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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

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.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

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.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

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.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

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.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

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

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

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.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

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

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

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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March 10, 2005

To Liberate From the White House the White House Press

Dan Weintraub, who covers politics at the Sacramento Bee, wants "an aggressive, curious and analytical press corps, based anywhere (including cyberspace), fact-checking the snot out of the White House and writing critically about the president's statements, proposals and actions."

Watching it on television doesn’t quite do justice to the uselessness of many of the exchanges back and forth, nor the intensity of Scott McClellan’s withering gaze nor the frustration boiling up in the reporters’ voices as they butt their heads up against a rhetoric wall.Garrett Graff, first blogger at the White House briefing.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post responded to me Tuesday in his Media Notes column, following my criticisms of him in De-Certifying the Press, posted March 4. This was his best moment:

Why do we need the administration to be nice to us, or to somehow validate our existence? Journalists need to do their jobs regardless of the roadblocks and land mines placed by the White House. And the real reporting doesn’t take place in the briefing room, regardless of who’s accredited, or in the televised news conferences, which have become theater. It takes place behind the scenes, where journalists cultivate sources not just in the administration but on the Hill and among interest groups, to break news the White House doesn’t want broken. (Watergate, you may recall, was not broken by White House beat reporters.) And it takes place when reporters have the courage to say that what the president said yesterday is at odds with reality or with his own record.

Amen. I think he’s right about all of that. Kurtz to PressThink: “I don’t think we disagree on very much.” For example:

  • “By and large, the Bush administration has taken not just an adversarial but often hostile approach toward the media.” Agreed: There is hostile intent that goes beyond the normal tensions and struggles as reporters try to make news from what officials say.
  • “Not since the Nixon administration, with its wiretapping and enemies lists, has a president tried to marginalize the press in such aggressive fashion.” Agreed about the effort to marginalize.
  • “Administration officials have decided that journalists are just another special-interest group and should be treated accordingly.” Agreed. That the press represents the shared interest Americans have in knowing about their government is an idea the White House purposefully rejects.

Okay, so he’s not at de-certify yet. Kurtz thinks real reporting on the White House doesn’t come from reporters on the surreal White House beat. The journalism part—as against the “theatre” of it—is in the cultivation of sources beyond the press operation entirely. That is the only way to “break news the White House doesn’t want broken.”

Notice this means that the White House press corps is kind of superfulous, doing what it’s currently doing. Hold that thought until later.

Steve Lovelady, managing editor of CJR Daily, had a similar view in a recent comment thread at PressThink. Lovelady—formerly an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Wall Street Journal—said that in 40 years in the business he couldn’t recall a single instance where the White House press corps (“defined as the guys ‘n dolls who show up for the daily kabuki theater staged by McClellan or any of his predecessors”) broke a major story. The whole thing has become absurd, he feels.

The assignment is a sure road to four years of mind-numbing stenography, which is not a role any of those present ever had in mind when they went into the craft in the first place. The whole elaborate and pointless minuet ceased to be useful decades ago; what no one has come up with is a satisfactory replacement that might actually produce …… news !

Instead, we get frustrated reporters full of bluster and trying to appear macho by asking “questions” more appropriate for a prosecutor grilling a defendant on the witness stand — knowing full well the query will be danced around, or answered with a robot-like reiteration of a talking point. (Link.)

“I wish there were a point to it,” said Lovelady. “But for a long time there hasn’t been.” I asked him if had given up on the concept: White House correspondent. He said no, but he had given up on the current arrangement, the ceremony of no information. “Don’t expect me to be ahead of you on puzzling out this conundrum, because I’m not,” he added.


Just how staggeringly empty the beat has been during the Bush era came through in an online chat with Dan Froomkin, White House Briefing columnist for the Washintgton Post. A Post reader said: “I’m interested in the current administration’s diversionary phrases, in talking with the press,” as in, “our views…are very well known.”

Dan Froomkin: Those aren’t diversionary phrases. Those are the meaningless words padding the diversionary phrases that punctuate the hoary soundbytes from the approved phrasebook that obfuscate the lack of any substantial response to our questions.

For an example, click here and scroll down to See What You’ve Been Missing. Froomkin agrees with Lovelady on the pointlessness of sticking around for endless repetition of a “line.”

What the press corps needs to do — and I am wracking my brain on some way to usefully add to the current raging discourse on this very issue — is dramatically change the current paradigm, which they have tacitly accepted, and which is that they don’t get answers — from Scott, or anyone else in the White House.

One possible solution, which I have repeatedly suggested, is that when they don’t get answers, they should report that they didn’t get answers.

Good idea. And now we see the significance of this episode during the election campaign, and also what was made of it in the ongoing campaign to discredit the press. Call it a marker, showing what to expect if Froomkin’s “possible solution” (a pretty modest step) were ever followed.

He says he is thinking (“wracking” his mind) about what would bring a more dramatic change to the situation. Suggestion for Dan: A simple first step in changing the world is to re-describe it. A columnist (or blogger) is well suited for that.

Dan Weintraub, the political columnist (and blogger) who writes California Insider for the Sacramento Bee, has one way of changing the dynamic. He explained it in the same comment thread a few days ago.

I think the alternative would be an aggressive, curious and analytical press corps, based anywhere (including cyberspace), fact-checking the snot out of the White House and writing critically about the president’s statements, proposals and actions, and those of his administration, in both daily coverage and investigative reporting.

In place of a White House presence, Weintraub recommends a simple procedure to ensure fairness, and a voice for the Administration if it chooses that option. “For each story, reporters might place one call to the press office if they chose, explaining what they were inquiring about, and then move on,” he said. If the White House does not comment, “so be it.”

I like this idea. It has simplicity on its side. When being inside gets you nowhere, you have nothing to lose by developing a more “outside” approach to the beat. If the White House is thinking post-press, (a description I believe accurate) then the press room becomes a space the Administration has already vacated. And that is the sound you hear when Scott McClellan steps to the podium. Instead of venting about the awfulness of the briefing, recognize that the decision to empty it out was made a while ago. Bush already left the marriage.

In an outside beat, you still try to find out what’s going on with the Bush Administration; you stay with the story. The title, White House Correspondent, does not change. But you abandon hope of getting there the inside way. Instead, you interview “around” the White House, which means investing primarily in other sources who have parts of the puzzle. Most especially this means sources in Congress. Sometimes the agencies. Sometimes the opposition. Sometimes it is the American people who are the outside source because they always have parts of the puzzle.

Done well, this approach can change the balance of power, Weintraub believes. The result would be Scott McClellan and aides “begging reporters back in to converse with them so that their side of the story could be told more fully.”

Far fetched? Well, it’s the same method Bob Woodward of the Washington Post uses when he writes those blockbuster books giving us the inside account of an Administration under the gun of real events. (And he’s done it with the current group.) People tend to cooperate with Woodward, the most famous reporter of his generation, because they don’t want to be left out of his best-selling version. Thus he has both vanity and fear working for him, in addition to a publishing formula that sells books.

Although he doesn’t put it this way, Weintraub knows the Woodward method is founded on an insight: threaten to write the definitive account and the people who know will talk to you, hoping to define your account. A press corps superfulous inside the White House could become vital again by developing an outside game: assemble the definitive account and then work your way “in.” It is a method well known in investigative reporting.

It would be fascinating to be in the room when the press tribe votes to remain inside the White House, or try an outside approach. Who would come down for stasis? Who would stand up for change?

Bill Keller, top editor at the New York Times, told Nick Lemann of the New Yorker that methods well known have not been entirely absent under George W. Bush:

“During the campaign, and particularly when things looked close, political strategists for the Republican Party and all of the various allied constituencies did not bypass the ‘establishment’ press,” Keller said. “They sought us out to defend their own causes and often to attempt to plant dirt on the opposition.” The phrase, particularly when things looked close, reminds us that an effective opposition makes the press more effective in covering politics. Weak opposition makes it easier to subvert the press.

Craig Crawford, columnist for Congressional Quarterly, goes a little further than Howard Kurtz did: “The Bush White House has virtually no respect for the media’s traditional role.”

Agreed. And yet there is liberation possible if correspondents stay on the beat but vacate the White House press room. (See Inside the Veal Pen.) From the Bush side, who really cares if some greedy special interest no longer comes ‘round for a twice-daily game of gotcha? I should think both sides quite happy with a new arrangement.

They really ought to start discussing trial separation.

Only one thing stands in the way, and it’s material for another post. And that is the “theatre” of the present arrangement. It serves many interests who do not want to see it disappear overnight. Fishbowl DC’s Garrett Graff caught some of this after he finally got his credentials and attended the briefing as a blogger. “The walk up the drive to the West Wing takes one right up by where the networks and cable channels do their stand-ups many times a day.”

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links.

David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times takes on the de-certification argument and my defense of it. Is Bush really implementing a full-court press on media? His answer is no. But the argument is “one of the most interesting and provocative (and paranoid) of those espoused in recent weeks.”

In a long investigative piece, the New York Times reports on video propaganda produced by the Bush Administration making it into the news (March 13). I wrote about this a year ago. See PressThink, Why Karen Ryan Deserved What She Got.

If you’re interested in this story, which I call de-certifying the press, a must read (for Friday March 10) is Dan Froomkin, Hughes’s Return Is a Blow for Rove. It may be that the “hostile” formation in the press room is a result of Rove Hegemony, and Hughes, a “communication” specialist, will change that. Froomkin’s backgrounder explains all of it.

For the full exchange see Rosen (Feb. 25), then Kurtz (March 3), then Rosen(March 4), then Kurtz (March 8), then today’s post (Rosen, March 10).

Do read the Wall Street Journal on “pool reports,” which used to circulate only among the White House correspondents, now becoming widely-distributed by e-mail and changing tenor. A transparency story. Alas, the “club” of correspondents is not a club if it can’t control some information.

Froomkin in his Briefing (March 9):

Here and there, you can hear a new melody emerging in the press coverage of President Bush, and it goes something like this: Bush is a historic figure, the Ronald Reagan of the Middle East, whose heroic invasion of Iraq is a historic turning point for worldwide democracy tantamount to the fall of Berlin Wall.

In comments, learn how a PressThink reader solves the “empty briefing” problem using Blackberry pagers, the Web, and color-coded pie charts. Clever!

Forget “who is a journalist,” Dave Pell wants to know: Who is a Blogger? Is Rosen a blogger? “Yeah, he has a blog, but his site is hosted by his employers at NYU. Is that the same as if he had his own separate brand?” No, it isn’t.

Fishbowl DC was there, In the Press Room of the White House that is Post Press: “We certainly heard Rosen’s point in the frustration in the voices of reporters at the gaggle and briefing this week. They’re tired of the obsfucation game, but until a better alternative can be created, they’re stuck with it.”

Jeff Gannon doesn’t read well, but he is funny. It’s not an act; the humor is part of the man. Here’s what he wrote at his site about this post: “Jay Rosen at PressThink criticizes the White House press corps for not asking more evocative questions.” (I didn’t.) “Perhaps the treatment I got for doing just that is the reason they don’t.” (See what I mean? Funny.)

More from Dan Froomkin’s lively chat with Post readers, March 9:

Gaithersburg, Md.: Has anyone ever tried to ask McLellan as obtuse, obfuscatory and non-substantive a question as the resposes he provides? (Feed him his own dog food, no offense to dog food mfrs.)

Something like, “Scott, to follow up on your previous answer, the president’s views being well known, and understanding that we are working together with our allies on a number of these fronts, can we say that it is finally time to put aside partisan differences, take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and, in conclusion, would that be the administrations stance on this and some other issues, tangential nonetheless, as a matter of policy or in practical terms?”

How about a whole briefing of such questions?

Dan Froomkin: Get a daypass, pal.

I was on CNN’s Newsnight with Aaron Brown to discuss Dan Rather’s final night in the anchor’s chair (March 9). Transcript here.

Reading A1 (March 2): “The professionalization of journalism, the elevation of the press into an independent actor outside-but-not-outside the state, a Fourth Estate, is a defining feature of the post-World War II American governing consensus.”

Correct. And so the clarifying question to ask about George W. Bush right now is whether he’s in inside or outside that consensus. You know my view. He and his White House are well outside it, and therefore they are making history. They are innovators. They deserve credit for demonstrating a different way exists. De-certify and replace. Eliminate the independent interlocutor’s role as a standard part of the Presidency.

They’re three-quarters of the way there, in my opinion.

Mark Jurkowitz of the Boston Globe did an overview of the de-certification story. He got the official line from the White House on discrediting and marginalizing the press. (Good work, Mark.) An email from press secretary Scott McClellan to the Globe says:

”The President’s every move and every decision is closely monitored and constantly covered by the national media,” he wrote. ”The idea that you can ‘circumvent’ the national media is somewhat absurd. He recognizes the important role the national media plays in keeping the American people informed about the decisions being made in Washington, and it is a way for us to get our message out about the President’s agenda.”

In other words, there’s no story.

It needed to be said and Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, said it: Journalists, if you’re uncomfortable with the clamor on the Net, you’re uncomfortable with democracy. Go, Jake… Who Is a Journalist? Anybody who wants to be.

Insitutionalized journalists argue that bloggers don’t do conventional reporting, aren’t accurate, aren’t responsible, or aren’t paid—and hence are not genuine reporters. They fret that the current influx of amateurs will undermine professional standards or that seasoned professionals will be unfairly brought down by an electronic lynch mob, as some posit that Dan Rather of CBS and Eason Jordan of CNN were.

Disregard all such self-interested whining. The breakdown of what once were formidable barriers to entry in the field of journalism is good news for democracy as a whole and for the press itself. The great cacophony of voices in the blogosphere means that more views are being represented, that more subjects are being examined in detail, and that more sunlight shines into institutions of all kinds. Thousands of bloggers ranting from their soapboxes mean that our political culture encompasses bracing debate about everything people disagree about. If you don’t like this raucous clamor emanating from cyberspace, you’re not really comfortable with democracy.

American Prospect presents Blogged Down. “Pseudo-journalistic Web sites are another way conservatives get around ‘the filter’ of mainstream media.”

Not only are most bloggers not journalists; increasingly they are also partisan operatives whose agendas are as ideological as they come. Using the cover of anonymity (many bloggers use pseudonyms), the cacophony of the relatively new medium, and the easily inflamed passions of the Web, these partisan political operatives are becoming experts at stirring up hornets’ nests of angry e-mails to editors, mounting campaigns to force advertisers to pull out of news shows, and, most disturbingly, spreading outright false information. The irony is that, at the same time this is happening, many in the mainstream media have decided it’s finally time to take bloggers seriously.

Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The stand-alone journalists are here, and they are digging out facts and leading crusades. They are also printing gossip and distorting facts — but hey, so are we. It is about time that all the media folks began working together for the common good, defending reporters and bloggers in trouble and, by the way, outing our own when they mess up.

Stuffiest column yet about blogs by a traditional journalist. Simon Jenkins in the Times of London. The Daily Ablution (from the pen of Scott Burgess in London) takes Jenkins apart.

These Old Media Guy dumps on bloggers, value added zero columns are basically comedy writing now. Why shouldn’t the Brits pick up the form? Welcome, Times of London. The Jenkins entry we rate a 3.5, which is not bad for a beginner. See Harry if you’re curious about a Brit blogger.

Posted by Jay Rosen at March 10, 2005 12:39 AM   Print


Kurtz: And it takes place when reporters have the courage to say that what the president said yesterday is at odds with reality or with his own record.

I'll add my "Amen!" to that. But, the FIRST responsibility of the press, is to accurately report the initial position. It is a hard reality of the television network news that, because of the tightness of air time, the criticism is often expressed without giving the initial position fair play. This could lead to... ah... tension.

Weintraub fact-checking the snot out of the White House and writing critically about the president's statements, proposals and actions.

Another "Amen!" but, why just the White House? The most beguiling teller of half-truths I ever heard in person was former Senator Tom Daschle. If ever fisking was designed as a useful journalistic tool, it was to analyze his statements.

Jay. We are making progress here. We are not so far apart.

Posted by: sbw at March 10, 2005 8:27 AM | Permalink

Maybe the press should delegitimize the WH Briefings by very publicly not going anymore.

Posted by: praktike at March 10, 2005 9:59 AM | Permalink

McClellan: The idea that you can 'circumvent' the national media is somewhat absurd.

Yes. Well. No presidential press secretary would have sawn off the limb while they were standing on it. Ask Gergen, Fleischer, and others who have retired from the position. Past press secretaries are in a position to admit to "discredit and de-certify". Current press secretaries have to work with the gaggle every day.

Posted by: sbw at March 10, 2005 10:55 AM | Permalink

Praktike. That's exactly what I think they should do: very publicly quit the briefing, not expecting any dramatic action or response from the White House, but simply as a statement of where things are. Trial separations can be effected by one party , unilaterally.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 10, 2005 11:34 AM | Permalink

I think this is refreshing to focus on the White House press, rather than the Administration, in an examination of why the White House press (as an example of the dominant media generally) has de-legitimized itself in the eyes of conservatives and an increasing number of moderates.

Why has the press de-legitimized itself? I'm afraid it has become all too clear: Because the dominant media's reporting, by and large, is not fair and balanced, but tilted left. We know this not by deduction or suspicion, but by admission against interest from within the dominant media (epirical evidence, as some define it), to wit:

"Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections. They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions" ... The worldview of the dominant media can be seen in every frame of video and every print word choice that is currently being produced about the presidential race." - ABC News The Note, Mark Halperin, et. al, February 10, 2004.

"Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper? Of course it is...These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others. And if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed." - Dan Okrent, New York Times Ombudsman, July 25, 2004

"The old argument that the networks and other "media elites" have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it's hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don't sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we're going to slant the news. We don't have to. It comes naturally to most reporters." - Bernard Goldberg, CBS News, in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, February 13, 1996.

I understand that many in the press on the left would prefer to ignore the foregoing, for reasons of pride, passion, political advantage, or lack of curiosity about their own culpability in their de-legitimization. But our liberal friends in the dominant media must focus on their own role and failures, and the consequent remediation that will naturally arise from such a broadminded exploration, if they are to regain their former luster.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at March 10, 2005 11:41 AM | Permalink

The WH press corps can use collective action to reflect McLellan's "withering gaze" back at him:

Give each member of the corps a Blackberry, through which they can log into a proprietary website that is setup exclusively for press corps reporters. During the press conference, as McLellan responds to questions, reporters judge each response as ANSWER or NON-ANSWER on their Blackberries. The results are aggregated anonymously in a pie chart. TV news presents this pie chart in in a box in the corner of their broadcasts for the viewers at home to see in real-time.

When McLellan dodges a question or goes off track, the viewers at home will see a mostly red circle. When he answers a question, the viewers see a mostly green circle. (In print, individual statements from McLellan can be annotated with a % of "answerness" in parenthesis.)

With this green/red feedback staring him in the face, McLellan has 2 choices: start giving answers or keep giving non-answers.

If he starts giving answers, then all is well.

If he continues to give non-answers, the public will clearly see that the press isn't buying the non-answers. So, the public will spend its attention on competing sources of info on what the administration is doing. Then, as Jay points out, the adminstiration will either start giving answers, or stop giving press conferences. Since the administration won't want to stop giving press conferences, it will start giving answers.

This system doesn't measure whether the reporters think a response is true or false--just whether the response is an answer. The wonks are still the ones who judge the quality of an answer.

If the factory threatens to fire workers who refuse to work under abusive conditions, workers can resist through collective action. When the white house threatens to deny access to reporters who refuse to accept non-answers, they can resist through collective action. By working together and keeping it anonymous, the reporters in the WH press corps can avoid individual reprecussions. At the same time, reporters can't game this to give individual reporters individual benefits. Either they're all working together and getting answers, or they're getting the same old run around.

Reporters of the world, unite!

Posted by: AR at March 10, 2005 1:47 PM | Permalink

I'm not so sure that de-certification still can't "win" even if 1/4 or 1/2 or even 3/4 of all White House reporters don't show up in the briefing room.

[i]Although he doesn't put it this way, Weintraub knows the Woodward method is founded on an insight: threaten to write the definitive account and the people who know will talk to you, hoping to define your account. A press corps superfulous inside the White House could become vital again by developing an outside game: assemble the definitive account and then work your way "in." It is a method well known in investigative reporting.[/i]

The issue is "definitive account." That's what de-certification is all about. Making sure that no one gets to write the "definitive account." I think the treatment of Ron Suskin's book or Seymour Hersh or any investigative reporter who writes a really in-depth piece. It gets a lot of reaction...and then the cable news shows scatter the conclusions to bits so its impact is diffused.

Was it Suskin that Scott McClellen dug out his voter registration card? "Ah-Ha! he is a Democrat. That explains it all!" I hate to say it, but the Fox News Network's existance sort of deflates any sort of impact of damaging reports. Unless they also agree to frame the story the same way.

Posted by: catrina at March 10, 2005 2:02 PM | Permalink

But, the FIRST responsibility of the press, is to accurately report the initial position. It is a hard reality of the television network news that, because of the tightness of air time, the criticism is often expressed without giving the initial position fair play.

This is fine in theory, but is often virtually impossible in practice.

That's because politicians (of all parties, and regardless of whether they occupy the White House, Congress, or the local Sheriff's office) often find it advantageous to not have "positions" that can be pinned down---or have positions that they don't want to acknowledge at that time (if at all.)

And this is when politicians and spokespeople resort to evasive answers that may sound substantive, but are not.

I really don't think that the press has a difficult time explaining clearly articulated positions held by any politician, even given the format and time/column inch constraints under which the press labors. What they don't always do (and shouldn't do, IMHO) is allow politicians to "frame the debate" in the way that is most advantageous to their position.

And I suspect that when people complain that the White House position (regardless of party) is not being properly or fully explained, what they are really talking about is that the White House framing of the issue is not being presented properly or fully.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at March 10, 2005 2:28 PM | Permalink

AR: During the press conference, as McLellan responds to questions, reporters judge each response as ANSWER or NON-ANSWER on their Blackberries.

And another Blackberry button for QUESTION or NON-QUESTION? See what the peers think.

Posted by: sbw at March 10, 2005 3:31 PM | Permalink

Mr. Trained Auditor

I didn't hear too much complaining from the press during the run-up to the Iraq war. I did hear quite a bit of credulousness when it came to accepting the administration's lies about WMDs.

Yes Halpern believes that the press is socially liberal. Notice he didn't say economically liberal. And that my friend, is where the power is. Do they challenge the corporate structure of our society? Do they challenge the power and influence of money in politics? The Note has actually said they don't think large donations from interest groups can affect the political process!

Why do they say that? Because capitalism isn't about hating gays and blacks. They're just another consumer group (especially gays) to sell things too. So it's fine and dandy to be a social liberal. But a fiscal liberal? I don't think so. Didn't hear too much opposition to Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy (both times) from the 'liberal' press.

So why else don't the elite press respond more to progressive economic issues? Could it be because they have become very wealthy over the past few decades and the system suits them just fine? Why challenge the inequity of an economic system when the only people it hurts are people that aren't you? Then there's also no problem (and maybe even a little incentive) to help to define a liberal as 'pro-gay, anti-gun, anti-god'. That upper-class tax cut sure was nice to Marc Halpern.

p.s. Way to source Bernard Goldberg! He's sure a raging liberal!

Posted by: MSM at March 10, 2005 4:43 PM | Permalink

MSM Didn't hear too much opposition to Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy (both times) from the 'liberal' press.
This is ridiculous. There was huge and constant and continuing opposition to Bush's tax cuts (for the rich!).
And it was lies.
Definitional Fact: a "tax cut for the rich" would mean that, after the tax cut, the top 10% of tax payers (or top 20% or top 5%) would pay a SMALLER percentage of the tax collected.
But after Bush's tax cuts, for all tax payers, the top 10% payers paid a HIGHER percentage of the tax collected.

Complaining about tax cuts for the wealthy is an implicit LIE -- one the Left has been repeating for years.

The fact is, the Dems say "tax the rich to help the poor", but really mean "tax the super-rich to help the rich", and enact "tax everybody as much as they can," especially small business owners (the ones who usually create the most jobs).

It's prolly true that the amoral business of making money in a newspaper means the money grubbing owners are willing to accept plenty of social Leftist clap-trap, as long as they can keep making money. Usually meaning at least an implicit pro-advertiser economic environment.

Now I wonder if "socially liberal" phrases and causes aren't the deliberately pushed opiates of the intelligentsia.

Since the WH press corps is not going to break stories -- it should be getting more real facts, and background facts, on the political issues. Who favors what changes, and what they think the outcomes will be from those changes [future].

And who voted for previous changes that seem to be the cause of current problems -- as compared to realistic alternatives. Blame for prior mistakes seems to be what the Bush haters do about Iraq, but they fail to compare Bush's results to obvious, likely alternatives (more Saddam). It's no surprise that if the press is just going to do the lazy, easy half: blame Bush for everything bad, each death, kidnapping, friendly fire mistake ... but never compare to the alternative, there's no good reason Bush's administration should support such "nattering nabobs of negativity".

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 10, 2005 6:53 PM | Permalink

To the RH Jay Rosen:
By having the press quietly quit the WH briefings:
Do you really think the public would notice or even care- in the case of an average Joe I guess?
Would something else fill that vacuum?
Would coverage or reporting of the President become more negative or harsh ie try to teach him a lesson?
Just wondering what would be the fallout- on both sides that is.

Posted by: cal-boy at March 10, 2005 7:07 PM | Permalink

practike: Maybe the press should delegitimize the WH Briefings by very publicly not going anymore.

Jay: praktike. That's exactly what I think they should do: very publicly quit the briefing,

You know, as well as I do, that "Press In The Scene" compromises the press and makes its work even more difficult than it already is. It's not a plausible option. Garrett Graff is much more effective as a third party observer, commenting on both sides.

Posted by: sbw at March 10, 2005 8:15 PM | Permalink

Jay, I'm kind of surprised that you think you need to give the "Reporting 300-level" course here. Well, yeah. Being stonewalled by the mayor, superintedent? Work around him. This isn't rocket science. But it does requires leaving the White House grounds on occasion, and maybe getting mussed up hair.

"Administration officials have decided that journalists are just another special-interest group and should be treated accordingly." Agreed. That the press represents the shared interest Americans have in knowing about their government is an idea the White House purposefully rejects."

Okay, but how can the press represent shared interests when they don't. The press at the Whitehouse pretends to be objective. I;m not sure whose interests they represent. How about an opposition press in the White, and a non-opposition press. Plus some bloggers. Might work better.

Posted by: JennyD [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 10, 2005 11:05 PM | Permalink

Man, I don't think you guys get it... I like Howard Kurtz & generaly agree with much of what he says.

From my perspective though, I can not for the life of me figure out why the press is just now waking up to some of the facts of the way the administration does buisness.

First of all, does anyone not think that Fox, for whatever motivation, is anything other than their propaganda machine?

Secondly, let's not pretend that being branded a Liberal is anything other than one of the worst labels these people foist upon anyone they don't like. Oh, you could be a gay liberal, but the latter pretty much makes them wonder if you don't have the former going on too. In any case, at that point the obvious question is if you're Islamic, or from someplace they don't approve much of. Like uh, Canada, or Mexico, unless you're the janitor.

The problem is that if you don't agree with them, you really don't matter much do you? This includes the press, not just all of us shlubs out here wondering if the plant's going to reopen, or if we're going to get replaced by some guy who's not from here.

The rule of thumb seems to be if you are not us then you do not matter. Agree, die, go to prison, or lose your rights.

The economy is going to be a total shambles, the -spreading- communist meance of China just continues to grow, fueled by the screwing of average Americans everywhere, and mostly no one cares.

People don't recognise oligarchical control when it's staring them in the face at all either. Well, sometimes they sort of know, but they sure don't do much about it. Wal-mart being a great example. Take your basic communist party store, fill it chock full of craptastic junk made using anything from forced prison labor, to indentured servituded (common), to just the outright basic explotation of the populace, & paint it red white and blue, and well, you've got a winner.

But every dollar that goes there really costs what??? Somewhere between the $1.00 x N at the cash register at Wal-Mart, and the pesant woman just into the city from out in the boondocks someplace who is not allowed to move out of her rathole apartment, or get a new job, there's a spread. And that spread is built on treating her like pure crap, and playing with the value of their money. The US pays petty lip service to doing anything about it, but is happy to offshore anything that buisness wants to send.

There is some obvious structuring for disaster here, but the press acts blind.

Perhaps it's cause the press is just as lacking in control as anyone who doesn't agree with the Administraation is.

At the end of 4 years, buisness, all buisness in America, will have more rights than individuals. And there won't be much done about it. The "press" won't do anything, as they're all owned by large buisnesses.

As for trade, well, no one's going to get real about it anytime soon. The fact of the matter is the US ought to go to great lengths to cut the trade deficit, it'd be the best thing to do for the rest of the world too. But we never will... See, if we did, all that crap would have to start to go to people who can't afford the stuff as well as people in the US... Impovrishing US citizens isn't the way to do it though, however that's mostly what's going on...

This thing isn't truely anonymous, and it may bounce me, but we'll see... if it was, see there'd be no logs. Where is it written that there must be logs? Hah find that law, cause ya can't.

Posted by: anono at March 11, 2005 1:56 AM | Permalink

I'd love to see a White House correspondent do something like Michael Wolff did in Qatar two years ago at a Centcom briefing (My Big Fat Question): “I mean no disrespect . . . but what is the value proposition? . . .Why are we here? Why should we stay? What’s the value of what we’re learning at this million-dollar press center?”


Posted by: Ron Brynaert at March 11, 2005 2:12 AM | Permalink

Jay, I have to say I'm a bit miffed by your suggestion that the press corpse rise from the grave and walk out right at this particular moment since, if the president is in town next week, that'll be my first opportunity to send someone into one of the briefings.

Dan Weintraub's suggestion that high-quality coverage of the White House can take place anywhere is, I think, accurate. Which means that among the places high-quality White House coverage can take place is in the White House. The problem isn't locale, although I'm sure the ambience and historic surroundings contribute to an overly genteel press corps; it's what's happening. And if one can fact-check the snot out of the White House at home in one's pajamas, which can be and is done all the time, there's no reason at all one can't do it at the White House in a suit.

One of my goals for my White House correspondent (and I'm still having trouble saying "correspondent" without stuttering) is to get cogent questions on record, whether they're answered or not, and, in part per a suggestion from Matt Stoller, to present questions sent into the blog by readers, print the response and then check the response against reality.

Maybe Dana Milbank (who hasn't responded to my email) could do that by email or on the phone with the press office, but I sure can't.

Another of my goals is to canvass the press corps to get some ideas from them on what's wrong with the system and what their ideals for it would be. If they're scattered around the cyber universe, they won't be very accessible (see Dana Milbank above).

I got a little taste today of the contempt in which bloggers in general are held by much of the institutional press when I called in to NPR's Talk of the Nation and got seriously, if perhaps inadvertently, condescended to by both Neal Conan and his guest, Donald Ritchie, who has a new book out about the Washington press corps. Ritchie suggested that the press are wary of bloggers because of accuracy and responsibility issues. I wanted to respond by pointing him to Steve Lovelady's snowed-under press screwups blog and Bob Novak or Ann Coulter, but was cut off before I had the opportunity.

One lesson I took from the incident is that it's foolish to call a talk show while sitting on a sea wall in Waikiki because one can get so distracted as to forget to mention one's blog address. The other is that some among the institutional press are operating on a level of unconscious irony so elevated that it's probably described in the DSM-IV somewhere.

So: my suggestion for curing the malaise is to do what everyone says, ask tough questions and report it if they're not answered, and risk losing access to the high-level sources who provide the top-echelon press with the misinformation the latter require for their daily deadlines.

The last thing I want to mention is that I am beginning to see the reaction of institutional journalists to bloggers as not so much one of contempt but of fear. Bloggers have one thing reporters lack, or think they lack, which is time, and they lack one thing reporters have, or think they have, which is the risk of alienating sources by being hard on them. What that means to me is that bloggers are rapidly becoming reportorial competition, and soon, I think, economic competition as well.

Posted by: weldon berger at March 11, 2005 3:17 AM | Permalink

Ok my previous screed aside, I got here by being somewhat incensed by the behavior of Apple. I rather foolishly wanted to go see what the "press" thought, & somehow ended up here.

What no one seems to want to realize is that anyone who says anything at all on the internet in either a recorded or unrecorded manner is "the press" anyplace, anytime. What matters is what you say, and who you say it to, and how you say it. Not where you say it.

Therein lies an American right too. The press, in the vision and definition of the founders, was not confined to those who owned newspapers. It applied to anyone who wanted to write something up and nail it to a tree. By hand at that. This in a time when by far not everyone could even read. Much less write.

Let me ask you this, no matter how illmannered, or badly scribed, if I make some mark of my own, and it exists to be archived and printed long after my death, is not that mark as good as any published on paper? Who published the Federalist Papers, or Towards Utopia for all that matter? Did those peoples mark stand the test of time? My words will be archived long beyond my death, here and elsewhere. They can and do stand by themselves.

The problem the "press" faces, is that the net gives the machinery of the press to everyone. The only people who want to repress this are the scared and the ignorant too. The fact is the words are out there, and the harder people try to erase things, the more life they take on.

It should come as no surprise that Apples buisness side is at total odds with it's creative side. On one hand they pimp `individual creativity' to the masses, but on the other they eat their young. This diecotomy is also true in the buisness of news, & politics too.

What's news is a we thing though, and if there's no voice given to any question, or any answer, by anyone, the communication model starts breaking down. Then what you get is not news based on any shared morality or sustained interest, but rather entertainment that's cravenly supplied to produce profit, or produce a result, without resort to reason or facts.

As for what matters, well, you can't tell me that there arn't congressmen & senators, or many state govenors who wouldn't like to have -extended- press coverage about things like fiscal conservatisim, which you folks treat like is some DoA thing? Why? Or yet another attempt to drill oil where we really don't need to be drilling oil. Why not leave Alaska alone in fact? Why not study the crap out of it's "potential" and talk about potential methods of extraction ad-nauseum, & use efficency figures and the rest of actual science to help curb fuel use & and pressure the price of oil directly? But does anyone even try? Not really, no not when there's the people's property to steal and loot.

I used to think there were things my country wouldn't do, like torture people after all the crap that happened in Viet-Nam. But no, instead, now there's "extrodinary rendition", and keeping citizens without any rights or trial, torture, murder, & legal justification coming from DoJ for all of it.

Can you travel anyplace in the USA anymore without your papers comrade? I do not think so. I hear rumor that the secret police want to tap everyone's phones too. Hah, who would be so dumb as to think they wouldn't eh?

When I grew up, I was rather precocious, and would read "Readers Digest" because it was all I could lay my hands on that wasn't "see spot run". I read it religiously even though I didn't agree with some of it as I got to be a teenager. Back then, the cold war was still "on". And stories of escape from repression and imprisonment under harrowing circumstances from communist strongholds were a prominent political theme. Today, I can if I chose, read stories of similar sounding escapes from my own country. Wny is there no news of rights in any but the most utterly banal of terms?

I knew something was wrong in 2000 when Dennis Hastert sent his staff down to disrupt the vote count in Florida, and no one cared becasue it was "privately financed" by some rich donor. It was obvious the whole thing would be a wash no matter what from that point on, but no one cared what he did, and few reported on it for more than a few moments. Those who did know who you are, and I certainly remember which organizations who crowd these affairs knew and mostly ignored this...

Ask yourself though, how many "associations" are there in the DC Metro area? And all the other lobbying flavors? How many of them represent the common interests of normal people outside of a buisness context?

What you don't realize is that everyone is starting slowly to have the conversation they want to, without being told so much what to do. Power hates this somehow. I won't claim to understand it that much but it's quite observable.

500 years from now, I will be dead and gone, but there are at this point odds that what I've written tonite will be someplace that long. If I was born 200 years ago, this would not be true. But I could still be "the press" all by myself. I could write up anonymous waybills, & nail them to trees. I could stand on a box and say my news & ring a bell when I did it, and I would be press.

To try to pretend that anyone can not do this is sort of foolish. Apple is silly for not seeing this, and history will take a hard look at what's gone on in Amercia in the past decade before too long. I doubt it's going to be half as pretty as we'd all wish.

There is no bar to scandal anymore really, and that's half your problem. One party government is a great evil, and it's starting to show. That's your other problem, in that there's nothing you can do about any of the wrong when it comes to those who lead.

Posted by: anono at March 11, 2005 3:25 AM | Permalink

Rosen Revisits "Post Press"

The problem is not that the press doesn't get answers, but that the answers they get do not move the conversation forward from pre-approved talking points. The answers to the questions are sometimes non-answers, in a way that I'm responding to your question and not being responsive at the same time.

In response, the members of the press should explain to the public the value of the question asked, which would also add a sense of discipline to the questions chosen. Complaining that a politician is responding like a politician is nuts. Complaining that political rhetoric is ... well ... political, makes you look like an idiot.

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 8:33 AM | Permalink

In a comment thread at PressThink, there has never been an argument between left and right over a standard political issue like tax cuts that went anywhere, said anything, convinced anyone, added new knowledge or made one damn bit of difference. So why do that? Mystifying. I guess because you can.

Tom Grey: As far as I'm concerned, you should be explaining and defending every time you come in here how it was you came to make that outrageous accusation that US Troops deliberately kill journalists without needing an order from anyone. Or, alternatively, you should be apologizing for and retracting it. Until you do, I am not interested in what you have to say. Or were you hoping we all forgot? When you make a charge like that it should stick to you like a tatoo.

Jenny: I shouldn't offer a suggestion unless it qualifies as rocket science? I don't get the tone of your comment-- at all. In fact, leaving the White House would cause a hugh uproar if a major news organization did it, an uproar internally, and from critics who already think the press is unfair to Bush.

Oh, and since I know you're studying education, riddle me this: why is it that our high school graduates can't write or complete a grammatically correct sentence? Hello? This is basic. Didn't their teachers take Education 101? Teach these kids to write, dammit! It's not rocket science, Jenny.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 9:22 AM | Permalink

Scott McClellan, "The idea that you can 'circumvent' the national media is somewhat absurd. He recognizes the important role the national media plays in keeping the American people informed ..."

National media? Hmmmm ...

But if "the press" goes out of their way to say, "We're not national!" What then? Have they said that?

What if "the press" says, "We're not citizens!" We don't vote, or if we do, we're not that person when we're journalists. What then? Have they said that?

What if "the press" says, "We are 'nowhere', man.", contradicting the idea that they are indivisible from the nation? What then? Have they said that?

And when Bush says, "You're Assuming That You Represent the Public. I Don't Accept That." Isn't he just echoing what "the press" has already said publicly? What then? Has he said that?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 11:15 AM | Permalink

MSM, just especially for you, more admission against interest from the dominant media on the press' liberal bias on fiscal issues (and on credulity about WMD "lies" as a bonus):

"Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections...

They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories...

It does not accept the proposition that the Bush tax cuts helped the economy by stimulating summer spending...

The press, by and large, does not accept President Bush's justifications for the Iraq war -- in any of its WMD, imminent threat, or evil-doer formulations. It does not understand how educated, sensible people could possibly be wary of multilateral institutions or friendly, sophisticated European allies...

The worldview of the dominant media can be seen in every frame of video and every print word choice that is currently being produced about the presidential race." - Mark Halperin, et. al., ABC News The Note, February 10, 2004.

Pretty clearly, the left's counter-claim of rightward media bias, hinged on fiscal issues, is a canard that some on the left find useful in providing cover for the dominant media's claim of objectivity. You recall that maintaining a facade of objectivity is helpful in promulgating (chiefly liberal) ideas via news reporting, since a presumed impartial referee has more credibility to most than an ideologue.

The left's largely disingenuous claim of conservative media bias is their attempt to fight fire with fire: "You say left, I'll say right and cancel you out." This smoke screen is hinged on fiscal issues because, well, the support machinery for dominant media outlets operates on business principles in a capitalist system, which by golly is to the right of Communism - - so from that perspective (alone) the left can plausibly say that media is to the right of their position.

Of course, upon examination, your average moderate can typically see the left's counter-claim of conservative media bias for the out-of-touch silliness that it is.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at March 11, 2005 11:26 AM | Permalink

National media?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 11:28 AM | Permalink

Jay, I've been mulling over the issue of press credibility for some time. 'Decertification' implies a certified press - and that is certainly how professional journalists have seen themselves for some time - with very mixed results.

About the time of Watergate, Vietnam (and perhaps the Civil Rights Movement as well - certainly around the time when public demonstrations by baby boomers were all the rage) a new tone crept into reporting, it seems to me. That tone included overt self-congratulation on the part of journalists for the moral and intellectual superiority of the press vs. (especially) politicians and the military, plus those who supported them.

That stance ultimately eroded the credibility and support for the press among all who didn't automatically share the same political and social stance that has been documented as dominant among professional journalists at influential news organizations.

Here's my dilemma. I'm not a knee-jerk supporter of the Bush administration. I'm not a registered (or unregistered) Republican. But neither can I stomach much of the empty posturing that my own generation has indulged for several decades now.

The role of Fourth Estate isn't a God-given or Constitutional right. Perhaps we need to go back to the first major use of the phrase to remind ourselves of its genesis:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, .... Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. ..... Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite. – Carlyle, On Heroes and Hero Worship

The Internet is the new printing press, of course - especially now that streaming video is so easy to generate and share.

I don't have any easy answers. The Press *function* is an important one for our democracy.

The current Press *corps* OTOH has eroded its own market hearing to the point where the White House can in fact challenge it openly. Given the arrogance and performance of many journalists and their corporate employers during the last 3 decades, I'm not sure that challenge is unwarranted.

At the same time, I haven't forgotten that those on the right, especially the hard right, have made it a political aim to undermine what they see as a hostile press corps. I have no desire to have one unaccountable press corps replaced by another that just leans the other way.

Posted by: Robin Burk at March 11, 2005 11:46 AM | Permalink

One other point:

There are really two different things going on re: the news media which happen to be interacting right now.

The first is the dethroning of the news media as a special voice in the political process.

The second is the challenge faced by many industries in the age of digital information, namely dis-intermediation in the marketplace.

These are connected, since it is largely the direct access to old stories, raw facts and streaming multimedia that has accelerated the erosion of press credibility for many Americans. That dis-intermediation also allows the White House to get its story out in a variety of ways that aren't filtered by the editors of major newspapers or the main networks. Whether that is good or bad, of course, depends on your views of the contents. B

ut *that* it is happening is not unique to the news business. Just ask insurance agents. Back in the late 90s I consulted to a mid-level insurance underwriting company on their e-business and e-commerce efforts. They themselves felt they were 5 years behind the market leaders in bypassing agents and selling directly to policyholders. Their only question was how to hold agent loyalty long enough for the new paradigm to sustain business growth.

Staging a boycott of the White House press pool may address the issue of perceived credibility. It will *not* address the issue of dis-intermediation in the news market. Like other industries, the news business will need to create perceived added value to counter dis-intermediation in their market. Welcome to the digital world!

Posted by: Robin Burk at March 11, 2005 12:11 PM | Permalink

Thanks for two great posts Robin, especially your explanation of where things went wrong for the press. You have added some much needed clarity.

Some readers don't seem to realize that the political press could deserve repudiation--as in, you failed! you're responsible big time for this low point!--and Bush could be doing something very dangerous, at the same time.

I am shocked that there is not more alarm in Bush circles about the Bush Bubble issue. Whether you're a CEO, a sports star, or President. If it's all hand picked interlocutors sticking to the script, you are putting yourself in danger.

It also suggests that you are weak. Bush is having Social Security town meetings, and you can't get into the event unless you are with the home team. Screening admits only fiendlies. This is how they handle a political heavyweight?

There's something wrong with that picture if you believe in the man. (I don't, but I think he is a gifted politician.) The "only friendlies can question me when lots of people are watching" image is not a picture of strength, and it is the opposite of leadership, yet it is a policy his advisers are totally content with. Why?

There have to be friends of Bush who have worrried about it in some Ritz Carlton somewhere.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 12:52 PM | Permalink

Weldon: I can understand the miff. Here I am downgrading the importance of something you just conned your way into-- legitmately conned, I mean. Through the official channels that should exist for bloggers to cover the White House.

The only way to establish that they do exist, the channels, is to try to use them. That is why I urged you and others on. Let's establish that right. This is totally an act of bloggery that advances the form, and so you should stick with it, and get a local blogger to be your DC correspondent. I think it's cool.

If we're going to have a press corps based there, and it will not, in a practical sense, have the right to question the powers in residence on Pennsylvania Avenue, then I am probably against it being there, since it cannot do the thing we most need it to do, and that is to question what's going on and offer explanations independent of White House wisdom.

The press has legitimate business in the White House if it can be an effective interlocutor, and if it can't, there's no violation of any law and no crisis in governance, but there is a crisis in that form of journalism because being spun and stonewalled and o-pacified twice a day isn't journalism.

Therefore I am also invetigating alternatives, like quit the thing. Take the outside route. My weblog is called Press-Think. So that is what we do-- think of alternatives is part of it.

If there's going to be a White House press corps, I want you and bloggers like Garrett Graff and many others in on it, for sure. Maybe you can breathe life into a dying opportunity. And as you can see I gave quite a bit of attention to what Graff wrote, as against celebrating some abstract blog "first."

The best thing he did was come with fresh eyes and ears. He re-described it. That's why we found it so absorbing, I feel.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 1:07 PM | Permalink

From Reading A1:

The professionalization of journalism, the elevation of the press into an independent actor outside-but-not-outside the state, a Fourth Estate, is a defining feature of the post-World War II American governing consensus.
Jay Rosen responds (see After Matter):
Correct. And so the clarifying question to ask about George W. Bush right now is whether he in inside or outside that consensus. You know my view. He and his White House are well outside it, and therefore they are making history. They are innovators. They deserve credit for demonstrating a different approach.
I don't think that is correct. I think that misrepresents what a profession is.

An independent press, outside-but-not-outside the state, does not a profession make. Journalism, as practiced by the political press, is a trade, a craft, an occupation. There could be a journalistic profession, I suppose, but I doubt you'd get many jouranlists to abide by it.

I think Robin Burk does a good job debunking this "professional" idea of the Fourth Estate in her comment above.

Unfortunately, today, recognizing that something is not a profession is somehow interpreted as a way to demean what someone does. That's not my intent.

The other difficulty I have, is with the expressed foundation of this "constitutional settlement", also described as "a defining feature of the post-World War II American governing consensus":

This was the real "liberal media": not the liberal media of conservative myth, not liberal in adherence to a political tendency, but in its allegiance to the broad post-New Deal consensus, one that bought conservative tolerance for the maintenance of a modest welfare state with a platform of anti-Communist internationalism and official suspicion of organized labor.
Is that really correct? Is that what you are basing your "clarifying question" on?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 1:35 PM | Permalink

Here's that image of presidential strength I mentioned. From today's Los Angeles Times:

"Access to the president's events is controlled to ensure that the audiences will be friendly to his cause. Attendance is by invitation only, and tickets are dispensed by Republican lawmakers, state party organizations, business associations and conservative advocacy groups. . ."

Is this how a majority party does things?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 2:18 PM | Permalink

It may have occured to you that what our friends on the left mis-perceive to be a "bubble" around President Bush (i.e. pre-screening out protestors and political fifth-columnists at Bush events) is instead only a necessary reaction to the dominant liberal media bias.

This is because, so often, the audience quote, sound-bite or video clip that the press highlights in their reporting (often the only one) is the one that is the most contrary to the President's message. No one wants their party to be upstaged by a turd in the punchbowl. So the Bush team tries to nip-in-the-bud any opportunity for the media to focus solely on that kind of blemish on an otherwise well-crafted communication event.

If an ideological or information bubble in fact existed around President Bush, that would be bad - - just as bad as the ivory tower in which our liberal friends reside.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at March 11, 2005 2:32 PM | Permalink

A must read (for Friday March 10) is Dan Froomkin, Hughes's Return Is a Blow for Rove. It may be that the "hostile" formation in the press room is a result of Rove Hegemony, and Hughes, a "communication" specialist, will change that. Froomkin's backgrounder explains a lot.

Are the President's friends alarmed at the put-Bush-in-Rove's-Bubble policy? Or as they just calibrating back after stacking up big gains with the press throttle on full?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 2:40 PM | Permalink

Jay: Some readers don't seem to realize that the political press could deserve repudiation--as in, you failed! you're responsible big time for this low point!--and Bush could be doing something very dangerous, at the same time.

Obviously you aren't referring to me:

4/29/2004: This is not to suggest that there aren't absolute reasons to shine the cold harsh light of the dawn on poorly thought-out ideas in the Bush administration. For instance, the willingness of John Ashcroft to trash the Constitution to protect the flag comes easily to mind. But the problem with the "Bush Thesis" is that it gallops off irrelevantly across the countryside on peripheral issues when it is the simple issues that need to be addressed.

10/29/2004: [McGill is] reminding us that, as wise as it is to guard against others, it is wise to guard against ourselves, too.

11/11/2004: Rosen suggests that "George W. Bush has changed them into an interest group and undone their identity as the Fourth Estate." That sentence is either true or a mistake -- or worse, true AND a mistake. Suppose that George W. Bush didn't change the press into an interest group. Suppose the press brought it on themselves and George W. Bush, the unwelcomed messenger, simply recognized it.

11/21/2004: But I will not sit by and have "faith" hurled at this administration like an accusation of witchcraft in Salem 300 years ago. Accuse the administration of many things -- stupidity, conviction, ignorance, politics, venality, bad management -- but such a shoddy piece of conjecture as Suskind's doesn't make Bush a Falwell, a Bennett, or a Jim Jones. ... Meanwhile, Jay, you and other journalism professionals have better work to do. For decades the concept of news has been at risk. Now it is under concerted attack. and needs your defense.

2/13/2004: At some time in journalism the subject became "investigative journalism" instead of how to report thoroughly and well. When "Gotcha!" became the guideline, it was unfair to readers and viewers, newsmakers, and true, hardworking journalists. When "Gotcha!" became the guideline, it provided the rationalization "handlers" needed to justify their misbehavior.

2/26/05: And if, in the end, Rove is a villain, and Bush is what is said of him, that still gives the press that covers them no excuse for practicing poor journalism.

2/28/2005: A sturdy scrutiny of the administration press corps is in order. PressThink is absolutely the right place to consider how to encourage excellence in their journalism that will make "Stiff-ya" not only unnecessary, but show it to be the bad form we all know it to be.

Posted by: sbw at March 11, 2005 2:51 PM | Permalink

You're totally right. You have drawn the distinction all along.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 3:09 PM | Permalink

Any time I've heard Karen Hughes, she's seemed to be square-dealing. If she can defuse the tension, all the better.

Posted by: sbw at March 11, 2005 3:27 PM | Permalink

From Froomkin:

I was doing my very first Live Online and opened the discussion by saying: "Against my self-interest, I should tell you that I'm up against Karen Hughes, who is taking (I'll bet softball) questions over on the White House Web site."

Meanwhile, Hughes was choosing to take -- and easily handling -- questions like: "Where are the WMD?" and "Did you approve of the President's gay-bashing?"

By contrast, Karl Rove has never taken any questions from Web site users, and Card just posts joking answers.
Indeed, Google does not come up with any link for Karl Rove at "".

For CoS Card:

April 16, 2003
April 19, 2004
August 12, 2004

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 3:56 PM | Permalink

The key to the story is who's willing to go dialogic.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 11, 2005 4:19 PM | Permalink

I owe Dana Milbank an apology. He did respond to my email.

Posted by: weldon berger at March 11, 2005 4:23 PM | Permalink

Not to start a hagiography, but what a goldmine this page is. I will be sending people your way as much as I possibly can. I hope you will not fall into this category here.

The battle for truth is fought one grudging word at a time. A very impressive front here.

. . . it's only words . . . but words are all i have . . .

Posted by: The Heretik at March 11, 2005 4:33 PM | Permalink

Lets get real here...

The press isn't liberal, and the problems that the press is having has nothing to do with the press being liberal.

Newspapers aren't loosing readership because the press has lost credibility. They are losing readership because people don't read anymore. Reading requires effort, and people can't be bothered making that effort, especially when they can sit in front of a screen and think that they are finding out everything they need to know.

Network news isn't losing viewership because it has lost credibility. They are losing viewership because most people now have about 100 other ways to spend the half hour between 6:30 and 7:00 PM (on the East Coast) in front of a screen, and they can get their "news" elsewhere anytime they want.

The fact is that credibility is not even an issue for most people. If people thought that telling the truth was important, if people held accountable those who distorted the facts or flat out lied to them, Bush would not be in the White House---hell, he would have been impeached two years ago.

The press is out of touch with the American people because its the job of the press to care about the truth, and what is happening in the world, and the nation, and in local communities. And the American people don't care about any of that. What they care about is being told that they are good people, and that they should never be inconvenienced by having to understand the world in which they live.

When something happens that upsets their cocooned existence, they turn to the press to find out what the hell happened. Once they are reassured again, they go back to their cocoon.

Now, "the press" is at least partially to blame for this, because in pursuit of ratings and circulation they have trivialized "the news" to the point where most of what passes for news is trivia. It really doesn't matter if we have an effective White House press corps or not, because the question of whether or not Michael Jackson diddled young boys is more important than whether or not the US is disappearing people to be tortured in secret CIA bases, or exporting people to countries where they will be subject to unspeakable treatment in the name of "the war on terror."

People would rather hear about Michael Jackson because they can feel superior to him, and feeling superior is always a nice way to feel. People certainly don't want to hear about how their government is involved in torture because it feels bad when they realize that they are responsible for empowering those who are responsible for torture, and they don't want to feel bad.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at March 11, 2005 4:51 PM | Permalink

So much good stuff here! Jay, I'm glad you are working on how to re-imagine the WH press. The current model doesn't work/hasn't worked for a long time now. I see broad agreement between left and right that this marriage is broken, reducing the dispute to which side should have to pay alimony.

Moving outside the briefing room is the RIGHT thing to do. Frankly, I'm tired of the whole GOTCHA game.

Posted by: Hunter McDaniel at March 11, 2005 7:48 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen: "You're totally right. You have drawn the distinction all along." when referring to SBW's post...

This is an outrage. It simply won't do to be reasonable and recognize anothers valid point(s)...oh wait, I'm sorry, I thought this was p.luks thread.....

Posted by: drago [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 8:48 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen (in After Matter): Alas, the "club" of correspondents is not a club if it can't control some information.

I guess we need a new cliche for journalists. Something like, "Don't write anything you wouldn't want as the top post on Wonkette."

I guess I'm the only one who "gets" the irony.

[Dana Milbank] thinks the added scrutiny has "stamped all the fun out of it."
Transparency for thee, not for me!
"We're not the news, the briefing room is not the news, the person we cover is the news," Mr. [Ron] Hutcheson says. "Self-censorship always concerns me."

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 9:19 PM | Permalink

Dang, Sis, you beat me to the punch! It was interesting how Ari echoes our genial PressThink host about "The News From Iraq Is Not Too Negative, But It is Too Narrow". Ari also echoes Ron Hutcheson when he says GWB thinks it's his job to make the news and the press's job to cover it. Unfortunately, too many pressies want to make news instead of just report it. Also interesting information about how the Clinton administration handled press relations----something we never hear of from those convinced that GWB's administration is the most evil, secretive, closed-lipped ZZZzzzzzz.

Posted by: kilgore trout at March 12, 2005 1:47 PM | Permalink

Drago, thanks for making the point with humor. ;-)

Posted by: sbw at March 12, 2005 5:36 PM | Permalink

Evil, secretive, close lipped? You don't read well, Trout. Most of what Bush is doing to de-certify the press and escape from questioning is wide open, public, out front.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 12, 2005 6:22 PM | Permalink

The better to understand the background, I just put my order in for Reporting From Washington: The History Of The Washington Press Corps, by Donald A. Ritchie. Publisher's Weekly writes, "Ritchie, associate historian of the U.S. Senate since 1976, follows his 1991 study of the first 130 years of the American press (Press Gallery), with this second volume covering the last 70 years."

Posted by: sbw at March 12, 2005 7:13 PM | Permalink

Trout: ... from those convinced that GWB's administration is the most evil, secretive, closed-lipped ZZZzzzzzz.

Jay: You don't read well, Trout.

I guess I don't either. Trout, are you convinced that "GWB's administration is the most evil, secretive, closed-lipped ZZZzzzzzz."

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2005 7:23 PM | Permalink

I think you're right, Jay, I'm never gonna get the "de-certify" thing. What Ari Fleischer said in the CJRDaily interview made sense me, what Howard Kurtz said makes sense to me, but I don't think I'll ever be convinced (at least for now) that the de-certify thing is true. I came to this conclusion after reading multiple posts at PressThink and most of the links provided, plus other sundry articles. So much of what is written about this seems to be driven by anti-Bush animus, that it's difficult for a non-partisan to take some of it seriously. I'm not saying you're wrong Jay, but I just don't believe there is a concerted effort by the Bush administration to "de-certify" the press.

Posted by: kilgore trout at March 12, 2005 8:29 PM | Permalink

I think that Trout is saying that the Bush Administration isn't doing anything that previous administrations haven't done but is being called on the carpet more, given the apparent ideological makeup of the WH press corps.

I'm not sure I'm in total agreement with that, but it would certainly be easy to point out a few obvious inconsistencies in how the WH press corps has treated similar actions across different administrations.

For instance, did we ever hear about how concerned the MSM was that Bill Clinton was only appointing individuals to Cabinet level positions who happened to agree with his policies and therefore would not be willing to provide alternative viewpoints? uh, no, not really.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about what Trout is saying, if so, then there is something fishy in Sweden, or rotten in Denmark, or just not terrific in (insert Scandinavian Country Name here)....

Posted by: drago [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2005 8:33 PM | Permalink

Drago, what you suggest coincides with how Ari Fleischer explained it on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross. Paraphrasing: Bush Number 1's administration leaked like a sieve leading to reports that the White House was in disarray. Discussions in Bush Number 2 happen inside the President's office, where he can hear both sides and make decisions. The press see that as walled off, but it's good management.

So, either Bush isolates himself from other viewpoints... or they hash them out and present a unified position after a decision is made -- and we can't yet know which.

A different discussion is that, Jay is upset at the stage-managed public appearances. It's not as if Bush isn't aware of opposing viewpoints, but it seems he doesn't feel obliged to light up the Kleig lights and share the stage with them. That is not undemocratic -- impolitic, perhaps, but not undemocratic.

Posted by: sbw at March 12, 2005 9:40 PM | Permalink

To the RH Blog:
You play to win.
If Prez. Bush feels other media mediums may facilitate his message and/or policies then so be it-whether I agree with it or not.
Now, this may not be good for the MSM(whatever that really means today--it is so 1976..) but as sbw says it is more impolitic and...that's evolution. MSM boys and gals better adapt or the posters on this site are gonna take their jobs.

Posted by: cal-boy at March 12, 2005 10:28 PM | Permalink

Regarding a comment in 'liberating the White House press,' there is the hint of an incorrect assumption -- namely that 'the press represents the shared interest of Americans.' Some might read that alongside the notion that the press is a surrogate for the public. That is no longer true, if it ever was. First, every poll taken by the Fourth Estate reinforces that the public does not trust the press by a wide margin. Second, the press is part of the power structure to be watched and held accountable. Third, veteran newsman Sander Vanocur said it brilliantly: The First Amendment was not written for the press; it was written for the people. As public opinion surveys and the rise of alternative media illustrate, more citizens are concluding that news is too important to be left to the news media.

I enjoy PressThink and find it worthwhile.

Mike Benard
Victor, N.Y.

Posted by: Mike Benard at March 13, 2005 8:33 AM | Permalink

This may help our logically challeneged friends.

Argument by analogy

Posted by: Jim K. Smith at March 13, 2005 12:05 PM | Permalink

It might help to consult what I said about the "interest" the press once represented. I didn't say the press represented your political interests or choices or values or region or ideology or preferences or self.

Here is what I said: "That the press represents the shared interest Americans have in knowing about their government is an idea the White House purposefully rejects."

The White House does reject it. It was an accepted and tacit part of governing from the White House for 50+ years at least. Why Bush supporters want to push away credit for this is beyond me.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 13, 2005 12:36 PM | Permalink

[MSM chuckle of the day] Courtesy of Tim Blair: BUSH USING SINISTER PR METHOD; MANY FRIGHTENED

Posted by: sbw at March 13, 2005 1:36 PM | Permalink

Daily Kos today has a thread on based on PressThink posts. The comments may be of interest to some.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 13, 2005 3:58 PM | Permalink

All administrations use PR for their proposals. Only this one disguises this fact using fake reporters as a tactic.

Posted by: Jim K. Smith at March 13, 2005 4:10 PM | Permalink

Trout and company: If, having calmly considered the facts and arguments I have presented, you're not convinced that Bush is doing anything special, that is fine and dandy. You win some and lose some.

But when you offer your flip dismissal of the claim that Bush is the "most evil, secretive, closed-lipped" Administration ever it suggests a certain misreading.

I said the Bush team were innovators, not evil. I said there were being open about their shift in thinking, not secretive. They have advertised their rejection of precedent, they haven't been close lipped about it. They killed the briefing and created the Bush bubble, but there was nothing "hidden" about these moves.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 13, 2005 4:21 PM | Permalink

I certainly concur with that. It's overt, out front, declared, undisguised, pick one. As Sen. Clinton said, there's no conspiracy, it's completely open. And signed.

Using hyperbole such as 'evil' or anyone disagreeing is 'hate-filled' are the tactics of passsengers on a sinking ship.

Posted by: Jim K. Smith at March 13, 2005 4:26 PM | Permalink

"the White House press corps is kind of superfulous, doing what it's currently doing. Hold that thought until later."

Don't hold it, run with it! Those guys are 100% WORTHLESS. For me, I.F. Stone provided the best model for outsider journalism. Nobody in the White House ever gave him a quote for the Weekly, but he routinely scooped his mainstream peers, week in and week out.

In an era where Congress routinely votes on bills without reading them, and where the President and his advisors make sweeping, erroneous statements and blithely label them fact, what's needed most isn't to report what those jerks say, it's to read the bills, dig into the background, and tell us what it is they're NOT saying.

Posted by: Scott at March 13, 2005 4:50 PM | Permalink

Daily Kos today has a thread on based on PressThink posts. The comments may be of interest to some.

Having read the Kos and comments, can someone explain to me what might have been of interest?

Posted by: sbw at March 13, 2005 5:53 PM | Permalink

Jay, you have so completely misinterpreted my comments, I don't know where to begin to set you straight. Most importantly, I was not referring to you when I said "those convinced". I don't see anything in my comment implicating you. I don't know what to say about you taking that remark personally. You'll surely not deny that some people have the Bush=Hitler mentality. You'll also admit that it has become almost a mantra, if not a cliche in the press, that the Bush Administration is the most tight-lipped, etc. I've seen a quote by Bill Keller expressing the same. I agree with you that GWB is out in the open in his press dealings. Where we differ is I don't think it's much worse than what has gone on before, and the reporting from the WH press is just as crappy as it's always been. I'll stop now before I dig myself in any deeper, but I guess all I can do is offer apologies for any misunderstanding, and hope I have clarified my earlier comment.

Posted by: kilgore trout at March 13, 2005 6:48 PM | Permalink

Jay's discussion of how Bush is self-consciously "de-certifying the press" resonates strongly with Hunter's (at dKos) superb diary on "fencing,"
the Republican practice of discrediting candidates and media sources so a debate on issues can't even take place. Frames on issues don't even matter when opponents have their minds made up and aren't even interested in debating the issues (The treatment of Farenheit 9/11 is a good example. Rather than refuting it, perhaps a majority of Repubs simply refused to see it on principle.)

It's easy to say "read the bills, dig into the background, and tell us what they're not saying." Many bloggers already do this daily. The response from the other side is that they are "creating news." The response is the "fencing" maneuver that these unreliably Republican sources must be excluded from the acceptable stream of discussion (this is the Hugh Hewitt, Powerline, Thune-blog job description in a nutshell as a more media target-specific second layer beyond Rush Limbaugh).

In other words, for a large swathe of any readership, "simply reporting" as Jay and Scott call for is the definition of hostile liberal press activism. For this group, anything beyond Bush administration propaganda is defined as "making" rather than "reporting" news. The constant inability to communicate on the comments section to this great blog is a testament to how deeply held these mutually exclusive world views are.

Anyone have a clue about how to actually get broad public exposure to facts discovered from "read[ing] bills, dig[ging] into the background, and tel[ling] us what they're not saying"?

It happens routinely already (at dKos, Informed Comment, Talking Points Memo, Atrios, Indy-weblogs, and many other sites) and is just as routinely dismissed as partisan hackery, misrepresentation, or hatred. How do we get past the filter in the reading public for whom one reader's "reality-based community" is another reader's "fence" of decertification? At this point, the ideological aspect of decertification and legitimizing the social function of reporting cannot be separated from one another.

What would rebuilding trust in the press look like? Hugh Hewitt and Amy Goodman's views on how to reestablish trust would't agree on much. What would reestablish trust for Hewitt would even further degrade it in my eyes. Moving in the direction of Goodman would degrade it for all who are closer to Hewitt. For this very reason, we are in the process of instituting competing media universes. Is that the only solution?

Jay is trying to ask what might make the current system work better. He observes that Bush has made a move here toward decertification. Understanding this strategy does involve the realization that White House reporting has effectively stopped, but it also involves realizing that it has been effectively delegitimized in the eyes of many. Reviving the practice of actually reporting on the White House would add something we don't have under the current system, but it doesn't begin to address the consequences of a strategy that seeks to delegitimize the very act of posing questions to the Commander in Chief that stray from the party line. That defines reality with the party line.

How is it that the Bush Republicans on this thread continue to SIMULTANEOUSLY believe that Bush is not doing anything new AND that the press is getting what they deserve because they decertified themselves years ago? Does this refusal to think mean that rational discussion is simply impossible from here on out? What are the alternatives?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at March 13, 2005 6:57 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen: "... you're not convinced that Bush is doing anything special ..."

I want to know why the press isn't doing anything special!

My concern is that 3 1/2 years after 9/11, the post-9/11 press looks a heck of a lot like the pre-9/11 press.

OK, Michael Jackson has replaced Gary Condit.

The structural biases are still strongly influencing news.

There have not been any innovations by "the press" that I can see. In fact, it seems that anything that might have been considered innovative in the media immediately after 9/11 has pretty much been dropped to go back to business as usual.

I want to know why the Democrats and press are acting like conservatives, "nothing's changed", while the Bush administration and Republicans are acting like progressives, changing everything.

I want to know why we should not be demanding that Democrats and the press "step up" rather than trying to get the Bush administration to "back down"?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2005 7:09 PM | Permalink

You clearly ARE demanding that the Democrats and the press "step up" rather than trying to get the Bush Administration to "back down".

That's why I say one reader's "reality-based community" is another reader's "fencing" operation.

Therefore I ask you and anybody else, again, how can any media outlet build trust when half the population sees freedom on the march maligned by domestic traitors in the media and half the population sees police state imperialism and Stalinist one party control of a formerly democratic nation abetted by a compliant "embedded" press?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at March 13, 2005 7:38 PM | Permalink


Press in trouble? Oh contrare.

Posted by: Jim K. Smith at March 13, 2005 7:49 PM | Permalink

Mark Anderson: "... when half the population ... and half the population ..."

I disagree with the premise that the population is divided as you describe. That's not to say those you describe don't exist, but the saying about "two kinds of people" always rings hollow for me.

Perhaps the approach to regaining trust is one that doesn't fall for that premise?

Posted by: Sisyphus [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2005 8:47 PM | Permalink

"First, every poll taken by the Fourth Estate reinforces that the public does not trust the press by a wide margin."

Argumentum ad numerum
If the writer attempts to persuade the readers by pointing to the sheer numbers of people who support a position, suggesting thereby that this is proof of the position's validity or soundness, then that writer is guilty of argumentum ad numerum. This fallacy rests on the notion that the more people who support or believe a proposition, the more likely it is that that proposition is correct.

"The polls showed that the vast majority of Americans supported the President; therefore this proves the President was justified in going to war."

Posted by: Jonas at March 13, 2005 10:50 PM | Permalink

David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times: Is Bush really implementing a full-court press on media? He argues with Rosen and Boehlert, calling our view "interesting and provocative (and paranoid)."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at March 14, 2005 9:56 AM | Permalink

Hmmmmm, well, Jay, the "paranoid" could explain why you took my comment personally. (Just joking!)

Posted by: kilgore trout at March 14, 2005 1:51 PM | Permalink

From the Intro