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Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

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Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

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If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

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Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

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The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

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Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

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Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

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Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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November 29, 2004

Writer Says Media is Election's Big Loser: 21 Times

Mega bloggers and syndicated columnists said it. College students and ranting professors said it. Bob Dole said it. The real loser, the big loser in '04 was The Media-- "the famous MSM." I isolate the maneuver and show it to you 21 times, without comment. Well, not totally without comment.

A substantial body of opinion has collected around a single “trick” in media criticism (which I have probably used myself on occasion) whereby it is first said that more than one election was held in the United States in 2004. Therefore there can be more than one loser.

The critic then names the media—or certain players in it—the election’s other loser, real loser, or even “biggest” loser. A very simple example is blogger Brett Rogers:

And, as I mentioned, in the second election—who we choose to trust for news in this country—the media lost. CBS, the biggest loser by far.

I have culled from a far larger file 21 examples of this particular maneuver. I tried to isolate the passage where it happens: Writer Says Media is Election’s Big Loser. By approaching the same “switch” with different trains of thought, we can perhaps understand that substantial body of opinion and what it is really saying— not just about winners and losers but about politics and journalism, party and self, virtue and corruption.

I opted for a mix of voices from big to small, established to upstart, old media and new. At the end I have a few words of commentary. Mostly, I leave interpretation for the comment thread. Here it is, then, the same idea served 21 ways. “Media, you lost big.” We learn what we can from it.

“They fancy themselves thinkers, not mere scribes.”
Stephen F. Hayes, Weekly Standard, Nov. 15th:
The Other Losers Tuesday Night: The failed media effort to oust George W. Bush

For some 16 months, then, journalists at the New York Times and the Washington Post and the television networks saw themselves not as conveyors of facts but as truth-squadders, toiling away on the gray margins of political debate to elucidate the many misstatements, exaggerations, and outright lies of the Bush administration and its campaign affiliates. Sometimes these “fact-check” pieces were labeled “news analysis.” More often, they were splashed on the front page as straight news or presented on the evening news.

Many of these reporters were trained at the best universities in the country. They fancy themselves thinkers, not mere scribes. They go to work every day to tell us not what the Bush administration has said, but what it has left unsaid.

“They have been defeated.”
Diana West,, Nov. 8:
Election Day reflection

There is something close to poetic justice in the creaky monolith of Old Media showing its advanced age and crotchety bias in a campaign that now ends in the defeat of John Kerry. That is, in important ways, the mainstream and John Kerry are kindred creatures of the far-away 1960s, both setting their anti-establishment ways during both the Vietnam War and, stateside, the anti-Vietnam War. You might even say that together they helped create and perpetuate the poisonous myth of the Vietnam veteran as enemy of humanity — touchstone of the self-hating American.

And now, with the re-election of George W. Bush, they have been defeated.

“Unpaid adjunct to the Kerry campaign.”
Investor’s Business Daily, editorial, Nov. 2:
By A Landslide

By press time last night, we weren’t sure who would be the winner of the 2004 presidential contest. But we were certain of one big loser: the media.

We’ve watched in slack-jawed amazement over recent weeks as the big media, fearful of another four years for President Bush, have basically become an unpaid adjunct to the Kerry campaign.

“Yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down.”
Peggy Noonan, Opinion Journal, Nov. 4:
So Much to Savor: A big win for America, and a loss for the mainstream media

But I do think the biggest loser was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief—CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS’s “60 Minutes” attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election—the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.

“Still angry that they couldn’t deliver their fifteen percent.”
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, Nov. 3:
Bitter, Angry Losers

No, not the Democrats, but the real losers in this election — the Old Media, still angry that they couldn’t deliver their fifteen percent. I just heard E.J. Dionne on All Things Considered (audio not posted yet) delivering himself of an astonishing amount of anti-Bush venom. Dan Rather was reportedly dissing bloggers last night. And, of course, there are the rather churlish remarks of ABC’s Mark Halperin, declaring Bush a “lame duck” before his first term has even ended.

They know who the big losers were in this election.

“As each hour passed, the credibility of the Old Media swirled around the bowl.”
Jeff Gannon, A Voice of the New Media, Nov. 10:
Old Media Lost Big In 2004 Election

While Democrats were handed yet another stinging defeat at the ballot box last week, the biggest loser was the Old Media. In the wee hours of Election Night, stunned newsreaders reluctantly called states for President Bush, despite early exit polls that suggested a landslide for Sen. John Kerry. Some networks resisted declaring that Bush had won Ohio and therefore re-election after pleas from Kerry operatives not to project a winner of the state.

In the White House pressroom, dispirited correspondents sheepishly avoided members of the Bush team who wandered through the West Wing expressing growing irritation at the networks’ refusal to admit the inevitable. As each hour passed, the credibility of the Old Media “swirled around the bowl”, perhaps for the last time before finally being flushed by the American viewing public.

“The so-called mainstream media.”
Associated Press, Nov. 6:
Former U.S. senator says parties need to work together

Dole, 81, said he accomplished his most important initiatives in the Senate with bipartisan support.

“Both parties have room for improvement. Both parties have good ideas,” said the Kansas Republican, who served in the Senate from 1968 to 1996.

The biggest loser in the presidential election, he said, was “the so-called mainstream media.”

“It was an abdication of authority.”
Daniel Henninger, Opinion Journal, Nov. 12:
2004’s Biggest Losers: How Dan Rather and the media’s kings lost their crowns

It is often said that the only sure winner in American politics is the media. Amid GOP victory parties or the ruined dreams of the Kerry candidacy, the one constant is that the media marches on.

Maybe not this time. Big Media lost big. But it was more than a loss. It was an abdication of authority.

Large media institutions, such as CBS or the New York Times, have been regarded as nothing if not authoritative. In the Information Age, authority is a priceless franchise. But it is this franchise that Big Media, incredibly, has just thrown away. It did so by choosing to go into overt opposition to one party’s candidate, a sitting president.

“The media was in the tank for Kerry.”
Cori Dauber, Ranting Profs, Nov.3:
Looking Back, Looking Forward

Evan Thomas was just on Hardball and absolutely without hesitation reaffirmed his prior claims that the media was in the tank for Kerry. He’s gotten smarter, he isn’t offering point totals any more (but then, Chris Matthews didn’t ask) but it was clear he thought it absurd to even question the idea of media bias in the election.

Unfortunately, the campaign coverage and the war coverage became intertwined and inseparable because it is presented as “Bush’s war.”

I list these stories — or non-stories — not to pick at healing scabs but to make the point.

The other big losers last night were the media.

“Last gasping breaths of the New York Times and CBS News.”
Vincent Fiore, ChronWatch, Nov. 7:
Winners and Losers of Election 2004

Winner: The Internet. When the first batch of exit polls came out about 1:30 pm, EST, it took about five minutes for bloggers and web masters to spread the word. George W. Bush may owe part of his victory to this part of the new media, as spaces like this one and others quickly debunked the polling data much the same way that Dan Rather and “memogate” was exposed. Kudos to the pajama-wearing blogger brigades.

Loser: The Old Media. Those sounds you hear are the last gasping breaths of the New York Times and CBS News. Staunchly opposed to Bush throughout his first term, the prospect of a second four years in office exposed the deep-seated bias among the old media and forever revealed themselves to the public at large. The question, ”Is there a liberal bias in the main stream media?” has been fully addressed by the very actions of the media themselves during this campaign.

“The established news media were nowhere on public-policy matters.”
Ed Wasserman, Charlotte Observer, Nov. 3:
How the media lost the presidential election

The presidential campaign will be considered a milestone in the history of the U.S. media. Here’s what has changed:

  • The mainstream media no longer play a key role in setting the national news agenda. The established news media were nowhere on public-policy matters. Vital issues—such as the adequacy of homeland security or remedies to stanch job losses—were largely untouched.
  • Instead, partisans set the agenda, via political ads and freelance efforts. Established media essentially reacted to issues rammed through by outside groups. The anti-Bush film “Fahrenheit 9/11” and the Swift boat anti-Kerry ads all helped forge the debate. One lamentable conclusion: Buying your way onto the national agenda is easy; it just takes money.
  • The horse race defeated all comers.

“They threw everything at Bush and still lost.”
Swede Hanson, SMU Daily Campus, Nov. 9:
The real losers who are seeing red

The real losers here are the Democrats and the mainstream media. Tuesday night showed us the true breadth of the divide between the nation’s electoral center and the current Democratic Party emblazoned by the likes of extreme leftism, the mainstream media, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, George Soros and any Hollywood celebrity you can think of. They threw everything at Bush and still lost. Look at the numbers: Bush won 2.51 million square miles of the United States as compared to Kerry’s 511,700 square miles.

“The global media lost the U.S. presidential election.”
Ralph Peters, New York Post, Nov. 9:
Finishing Fallujah.

And if Operation Phantom Fury goes miraculously well, we’ll be criticized for waiting too long to go in, for exaggerating the threat and for knocking over a stop sign with a tank.

The global media lost the U.S. presidential election. They’ll do their best to win the Second Battle of Fallujah for the terrorists.

“The big loser this year may have already been decided.”
Bob Rayner, Richmond Times Dispatch, Oct. 31:
For the media, a political tilt might have some repercussions

It has been an exhausting campaign, even for me, a lifelong political junkie.

Passions are running high, which, for the most part, is probably a good thing.

But no matter who ends up on top Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, the big loser this year may have already been decided: the media.

The argument about liberal bias has been around for years. But for at least a substantial minority of the population - and a majority according to some surveys - the issue has never had as much resonance as it does today.

“Never before have we seen these so-called news sources so blatantly partisan.”
Gordon Sawyer, Access North Georgia, Nov. 3:
The Big Loser In This Election: The Big Media (…’s are in original)

I think it is fair to say the biggest loser in this election has been America’s mainstream media … the BIG media … the three old-line television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC … newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post and down to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We have come to expect them to have a liberal bias in their news columns as well as their editorial pages, but never before have we seen these so-called news sources so blatantly partisan as they have been this year.

The poster child of news bias this election cycle, of course, was Dan Rather.

“The equivalent of The Alamo for the mainstream media”
John McIntyre, Real Clear Politics, Nov. 10:
Mandate? No. Consequential? No doubt about it.

In many ways this is what is so infuriating to the Democrats, because they know President Bush is going to govern and lead as if he has a mandate. That is why the Democrats and their friends in the mainstream media or the “old media” put everything they had into this election to unseat George W. Bush.

This was the equivalent of The Alamo for the mainstream media. CBS News and the New York Times, and to a lesser extent their colleagues at the other major networks and newspapers, exhausted themselves in a near-pathological desire to remove George W. Bush from office. They know the days of the liberal elites in New York and Washington setting the news agenda for the American people are coming to an end. Which is why they fought so hard to eliminate President Bush and restore a Democrat to the White House.

“Media lost. University professors and leftist school teachers lost.”
Joel Johannesen,, Nov. 3:
Bush won, no matter how you count it

Values won. Moral values won, as well as freedom and democracy. Those who will learn from it won as well as those who rely on America. Canada won. The west won, even Europe.

The Dow is up 135 as I write.

Osama bin Laden lost. Saddam Hussein lost. (Terrorism lost). Michael Moore lost. Hollywood lost. The liberal media lost. University professors and leftist school teachers lost. The liberals lost.

“The problem for Old Media is that it no longer has monopoly control.”
Michael Barone,, Nov. 15:
A bad election for old media

It was a bad election for Old Media. More than in any other election in the last half-century, Old Media — The New York Times and CBS News, joined often but not always by The Washington Post, other major newspapers, ABC News and NBC News — was an active protagonist in this election, working hard to prevent the re-election of George W. Bush and doing what it could for John Kerry. The problem for Old Media is that it no longer has the kind of monopoly control over political news that it enjoyed a quarter-century ago. And its efforts to help John Kerry proved counterproductive.

“Enabler, if not instigator, of much of the vileness…”
Richard Davis,, Nov. 9:
The Media Lost, But Their Bias Won’t Change

Without doubt the media served as the enabler, if not instigator, of much of the vileness coming from the Democrats and the left, and they deserve a fair share of the defeat. But unlike their Democratic brethren, the media won’t be trying to regain public support by turning to their center. They couldn’t do that even if they still had a center. They’re not that kind of media anymore.

In the past two decades Americans have watched a moderately liberal press become defiantly partisan and openly hostile to majority opinions and values. It is a press willing to forsake ethics and even laws to get its way, and it’s as arrogant as Howard Dean after a good drubbing.

“‘Me first personalities roaming around.”
Tanker, Mostly, Nov. 19:
Armchair quarterbacks and Marines

Time was, you had reporters with the military who were the likes of Ernie Pyle, America First! and that meant American GI’s first! Or Bill Mauldin, poking a little fun at the brass, but publicizing the horrors and hardships faced daily by the combat soldier.

No, today we have a press corps with altogether too many “me first” personalities roaming around looking for the picture or the story that will rocket them into the realms of Woodward and Bernstein, bringing down a president or handing a victory to the enemy. As long as they get the recognition, they care naught about the effect that story might have on America and its soldiers.

Okay, that’s enough… The mainstream media lost the election… And now they’re going to try and show themselves again. They’re trying to be relevant. And I am not buying it.

“Voters made up their minds, media organisations have gone into overdrive.”
Rageh Omaar, The Independent (UK), Oct. 25:
How the US media lost the plot

Travelling through the heartlands of the United States, one comes across many Americans like Piasecki and Cheramie, who rely on websites not just to find opinions that match their own, but also to uncover facts they believe bolster those views. It is a trend that reflects a deeply divided US electorate coming to the end of a bitterly contested presidential campaign. None of the people I interviewed for a half-hour BBC programme on the views of Americans were undecided voters. Whether Republican or Democrat, their views are deeply held, and argued fiercely. And much of their information, whether it concerns President Bush’s arguments on the need for reforming tort law and extending tax cuts, or Senator Kerry’s proposals for reducing the United States’ reliance on Middle Eastern oil, has been obtained online.

Yet although the voters appear to have already made up their minds, media organisations have gone into overdrive, devoting every available resource to coverage of each development in the campaign.

Bonus Selection: a 22nd example. (Came late to my attention.)
“Their power is sapped, their influence is waning.”
Tim Graham, National Review Online, Nov. 4:
Amazing Loss: The media threw everything, including the sink, at Bush.

Yet despite these efforts in behalf of Kerry, George W. Bush has amassed the highest vote total in American history. The media took their defeat graciously, if a little slowly; on these occasions, they put on statesman masks and pretended they didn’t have a horse in the race. But they have been left only with the feeling that their power is sapped, their influence is waning, and their credibility is collapsing.

There are two brakes on the arrogance of liberal media bias: One is declining ratings; the other is liberal politicians’ losing and conservative politicians’ winning. The message of popular resistance to the liberal media has been sent once again.

My commentary: One thing jumps out at me from this song made of samples. While all the writers were, in some way or another, suggesting massive failure by the news media to inform, it was rare for them to discuss any informational need of their own that had not been met.

You arrive at a different place when you ask: what did I not get that I needed? This is what Omaar in The Independent was getting at:

“Yet although the voters appear to have already made up their minds, media organisations have gone into overdrive, devoting every available resource to coverage of each development in the campaign.”

Hear it? Rageh Omaar is raising the possibility that our campaign journalism was, almost in its entirety, premised on an informational need that barely existed. This led to journalism that at its best helped us make a decision that 90 percent or more had already made.

Maybe an extremely “partisan” year should have been called a year when people were extremely passionate about politics, and interested in participating. A reportage to meet and inform those passions is not the same as “news to help in your decision.”

It never came about. The passions went elsewhere. This is one way journalists “lost the plot.” I don’t think Big Media lost an election they were trying to win for Kerry. But I’m curious why some people do.

I believe the political press largely (though not entirely) failed in 2004. It failed to innovate. It failed to move with the times. From what is called the mainstream media, “the famous MSM,” we did not get a reportage suited for the political era we were actually living in. That means Big Journalism failed some ultimate test of currency: to report the truth about our struggles with politics… in time.

Alright, what do you make of the voices in Club 21? And what do you hear? Tell us in comments. Did I miss an example you want to bring to my attention? E-mail PressThink or note it in comments.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Liberal Media Conspiracies…and other myths by smokefilledoom is an extended reaction to this post by a writer who read all 21 pieces cited here. (Dec. 10)

Editor and Publisher kindly does an article about this post: Erin Olsen, “Biggest Loser on Nov. 2 Was Press, Not John Kerry, Say 21 Columns.”

David Crisp of The Billings Outpost says in comments here: “No doubt most reporters backed Kerry. The Bush administration has been one of the most hostile to open government in memory. Asking reporters to back Bush is like asking CEOs to back Nader.”

Post mortems by members of the press: a sampler

See Campaign Desk (now called CJR Daily) with its Report Card feature on press performance in 2004— a series of evaluations.

Peter Johnson, USA Today: Media soul-searching after Bush’s victory (Nov. 14).

Liz Halloran, Hartford Courant, Are Mainstream Media Ignored And Irrelevant? (Nov. 12)

Jon Friedman, CBS Marketwatch, Why Bush’s America hates the media (Nov. 12) and The passion that burned for Bush (Nov. 5).

Eric Boehlert, Salon, The media gives Bush a mandate. (Nov. 12, sub. or Salon day pass required.)

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, Let the Explaining Begin! (Nov. 8)

Also see the transcript of CNN’s reliable sources for Nov. 7, with Howard Kurtz, Frank Sesno, formerly of CNN, Karen Tumulty of Time, John Roberts of CBS News.

One of the best analyses of these matters is by Michelle Cottle in the New Republic: Democrats’ Spurned Media Love. (sub. required)

… another, less frequently discussed factor is that Democrats simply like the media more than Republicans do—or, at least, more than the Republicans currently running the show. They respect the profession more, feel more of a kinship with reporters, and generally care more about being liked by the media than do members of Bush World. This relationship is as much about a perceived cultural affinity as any politically based “liberal media bias,” and, contrary to what conservatives would have people believe, it hardly guarantees more sympathetic coverage of Democratic campaigns.

… Democrats say (with some exasperation) that their party still accepts the idea of the media as an unofficial Fourth Estate of government, shaping debate and serving as watchdog for the public interest. As campaign consultant Kenneth Baer put it, “Democrats buy into this high and mighty role that the press has of itself.”

…By contrast, the Bush administration does not regard the media as having a special role but rather as just “one of several constituencies to deal with,” says former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

And so on. Hers is a more subtle analysis of the interplay among Democrats, Republicans and journalists and “culture.”

This article, published Nov. 28, leans a lot on PressThink’s Opposition Press and Sinclair pieces, which are mentioned: David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun, Captains of TV weigh the future of the anchor: Personnel changes could open door to newscasts driven by ideology.

On Wednesday, Tom Brokaw will sign off as anchorman and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News, television’s most popular newscast, after 21 years in that job. A report also is expected to be released this week about a 60 Minutes II story focusing on President Bush’s military service that was presented on air by Rather and was based upon documents of questionable authenticity. Rather’s decision to leave his longtime position was seen by many as a way of stepping aside before the report was finalized.

These moves represent what is, in essence, a changing of the guard. Night after night for 20 years, television news has been presented to Americans by the same three men - NBC’s Brokaw, CBS’ Rather and ABC’s Peter Jennings - in virtually the same format. Now Brokaw’s planned retirement and Rather’s abrupt resignation have opened the door to a world of possibilities for TV news.

Doc Searls reflects on a discussion going on (in comments) at PressThink:

What it isn’t. Meanwhile, I think we’re only beginning to understand how blogging, even for Z-listers (who can quickly become A-listers, and at the very least meaningful, which is one big point about The Long Tail) is more than blowing off to bar buddies and less than anchoring an evening newscast — while being extremely other than both.

We understand everything in terms of something else… and we still don’t have the right frame for understanding blogs, seems to me. That’s one reason we’ve been miscrediting and miscalculating it for the duration — overstating and understating its effects and its importance.

Posted by Jay Rosen at November 29, 2004 1:19 AM   Print


A nice tropic choice.

Jay writes:I don't think Big Media lost an election they were trying to win for Kerry. But I'm curious why some people do.

How can you not know why some people (myself included) believe that? When the media goes all out in favor of one candidate and against another, and the second wins, that media effort has failed.

There are a very large number of people in the United States who observed this behavior by the media, over and over and over again.

I have given examples that are widely circulated among people who have those beliefs. I won't bore you by repeating them here again.

I cannot imagine an observer of the MSM this year coming to any conclusion other than the MSM was doing all it could to elect Kerry and all it could to defeat Bush. So, like you, I am mystified. Why the heck can't you see what all of us are seeing so clearly?

As for whether the MSM "lost" - that's a secondary issue. I have no idea the impact on the MSM, or even how to measure it: bottom line? credibility ratings? bad feelings and gnashing of teeth among the MSM big players or critics?

Posted by: John Moore at November 29, 2004 3:12 AM | Permalink

Money driven media have basically ceded to sound bite culture, and this is the result. It's not whether it's a liberal or conservative bias, but the result of years and years of economic benefit from keeping the same system in place. In Neil Postman and Steve Power's How to Watch TV News, they cite Andrea Mithcell saying that "the average sound bite has shrunk from forty-five seconds ten years ago, to fifteen seconds in 1985, to nine seconds in the '88 campaign." How can we force people to pay attention to TV news if they don't want to? Quite simply, we like to pay to read/see bad news and we remember it better. In Pierre Bordeau's book "On Television," he posits that we should get rid of the ratings system or end up with journalism based on market forces. I'm seeing that we live in those times already, and corrections to the MSM will take place based on ratings. The place of blogging thus far is more of a factcheck system that the MSM need to take into account. Imagine the MSM hiring people to check blogs and correct them when wrong via official e-mail or posts. This helps solves the problem of selective reinforcement that seems to plague various sources. The Internet (unless it becomes visually-based and not text-based), also allows for a longer attention span that TV and print media do not allow. (some days, some of us just read headlines)

Hopefully blogs that encourage views from many sides will become popular such as blogs that post good arguments from both or all sides of an issue at once. Basically, these blog hubs that link to multiple sources have and will play a larger part in the future of the Internet in generating a more authoritative source online at least. (blogs like the left-right debate) Varied information will also take the form of group blogs (blogs with multiple authors e.g. oxblog).

We are living in the market-based media society that was feared much much earlier, and the result of blogging appears to be a diagnosis of the problem. Blogger triumphalism probably goes too far in evaluating their effect on the election (though it's excellent narrative propaganda), but their influence is still undeniable in terms of speed for the junkies who tell other people who tell the media who tell...etc. etc.

Basically, blogs are a step in forcing MSM to get with the times. Though it's likely the MSM would have had to anyway, the sooner MSM adjusts for modernity, the better.

Blogger triumphalism is still a generation too early though. Until older people start dying out and stop using TV as their primary news source, I think it's safe to say that TV news is still king in influence. It also seems that the most influential of blogs are smart enough to realize that the destruction of the MSM is probably the worst thing for democracy possible.

Posted by: Steve at November 29, 2004 7:19 AM | Permalink

Cynics believe that either you, as a person or a media organization, are for someone or against him. So, these cynics have been somewhat successful in painting the media as pro-Kerry/anti-Bush. This argument is insidious, like the infamous question, "so when did you stop beating your wife?" Even a denial lends too much credibility to the unfair frame.

Posted by: Michael Weiksner at November 29, 2004 9:15 AM | Permalink

I think the triumpal rightie bloggers should be careful what they wish for. Let's see who controls what:

Congress: GOP
White House: GOP
Judiciary: GOP
Most governerships: GOP
Press: Unable to change any of the above

The USSR tried one-party rule and look where it got 'em.

Posted by: tom mangan at November 29, 2004 9:54 AM | Permalink

Oh for Pete's sake! Can we stop with the right wing/left wing blogger business already? There are plenty of partisan, down-the-party-line bloggers. But there plenty more who are less predictable and more likely to offer new and interesting points of view. Which is one of the most powerful aspects of the 'net and this culture of blogging--it reveals the subtleties, contradictions, and compromises that are involved when real people make political decisions, like who to vote for.

What I think came out this election is the shallowness of coverage by the MSM, both politically and in all areas. The campaigns are a horserace, each turn recorded and analyzed. It became clear this election that news people really don't know anything special, but they can gather up a bunch of comments and observations and string it all into a semi-coherent report-of-the-day. And once viewers realized that newspeople don't really have any special knowledge, then the bloggers start to look really smart. And they often are.

I've started to get into this because once I pitched to some MSM types the idea that real public journalism, in the form of solid, well-documented, understandable information offered to readers about important institutions could help improve those institutions. I was thinking public education, because few understand it well and the technical challenges to delivering teaching to children. But I explained that this type of journalism could be important in lots of areas. The MSM types looked at me as though I had ten heads.

And so the MSM continues to cover education, and other technical issues, like horseraces. Get a quote from one side, from another, sometimes round up an expert and grab a sentence, then file the story. Think about how reporters get the job of covering the environment, or medicine, or education. They get promoted from the City Hall beat. Hey, that's a smart way to make sure the reporter has the kind of specialized knowledge needed to handle technical issues. It explains why every issue gets covered like a horserace, though.

I picked out an education story that came out over the weekend and dissected it on my own blog and went over this.

Also, what about the changes at Columbia's J-school, the addition of the second year that Lee Bollinger wants?

Thanks Jay. This always great.

Posted by: JennyD at November 29, 2004 10:18 AM | Permalink

Jeez, if someone had told me it was the media's job to elect Kerry, maybe I could have helped. I thought we were just out to report the news. I'm having trouble swallowing the argument that a 51 percent vote in favor of one candidate amounts to a repudiation of the media. Just reverse the argument: If Kerry had won 51 percent, would all of those cited above be bellowing that the election was a victory for the media?

No doubt most reporters backed Kerry. The Bush administration has been one of the most hostile to open government in memory. Asking reporters to back Bush is like asking CEOs to back Nader.

But the key shifts in media have almost nothing to do with ideology. It's all about bucks. Here are trends that really matter:

1. National network news continues to lose audience. That's for technological reasons, and it would happen no matter what ideology networks espoused.

2. Corporate media owners can't appreciate the value of news and aren't willing to pay for it. This dilutes the one advantage MSM holds over all its competitors: the power to report. And the more the media consolidate, the more diluted coverage becomes. Even media bosses who know that's bad business in the long run have trouble thinking that far ahead.

3. Political candidates buy their ads on television to reach people who don't pay attention to politics until a couple of weeks before the election. The press, which provides far more detailed and balanced coverage, is stuck for the cost of covering the news, but doesn't get the political ad boost that helps pay the cost. As TV coverage declines, more viewers form their opinions strictly on the basis of partisan appeals.

4. An amazing number of people seem to think that politics bottoms out at the presidential level. They pay almost no attention to legislative, gubernatorial, city council and school board races. The burden of covering those races falls heavily on local and regional newspapers, and there's no money in covering politics at that level.

5. Bloggers have staked out their ground in the commentary portions of political coverage, which is the easiest and cheapest niche to fill. Bloggers allege that MSM ignore reader input, but space for reader contributions is inevitably restricted in newspapers: Someone has to pay for every column inch of that space. The week before the election, we added four pages to our tiny weekly so we could print 45 letters to the editor. Financially, it was a pure loss; we did it as a public service. But the internet has blown the wheels off that technological limitation.

6. It's unclear that bloggers will ever amass the financial clout to provide a real alternative to what the MSM do best: covering wars, staking out the White House, sitting through city council meetings, following bills through Congress, sifting out public records, listening to the police scanner, typing the boxscores, etc. If a mass market for that sort of thing continues to exist, then somebody, presumably, will figure out a way to make a living providing it. But it isn't clear to me who that is or how it will be done.

Posted by: David Crisp at November 29, 2004 10:46 AM | Permalink

The Big Loser: The People

Who is the big loser in this election cycle? "The people" and democracy American style. Our era is coming to an end.

Big media lost to the extent people trust them even less because of the right-wing sound bite machine.

The CBS document case is the prime example. But that story was driven by the desire to challenge the powerful and obtain the scoop - not a liberal media attempt to "bring down the president."

Independent journalists producing unedited blogs who drew an audience and generated a revenue stream are winners.

But the very idea that the national newspapers and broadcast networks pulled for Kerry in this election is pure balderdash. There's no evidence for it, and a lot of evidence against it.

Here's one example I know something about directly, since I broke one of the first big Bush AWOL stories.

The NY Times and LA Times both did their own big rehash stories on Bush's guard service in the weeks leading up to the election.

The NY and LA Times stories completely left out the drug issue and bent over backwards to make the stories fair and balanced in their language by citing reports on how Bush was a fine pilot. Look those stories up in Nexis and see what I mean. No content analysis of this coverage would detect a liberal bias. Trust me.

USA Today had a team on the Bush AWOL story all year, but never published the results. They got sidetracked by Abu Graib. I know because they asked me to help at one point, but could not come up with the money.

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal ignored the story entirely. And of the networks, only CBS attempted to use the story in the final weeks of the campaign – and they got burned.

Interestingly, none of the corporate papers or networks in Alabama did anything on the Bush AWOL story, even though it was right in their backyard.

I wish the big media had gone after Bush harder, because I think the country is in serious trouble because of his reelection. We are headed toward a monarchical system with the divine right of a president-king backed up by the oligopoly of giant corporations. The big media are part of this corporate system, to the detriment of important dissenting voices of wisdom.

It's this simple. The extent to which bloggers provide these dissenting voices, they are good. The extent to which they simply repeat and spread shallow and unsubstantiated information, they are bad. Audiences and advertisers will determine the winners and losers, not media critics, mainstream or otherwise.

Posted by: Glynn Wilson at November 29, 2004 11:37 AM | Permalink

"I think the country is in serious trouble because of [George W. Bush's] reelection. We are headed toward a monarchical system with the divine right of a president-king backed up by the oligopoly of giant corporations."

With all sincere respect, I appreciate Glenn Wilson's candor; and do not believe the depth of his emotion, the literal inaccuracy of this formulation, and the apparent placement at this extreme (no matter how many of his cohort make the same statement) political spectrum, could permit him to be sensitive to the framing and selection, as well as the treatment, of the reported material from MSM during this campaign.

It's a little bit like driving with a cellphone. We'd swear we're self-aware throughout, that it's no more distracting than chatting with a passenger. But the observers just keep finding higher and higher accident rates.

Posted by: AH at November 29, 2004 11:56 AM | Permalink


Would it make sense to only accept posts from people who reveal their true identity? For all we know these anonymous right-wing attackers are on the Bush payroll. And most of them offer nothing in the way of informed analysis of these issues.

Posted by: Glynn Wilson at November 29, 2004 12:08 PM | Permalink

I don't think Big Media lost an election they were trying to win for Kerry. But I'm curious why some people do.

Well, try these points on for size:

1. It's an axiom (stereotyped, but an axiom) that the modern-day American journalist is trained as a political liberal. That is, their drive is to be an agent of social change by exposing the problems of contemporary society.

2. When you multiply that onto the national stage, you get the Mainstream Media, which sought to become an agent of social change by setting the agenda of public discussion.

3. In an election year where one of the candidates is an incumbent, the public agenda traditionally (and somewhat logically) turns an election into an evaluation of the incumbent.

4. The incumbent, in this case, won the previous election under less than ideal circumstances, enacted some drastic measures in response to a major terrorist incident and launched a military invasion on grounds that only appeared solid at the time. Because of these actions, the MSM apparently decided that the major theme for the election was that the incumbent had failed as a president.

5. These theme was augmented by commentators on both sides of the political spectrum. On the left were those who were appalled by President Bush's policy decisions (since they clashed with their understanding of the System) and were galvanized into major political action. On the right were those who remembered the rancor of Election 2000 as well as the shock of the Democrats in response to the midterm elections. Their motivation was the fear that the Democrats would pull every trick in the book to defeat the President.

6. The philosophical alignment of the MSM, on a personal level, is more in agreement with the Democrats than the Republicans. That, coupled with the responsibility to document Administration failures, may have led to an unconcious alignment with the Kerry campaign.

The most obvious manifestation of this is Dan Rather and Rathergate. What turned this into a major story was not so much the demonstration that the TANG documents were faked, as the public and vocal reluctance of Rather and CBS News to admit that the documents were faked.

At the same time that Rathergate was unfolding, senior Democrats such as Terry McAuliffe began raising questions about the President's National Guard service -- based on the disputed documents. This action gave the unfortunate impression that the CBS News story was meant to be part of a collaborative campaign with the Democrats.

So you could call the perception of MSM/Democratic alignment a confluence of mutual interests: the MSM pursuing its theme of President-as-unworthy-incumbent, and the Democrats eager to put their candidate in the White House.

Posted by: PhantomObserver at November 29, 2004 1:55 PM | Permalink

Glynn and others: I vastly prefer people who write in their own names. There's no practical way for me to insist upon it; there are comment registration systems but they do not require it either, just a valid e-mail for your assumed ID.

As for who offers something "in the way of informed analysis on these issues," that's not a judgment I could easily make. There are a lot of know-nothings about with loud opinions. There are also a bit too many know-it-alls.

It seems to me that highly partisan writing about contested matters in this forum tends merely to provoke arguments well rehearsed, and to drift away from "press" matters entirely. Do I think the two (press, politics) are easily separated? No, I don't. A good portion of PressThink's perspective lies in assuming it's hard to separate the two.

There are always alternatives to "setting straight" the comment loon who last erupted and left the planet (from your point of view.) Those who engage in the ritual of mutual disconfirmation must enjoy it somehow. I think it's dumb.

Something I have many times urged upon participants here is simply to offer two sentences and a link, and make your reply to the nonsensical comment that. You might be surprised at how effective it can be.

People who agree on nothing can agree on the value of a link. Keep this in mind.

Mutually unintelligible narratives in politics and journalism are a prosaic fact of life these days. I am continually amazed at how many people parade around as if they didn't realize that, when they must.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 29, 2004 2:01 PM | Permalink

I think the influence of the blogosphere is on the people that are interested and passionate about the news, not so much everyone else. You can get much more detailed analyses on blogs than you can from TV or from the newspapers. Also, you know where the blogger is usually coming from politically, and can factor that into the analysis.

The problem with the MSM is that they've always tried to convince the public that they are presenting straight news, the real story. In reality they have been pushing the news from a clearly left-biased angle. It is plainly obvious and the blogosphere has helped the public to call bullshit on it. If the MSM at least were upfront in honestly presenting their bias, then the news they present could be taken seriously by people on both sides. The problem for them is that if they were honest, they'd lose even more viewers.

Here's what has changed: News junkies from the right-of-center side have found someone who speaks to/for them, the blogosphere. What the MSM still has going for them is left-of-center news junkies and the majority of people that aren't interested enough in the news to explore the blogosphere to find it.

Posted by: Mark at November 29, 2004 2:13 PM | Permalink

Phantom: Your view, stressing the idea of "alignment with..." rather than "rooting for..." is more promising, in my view. It resembles in spirit the analysis by Michelle Cottle in the New Republic: Democrats' Spurned Media Love. (Nov. 8 issue, sub. required)

... another, less frequently discussed factor is that Democrats simply like the media more than Republicans do--or, at least, more than the Republicans currently running the show. They respect the profession more, feel more of a kinship with reporters, and generally care more about being liked by the media than do members of Bush World. This relationship is as much about a perceived cultural affinity as any politically based "liberal media bias," and, contrary to what conservatives would have people believe, it hardly guarantees more sympathetic coverage of Democratic campaigns.

... Democrats say (with some exasperation) that their party still accepts the idea of the media as an unofficial Fourth Estate of government, shaping debate and serving as watchdog for the public interest. As campaign consultant Kenneth Baer put it, "Democrats buy into this high and mighty role that the press has of itself." Because of this, say Dems, their team is too "susceptible to guilt" over denying access.

By contrast, the Bush administration does not regard the media as having a special role but rather as just "one of several constituencies to deal with," says former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "It doesn't set them apart as more important." This more dispassionate view gives Team Bush greater freedom to play hardball, refusing access and info that it feels aren't in its best interest to provide or, in more extreme cases, shutting out outlets or reporters with whom it is displeased.

And so on. She has a more subtle understanding of the interplay among Democrats, Republicans and journalists and "culture." Of course, she's trying to describe what actually happens; she's not out to de-legitimize the press or to mystify its practices as magically "balanced."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 29, 2004 2:31 PM | Permalink

Glynn, it's easy to find out more about me because clicking on my name takes you to my blog, where anyone can find out way more about my ideas than they might want to know.

One of the reasons, at least for me, that I prefer not to have to use my full name is because I work in a profession where moderate and conservative viewpoints are not accepted, and in fact can get you into trouble. I have been told by two professors to be careful when I pick a dissertation topic so I can be sure to be considered for jobs.

When I used to be a reporter and editor, which I was for 15 years, I also had to be careful. For example, I once expressed concern about late-term abortion, after having had my first child, and was told by several other editorial types how wrong my thoughts were. I also once worked in a suburban newsroom on the day the big city paper called every African-American reporter and asked if they wanted to interview for jobs. Apparently the city paper was facing a lawsuit and needed more minority faces in the newsroom.

These and other events have made me cautious about expressing certain ideas in certain places. I am not a conservative. Nor am I a liberal. I have ideas that span the political spectrum. I absolutely loathe the notion that ideas are bad. Ideas are good, sharing them is better, and then the best one can get implemented.

I hope that helps explain why I so enjoy Jay's work here. The best posts are the ones about the dynamics of the press and public life, not the rants from one extreme or the other. But that's pretty obvious, I think.

Posted by: JennyD at November 29, 2004 4:20 PM | Permalink

were the swiftboat allegations serious - were they important to understanding John Kerry? did the media investigate? did they learn anything further than what you could find on the internet? the democrats fielded an unelectable candidate. and when the reality began to surface, the media ignored it. it was a close enough election, that if it had not been for new media, the entire US would have ignored it. is that inexcusable? for media to actively supress negative storylines? disregarding ALL negative stories about bush - stipulating he shirked service in Vietnam, the press gave kerry a pass. so arguments to the effect that rather was just talking truth to power and being an investigative journalist are laid bare. does rather think kennedy/kerry is NOT powerful? until you know for certain that kerry was honorable during 1969-1973, you cannot look at the media and think they did a fair job vetting the past of both candidates. and you can't refute the SBVT allegations without Kerry's 180.

Posted by: ken burke at November 29, 2004 5:57 PM | Permalink

I'm baffled at those who claim that they don't understand the claims of media bias.

All you have to do is search the web for:

- Quantity of coverage given to the largely irrelevant issue of Bush's wrongdoings in the 1970s


- Quantity of coverage given to the largely irrelevant issue of Kerry's wrongdoings in the 1970s

Hint: The former is large, while the latter is roughly zero. We all know about the latter only due to coverage outside of the mainstream media.

You can also do the same with quantity of coverage of negative events in Iraq vs quantity of coverage of positive events in Iraq. Again, the former is large and the latter is approximately zero - even though many more positive events have occurred. For example, every time an Iraqi was without power or water, that was on the National News, but when their power or water was restored, that was never covered.

Posted by: Baffled at November 29, 2004 6:02 PM | Permalink

If you think that someone who believes that the national media are biased in favor of liberal candidates and causes is dumb, you have definitely not been paying attention. The nonstop, allout effort of the major outlets to defeat President Bush would have been discernible by a bright twelve-year-old. Only those who continue to try to shield the media emperor's naked body with the "new clothes" of "journalistic integrity" can believe this, thereby declaring their own bias. Conservative news outlets are equally biased, but at least they don't pretend not to be. That's the difference. Anyone who can't see that is dumb.

Posted by: Jim Kohlmann at November 29, 2004 6:06 PM | Permalink

If you think that someone who believes that the national media are biased in favor of liberal candidates and causes is dumb, you have definitely not been paying attention.

What I said is the bias discourse over time makes you dumber. Not "anyone who thinks there's bias in the press is dumb."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 29, 2004 6:34 PM | Permalink

I don't think of it as the "Death of Old Media" so much as the "Death of Old Media Dominance". There will always be a place for the Nightly News and page one above the fold but these are becoming simply one voice among many. When they get it wrong or let their biases overwhelm their objectivity they'll be outed almost immediately by the Pajamadheen; it's just too easy to spot a lie/slant now.

Posted by: Orion at November 29, 2004 6:59 PM | Permalink

Jay, there is a "moral superiority war" going on in the US culture. It is based on Vietnam, and the US being in Vietnam to fight evil communism. And doing a lousy job of Vietnamization of the conflict, and NOT really favoring "democracy" (which would have elected Gen. Ho Chi Minh, independence fighter against the French, the Japs, the French, the Americans).
And, after the US followed Kerry's 1971 advice of "Peace Now" -- the Killing Fields genocide by evil commies.

The Killing Fields are a fact; and, logically, opposing the US in Vietnam meant favoring genocide. The Left, like yourself, does not accept this ("too simplistic" yada yada).

Fight evil or accept evil triumphant. The press, definitely in the tank for Kerry (no Form 180), is covering up its own support for genocide.
Rwanda under Clinton.
Sudan today -- a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The UN is cruel joke. But the anti-God press, hating Bush (who is pro-God), refuse to honestly compare different alternatives.

Each of which has good and bad points. Huge complaining about a marine killing a wounded murdered, who was "faking it, he's f-ing faking it!" -- such huge complaints are not serious. The press maintains an Unreal Perfection standard that Bush and the US is supposed to meet, or be proven terrible. It's become ridiculous.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 29, 2004 7:03 PM | Permalink

From the comments, the "group think" of traditional journalism appears to be comtinuing apace.

In the conclusions to this article, you commented that apparently the MSM *had* done its job, as the commentators were all reasonably well informed about the election after all.

This, I think, is the merest sophistry. Most people in my acquaintance seem to have widened their sources for news dramatically beyond the MSM.

By disparaging bloggers--many journalists simply don't get it...the traditional outlets no longer command the automatic credibility that was true when few were able to question them as reasonably unbiased sources. Today, the press has often been the instrument of its own slide into increasing insignificance.

The events of this campaign and its coverage merely underscore the truth of the claims of bias...Dan Rather and the famous forgeries foremost among the examples.

I read many newspapers and followed many other journalism outlets throughout the campaign, despairing to find any sort of comprehensive coverage of actual *issues*. Everyone dutifully reported each time Kerry announced that "he had a plan"--but only rarely questioned just what these plans entailed. If the journalists are simply reporting on handouts and endless repetitions of the same statements, what possible good are they?

As Fox continues to grow--with more election night viewers than CBS, for instance--all I seem to hear is the other networks and many print journalists complaining about it. This seems to me to be yet another case of "rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic."

Newspapers have a unique ability to provide needed details about real issues--yet they, too, seem moribund and increasingly moving to be simple headline services. Reporters increasingly seem to believe they should eschew traditional reportage and take a stand on issues depending upon their own beliefs--however naive or ill-formed. As a consumer of news, I first want to be made aware of the facts of the matter--then, perhaps, to entertain opinion about those facts.

The press has been monumentally self-absorbed as long as I have been aware. Too bad it has not matched that with a real commitment to objectivity and professionalism....and for that, other outlets such as the blogs are taking on increasing importance. While you may not like it, many people are fully capable of weighing what is said for reasonableness without the "filter" of a journalist interposing his or her own personal bias.

Unfortunately, though, most journalists have become much too untrusting of the people--who, after all, have the temerity to disagree with the prevailing journalistic biases.

Continue on this path and you will continue to marginalize your profession.

David Neeley

Posted by: David Neeley at November 29, 2004 7:12 PM | Permalink

"African-American reporter and asked if they wanted to interview for jobs."

That's because they're underepresented in newsrooms. Women and white men aren't. It's the reason I'll probably never get to work in the first place going into this field as a third career, and already an author.

Posted by: John at November 29, 2004 8:24 PM | Permalink

It's easy to see how conspirators focus on the one piece of evidence (form 180) they don't have and ignore all the rest when belief supplants reason. That's why bias trumpters ARE dumb.

Posted by: John at November 29, 2004 8:27 PM | Permalink

I don't think Big Media lost an election they were trying to win for Kerry. But I'm curious why some people do.

The reason you can't see this is because of your politics. This simple sentence defines you as a liberal. I've never read your post before today. I reached your blog via Drudge and then Editor and Publisher. I haven't read any of your articles previously, though I did skim through the front page where this article was located. Its entirely possible you are a conservative, libertarian, or some other party affiliation. But in reading the quoted sentence above, and unless seeing other posts after I post this, I peg you as a liberal. Why? Because liberals have a blind spot. That's the only conclusion I've been able to come to, unless there is a mass lying or denial conspiracy going on among liberals. You just can't see (or can't admit to?) the bias in favor of Kerry in the MSM. And from the larger article and the quote above, my take is that you don't see liberal bias in general, in the MSM. This is a huge blind spot for liberals. Why? I can't explain it. Maybe someone else can.

Ask yourself this: Can you admit the following observations? New York Times is biased liberal across the board. So is Washington Post, LA Times, NY Daily News, Newsday, CNN, MSNBC, Time, Reuters, AP, BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, WB, PBS, . NY Post leans conservative. So does Fox, the talk show guy with the dittos (can't remember name right now), the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and I'm sure you can name others though I'm sure some are wrongly categorized as conservative because of your own bias. As for USA Today, don't know enough about it to categorize it here.

Individuals are too easy to classify, but for Fox news, you and others I'm sure are wrong on some individuals. O'Reilly isn't a conservative. He isn't a liberal either. He's a populist and a hybrid of other affiliations. Also, Fox is successful in part because instead of letting their biases show through, they play this little game (in the mornings) during analysis and commentary (they did this prior to the election and are still doing it for other hot political issues) where two of the trio state what the facts are, and what the position is of the president or conservative congress members, or other pro-conservative positions. They aren't taking a position, they are reporting the facts. Then one of the trio (usually Edie, but sometimes others, varies, but formula is always the same) takes the opposing position, supporting the liberal side, or the liberal candidate, or liberal position with their own facts.

How the facts get reported, how they are sliced and diced, who they select from think tanks for the pro/con sides, which facts are reported, all contribute to the actual or perceived bias of Fox News. The problem that CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and others have is that they can't stomach the thought of reporting facts that undermine their ideological biases, if they even regard the facts as facts, instead of dismissing them outright.

If you can't see or admit that the MSM had to be worth the touted 15 points to Kerry, or that Bush would have won by a landslide if he had been held to the same standard as Clinton was with the economy during Clinton's second run, or similar accountability standards between Bush and Clinton for 911, then you have the liberal blind spot, or are participating in the mass lying or denial conspiracy amongst your liberal friends and associates.

If its lying or denial, then its your loss, and that of the public. If it really is a blind spot, then you need to find out and understand why you can't see the bias, and overcome it (I'm not talking about converting to conservative party. I'm talking about understanding why all the MSM listed above are liberal, understanding why/how/when they sow the bias, and attempting to report facts consistently regardless of who you are reporting on). Because if you can, your readers and the public at large will be better off.

The simplest measure would be to see how the same economic conditions are attributed to conservative and liberal public officials. Seeing who was in power in Congress and the Presidency when spending/tax/crime/military bills were passed, and were they reacting to a bill originally authored or pushed by the opposing party? Were they taking/given credit for economic conditions imposed upon them from a different branch of government? Were they taking/given credit for economic conditions that were inherited from a previous session or administration? Were they taking/given credit for conditions or circumstances that happened just after they entered office but prior to legislation on their part? Were they taking/given credit for conditions or circumstances before their cabinet nominations were confirmed, or had a chance to settle in?

Here's an exercise that can get you started: Take an issue, and reverse the parties. Take Somalia and put Bush in the hot seat. Would the criticisms been stronger? Weaker? Would you have said the same thing? What about Iraq? Put Clinton in the hot seat. Impeachment? Put Bush Sr. there. Military cuts? Reverse Clinton with Bush Sr. Which one went too far? Cut too much? Not far enough? Didn't cut enough?

Posted by: thinkpress at November 29, 2004 8:45 PM | Permalink

You "isolate a maneuver", do you?

If 21 people told you that your fly was unzipped, would you stand there and compare their remarks to you so as to "isolate the maneuver" by which they communicate to you, or would you zip yourself up?

You are drawing too much comfort from your meta-analysis of this as a "maneuver". You need to deal with it for the simple fact that it is--lest you soil your own credibility right along with those you seek to defend.

Posted by: Jim at November 29, 2004 8:45 PM | Permalink

Please define the term "open government".

Thank you

Posted by: Joe at November 29, 2004 9:01 PM | Permalink

Jay, I can't believe you left out my NRO autopsy: "Yet despite these efforts in behalf of Kerry, George W. Bush has amassed the highest vote total in American history. The media took their defeat graciously, if a little slowly..."

That did come very late in the piece, however...

Posted by: Tim Graham at November 29, 2004 9:08 PM | Permalink

It may seem more charitable to deem the Main-Stream Media "aligned with" Liberalism and the Democrat Party, rather than "rooting for" them, based on cultural affinity. However, an alternative thesis more neatly explains the MSM's liberal bias apparent to so many keen observers. This alternative thesis has already been quite persuasively discussed among conservatives and learned media veterans for years(for example, by former CBS newsman, and eyewitness to bias, Bernard Goldberg in his book "Bias"), and I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet in this discussion.

I call this explanation of the dominant media's clear left tilt "Ideologically-Genetic Bias". That is, the MSM cannot help but slant their reporting; slanted in the selections of what stories to cover or not cover, in the (often loaded)language used to report those stories, and in the disparate treatment of liberal and conservative experts and arguments.

This is because the dominant media's editors and reporters are wholly consumed by their liberal ideology. It thoroughly informs their daily worldview, as an article of faith. Therefore, their discussion of issues and events, whether small or important, betrays an unconscious (for most) liberal bias which they cannot hide anymore successfully than a Christian preacher can hide his belief in the Resurrection.

Thusly shackled in their philosophical frames of mind, a liberal reporter or editor knows (in his mind) that firearms, for example, are a societal detriment and anti-gun groups are a societal benefit (groups whose press releases should therefore form the basis of news stories).

For consistency, this thesis should argue that the rare conservative journalist's reporting/editing is equally captive to his ideology. This assumes an intellectual equallity between liberals and conservatives (journalists, at least), that must be an argument for another time.

Given the metaphorical prison that journalists' liberal ideology has erected around their minds (a constraint upon all their frames of reference), the solution would appear to lie more in ideological balance in the numbers of journalists and their editorial power, not in maintaining an "ideologically unbiased" artifice for each journalist individually. That is, when the numbers and realative influence of a news organizations' liberal and conservitive journalists nears parity, the balance of their product will likewise near perfection.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at November 29, 2004 9:19 PM | Permalink

A number of you really need to see Chris Satullo on the Liberal Media Re-Education Camp. It's the only kind of reply I can imagine to some of these comments.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 29, 2004 9:35 PM | Permalink

It still stuns me that in a nation with a supposedly free press, that Kerry was never asked about Christmas in Cambodia, except by a comedian, who didn't receive an answer.

Posted by: kim at November 29, 2004 9:35 PM | Permalink

It's a funny piece of satire but an inadequate reply.

I've seen all sorts of complex and subtle analysis by you, Jay.I have serious trouble believing your self professed lack of understanding.

Let's try a different terminology. The fact based citizens of this country have judged the MSM and found it to be operating as an elect-Kerry, eject-Bush machine. Most arrived at this viewpoint by the simple method of observation, hypotheses, and confirmatory observation.

Being tied into the media universe may lead to theories by the media of vast right wing conspiracies or other mechanisms for creating this impression. But the fact is that the media bias has been obvious for a very long time. Rush Limbaugh, freed of the hideous equal time doctrine, was the first to articulate it in a mass medium where others, merely suffering cognitive dissidence, could resolve that through explanations.

I don't know the commentators who popped in here, or how they found the place, but they simply demonstrate there is at least some diversity in the people who hold this same belief.

My apologies for the lecturing style. It is a stylistic weakness of mine.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 29, 2004 10:54 PM | Permalink

Somehow, I did not get the chance to vote for the MSM on my ballot.

THe MSM could not be a loser in the election if it did not pick a side. People only think they lost because they think it did pick a side. Well did it?

The answer to that question is obvious. They did not pick a side, they only reported the facts that fit their story. The problem is that they are telling a story and not just letting their readers decide which facts are important to them.


What was the last major story about a government employee losing their job because of tax cuts? What was the last major story about a private employee losing their job because of tax raises?

Both stories are important, especially if it is your job!

Posted by: Tim at November 29, 2004 11:00 PM | Permalink

For me, it seemed to be a case of moral equivalence played out on bad drugs.

If candidate X lied point blank about something the press suggested that someone suggested, no, more like hinted, there was a rumor that, candidate x lied. Then the press had to find an instance where candidate Y sorta, kinda did the same thing, maybe, in a different context and by degrees certainly. The press couldn't make a declarative statement to save their lives. When boiled down, it meant not being able to tell the truth.

Every time I read either the Washington Post or the NY Times, I kept wondering if the reporters had ever heard the phrase "No is a complete sentence."

Posted by: vachon at November 29, 2004 11:04 PM | Permalink

"You arrive at a different place when you ask: what did I not get that I needed?"

Okay, I'm not quite sure whether you're referring to the reporters or the ones reported to, but here's my experience with not getting what I needed as a consumer of the press. I heard something fairly early in the campaign (probably from a right-wing acquaintance; don't remember now) about Kerry's abysmal attendance record at the Senate Intelligence Committee. As I supported Kerry at that time, I thought I ought to find out more about this accusation. Nothing. Blank wall. Even Google News had a hard time coming up with more than a couple of hits. Finally I found through a regular *non-news* google search, which fully confirmed the statement.

This was the pivotal experience that started my turning away from the MSM. As I started getting more information from other sources, I learned about more stories that I had heard little or nothing about in the MSM: oil-for-food, Darfur, actual *non-bad* news from Iraq, Christmas in Cambodia, the fact that the military very much supported Bush, etc.-- we're hearing a little more about some of these now, but the blogosphere was on top of them months before I saw much about them in the MSM. Meanwhile I was getting bombarded with stuff about Bush's National Guard service, as if *anyone* cared.

I also started noticing that journalism could often be just plain *sloppy.* For a non-political example, I read some articles on an interview with J.K. Rowling. I then went and found the transcript of the interview online. Some of the articles (mostly the shorter ones) were okay, some misinterpreted various things she said, and some were just plain factually wrong. This is a somewhat non-serious example, but my reaction was, "If they can't get something silly like this right, how can I trust them with the news?" I thought similarly after reading the actual text of the Duelfer report and the full transcript of the Bin Laden tape. Now I don't trust what anyone says until I've read the source.

I didn't get what I needed. As a result, the MSM isn't getting what it needs either: me (and others like me) to read them.

Posted by: ca at November 30, 2004 12:08 AM | Permalink

Tom Mangan: How good to see you! When are you going to start blogging again?

Tim Graham: My oversight has been rectified. I added you as a bonus link.

John: They were popping in from Drudge, which linked to the Editor and Publisher article about this post. But that storm is over. Maybe you haven't figured it out yet, but I do not believe there is any conversation possible with what I would call hard right bias criticism. There is capitulation to it, or there is nothing. This was the observation Satullo was making through the device of satire. You dismiss it. That is your choice, but the silence in that case is coming from you.

I have also offered you (several times, but here it is again) the subtler analysis of Michelle Cottle. It is not the last word on the subject, it's just smarter than 90 percent of what I see on the subject of bias. Democrats' Spurned Media Love.

I don't think the media bias discourse is meant to spur debate-- or even reply. It's a "case closed" kinda thing. That's why you hear so often phrases like "surely, no serious person can deny," followed by a contested claim. Especially you, John. You are constantly telling me how obvious this or that is.

Thus, I read in this very thread: "If you can't see or admit that the MSM had to be worth the touted 15 points to Kerry... then you have the liberal blind spot, or are participating in the mass lying or denial conspiracy amongst your liberal friends and associates."

(Yes, I know what Evan Thomas said-- famously and idiotically.)

My choices are capitulation to the surreal (the 15 points the press can allegedly "supply"), or I am a lying, denying, conspiracy-plying leftist psychopath. It ain't about dialogue John. So stop with the "why no dialogue?"

Jim, teed off at my phrase, says: "You are drawing too much comfort from your meta-analysis of this as a 'maneuver.'" Actually, Jim, I didn't conduct any analysis of it all-- meta or otherwise. I could have. I mean I usually do.

But this post, besides mentioning a writing maneuver, (which I said I had used myself) simply presented the material, quoting each writer in turn and even using their own words for headlines so as not to introduce an extra layer of editorial comment. I would have thought you'd appreciate that. But publishing is full of surprises.

It does show, however, that scrupulous neutrality is not enough for some because it's not capitulation. Jim knows I don't believe, so even though I presented 20+ Jim-friendly authors in their own words, without comment, it's not good enough; he's still seething. Sorry: he sounds like he's seething. If I converted, that sound would go away.

David Neeley writes: In the conclusions to this article, you commented that apparently the MSM *had* done its job, as the commentators were all reasonably well informed about the election after all. Well, I said no such thing.

I made the simple observation that in condemning Big Media for its sins and failures, most of the writers did not discuss "any informational need of their own that had not been met." I left it to readers to interpret why they did not. And I specifically said the political press had failed, which is the opposite of "did its job."

Cheers everyone and thanks to all for their contributions.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 30, 2004 12:20 AM | Permalink

You could try subscribing to the not quite surreal - pick a number less than 15% and accept that the MSM adds that to a Democratic ticket. Insane idea? Provably wrong idea?

Media bias certainly won't lead to a dialogue if it isn't explored. And the issue is far more complex than a conspiracy or whatever. But you're right, a whole lot of Americans, like myself, are convinced that this year, the MSM worked hard to elect John Kerry and eject Bush, and you would have to produce some pretty remarkable evidence to shake that belief, which is based on observation.

It is clear to me that you and I place radically different subjective weights on the value of certain pieces of information, such that my evidence is of little interest to you. Conversations with liberals often reveal radically different weighting functions.

Hence "obvious" to me, not to you (and vice versa). You will either believe that the MSM was in ABB mode or you won't. More blogifying won't change that. Notice that this POV relativism implies nothing about reality, but about how people respond to it. Underneath, reality marches on, uncaring about what we say about it.

But you really did ask for it in this topic. Why do people believe as I do. The answer is that from our point of view, there can be no other conclusion to MSM behavior.

BTW...a comment on bloggers.

Apparently bloggers can be quite influential. But without a change from the guy in pajamas with computer model, they can never replace the journalistic organization. Bloggers rarely produce information (Rathergate was an exception), and hence are news analysts not news gatherers. The information I get mostly comes from the MSM, if not directly, than through someone who got it there.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 30, 2004 1:06 AM | Permalink

Evidence? Evan Thomas's crackpot, off-the-wall, look-at-me "reporters want Kerry to win, that's worth 15 points" remark, which he later disowned, was regarded as evidence all over the blog sphere column right, and it still shows up as some kind of "proof" of something. This is a parody of evidence. Anyone who believed it is a sap. So he reduced it to 5 percent and now that's supposed to be "evidence" too.

There's no dialogue to be had about disinformation like that. But if we assume that the bias discourse is about de-legitimizing professional journalism, then use of the Thomas quote makes perfect, opportunistic sense; it fits right in.

But you said a mouthful here, John. "The information I get mostly comes from the MSM, if not directly, than through someone who got it there."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 30, 2004 1:31 AM | Permalink

Sadly, the MSM is always going to get things wrong due to its very nature as discussed elsewhere in PressThink. E-mail the MSM and tell them articles are wrong and they listen if it's provable. I sent an e-mail to a Florida paper and the online error was corrected within a couple hours. In that article from the AP (or was it Reuters?), it reported how Jeb Bush couldn't do a math problem asked by a high schooler in a press conference related to education. As it turns out, both Jeb Bush and the high schooler got the question wrong, but then the reporter had assumed the high schooler was correct. As it turns out, he wasn't. But I digress. The point is that the Florida paper corrected their article, but seeing how I didn't send mail to the AP or Reuters, other sites that took that articles did not correct for the error.
The important thing in this new media environment is to correct errors quickly. Stop focusing on whether the media are biased because most of the existing evidence is anecdotal and not backed up statistically. Some stories in blogs, upon my flopping back and forth between sources from left and right end up being debunked... and the blogs on the opposite never pick up on the debunking. Despite my love of reading blogs, they have enormous pitfalls as well, and simply admitting bias is NOT enough in advancing democratic dialogue.
The evidence I've seen doesn't bear out the theory of malicious intent from the MSM to swing the election, I just see bad judgement from journalists trying to deal with modern reporting...whether they swing right or left. I hope no one kids themselves into thinking that capitulation the screamers will result in with a free press.
As for good news, it actually exists outside of blogs or lack of stories on UN Food for Oil may well have reasons not based on bias (a bargaining chip for Bush with the UN maybe). Good news appears in local papers or in less popular TV programs all the time, but it goes under the radar because it doesn't get ratings/circulation. When you see good news in MSM, tell yourself to remember it next time. We forget it all too easily.

Posted by: Steve at November 30, 2004 2:38 AM | Permalink

Jay, I understand full well the import that most of the information ultimately comes from the MSM. I know there are lots of people out there digging up information, doing all sorts of jobs ranging from boring to exciting, to gather the raw data and turn it into product. Bloggers simply don't do most of the steps (except in a few cases).

There is another news distribution channel that is important, probably large scale, but I don't know how to measure it: mailing lists. As a result of my activism, I have ended up on a number of formal and informal veterans' mailing lists. A lot of stuff flows via an invisible mesh of mailing lists connecting all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons - lots of granfalloons. Again, of course, most of the raw data comes from MSM. I would expect you to be on some of these, including probably some you wish you weren't on.

It is possible that a future evolution of new will be a vertical segmentation, where some organizations gather the raw data and others distribute it, with varying degrees of analysis added. I have trouble thinking of business models, but somebody may.

It is also possible that increasing on-line accessibility of information will allow bloggers to do some of the digging that today is the realm of the reporter. We may also end up with people blogging as witnesses to events, putting the raw data on the net.

But I doubt this is going to replace the MSM in the forseeable future.

Finally, I don't view the 15% as evidence, but as insider opinion (or a result of analysis). I think the MSM is worth some amount - at least 5% and probably more, but I couldn't prove it. When one considers how much is spent on ads that run in MSM venues, the political pros must consider those venues to be influential. Likewise the effort spent on "spinning" shows that perceived value.

If those venues are consistently biased, that is the equivalent of a lot of money granted to one candidate - except that MSM news coverage is probably far more influential than an equivalent amount of advertisement.

Probably the factor which most quickly leads to conclusions that the MSM is tilted in favor of (in this case) one candidate is inconsistencies in treatment of subjects. If you live in the world of the right, you constantly hear people complaining about that - you know the form: "If that were about X instead of Y, we would hear about it forever." It is certainly something I notice a lot. I am avoiding specific examples here - you've read them.

People on the right like to hear that number because it indicates someone in the business in some way confirming our observations. In the same way, Bernard Golberg's books do so in much more detail. It isn't that this stuff is evidence, the evidence is already in our faces. Goldberg at least describes mechanisms, and that is interesting.

However, I'm sure people cite these things as evidence. The "15%" *is* information of some sort. Either the guy believes that the press leans one way and this is influential in the election, or he was blowing smoke. In any case, the blogosphere operates in its own way. It has myths that it propagates. So does the MSM, except it sometimes puts a phony stamp of authenticity on it.

If you haven't ever done so, check out some of the really far out sites ( comes to mind). People's ideas extend way past the boundaries of anything asserted so far in this blog or its comments.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 30, 2004 3:43 AM | Permalink

I love reading these comments. Of course, the liberals claim the press has a right wing bias, witness CNN and Fox, and the fact that the liberal media have muted their criticisms of Bush so much that we have the once revered NYT allowing Bumiller to write basically sobsister stories about the White House ideologues. Then the right wing claims the media has a left wing bias, apparently because they actually tell the truth once in a while (witness the fact that those who watch CNN and Fox are LESS informed and MORE likely to believe incorrect information about, for one thing, Iraq, than those who watch, say, the horrifically liberal PBS). In the eyes of right wingers, the truth isn't to be told if it doesn't show the US in the best light possible. This is possibly a precursor to the deification of the (in this case GOP) state that Robert Heilbroner said might be an end product of the evolution of capitalism.

Posted by: Carol at November 30, 2004 10:56 AM | Permalink

I love all of the denials. The fact that MSM still refers to the Memogate documents as questionable is amazing. When will they use the word forgery?

No right-wing conspiracy existed until cBS used “forged” documents to discredit the President. After a five-year witch hunt – they still had nothing but “forged” documents and a poor story.

Today, any news article I read and have some doubt about, I will do my own fact checking. Typically, I find way too many errors to call what MSM calls “quality reporting.“

There is a divide in America, and MSM is a focal point for causing that divide.

Posted by: JAT at November 30, 2004 11:21 AM | Permalink

Personally I think I was the big winner in this years election. Why? I have cancelled my cable subscription, got satellite radio and TV and now only watch anything that comes out of anywhere bu the good old US of A. I shall no longer support community radio especially if it carries NPR. I boycott the big 3 MSM and wouldn't give Rupert Murcdoch a dime if he were blind! In addition I am moving to Argentina waiting for the housing market to crash here so I can come back and buy America as cheaply as she has sold tolerant, peaceloving, spiritual people down her mighty river. Have a nice day. JR

Posted by: Jennifer Ryan at November 30, 2004 11:43 AM | Permalink

Over the last few days I've seen a number of stories that speak to the question of whether the media were losers during this election.

Exhibit #1:
'They hate our policies, not our freedom'
Quietly released Pentagon report contains major criticisms of administration.
by Tom Regan |
(How can we have an election about the Iraq War when the media have let the administration disinform this story so badly for two years running? We can't. We can't logically be trying to defeat Islamic terrorism AND not care what Islamic Arabs think about us. They are one and the same. Force does not defeat ideology, despite what our latter day Teddy Roosevelts (determined to realize their own suppression of national independence in the name of independence ala T.R. and the Philippine-American War) like to imagine.)

'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'

Exhibit #2
Self-censorship is shadowing the new media era
March 3, 2000
(How do we tell people what they don't want to hear if ratings are the final arbiter of media "success"?)

"If liberty means anything at all," George Orwell wrote, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." As immense communications firms increasingly dominate our society, how practical will it be for journalists to tell their bosses -- and the public -- what media tycoons do not want to hear about the concentration of power in few corporate hands?

What Schiller urged many years ago is now more crucial than ever: We need a vibrant political movement that "would aim at reducing private monopoly power over news, TV programs, films, music, data processing, publishing, and advertising. It would encourage the availability, as much as possible, of information as a social and inexpensive good, not, as increasingly the situation, as a salable commodity...The important consideration is to allow for imaginative alternatives. Currently, the fashion is to deny that possibility."

Norman Solomon

Exhibit #3
Activists Arrested for Selling Nothing
(This was on Atrios. We do not have free speech rights on private property in most states, yet publicly funded police are actively enforcing these private property preferences in privatized public spaces like malls. Is the privatization of public space like malls an "on the ground" analogue for the Sinclair approach to broadcast media? Once the commons are privatized, public claims to social good can often be ignored with impunity.)

Exhibit #3
Cover Up. (A documentary on the gaping reality gap between Arab news coverage of the Iraq War and the pro-government cheerleading that passed for news in the US.)
(Again, we can't pretend to democracy when the faintest gesture toward telling the American people the truth is decried as media interventionism. How does killing tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians oppose terrorism? Why are there no bodies in US "news coverage" of this war?)

Noujaim, the daughter of an American mother and Egyptian father, took a film crew to Qatar just before the commencement of the Iraq War and shot endless footage at the Al-Jazeera headquarters.

What emerges is a portrait of a largely Western-educated, English-speaking, moderate Al-Jazeera staff, trying to document an attack on an Arab country that decimated the civilian population. The staff of Al-Jazeera, it quickly becomes clear, is composed of just the kind of open-minded Arabs Bush claims that he wants to cultivate.

Yet, as the war progresses, the Al-Jazeera staff struggles to maintain its journalistic professionalism, even as it becomes clear that the U.S. invasion is killing thousands of Iraqi civilians. One of the key Bush Cartel grudges against Al-Jazeera was that it dared to show civilian casualties, as well as U.S. deaths and injuries. Talk about shooting the messenger. If the staff of Al-Jazeera aren't the kind of Arabs America wants on it side, about the only group left is the corrupt Saudi Royal Family!"

Posted by: Ben Franklin at November 30, 2004 11:56 AM | Permalink

I keep trying to believe that reporters mean well, that they aren't overtly biased, but let their perspectives creep subtly into their work. And then I read something like this:

And I start to believe that maybe the media leans left, overtly....

Posted by: JennyD at November 30, 2004 12:23 PM | Permalink

Fascinating article and comment thread, Jay. Your questions, light as feathers, provoke outrage, but I suspect it's because of differing assumptions between you and the right-wingers posting here. You submit that the role of the media is to deliver information that fits some sort of educational gap, filling in the pieces of the puzzle that allow citizens to make informed decisions about this democracy. The frothing commenters believe that the media's role is to reinforce their political dominance. The paradox here is that much of the information they want the media to report on they already have access to, otherwise they would not be able to list the fifty five things CBS was too 'scared' to touch. So what they are demanding is not that the media teach them something different, but that the media teach what they already know to a different group of people while reinforcing their own politics.

Anyway, here are five things that I wanted but did not get from the MSM:

1) An analysis of oil and its role in the last half-century of economic growth, as well as the likely paths America would take under each administration.

2) Kerry's views and Bush's history on Federalism and the role of Congress in the formulation of our laws.

3) Analysis of how this election cycle changed the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, as well as perceptions of both.

4) An analysis of the conservative and liberal intellectual environments, media networks, and laboratories. Where are the ideas coming from that dominated 2004?

5) Historical context for elections going further back than 1992 or 1988 - how have previous elections been conducted, which voters have been fought over in the past, and are there international trends that could help inform the demographic shifts in our polity?

I agree with you that the MSM failed - when I really wanted to know something, I researched it on my own, and assumed the MSM was getting it somewhat wrong or misplacing context. What is less clear to me is who the MSM isn't speaking to that desires to know.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at November 30, 2004 2:29 PM | Permalink

The myth of the vietnam vet as an enemy of humanity? I lived through those times. To say that the media had a liberal bias is to repeat the medias own lie. That myth was perpetuated to condemn the anti war generation. To portray us
as haters of veterans when WE were the veterans
and friends of veterans. We fought to stop that war so they wouldn't have to continue to die for
a mistake. It seems history is repeating it's self.

Posted by: dave at November 30, 2004 3:39 PM | Permalink

I'm intrigued by the way Jay plays puppetmaster and throws out these chunks of red meat and watches as both left and right fight over the scraps. Meanwhile, he stays above the fray, in his Ivory Tower, taking notes. Jay says he just "notices", but some of us see what he is doing.

Posted by: paladin at November 30, 2004 3:59 PM | Permalink

Matt Stoller,
Excellent post.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at November 30, 2004 4:17 PM | Permalink

Robert Parry has an interesting article on Media Infrastructure. The Repubs have one, the Dems don't, this dynamic drives the MSM.
(Click "Parry" under "Nov. 30")

Posted by: Ben Franklin at November 30, 2004 4:32 PM | Permalink

paladin: I have always enjoyed your participation here. I'm sorry to hear that you have a problem with mine. But "puppermaster?" That requires there to be puppets, which is a helluva thing to say about fellow posters in a comment thread. Furthermore, I don't think it's accurate.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 30, 2004 4:58 PM | Permalink

Question for Matt Stoller: How many of the five things you mentioned are really the purview of a news organization? They seem much more oriented towards commentary, rather than actual news reporting. I for one would not expect to see an article about "Historical context for elections going further back than 1992 or 1988 - how have previous elections been conducted, which voters have been fought over in the past, and are there international trends that could help inform the demographic shifts in our polity?" in a daily newspaper. I suspect that what you're looking for is more of a transformation in what jobs specific types of media cover, rather than how they do the jobs that they have now. Is that accurate, and what suggestions do you have for helping the media do the work that they currently do?

Posted by: Dan Miller at November 30, 2004 5:08 PM | Permalink

Sorry, Jay, didn't mean it quite the way you suggest, and didn't mean to diss my fellow commenters, but you appear to be setting up a "Let's You and Him Fight" scenario here----if I'm wrong, I apologize. I think one thing we all (left, right, conservative, liberal, religious, atheist, Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, bored, passionate, don't-ask-don't-tell) can agree on is that the MSM have really let us down, concerning the past election, concerning Iraq, concerning everything that matters. As JennyD says, let's talk about the press. I don't really give a damn about press bias (I take it for granted), but since you are training the next generation of journos, I'd like to know how you (and others) intend to go beyond the Eason Jordans(we'll lie as long as we have access) the Evan Thomases(we're partisan, but don't tell anyone) and the Dan Rathers(anyone who expects journalistic standards is just a right wing nut). How can we trust the press? How does "here's what 21 people say about the press, but I dunno" advance the conversation? Your politics are not my politics, but as the leader of one of the premiere journalism schools in the country, I read PressThink to see what is in the future for journalism. "Puppetmaster" may have been too harsh(again, I apologize) but are you really leading the conversation, or just "noticing"?

Posted by: paladin at November 30, 2004 5:46 PM | Permalink

This came via e-mail from George Moore, Merced, Calif.


Here's another way to think about the ramifications of Nov. 2:

Newspaper managers (people who make the content decisions) around the country met prior to the election, debated and in most cases decided that Kerry would be best for the nation. They then explained their thinking in editorial endorsements.

A majority of the people in many of the communities felt differently, however, and so Bush won.

The endorsements and the opposite outcomes indicate two things:

1. Newspaper managers (people who make the content decisions) are out of touch with the people they wish to serve.

2. The disconnect helps explain why newspaper circulation continues to drop. Content, as determned by out-of-touch managers, often does not.reflect community sentiment, and so people turn to alternative sources for the information they want.

I've suggested that E&P explore this for a story.

One more thought: Given the rather high price of a newspaper subscription today, I weigh the decision to subscribe/not subscribe more carefully. If my local paper says something editorially that I don't like ... something like a Kerry endorsement, for example ... well, that may just be the excuse I've been looking for to not write that $125 or $150 check to the newspaper. I'll read what I want on the newspaper's Web site, and the joke will be on the newspaper. Take that, Mr. Editorial Writer.

George Moore

Posted by: Jay Rosen at November 30, 2004 5:54 PM | Permalink

The editorial positions are valid even if the public disagrees. That's why they run letters to the editor. Editorial positions aren't obtained by popular (or electoral college) vote. They're based on the reasoning of the board. Or does the crowd disagree with the WSJ position because they don't have a right to it? I doubt it.

Posted by: Pete at November 30, 2004 7:18 PM | Permalink

I would add that it's the people that are out of touch with the issues at hand. Millions of readers agree with the aforementioned editorials. Are they invalid too?

Posted by: Pete at November 30, 2004 7:20 PM | Permalink

I keep looking at Ukraine and wondering if the Media really lost not on election night, but in the days that followed when it became clear that something was wrong with the election.

What I know is that we are losing the media, and if we do that, it's still the rest of us who have lost.

Posted by: Avedon at November 30, 2004 7:29 PM | Permalink

Are there any newspapers with rising circulation?

Have the circulation of the Washington Times and other such right wing outfits been faring particularly better than the circulation of papers with the standard "view from nowhere/we might be timid Democratic Leadership Council Democrats" point of view?

USA Today circulation was rising for a while due to etablishing a newly nationalized audience.

I wonder if audience shifts related to technology and reducing newspaper and broadcast news audience share are being conflated here with opinions about ideological points of view.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at November 30, 2004 7:31 PM | Permalink

I wonder if audience shifts related to technology and reducing newspaper and broadcast news audience share are being conflated here with opinions about ideological points of view. 数据恢复,硬盘修复

Posted by: data at November 30, 2004 10:13 PM | Permalink

You people need to wake the fuck up if you honestly believe the MSM was in the tank for Kerry. The MS gave the Swift Boat liars much more than their due in this campaign while hardly addressing Bush's many failures both before and after he took office.

Posted by: Redleg at November 30, 2004 10:48 PM | Permalink

Forbes had a short article on declining newspaper circulation on November 1st. No breakdown by editorial leaning. Two thirds of newspapers are losing circulation, one third are gaining. Forbes says circulation has been tied to telemarketing and do not call lists have been a major blow.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at November 30, 2004 11:54 PM | Permalink

Weldon Berger who authored this piece for PressThink on the "moral values" mini-meme, wrote in with this:

I would challenge anyone who believes the press to have been the big loser in the election to produce some substantive evidence of that.

The damage to the national press as an institution, from years upon years of failures to understand large stories and to report them well and from the tendency to run after the easy (and profitable) narrative—blow jobs, O.J., Laci, Gary Condit and Chandra Levy, that girl in Utah—wasn't particularly exacerbated by this year's election coverage so far as I can tell. None of the networks are complaining about profit margins as a result of it, or an acceleration in the decline of ratings and circulation. And as loyal Democrat and media kingpin Sumner Redstone said prior to the election, a Bush victory was very much in the interest of the people who own the press.

It seems to me that most people who think the press was the loser are people who accept a liberal bias as fact and believe that the press lost because Kerry lost. That would make the press the big loser in seven of the most recent ten presidential elections.

My opinion is that conservatives are the poster children for the victim's mindset; even with three branches of government under their control and the press largely in the tank, they're still whining about liberal bias.

I don't have the links to hand at the moment--I'll dig them up if anyone requires--but studies in the wake of the invasion of Iraq showed that the ratio of news channel commentators or guests representing the anti-invasion side of the debate to those representing the administration's position was something on the order of 1:4, and newspaper editorial boards came down overwhelmingly in support of the invasion. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post admitted afterward to having under-represented opposing views (and facts) and to burying items that tended to discredit the administration's case. And of course there was the Judith Miller stenographic method of reportage.

This was during the period before the invasion when public opinion was pretty much evenly split. So if there was a liberal bias, conservatives and the administration benefitted from it because the press pretzled themselves to avoid displaying it. It's a miracle that public opinion wasn't overwhelmingly in favor of the invasion.

So what did the press lose? In my view, virtually nothing. I don't have any less respect for the institution than I did before the election, and neither do those who were already convinced the press are biased left-ward. I expect that self-disgust within the profession appreciated by a few points (probably for the wrong reasons), but I'll bet that the next "confidence in the media" survey won't be much different than the most recent one.

I think the press barely cracks the top 20, if that, in the list of post-election losers.

--Weldon Berger

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 1, 2004 9:12 AM | Permalink

Some of you will find this deeply unsatisfying, I predict. From American Journalism Review, an extended examination of what journalists think about responding to credibility crises and ethical lapses:

Jennifer Dorroh, Knocking Down the Stonewall. "The ill-fated '60 Minutes' story on President Bush’s National Guard service is the latest reminder that the defensive crouch doesn’t cut it as a response to a serious ethical challenge. What should news organizations do when a story comes under fire?"

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 1, 2004 10:58 AM | Permalink

Question for Matt Stoller: How many of the five things you mentioned are really the purview of a news organization? They seem much more oriented towards commentary, rather than actual news reporting. I for one would not expect to see an article about "Historical context for elections going further back than 1992 or 1988 - how have previous elections been conducted, which voters have been fought over in the past, and are there international trends that could help inform the demographic shifts in our polity?" in a daily newspaper.

There are constitutional shifts going on, and looking at the past is the best lens to use to analyze them. Newspapers don't need to give us a history lesson, but the real issues underscoring the contest weren't really discussed in a way that allowed actual deliberation.

I suspect that what you're looking for is more of a transformation in what jobs specific types of media cover, rather than how they do the jobs that they have now. Is that accurate, and what suggestions do you have for helping the media do the work that they currently do?

Yes, I suppose. I want different things from the media than a daily newspaper with a shallow but broad range of stories. I'd like to be able to dig in depth into any political, economic, artistic, or sports question I care about.

My suggestion for newspapers is to stop focusing on scoops, get rid of mid-level articles, and do mostly blurbs and long-form pieces. Blurbs are fun and bite-sized, long-forms are useful and help us think through an issue comprehensively. I would also like to see journalists post their notes and recordings when practical on the web next to their stories, and integrate some sort of commentary/feedback feature. I'd also like to see a move away from 'letters to the editor' page - that should not be a separate section, but a piece of every section.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at December 1, 2004 11:21 AM | Permalink

I can't believe the crap I read on this post about the "liberal" press. If you don't call the press liberal, then you are a liberal, according to some posters, automatically, per se. That is Goebbels-think of the worst kind. Those who would undermine the free exchange of information in this country are those who claim there is a bias in the news coverage and then try to prove it. The liberals had Michael Moore, who was a clown, and some comedians. The right has the big, constantly repeated lie. One is easily exposed; except for the radical paranoid nuts, such as Ann Coulter, the right is not that bare-faced.

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at December 1, 2004 1:03 PM | Permalink

I can't believe the crap I read on this post about the "liberal" press. If you don't call the press liberal, then you are a liberal, according to some posters, automatically, per se. That is Goebbels-think of the worst kind. Those who would undermine the free exchange of information in this country are those who claim there is a bias in the news coverage and then try to prove it. The liberals had Michael Moore, who was a clown, and some comedians. The right has the big, constantly repeated lie. One is easily exposed; except for the radical paranoid nuts, such as Ann Coulter, the right is not that bare-faced.

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at December 1, 2004 1:04 PM | Permalink

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