December 29, 2004
Top Ten Ideas of '04: News Turns from a Lecture to a Conversation
"People who have lots of choices, who can 'roll their own' (as Dan Gillmor says) don't care to be lectured to. Just by staying the same news sounds today more like a lecture because it gets compared to stuff that doesn't sound that way at all. You know sometimes a crisis in authority is tonal..."
Background is PressThink’s Top Ten Ideas for 2004. (“The year in press think, as it were.”) I’m explicating them. Here I am on Number 5. Number 4, about open source journalism, is here.
5. News turns from a lecture to a conversation. “Newspaper people (especially) still have the mindset of putting out the edition and then they’re done with it,” complains Glenn Reynolds. “We used to think that the news was finished when we printed it,” says Jeff Jarvis. “But that’s when the news now begins.”
Let’s excavate their claim. Accounts of the world that are in a state of permanent revision stand a better chance at truth than a series of “finished” accounts, each claiming enough accuracy not to need revision. One of these (the state of permanent revision) is more native to blogging, while the other (the series of snapshots) is more characteristic of news in the mainstream model.
Some of the pressure the blogs are putting on journalists shows up, then, in the demand for “news as conversation,” more of a back-and-forth, less of a pronouncement. This is an idea with long roots in academic journalism that suddenly (as in this year) jumped the track to become part of the news industry’s internal dialogue. Whenever that happens to a claim that’s “been around,” it is because something changed in the world to make it more vulnerable to the extant thought.
Ten years ago scholars Rob Anderson, Robert Dardenne, and George M. Killenberg published The Conversation of Journalism. (With a subtitle, “Communication, Community and News.”) Today the demand for a more conversational style is being driven by a shift in power, and a decline in traditional news authority that weren’t so evident back when that book was written.
The shift in power is putting more tools, more choices, more media capacity overall in the hands of the people formerly known as the audience. The decline in authority goes hand in hand with that, since people who have lots of choices, who can “roll their own” (as Dan Gillmor says) don’t care to be lectured to. Just by staying the same news sounds today more like a lecture because it gets compared to stuff that doesn’t sound that way at all.
You know sometimes a crisis in authority is tonal. The answer to that is a shift in tone.
Journalists and even news executives are starting to understand. Here’s my No. 5 idea—news should be less of a lecture, more of a conversation—from the head of the Associated Press, Tom Curley, who was addressing the Online News Association, an industry group, in November. Notice where he starts:
That’s a huge shift in the “balance of power” in our world, from the content providers to the content consumers. “Appointment-driven” news consumption is quickly giving way to “on-demand” news consumption. And, as we’ve seen so clearly in the last year or so, consumers will want to use the two-way nature of the Internet to become active participants themselves in the exchange of news and ideas. The news, as “lecture,” is giving way to the news as a “conversation.”
Now here it is in 2003, from that Newhouse executive, Jeff Jarvis, at Buzzmachine, his blog. Notice how he begins:
Bloggers are merely citizens with printing presses. This gives them new power.
And here’s a former TV news director, Terry Heaton:
There’s a new movement underway today that says relevant journalism could be — and perhaps should be — a conversation, not a lecture or the squawk and noise that comes when journalists talk to each other, and today’s media, with a little modification and a new point of view, could provide a forum for such conversations.
Heaton adds some necessary realism. It’s not just lecturing (bad, bad) vs. conversing (good, good); it’s who has control. And who no longer has exclusive control. The news media could at one time control whatever corrections and revisions were made to its accounts. Is that the case today?
Self-evidently it is not. And 2004, let’s remember, was the year of some very big corrections. Dan Gillmor, interviewed by Heaton: “I like the idea that people are watching what I say and correcting me if I get things wrong — or challenging my conclusions, based on the same facts (or facts I hadn’t known about when I wrote the piece.) This is a piece of tomorrow’s journalism, and we in the business should welcome the feedback and assistance that, if we do it right, becomes part of a larger conversation.”
Republics require conversation, often cacaphonous conversation, for they should be noisy places. That conversation has to be informed, of course, and the press has a role in supplying that information. But the kind of information required can be generated only by public conversation; there is simply no substitute for it. We have virtually no idea what it is we need to know until we start talking to someone. Conversation focuses our attention, it engages us… The task of the press is to encourage the conversation of the culture, not to preempt it or substitute for it or supply it with information as a seer from afar.
Supply it with information as a seer from afar. For journalists, that job isn’t available any more. And that’s why we heard this year the head of the Associated Press say to colleagues: can we stop lecturing people, please?
After Matter: Notes, Reactions and Links
Also see PressThink: Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds. (Oct. 23, 2003) “Weblogging is an inconclusive act— which is different from having no conclusions or firm conclusions.”
Arguing with a Phantom. No time to comment on this now (New Year’s eve) but this is an important exchange on blogging and Big Media: Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit. On first read I give the nod to Reynolds.
However, I often come across arguments like Farrell’s refuting those who (allegedly) would “replace” the Associated Press with Atrios, Command Post and Little Green Footballs. It’s easy. After all, you’re arguing with a phantom. Now Henry is an academic and a blogger (as Reynolds is, as I am) so I am surprised that he committed another no-no in our game, which is to characterize a writer as holding a particular view, and attack that view as nonsense, but supply no links allowing us to see for ourselves what the writer said and verify: yep, nonsense. His original Dec. 30 post did that:
bloggers like Glenn Reynolds respond to their critics by saying that they can’t cover everything, and that they’re not providing a news service, only opinions. On the other hand, they seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media.
Sorry, Henry: “Seem to believe” with zero links to the belief doesn’t cut it. Reynolds is a man with lots of opinions and three places (Instapundit, MSNBC and Tech Central Station) where he offers them. If you can’t come up with the links you don’t do the post; and in the back and forth after, where he has supplied some linkage, I have not found convincing evidence that any of the people Farrell mentions seriously put forward a “replacement” argument. (Especially lame is a “belief by association” link where Reynolds is simply nodding in agreeement with Peggy Noonan that pajama-clad bloggers “took down” the Big Media in 2004.)
What Farrell does show is that people he’s linking to think bloggers are “winning” and Big Media “losing,” a view so common I did a whole post with nothing but examples of it.
That’s not to say he has no case worth examining. Farrell, at bottom, is concerned about intellectual honesty: do you acknowledge facts and arguments harmful to your case? Adapted to a mega-blogger like Reynolds, this becomes: do you link to facts and arguments that undercut other facts and arguments you have been linking to a lot? A tricky question. Bloggers aren’t supposed to be “balanced,” but they aren’t allowed to be blind, either. Saying you’re an opinion blog just evades the problem. It would make for an interesting Crooked Timber post— with lots of links.
Reynold’s has lots of links to other bloggers commenting on this. And Hugh Hewett has also weighed in here and here. And there’s more ruckus in the comments at Timber.
Portland Communique blogger bix in comments: “Try to keep in mind that this is not merely about corrections… It’s about the publication of all the steps a story takes as it evolves, rather than waiting for some essentially arbitrary moment to take a snapshot that in form makes it seem as if the story has been told.”
“I’ve been waiting for #5,” he says. Andrew Cline at Rhetorica responds to and elaborates on this post, noting that in the traditional rhetoric of journalism “there exists a one-way communication from those who know (sources and the journalists who gather information from them) to those who don’t (the public).” Check it out, especially his notion of a “noetic field.”
Joe Gandelman of the Moderate Voice responds. “But we think the lecturing will continue.”
John Robinson, Editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, reports at his blog on a key step in the conversation his newspaper is having with the world. Lex Alexander’s report is done:
Lex submitted his memo and then skipped town. (He’d probably argue that he’s simply taking a well-deserved vacation.) Before he left he asked if he should post the report. I told him I wanted to read it first. (What can I say? I’m an editor. That’s what I do.) I’ve read it now. I’m still thinking through his conclusions and have some questions, but I like it. I think we can pull much of it off.
Olav Anders Øvrebø of Undercurrent (about whom I wrote a post called Undercurrent: Nation, Region, Weblog, Home) did a scan of the Norwegian blog sphere:
I’m quite disappointed that none (forgive me if I’ve overlooked any) of our many good to brilliant media studies professors have taken up blogging (apart from those in the mentioned “new media” cluster). Jay Rosen’s example shows what a powerful tool it can be, especially for those labouring in media studies departments: Here’s a possibility to reach a wider audience than those reading scientific papers, without having to compromise on detail or style to get published in the media, and here’s a chance to establish a critical dialogue with the very same people that are the object of study - media professionals, readers, viewers.
Well, yeah, but you can’t lecture.
Nick Coleman: ‘Blog of the Year’ goes to extremes. It’s about Powerline. “They should call themselves ‘Powertool.’ They don’t speak truth to power. They just speak for power.”
Powerline: A Columnist Nips at Our Ankles. It’s about Nick Coleman. “Why didn’t you pick up the phone and call one of us? We’d have been happy to fill you in.”
Journalists: no tolerance for majorities? Hugh Hewett at the Weekly Standard: A Unified Theory of the Old Media Collapse: (Dec. 28)
By the time the new millennium arrived, legacy media was populated at its elite levels by as homogeneous a group of reporters / producers / commentators as could ever have been assembled from the newsrooms of the old Hearst operation. Big Media had hired itself into a rut—a self-replicating echo chamber of left and further-left scribblers and talkers and self-reinforcing head nodders who were overwhelmingly anti-Republican, anti-Christian, anti-military, anti-wealth, anti-business, and even anti-middle class. These new journalists had no tolerance for majoritarian points of view, and the gap between the producers of the news and the consumers of the news widened until the credibility gap between the two made Lyndon Johnson’s look modest by comparison.
Posted by Jay Rosen at December 29, 2004 5:51 PM Print
isn't the problem though that even with the "always-under-revision" mode of a blog, ideas get circulated and spread far faster than the corrections. An example would be if (say) instapundit posts a note, which then received wide circulation. He posts an update later when new information is received, but this takes a lot longer to circulate, while the new idea, like a wave, is still rippling outward.
Also, given the sheer volume of blog postings and the number of comments to a post, it is almost impossible to be heard in the din, making even the blogosphere (although far better than print news) still relatively slow to change once a CW gets set.
Posted by: Suresh at December 29, 2004 7:12 PM | Permalink
As an armchair student of journalism, I noticed that fact about newspaper people doing a story then forgetting about it. Then I became a business journalist, first as senior editor at Control Engineering magazine, now editor of Automation World. I just happened across this site today. It's fascinating. I'm trying to introduce some of these ideas to the manufacturing space.
The problem right now is building the site and generating the conversations. How are others doing? Is it slow going? Is there a right way to get started?
Posted by: Gary Mintchell at December 29, 2004 7:34 PM | Permalink
Try to keep in mind that this is not merely about corrections. The conversation that's being discussed is akin the an earlier comment I made somewhere about editorial process being out in the open rather behind behind closed doors. It's about the publication of all the steps a story takes as it evolves, rather than waiting for some essentially arbitrary moment to take a snapshot that in form makes it seem as if the story has been told.
Posted by: The One True b!X at December 29, 2004 7:35 PM | Permalink
Another big part of the story is the point Nick Coleman is making with his editorial: What is "alternative" or "newly democratized" about professional, party-sponsored trolls like Powerline? Outside of the nonsensical idea promoted by neo-liberal globalization hacks like Thomas Friedman that the media is the politics, nothing. A dittohead is a dittohead is a dittohead, especially when they are riding the GOP gravytrain.
We need to start conceptualizing the fact that astroturf organizations don't become anymore grassroots just because they go online. Media delivery systems are not essentially anything, political or otherwise. We live in a one party state and two more online Republicans are a sign of the new democracy enabled by technology? Give me a break!
Posted by: Ben Franklin at December 30, 2004 9:15 AM | Permalink
What is Hugh Hewitt's media of the new millenium translated into American English: Virtual Astroturf.
Sinking virtual grassroots deep into the virtual soil of focus-grouped "values" for corporate America.
My resolution for the new year is to respond to the serial mendacity of the Bush administration by thinking it through the corporate advertising model that produces this parody of the political process. Is Merck lying when it says importing drugs made by Merck in the US is too great a risk to the health and safety of the American people? Is Vioxx the proof? Is this distinguishable from Bush administration policy?
The short answer is that Bush brand politics is a form of advertizing that privatizes public space as a matter of self-interst AND corporate principle. Bush is no more mendacious than your average Fortune 500 CEO. We need to begin to think the reduction of politics to branded propaganda.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at December 30, 2004 9:30 AM | Permalink
I really fail to understand people like Hewitt, who desperately want their news to be propaganda. It's worth noting that the Powerline "fisking" of Friedman's column was itself replete with errors ...
Posted by: praktike at December 30, 2004 11:03 AM | Permalink
Perhaps news is now not a "conversation", but an "evangelical sermon" - that is, not a lecture, but still a one-to-many interaction, but with feedback from the more vocal members of the audience such as "AMEN", "Say it, brother", "Lemme hear it", etc. (or the opposite, as the case may be ...).
"Conversation" has too much an innaccurate connotation of equality to me.
A pep rally? A cheerleader chant? Trash-talk? ...
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 30, 2004 11:18 AM | Permalink
Checking back in on PressThink, I'm glad to see little has changed. I don't think I'd recognize the comments section without the inanities contributed by "Ben Franklin" and Finkelstein. Finkelstein, why are you here? You've stated a million times that weblogs change nothing, power curve, lottery, math!, blah blah blah. Everyone gets it. Jay, could you just add a disclaimer at the bottom of every article ("By the way, Seth proved using his advanced statistics training that all of the above is complete piffle.")? Then Seth could go back to his own weblog, which he contributes to despite having proven that doing so is utterly useless.
And Ben, just love the unending train of Left-liberal cliches that form your sole contribution here. It's like a talking points memo word jumble. A most diverting exercise in the morning while I'm having my first cup of coffee. Again, given how little substance and how little variation there is, I feel certain Jay could whip up some kind of auto-blather (a search and replace on John Moore's posts would work) and save everyone involved some trouble.
One thing interesting about Nick Coleman's case is that the Star-Tribune will never admit one of their columnists is having a public meltdown. That's a very old school way of dealing with the issue--pretend it doesn't exist. No crazy aunt locked away in the attic, nosir! Everyone who works there is supposed to pretend that Coleman didn't just run an asinine column bitterly and impotently fuming about a couple of guys who critique him, and that a good chunk of the weblog world that Coleman loathes and fears had a great laugh at his expense. How strange this conceit seems today--but we lived with this conceit for years and years.
It's a lack of transparency you could never get away with in a weblog, which is expected to be a part of a conversation (however abstract). But Coleman isn't having a conversation, cannot cope with criticism, and won't respond to anything except in that witless, evasive, column-ese sarcasm of his that may have worked on the rubes 30 years ago but looks like pathetic flailing today.
In fact weblogs make the pundit class redundant, because that's what weblogs are good at, punditry. Why does Nick Coleman even have a column? The only explanation I can come up with is tenure and tradition. It's obvious he isn't plugged in at all, and his readership allows him to coast on glory days from over a decade ago. Even if you share his politics there must be a zillion better outlets for what he does that are better written and more relevant to the world we live in.
He doesn't do what he does any better than people who do it for free. Weblogs won't make reporting obsolete, but they've already made overpaid fools like Coleman completely unnecessary. That's probably what has him so upset. That and an extreme case of envy.
Who pays for what is proprietary information like the half-assed electronic Republican voting machine codes that "free market competition" (read cartelization) doesn't allow the public to oversee while democracy is privatized out from under us.
Josh Marshall is closer to the Democratic Leadership Council than to my opinions. Transparency says you are misinformed.
Speaking of sourcing, my posts in this thread are inspired by the book I'm currently reading, Naomi Klein's No Logo. She observes that corporations no longer try to sell merchandise (the marketing model the Democratic party sadly continues to follow I would add), they sell the brand as a part of the consumer's own culture and identity.
"Quite simply, every company with a powerful brand is attempting to develop a relationship with consumers that resonates so completely with their sense of self that they will aspire, or at least consent, to be serfs under these feudal brandlords." (Klein, p.149)
This is the best description I've seen so far of Karl Rove's attempt to brand "values" as the property of the fundamentalist Christian who takes the suggestion that they should serve a human rather than a king as blasphemy. There are obviously a lot of other Christian alternatives. That's why Rove has to brand the fundamentalist version as the sole legitimate, Republican, American, version.
Of course, corporate welfare is also the Lord's work. The biblical paraphrase that comes closest to this marketing campaign is "The first shall be exalted with the fruits of the last. The last shall simply be scorned."
Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds are deep into the scorn angle. That's why we love them so. And why they are so "virtuous." They have "values."
Posted by: Ben Franklin at December 30, 2004 1:03 PM | Permalink
A couple of things. As a former Minnesotan, I follow things Minnesota with zeal. Nick Coleman is indeed having a meltdown. The Powerline guys are right wing guys with a blog. They say in response to Coleman they take no money. Go read it. Maybe they're lying. I don't know. But Coleman is clearly taking money from the STar-Tribune and has completely lost it. I don't even like Powerline, and I think Coleman is freaking out. And it's about power. Coleman doesn't have as much as power. Go read, you'll see.
I've been trying to reform the idea of the "specialty beat" reporter. It used to be that someone got appointed to the "healthcare" beat, and they covered all things medical, plus wrote long stories about topics on their beat. But these were one-way, one-time stories. If the reporter learned anything, or if an expert or someone had a comment, these were never reported.
What if the specialty reporter had an open conversation with both expert sources and laypeople, all at once? What if the reporter dug up topics in the beat, laid out the story, and the helped direct a conversation among interested readers? Perhaps the ensuing sharing of knowledge would actually bring to light more truths and learning.
Just a though.
Ah, good. Hewitt skewered here by Matt Welch.
Posted by: praktike at December 30, 2004 3:51 PM | Permalink
Brian, I'm flattered that someone is reading my inanities :-). To answer, even if I shouldn't:
Finkelstein, why are you here?
Well, I find in Jay Rosen's writing and some comments, often perceptive and insightful commentary on the dynamics of the operation of the press. Raving wingnut critiques of the press are common and basically noise akin to static hiss, while a professor of journalism's critique is rare and reflective of thought. By the way, I believe your critique of PressThink a while back was ill-founded, in essence being dissatisfied with it for not being the sort of partisan material you seemed to desire.
However, the blog-theorizing moves me to the same sort of reaction I have when someone I know become enamored with something faddish but scammish, like day-trading stocks, multi-level marketing, or Joe Trippi's fundraising processes.
You've stated a million times that weblogs change nothing, power curve, lottery, math!, blah blah blah.
Yes, MATH!. Math forever, math to the highest power, math rules. Because external reality is all we've got. In the other direction lies the utter madness of the famous recent quote that for the Bush administration, "we create our own reality." (i.e. truth is what is politically expedient).
Inspiration: News is not a "conversation" - the upcoming model is that news is a political rally.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 30, 2004 9:28 PM | Permalink
It is quite possible that Nick Coleman is having a meltdown. That is not an argument that Powerline raises the democracy quotient.
In just today's posts they pull a Limbaugh and deny they even mention Coleman on one hand (What a paranoid, self-obsessed freak suggests Hindrocket) while on the other hand his partner in crime is offended that Coleman doesn't specifically mention the several posts criticizing Coleman they've run in just the last week and a half! Somewhere between six and eight posts in a handful of weeks.
And they close with the suggestion that Jesus is middle class! He is employed and hard-working, not like those poor people he refers to. It is therefore outrageous to suggest lumping him in with the lesser sorts such as homeless people. I am not making this shit up. Thank God and the Pentagon, the internet has finally brought democracy to Minneapolis.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at December 30, 2004 9:46 PM | Permalink
Inspiration: News is not a "conversation" - the upcoming model is that news is a political rally.
Do you have the math to support this? Otherwise, you're just creating your own reality.
Posted by: The One True b!X at December 30, 2004 10:34 PM | Permalink
There is something in the term "echo chamber" that speaks to the way in which right wing media produces the semblance of conversation absent communication. That means "conversation" is not the right term for what we have developing.
"Synergy" is the new corporate term for what is essentially, corporate right-wing payola: owning the content and the distribution network that frames the public conversation about reception and celebrating it as the "majoritarian" will of "the people." The American Enterprise Institute, Rush Limbaugh, Drudge, and Fox have synergy. AEI writes a script and then Limbaugh, Drudge, and Fox play the part of the infomercial audience delighted with the message on behalf of all the rest of us. See, it's a conversation! The audience is "participating."
"But when corporate speech is increasingly expressed in multiplatform synergy and in ever more extraordinary displays of branded "meaning," popular speech comes to look like the tiny independent retailer next to the superstore."
Ideologically, Powerline is preaching the gospel that is already synergized by the Murdoch-Ailes choir. They are yet another layer of internet noise on top of the newspaper-radio-TV-Internet synergy of Murdoch-Ailes-Fox-Drudge-Reynolds, regardless of whether they are on salary are not.
Is there coordinated national media infrastructure like this behind Democracy Now!? Hell no.
Behind Air America? No. Behind Moyers and Now? Don't make me laugh.
Another way of posing Jay's problem is that the newspaper actually still imagines there is a public sphere. Synergizing corporations know that you haven't won the game until your customers come to see that formerly public sphere as your own privately branded property and they identify with it. The brand is supposed to become the culture. The people and the brand are supposed to become one.
The old newspaper code philosophizes about ethics where competitive media strategy now calls for branding. Fox and Sinclair are conservative brands. The newspapers are simply conflicted and refuse to brand public discourse "on principle." Conservatives imaginatively call this legacy media failure or refusal to internalize market synergy in the newsroom the failing "liberal" brand.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at December 30, 2004 10:36 PM | Permalink
b!X: Err, yes I do (have the math to support it). Just look at the mean value (pun intended) of the reaction to Coleman's column. That's a "conversation" like the Two-Minute Hate was a coffee-break (note to wingnuts in the audience, this
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 30, 2004 11:32 PM | Permalink
That one discussion doesn't meet some utopian version of a "conversation" doesn't prove that the lines of communication between parties formerly much more walled off from one another have not become more open.
Posted by: The One True b!X at December 30, 2004 11:55 PM | Permalink
What happened with Dan Rather / 60 Minutes, over the memos, was not exactly "conversation" either - unless the word is stretched to encompass "spittle-flecked war-whooping Tarzan-style chest-beating battle cry".
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 31, 2004 12:51 AM | Permalink
Hey, this is John Hinderaker from Power Line. I see that "Ben Franklin" is trying to make a point here, although God only knows what it is. "Ben" is a Marxist professor at the University of Minnesota, which means that I pay his salary. My money is being wasted. I won't even try to make sense out of "Ben's" general comments on the universe--I hope he's drunk or on drugs, as opposed to just being stupid--but I will respond briefly to what "Ben" says about us.
"In just today's posts they pull a Limbaugh and deny they even mention Coleman on one hand (What a paranoid, self-obsessed freak suggests Hindrocket) while on the other hand his partner in crime is offended that Coleman doesn't specifically mention the several posts criticizing Coleman they've run in just the last week and a half! Somewhere between six and eight posts in a handful of weeks."
Wow, "Ben," what a contradiction! Here is what I said: "Coleman seems to be obsessed with our site, even though we rarely mention him." Later the same day, my partner Scott Johnson identified six occasions on which we had commented on Coleman's columns, out of more than 9,000 posts we have done. That's my definition of "rarely."
Next, "Ben" says: "And they have a quote from a Washington insider as a banner for the whole site specifically referring to the takedown of Coleman they don't spend any time on."
No, dummy, Mark Steyn (who is anything but a "Washington insider") referred to Jim Boyd, an assistant editor of the Star Tribune who wrote a column attacking us last summer.
"Ben" concludes: "And they close with the suggestion that Jesus is middle class! He is employed and hard-working, not like those poor people he refers to. It is therefore outrageous to suggest lumping him in with the lesser sorts such as homeless people. I am not making this shit up."
Here, "Ben," you're getting warm. We did point out that, contrary to Coleman's flight of fancy in one of his columns, Jesus was not "homeless." His parents had a home, it just wasn't in Bethlehem.
So, "Ben," you're an incoherent fool who can't get even the most basic facts straight. I am sorry for the fact that hard-working people in Minnesota are taxed to support your incompetence.
Posted by: John Hinderaker at December 31, 2004 9:53 PM | Permalink
Professors on things Japanese like this Ben are a dime a dozen. Rarely have they learned the language well enough to make an informed inquiry and instead find themselves engaged in a wide range of topics and interest they pursue with the same marked superficiality. It's a shell game. How many times have I sat next to such a professor over here on sabbatical or a research trip absolutely amazed they, who are unable to do the most basic things in the language well, are "experts" getting paid for their scam. Now I could be wrong. Ben might be the exception. But given the nature of his comments and in terms of the sure sign, to wit has he himself written and had published original work in Japanese, as far as my research goes he comes up short. By the tone of his comments above perhaps this lie he lives is starting to catch up with him. Of course, and I say again, I could be wrong about Ben. Do let us know. How is your Japanese Ben? And passing some level 1 test is not what I am talking about. Write me a long reply in Japanese without your assistants checking your grammar.
Posted by: ito at January 1, 2005 10:36 AM | Permalink
From the After section:
No time to comment on this now (New Year's eve) but this is an important exchange on blogging and Big Media: Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit. On first read I give the nod to Reynolds.
However, I often come across arguments like Farrell's refuting those who would replace the Associated Press with Atrios, Command Post and Little Green Footballs. It's easy. Now Henry is an academic and a blogger (as Reynolds is, as I am) so I am surprised that he committed another no-no in our game, which is to characterize a writer as holding a particular view, and attack that view as nonsense, but supply no links allowing us to see for ourselves what the writer said and verify: yep, nonsense. His original Dec. 30 post did that:
bloggers like Glenn Reynolds respond to their critics by saying that they can’t cover everything, and that they’re not providing a news service, only opinions. On the other hand, they seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media.
Sorry, Henry: "Seem to believe" with zero links to the belief doesn't cut it. Reynolds is a man with lots of opinions and three places (Instapundit, MSNBC and Tech Central Station) where he offers them. If you can't come up with the links you don't do the post; and in the back and forth after, where he has supplied some linkage, I have not found them convincing evidence that any of the people Farrell mentions seriously put forward a "replacement" argument. (Especially lame is a "belief by association" link where Reynolds is simply nodding in agreeement with Peggy Noonan that pajama-clad bloggers "took down" the Big Media in 2004.)
That's not to say he has no case worth examining. Farrell, at bottom, is concerned about intellectual honesty: do you acknowledge facts and arguments harmful to your case? Adapted to a mega-blogger like Reynolds, this becomes: do you link to facts and arguments that undercut other facts and arguments you have been linking to a lot? A tricky question. Bloggers aren't supposed to be "balanced," but they aren't allowed to be blind, either. Saying you're an opinion blog just evades the problem. It would make for an interesting Crooked Timber post-- with lots of links.
Posted by: Jay Rosen at January 1, 2005 10:50 AM | Permalink
What we forget here is that all the big players involved in this discussion have in common: Hugh Hewitt, the Powerline bloggers, and Nick Coleman have had their own radio shows. Nick Coleman does it more as an occasional fill-in nowadays.
Brian, you say that anybody can do this, well I suggest you get your own FCC license and try to make the big bucks that Hewitt and the Powerline crowd is trying to (think fractions of Brush Limpballs $$ here). This is not just about blogging, it about capturing a mindshare though whatever way possible, and if they can make money hawking "Get-Rich-Quick-Scheme" edvertisements on the side, all the better.
(note that I could not put in the word V-I-A-G-R-A instead of "Get-Rich-Quick-Scheme" above because of the content blocking rules. Says something about Powerline's target radio audience)
Posted by: Webster Hubble Telescope at January 1, 2005 1:05 PM | Permalink
Seth Finkelstein: Yes, MATH!. Math forever, math to the highest power, math rules. Because external reality is all we've got. In the other direction lies the utter madness of the famous recent quote that for the Bush administration, "we create our own reality." (i.e. truth is what is politically expedient).
By grossly misinterpreting "we create our own reality" to mean "truth is what is politically expedient," you exemplify what you pretend to critique. See Mickey Kaus for a non-hack examination of the quote. (Scroll down to "Incovenient Anecdote #2".)
Hey, this is John Hinderaker from Power Line. I see that "Ben Franklin" is trying to make a point here, although God only knows what it is. "Ben" is a Marxist professor at the University of Minnesota, which means that I pay his salary. My money is being wasted.
What a tool. Let's all pull our money out of Hideraker's buddy, Scott Johnson's employer TCF National Bank. And then let's go after Hinderaker's blog buddy, King Banaian, out of that "party" school in rural Minnesota, St.Cloud State University. Never again will I hire another "engineer" from that place. My tax dollars are being wasted with SCSU.
Is this the definition of prickly?
Posted by: Webster Hubble Telescope at January 1, 2005 1:44 PM | Permalink
What I spend my time doing (on break) with my salary is therefore hardly your concern as a citizen, though I understand your interest given you and your associates evident determination to privatize public discourse to furthest extreme possible. Congratulations, you've already privatized liberal arts education in Minnesota. Thank God we have Powerline to trumpet the ruling party's position on the internet in the name of increased democracy.
Posted by: Ben Franklin at January 1, 2005 5:30 PM | Permalink
Nice to see that Professor Rosen is getting more commenters based on content. I wonder what's he's going to have to do when he gets TOO many commenters.
Anyhow, trying to get back on track and away from ad hominem...
Posted by: S, at January 1, 2005 7:34 PM | Permalink
Powerline and Hugh Hewitt have inspired me to start a web log of my own a little sooner than I had anticipated. I will be discussing popular music and Japan as much as media and politics, but please drop by when you are so inclined. For my reply to Hugh Hewett, please visit me at the following address:
Posted by: Ben Franklin/Mark Anderson at January 1, 2005 10:56 PM | Permalink
MDP: Mickey Kaus was complaining that the "we create our own reality" quote did not indicate "a man whose Christian faith gives him a certainty that leads him to ignore or block out "'inconvenient facts.'" I agree with Kaus to that extent, the quote isn't about religion. Rather, I took it as in the Pontius Pilate What-Is-Truth genre, that truth is what those in power (or those who scream loudest, correlated), say it is. Else why the emphasis on "empire", if not absolute power establishing truth by the sword? In this, I think Kaus isn't correct in believing it's merely about action vs. theory, because you don't have to be an empire to take action. But empires are very notable for truth-is-what-we-say-it-is.
By the way, I understand that genre real well as a consultant, from many marketing people who don't want to hear about the mathematics behind product development, and believe promised ship dates create their own reality. I even have a war-story which revolves around being told "Mathematics is bullshit", to come full circle.
If you want to know what is, rather that what you think (or are socially rewarded for thinking) ought to be, then mathematics must be respected.
Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 1, 2005 11:17 PM | Permalink
One of the problems with Seth's old boss/new boss complaint, and with the power law/long tail analysis generally, is its collapse of all interests into a single dimension. That's useful for media industry analysis in the large, since it makes the attrition of attention, share and value at the top of the curve more obvious, but it's misleading when it comes to talking about influence.
If you go as far back as Huberman and Adamic's original work on power law distributions of attention in the net, they found such distributions across sites as diverse as .edu's generally, and sexually explicit sites. The point is there are as many power law curves and long tails as there are ways that you want to look at the data. (I tried a different metaphor some time back, and it might have some utility, though the 'pour in the water' bit makes me twitch rereading just now.)
Since many/most of those writing here are politically committed in one fashion or another, I think there's a tendency to fixate on one implicit power law curve, but that's just one option among many. If you're aiming for the top of the politics/public affairs curve, or the global curve of aggregate attention, then you are in a hit driven model by your own choice. Don't blame it on the nature of citizens' media, Glenn Reynolds, or the injustice of the world, blame it on the person staring back in the mirror every morning.
If you want to be at peace with the new landscape, you're probably better off picking (or defining) a curve that reflects your own deep interests and expertise, and competing there. Look at the various 'Carnivals' sprouting up. Whether it's Carnival of the Capitalists, or Grand Rounds, each is a beacon showing the existence of a differentiated power law curve.
This is a medium that supports individuation, and the useful, but facile, single power law curve visualization has the risk of obscuring that fact.
I agree Tim. There isn't just one attention game, and there isn't one curve. Thanks for stopping by.