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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.

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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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February 18, 2005

The Local, the Global, and the Journalist In Between: Doug McGill's Local Man Debuts

"We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country," he says. "Much more easily, cheaply, and safely than ever before, we have the ability to export and share these precious freedoms via web-based journalism." It works. McGill uncovered a genocide this way.

Doug McGill—the former New York Times reporter, now a blogger and journalism thinker—wrote “The Fading Mystique of an Objective Press” for PressThink back in October. Now he has a new weblog, Local Man: Global Journalism, named for an idea he has been developing. I’ll explain more about it in a moment.

But first, the news. McGill’s Feb. 15 post on Eason Jordan has a cultural explanation for how Jordan got into trouble at Davos. It should be added to the mix.

McGill observes that an executive hopping time zones and traveling the world for CNN jumps in and out of truth frames. “Because things that are accepted as inoffensive and obvious truisms in one part of the world, can be considered outrages in another,” he writes. “Such as the assertion that the U.S. military targets journalists from time to time in its operations. That’s a truism in much of the Middle East. And it’s an almost treasonous claim in today’s U.S.

McGill, who also worked as Bloomberg News European bureau chief in London, suggests that Jordan slipped between two taken-for-granted worlds:

Every U.S. executive who has a foreign posting for a U.S. multinational knows what I am talking about. When you live overseas, you live in a society with a different set of laws, mores, and cultural understandings. And you have no choice but to go along with them. These understandings are often 180 degrees at odds with U.S. laws and understandings, which in turn requires both sides to maintain a polite facade of agreement that often masks total disparities and contradictions underneath.

The Americans target journalists? “On Al Jazeera and other Middle East news sources, this is an entirely uncontroversial claim, because everyone accepts it as obvious.” So what needs zero demonstration to this group of people demands full proof to that one.

“The local bloggers made Jordan’s comments global,” he writes. “And a remark that is a truism in one part of the world, became a bombshell in another.” (See his second post on Jordan too.) In debating how fair this was to Eason Jordan, we make constant reference to “the rules,” as if there were one set of them. In many ways that is an illusion. Life in a globalized world is frequently discontinuous.

Over the years and before September 11th, I went to any number of foundation-funded meetings about how to get more Americans interested in international affairs— and news from abroad. After each one I thought: why do we always wind up at the same, miserably obvious places, like “find the local angle on international news,” and “Americans don’t realize the stake they have in global problems.” Ugh.

McGill has a better idea than anything we conferencers ever came up with: “glocal journalism,” which he also calls “worldplace journalism.” He got the term glocal from Tom Friedman’s best-seller, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He got worldplace from a college student’s site, World Beyond Borders. The names aside, he means weaving a global narrative from local thread.

“The idea of glocal or worldplace news is that every place on earth is connected by strands of mutual influence, interdependence, and direct causality,” McGill writes in a manifesto style essay. “Because the geographical distances are so great, say between Rochester, MN and Brooklyn, NY and Warsaw, Poland, it’s often easy not to see those connections. But those connections are there.”

That every place on earth is connected, invisibly but not unknowably, is a vaguely spiritual idea. (McGill: “For me it’s by far the most important part.”) The job of the glocal reporter is to investigate and write about the “invisible strands of mutual influence” connecting town to globe, or one place to another place halfway across the world. Those connections are what the reporter “tries to make visible, to bring into public light and public life.”

Now all this would be just another abstraction were it not for the fact that it works. By doing glocal-style reporting in Southeast Minnesota, Doug McGill discovered a wave genocidal killings in Ethiopia; and he was then able to alert the world. This kind of reporting is one of the highest achievements in journalism, and it can be credited to his blog, The McGill Report, where the initial account appeared: “U.S. Anuak Refugees Fear 400 Dead in Ethiopian Massacre.” (Dec. 22, 2003.) The Post Bulletin, the local newspaper, also ran many of his articles on the killings.

At 1 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 13, more than 200 uniformed soldiers of the Ethiopian army marched into the town of Gambella in remote western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.

The soldiers spread out through the town and knocked on the doors of the houses and huts made from corrugated steel and straw matting. Some of the soldiers had pieces of paper with addresses and names. If no one answered their knocks, the soldiers broke down the doors and grabbed all the men and boys inside the house, looking under beds for anyone hiding.

Once the frightened prisoners were in the street, the soldiers beat them with their guns and then told them to run. When they did, the prisoners were shot in their backs. Meanwhile, civilians in town from a different ethnic group than the victims appeared wielding spears and machetes.

“I am going crazy right now,” said Romeago, a Minneapolis resident whose sister’s home was burned down. “My sister and her kids ran for their lives into the bush. We have no idea if they are safe. We are just praying.”

“The world’s largest diaspora population of Anuak, whose tribe is being viciously ethnically cleansed, live in southern Minnesota,” he told me in recounting the story. “I started just by interviewing them. They told me their family members were being gunned down every day by uniformed Ethiopian troops. I went to Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya to check out their claims. They checked out. And that’s what I wrote.”

The articles he wrote about the ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia put pressure on the Ethiopian government, on agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and also on the U.S. government. They all began to recognize what happened to the Anuak (who are largely Christian.) The US Embassy is now demanding that the government of Ethiopia punish those responsible for ethnic cleansing of the Anuak. McGill expects a genocide case will be filed soon against the Ethiopian government at the International Criminal Court.

It started, according to The McGill Report, when “hundreds of Anuak refugees living in Minnesota reported receiving frantic telephone calls from their relatives living in Gambella state in Ethiopia.” A local story. McGill heard about it. He interviewed the relatives of survivors who had witnessed the killings. They became his eyes and ears on the ground in Ethiopia. He became their link to the Internet, and to the possibility of world attention. This is how he explained it to me:

Over the phone connections, Anuak in Minnesota were able to know what what happening virtually minute-by-minute during the massacre of December 13, the single day when more than 425 Anuak were killed by uniformed Ethiopian soldiers. Indeed, many of those Anuak men who were killed that day were actually on the telephone with their friends and relatives in Minnesota when they were attacked by the soldiers, dragged into the street, and shot. Then I, in turn, was able to get nearly firsthand accounts from the Anuak in Minnesota who had had those conversations. In one case, only days after the massacre, I got on the telephone myself and interviewed an eyewitness.

Even in a remote African village, electronics were sufficiently present to link that village to the Internet— first via the cell phones, and via my Internet connection to the global Anuak diaspora community, the Washinton community, and the world. Many Anuak say that for many years similar killings—and even worse—have happened to their tribe. But no one outside of their village prior to this massacre had ever heard about them and so no outrage and international pressure was ever succesfully brought against the killers. And my point is, the cell phone-to-internet connection made it possible, linking a genocide in remote Africa to a reporter in southern Minnesota.

And that’s glocal journalism. Sitting with knowledgeable immigrants in Minnesota (who are connected by cell phone to Africa), McGill is better able to report on this kind of massacre than a correspondent in Addis Ababa, the capital. The Anuak are unlikely to have any voice there. But the Web works around that situation. “The first day I wrote a major story about the Anuak situation, I got 75 e-mails from Anuak who are living all around the world.”

So it’s partly about the civil liberties taken for granted in a place like Rochester. McGill speaks of putting them in motion. “We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country,” he said. “Much more easily, cheaply, and safely than ever before, we have the ability to export and share these precious freedoms via Web-based journalism.”

In this case, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his entire government have felt the pressure of the free press more acutely than ever. It didn’t happen to be the free press in Ethiopia—where there is none—but that didn’t matter in the end. Freedom is freedom. It gets around and it does its work, especially if journalists give it a chance.

McGill’s new blog, Local Man, is mainly for journalists interested in practicing glocal journalism, or who want to incorporate a global view into more of their reporting. “I will interview people on that single topic, as you do with folks on more general blogging and journalism topics,” he told me. “And I will try to collect the best glocal pieces from American journalism that are published every day and week — grab them, link them, cite them, critique them.”

He’s also starting a second blog with a different idea— picking up where the local newspaper leaves off. The Daily V, named for a geese formation seen in the skies over Rochester, “will be a site open to any citizen of southeast Minnesota who wants to publish an article or item of interest that the local newspaper, the Rochester Post-Bulletin, is not covering sufficiently.” Instead of a watch blog criticizing the local newspaper’s coverage, it addresses the omissions:

I have been to plenty of public affairs programs in Rochester where, during the Q&A, people get up and say “Why doesn’t the Post Bulletin write anything about this?” It is very commonly asked by parents who want to know more about what goes on in Rochester’s K-12 schools, for example. In recent months, at these public affairs programs, I have heard people say “I am so frustrated with the Post Bulletin, I am going to start a web site myself.” But I haven’t actually seen anybody start one yet, certainly no journalist has made the effort. So now I will.

That one, which hasn’t debuted, he plans mostly to edit. Both projects have well-defined audiences and a clear value proposition, which McGill sees as crucial to succeeding with a citizen journalism blog. “If you want to get people to read your blog, you have to offer them real value, which means reporting,” he says. “Tell them useful stuff they didn’t know before.”

I find interesting McGill’s evolution away from Newsroom Joe attitudes, which he absorbed in the course of his career.

“At some point as a Times reporter, I got tired of always carrying on like I knew everything, of cultivating that phony ‘know it all’ tone of writing. The Times being the Times, reporters and editors there have a really serious case of this. Even the copykids at the Times think they are helping solve the world’s problems every day. I certainly did. And it’s an incredibly worthy and self-sacrificing goal. But it can also become surreal.

“The know-it-all voice has been exposed for what it is, a facade. The corporate powers will now try to regroup and co-opt. But individual journalists have the chance to step out courageously and try something new.”

Individual journalists have the chance… Peggy Noonan made the same point yesterday in her Wall Street Journal love letter to bloggers, which was also a shrewd piece of writing. “Some brilliant rising young reporter with a growing reputation at the Times or Newsweek or Post is going to quit, go into the blogging business, start The Daily Joe, get someone to give him a guaranteed ad for two years, and become a journalistic force,” she speculated. “His motive will be influence.” His method will be excellence.

Yes, but influence and excellence for what? Glocal journalism isn’t really a technique. It’s the beginning of an answer to that question. McGill sums it up.

Glocalized journalism is a way of writing the news that describes and explains a community in the widest possible useful context, which is very often—I am tempted to say most often—a global context.

Glocal journalism exposes the local effects of global causes, the local reactions to global actions, the local opportunities of global trends, the local threats of global dangers, and the local love of global neighbors.

Glocalized journalism is not a policy. It’s a point of view.

And if you have share it, I’m sure Doug McGill would love to hear from you, so as to make a few more connections.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links

This section of the Atlanata Journal-Constitution, called “Atlanta and the World,” is sometimes cited as an example of glocal journalism. A former editor of the section, Raman Narayana, explains it in a presentation at Poynter.

“Glocal Journalism in the United States,” transcipt of Sep. 2003 an interview with Doug McGill and Raman Narayanan from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Doug McGill did a 13-minute Minnesota Public Radio piece from Sudan. (Link.) It also has has interviews with Anuak in Minnesota who were on the phone with others in Ethiopia while the massacre was going on.

McGill in the comments:

I admit I’m nervous that my glocal style — at least when it’s not knock-your-socks-off breaking news or features — just doesn’t click with local readers.

After two years, I know who my closest readers are, and they are on the web. They are a passionate band of cosmopolitans and journalists, many with a liberal bent and not a few New Agers, who are united by their interests and temperaments and not by their physical address. They live in Switzerland, Toronto, Saskatechewan, Adelaide, Nairobi, Tokyo, Johannesburg, New York City, Los Angeles, London, Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s the kind of group that heretofore never existed, and today exists only on the web.

Posted by Jay Rosen at February 18, 2005 1:12 AM   Print


On the Eason Jordan explanation, I understand, it's like they taught us in J-school, when in Rome report as the Romans do ... no matter what the facts are.

Posted by: Mark Tapscott at February 18, 2005 9:07 AM | Permalink

Thanks for turning me on to McGill's new blog, Jay. It's an excellent concept, and I hope Doug's "glocal" style of journalism catches on.

Posted by: Jude Nagurney Camwell at February 18, 2005 9:54 AM | Permalink

Mark Tapscott,

The problem now, of course, is that with the advent of "glocal" reporting (and the all-pervasiveness of the internet), old methods and "rules" are worthless and probably damaging. The collisions of multiple journalistic/social cultures with differing "givens" that don't necessarily require factual backup are going to result in colorful and disturbing interactions. It's no longer enough to "report as the Romans do" (and I'd personally argue it was never enough); now we've got to juggle, sift, and discern new, global (glocal?) "rules" for reporting. Rules that aren't tied to "zones," but to...well, Truth is as good an answer as any.

I'd also argue that it's not only journalists and bloggers who have to adapt to the new environment, either. Cultures are going to have to shift their methods of operation - this will, of course, take time. But it's both inevitable (new information and perspectives always affect their recipients) and necessary. I look forward, for example, to the day when making outrageous claims about Jews and their influence in downtown Baghdad is not met with the nodding of heads, but with extreme skepticism and (perhaps) revulsion. These cultural shifts will likely lead to violent situations (certainly it was close in Mr. McGill's case), as with most any "clash of cultures." Now that these clashes are glocal, I would expect to see growing pains shortly - and not just half-a-world away.

Posted by: Austin at February 18, 2005 10:37 AM | Permalink

What exactly is McGill’s idea? It looks like you're trying to present some kind of revolutionary new paradigm but precisely what is new about it?

McGill has a far better idea than anything we conferencers ever came up with: "glocal journalism," which he also calls "worldplace journalism." He got the term glocal from Tom Friedman's best-seller, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He got worldplace from a college student's site, World Beyond Borders.

Recycling Friedman’s essentially meaningless term “glocal” and adding gobbledygook like “worldplace” strikes me as some of the most unoriginal hype I’ve seen in awhile (or is it meta-hype?). Shame on you.

Posted by: antiphone at February 18, 2005 11:33 AM | Permalink

Thanks for the heads-up on McGill. I look forward to reading more of his work. It is encouraging to hear about new modes of journalism and Minnesota bloggers who are not in the PowerLine/Northern Alliance/Captain's Quarters axis of evil.

I have to add, Tom Friedman's work, especially The Lexus and the Olive Tree, beyond his active apologies for neo-liberal brutality and pleas for the US to mindlessly kick ass in the middle east, is so relentlessly void of insight it is annoying to hear someone with a genuinely good idea suggest it has something to do with Friedman's work.

I can only assume that Friedman was simply the occasion on which McGill happened to encounter the phenomenon of globalization (as Firedman's work has been for so many). We definitely need to encourage more discrimination between the neo-liberal fantasy of globalization as described by Friedman (whose divorce from reality is supported by all known economic statistics) and the reality of globalization as documented by people like Thomas Frank (One Market Under God), Doug Henwood (After the New Economy), and Naomi Klein (No Logo).

Klein is also a journalist actively working the globalization angle. It is interesting to think about McGill and Klein's work as alternative approaches to doing journalism in a globalizing world. In one sense they are simply covering different beats, McGill the diasporic communities-country of origin's politics angle vs. Klein on international economics and marketing's increasingly tightening grip on global culture, but with starkly different consequences in starkly different places. It would be interesting to consider how Klein's interests might further refine and sharpen McGill's angle and McGill's angle, Klein's. Thought provoking as usual.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at February 18, 2005 12:57 PM | Permalink

The observation regarding truth zones intriguing. However, this is to remove responsibility for words from their speakers to some anonymous inhuman zone. Actually, I could buy into it if it were renamed "pockets of the misguided" or "illusion spheres." Simply because some people believe something in one part of the world doesn't make it a truth while you are there: Men never landed on the moon, the holocaust is a myth, God created the world in six days...these falsehoods are not made "true" while standing on the ground of a populace that believes them. If Jordan went to the Michigan wilderness and said, "Everyone knows the UN's black helicopters are training for the day when they fly in and take over your homes here in Michigan," would we excuse him because in that "truth zone" these comments are "true." Or would we consider him either a.) completely off his rocker or b.) a pandering sycophant or c.) both.

Posted by: Lee Kane at February 18, 2005 1:31 PM | Permalink

Lee, Mark, and Mark and others: I said McGill's was an explanation that should be added to the mix. Not an excuse that lets Jordan off.

By "explanation" I meant that... an attempt to explain how it happened that Jordan said what he said. That is something I still regard as a mystery, whereas many of you, I gather, do not. You have explanations that serve quite well. To me, none of them serve very well, Jordan's least of all. So we need as many as we can get.

It's fascinating to me how, among a great many readers, explaining and excusing have actually become one and the same. Why would this be?

But perhaps my post could have been clearer. To me the time zone hopping is just a description of the challenge and complexity in Jordan's job, and an example of why I called his role diplomatic.

It doesn't excuse anything. In fact, it could make his lapses seem worse. Yes, he's constantly making that taxing jump from truth zone to truth zone, but this is precisely what a professional news diplomat is supposed to be good at.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at February 18, 2005 3:05 PM | Permalink

It's fascinating to me how, among a great many readers, explaining and excusing have actually become one and the same. Why would this be?

It's biology. When people are in a reactive mode, they evaluate others in binary fashion (with us/against us) because it's adaptive in a fight to be able to make a distinction and make it quickly. Whereas if we're trying to learn and understand, the black-and-white approach is counterproductive.

It doesn't excuse anything. In fact, it could make his lapses seem worse.

I disagree. The "explanation" increases our recognition of a particularly difficult aspect of his job; the fact that he's supposed to be good at his job doesn't mean that our new knowledge of its difficulty should make us think worse of him.

Posted by: Anna at February 18, 2005 4:09 PM | Permalink

Good piece on McGill, Jay -- coulda been even better if Doug (who's a good friend) had described the interaction between him and the Rochester newspaper. As managing editor of the Post-Bulletin, I can tell you we've published dozens of freelance columns by Doug under the rubric "Global Rochester," exploring the international connection between this city (home to Mayo Clinic and a major IBM facility) and global people and events. We also published his stories on the Anuak massacre at virtually the same time as his online reporting, and we hosted a followup community meeting on the subject, which Doug participated in.
I point this out not only because of the fairly low blow regarding the Post-Bulletin's local coverage in your post, but also to point out that "glocal" coverage such as Doug's can be enhanced and expanded by partnering with a strong newspaper.
I also refer you to my blog, which gets into the intensely local news and online media comment that Doug and I agree is vital.

Posted by: Jay Furst at February 18, 2005 4:50 PM | Permalink

Hi, Jay Furst. Thanks for stopping in. I understood that his Glocal column had been discontinued by the Op Ed page; that's why I didn't mention it. I could say the post-Standard supported it for a while, and then didn't. Is my information inaccurate?

I agree completely that coverage such as Doug's can be helped greatly by partnering with a strong newspaper. I'll check out the blog too.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at February 18, 2005 5:11 PM | Permalink

In the event I was one of the Marks you were addressing, I would like to underline that I didn't mention Jordan in my post. I was discussing the Klein/McGill journalism and globalization angle.

Having been drawn into the conversation, if I were to throw in my two cents, it would be that any calls for real investigation of charges of war crimes under an administration that legally authorizes them from the top down and then when found out blames them on lower ranking soldiers can hardly be trusted to seriously investigate the targeting of journalists matter on its own. So to my mind, given the demonstrated corruption of the administration in power, a person who adopted the "put up or shut up angle" would be testifying to their lack of serious interest in pursuing the matter.

It has taken decades and the freedom of information act as it worked BEFORE it was gutted under Bush II to find out just how involved Rumsfeld was in dropping charges of war crimes against the guilty in Vietnam. It will likely take decades to tear these documents out of the cold dead hands of this Pentagon as well.

Should you keep probably true, but currently unprovable, suspicions to yourself when you speak at WEF in Davos as a CNN executive? Should you be pilloried for taking them back? I think the answer, as Jay has suggested, is that he should know better if international communication is the definition of his job.

But given the Catch 22 situation we find ourselves in regarding provability of charges about the actions our covert government takes in our name but refuses to tell admit they have done (and the way that gives the lie to the pretense that we live in a democracy regarding foreign policy), I don't find the debate all that interesting. The burden of proof is surely on the other side. What isn't this administration capable of? What would lead anyone to believe a word they say until they come clean and start acting differently, for example, telling US citizens what their government actually does instead of hiding it from them. Its hard to get a popular mandate for classified X, isn't it?

The greatest irony here, is that in most of the world outside of the US, Jordan's remarks are taken as simple acknowledgement that all Americans have not lost their minds, as admitting obvious truths before our eyes. That problem of treading too dangerously close to international credibility has been fixed now.

Clearly, a glocal perspective would drill into Jordan's mind, "When I speak before cameras and the media in Davos, I speak to the world regardless of truth zones. The truth zones are a function of international interconnection, like the effects of wrong-headed militarization of US foreign policy in the middle east." As you say, it is, if anything, potentially more damning.

We CAN say the Bush administration is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, this is one world with one standard of truth for the purpose of kicking Eason Jordan's ass, but when it comes to collecting US taxpayer dollars given away as kickbacks to non-competitive crony US contractors in Iraq, the Occupation government was "not a part of the US government" despite the fact that its founding legislation uses precisely that language. And we can't account for them because life in wartime and Iraqi bureaucratic standards are so incommensurably different from our own we can't find 9 billion dollars and it doesn't particularly concern us. The only branch of the US government that routinely pulls this crap is the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Curious how they both seem point back to the double standard of colonial administration. If any other branch of the government lost 9 billion dollars there would be hell to pay. Is there a different truth zone we must respect as we approach a crony US contractor working in Iraq? Is that the administration line? McGill's work, I daresay, would suggest otherwise. The law is the law. Murderers in Africa must be held accountable for their actions. And similarly with war profiteers, even if they are "friends of Dubya."

I think both McGill and Klein point us in this direction.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at February 18, 2005 5:32 PM | Permalink

First, a disclaimer. I grew up down the street in RochMin from Doug McGill and dated his younger brother, Dave.

Okay, now that we've cleared that up, I just want to offer a different take. While I like the idea that what is far away news can now be up close news, it seems even more likely that what's going on down the street could be lost.

Consider that local government is poorly covered by local news organizations, for the most part. Newbie reporters are sent to local-yocal board meetings, and don't understand what's happening when officials send millions of tax dollars into their friends' pockets. Okay, not everyday, not everywhere, but often enough.

I just would like to applaud the Debbie Galant's of the world, and others like her, who are doing the unglamorous work of keeping track of what's going on down the street, at city hall, the county government chambers.

Posted by: JennyD at February 18, 2005 6:07 PM | Permalink

As one of "the others" referenced in an earlier comment, I find your insistence on referring to what you've posted here as an "explanation", rather than an "excuse" disingenuous. From pushing the bogus conservative/liberal blogger "explanation" for Jordan's trouble, to this attempt to "explain" Jordan's words by calling local biases and prejudices "truth frames" you have shown a pattern of defending Jordan, and, by extension, the mainstream media, whose behavior in this case has been more execrable than during the Dan Rather fiasco.

But the most chilling statement of all doesn't even concern Jordan directly. It's this passage:
"In debating how fair this was to Eason Jordan, we make constant reference to "the rules," as if there were one set of them. In many ways that is an illusion."

You're wrong here, Jay. Honorable people operate under a consistent personal ethos. It doesn't change with the time zone. An honorable man does not slander his own to pander to companions of the moment. If he does slander them, he either believes the slander, or has no moral compass to tell him better.

Posted by: The Dread Pundit Bluto at February 18, 2005 6:23 PM | Permalink

I don't recognize your interpretations of what I said as resembling at all what I said. Sorry. But you did prove the point. To explain is to excuse.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at February 18, 2005 7:24 PM | Permalink

Sorry, but you don't see the point. It may be an institutional bias, or simply a case of being too close to one's own writing. Perhaps this will help:

Main Entry: explain away
Function: transitive verb
1 : to get rid of by or as if by explanation
2 : to minimize the significance of by or as if by explanation

Posted by: The Dread Pundit Bluto at February 18, 2005 8:12 PM | Permalink

A truth zone sounds like another way for journalists to nuance their positions and words without having to really journal. Has anyone heard of Duranty? Gee, it was great reporting that """Truth""" from the zone of the Soviet Union.

Posted by: cal-boy at February 18, 2005 8:46 PM | Permalink

This letter was sent to me from Brian Ericksen who was in the 318th Army Reserve PCH from Forest Park, Illinois. "We were activated in December of 2002, deployed to Kuwait in February 2003, redeployed from Baghdad in June and deactivated in July of 2003," he told me.

Eason Jordan?s meeting with an Army Public Affairs unit before the Gulf War.

In December of 2002 my Army Public Affairs unit was deployed for the coming war. While we were making deployment preparations in Georgia we took a trip to the Atlanta CNN Headquarters. We were being posted to Kuwait as the primary unit responsible for dealing with the US and international media and it was a way to better familiarize ourselves with that world. As part of the trip to CNN we met Eason Jordan.

Jordan's talk on CNN's relationship with the military surprised most of us in how almost Republican it was. He seemed to be quite bullish on the coming war, talking about the need for change in the Middle East. When asked about the biased reporting of Arab media he said that all media reports from the Middle East should be looked on as being propaganda rather than reporting.

He pointed to the fact that Al-Jazeera's Iraq Bureau Chief was a former employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Information. He said that many of the Arab media reports were suspect or were known to have been staged. He said that these were facts that they were well aware of but couldn't raise lest they seem to have a pro-American bias. He said that they tried to provide a balance to this reporting by showing the true positive reality of American interaction in the world and the US military in specific. I left thinking that somehow I had never realized that CNN and Fox were doing the same reporting but for the nuances. I was slapped back to reality during the war with CNN's reporting.

I reflected on that memory as I was reading about Jordan resigning. Too many on the Right, Jordan's assertions at Davos are evidence of a fatal liberal bent. Possibly. It is just as likely that Jordan got caught playing to his audience. The European media has vulgarly distorted most of the reporting in Iraq. They believe that US soldiers are targeting and killing reporters in Iraq. Jordan just made the mistake of pandering to one of their basic views of Iraq. It is difficult for me to reconcile his reported statements with the almost pro war Jordan I met two years ago. Jordan may simply be a chameleon willing to wave the flag one moment to curry favor with one group and then burn it the next with another.

Whatever the truth is I think the power of the blog is here to stay. Jordan was fired for comments he thought were off the record. When Jordan walked into that room two years ago and spoke to my Army unit for 15 minutes, he must have thought he would never be questioned regarding his statements. Would he stand by his saying that reporting in Arab media is propaganda? That CNN tries to balance Arab propaganda by reporting positive stories on US intentions? Somehow I don't think so.

The blog is here to stay because it gives a forum for truths the major media chooses to kill with silence. It holds the media accountable as it has never had to be before. Will this make a better world of open and honest reporting? That remains to be seen.

Brian Ericksen

Posted by: Jay Rosen at February 18, 2005 9:50 PM | Permalink

Jay -- I take your point--though I wasn't knocking the "truth zone" theory because I believed it "excused" Jordan. I was knocking it because I thought it was a bum theory. On the one hand enshrining extreme relativism and on the other just a fancy name for pandering. Actually, I really thought about your point regarding "explaining" vs. "judging." I don't know about others, perhaps I am not curious enough, but the explanation doesn't interest me so much because it seems so obvious and it boils down to the paradigm and character of Jordan, which from his various public statements and pecadillos seems, to me at least, obvious. Totally different point but somewhat related: blogs have proven they can engineer the takedown. Destruction is always easier. Can they save someone, though? Like, say, Summers. Who is about to be lynched by the left for saying something as anethema to the left as what Jordan said is to the right. Difference is, of course, that Summers may have been onto something "true" while Jordan appears to have been onto something "false," or perhaps those are indeed just zones...

Posted by: Lee Kane at February 18, 2005 10:06 PM | Permalink

And to all a good night......

Posted by: cal-boy at February 19, 2005 12:39 AM | Permalink

Jay Furst raises a good point, which is that the Rochester Post-Bulletin, my hometown newspaper, published my early Anuak genocide stories at about the same time as I published them on The McGill Report. I'm truly grateful for that. The paper and I have built a mutually supportive relationship over the years, and I agree with Jay also that glocal journalism benefits tremendously if web journalists and newspaper journalists collaborate. It's a rich area for innovation especially as the future of newspapers -- not to mention the future of freelance web journalists -- is uncertain and wide open as never before. Both sides need to take chances, to be flexible, and to adapt.

While writing the Anuak stories, I benefited from the Post-Bulletin's encouragement, which a freelancer can always use. The stories when published in the newspaper did not create an immediate wave of support for the Anuak in Rochester, as I had hoped they might. But over a period of months it became clear that they had been absorbed in the community, especially by several local churches which held fundraisers for Anuak relief efforts.

Most of all, I think, publication in the newspaper meant the most to the Anuak themselves. It was a powerful symbol to them of acceptance in society, much more so than when the identical stories were published on the web. Many Anuak told me how moved they were to discover that the Post Bulletin had published my stories about the Anuak genocide for free. Some literally had tears in their eyes. Prior to that, they assumed they would have to pay for the coverage. So there was cultural learning going on in both directions.

All this said, glocal journalism, including the web journalist's working relationship to the local newspaper, is not without challenges. A major one is financial. The time commitment to do it well is phenomenal. Where will the trained reporters come from? Will they go to small rural communites and work for small town salaries? And for that matter, where will the money come from for occasional overseas travel?

In my case, my Africa reporting trip was paid for half by a grant from the Knight Foundation (thanks!) and half by myself.

Packaging glocal stories for local newspaper readership is also not straightforward. The Post-Bulletin has usually welcomed my stories when written as feature stories, investigative stories, and breaking news. However, after a two-year run the newspaper recently discontinued my weekly Op-Ed column called Global Rochester. The column was usually based on local reportage, but occasionally, as befits an Op-Ed column I think, I'd detour down a philosophical or a political route. I wrote about Abu Ghraib last fall, and more recently I criticized the Minnesota governor's policies to make the state "globally competitive." Those columns were killed along with admonititions to restrict myself to locally reported pieces, and finally the weekly column was terminated. I hope one day I can resume the column. But in the meantime, I admit I'm nervous that my glocal style -- at least when it's not knock-your-socks-off breaking news or features -- just doesn't click with local readers.

After two years, I know who my closest readers are, and they are on the web. They are a passionate band of cosmopolitans and journalists, many with a liberal bent and not a few New Agers, who are united by their interests and temperaments and not by their physical address. They live in Switzerland, Toronto, Saskatechewan, Adelaide, Nairobi, Tokyo, Johannesburg, New York City, Los Angeles, London, Minneapolis and St. Paul. It's the kind of group that heretofore never existed, and today exists only on the web. But I want equally as much to connect genuinely with readers right here in Rochester, whether they cotton to my politics, or my notions of glocalism, or whatever. Because they are my neighbors. I'm still working on it.

Posted by: Doug McGill at February 19, 2005 12:43 AM | Permalink

The opening of Orwell’s essay ‘England Your England’ screams:
"As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

This brilliantly sums up one of WW2’s tragedies in 14 words.

14 or so journalists sum up the new brave blogging world ;-)

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at February 19, 2005 6:15 AM | Permalink

Samizdata with an Amerikan twist?

So freelance photographer Steve Malik was taking some photos of MUNI Metro. Suddenly, a hodgepodge of fuzz came and tried to arrest him. But get this: there's no statute in the books to prevent people from taking photos of city property Photographic Protest

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at February 20, 2005 6:37 AM | Permalink

The whole glocalism thing seems to be an awkward neologism married to a very murky idea. Trying to find the local angle of some story way out there is not that rare, nor is the assumption (perhaps condescending *and* true) that most of the readers will not care about news beyond their county lines. (And if they don't care, I argue, trying to educate them will never work.)

I have no interest in "glocalism" because it doesn't deal with the real problems of modern journalism and possibly creates a few more. I can just see the glib "local angle" being inserted in between paragraphs 7 and 8 of every goddamn story if this catches on. What a waste of time. And McGill pretty much admits his main audience isn't even local. Personally, I wouldn't brag about having a New Ager readership.

Re: Larry Summers. Can blogs save him? Well blogs aren't the ones who can fire or hire him. Just as they didn't fire Jordan (who, it appears, is willing to say anything to anyone), they can't save Summers. If Harvard decides to can him, what can blogs do? Nothing but scream about it. I mean, get real.

If Summers is spared the full fury of the PC ignoranti it will be because his critics are so bloody stupid. I had a blog entry commenting on Meghan O'Rourke's Slate rant against Summers--it was simply amazing the elementary mistakes, omissions, and outright dishonesty her article committed (amazing because cramming all that error into such a small space takes real talent). One of Summers' main critics, crybaby Nancy Hopkins, became something of a joke after claiming that she nearly fainted while listening to Summers' speech.

Summers, unlike Jordan, finally did release the transcript of his speech, and my guess is that will be a much bigger factor in sparing him.

Posted by: Brian at February 20, 2005 8:51 AM | Permalink


A term that's a fusion of two different terms, but sounds almost identical to one of them, will be next to impossible to communicate about via speech.

Posted by: Anna at February 20, 2005 5:32 PM | Permalink

I know what Anna means about the world glocal. I started out hating its inelegance and its trendy ring, and I resisted using word for a couple of years while I tried out other ones, such as worldplace.

Has anyone got other candidates? Couldn't the language use a word that connotes the important human effort to consider one's local and global addresses (e.g., "10 Oak Street" and "Planet Earth") within the same breath and thought?

To my surprise, I ended up accepting the word glocal in my own head and my own ear. And it does come across in speech, I find, somehow.

There's perhaps a little deeper issue at work here. It's interesting that most journalists, even though they are liberal in politics, are in my experience very conservative culturally, at least in respect to language.

Don't we journalists tend to think the language should pretty much stay exactly where it was at the time we first learned it? Aren't we really skeptical of neologisms until they get some kind of imprimatur that makes the neologism newsworthy -- as with hip hop lingo, Silicon Valley jargon, surfer talk, and other language trends?

But if we are always waiting for a pop trend or a best-selling book to legitimize what's newsworthy, might we overlook something that's truly important but just hasn't happened to become a megatrend or giant moneymaker yet?

In the case of glocal, I felt I had to get over my reluctance to be accused of trendiness and New Age-iness and just go with the best word I had to describe something I felt was important. And the best I had, I felt, was glocal.

I almost hope I chose wrong. If a more elegant and accepted term comes up, I will try to be the first to adopt it and to drop the word that sounds a choking duck and that Tom Brokaw could never pronounce.

Posted by: Doug McGill at February 20, 2005 9:31 PM | Permalink

Glocal...what marketing...just do it and dont give it a name. Dont be a Glork! (Global Dork!)

Posted by: cal-boy at February 21, 2005 1:41 AM | Permalink

as a poet and as an anthropologist, the term "glocal" collapses and conflates stories.

it denies that there some realities and positions are experienced separately, and while influences from the outside may come in and penetrate, the really "local" as in the rural, does not have the same penetration outwards.

this term tries to "harmonize" all of the global local connections and make unitary narratives in the same way globalization as a process does. it dissovles particularities as single unit data into a broader system. for instance, globalization is the standardization and harmonization of political, corporate, monetary and other systems e.g. under the world trade organization the customary cultural norms of regions and communities are dissolved into new trade standards and recognition regimes, shaped by the intellectual property rights legislation that do not recognize "non-commercial" arts, science, cultural and intellectual resources as "property."

furthermore, in the approach of writing a "glocal" story a cosmopolitan journalist unites many more disparate experiences, relationships and connections into singular coherently globalized story. however, this approach does not do justice to yet to the way a story is experienced in a particularistic manner by individuals within particular cultural, linguistic, political and regional systems - it merely traces taht such a particularity exists as an exception to the soveriegn/dominant media stories.

saskia sassen called globalization an "exponenential manifestation of the local" - however, i believe only the cosmopolitanaut is the one who experiences this... either the urban resident, or the globetraveller, but not so much the local, that maintains, preserves and protects particular "locales" - still embedded in time and space boundaries and limitations.

hence, while a cosmopolitanaut may have a "glocal" experience, their world view must still be recognized as unique and does not necessarily give "voice" to the local angle or story as much as remind themselves that what they are engaging in is a journey of translations... and they are tracing and pioneering pathways... but simultaneously, they are contributing to globalization that some others seek to resist by amping their efforts at localization...

anyway, despite these thoughts, i am bookmarking this cite and look forward to the lively discussions and frontiers that may be formed here in nonetheless.


Posted by: chloe at February 23, 2005 7:28 PM | Permalink

From the Intro