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.”
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:
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?
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.
“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?
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 Print
Before Bloggercon I wrote: I didn't define journalism on Rosen's blog, I explained its purpose: "The purpose of journalism is to refine our mental map of reality."
I want to recall that entry now.
I argue on my blog that journalism has little to fear from the "Orwellians." The true enemy is poor journalism.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 4, 2004 8:46 PM | Permalink
Come to BloggerCon Jay, if you can, and bring this story with you.
Posted by: Dave Winer at October 4, 2004 8:52 PM | Permalink
> The real job of journalism is to help make the public lfe of the nation work well.
Journalism is more than this.
Our nation's schools mistakenly teach English, when, instead, they should teach "tools of thought". Thought is how we, as individuals, plan our very best future.
Similarly, on top of the circle that composes the individual, superimpose the community and on top of that circle superimpose the nation and then the world. Journalism is the community exercise of thought to better our mental map of the world so we can plan our very best future.
Aren't you faaaaaaar to kind to Hugh Hewitt here?
Whining that the "MSM" refuses to cover "Oompa-Loompa-gate"?
What a joke.
I understand what you're trying to do here, Jay, but sometimes one needs to just say what one really thinks. Hewitt is one of the Orwellians. A hack of the highest order. The Weekly Standard piece you cite proves it.
Posted by: praktike at October 4, 2004 9:00 PM | Permalink
I love how some in the profession of journalism are quick to point out anything they view as negative with regard to bloggers, but those same individuals don't ever extol one thing that is a huge benefit to online publications - readership. Blogs drive massive amounts of traffic to these publications, offering up many pageviews to happy advertisers. I've traded emails with many editors at publications whose tune has begun to lean towards working with bloggers, as they realize they are good for business, over all things. Many reporters are more than happy to answer followup questions about their articles, especially when you point out that you are writing a blog entry about their article or the topic and want to use them as a source. Did this even happen this way in the past? Nope - at least not within a few minutes, hours, or days. Beyond the recognition factor, they're getting immediate feedback to their work, and are, most importantly, gaining readers (even if just for one article) that they might not have gotten a year or two ago. Online newspapers used to primarily be visited by "locals" - that's not the case anymore.
Sigh ... one more time, for what it's worth.
The goal of too many blogging-advocates, from several perspectives, is to replace notions of truth and accuracy, with your *opinion*, your *viewpoint*, your own take on the world.
There are both leftist and rightist reasons for this, and it's sometimes like watching extreme communism meet extreme fascism, as post-modernists parallel power-mongers.
Some people are going to be heard, and some aren't. The question is, *who* is going to be heard. Replacing professional authority with populist demagoguery is not necessary a fantastic change.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 4, 2004 9:25 PM | Permalink
Jay, you're exactly right about this piece, which I read today after following the link from Romenesko. And if Blogger weren't ... well, Bloggered, I'd've posted something to that effect well before now.
Lex: The piece, I believe, is major. I look forward to your post when circumstances permit. Thanks.
Okay... so Ernest and sbw, but also others... I take it that you dispute one of my bullet points-- the Orwellian danger Satullo points to isn't serious, you believe. What about the other bullet points? One wants to know.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2004 10:19 PM | Permalink
Fog is just as easy in blogs as it is in traditional media -- you think you are right not because you ARE right, but simply because you THINK you are right.
The fog that enveloped CBS News just as easily fogs bloggers and who the hell are we to presume we don't need to listen.
Although it's often abused, the purpose of a comment section -- and the sweetest purpose of democracy -- is the opportunity to add to understanding and useful information, not to simply win.
But you won't see that in most cases because teachers don't teach humility in school and students only by chance learn it on their own.
Jay: Okay... so Ernest and sbw, but also others... I take it that you dispute one of my bullet points-- the Orwellian danger Satullo points to isn't serious, you believe.
Goodness, no. Pardon me for being so brief I rendered my comment opaque. I was turning the highlit point into a universal. It applies everywhere. It is so important that it is at the very beginning of sensible education. I wish I had done better.
Dave: I signed up late and I believe I am on the waiting list. But it also looks like I have a plan to get me there, and if it works--scheduling wise with other West Coast conferences--then I will bring this story to BloggerCon. Thanks.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 4, 2004 10:38 PM | Permalink
Jay: What about the other bullet points? One wants to know.
Jay, here I am not disagreeing but explaining with a different vocabulary.
Jay: The bias discourse has descended into meaninglessness, which doesn't meant the press isn't trapped by its own preconceptions.
My key phrases 1) Mental map of reality and 2) lens of the media are useful here because the former explains the purpose of thought and journalism and the latter acknowledges that there will inevitably be limitations that need improvement in the process of applying each of them.
The process of improving the map of reality, believe me, is the archaic intent of Philosophy -- and we'd do well to remember it. Next, add a level of recursion -- improving the process of improving the map of reality adds a second level of investigation to further improve the first.
When Jay labels the bias discourse "meaningless", he's really nailing to paper a particular kind of rhetorical abuse that adds little useful information and more often than not is trying to end discussion not illuminate it.
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.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 4, 2004 11:00 PM | Permalink
Jay -- So who *are* the Orwellians. You don't name them either. Will no one name them or shall they always remain an abstract menace?
Posted by: Lee Kane at October 5, 2004 12:14 AM | Permalink
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?
Posted by: Tim at October 5, 2004 1:01 AM | Permalink
Dude, "the press" (as I think you like to call them) are "those in power". Start there. Unelected, unaccountable, completely opaque, they make and break public figures, set the parameters of public policy debates, determine what information we're worthy of receiving, etc. etc. Yes, a bunch of citizens, be they lawyers, fork-lift drivers, housewivers or whoever, can and should keep an eye on "those in power". If by "those in power" you mean the press. Who else is going to do it? The press? Should the press, unique among powerful institutions, be allowed to police itself?
When are you going to drop this bizarre Marxist conceit that the press or the MSM or whatever terminology you prefer to use is not part of "the establishment."
The real job of journalism is to help make the public lfe of the nation work well.
Oh God please no. Why the hell would I want a bunch of damned journalists (many of whom apparently believe that patriiotism is a "baser nationalistic impulse". Too lazy to find the link. It's back there somehwere) monkeying around with the "public life" (whatever that means) of my country. What the hell do they know? Do I get a say in this at all? I mean, in all seriousness, since they're unelected, and for the most part unaccountable, why should I cede them this much authority? (if I even get a say in the matter). And, again, I'm quite serious when I say "What the hell do they know?" What special expertise do they have to improve the "public life" of my country?
PS What's The Philadelphia Inquirer?
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 5, 2004 3:06 AM | Permalink
It's about credibility -- the perceptual clarity that drives a journalist to challenge their own assumptions about the world in order to report what they actually find with honesty. I am not a member of this tribe, but in those instances when I have dealt with a "professional journalist" who is committing an act of "reporting", I have been repeatedly dismayed and ultimately disgusted at thier low standards. Who teaches these people how to function? I am someting of an expert in several narrow fields, and so on those rare occasions when I am sought out by these people, I have come to expect the following:
1) A preconceived agenda they are trying to substantiate so they can say what they planned to say before they picked up the phone.
2) A surprising level of arrogance, given how superficial their understanding is of just about anything that involves compexity (for example: the real world). Is this a byproduct of their sense of unchecked power? Are they not broadly educated? Do they ever have their assumptions challenged by their peers -- or do they self-select for jobs where this will never happen?
3) An acceptance of dishonesty amongst their own they would never tolerate from others. This double standard is so obvious to outsiders, and so outrageously bogus as a place to stand when delivering criticism, that it leaves them with no credibility.
I submit that these negative perceptions of "news media professionals" have become so widespread over the last few decades -- based on personal experiences like my own -- that many educated Americans have just written off the entire "profession" as a source for real information. Hence the rise of the blogosphere, and the unmasking of the MSM as incompetent, biased and dishonest.
Posted by: Evor Glens at October 5, 2004 8:57 AM | Permalink
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.
Posted by: Matt Stoller at October 5, 2004 10:10 AM | Permalink
Fortunately, the blogosphere is much more than those engaged in this war. I wrote about Coleman, because his was the 'last straw' comment, but I find myself growing weary of the analysis of what is essentially a struggle for power.
The discussion is healthy, but it doesn't go far enough. The blogosphere is much more than somebody's fatted calf getting whacked. If we honestly believe in this thing called citizen journalism, why do we care what anybody from the existing power structure has to say?
I like what Charles Leadbetter wrote in Fast Company:
The 20th century was marked by the rise of professionals in medicine, science, education, and politics. In one field after another, amateurs and their ramshackle organizations were driven out by people who knew what they were doing and had certificates to prove it. Now that historic shift seems to be reversing. Even as large corporations extend their reach, we're witnessing the flowering of Pro-Am, bottom-up self-organization.
I'm praying for a viable third political party during the next four years, one that doesn't require the blessing of the status quo. One man's Orwellian threat is another's sound of freedom.
Posted by: Terry Heaton at October 5, 2004 10:13 AM | Permalink
"Sigh ... one more time, for what it's worth.
"The goal of too many blogging-advocates, from several perspectives, is to replace notions of truth and accuracy, with your *opinion*, your *viewpoint*, your own take on the world."
Gee, Seth, that seems to be what some "journalists" do.
"Some people are going to be heard, and some aren't. The question is, *who* is going to be heard. Replacing professional authority with populist demagoguery is not necessary a fantastic change."
A statement that is fascinating in the servility to authority that it implies. As it happens I'm reading Milgram's Obedience to Authority at the moment. Your post suggests that experiment should be redone, but instead of electric shocks the experimenter could have an anchorman read false headlines to the subjects and see how many lies the subjects passively accept as true.
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.
It's a nice touch to fashion a class of critics of the press as Orwellians, which seems to imply that people like Bozell are propagandists, deliberately lying in the service of some nefarious cause. This is a very convenient category to have around if you are an embattled journalist, no?
I recall reading Bozell back in the 80s when he was basically a voice in the wilderness being ignored by a back-slapping press corps that was happy to define diversity of opinion as all the views within their circle of acquaintance. I would not have described him them as "Orwellian", I think the tag is ridiculous in the first place. References to Orwell are alot like references to Hitler, and I'm amazed that anyone here takes them at face value or thinks they are useful terms in the discussion (they are demonizing terms, it should go without saying).
What Evor Glens says strikes a chord because in my field, computer technology, journalism is almost entirely useless. The trade press circulates press releases and the half-witted punditry of uninformed columnists. The MSM is a dumber, slower version of the trade press. On the other side there is a British trend of equally ill-informed barking and boosterism which also has no merit. So real news, meaningful news, has long been spread by the consumers of it themselves, people working in the computer industry or using its products. It simply goes without saying that the "official" press ("professional authority" as Seth puts it) has no value at all. Not even as purveyors of press releases, which one can find on one's own.
I'm sure this experience has colored my perception of the press as a whole.
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.
Whatever the demerits of journalism as practiced today, they pale beside the stakes involved in the war between conservatives and the institutions they seek to destroy. Because it's not just journalism they want to take out, it's any authority which is powerful enough to challenge the forces of the Right, which includes strong government.
The two main groups united against strong media and government institutions are religious and cultural conservatives, on one hand, and the rich, on the other. Both want to destroy strong government because it acts as a brake on their ambitions. 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, and compounded the victory by masterfully using the media to transmit his message.
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. When corporations want to pollute or treat workers like servants, they can succeed if there is no effective EPA or OSHA, and if there are no reporters willing or able to write stories about sick communities and injured workers. Best of all would be if they can change the law so that none of the above is illegal, and to change the values of the country so that all of the above is considered virtuous.
That's the ultimate goal of the people Satullo calls the "Orwellians." And it's sickening to see people who have nothing in common with them acting as their cat's-paws, under the mistaken belief that they're somehow confronting a corrupt power, rather than aiding it.
There nevertheless are two corruptions: 1) MSM incompetence, and 2) the cultural and corporate right that wants both government and media watchdogging to go away so that it's playtime on the school boards and in the boardrooms and helltime on the shop floor and in the work cubicle.
Jay, aren't you trying to have it both ways when you refer to Orwellians (which is demonizing) and at the same time claim to be tired of the "bias wars" as unproductive? How would we ever name names to specifically figure out who to recognize as an Orwellian without first checking facts, and second, connecting these facts to the sources of their distortion, and then third, labeling the sources of this distortion as Orwellian and holding them responsible?
Bias wars can mean simply "propaganda wars", but for many of the participants, it also means precisely trying to figure out who the Orwellians are and holding them responsible. The competing views on answers to that question seem to pretty accurately mirror what we think of when we refer to the bias wars. Does the appelation "Orwellian" really take us out of the "bias wars" box, or simply refer to the same problem by way of literature rather than journalism?
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 5, 2004 12:47 PM | Permalink
I was going to respond, but now we've got two new media partisan robots/knuckle-dragging bullies tag-teaming it. "Ben Franklin" and "Mithras"! Together at last. It's a comment box shrill-a-thon!
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 5, 2004 12:51 PM | Permalink
As I wrote on my blog, I think the debate over "Orwellians" is a distraction from the problem of just doing better journalism. Part of the reason it is hard to identify "Orwellians" is because often the charges against them are going to look like the charges they level. Moreover, Orwellians gain traction through a subtle mix of accurate and true criticism with propaganda. Pointing out the distinctions is very difficult.
In any case, by attacking the "Orwellians" you end up playing their game (and let us not forget that there are "Orwellians" on both sides).
As long as there is a strong First Amendment, then the best thing to do is simply ignore the Orwellians and engage in good journalism.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 5, 2004 1:00 PM | Permalink
Speaking of Orwellian ... I think this is book review in NY Newsday is a candidate:
The author of the book review "is a senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education and a recipient of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle." In his review, which is titled "Facism on the Couch," he compares bloggers to the editor of the anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda rag "Der Stürmer":
Goldensohn's report on Julius Streicher - the editor of the lurid hate sheet "Der Stürmer" - describes how the Nazi propagandist "smiles constantly, the smile something between a grimace and a leer, twisting his large, thin-lipped mouth, screwing up his froggy eyes, a caricature of a lecher posing as a man of wisdom." With his anti-Semitic and pornographic obsessions, the journalist may well be in the grip of a severe personality disorder. But if so, it's nothing more severe than one might encounter at a television studio in downtown Washington, D.C., with some blogger eager to grab his or her 15 minutes of fame on the little screen.
This comparison is rather disgusting. But why bother to label it Orwellian? Why not simply point out that NY Newsday should acknowledge that its editors allowed such a cheap shot into print and that such comparisons are not what one should expect from a newspaper?
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 5, 2004 1:08 PM | Permalink
I'd say "Orwellian" applies in the sense of "Animal Farm".
Yes, many high and mighty journo could dearly stand to be taken down a notch or two.
But replacing them with the pigs is not a good revolution.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2004 1:26 PM | Permalink
Thanks for the link! I attempted to trackback to this post from mine, but it didn't work for some reason. Although I tried to skewer him, Satullo graciously responded. Ideologically we're very different, but I admire him for taking the time to defend himself.
Lee, Ben and others: Ernest said perfectly well what I would say about "naming the Orwellians." It's not as simple as all that.
Part of the reason it is hard to identify "Orwellians" is because often the charges against them are going to look like the charges they level. Moreover, Orwellians gain traction through a subtle mix of accurate and true criticism with propaganda. Pointing out the distinctions is very difficult.
Like Ernest, I'm not sure the capacious and inexact term Orwellians does much good as a description of individuals; and it's not how I would put it in a post of my own. But at the same time, I'm pretty sure I know what Satullo means when he says it.
For the basic impulse is known to all of us. It could be said to live in all of us-- although there are huge arguments to be had about that. Certainly it's known on the Left as well as the Right, and in groups of all size. It's the impulse to let power override external truth, and then to invent its own truth.
Probably the most common experience of it is when you're on the sour end of Political Correctness, in all its forms, Left and Right, neigborhood, family-wise, within your taste group. That's where we first grasp the concept of the party line, which facts are not allowed to disturb. But even a chat board troll, as one might exist anywhere on the Net, has a touch of the Orwellian about it.
Historically, one reference point is the "rule or ruin" philosophy among the most driven sects within a broader ideological movement. The methods are the same everywhere. If you cannot control the group you make certain it can't function. If you can't dominate a conversation you undermine it. Sowing confusion is as good as capturing attention.
I have emailed Satullo and asked why he didn't name anyone to go with "Orwellian." So I may have more to report then.
To be polite, the problem is really more of ideology than any specific person. That is, advocacy of a bad idea, as opposed to criticism as a bad person.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2004 2:37 PM | Permalink
Seth Finkelstein says, "Replacing professional authority with populist demagoguery is not necessary a fantastic change." Seth, what is the source of journalists' "professional authority"? Is there some licensing agency, some body that sets standards, a special degree, a board that admiisters discipline?
None of the indicia of professionalism exist here. What exactly is it that separates journalists from bloggers -- the medium? That can't be the answer. Objectivity? We are not buying that anymore, if we ever did. I am eager for the answer.
Bad journalists resent bloggers for the same reasons that hookers resent nymphomaniacs.
The amateurs are more enthusiastic, often better, and they give it away for free!
Is it worth pointing out that the Orwellians, Propagandists, Bias-hunters, Pundits, Public Relations, Political spokespersons/speechwriters, and Spin Masters all operate under the protection of the First Amendment.
They are the lubricant, the sugar spoon, the placebo.
Actual harm is the first test of constitutional protection and then truth.
I've determined that the phrase, "war against the media", is Orwellian and much to broad. We are not at war with media. Also, "attack" is too strong a term. It needs a euphemism. I nominate the War on Media Bias (WoMB), or Battle Over Objectivity and Bias ('cuz it's funny), or even the Media Reformation, Media Revolt or Media Revolution. Bloggers should refer to themselves as J-proles, Net-laborers, or the lumpenproletariat of journalism, against the Media bourgeoisie. Peer reviewed journalists is right out. Why take the name of the medium or oppressors rather than the cause?
"Martin Luther posting his blog on the Wittenberg door" is my kind of propaganda.
This is not my kind of propaganda: The war against the media has been waged by the Right in America, conservatives, for 40 years because they're a consipiracy of "the rich", "the bigoted", "the religious" and the weak-minded deluded.
Posted by: Tim at October 5, 2004 3:28 PM | Permalink
Cutting through all the bs medieval journo-theology handwringing about the state of journalism, I have this to say, having finally been angered to speech: we're never going to get incisive truth and fact-digging from the brain damaged journalism school kindergarden trained aholes crippled by all that adult protection from the real world. Reporters, journalists, used to be outsiders, whether from the working or upper classes, with native wit and independence, both so sorely lacking in in today's media bunnies. From now on, and especially if the fascorepubs win, bloggers will stalk them minute by minute. grrr
"...the best column yet written about that tension [tension between bloggers and news media] 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."
Jay, thanks for bringing Satullo's column to light - and for the link to it, although following it gives you this: "Sign Up. It's Free! Create an account below. As a member of Philly.com you'll enjoy free access to..."
This does explain the 0 references on Technorati.
Posted by: Anna at October 5, 2004 3:45 PM | Permalink
Pretty reasonable discussion of the David and Goliath mythology.
As a consumer of news, I find bloggers a good source of links to MSM articles and many bloggers offer concise summaries and comments. Lots of news is now available very quickly.
Like anyone else, I tend to feed my own bias... but not all the time. The wide variety of blogger bents truly provides a level of diversity that MSM has not provided.
I'm sure blogging will one day soon be taught in schools, churning out moronic deconstructionists. The MSM will use these minions to take over the blogging world.
We are probably seeing the crest of the blogger wave that will crash, becoming corporate pablum within 5-years... or whenever when enough "credentialed" bloggers can be created at columbia, nyu and berkerly.
I'm dyslexic, get over the sprelling and grammar.
Posted by: Horst Graben at October 5, 2004 3:55 PM | Permalink
"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."
They don't have credibility coming from *him*. The reason they don't is that so many of his colleagues, at CBS and CNN and the New York Times, are clear examples of the "powerful" "lying." And it's the bloggers doing the "real journalism." So unless I know him well, I have no reason to trust that Satullo isn't just another "powerful liar," with a bit of hypocrisy thrown in.
Posted by: ralph phelan at October 5, 2004 4:12 PM | Permalink
Second Anna's comment above. Hint to Chris Satullo and philly.com: If you want to be noticed, come out from behind the wall!
Posted by: Old Grouch at October 5, 2004 4:14 PM | Permalink
"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.
Posted by: Deoxy at October 5, 2004 4:19 PM | Permalink
AM we're never going to get incisive truth and fact-digging from the brain damaged journalism school kindergarden trained aholes crippled by all that adult protection from the real world.
Nice fulminating! Gotta luv it. ;-)
[I suppose this is not off-topic, but it certainly is peripheral. Apologies.] People think when they think. They don't think when they don't. But they think they think all the time. The root cause isn't j-school, it's regular school that doesn't know what to teach... or know enough to care.
When you read something that doesn't match up, it is only the trail left by people crashing through the jungle closer to stupidity than they really need to be. Blogs or no blogs, you can't expect people to be any more clever than they are brought up.
"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."
So long as it claims not to be biased, CBS news is lying every second it's on the air. If CBS identified itself as liberal news, made by progressives for all Americans, and no more "reliable" or "mainstream" than FOX, I for one would be satisfied, and 90% of the fight would go out of those hounding them for their bias.
Plus, market forces might start acting a little more naturally, so that folks who don't have cable would still have a choice of "liberal news, made by progressives for all Americans" and "conservative news, made by conservatives for all Americans," instead of just three flavors of "liberal news, made by progressives for all Americans." That's just not fair, and it couldn't persist if the liberals in the news business didn't continue to persist in believing that they're just "normal."
A hint guys - when your staff votes more uniformly Democratic than Berkeley CA, you're liberal.
Posted by: ralph phelan at October 5, 2004 4:22 PM | Permalink
When in 90's a group of Islamic radicals was let to rise without warning from media... Set11 was also a failure from media something that isnt often refered. That was a big loss of credibility for media, after all media wasnt better than governement, in a sense was worst because downplayed it or sided with it. A big part of the sense of protection and care that public felt from media was completely shattered.
Lets make a study and compare how many papers journalistic pieces warned about Islamic radicals and how many had Kyoto protocol and Global Warming as the main theme. We'll see that media until Set11 was mainly Pop culture driven, and still is. And that is "Orwellian" in itself ; which is another term for "group thinking" something that has much more probabilities to happen in journalism than in bloggers which have a more distributed power and much more diferent expertise.
Posted by: lucklucky at October 5, 2004 4:24 PM | Permalink
Satullo's article is a tour-de-force! But now let me quibble with the precious irony of one statement:
"Mainstream media is a term so loose as to disqualify any assertions that follow it."
Doesn't Chris know that all generalizations are wrong? ;)
The point, at least so far, is it's not the microclimate of any one blogger, it's the winds of the Blogosphere, diverting the birdie in a huge badminton game. The rants and fringes border the edges, but Jarvis, Reynolds, Sullivan, Volokh are hardly Orwellian. Now, Orwell -- who wouldn't be pleased to be named in the same breath...
What about the journalism programs? Maybe NYU is full of budding balanced geniuses. Down heah, at the undergraduate level, the vocal teachers at Texas are glib reflexive "progressives," and the students I meet and teach appear only one cut above the School of Education. Haven't ever met a partisan fallacy they didn't like, if it gores the rubes.
I love the idea of "tools of thought." Is anyone learning that these days?
Posted by: A Hunny at October 5, 2004 4:28 PM | Permalink
Ronald, "profession" is not the same thing as "licensed".
One thing which goes around on this blog is that a journalist's professional authority rests in some supposed adherence to an external set of standards, not that he or she is either a good typist or a popular person. Think of it as "moral authority".
Of course, they don't do it well at all. Pretty poorly, in fact. So that leads to the idea of getting rid of it all, of just replacing the messy, complex, convoluted ideas, with the pure clarity of ranting. Where the measure is not how true it is, according to an incredibility hard to obtain standard of truth, but rather how many people agree, which is very easy - and very appealing to those who would like propaganda to be judged on how many people it convinces (might makes right).
It's like replacing a secular dictator with religious fanatics. The dictator is abominable, but the revolutionaries will be even worse.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2004 4:42 PM | Permalink
Well, the received wisdom of "what goes around on this blog" may be good enough for you but those of us in the cheap seats sometimes have our own kooky ideas.
Journalism isn't a profession. It's a craft. In (I think) one of the Andrew Sullivan pieces which Jay Rosen linked above, he says "All you need is a clear conscience and a telephone",(I guess maybe you need a computer too) and that he finds fancy J-Schools to be a waste of money. At a talk about Columbia J-School the dean, (Nicholas Lehman?) admitted that some of the best practitioners of the craft never went to any J-School, let alone graduated from college, at which point I decided he was running the biggest scam I'd ever seen and walked out.
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 5, 2004 4:55 PM | Permalink
One thing that causes me to welcome the fact of blogging is that "real" journalism is not as accurate and knowledgeable as it might wish.
I've spent most of my life in the Islamic world--form North Africa to South East Asia. Much of that time I was working with American, local and international journalists. I knew the facts on the ground and I also knew how they were/were not reported.
As a blogger, now, I can report what I saw as the facts on the ground. Whether a reader takes that as "truth" or "opinion" is up to him/her. But at least something other than "received wisdom" is available. And that, IMO, is invaluable.
Yes, there's lots of uninformed opinion out there. But I can turn on my local news or read the local paper and find plenty of that, too. As in any other information-gathering enterprise, you have to consider your sources.
I'll go to the legal blogs like Volokh.com daily, and in great preference to whomever happens to have the court beat in almost any paper. As a "for instance".
Posted by: John Burgess at October 5, 2004 5:02 PM | Permalink
You give Mr. Satullo too much credit and ignore his own little Orwellian twist.
First, may we define "Orwellian" as the practice of taking purportedly neutral or factual terms and pouring biased or false meaning into them? That is, would an Orwellian blogger or journalist be one who expressed his own world view using ostensibly "objective" language and terms? (If this isn't the definition you have in mind, I would like to know exactly what you do mean.) I suppose I'm interested to think whether an Orwellian is primarily someone who presents false information as true or someone who presents partisan information as neutral (or both).
Another aspect of Orwellian language, though, was the fact that its enforcement came from powerful entities. That's the purpose of Big Brother and the role the pigs play in "Animal Farm": those who control language maintain that control by intimidation or punishment of some sort.
Certainly government officials may engage in this type of behavior, and those journalists who challenge this are to be commended. But the charge from the blogosphere is that journalists may also be the ones chanting "Two legs bad! Four legs good!" Mr. Satullo's parting shot about claims of media bias being "at best sloppy thinking, at worst Orwellian poison" seems to me to be just as open to the charge of Orwellism as anything. In stating that, he's trying to delegitimize those of us who think journalists aren't being fair or truthful. He's trying to define the problem by denying there's a problem, and that offends me as an abuse of language.
Frankly, I don't like the term "journalist", so maybe that makes me one of Satullo's targets. But I don't like it because it connotes a narrative aspect while also claiming objectivity, and narratives cannot be objective! They may strive to be fair, but they cannot be objective because they are written by subjects. I'd be happier if you'd think of yourselves as "reporters"; you get facts right or you get facts wrong. But you "journalists" feel compelled to produce "stories" and then refuse to acknowledge the longstanding narrative conventions that go with that mindset.
Then, of course, a piece like this one comes along in which you examine flaws in the Other that are reflections of your own. Physician, heal thyself!
Hi, Seth. Granted -- journalists aren't licensed. Some professions that are not licensed by the state do, however, have self-policing mechanisms. But let's not get sunk by semantics. "Profession" or otherwise, I don't see any distinction between the "ranting" by blogs and the "ranting" by Paul Krugman or, if you won't let me select a columnist, by any number of Professional Journalists. If by your "revolution" metaphor you are suggesting that the existing order is better than the alternative "because at least the trains run on time," well...
Mr. Deamer has it right. Media have become a power in desperate need of a countervailing force. The journalists who comprise it react to attempts to police them as they supposedly do to others with smarmy, self-righteous indignation.
Posted by: James at October 5, 2004 5:20 PM | Permalink
Well-stated. It is in my view ridiculous to describe as Orwellian the personal, self-published thoughts of individuals, extreme or moderate, or to describe groups of blog-writers as Orwellian. What *does* Satullo, who is presumably a careful writer, mean? Mr. Rosen thinks he knows, and I think I know too--he doesn't really mean anything, it's just a sloppy put-down. One of the things Orwell disliked was the abuse of language, and the smug assignation of the term "Orwellian" to anyone you think is a little out there or partisan seems to fall in that category.
Seth says "Orwellian" applies in the sense of Animal Farm. I would suggest that he read Animal Farm, and if that idea still makes sense, consult a reader's guide to the book.
Fears of Big Blogger are too ridiculous for a serious discussion.
Profession, craft, whatever word you want to use, to me the critical distinction is if the goal is something external to the self, and if so, what is it? (this comes back to Jay's bullet points)
To mix high philosophy and low razzing, consider the endless topic of "objectivity", and that's there's no such thing as complete objectively. To wit:
WE KNOW IT! WE HEARD IT! WE UNDERSTOOD IT! *W*H*A*T* *T*H*E*N*?!
What comes after that conclusion? If the answer is that since there's no absolute objectively, anything is as good as any other, I hope the philosophical problem is blindingly obvious (from both leftist and rightist angles).
It seems to me that many people are saying exactly that because a dictatorship is bad, replace it with a revolution that's allegedly by the people, but in fact run by the most fanatical demagogues. I fear that's even worse. But they will constantly repeat how bad is the dictator, and put up a fantasy about how the A-list junta will be so much better (it's so democratic, anyone can apply for membership, if you can merely raise a big enough army ...).
Not everyone wants to topple the old order so as to usher in a new era of peace and love. Sometimes they want to do it so as to install themselves as the new ruler. That's the basic point here about the "jihad".
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2004 5:35 PM | Permalink
Power corrupts, and if you ever wanted to see an example of how the power to speak without public scrutiny has corrupted the MSM, you need go no further than your (typically) excellent piece today:
Posted by: Peter Grilli at October 5, 2004 5:35 PM | Permalink
Seth, you write, "It seems to me that many people are saying exactly that because a dictatorship is bad, replace it with a revolution that's allegedly by the people, but in fact run by the most fanatical demagogues."
Who exactly are the new media figures you mean who are in any way influential and are "the most fanatical demagogues"?
Ronald: It's a concept, not a person. But you can certainly see it being worked out famously in, e.g. Fox News and Drudge.
The deep philosophical problem is again, if we grant objectivity is impossible, what replaces it? Popularity? Brr ...
I have no confidence in anyone's proposed solution if they haven't at least grappled *hard* with this issue.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2004 6:03 PM | Permalink
It's funny that someone who decries "demagoguery" would endorse compairing people who complain about stuff in the newspaper to people who blow themselves up in public places in order to kill as many people as possible (jihadists).
As for what comes next, it's pretty obvious and not even remotely scary to anyone who's not currently in an elevated position because of the old system. (Network anchors, J-School Professors and the like): More competition, More choices, more voices, more back-and-forth, a more fragmented audience, the end of some venerable media intsitutions, the beginning of some new ones, the final, total abandonment of the "we're objective/unbiased/non-political" facade in favor of up-front admissions of bias, a cacophony of different voices fighting for our pennies every day with we, the people, (the "citizens" if you will) in our infinite wisdom left alone to determine which are worth our time and money and which aren't.
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 5, 2004 6:19 PM | Permalink
It's a concept, not a person. But you can certainly see it being worked out famously in, e.g. Fox News and Drudge.
Hmmn, interesting examples. Here's a hint Ronald. When one of the august personnages here speaks of "demagogues", "Orwellians", "jihadists", or any other such pejorative they simply mean "Those who dare advance viewpoints with which I disagree".
(Did you notice no mention of Air America, Michael Moore, Atrios, Daily Kos, Joshua Micah Marshall, Chris Matthews, Joe Conason etc. etc. etc.? No demagoguery there I guess.)
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 5, 2004 6:24 PM | Permalink
I agree with most of what I read in your blog on Chris Satullo. However, one paragraph made me jump out of my seat:
Posted by: Jay Langan at October 5, 2004 7:42 PM | Permalink
Have been quietly watching this debate for some time. There are a group of us that are betting our careers that the symbiotic hybrid of journos and bloggers is, in part, the next evolution of media.
Deep philosophical problem? I think not. If objectivity is impossible, then wherever it is claimed to exist there already is something else. Why are you unconcerned about what we currently have in place of objectivity? Again I just see another brace of false alternatives posing as an argument. You haven't even come near to establishing that you are giving a fair portrayal of the alternatives--especially since you keep boiling them down into ridiculously extreme absolutes.
I don't at all grant that objectivity is impossible, but it seems you do so for purposes of argument I'm letting that one stand.
"The real job of journalism is to help make the public life of the nation work well."
Journalists need to get a job, because the job of "politician" is already taken:
"The real job of politicians is to help make the public life of the nation work well."
If the role of the journalist is to play fantasy football on a self-appointed shadow cabinet, exactly whose job is it to accurately chronicle significant events?
Posted by: Get a Job at October 5, 2004 8:33 PM | Permalink
"Deep philosophical problem? I think not."
I give up.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 5, 2004 8:41 PM | Permalink
> > 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."
> I disagree vehemently with the use of "often". It seems like often, because bloggers are getting better at recognizing the bias, and refuting it with facts. When you refute something with facts, it eliminates the ideas of "does not conform to my assumptions" and "does not advance my agenda"
Not unless the fact-checking 'pressure' is applied evenly (i.e. expose both sides to the same degree of scrutiny). If it isn't, bias results.
But remember, "pressure" is measured quantitatively, it's not true/false. Our brains like to shoehorn quantitative differences into true/false. This is not good for ye olde mental map of reality - it's pretty crude when you're limited to black and white...
Posted by: Anna at October 5, 2004 9:03 PM | Permalink
Seth, please don't give up so easily. I grant you that journalism is a "profession". Most other jobs that are considered "professions" require a government licence or recognized certification. Due to the first amendment, journalists are completely to practice their "profession" without (much) regulation with no licence or certs required. This freedom to practice leaves this job title open to all without limit. The first amendment again: No controls, no rules and all PJ pundits welcome.
Either give up your first amendment rights or stop whining about the competition.
Posted by: Horst Graben at October 5, 2004 9:04 PM | Permalink
i.e., some are more biased than others.
Posted by: Anna at October 5, 2004 9:04 PM | Permalink
I don't see that it is terribly useful to argue whether or not journalism is a profession or a craft. Back to my initial comment reference to what I wrote for the last Bloggercon.
I said, "I'm not sure "journalist" is an assumed title. I wonder if it is an earned accolade."
I found the article frankly amusing, as I did the followup comments. The problem is that the emperor does not have any clothes on. And we just found out, though some here are still pretending he does.
The MSM claims objectivity and lack of bias. And now poor Dan Rather has had the misfortune to make obvious that instead, much of the reporting today, including, in particular, his, are driven by biases. Maybe it is just their world view. But there is no doubt in the minds of many these days that that 60 Minutes segment was totally driven by the political aim of bringing down the President. How else do you explain Ms. Mapes' five year jihad to build this non-story into a story. It is a non-story because no one really cares, it is old news, it is irrelevant since the President is running on his last 4 years, and not what he did 30+ years ago, and because facts had to be invented because there were none to back the story.
How can anyone confuse that with unbiased journalism? As one commentor pointed out, many journalists come to a story with preconceived ideas. Here, the "journalists" not only invented facts, but ignored any facts to the contrary in making their partisan point.
The reality is that journalism as we know it is dead, because it masqueraded its biases as objectivity. I, along with a large and growing segment of the population, no longer go to the MSM for my news. Why watch the nightly news, when I know already the facts they are selectively ignoring? Or to paraphrase Paul Harvey, when I know the rest of the story (already)?
Posted by: Bruce Hayden at October 5, 2004 9:40 PM | Permalink
When did Dan Rather, or Dan Rather at CBS News, become an institution? Is he really an institution or a brand?
If he is a brand, let's say Dr. Pepper, then who is Mountain Dew? Jennings? Brokaw?
Sorry, they're a Pepper too.
Are bloggers the Dew?
And do we really care if a Dr. Pepper goes off the market? Especially a Pepper that'sbeen making multi-millions to appear common.
Even the "objective process" did not exist at CBS News and 60 Minutes. It is not just that objectivity as a product is a myth, but the idea that behind the curtain there is an objective process lacks credibility.
I've got an idea. Let Rather go. See what happens. Call it faith in the capitalist system. Call it faith in the American public raucous discourse. Call it Darwinism. I don't care. Just don't call Dan Rather an institution.
Posted by: Tim at October 5, 2004 10:05 PM | Permalink
When I read the line about "the craft of speaking truth to power", my immediate thought was, "Big media is power," more powerful than government because of their ability to shape opinion. Journalists employed by Big Media are not going to speak truth to (or about) their employers. Now it is bloggers who are speaking truth to power. We still need journalists but they're going to have to get used to the fact that now someone is fact checking them.
Of course, the funny thing about all this is, there is still no definitive (or even semi-certain) evidence proving the memos Rather and Co. referred to were faked.
In fact, people present at the time of their creation have all stated they reflect exactly what was going on at the time as expressed by the person who would have written them.
Sorry, wingnuts, but that's the way it is.
Posted by: dave at October 6, 2004 12:11 AM | Permalink
Maybe journalists and bloggers are at each other so much because the ghost of democracy that somewhere back there got itself into journalism also got itself into blogging.
Those who have had title to the press (professional journalists), those who gaining title (bloggers) are inevitably going to be involved with one another. Neither exists independent of the other, but to both this is frequently a surprise.
A pizza-stained paper plate sat between Moulitsas and Atrios. Together, they have more readers than The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 6, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink
Breaking News... from Reuters: An external review of how CBS News came to use disputed documents in a report on President Bush's military record will probably not be concluded until after the November election so as not to interfere with the presidential race, a top executive said on Tuesday.
I spoke to two reporters about this today from major newspapers. In both cases I said: why is Les Moonves setting the terms of an investigation, done by an independent review team, that is potentially about him and his leadership? Why not let the independent reviewers independently decide when their review should be wrapped up? We'll see if that point shows up in tomorrow's stories.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 6, 2004 12:36 AM | Permalink
Jay, you may assert that the bias discourse has descended into meaninglessness, but that position is self-serving enough that you ought to be exceptionally careful before making it, lest you fall into the same tar pit as Coleman.
For thirty years, the charges of bias were relegated to the fringes of public discourse, because the legacy media maintained sufficient control over public discourse to avoid critical mass. It is convenient that as soon as other avenues open up and the bias charges begin to stick, they suddenly have become meaningless. They were meaningless before because they weren’t heard, but now that they are heard, they’re meaningless because why, exactly? You never explain just how you reached that conclusion. Are you blind to something here that you need to see?
Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at October 6, 2004 2:02 AM | Permalink
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.
Posted by: Jeff Sharlet at October 6, 2004 2:39 AM | Permalink
Don't you see some of your many listed aims as getting in the way of truth? I see complaints often of the obsession with narrative, for example. The more prosaic one's view of journalism is, the less trouble one gets into.
Anything to say about the press, or did you just spend your load on that silly non sequitur? Did CBS' idea of fact checking pass muster? Is Satullo right that blogs need to be included in the journalistic circle as not just adversaries but as reflections of the public and outside voices? Or is that stuff just not as interesting as whatever game of rhetorical tag you're playing.
Specifically, what does it mean for a journalist "to try and fail to create literature". I don't think I trust any journalist who has that even at the far back of his mind. I am not interested in being told stories that reflect the journalist's avocational preoccupations.
Well, what do you know? From Newsday this morning:
"It makes sense to let the review committee decide when it comes out," said Jay Rosen, chairman of the journalism department at New York University. "Why is Les even talking about it? It would be fairer and better for CBS to say, 'Hey, when we said hands off, we meant hands off, and that means when it comes out, what it says, how long it is. It's not up to us.'"
Brian: I am not interested in being told stories that reflect the journalist's avocational preoccupations.
Throttling Jeff Sharlet's hyperbolic "to try and fail to create literature" back, Brian, I think he meant to make his reporting compelling for the reader. That is reasonable.
Rather may have fell into a trap; the papers were planted by the republicans? Who's blogging who?
Posted by: david reed at October 6, 2004 9:11 AM | Permalink
[Off-topic but related humor] There apparently are consequences to blogging in one's pajamas.
Ecopundit's laptop overheated because too much lint clogged its cooling. ;-)
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.
Bloggers, and other private citizens, are raising their voice to say, "You're not helping!"
But what does that mean - helping?
Helping to do what? Helping to spread my view of the world and how things should be? Helping to give my idea "access to a public forum and time to make something of that access"? Helping to make my life easier in some way? By making health insurance more accessible and affordable for me ... for everyone? Helping to renew the Assault Weapons Ban so evil looking "bad guns" will not make their way onto the streets?
Fisking Jeff Sharlet:
My job as a journalist -- and this may not be every journalist's --
Proof that journalism is not a profession.is to dig up and demystify overlooked narratives,
... to discover puzzle pieces of reality's map and describe them ...to reveal the mythological substance that binds facts together into a "story,"
... to try to fit the puzzle pieces to the existing map view (CW or alternative) or begin to create a new view (This is also where "objectivity" fails as a process.)to evoke experience, count lies, tell truths, and quote brilliance, absurdity, contradiction, and revelation;
... to add color, entertain, and interconnect the shapes on the face of my puzzle pieces with the larger picture and contours of the map ...to try and fail to create literature;
... it's an art form, not a science or a profession that must meet some public standards - the stockbroker's disclaimer - past performance predicting future returns ...to listen to and translate into prose the stories people tell;
... we're minstrels ...to introduce forgotten factors to historical nuance and take them all to the prom;
... more overlooked narratives and mythological substance ...to betray everyone and everything but the truth, small t, as best as I can comprehend it.
See Searls: In 1990 D. Patrick Miller wrote a piece in The Sun called "Toward a Journalism of consciousness." In it he wrote about how, with investigative journalism, the reporter sometimes needs to gain, then betray, the trust of his sources, always for a greater good a story the world needs to hear. Early in my own career I did an investigative report on rural poverty that led me to the same conclusion: that we sometimes employ dishonest or morally compromising means to serve what we believe to be honest and morally justifiable ends. However we put it, rationalization is involved.
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 9:51 AM | Permalink
"What matters is that journalism survive, that the craft of speaking truth to power with factual care not be snuffed out." This quote begs the question, who speaks the truth to the journalistic power? It appears that Salluto wants to claim it is the blogisphere, but he dismisses this claim with "But let's see the screaming about media bias for what it is: at best sloppy thinking, at worst Orwellian poison." He rejects the charge of "bias" as either sloppy thinking or Orwellian poison. This approach insulates him from the possibility that the charge may be true. Journalistic power has just as much difficulty hearing the truth as political power, corporate power, racial power, gender power, et al. If power cannot or will not hear the truth, power will destroy the holder of it.
Posted by: Brooks Neill at October 6, 2004 10:21 AM | Permalink
The point people are making--who speaks truth to the media power?--is an excellent one, and it's a fair criticism of Satullo that he doesn't ask that question himself.
But those who disagree with his observations about media bias should deal with what he said about it, which is not "there's no bias," or "it's not a problem." This is what he said...
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."
In my view--and I have been observing the "bias" discourse for many years--that is unquestionably correct.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 6, 2004 10:46 AM | Permalink
If the purpose of the press isn't pragmatic, then how is it in anyway different from literature (other than the restriction to factual truth, which might be compared to a specific meter in poetry)?
The phrase "helping the public life of this nation work well" is subject to many interpretations, but I view it as a statement of democracy. I don't see how you can separate good journalism from the practice of self-representative government. Wherever good journalism is being done, that journalism works on behalf of self-representative government. To me, that means that good journalists are helping the public life of this democratic nation work well, whether they want to believe it or not.
Furthermore, though "ratty little anarchist papers and insane, crackpot militia websites, and, yes, Dan Rather" may be part of the "press" that doesn't necessarily mean they practice good journalism. Anyone, especially today, can own a "press." However, it takes more than owning a press to practice good journalism.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 11:21 AM | Permalink
I'm sorry, but I just don't see anything being advanced, reformulated, or even clarified by this passage on bias wars. Every one agrees with this passage as regards the other side, no one agrees with regard to themselves.
We're still stuck with Lippmann's different pictures in their heads. When you have different pictures, one's "agenda" is the other's "public service." How does calling the bias wars "disappointed partisanship" advance this contradiction of competing ideologies that are both civic minded as they understand it?
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 6, 2004 11:29 AM | Permalink
One of the questions should be why the cry of media "bias" has become so overused.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 11:33 AM | Permalink
It's the free speech, Ben.
Your agenda, my agenda, it's all good.
You want competing agendas and, when journalists help us to engage in open, transparent discourse, you get civic benefits. It is what democracy is all about.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 11:37 AM | Permalink
Ben: How does calling the bias wars "disappointed partisanship" advance this contradiction of competing ideologies that are both civic minded as they understand it?
Ernest: One of the questions should be why the cry of media "bias" has become so overused.
Let me toss out two conditions that might contribute to that discussion. First is how media communications (by that I include print, but primarily radio, television and now Internet) has become more ubiquitous and central to OUR ability to get information and exchange it. This phenomenon is mostly two, but arguably three, generations old. It is a valuable platform that attracts greater scrutiny and interest in putting it to use for "a cause".
Combine that with the social pendulum swings (sometimes referred to as culture wars) of the last two generations (there aren't many left to complain about the media three generations ago).
The bias cry has two components. One is an attempt to be heard in the media. One is an attempt to point out media's hypocrisy concerning their claims of neutrality or disinterst.
Is good journalism Jim Lehrer at the first Presidential debate? Not interested in who wins, just that the process is fair, enlightening and moderated by a journalist?
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 11:55 AM | Permalink
Though the obsession with narrative and story annoys me to no end, I would like to vociferously thank Jeff Sharlet for his response attacking the self-aggrandazing, goo-goo nonsense about journalists "helping the public life of the nation work well." Again, the biggest problem with this description is that it cedes too much power to people who are unelected, unaccountable, and work according to completely non-transparent practices.
In my view--and I have been observing the "bias" discourse for many years--that is unquestionably correct.
Such unequivocal langauge! What was that thing about the world being divided those who have the capacity for doubt and those who don't? Dude, You think the "bias discourse" is meaningless because the MSM conforms to your biases, your assumptions, your agenda.
I saw a talk with Michael Barone (who I believe has some kind of credentials or other that you might respect, though he does depart from correct thought so maybe we should check to see if he has a Federalist Society membership and/or is a Karl Rove plant). He told this story of asking some old media big cheese, "HOw can you say that your work product isn't biased when 90% of your workers are Democrats?" The guy responds about standards, objectivity, and whatever other blather. Barone: "So you mean to tell me that if 90% of the reporters were Republicans the work product would be exactly the same?" Old Media Guy: "Oh no. Then it would be biased."
I wonder how meaningless you would find the "bias discourse" if the biases displayed by the MSM didn't just happen to match your own? I wonder.
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 6, 2004 11:56 AM | Permalink
Good piece Jay.
Posted by: John Lynch at October 6, 2004 12:00 PM | Permalink
Ben We're still stuck with Lippmann's different pictures in their heads. When you have different pictures, one's "agenda" is the other's "public service."
We have no alternative but to work our way out of this.
Two thousand years ago philosophy pragmatically dealt with the simple daily problems of living. It has since broken up on the rocks of sophistry when more recent philosophers tried to fix the subject in certitude ("How can we know what we know?" collapsed with Gödel). Some abandoned all hope because, without certitude, everything is a relative jungle where G. Gordon Liddy and his ilk lurk.
We're adrift in a storm-tossed sea, unable to fix a foundation with certainty on the ocean floor. Since relativism is too dangerous, it is to our advantage to fashion a framework that floats with as much stability and safety as possible.
We only have tools for thought to test our language and our logic, but we also have a community of brainpower to draw upon. We need to constantly remind ourselves:
Now where do they teach that in schools?
You want a response to what you claim is Satullo's major point (with which you agree?) No worries.
The problem with his quote is that it tells only half the story, which coincidentally is the half "professional" journalists hear and mention when they navel-gaze on bias. Below I've put the other half of what we're saying in bold letters and brackets.
"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. [Instead, it conforms to your own.]" Or worse: "What you reported, while true, does not advance my agenda. [It advances my opponent's and possibly your own.]""
Again, despite what you and Satullo think, many of us would be okay with the above if you'd play it straight and state your positions candidly. What drives us nuts is having the prosecuting attorney also playing the role of judge and swearing up and down that there's no conflict of interest.
Tim: Is good journalism Jim Lehrer at the first Presidential debate?
I would especially be interested in your thoughts in the context of Salluto's helping the public life of this nation work well and the rise of citizen commentary.
The reason, using Pokemon parlance, "I choose you," is that you seem to advance the view of journalism as the Fourth Estate most consistently:
Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable.
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 12:27 PM | Permalink
Yep. I'm a firm believer in the Fourth Estate, though I don't think it is restricted to the mass media and, in many cases, the mass media can be antithetical to the idea of the Fourth Estate.
As for the Presidential debates. Didn't watch. Frankly, I don't think they are good journalism from the get-go. Why are the two parties to the debate negotiating the terms? Why shouldn't the terms of the debate be decided on years ahead of time, by a bipartisan commission, well before the candidates are chosen?
Why are there "debates" when there are no press conferences?
The best part, I think was when the networks ignored the agreement not to show the reaction of the person not speaking.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 12:54 PM | Permalink
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?
Finally, Ben: Satullo's point in saying "the bias charges have become meaningless" is not that this advances, clarifies, or invigorates the discussion. It's more of a mournful thing: "this is what we've come to."
Meaninglessness is a depressed state of dialogue, where the truth about bias is impossible to find because so many false claims are filed with the true. When someone who filed a true claim objects to having it declared meaningless, what answers would you give?
Depressed Dialogue Zones do exist. (Marriages have been known to develop them, I'm told.) I haven't discussed it with him, but from reading his piece, Satullo and I believe that media bias has become that... a Depressed Dialogue Zone.
And I further believe that if at one time you actually cared about the media bias debate as a corrective to journalistic practice--as a pragmatic thing, where the aim is practical improvement not political holy war--then you ought to be angry that it was turned into a DDS, and you ought to ask how it happened. Many mistakes were made. I would put the portion that journalists made right around fifty percent.
The systematic creation of dead discourse zones, until they cover the earth and make up the human habitat-- this was one of the terrifying themes in Orwell's vision.
You are so right! A state of fulmination had suddenly come over me.
But such states further one's imagination.
So my next thought was that maybe the progressive bloggers could set up a shadow, for example, New York Times, rewriting a given rotten article to show how it should have been done.
Or, and computer graphics might be up to it now, have a video of the awful Sunday talking heads or dim news anchors, with one of our people inserted in with them, talking back to the lies,distortions and omissions. What fun.
Clearly something must be done, and for the first time in my quite long life, something can be done. By bloggers.The situation our media is in didn't start four years ago. The only truthful reporting about the Viet Nam war was by the Australian journalist, Wilfred Burchett, for example.
And if we get the journalism world sorted out we can start on our insurrection against the corporations, the alien species that has taken over the planet.
This debate reminds me of an article published about a century ago a scientific journal that got every little detail about tectonic plates right -- until the conclusion, which was that the continents floated on the oceans. Ask yourself this, for a second: if Rather's documents are real, what does that change in terms of the story? Does it prove the author wasn't lying? Does it prove the author wasn't simply wrong? Maybe he felt pressured about Bush, but was actually being pressured about job performance? How do you account for the human element?
Which is the problem with discussions of the purpose of journalism. They are fine, they are necessary, but they are rarely what drives what actually happens in newsrooms. Take a look at the newly released Kissinger transcripts: http://slate.msn.com/id/2107745/ Explain the actions of Kalb, Koppel et al can be explained as part of the purpose of journalism.
Beyond that, there is a practical discussion of whether the differences aren't simply a new business model displacing -- not replacing, which rarely happens -- another. If you have a moment, please take a look at the discussion of the InstaPundit model vs. that of The New York Times on my blog: http://www.asksam.com/imperfect/index.asp
Great discussion as alway, Jay.
Posted by: chris feola at October 6, 2004 2:37 PM | Permalink
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?
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 2:52 PM | Permalink
Being able to articulate ambiguity and transparent about your perceptions is a foundation of being coherent and attempting to be cogent.
More on that here.
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 3:00 PM | Permalink
Jay: ... "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.
I just rocketed back to "the Powerhouse Church of the Presumptuous Assumption of the Blinding Light" from Firesign Theater's "Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers".
Yes, the fatal defect is the Presumptuous Assumption held by those annointed to know how best to help make the public life of this nation work well. It is why civic journalism or public journalism and I part company.
Funny, my journalistic purpose is selfish. I want to understand things better. Along the way I give my first pass at history to the community for its own contribution to my insight. That is where CBS News fell down. CBS News knew it was right.
Now it is on its knees facing the blinding light. The same blinding light that is the destiny of blogging crusaders and the commenting horde that buzzes around them.
But that is as it is. Good teachers know that you cannot teach anyone anything. They can only anticipate where people are headed by shadowy hints they give, and set something in their path to tumble over in their own good time, perhaps to cause them to question what seemed so certain before.
[/END POMPOUS OVERREACHING]
We have mass media due to a confluence of trends in law, technology, economics and social practice. Now, however, there have been significant changes in technology and economics that are leading towards a more disaggregated, fractured model of media. Social practice is tending that way too, though the law is resisting this change.
Media reform is going to require telecommunications and copyright law reform in order to truly undermine mass media. There will still be mass media, but it will no longer have the same privileged position it has today. The law needs to disfavor gatekeepers, whatever their biases.
That is a very short description of my view.
It doesn't matter what your purpose is, so long as you aim towards good journalism. Whether you like it or not, when you practice good journalism you are helping to make the public life of this democracy work better.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 3:43 PM | Permalink
Ernest Miller when you practice good journalism you are helping to make the public life of this democracy work better.
You bet. The difference is whether it is your charge or the consequence of your work. "Ahm, gonna make this world a better place!" is a little too John Wayne for me.
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 4:00 PM | Permalink
One of my previous go-rounds on this question, featuring Jack Shafer and James Fallows, is Spokesman for Press Priesthood Laughs. I recommend to Stephen especially the Fallows piece I link to in that post.
I should have added that gatekeepers are always something we should be wary of. That is when mass media becomes a threat to the Fourth Estate.
Nothing wrong with a little John Wayne. I'm a fan. Not everybody is going to journalism for the same reasons. That's fine. The only problem with going John Wayne is if you begin to compromise good journalistic practice.
In journalism, I think, the means are more important than the ends.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 4:07 PM | Permalink
"I haven't discussed it with him, but from reading his piece, Satullo and I believe that media bias has become that... a Depressed Dialogue Zone."
Mr. Rosen, that's crap.
What's happened is that the media producers have been in a cocoon for some decades now. Cries of "bias" were raised but largely ignored by those safe inside the cocoon. So the cries got louder and louder. Some brought megaphones. The din finally began to disturb the cosmic tranquility inside the cocoon until a few cracks appeared and some hint of the full-throated roar made it inside. Then those inside the cocoon wrung their hands and tittered about the noise and fanaticism and cacophony of competing yells. How sad, they say, that it has come to this. What can we do but seal up the cracks since those screams are obviously so loud and distasteful?
Mr. Rosen, your reference to a DDZ is like Satullo's use of Orwellism: an attempt to keep the critics at arms' length while you seal the cracks in your cocoon. It's an attempt to dismiss the charges without engaging them. The very practice suggests to me that your 50% number is woefully low.
You ask, "[W]hat are journalists for?" and "can you now tell me about the bias you think the press should have?" Well, the "press" shouldn't have a bias. People have biases, and they should be upfront about them. What are journalists for? They're for telling us what's happening in our towns, our states, our countries, and our world. We'd find out if we had the time, but we have jobs and lives. Tell us what's happening; if you're going to tell us what to think or do about them, make it clear that's what you're doing.
Call it a View From Somewhere; just be fair and explicit. And nail each other's butt to the wall when you break the rules. Unstated bias should be as great a sin in your profession as plagarism is in academic circles. It's not. If it were, people would be losing their jobs. Instead, you hold symposiums.
Some bloggers are ranters who merely assert opinions (I'm afraid I do this frequently - it makes me feel better). To label such bloggers "Orwellian" is just silly - they do not have, as individuals, the powers of a Big Brother, much less a CBS anchorman.
Dan Rather was brought down by bloggers who merely practiced basic journalism skills. They checked facts, weighed explanations and in doing so, exposed untruths.
I suppose there is some value in cautioning bloggers not to get above themselves. But it really is the established media that needs to rediscover basic reporting skills. Blogging is that rare thing in life: A positive development riding on the back of human technology. And I say this knowing that blogs include the billionaire plaything of a "grass root" fraud that is MoveOn.org.
Blogs have demonstrated, spectacularly, how hungry Americans are for a forum to think and debate matters of politics, society and culture. Blogging has made it impossible to maintain the charicature of American society (always unfair, but common in Europe, where I live) that Americans are airheads incapable of rational thought.
This charicature was potent largely because mainstream journalism in the United States has achieved such dreadful standards of "objectivity," and is so self-referential and complacent, that outsiders have confused this failure with a failure in the cultural life of the country itself.
Blogging lets people see American culture and politics without the dim-witted media filter. I like what I see, and I expect a lot of others do too.
Mr. Satullo need not worry himself. The Orwellians are not to be found in pyjama-man-land. They remain as news anchors for CBS. Or have I missed the news that Dan has resigned?
Jay: Possibly it has some fatal defect that keeps it so. Or a syntax only a PhD could love.
Hehe. On that note, Cline has a related post and I thought I'd quote from his field theory, "When I say that journalism is an under-theorized practice (as I have many times), one of the things I mean to suggest is that most journalists practice their profession without understanding their role in the noetic field."
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 5:07 PM | Permalink
An opportunity for civic journalism?
Reynolds: "I think Stout was definitely right in saying that efforts to remove talk of religion from public discourse, though largely the result of leftists, have in fact weakened the left morally, intellectually, and politically. (In fact, my Guardian column for tomorrow is not unrelated.) And his notion of a civil civic conversation in which people argue about such things is appealing to me."
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 5:24 PM | Permalink
Strawman. Who (of any consequence) on the left has been calling for the removal of religion from public discourse?
During a war with Islamofascism, when gay marriage has been a significant matter for public debate, when stem cell research gets brought up during campaign commercials, I don't seem to recall any prominent folks calling for the removal of religion from public discourse.
There is much to be said about the role of religion in public discourse. However, to say that there is an ongoing effort to remove talk of religion from public discourse is a significant distortion of what is happening.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 6:01 PM | Permalink
I understand what is meant by Orwellian but I really wonder if it can apply to a blogger. Yes, it can apply to Dan Rather and it can apply to a Presidential Press Secretary, perhaps. Both men have power and megaphones and run peculiar kinds of animal farms, whose influence is difficult to escape. In the case of TV, there are 3 or 4 other animal farms on the landscape just a click away, but that's only an illusion, when one clicks, one finds oneself back on the same farm one just left, on a different channel.
In blog-land, to escape any particular "animal farm" all one has to do is click but here there are an infinite number of farms with infinite philosophies which are infinitely accessible. How can "Orwellian" ever apply to such a situation?
What I sense i a fear of bloggers is a fear of the people in all their varied views.
Posted by: Lee Kane at October 6, 2004 6:18 PM | Permalink
Thank you for some very thought provoking articles. Let me ask some questions that may raise a different viewpoint.
Some comments above seem fearful of the 'Orwellian' threat of bloggers. 'Orwellian' makes me think of Political Correctness and University speech codes. Modern universities punish many thoughts and words as 'hate speech'. On many campuses you will be severely punished if you dare to say that homosexuality is not always a good thing. On some campuses you cannot even criticize the Palestinian suicide bombers without fear of reprisal against your job. In some schools you may be fired for putting a photograph of President Bush on the wall. Isn't that 'Orwellian'? Why are 'journalists' not interested in that kind of Orwellian abuse? A blog cannot hurt you where a PC speech code is seriously trying to control your words and thoughts.
Next. How can ordinary people tell the difference between a good journalist and a bad one? How can we tell the difference between an objective, ethical journalist and the 'bad' journalists? Can we assume that anyone hired by ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, CNN, NYT, etc. is a 'good' journalist? i used to believe that. But not anymore.
Are these people good journalists: David Gergen, Deedee Myers, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, James Carville and Larry Flynt? And where do Dan Rather, Mary Mapes and Heyward fit in that group?
I would love to see journalism return to the days when they had many competing viewpoints, when each city had at least two newspapers which advocated their politics and viewpoints. Truth is more likely to come from discussion of different views than from listening to a monopoly speaking one conformist message from many media outlets. I would love to see honest journalists adopt one standard and fairly apply the same standard to both ends of the political spectrum. That hasn't happened in a long time.
Blogs are a chance for ordinary people to speak truth to power, for many men to wield a small fraction of the power held by one columnist or TV commentator.
Posted by: David at October 6, 2004 6:34 PM | Permalink
Ernest: Strawman. Who (of any consequence) on the left has been calling for the removal of religion from public discourse?
I'm not sure how to answer that for two reasons.
1. Is my question the strawman? Is it a fallacious logic to ask if Reynolds' quote after attending Stout's lecture presents an opportunity for civic journalism?
2. I think you are saying that the original idea is a strawman, and the original idea isn't mine. But you've asked me to defend the premise by naming someone of consequence (or prominence) on the left calling for the removal of religion from public discourse.
Reynolds doesn't say who Stout had in mind, and Reynolds doesn't mention anyone himself in his post. I don't have the resources to argue from their position.
Unless, I'm wrong on both counts and you were engaging me in civic journalism by responding that way?
Anyway, I would say, my opinion and Reynolds and/or Stout might disagree, that John Rawls is a prominent person on the Left calling for liberal secularism in public discourse.
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 8:08 PM | Permalink
I responded to Reynolds' statement because your question was pretty obvious. What isn't an opportunity for civic journalism?
I am saying that the original idea is a strawman. In pointing that out I was engaged in civic journalism.
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.
Rawls is a moral theorist. Although it has been awhile since I've read his stuff, I think he is arguing that law should be based on liberal secularlism, not that religion should be removed from public discourse. There is a difference between the two points.
In any case, although he is a prominent theorist, I don't think that his 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 just don't think starting a discussion with a wild generalization is generally a good way to spark an important debate.
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.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 8:26 PM | Permalink
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?
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 9:29 PM | Permalink
I'll throw one more analogy out there about journalism and the blogs. Maybe the third time will be the charm.
Satullo and Rosen, it seems to me, claim that whatever legitimate criticisms there may be about media bias are pointless because they're fated to become lost in the partisan jockeying that emanates from the left and right. To use a sports analogy, they consider too much of the commentary to be working the umpire, trying to get him to change his strike zone to favor each team in question. It's so bad, they say, that it damages the credibility of the umpire and makes him more prone to make bad calls. That is, for each strike, is it because it actually was a strike or because the visiting manager reamed him over the last walk? If he blows a call, did he really just make a mistake, or was he trying to please the home team crowd? It seems to me that the crux of Satullo and Rosen's position is that the catcalling from either side is drowning out the legimate constructive criticism and damaging the integrity of the game.
There's just one problem with this: journalists aren't supposed to BE umpires. That's not your damn job.
The job of a journalist is to be up the press box telling what's happening on the field. This is the model I'm talking about in which one can be biased yet fair. When the Cardinals play tomorrow night, I can listen to my home team announcer Mike Shannon, or I can listen to Vin Scully, or I can listen to the Fox announcer while I'm watching it on TV. I can expect three different background viewpoints, but I can also expect to (a) know what's happening in the game and (b) the good and bad for both my team and the opponent. There's no loss of voice or accuracy there, even though I know what perspective I'm getting depending to whom I listen.
And if an umpire blows a call, I can get the opinion of the announcer or the TV guys can show me the replay. But what they say or show me doesn't change the ruling on the field.
Journalists are supposed to be in the press box only, but instead they're on the playing field as umpires and yet still trying to be in the press box. Well, bloggers are now calling the games, and journalists don't like the second guessing. Boo hoo. Nobody hired journalists to umpire the American political scene in the first place.
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.
Posted by: John Moore at October 6, 2004 10:14 PM | Permalink
At the level of generality of "religion in public discourse," then yes, everything is an opportunity for civic journalism. Name a major aspect of life at a general level, like religion, that isn't an opportunity for civic journalism. Is discourse about "family" an opportunity for civic journalism?
I haven't read Stout, so I can't comment on his arguments.
I'm not saying that the theorists are harmless. Of course they can be quite dangerous, just as preachers can be. However, that really isn't the point. Sure, both sides can point out prominent radicals, but does it make sense to begin a debate with the radicals?
Can wild generalizations spark debate? Sure. The question is what sort of debate? We're discussing procedural issues and it's working just fine, but we're not discussing how civic journalism and religious discourse work, which is the substantive question.
As you pointed out, we aren't discussing how "... efforts to remove talk of religion from public discourse ... have in fact weakened the left morally, intellectually, and politically." That isn't a great discussion starter. At best, it is a conclusion, and terribly faulty one at that.
As for which books are closer to civic journalism, I haven't read Stout, and my memory of the others is too hazy to answer your question.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 6, 2004 10:49 PM | Permalink
We're discussing procedural issues and it's working just fine, but we're not discussing how civic journalism and religious discourse work, which is the substantive question.
Fair enough. Again, from Reynold's post:
Stout was very critical of talk radio, cable news channels, Time magazine, and the presidential and vice presidential candidates. There's certainly plenty of room to criticize all of them -- God knows, I do -- but I think Stout's case would have been stronger had he presented examples of good contemporary discussions.Stout lists examples that, if I understand correctly, would not be considered civic journalism. Can we find examples of good contemporary discussions about religion and public discourse that are examples of civic journalism?
The Revealer? I'll bet we could find someone who thinks so. Maybe two someones.
Institute on Religion and Democracy? Would anyone of consequence or prominence agree with that?
Posted by: Tim at October 6, 2004 11:26 PM | Permalink
slarrow and John Moore pretty much nailed it. Journo's are cheating umpires in the nations dialog. All of the talk of what the mission statement should be ("helping" oozes paternalism) sounds like a verbal smokescreen.
If journalists considered themselves to be investigators, observers, interviewers and REPORTERS, then maybe the issue of the influence of bias would become moot.
The notion of "Depressed Dialogue Zones" translated into realspeak: "don't look at the man behind the curtain".
Posted by: Horst Graben at October 6, 2004 11:54 PM | Permalink
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.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 7, 2004 1:21 AM | Permalink
I mistated one point: I think much of the MSM ALSO coordinates their talking points with the RNC, so the idea that they are the liberal opposition is quite difficult for me to take seriously.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 7, 2004 1:24 AM | Permalink
I’m actually fine with your desire to make your profession about helping the public life of the nation. I do think it’s a bit pretentious, but I’m willing to assume I might be mistaking ambition for pretension. Making public life better is a worthy goal, and I can imagine it makes it easier to get up and go to work in the morning if you job is more than making sure people know exactly how many traffic deaths there were last week, and who voted for the latest pork-barrel boondoggle.
But you know, sometimes the little things are important. In a democracy, making sure people know the real facts is in and of itself a massive contribution to making society work better. In fact, the View From Nowhere is an idealistic view if considered as a showcase of teamwork. You, the journalist, will do your best to lay out the truth as near as you can find it. No spin, no agendas, angles, narratives, or slants. And this is possible – the scientific community managed to do this for a few centuries (with a few cheats here and there, to be sure). You don’t have to frame the story, or use it to move society towards any particular goal, because you’re part of a team, and moving towards the goal that the truth points at is the job of other members of the team. We call them voters. Give them good information, and trust them to make the best of it.
If you don’t trust the consumers of your news to put it to good use, they won’t trust you to give it to them straight.
Posted by: (the other) John Hawkins at October 7, 2004 2:30 AM | Permalink
You're right. Sometimes the View From Nowhere is an idealistic thing, or to put it another way a demanding standard to meet. Sometimes, it's exactly what you want from journalists, and exactly what you want them striving for.
It's naive to think this is all we want or need. Those who support the Iraq war and Bush's project there. Do you want American reporters who will take the view from nowhere when they get in country?
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.
Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge at October 7, 2004 5:02 AM | Permalink
Those who support the Iraq war and Bush's project there. Do you want American reporters who will take the view from nowhere when they get in country?
No, I don't. I want them embedded with the military forces, as they were during combat in Iraq, err, those couple of weeks in March and April. I want them embedded with the terrorists and insurgents, as Michael Ware is. I want them out of their hotels and living with Iraqi families.
I want them shot, kidnapped, bombed, wounded and killed and I want them to quit complaining as if they exist in some imaginary bubble of nowhereness, some artificial super-human state of detachment, that supposedly protects them from the (in)humanity that surrounds them. It doesn't exist. If you can't operate without it, then don't go.
I want them to tell me what their view is, how it is probably biased and why.
I want the CENTCOM and Pentagon briefing rooms razed. Not because they're spin alleys, which they often are, but because journalists already act inside them as if they are and then complain about it for either handing out spin or not handing out spin in the needed quantity or quality.
I want journalists reporting from different views in Iraq. There is not one view, there are competing views. The only view that is not in Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter, is the Nowhere View.
Posted by: Tim at October 7, 2004 8:21 AM | Permalink
There is not one view, there are competing views.
I'm not sure if there is a lesson in contrast or a case of "never again" for American journalism in the post-Saddam Iraq compared to Iraq under Saddam's control ... The Secrets He Kept.
I am convinced that we went to war more because of what we didn't know than what we did know. The debate has evolved into what should we have known and who should have known it.
I think American journalism still needs to come to terms with that.
Did Saddam bring the war upon Iraq?
American journalism had a role in the mental map(s) about Iraq and terrorism prior to 9/11, during the build up to the combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and what we've learned sinced and are trying to do now.
If, as Fallows says, Howell Raines was practicing civic journalism for New Yorkers and Americans as the journalistic aftermath of 9/11, what kind of journalism has the New York Times been practicing since?
Posted by: Tim at October 7, 2004 8:59 AM | Permalink
You misunderstand my point just a little bit. I'm not saying that journalists HAVEN'T been the umpire; I'm saying they never should have been, and they need to consciously realize the position they're in and step back out of it. They need to stay in the press box...if the bloggers will make room for them, that is.
The question then becomes: who umpires the game? This is where the baseball analogy breaks down a little because the answer is: the American people. If we see all the action on the field, we'll decide who's been breaking the rules and who deserves the MVP through the ballot box. Now, we'll need journalists to hit the locker room and see if the players are taking happy juice before the ballgame; that'll help us make our decisions. We've also got the courts for those arcane interpretations like what happens when a fair ball gets stuck in the roof. But the bottom line is that the American people decide when the rules have been broken, and we enforce our decisions through the political process (which, of course, is not limited to voting.)
Three more points: first, I submit that Fox News is following this journalist-in-the-pressbox model, which is the "secret" to their success. Second, the reason the Republicans complain about bias but still win is this: good teams can overcome bad calls. I agree that Maddux and Glavine got pitches three inches off the outside corner, but a team could still beat them on any given day. Finally, political fans ARE becoming more like sports fan who won't tolerate basic ignorance on OPS and refiguring batting averages to make the home team look better.
Those fans now have a voice in the blogosphere, and they're screaming, "Get off the field!" Unfortunately, what people like Rosen and Satullo hear is, "Kill the umpire!"
Click here for an interesting article by a journalist with experience in Iraq who is also ex-military. Who's Responsible for Losing the Media War in Iraq?
While it is easy to blame the media for failing to get the true story or to accuse journalists of a liberal bias against military operations, this fails to identify the true culprit. The reason the military is losing the war in the media is because it has almost totally failed to engage, and where it has engaged, it has been with a mind-boggling degree of ineptitude. It is a strange circumstance indeed when virtually every senior officer agrees that the media can make or break national policy, but no more than a handful can name the top military journalist for The Washington Post, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. Thousands of officers who spend countless hours learning every facet of their profession do not spend one iota of their time understanding or learning to engage with a strategic force that can make or break their best efforts.
One of the problems with the media bias discourse is that it's a victim's discourse. Always? No, not always, just a lot of the time. And it makes people incurious about the press and how it works. The sensation of victimhood is powerful, and can be a moral intoxicant. Once obtained it is relinquished very reluctantly by those who have come to depend on it. It's a tendency the political Right used to understand (and criticize), until it began to feel that it was the media's victim.
Now I have PressThink readers explaining to me how the news media is the power in this country; therefore it cannot speak truth to power.
As you will see if you read it, there's a lot of bad news for military public affairs officers in this article. But if I'm in public affairs for the military and don't want to deal with it, no problem. I can just call the author biased--"he has it in for us"--and the matter is resolved.
As a former military enlisted man and officer, I know many of the problems faced by journalists reporting on the military. Believe it or not, the military has actually gotten better from what I can tell. However, there are other problems the article doesn't touch on, such as the fact that PAOs aren't particularly well-respected within the military structure.
In any case, the article makes many good suggestions, though I would be wary of the government providing too much funding to reporters.
Many in the military don't understand how the press works. That's the fault of the military, which should be training its people about the press, and the fault of the press, which can be somewhat opaque when it comes to process.
One thing the article doesn't touch on is how military blogs have and can do much to help resolve some (certainly no where close to all) of these issues. For example, blogs are certainly great fact checkers. Another important aspect, though, is that blogging teaches, in some senses, what the press is about and how it operates. If you're writing blog stories, the press doesn't seem so mysterious anymore.
Just a few disorganized thoughts.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 7, 2004 11:18 AM | Permalink
Also, big media isn't the power, but it is a power. And every power needs truth spoken to it from time to time, especially when you are relying on that particular power to speak truth to the other powers.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 7, 2004 11:21 AM | Permalink
A power? Of course it is, Ernest. And speaking truth to media power is an important and valid point. But having Congress, the White House and most of the Supreme Court is a lot more important.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 7, 2004 11:39 AM | Permalink
I'm sorry Jay, I just read your resume. If I had known that your whole career and purpose in life is helping the little people be good citizens, I would have never suggested that journalists be reporters.
If you want to find the answer to why the public does not trust the press, look in the mirror.
You are not doing the fundimental basics of your job. Instead, you and your ilk have become ephemeral literary social progressive knight-errants.
Get facts and report. Thats all there is to it... do the job, you know, the little things like gathering information. Once you do all the little things, then you put it all together into a report.
But you don't get it and will never get it until you admit, just like a drunk or drug abuser, that YOU and your "profession" have devoted your hard work for nonsense.
You made your deal with the devil and now the bloggers have come to collect.
Posted by: Horst Graben at October 7, 2004 11:50 AM | Permalink
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.
Posted by: Tim at October 7, 2004 12:11 PM | Permalink
There are Knight Fellowships to law schools so that journalists can go to law school for a year and learn a bit before covering legal issues.
Are there fellowships to send reporters to boot camp?
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 7, 2004 2:27 PM | Permalink
I'm afraid it just doesn't work that way--people don't read a biased or inaccurate story and rush out and befriend a journalist. It's human nature to discount unfriendly sources of information. "My ex says I'm a fat pig, but you know, I still respect her opinion, and can't wait to see what she says about my sense of humor." It's difficult to fault people for responding with more hostility than that. Journalists showing some interest in military history would be a start--much of the coverage I read on the Iraq War was laugh-out-loud funny in its misconceptions and groundless assertions. And that was *with* an embed program (although that was also criticized heavily by paranoids who thought of it as a sinister gag attempt).
One of the problems with the media bias discourse is that it's a victim's discourse. Always? No, not always, just a lot of the time. And it makes people incurious about the press and how it works. The sensation of victimhood is powerful, and can be a moral intoxicant. Once obtained it is relinquished very reluctantly by those who have come to depend on it. It's a tendency the political Right used to understand (and criticize), until it began to feel that it was the media's victim.
So now the *media* gets to be a victim--of not enough care and feeding from conservatives or military people? We're not doing our job to help journalists report by showing how curious we are about them? The conservative viewpoint is alien in many newsrooms--take the Star Tribune, for example. I don't think *they're* curious. As for who is acting like a victim...
For years and years the Right complained about bias. This *was* a pointless endeavor because it *was* so much victim wailing, of the kind that normally drives press coverage but in this case strangely didn't because the press was a subject of the complaints. Finally the Right started fighting back by getting their own platforms to speak from. Fox, talk radio, blogs, web sites, whatever. Then there were successive political victories (most of them a total shock to the insulated, incurious press). At that point they stopped being victims. You will still here claims of bias, but listen carefully--the tone is different. It's more combative. Conservatives know they're being heard--unlike 20 years ago when journalists used to smile condescendingly at their complaints. "We can't be biased because hard Leftists complain about our coverage too," usually accompanied by a smug little laugh.
Read Coleman again. Who sounds like the victim there? Coleman, of course. His impotent ranting isn't just the product of ignorance, it's the product of fear and powerlessness. Even Coleman, within some deep crevice of his atrophied gray matter, can sense which direction things are going in, and it infuriates him.
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]
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 7, 2004 5:39 PM | Permalink
Next time, please consider simply linking to the list. Pull out some juicy quotes or something, but do we need the whole thing here?
Here is a very interesting account of a reporter conversing with a blogger:
One of my strangest all-time experiences was becoming a fan of a weblog -- the now-defunct, or at least moribund, halfbakered.blogspot.com, operated by one Mike Hollihan and named in my, er, honor. Actually, the blog's stated purpose was to counter me in my role, as Hollihan saw it, as "liberal shill." Alternately, "Democratic shill." ....
Lighten up. The world is not the dogmatic, Manichean place you imagine (though we for damn sure have international enemies now, and even some domestic sorts, who want to see it that way).. By all means, go back to blogging. And, if you have to take shots at me, so be it. You and your ilk are pioneers on a new frontier, and what you do is necessarily going to be as imperfect as what us other muckers do.
"The blog is closed. No need to keep checking in. Y'all take care," you say, in your last posting. But I've got you bookmarked on my computer, and I'm going to keep it that way until I'm sure you're not coming back.
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 7, 2004 6:29 PM | Permalink
As an update to my post above, it appears Michael Ware is no longer "embedded" with the bad guys in Iraq. He is Time's Baghdad bureau chief and reported from Samarra with the 1/14 Infantry Battalion (USA).
Personally, my best to Ware and respect for what he has survived.
Posted by: Tim at October 7, 2004 7:23 PM | Permalink
"...We imagine an America made up exclusively of tough-minded Conservatives would be a far better, a safer and stronger place, than an America composed of nothing but compassion-filled Liberals.
"They, of course, think precisely the opposite. And I have, over the past two years, determined that internet comment threads do not hold the answer to this predicament. Theirs, and ours, are usually just cheerleading sessions, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing but a soothing reduction in blood pressure brought about by the narcotic high of being agreed with.
"We can’t, alas, deport all the left wingers and they cannot, damn it, silence all the right wingers. We are stuck with each other. Each sees the press as biased toward the other, and each gapes in awe and amazement that the other side could possibly feel the same way...."
Go here for the source.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 7, 2004 10:18 PM | Permalink
Though dismissing internet comment threads (and why comment threads? Why not blogs?) he writes this:
"So here I am: feeling useless. But President Bush warned that this was going to be a different war – something unlike anything we had ever seen. The front line now, at this critical time, is in the hearts and minds of our own people. That’s where the real battle is now. That is our weakest point, our breach, our point of failure. We have not made the case to enough people and time is running out.
So maybe now, at this absurd point in this new kind of war, we’re the crack troops, we old and useless pajama patriots reduced to printing up pamphlets to sell war bonds to the weary, to make the case for holding on to an unglamorous, uninspiring, relentless grind because that – not Normandy and Midway – is the face of war in this gilded age of luxury and safety and plenty.
Maybe that’s our job. Maybe we can help cover some small gap in the lines.
We’ll see. But for now, I will take up the sword of the pajamahadeen, and rise up: just another citizen-wordsmith, trying to put words and ideas where they are needed: into the stumbling gaps, exasperated expressions and defensiveness of a brave and exhausted man under a lot of pressure. "
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 7, 2004 11:07 PM | Permalink
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.
Posted by: Chris Satullo at October 8, 2004 1:21 AM | Permalink
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.
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 8, 2004 1:59 AM | Permalink
The equation of Democratic deterrence=nice, Republican deterrence=stick is an f-ing joke that only a Republican mother could love. It first requires erasure of US support for Israeli colonization and oil tyrants and assassinations of Shahs and on and on. Stopping that is not a call for nice. It's a demand that the assholes whacking everyone with the big stick they're so proud of stop digging the goddamned hole deeper and putting us in more danger.
It's not a call for niceness. It's a call for an end to the US perpetrated outrages that brought this wicked payback on us. They don't hate our democracy, they hate our genocidal policies.
I know you didn't write it. I'm simply lamenting that sentient people can not only swallow this garbage but consider it a badge of maturity or better yet, an epiphany. What an epiphanic crock.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 8, 2004 2:15 AM | Permalink
And another thing. The fact that any journalist could possibly fail to understand how the "Journalists should help the public life of the country to work better" nonsense could be scary to some people just proves what an intellectual and poltical monoculture the journalism world is. If you had the tiniest libertarian or conservative bone in your body, or even knew somebody who did, you would understand that vast numbers of Americans (including myself) fundamentally dislike and distrust this type of language. You'll try to play dumb and act like it doesn't mean simply the enactment of your preferred liberal, goo-goo policies. God knows, maybe you even sincerely believe that. But, 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, not to mention the unintended consequences that always result. Jack Shafer is a libertarian. That's why he gets this. The "nourish the public life" thing is a politically loaded point-of-view. The fact that you think it isn't only says something about your politics.
I also just can't conceive of the arrogance of the people within a certain craft/profession/whatever not only 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 you just talk to people and write stuff down and write your little op-eds without having some grand paradigm of what it's all for in your heads? Why can't the readers simply decide on the worth and the role of your work product?
Posted by: Eric Deamer at October 8, 2004 2:26 AM | Permalink
The dumbest thing about the "we imagine an American made up of tough-minded conservatives" post is that at no point does its discussion of policy even glance in the direction of Kerry's actual policy positions.
I wish Kerry's positions WERE more diplomatic and less pseudo-Republican war-mongering. They are not. This is a weakness in Kerry's position.
But this poster does not see that. He sees only the McGovern stereotype (which itself was not a call for nice, but a call for less genocide). This poster's discussion of policy is a Republican fantasy from start to finish.
To put it in sbw's language, that doesn't teach me much. To put it in my language, all it tells me is that he is a gullible, sentimental, and deeply misguided man.
He hasn't an iota of insight into how we might bridge the uncomprehending ignorance we mutually see on the other side that he HAS felicitously captured early in his post. I confess that I don't either. His answer is conversion to worship of Bush the Christian warrior. That idea makes me want to throw up. On him. In mid-epiphany.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 8, 2004 2:36 AM | Permalink
In other words, "Why aren't you a conservative like me? And why don't you see that you should be a conservative like me?" who imagines that conservative facts are ideology-free and corporate bureacracy is magically efficient and transparent and just and infallible (like the US health care system whose administrative costs are 45% higher than Canada's)... not at all like that yucky stuff that happens in state bureaucracies.
It's so arrogant to not be a conservative like me!
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 8, 2004 2:49 AM | Permalink
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?
Posted by: Ernest Miller at October 8, 2004 3:08 AM | Permalink
Legislation in support of sending suspects to foreign countries for torture, restricting asylum, stripping federal judicial review from the process of immigrant deportation on top of Ashcroft's gutting of the appeals process. Compiling new data-bases full of information on all American citizens, new guilt by association laws and on and on...
Where is the press on this story? It's only what's left of our freedom and democracy that's at stake.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 8, 2004 3:10 AM | Permalink
Ernest Miller, meet F. A. Hayek.
Oh, wait a minute, you are F. A. Hayek.
He's infallible you know.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 8, 2004 3:13 AM | Permalink
No, Ernest, it's the genocidal policies that aren't going to win many converts. Not the label.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at October 8, 2004 3:17 AM | Permalink
I am going to close this thread, and make a new post out of Chris Satullo's reply. I will also transport Eric's comments about his reply to the new post.
See PressThink (Oct. 8) Satullo Responds: "Bloggers, Journalists, Can't We All Just Get Along?"