who understands his real job - helping the public life of this nation work well - the rise of citizen comment on the Internet should be something to celebrate.
Stop. Check it out, Newsroom Joe. Journalists should be cheering the arrival of the bloggers during this campaign cycle. Why? Because journalism is about the enlargement of public life, and that’s what the bloggers are doing. Enlarging the circle.
The blogosphere is a dynamic expansion of things newspapers have long done to aid democratic dialogue, from letters to the editor to experiments in civic journalism.
Blogging is a new way to engage people in discussion of the news, the very thing you care about and do, Nick Coleman.
Many bloggers are citizens who care about facts and ideas. (Some are narcissistic boors, but let’s ignore them.) Good bloggers devour information, making then a smart, skeptical audience.
Journalists, you can stop worrying about bloggers “replacing” the traditional news media. We’re grist for their mill, says Satullo, a mill that doesn’t run without us. Bloggers consume and extend the shelf life of our reporting, and they scrutinize it at a new level of intensity.
Any journalist who would not welcome that is a fool. Given a choice between a world of nonreaders zoning out with MTV or a posse of tart-tongued digital watchdogs, I say: Up with blogs!
Of course, there are others saying the same thing, but I find “up with blogs!” refreshing in a newspaper editor.
Blogs may display the flaws of youth (naivete, hyperbole, self-indulgence), but I find them refreshing.
Good deal. However, there is a problem. It’s this media war. Satullo starts off in a light hearted way:
… many bloggers disdain my type [newspaper editors and columnists] as clueless dinosaurs. The blogosphere is declaring its independence, even as it relies on us fogeys for its daily grist. The sensation is vaguely familiar. I am, after all, the father of two teenagers.
And “blog triumphalism,” as we know, has a very adolescent view of life:
The ruling spin on Dan’s Big Blunder seems to be: Rather exposed as a biased hack; mainstream media exposed as arrogant, obsolete gatekeepers; the blogosphere rules!
Not so fast, interpreters…
Rather’s meltdown could be a clarifying moment for journalism.
Which is a story line no main line reporter has pursued since the Rather matter blew up Sep. 20: the blown opportunity story. CBS could have seized the initiative during the crisis and transformed itself, right there in the eye of the storm, into an Internet-era news division, pro-active in building credibility, willing to be more open, accountable and interactive. By taking advantage of the crisis, treating it as a moment to break with orthodoxy and become more transparent, CBS leadership might have rescued a very bad situaton, and made of it a “clarifying moment.” (Jeff Jarvis made this point on Sep. 19th.) It didn’t happen. Now Satullo:
But the event is being hijacked by propagandists of Orwellian agenda. Their cover story: We’re challenging the bloated corporations that own the biased mainstream media. This strikes a chord with the hype-weary youth who’ve made the Internet their own.
This brings him to the war, and the war cry of bias:
But the real goal of the propagandists - with their shouts of Bias! Arrogance! Monopoly! - is to destroy journalism. Why? Because journalism is the sworn enemy of propaganda.
I believe Satullo is drawing a distinction between those who are frustrated and angry with the traditional news media, and want answers, as well as changes, which is one group of critics—many of them pro-Bush or red staters, some of whom blog—and another group, posing as critics of bias, who see an oppportunity to discredit CBS News in the wider public sphere.
They want to achieve an historic victory in a very long war between conservatives and the likes of CBS, going back to 1969 and Spiro Agnew, or even further to 1964, when Barry Goldwater met the hostility of Northeastern journalists. (For this background go here.) They want to inflict as much damage as possible on an institution they treat as hostile to Republican Truth, and to the message of the cultural right.
Bias is their lever only because CBS and other mainstream news organizations claim to be un-biased. (And Newsday’s Marvin Kitman said Sunday that’s a fantasy in TV news.) If CBS identified itself as liberal news, made by progressives for all Americans, the war against Rather and crew would go on, but not on the grounds of bias. It would switch to the defeat of “CBS liberalism” itself. Bloggers, says Satullo, be wary of the Orwellians.
They’ve pressed their attack against journalism for 30 years now, frothing about Bias.
But this does not mean the press is innocent of bias, error, laziness and poor quality control.
And shame on journalists for having given them so much ammunition. We screw up too often. We take too many shortcuts. We lapse in vigilance against our own preconceptions.
To lapse in vigilance against your own preconceptions is to take up residence in built deceptions— as with spin alley. This happens way too often, Satullo says. The press should value bloggers who can point it out.
But, in the public forum, overuse has drained meaning from the cry of “Bias!” Often, all it denotes is: “What you reported does not conform to my assumptions.” Or worse: “What you reported, while true, does not advance my agenda.”
It’s the “or worse” case that made Tom Brokaw speak of a “political jihad” against Rather and CBS. But Brokaw, like Rather, is still lumping Internet, blogger, and jihad together and reacting with outrage at the enemy’s tactics. Satullo makes distinctions, so he can warn the citizen bloggers against the jihadis. Howard Kurtz picks up the action:
Although he called Rather’s “60 Minutes” story “a big mistake,” Brokaw said it had led to an attempt to “demonize” Rather and CBS through “demagoguery.”
ABC’s Peter Jennings disagreed, crediting bloggers for first questioning whether the Guard documents were fake and adding: “I don’t think you can just say this is a universal ‘let’s get CBS.’
Their disagreement matters, and this shows why Kurtz is a good reporter. Most amazing of all are the distinctions Satullo drew between “journalism” and Big Media. How often do you hear sentiments like this?
Don’t tell my bosses I said this, but it really doesn’t matter a whit to the republic whether Knight Ridder, the corporation that owns this newspaper, thrives or dies. As loyal as I am to newspapers, I confess it’s not even essential that the ink-on-paper medium survives.
The only thing that matters is for journalism—the practice—to go on, to survive. What is journalism? Satullo does not shy away. He has a definition ready for you.
By journalism, I don’t mean getting paid $4 million a year to have nice hair and interview Kelsey Grammer. I mean the principled, difficult search for the most thorough, accurate, fair-minded account of current matters that flawed human beings can attain.
The media firms that employ journalists have no great commitment to that search. (In this a lot of media critics are right.) But then…
Media conglomerates are not a synonym for journalism. They employ some journalists, and many who only pretend to be. They enable the craft, but also inhibit and cheapen it.
This is one reason why journalists should take an interest in blogging. Independent journalism may have to learn how to live outside Big Media, which is not exactly journalism-friendly, as Satullo says. Bloggers are doing that now. Maybe we can learn from them. But bloggers can learn from us old media types too. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, CBS, or TomPaine.com or the Command Post.
What matters is that journalism survive, that the craft of speaking truth to power with factual care not be snuffed out.
Which puts it beautifully.
Because power prefers lies. Without journalism, lies flourish and liars rule.
Satullo is smart enough to know that those words do not have credibility for all. I found this part poignant.
I know, I know: What an old-media blowhard! But young bloggers, as you shove my type aside and stride to the glorious future, take care that the calendar doesn’t one day turn to 1984. Be wary of the Orwellians.
My one complaint about Chris Satullo’s column is that he didn’t name any “Orwellians.” (I criticized Coleman for that too.) Brokaw did name one participant in the jihad, as Kurtz reported:
He said that Brent Bozell, who runs the conservative Media Research Center in Alexandria, has been “doing as much damage as he can, and I choose that word carefully, to the credibility of the news divisions.” Brokaw noted the growing criticism from left-wing bloggers and expressed skepticism toward Internet detractors: “When it comes to fraudulence, forgeries and claims that cannot be supported, that’s where you see an enormous harm being done to the country.” (My links.)
Satullo’s column is challenging to bloggers but open to their contributions. It’s neither condescending nor sentimental about the blogging trend. In my view his Sep. 26th piece ought to be linked to and read. It ought to be argued about. We ought to know who agrees and who doesn’t with:
- The real job of journalism is to help make the public lfe of the nation work well.
- For journalists, the rise of citizen comment on the Internet should be something to celebrate and learn from.
- The bias discourse has descended into meaninglessness, which doesn’t meant the press isn’t trapped by its own preconceptions.
- The survival of Big Media is not critical, the survival of journalism is. There’s a big difference between those two.
- Bloggers “who care about facts and ideas,” and there are many of those, should be wary of the Orwellians on their own side, who are themselves engaged in propaganda— the charge they are most likely to hurl at others.
Satullo’s final point is that journalism isn’t summed up in Dan Rather, and “MSM on the run” is a sloppy analysis:
Rather’s mistake was sad, but no watershed. This aging anchor is no more the embodiment of journalism than Paris Hilton is a typical farm girl. Mainstream media is a term so loose as to disqualify any assertions that follow it.
He ends by keeping the lines of communication open:
Let’s, by all means, discuss how journalism falls short. Let’s explore how it can flourish in media new and old. But let’s see the screaming about media bias for what it is: at best sloppy thinking, at worst Orwellian poison.
I will be interested to hear what others think. I think Satullo just raised the bar, and hiked the stakes, but almost no one noticed. Roll tape…
After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…
UPDATE: See PressThink (Oct. 8) Satullo Responds: “Bloggers, Journalists, Can’t We All Just Get Along?” (I find so much of the talking about “bias” and “journalism” ignores what writers for newspapers actually do: the best they can to think straight and write straight in too little time with facts that are too sketchy for any sane person to think they constitute “truth.”)
Chris Satullo, Cries of ‘media bias’ hide sloppy thinking (Philadelphia Inquirer, Sep. 26, 2004)
Andrew Sullivan, Media Wars: “There are, I think, three genuinely new power-brokers in American politics and culture in this election season. They are cable news, the blogosphere, and new advertizing/political groups called - after the legislative subsection that helped create them - ‘527s’. Between them, these new forces have helped dilute and even, in a few cases, supplant the network news, the mainstream newspapers and even the political parties as the critical arbiters of the course of an election.”
Tim Porter, responding to this post at First Draft:
What I’ve said before in similar vein is this: “The real lesson both the newsroom and the boardroom need to learn is that, in the age of the 24-hour scroll, the micro-fragmentation of electronic media, and the constant clamor for a news consumer’s attention by everyone from the New York Times to yours truly, all that’s left is the journalism.”
Ernest Miller at Corante comments:
Satullo says that the battle cries of the Orwellians are “Bias! Arrogance! Monopoly!” Why do the Orwellians use these cries? Why do they resonate with the public? Is it perhaps because there is truth in them? A truth that should be spoken to power?
If journalists weren’t so busy claiming that they were objective and, instead, insisted on transparency and accountability, there would be little to be feared from cries of “bias.”
Chris Satullo responds to a critical blog post by La Shawn Barber.
John Fund at Opinion Journal (Oct. 4)
As one prominent journalist recently put it: “In the end, what difference does it make what one candidate or the other did or didn’t do during the Vietnam War? In some ways, that war is as distant as the Napoleonic campaigns.” The man who spoke those words—at a time when John Kerry was under attack by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—was Dan Rather.
To question CBS over how it rushed its story on air is not to engage in a “political jihad,” as Mr. Brokaw claims. It’s to ask legitimate questions about why Mr. Rather and his CBS colleagues felt differently when it came to the National Guard memos.
“We really want a vengeful assault.” John Leo in his US News column: “The e-mail on last week’s Rather-gate column was almost entirely furious with CBS. About 95 percent of some 300 letters and E-mails attacked the network, and all but four or five of those messages denounced my oh-so-moderate suggestion that the goal is not a vengeful assault on CBS but safeguards for fairer reporting. ‘No,’ wrote one reader, ‘we really want a vengeful assault.’”
Cavalier’s Guardian Watchblog: The Fall of the Media Empire (Sep. 16)
Why the revolution won’t be blogged: “Bloggers talk about their importance, but it’s just talk.” J. Kelly Nestruck in Canada’s National Post (Oct. 5, 2004).
Here I Blog, I Can Do No Other, Doug Kern column (TCS, Oct. 5)
Five hundred years ago, the Catholic Church was the big four networks, CNN, the New York Times, and NPR all rolled into one. To its adherents, the Roman Catholic Church was the only authoritative source of truth about the world. In a Europe populated largely by illiterate, ill-traveled peasants, who could contest the Church’s interpretation of anything?
Then as now, a monopoly on information and public narratives leads to abuses. Reporters distort truth for partisan gain, just as clerics distorted theology for personal profit. The lust for big ratings (and the ensuing lucrative commercial deals) leads to sensationalized stories; the lust for big donations led to sensationalized claims for plenary indulgences. Greed and arrogance are the eternal opponents of truth.
Earlier PressThink on Dan Rather, CBS, and the Texas Air National Guard:
Weekend Notes with Forgery Swirling in the Air. (Sep. 11)
Stark Message for the Legacy Media. (Sep. 14)
Rather’s Satisfaction: Mystifying Troubles at CBS. (Sep. 18)
Did the President of CBS News Have Anyone in Charge of Reading the Internet and Sending Alerts? (Sep. 20)
Does CBS News Have a Political Future in This State? (Sep. 24)
Posted by Jay Rosen at October 4, 2004 7:28 PM
It is not that Orwellians are not dangerous, they are. However, they're only strong through bad journalism. Orwellians are a symptom of bad journalism, just as a fever is a symptom of infection. Fevers can kill, but what you want to treat is the infection, not just the fever, generally.
As for the other bullet points:
* The real job of journalism is to help make the public life of the nation work well.
Absolutely. And they generally do it through open and transparent information exchange.
* For journalists, the rise of citizen comment on the Internet should be something to celebrate and learn from.
Of course. Journalists should also do their best to educate the citizenry as well. It should be a two-way exchange.
* The bias discourse has descended into meaninglessness, which doesn't meant the press isn't trapped by its own preconceptions.
The charge of "bias" isn't meaningless when the other side keeps claiming "objective". We need to move beyond claims of "objectivity" at least as much as we need to move beyond claims of "bias."
* The survival of Big Media is not critical, the survival of journalism is. There's a big difference between those two.
Yes and no. It depends on how you define "big." We need large organizations that have the resources to engage in the prolonged and expensive investigation and reporting necessary for some of the important stories. On the other hand, organizations that attempt to act as gatekeepers or bottlenecks, are a hindrance to journalism.
* Bloggers "who care about facts and ideas," and there are many of those, should be wary of the Orwellians on their own side, who are themselves engaged in propaganda-- the charge they are most likely to hurl at others.
The problem for Orwellians is that they eventually engage in propaganda. Bloggers need to speak truth to power wherever it is necessary.
The real job of journalism is to help make the public l[i]fe of the nation work well.
This sounds great, but what does that mean? Ferreting out the corrupt? Exposing largess?
Stephen talks about a map. To me that map is often a puzzle. Journalists try to figure out what pieces belong to the map. Then they examine the map for distortions. They are constantly reevaluating the contours and completeness of this mental map - thier own and the one the public has (may need to distort their own in presentation to correct for public distortions?).
Journalists also try to explain map differences between communities, cultures and countries, occaisionally, which alters the map view.
Leaders distort the map to win and keep followers. Idealogues and demagogues do too. New Deal, Great Society, Reaganomics, New Economy 90s, War on Drugs, War on Poverty, Get you war on ...
For journalists, the rise of citizen comment on the Internet should be something to celebrate and learn from.
Journalists should exploit this to take the pulse of public discourse and look for distortions (being pointed out and generated). In addition, citizen comment on the Internet should be an incubator for the marketplace of ideas. Nuture, transplant, weed, prune, rather, rinse, repeat ...
The bias discourse has descended into meaninglessness, which doesn't meant the press isn't trapped by its own preconceptions. (link added)
Meaningless in the sense that pointing out the nudity of the Objective Journalism emperor has become wearisome. Rather than continually demonstrating the failure to achieve the impossible ideal, or worse becoming a source for the shrill and Orwellian, what would be better?
The survival of Big Media is not critical, the survival of journalism is. There's a big difference between those two.
Educate. Educate. Educate. See sbw.
Bloggers "who care about facts and ideas," and there are many of those, should be wary of the Orwellians on their own side, who are themselves engaged in propaganda-- the charge they are most likely to hurl at others.
Orwellians are the leaders, ideologues, demagogues, et al., see above. They were the voices behind Rather's patriotism on 9/12/2001.
Being wary is one thing. Pointing out your own Orwellians is another. Difficult to do and often unappreciated. What mechanism could encourage or award such bravery? Blog journalism award?
Excellent piece, Jay, really great. It got me thinking, what is the responsibility of the public with regards to journalism? Being a citizen matters to a democracy, is the lifeblood of democracy, and without involved citizenry, democracy dies. Journalism's spirit of a specialized elite speaking truth to power was partially a result of technical constraints in the inability of the public to be involved. It was not just that, of course, but since the technical constraints to journalism are being lifted with cheap printing presses and distribution systems, does the public's responsibility with regards to journalism change? Must we become less of a 'consumerate', accepting one of several competing versions of events written by a professionalized elite?
Indeed, the exporting of spin alley, the mass participation in the rituals of the gang of 500, suggest that is what's happening. There's a cultural appetite to participatory journalism, but participatory journalism doesn't just take place from the perspective of the journalist.
What I liked about Satullo's piece is that it spoke to this public as part of the process, instructing us on how we can aid the process of journalism, or truth-seeking.
I'm bitter at the wholesale propagandizing that passes for political discourse, on the right and the left (though the right has amplified it to an art form). But the answer seems to be about encouraging public education and participation in the endeavor of journalism and truth-seeking. What strikes me as most pernicious about 'pressthink' is the idea of impartiality, which is mirrored in the public by the self-righteous tones of the independents or swing voters, who claim a 'pox on both houses' and often don't vote. When journalists who are brave voice a non-impartial narrative, they are often punished. This indulgence of authority without credibility teaches the public the wrong lesson, which is that partisanship, as opposed to dishonesty, is the big evil to look out for.
And the thing is, the public learns and imitates the gang of 500. That's why spin alley is no longer just in the room you wanted to raze, but all over the internet. So what journalists have to teach us about their craft is critical, and they have been doing a poor job so far.
The real job of journalism is to help make the public l[i]fe of the nation work well.
Let me revisit to distinguish between this sentence and my own position. The original sentence implies one level of abstraction too many.
My sentence suggests our task as individuals -- and journalism's task in society -- is to help improve individual mental maps of reality the better to be able to plan one's own future. The goal is to make those maps more useful. So equipped, individuals try to decide how to improve community life (including making the public life of the nation work well).
The way the original sentence is written, it would seem justified to misrepresent based on that journalist's perception of the greater good. I don't buy that for anyone -- politician, priest, publisher, diplomat or scientist. You treat one's map of reality with reverence (except when bluffing in poker) for your own safety's sake. If you don't, no one can ever trust you again, nor can you trust anyone else.
The way the original sentence is written, it describes media hubris where to presume to choose what is right for people is an easy leap from "to help make the public life of the nation work well." That seems a dangerous liberty.
Look at hubris in this context:
Hubris: "A Greek term that is difficult to translate directly. It is a negative term implying both arrogant, excessive self-pride or self-confidence, and also a hamartia (see above), a lack of some important perception or insight due to pride in one's abilities. It is the opposite of the Greek term arête, which implies a constant striving for perfection and self-improvement combined with a humble awareness that such perfection cannot be reached. As long as an individual strives to do and be the best, that individual has arête. As soon as the individual believes he has actually achieved arête, however, he or she has lost that exalted state and fallen into hubris, unable to recognize personal limitations or the humble need to constantly improve."
Individuals, journalists, and society need arête, not hubris.
"But let's see the screaming about media bias for what it is: at best sloppy thinking, at worst Orwellian poison."
Or perhaps, I don't know, TRUE? I mean, the voting record is avaiable for all to see - what, 11 to 1 Dec, or something like that? Just because something is not helpful to the debatge (because people don't listen) doesn't make it untrue.
"If CBS identified itself as liberal news, made by progressives for all Americans, the war against Rather and crew would go on, but not on the grounds of bias. It would switch to the defeat of "CBS liberalism" itself."
Not exactly... it could switch to a fact-based debate, something we don't have now. The reason "the Right" (in all its evilness) wants to destroy the liberal media is because the liberal media has been trying to destroy them for years, through the use a very large "bully pulpit" that allowed to rebuttal or even acknowledgement that what they said might not be The Truth (tm). When someone tries to destroy you, you generally fight back.
"Both the bigots and the rich want to destroy journalism because they don't want people to know what they are doing. Both of them have power on some level that they could exercise with impunity if they could just get rid of people checking up on them. So, when public schools in rural Pennsylvania (where I live) institutionalize mandatory prayer, they can get away with it if the press doesn't expose it and the civil rights division of the Justice Department doesn't stop it."
Riiiiiiiiiiiight. People not on the evil, evil Right would never, oh, brainwash elementary school students regarding, say, treating the earth as a goddess or anything (Gaia). Or teach "history" that never happened (because the actual history makes socialism look bad), or anything like that... It's only the evil, evil Hitler-reincarnations on the evil, evil RIGHT that would EVER do anything like that...
Get a clue. Some people on BOTH sides want that... their goals are essentially identical - control over people and destruction of their ideological foes.
"That's why they celebrate Reagan for saying, "Government is not the solution, government is the problem." He began the long march to destroy the very idea of a strong federal government..."
History lesson: the "strong federal governement" was primarily created during the last hundred years - basically, since the passage of the general income tax. Before that, the FEDERAL government was weak, and the states were stronger. That's how the founders designed it.
Now, you may certainly WANT a "strong federal government", but that's not what's in the Constitution - and the history of strong federal governments the world over is not one that I would like to see repeated here.
Jay says: "The ultimate job of the press, in Satullo's world (and in mine), is a pragmatic one: 'helping the public life of this nation work well.'"
Lordy, no. With much respect for a fine editorialist (Satullo) and a superb journalist of ideas (Jay, my boss, no less), I disagree as strongly as possible with this statement. I don't think there is a "job of the press" because I think the idea of the "press" as coherent entity does nothing but reinforce the deadly boring self-importance of too many journalists -- although, in all sincerity, I'd except the two under discussion here. The press includes ratty little anarchist papers and insane, crackpot militia websites, and, yes, Dan Rather. God forbid that these unholy forces should every ally themselves in support of a "nation."
Call me unAmerican, but I've never thought of my job as a journalist as "helping the public life of the nation," or helping the nation at all. Nor do I subscribe to the eunuch's view of "accuracy above all and before all," which should be such a given that it's not a discussion point.
My job as a journalist -- and this may not be every journalist's -- is to dig up and demystify overlooked narratives, to reveal the mythological substance that binds facts together into a "story," to evoke experience, count lies, tell truths, and quote brilliance, absurdity, contradiction, and revelation; to try and fail to create literature; to listen to and translate into prose the stories people tell; to introduce forgotten factors to historical nuance and take them all to the prom; to betray everyone and everything but the truth, small t, as best as I can comprehend it.
Making the "press" strictly pragmatic shirks the responsibility that comes with access to a public forum and time to make something of that access. We have a ritual role as well as a "real" one, and we're disingenuous when we pretend to be nothing by representatives of the republic -- as if there ever was such a simple creature.
Eric, Ben, Tim Jeff and those who have said, "oh, no, god no, no that..."
The truth is most people who encounter it--journalists, critics, inside and outside the press, Jack Shafer to take one, but there are many more--don't like Satullo's formulation, which is also my own, this pragmatic thing... "help make the public life of this nation work well." For now, and maybe always, it will remain a minority view. Possibly it has some fatal defect that keeps it so. Or a syntax only a PhD could love.
I'm content with that. Though I may have done so once, I would not try today to convert you to my "nourish public life" view because my view--Satullo's also--has many defects in it. For one thing, its emotional appeal is....thin.
Although I believe in my own answer, I take the pragmatic approach. It's only the best I can find to get the job done. When a better one comes along, I plan to grab it. My interest lies primarily in whether we need new and different, more original, and more politically-candid answers to the question, what are journalists for?
I believe we do need new and better answers to that question. The ones we have now are broken. Who agrees with that? Who doesn't? To me this is worth knowing.
Don't buy a fuzzy, goo-goo-ing answer like: "help make the public life of this nation stronger, and more democratic," because you don't trust the journalists who would do this "helping"... or don't think that's the job of the goddamn press.... or don't know what these grandioise abstractions, like "public life" are supposed to mean... or you hate the thought of journalists being responsible for things "working"... or just see a bunch of liberal weasel words disguising another power grab?
Fine. I understand these reservations and could list ten more of equal validity. I share some of them myself.
I mentioned in my post the most popular choice in journalism philosophies, The View From Nowhere. It has many fans, and many who don't know they believe in it have nothing but The View From Nowhere in reply to me when I say to them (as I sometimes do)... you told me about the bias you think the press has, and I heard you as best I could; can you now tell me about the bias you think the press should have?
Or would you fall back on the View From Nowhere?
Jay: can you now tell me about the bias you think the press should have?
It's a great question. Asked and answered. I would add a bias in favor of ambiguity.
I do think that if I disagree with you on your model for journalism's role in the "public health", it's the scalability of your model. I think it breaks down at the larger scales in practice.
Also, I think "Objective Journalism" is a myth by trying to be fact-based instead of rhetoric-oriented in the pursuit of "truth".
I think there is a difference between coherent and cogent. I find much of the press to be incoherent. I don't think you can be cogent until you've accomplished coherent. Being able to articulate ambiguity and transparent about your perceptions is a foundation of being coherent and attempting to be cogent.
Ernest, I agree with what you wrote, but would like to pick up on this point: ... the mass media can be antithetical to the idea of the Fourth Estate.
I think that's an important, did I say important?, I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T, aspect of the bias debate and the map of reality.
For example, this quote from the UC Press description of Saletan's book: "This book is a crucial lesson in how politicians and interest groups can change the way we vote, not by telling us facts or lies, but by reshaping the way we think--in part through mass marketing."
"reshaping the way we think" or altering our reality map, our view of it?
And over what media does that mass marketing occur? Mass media?
And how do politicians and interests groups gain access to mass media and time to make something of that access? Through journalists?
Hello? Bias war?
What isn't an opportunity for civic journalism?
I don't know, nothing? Does everything provide an opportunity to write in order to encourage participation in our democracy and "help the public life of this nation work well"?
If we approach the question of what role religion should have in our public discourse with the assumption or premise that people are trying to eliminate religion from public discourse, we're going to have a different discussion than one simply asking what role religion should play in public discourse.
That's a second condition, or threshold. The first was prominence, the second is your threshold of passivity for trying. Which brings us to ...
... I don't think that [Rawls'] esoteric theories are driving the debate about religion in public discourse from the left. If one wants to argue that, then the other side can point out all the conservative religionists who want nothing but religion in public discourse.
I think Stout does that in Democracy and Tradition. It seems dismissive to say the liberal secularist like Rawls, Dworkin and others are harmless theorists and opposed by harmless traditionalists, which makes the whole doubleplus harmless. Must we name a few activists on both sides as well?
I just don't think starting a discussion with a wild generalization is generally a good way to spark an important debate.
Sure it is. For example, the debate you and I are having. Maybe it isn't the civic journalism way? Here's the debate we are not having that was also contained in Reynold's generalization: "... efforts to remove talk of religion from public discourse ... have in fact weakened the left morally, intellectually, and politically."
In the end, it would be great if more religious and secular types engaged in civic journalism. Journalism is agnostic when it comes to practice.
Is Stout's book an act of civic journalism? Which is closer to civic journalism: Alexis de Tocqueville Exploring Democracy in America or Jeffrey Goldfarb Civility and Subversion? Neither? A little of both?
This may be a bit OT, but it relates to hidden bias.
Some cultures reject cheating. That has long been the case in America. As a boomer, I know that cheating was strongly discouraged as I grew up and I have a strong bias(?) against cheating and those who cheat. I also know other cultures where cheating is taken for granted.
Today, cheating in the US seems to be less rejected. My daughter encountered, especially at the University level, far far more cheating than I had ever heard of, much less observed.
Cheating is also more accepted in business than it used to be, although looked down on by most (for those not in business, you would be surprised how many deals, some very big, hang on trust).
When a member of the media skews a story to favor one party over another, that "journalist" is cheating - cheating the American public of the truth and of their trust, cheating the non-favored party, and on a large scale, damaging the democracy, which requires a certain level of trust and truth.
If a journalist cheats to "do good," it makes no difference. It is still cheating, it is wrong, and it is damaging.
Way too many journalists are also lazy or overworked, and certainly ignorant - I regularly find talking heads or scribblers recitiutng completely wrong facts - not on purpose - but because they just don't have a clue what they are talking about. This was common in the first Bush National Guard screech-fest earlier this year. It is common about science. In fact, it tends to be common in general.
These people are also cheaters - they are lying through ignorance just to appear knowledgeable.
A small percentage of bloggers have exposed some of the worst cheating. As many have pointed out, bloggers are in a different space and have a different role than employed journalists. When they are discussed by the media, too often they are stereotyped into one or at best a few types.
A discussion of bloggers is like a discussion of liquids. Is it water or wine or gasoline or what? Bloggers vary in style (Reynolds vs Den Beste), chosen subject matter (politics, war, my daily life, model railroading...). Blogging is a technology and a blogger is simply a person (or group, such as The Command Post) using blogging technology to do something enabled by that technology. That's it.
Bloggers gain reputations. Bloggers are more likely to be criticized or engaged in public, in comment sections, other blogs or even the MSM. Bloggers refer to each other frequently, forming webs of information. Bloggers can cheat too, but it doesn't matter unless they have a significant readership (in numbers or quality), and they are unlikely to hold onto the readership if they are caught cheating. In a way, blogging has some roots in Usenet and electronic bulletin boards.
Journalism usually operates in an opaque environment. Blogging is less opaque - depending on the blogger. I have reported some original stories on my blog. Is there any reason to trust them? It depends on your knowledge of me and the subject. Is it journalism? Beats me and don't care. It's an organized collection of prose revealing information.
In the future, I suspect more bloggers will be reporting directly. But they won't displace the need for organizations with the assets to do serious investigative journalism.
One unique value of blogging over current MSM technology and practice is interactivity. Currently this is usually in comment sections, some of which, like Roger Simon's are themselves often full of interesting information and true civic discourse. Sometimes it is less real time and filtered, such as Glenn Reynold's practive of only accepting email. RSS is an newer automated intertie technology which may add a new dimension to both the knowledge web aspect and interactivity.
I think pre-internet, the press and occasionally the networks were tasked with fact-checking and that WAS the umpire job in many cases. Now we have competing media systems and a tug-of-war for umpiring recognition. "My strike zone is more accurate than yours."
Maybe you think the old umps consistently had a crooked strike zone. Maybe you don't. (I personally think Glavine and Maddox were playing a different game with special, friendly rules for years. Like Michael Jordan got an extra step on the way to the basket, or Shaq gets to knock over his opponent of choice and it's a foul on them.) But you can't blame them for calling a bad game AND say they aren't even umps to boot. You'll have to choose one or the other.
The latest Republican strategy seems to be, they call a bad game AND they're not umpires so screw them. Our team is bringing our own umpires.
Is each team bringing their own umpires to the game going to be a practical model? Will people accept the outcome as legitimate? I can see arguments on both sides.
To me the media system now looks like the union umpires who think (or wish) they are fair but are scared of the Republicans on one side, and the Republican umpires who know they are Republicans on the other. There is no balance in that.
If each team is bringing their own umpires, the MSM umps can't count as partisan umpires as long as they think they are umpires from nowhere and they don't cooperate on the central script like Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh, by coordinating all programming with the RNC. When it comes to coordination, Media Matters and Air America are the only comparable, and relatively feeble, counterweights to the all RNC programming with Rush and Fox and all the Murdoch outlets plus the Foxification of CNN and MSNBC. Not much of a match-up yet.
What happens when one teams' ump calls a strike and the other teams' ump calls a ball? That's pretty much where the bias wars are. What happens when one team's ump says, "This batter gets four strikes because he's a true patriot"? "This team gets four outs this inning because they have good intentions." That's a daily occurrence in politics.
The strangest part of the bias wars to me is that the Republicans have been running the table like the Yankees, yet are the loudest about the bias that is handicapping their team. How bad can the bias be if they are the champs, year in and year out? There is something wrong with that picture.
I'm a Cardinals fan. I respected Jack Buck in part because he had the integrity to discuss the bad calls even when they might have helped the home team. He had the judgment to distinguish fairness and sportsmanship from team loyalty.
It is depressing how much more integrity and sophistication sports journalism seems to have as compared to political journalism. But there is some great sports journalism and an incredible sophistication regarding data that you simply can't find in politics.
It's as if political journalists can't even remember batting averages, or can't correct players when they deliberately confuse wins with saves or on-base percentage with slugging percentage.
A sports journalist who couldn't manage simple data THAT EVERY FAN KNOWS would be unemployed in hours or days. Not so in politics, it seems. In part, because every citizen doesn't know the data. For starters, the political data isn't reported as clearly and consistently. Also, for whatever reason, citizens don't demand it in the way they do sports statistics. Pretty sad, that.
Polls are supposed to be something like the batting average of the political team. Yet we have wildly varying samples in all directions. How long would baseball fans tolerate papers that recalculated batting averages so the home team would have a better batting average?
Of course, the last and most serious problem is that in politics, sometimes perception IS reality. In baseball, perception of the umps can make it very hard, but it doesn't regularly erase or outweigh all effort on the field. In Lippmann's terms, in politics the pseudo-environment IS the reality as far as an election goes. In baseball, a cooked batting average doesn't get you on base any more often than an accurate one. You still actually have to throw, hit, and field the ball.
I'm sorry, but Chris Satullo's column shows he still misses the important points.
Satullo says "But, in the public forum, overuse has drained meaning from the cry of 'Bias!' Often, all it denotes is: 'What you reported does not conform to my assumptions.' Or worse: 'What you reported, while true, does not advance my agenda.' " He's wrong. What we mean, almost invariably, is that what you're reporting is not true, or is slanted to advance the reporter's agenda.
I'm one of those awful, "Orwellian" bloggers crying bias. And worse. (WARNING: Shameless self-promotion alert!) If you go over to this post, you'll find me accusing the people at CBS of being liars. I charge them with deliberately and knowingly attempting to deceive the public about the memos that were at the heart of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report. You'll also find thirteen hyper-links, with extensive quotations, in which I lay out, it detail, why I accuse CBS of lying. Only one of those links is to a blogger. The single largest source is the Washington Post.
Now, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps the things I accuse CBS of saying are things it never said (although that's hard to believe, because some are quoted from the CBS News website). Or perhaps the things I call lies are really honest mistakes on the part of CBS. But given that almost all my links are to mainstream media reports about the Rathergate mess, I can't help but wonder why newspapers, radio, and television haven't addressed this issue, namely, that it appears, based on the reporting of respected journalists, that CBS News lied repeatedly to the public in days following their original story.
Instead of telling us "journalism is the sworn enemy of propoganda," why don't you go perform some journalism? Quote what we actually say, investigate the subject, and tell us where we're wrong. Or right. Or missing the point. But stop trying the old 'trust us' gambit.
Because in case you haven't noticed, the old tactics just aren't working anymore.
On the military's perception of media victimization: Yes, and ... the view from nowhere is a source of confusion and frustration for the military.
What's interesting about James Lacey's article is that he's saying, "I'm on your side. I'm a good guy, a strategic asset, and you're treating me badly. Where's the trust?"
Lacey: It means spending every day trying to get important stories into the hands of journalists or facilitating stories already in the works. ... One step in the right direction would be to assign a captain/lieutenant to each of the major media organizations.
For the 411blog (355 Military science): Who served?
Is it a full time job? Can we organize the ROTC Professors of Military Science at the Universities and the Commanders of Recruiting Detachments to be proactive facilitators? Should we focus on those in New York City, Atlanta or Washington, D.C.? How about the Academies (USMA, AF and Naval)? What about the military in schools: civilian and military?
Lacey: Just when it became critical for the military to have embeds who could tell the full story in Iraq, they vanished. The military needs to come up with a way to foot the bill for extended media operations.
Make this (embedding) a responsibility of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Get them to focus on the national, as well as the local community. Make them responsible for embedding journalists with the military and make the military obligated to do it. Either have CPB fund American journalists from private news corporations to do it, fund independents like Chris Allbritton, and scoop everyone through PBS and NPR if necessary.
Lacey: In addition, the military needs to expand and formalize programs to get media representatives out to any and all kinds of training and daily events.
The Pentagon should schedule and run a bi-annual boot camp for journalists. We should be looking for as many Robin Moore's we can find.
What do we think of the blogosphere's work on Cheney's (business as usual) serial lying in the VP debate? His in-your-face pathology would be amusing if people didn't mysteriously continue to take him seriously. What will it take for him to be recognized as the laughing stock he is?
(www.democrats.org has a superb new ad featuring video of Cheney contradicting himself time after time.)
Here's Buzzflash's contribution:
October 6, 2004
Top Ten Cheney Lies of the Vice Presidential Debate
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT
From the Democratic National Committee:
LIE # 1: I Have Never Met Edwards Before
"Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." [Dick Cheney, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
FACT: Cheney Had Met Edwards on At Least Three Prior Occasions
"On Feb. 1, 2001, the vice president thanked Edwards by name at a Senate prayer breakfast and sat beside him during the event." [AP, 10/6/04]
"On April 8, 2001, Cheney and Edwards shook hands when they met off-camera during a taping of NBC's ‘Meet the Press,’ moderator Tim Russert said Wednesday on ‘Today.’" [AP, 10/6/04]
"On Jan. 8, 2003, the two met when the first-term North Carolina senator accompanied Elizabeth Dole to her swearing-in by Cheney as a North Carolina senator." [AP, 10/6/04]
FACT: In Four Years, Cheney Presided Over the Senate TWICE
Source: The Congressional Record
LIE # 2: Cheney Claimed He Had Never Linked Iraq and 9/11
"I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11." [Dick Cheney, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
Bush Made The Same Argument in the First Presidential Debate. "Q: Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States in to another preemptive military action? BUSH: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops. Never wanted to commit troops. When I was running -- when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that. But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us." [George Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04, emphasis added]
FACT: Cheney Has Repeatedly Made This Claim
Question: "The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?"
Cheney: No. I think it's not surprising that people make that connection." [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/14/03]
Cheney: "If we’re successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it’s not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it’s not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." [NBC, "Meet The Press," 9/14/03, emphasis added]
LIE # 3: The Khan Smuggling Network has been Shutdown
"The suppliers network that provided that, headed by Mr. A.Q. Khan, has been shut down." [Dick Cheney, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
Bush Made Same Argument in First Presidential Debate. "Libya has disarmed. The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice." [George Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04]
FACT: Recent Arrests Show the Network May Be Still Active
Arrests of South African and Germans Show A.Q. Khan Network May Still Be Active. A South African man arrested Thursday is suspected of playing a major role in the nuclear black market that supplied Libya, according to American and foreign officials. According to investigators, who could discuss the matter only on the condition of anonymity, Meyer was doing business with two German businessmen who are also being investigated for their ties to South Africa, Libya and the Khan network. German authorities announced that they had arrested a man suspected of selling high-tech equipment on the nuclear black market, the third German businessman named as a suspect in the past month in an investigation into the trade in several countries. The arrests and charges are part of a global investigation, spearheaded by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that extends to about 20 countries. The probe’s focus is a nuclear technology network run by Pakistan’s top atomic scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. [Washington Post, 9/4/04; 9/24/04]
LIE # 4: Bush’s War in Iraq Convinced Libya to Disarm
"One of the great by-products, for example, of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya came forward and announced that he was going to surrender all of his nuclear materials to the United States, which he has done." [Dick Cheney, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
Bush Repeated The Same Line in First Presidential Debate. "We convinced Libya to disarm." [George Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04]
FACT: Libya Was Already Moving to Disarm Before Iraq War
Libya’s Decision To Disarm Preceded The Bush Administration And War In Iraq. According to Tony Blair, Libya first approached the US and Britain regarding its weapons question as the Iraq war approached. Blair said, "Libya came to us in March  following successful negotiations on Lockerbie to see if it could resolve its weapons of mass destruction issue in a similarly cooperative manner." The son of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi dismissed any link in his father’s decision to the war in Iraq or the capture of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Saif Al-Islam Gadhafi told CNN that "the capture of Saddam or the invasion of Iraq is irrelevant" to Libya’s announcement. Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment believes that Libya’s decision "goes back over 10 years of international pressure on the Qaddafi regime…[the] whole move precedes the Bush administration and precedes the war in Iraq." [Washington Times, 12/20/03; CNN.com, 12/20/03]
LIE # 5: Cheney Claimed They’ve Never Let Up on Osama Bin Ladin
"We’ve never let up on Osama bin Laden from day one." [Dick Cheney, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
Failing To Go After A Cornered Bin Laden The " Gravest Error" in the War on Terror. "The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge." [Washington Post, 4/17/02]
BUSH: "And [Osama Bin Laden is] just – he ’s a person who has now been marginalized. His network is -- his host government has been destroyed. He’s the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match…So I don’t know where he is. Nor -- you know, I just don’t spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you. I…I truly am not that concerned about him." [Bush Remarks, 3/13/02, emphasis added]
LIE # 6: 10 Million Voters are Registered in Afghanistan
"[In Afghanistan] we’ve got 10 million voters who have registered to vote, nearly half of them women." [Cheney Remarks, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
Bush Repeated The Same Line in First Presidential Debate. "And the Taliban, no longer in power; 10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election." [George Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04]
FACT: Human Rights Watch Found Registration Numbers Exaggerated
Bush and Cheney Exaggerate the Number of Registered Voters. "Human Rights Watch this week said that figure was inaccurate because of the multiple registrations of many voters. In a lengthy report, the respected organization also documented how human rights abuses are fueling a pervasive atmosphere of repression and fear in many parts of the country, with voters in those areas having little faith in the secrecy of the balloting and often facing threats and bribes from militia factions." [Washington Post, 10/1/04]
LIE # 7: Kerry Voted for Higher Taxes 98 Times
"Gwen, the Kerry record on taxes is one basically of voting for a large number of tax increases -- 98 times in the United States Senate." [Cheney Remarks, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
FACT: 98 Times Figure Has Been Repeatedly Debunked
"Mr. Cheney said that Mr. Kerry had voted 98 times to raise taxes. No question, he cast votes for higher taxes. But the number Mr. Cheney cited included multiple votes on the same legislation. Mr. Edwards said Mr. Kerry had voted against the overall legislation to cut taxes because the benefits went largely to the wealthy." [New York Times, 10/6/04]
"Cheney claimed Kerry had voted 98 times to raise taxes. As we've pointed out before, that's an inflated figure that counts multiple votes on the same tax bills, and also counts votes on budget measures that only set tax targets but don't actually bring about tax increases by themselves." [Factcheck.org, 10/6/04]
LIE # 8: Kerry Wants to Raise Taxes on Small Businesses
"A great many of our small businesses pay taxes under the personal income taxes rather than the corporate, and about 900,000 small businesses will be hit if you do in fact do what they want to do at the top bracket. That's not smart because 7 out of 10 new jobs in America are created by small businesses. You do not want to tax them. Bad idea to increase the burden on those folks." [Cheney Remarks, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
FACT: That Claim Has Been Roundly Debunked By the Press
"Cheney made a puffed-up claim that ‘900,000 small businesses will be hit’ should Kerry and Edwards raise taxes on individuals making more than $200,000 a year, as they promise to do. As we've explainedbefore, 900,000 is an inflated figure that results from counting every high-income individual who reports even $1 of business income as a "small business owner." Even Cheney and his wife Lynne would qualify as a "small business owner" under that definition because Mrs. Cheney reports income as a "consultant" from fees she collects as a corporate board member, even though she had no employees and the business income is only 3.5% of the total income reported on their 2003 tax returns." [Factcheck.org, 10/6/04]
"Cheney said Kerry's tax-cut rollback would hit 900,000 small businesses. This is misleading. Under Cheney's definition, a small business is any taxpayer who includes some income from a small business investment, partnership, limited liability corporation or trust. By that definition, every partner at a huge accounting firm or at the largest law firm would represent small businesses. According to IRS data, a tiny fraction of small business ‘S-corporations’ earn enough profits to be in the top two tax brackets. Most are in the bottom two brackets." [Washington Post, 10/6/04]
"Mr. Cheney said that 900,000 small businesses would be affected by the Kerry proposal to raise taxes on individuals with incomes of more than $200,000. The Tax Policy Center found that only about 5 percent of small businesses would be affected by the Kerry plan and that much of the income of the business operators who would be affected came from sources other than their businesses." [New York Times, 10/6/04]
LIE # 9: Kerry-Edwards Flip-Flopped on No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
"Gwen, No Child Left Behind, they were for it; now they're against it. They voted for it; now they're opposed to it." [Cheney Remarks, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
FACT: Kerry-Edwards Want to Properly Fund, Not Abandon, NCLB
"Cheney charged that Kerry and Edwards oppose the No Child Left Behind education law, which imposes new accountability standards on public schools. Both senators voted for the law and support some modifications and billions of dollars to fully fund the education program." [Washington Post, 10/6/04]
Bush Broke Promise to Fully Fund No Child Left Behind By $27 Billion. Bush’s last four budgets have cumulatively provided $27 billion less than what was pledged under NCLB. While President Bush touts what he calls "historic" increases in education funding, the reality is that federal education funding would be $11 billion less than its current level of $55.7 billion for FY 2004 if Congress had enacted Bush’s budget requests. If Bush took 11 cents out of every dollar of tax cuts for the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans, he could fully fund NCLB. [President’s FY 2005 Budget, www.ed.gov; historical data at www.ed.gov FY 2005 Budget; Education Week, 9/29/04; CBO, 8/04]
LIE # 10: Minority Achievement Gap Is Shrinking
"We are making significant progress and closing the achievement gap. The results from studies coming in show without question that on math and science, math and reading that in fact our minority students our Hispanic and African-American state of the unions are doing better in the gap between them and the majority population is in fact closing." [Dick Cheney, Vice Presidential Debate, 10/5/04]
FACT: No Evidence to Support That, Bush Policies Will Expand the Gap
Cheney Exaggerates Evidence of Minority Gains. "There is fragmentary data to support Bush's claim that the additional federal dollars to schools and the new accountability standards have helped minority students improve their test scores relative to white students, but education specialists agree there is not yet enough evidence to declare the act a nationwide success. Besides, the ‘achievement gap’ has been getting narrower for roughly the past decade, said Paul Peterson, director of the Program in Education Policy and Governance at Harvard's Kennedy School." [Boston Globe, 9/24/04; emphasis added]
The Bush Administration Loosened Graduation Accountability Standards, Leaving Behind 1 of Every 2 Black High School Students. A study by Harvard University and the Urban Institute revealed that half or more of Black and Hispanic youth in the United States are getting left behind before high school graduation because the Bush administration eliminated graduation accountability standards and their strict emphasis on test scores, which would increase the likelihood that low achieving minority students will continue to be pushed to the margins. According to the study, "The drop-out/push-out problem for minority school children in the US is likely to grow more severe on test based accountability." NCLB originally required states to establish standards of academic accountability for different subgroups; however, the new report reveals that Education Secretary Rodney Paige exempted graduation rates from this requirement. ["Losing Our Future," http://www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu LosingOurFuture.pdf>; http://www.urbaninstitute.org]
Good Lord, what a lot of words over 668 words done in two hours (thanks for the word count, Jay). I mention the two hours because I find so much of the talking about "bias" and "journalism" ignores what writers for newspapers actually do: Do the best they can to think straight and write straight in too little time with facts that are too sketchy for any sane person to think they constitute "truth." We try to get the best approximation of accuracy possible in a given moment in the time allowed. Do we sometimes, under that pressure, fall back on reflexes and group think that is an unacknowledged, fuzzy form of bias? Of course we do. As I tried to make clear, we screw up and give critics ammunition every day. But what I find so discouraging, as a person who knows newsrooms have to get a lot more serious and vigilant about how bias actually infects work, are the confident and utterly false assumptions of outside critics who are themselves thoroughly ideological and biased. Being people who submit all reality to the filter of their set system of beliefs, they assume reporters are just like them and must be doing the same thing. In fact, reporters tend to be quite nonideological and unreflective about political ideas; when we commit bias, it is a thoughtLESS act, not a thoughtful, premeditated one.
By the way, and I remind everyone it was only 668 words (thanks again,Jay) I apparently was not clear to everyone. So let me be Nixonly clear: What when I talked about the Orwellians, I was not denoting bloggers in toto or even in particular.
Someone wanted me to name names. Happy to. Bozell is a good one. To be fair and balanced, I find lefty web sites like takebackthemedia equally sloppy.
A lot of what I'm talking about are not bloggers at all, but the political operatives and email pests who have taken up the bias chant as a form of intimidation and harassment of journalists.
Try writing about Israel in Philly and you'll get a taste of what I mean. We get hammered incessantly by the Zionist Organization of America on one side, Palestine Media Watch on the other. For my sins, God based both of them in Philly. If you sit down and listen to their close textual analysis of your awful sins, you will occasionally recognize a lapse or sloppy thinking in your work. But don't mistake this for a conversation with people who want or could define good journalism. They want only coverage that supports, 100 percent and down the line, their world view and propaganda.
For my sins, God also gave me Ed Herman, a lefty old Penn prof who fulminates on Inkywatc.horg about my disgusting failure to run the Inquirer opinion pages as a daily version of the Noam Chomsky Report. Ed, too, in my view is an Orwellian.
Finally, "public life go well." Jay, you know I blame you for this. It's your damn phrase.
And, wow, I didn't think it would still be so misunderstood after all these years.
Public life going well - could the ideological among you possibly accept that this concept does not have a shred of partisan ideological content to it? It's only ideology is democracy.
Public life goes well when people have multiple, useful forums to identify the problems that affect their lives together in community, when their dialogue is civil and robust, and leads to the hope of solutions. Public life goes well when people know about and know how to use the instititions that are civic glue of the community. Public life goes well when elections are about the issues most on the mind of the electorate, when the voters voice helps frame the choices and the debate, and the candidates are required to respond to that voice. Journalists do not define "go well" as a set of policies; they do not presume sole responsibility for "go well." I said "help" go well; not dictate go well. Obviously blogs can help it go well; christ, even talk radio could help it go well. (By the way, why talk augustly of "the press," one young skeptic asks? Perhaps because it's the only craft specificaclly protected by a constitutional amendment?)
Bloggers, journalists - As Rodney said, why can't we all just get along?
He concluded plaintively.
Being people who submit all reality to the filter of their set system of beliefs, they assume reporters are just like them and must be doing the same thing
So reporters are superhuman then? I mean, seriously, anyone who honestly thinks that their thought process is different than this is simply deluding themselves. So, we're full circle back to where we started. You claim to not have bias, i.e. a human perspective on events based on your beliefs and experience. We point out that this is false. You say that it is your critics, or at least the bad, naughty "Orwellian" critics who are rude enough to point out this fact, who are biased. Arrogant, self-serving pap.
Public life goes well when elections are about the issues most on the mind of the electorate,
A large part of the electorate found John Kerry's behavior in Viet Nam, and his Senate testimony and lies about it afterwards to be a compelling campaign issue. Yet, gatekeepers in the MSM, including Professor Rosen, the erstwhile champion of "citizen's journalism, unilaterally deemed any such discussion to be a "smear campaign". Professor Rosen even performed the neat trick of refusing to discuss the veracity of any of the charges against Kerry because to do so would be to buy into the "smear campaign".
Journalists do not define "go well" as a set of policies
Gimme a break. Do you mean to tell me that there are significant numbers of MSM journalists who do not assume that some of the following policies are the very definition of things "going well"?:
-A high rate of taxation on "the rich"
-Lots of money going to public schools and the defeat of any alternative for education such as voucher systems and charter schools
-A high degree of regulation on big business
-No wars unless they are promulgated by a Democrat, are in no conceivable way in the national interest, and preferably involve helping Muslims (Bosnia)
-Democrats in power
Someone wanted me to name names. Happy to. Bozell is a good one.
Please. Bozell's stuff involves numbers, hard data, quotes. Stuff like that. You don't like it because he was the first guy to challenge you and he started a whole movement against you. I don't agree with all of his critiques and I haven't followed stuff he's done recently that much, but calling him "Orwellian" for pointing out a lot of obvious truths many of which have been belatedly granted even by some in the MSM is a real cheap shot.
And this whole "Conservatives hate me and raving communists hate me too so I must be doing a great job" is a really lame, tired schtick. The example you give is reporting of Israel/Palestine issues. One side is a legitimate nation/state which for all of its faults is the only democracy in the Middle East and has a free press. The other is a thugocracy and a kleptocracy which communicates through propaganda. If you play it down the middle, and accept the statements of a country which has freedom of the press and self-criticism as being on a par with the propaganda of a terrorist run authoritarian non-state that has neither that is a huge moral failing. Common sense would dictate that you would put more stock in statements from the Israeli side simply because there is more free media there to check and a more transparent society. Yet you pat youself on the back and call yourself non-biased because you piss off advocates of both sides equally. Pathetic.
And this is only one of a zillion examples of this type of thinking which I see journalists engage in.
I fully realize you'll ignore the above because the tone and diction were not elevated enough and not indirect and nuanced enough, but I think there's some substance there. Maybe. Who knows.
Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.
You're not going to win many converts with references to "genocidal policies."
To quote the Princess Bride: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
The purpose of capitalism is to make the economy work better. The fact of the matter is that many, many people have an innate distrust of these type of grand, do-gooder projects and the broad mandates they always end up giving to unelected, unaccountable individuals (aka capitalists and entreprenuers), not to mention the unintended consequences that always result. The "nourish the economy" thing is a politically loaded point-of-view. The fact that many think it isn't only says something about their politics.
Amazingly, unless they're corrupt, capitalists think that what they are doing is making the economy run more efficiently through things like better service, lower prices, or new products, to mention just a few. It is hard to imagine their arrogance; taking it upon themselves to define their role in society, but doing so in a way that makes their role as grandiose and powerful as possible.
Can't they just buy, sell and make things without having some grand paradigm of what it's all for in their heads? Why can't the consumers simply decide on the worth and the role of their work product?
Oh, wait a minute, that is how capitalists work. Although they probably realize, if they are good businesspeople, that their decisions are part of a grand system of economics called capitalism and that their decisions contribute, overall, to an efficient economy. Though many capitalists will make bad decisions, overall, things generally get better.
And, so, why isn't that how journalism works? On a day-to-day basis journalists just try to get a story or two out. They try to put out the stories they think the people want or need, just as capitalists try to produce what they think the people want or need. Sometimes they're right (Ford Mustangs), sometimes they're wrong (Ford Edsels).
Why can't we see journalism in a similar fashion?