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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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June 28, 2005

Don't Be a Blogger Manqué, Norman Mailer

"Arianna's team will get you a day pass to the White House press room. Go to some briefings, use your eyes and ears, scribble in your notebook, and, linking to the transcripts, tell readers of her blog what happens to you, Mailer: writer with puzzle."

Once upon a time in journalism Norman Mailer was one of the people pushing the boundaries of the form. The way a Josh Marshall is pushing it today. Or a Glenn Reynolds. Or a Barista of Bloomfield Avenue (Debbie Galant).

There still resides, however, under my aging novelist’s pate a volunteer intelligence agent, sadly manque.

Mailer wrote that at the Huffington Post May 17th. He also said: “I’m beginning to see why one would want to write a blog.” This was a change of heart. In a December, 2002 interview he was asked if he “did” the Internet. “I don’t,” Mailer said. “That would use up what I have left.”

In the short item he posted at Huffington’s place, Mailer suggested that maybe Newsweek was set up, and maybe the riots in Afghanistan were set off as part of the plot. “If you want to discredit a Dan Rather or a Newsweek crew, just feed them false information from a hitherto reliable source,” he wrote. “You learn that in Intelligence 101A.” It wasn’t a serious attempt to push forward into his (paranoid, but not entirely counter-factual) thesis. It was Mailer saying: if I had the time, I could…

“I’m beginning to see why one would want to write a blog.” Now that, I felt, was a little more serious. (So was “sadly manque.”) In fact, a few weeks before his debut at the Huffington Post, Mailer spoke at the University of Texas, where the library had just purchased his papers for $2.5 million. He “recalled being a young writer in the 1950s and said he might have been a blogger if there had been an Internet back then,” according to the AP (April 29, 2005.)

“In the ’50s, you couldn’t get anything interesting published,” he added. (Mailer helped found the Village Voice in 1955, partly for that reason.) He’s probably right; he would have been a blogger if the 1950s had existed when the Net was invented.

Like the guy who does a little magic, but is not a magician (Johnny Carson was in that category) Mailer believes he does a little CIA, though he is not with the Agency. And he would argue that you need a novelist for understanding what the CIA is up to. One of the problems I’ve always had with this argument is that I do not classify Mailer as a novelist, though he has written eleven of them and is no doubt working on a twelth right now.

To me he is a great American journalist and fits well the more general category of writer. His natural forms are (were…) opinionated reportage—often on assignment for magazines—and social criticism. He excelled at political metaphor and the character sketch. He was at his best when writing about what he saw during events in the life of the nation. His political judgments were not to be trusted, but that’s true of most writers, artists and intellectuals (bloggers too.)

And without making a big to-do about it, his books were important to me when I was starting out in prose. This would be mid-1970s, between Armies of the Night (1968, Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction) and The Executioner’s Song (1979, Pulitzer Prize for fiction, even though it’s factual.) It was the scribbler’s equivalent of an adolescent crush.

Mailer’s writings were important to me because they sustained the illusion that journalistic prose could be the most exciting kind of prose. I still believe that, even though it rarely happens. The nonfiction writer Richard Ben Cramer, who is a good example of Mailer’s influence, told my NYU colleague Robert Boynton (in an interview for Boynton’s terrific new book The New New Journalism):

I want my books and articles to have the same impact a novel has on a reader: something happens to the character in the story during which an emotional truth is revealed. That is a goal nonfiction and fiction can share.

The way Mailer did journalism, something happens to the character in the story, who is also our correspondent on the scene. A truth is revealed, and emotion is restored to events. In Mailer’s best reports, something also happens in the life of the nation. (In an interview he said: “America is the real religion of this country.”)

For example: John F. Kennedy is nominated for President and he dazzles the 1960 convention, depressing the traditional party bosses who sense that television and Kennedy’s charisma will undermine their influence by creating a more direct connection between candidate and voter. (Which indeed came to pass, but Mailer had it as news before that.) On the discomfort of the old fashioned boss in 1960:

In fact it is a mystery to the boss how Kennedy got to where he is, not a mystery in its structures; Kennedy is rolling in money, Kennedy got the votes in primaries, and, most of all, Kennedy has a jewel of a political machine. It is as good as a crack Notre Dame team, all discipline and savvy and go-go-go, sound, drilled, never dull, quick as a knife, full of the salt of hipper-dipper, a beautiful machine; the boss could adore it if only a sensible candidate were driving it, a Truman, even a Stevenson, please God a Northern Lyndon Johnson, but it is run by a man who looks young enough to be coach of the Freshman team, and that is not comfortable at all. (Link.)

Which is not what the reporter at the school board meeting in Rochester should be doing. On the other hand, the problems of the reporter at the school board meeting in Rochester should not be the test of all things great and good in journalism— though some preach a religion very much like that.

So even though it’s five weeks late I still want to welcome Norman Mailer, the American writer, to blog writing— and advise him about how to get on with it. A blogger’s currency is not, as so many believe, rattling off an opinion. It is links. Here are three links for Mailer, the would-be blogger.

An author who is 82 should have no trouble making the connection.

As the first gang of bloggers to be credentialed to a national political convention made final preparations for their trip to Boston, I posted this. Many were young, talented upstarts. Many, I figured, would not know exactly what to do when they got to Boston. Nor would they know how Mailer did it when he covered the 1960 convention in Los Angeles, where the Democrats nominated JFK. So when I found that his November 1960 piece for Esquire, Superman Comes to the Supermarket, was online and linkable, the post was born: “There is another way of ‘covering’ a political convention,” I wrote. “Send a writer and let the writer find a language adequate to the event.” I said blogging is about linking. In this case it was linking people to the past when they needed it for an assignment in the present.

One day I found that a famous essay Mailer would know—Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964)—was online. (“I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”) I think this is one of the best short essays ever written about American political life, and so I used it to interpret the style of televised resentment in the performance of Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. Mainly I was trying to reach those who might click the link and delve into Hofstadter’s ideas from 40 years earlier. The whole post was about the link, which still works. Today if you put the words “Bill O’Reilly” and “paranoid” into Google, this post usually comes up first. (There’s the import of being permanent.)

Now through the good offices of the Huffington Post, our common table, I have for Mailer a friendly and practical suggestion. One more time, he should get credentials and do some reporting. I mean White House reporting for the Huffington Post. Bloggers do that, you know. And they ask questions others would not.

I suggest it not because the big story of our time comes from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and Mailer’s the man to interpret it for us. No. But my free advice is: wanna volunteer, don’t pick amateur spook for an ID. Don’t be a Tom Clancy. Don’t do two-minutes of paranoia. And no more of this, please.

Say the word and I’m sure Arianna’s team will get you a day pass to the White House press room. Go to some briefings, use your eyes and ears, scribble in your notebook, and—linking to the transcripts at—tell readers of her blog what you see, and hear, and what happens to you, Mailer: writer with puzzle. Get inside the heads of the participants, including the reporters asking questions they know will not be answered. (On principle, as it were.)

Scott McClellan at the White House podium: who really has a language adequate to that event? In rendering things steadily more opaque by talking about them with reporters, McClellan will often say: “The President has been very clear…” Which is funny, except that he has no sense of humor. (Unlike Ari Flesicher, who gave you a wink.)

If you actually try to listen to McClellan explain something, you almost always know less after his answer than you did before he began talking. This type of talent (subtractive) is rarely examined because the normal reaction to it is immediate frustration. A proper job description for McClellan would include: “making George W. Bush less legible.” And that is something Mailer might, by blogging from the White House, manfully try to reveal.

Manque means: unfilled or frustrated in realizing an ambition. Don’t be a blogger manqué, Norman Mailer. Do something you do well, journalism with an interior life, and do differently than other correspondents: describe, describe, describe on the big canvas you got from wanting to be a big novelist.

Finally, I admit my purposes are sentimental, and not entirely realistic. Mailer’s first two tries at the Huffington Post I choose to call practice swings. Mailer the blogger has not yet appeared with a bat in his hand. Of course he was correct in 2002: writing seriously for the Internet (and learning to think with a link) “would use up what I have left.”

I can think of worse ways for him to go.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

This also ran at the Huffington Post. I will let you know if there is a reply.

Journalist and press blogger Daniel Conover says he learned what he wanted to learn from his blog and he’s going Into the Great Wide Open.

Mailer in a 2004 interview with Poynter’s Margo Hammond:

The thing about journalists is that they learn about a lot of people in a hurry. Less good is that the experience is very rarely existential. By existential I mean that you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. If you’re doing it on spec, then it’s very existential. But if you’re working for a newspaper and you know it’ll be printed no matter what, then you learn a lot, but it doesn’t bite deep. Experiences you can’t control teach you a lot — the others just skim the top.

“I Am Not For World Empire.” Mailer’s 2002 interview with Pat Bunchanan’s magazine, American Conservative, in which he explains why he calls himself a “left conservative.”

See Radar magazine for the scoop on Mailer’s bitter attack on New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani (a reviewer of his books.) The language was harsh enough to make the gossip columns. Satirizing the proceedings is Corsair. More here.

Steve Lovelady, managing editor of CJR Daily, e-mails: “Mailer wrote the greatest sports story of my lifetime. Sports Illustrated, I believe, assigned him to cover the Emile Griffith-Benny Paret fight, in which Griffith literally clubbed Paret to death. Mailer, of course, was at ringside. This much I’ve committed to memory…”

And Paret? Paret died on his feet. As he took those 18 punches something happened to everyone who was in psychic range of the event. Some part of his death reached out to us. As he went down, the sound of Griffith’s punches echoed in the mind like a heavy axe in the distance chopping into a wet log.

Mailer in a 2004 interview with his son, John Buffalo Mailer, talks about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

NM: Of that whole gang, he’s the only one who seems real to me. In other words, I might not agree with him on anything, but he does believe in what he says. It isn’t as if he searches for the most useful response he can come up with at the moment to wield or save his power. He’s interested in his ideas first. The power is subservient to the ideas.

JBM: What makes you say that?

NM: Because he’s real. He reacts. He doesn’t weigh his words. If something makes him angry, he’s angry. If something pleases him, he smiles. If he has doubts about how the situation is going, he expresses those doubts. In that sense, he’s the only one of that coven I’d call an honorable man.

Garrett M. Graff of Media Bistro’s FishbowlDC comments on this post, which he says is “challenging/begging/asking” Mailer to blog from the White House. Graff: “Someone needs to dive into Scott McClellan’s techniques, and someone needs to disassemble life in the veal pen and see what lies beneath the motivations of those involved.”

You may recall that Mr. Graff, 23 at the time, gained news attention as the proverbial first blogger to be given a day pass to cover the White House. (See his “impressions” post for more.) This is from a report by Katharine Seelye in the New York Times:

Mr. Graff said he was surprised at the help he received from “real” reporters covering the White House, given what he described as the animosity between some bloggers and the mainstream news media.

Mr. Graff is something of a bridge between those two worlds. Although he is a blogger, he has old-media genes: his father, Christopher Graff, is the chief correspondent in Vermont for The Associated Press; and his grandfather, Bert McCord, was the drama critic for The New York Herald Tribune.

Mr. Graff himself was executive editor of The Harvard Crimson. He said he became a blogger because “it’s the newest trend in journalism.”

Mailer, of course, went to Harvard as well. The Seelye article had some comments from me: Rosen said “Mr. Graff was expanding the definition of what constitutes the press…” (I said the same thing about the bloggers at the Democratic Convention in 2004: “it’s just another expansion of who the press is.”)

LOGIC UPDATE: I like Mailer-as-blogger in the White House because I think there should be more 82 year-olds writing a mean blog post so that people in their 20s might read it and say: wow. That way they cut the baby boomers out altogether and talk among themselves.

This has to be good for the soul of conversation.

But to cooperate in my press corps fantasia Mailer has to write something “different” and hot. Rather than a legend, blogging a blogger (Mailer) showing why he’s a nonfiction legend. So far no show. Check out what Technorati has to say about Mailer post one and post two.

Howard Kurtz, there’s an iconic baby boomer journalist for you. See, therefore, Garrett M. Graff’s long and detailed profile of the Washington Post’s media writer. It’s from Washingtonian magazine.

Back in 1990, the media beat barely existed at most newspapers. The opinion of Gene Roberts, the legendary Philadelphia Inquirer editor who decried media reporting as navel-gazing, was typical. The New York Times, one of the few other papers with a media writer, focused mostly on the business side, and the Los Angeles Times’s David Shaw was best known for exhaustive three-part series. Kurtz is largely credited with establishing the media as a regular day-in and day-out beat and inspiring similar reporters around the country.

Lots more. Incidentally, Kurtz and I were editor of the same college newspaper, The Spectrum at SUNY Buffalo, four years apart. We did not meet until many years later, but I heard newsroom stories about him. He was “Howie” Kurtz then, and that’s what his by-line said too. Graff has it. In 1981 Kurtz moved from the Washington Star when it died to the Washington Post: “Kurtz’s byline—-previously ‘Howie Kurtz’—- now at the suggestion of Post editors became the more respectable ‘Howard.’”

Graff gets way more attention (he works, after all, for the Media Bistro empire under the guidance of Elizabeth Spiers, who writes FishbowlNY) but the blogger who is actually doing the White House beat in an outsider-gotten-inside way is Eric Brewer, White House correspondent for Weldon’s Berger’s blog, BTC News. Check out what these guys do. They’re expanding the press.

For those following the Downing Street Memo story (the subject of my last post) this round-up and link-fest from Ron Brynaert is extremely valuable: ‘Spikes of Activity’ In The DSM.

Oh, and “Jeff Gannon” has reactions to this post.

Australian journalist and teacher Margaret Simons says the press matters because it finds things out. That point has been made a lot. What she goes on to say has not been said a lot:

Finding things out involves trying hard to talk to people you don’t know and who have no reason for wanting to talk to you. Often it involves making people angry, or hurting them.

It involves opening yourself up to rejection and anger. It involves building relationships of trust with sources - and not only and not chiefly political professionals or spin doctors. Sometimes one must get close to the loud, the objectionable. The smoother the source, the less likely they will tell you anything that is both important and new.

It involves understanding and using public records. It involves taking the time and trouble to read often lengthy and impenetrable documents, reports and statistics. It involves asking stupid questions until you understand. It involves humility.

Most important of all it involves talking to people - lots of people - and asking them questions you would feel embarrassed to ask your best friend…

I met Margaret Simon (a seriously talented journalist) when I was in Australia last month. Via Jozef Imrich (Media Dragon) who has other great links in comments.

Posted by Jay Rosen at June 28, 2005 1:01 AM   Print


Rosen on Mailer - I hope - at least begets Mailer on Rosen.

As much as I would love to see Mailer at the White House press briefings, I'd be even happier to get a chance to read the promised sequel to Harlot's Ghost. But, then, I did name my blog after him.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at June 28, 2005 2:33 AM | Permalink

Here's a Mailer interview I liked a lot that deserves more attention, from NY Metro, by Mailer's son, John Buffalo Mailer.

Mailer isn't good at fading away. He's mostly good at hiding out, poking out to survey the scene, and then committing some truly outrageous act.

Did you happen to see Mailer's perfomance as Harry Houdini in Cremaster 2? I feel like he's got something to say, but isn't sure yet how to say it. (The critical reception to the Jesus book might have intimidated even him a bit.) He knows we're waiting - but doeswn't yet have the attention of his intended audience, I bet.

Posted by: BartCopFan at June 28, 2005 8:50 AM | Permalink

"I'm beginning to see why one would want to write [an opinion]"

I thought I share some of the Antipodean analysis whether Opinion is cheap. Facts rule, OK?

In an opinion piece about opinion pieces and other matters of media diversity by the greatest fact czecher of them all - Tim Dunlop - who If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail and as Australian richest technorati blogger, John Quiggin notes: Freedom of the press is great if you own one

Elsewhere: A brief case study of how BBC News Interactive approached the 2005 General Elections in the UK, from Pete Clifton, Editor, BBC News Interactive: Convergence and the Common Good Civic engagement and the BBC

Dramatic new developments in information technology are exposing undemocratic regimes worldwide. These rapidly growing communication networks are weakening government control on information and besieging them. The blog is the latest incarnation of the digital revolution. A web log, or log, for short, represents the crowning achievement of modern technology, by adding a personal touch to news and information Blogs for Everyone

Posted by: Jozef Imrich at June 28, 2005 9:24 AM | Permalink

What, a post on Mailer-as-spook that doesn't reference his truly brilliant CIA novel, Harlot's Ghost? That book is a compelling (if arational) argument for his thesis.

Posted by: adamsj at June 28, 2005 11:24 AM | Permalink

Why no mention of Mailer's New York Review of Books pieces on Bush from last year? Perhaps because they were so disappointingly bad. Mailer belongs at the HuffPost where celebrity is the key qualification for inclusion, not intelligence or talent.

Posted by: matty at June 28, 2005 12:38 PM | Permalink

Mailer's been called a lot of things over the years ... but dumb and untalented aren't two of them.
You may have scored a first, Matty.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 28, 2005 2:33 PM | Permalink

Sharp and elegantly written accounts of events and analyses of trends from a clear point of view would be welcome, I think, as long as it's not misrepresented as objective reporting. Too often these days, dominant media bias is camoflaged or excused as value added, attention-grabbing attempts to "draw in the reader" with "perspective". (It may be that "interesting" journalism is incompatible with objective journalism).

Of course, few will mistake Norman Mailer with an objective observer; though I don't think he'll find much joy in occupying the same journalistic real-estate as Helen Thomas and Lester Kinsolving.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 28, 2005 5:16 PM | Permalink

The beauty of Mailer as a journalist is that even as he explores the event, he explores the internal workings of the mind (his own) that is exploring the event.
That is transparency to the nth degree.
Consider the sports passage that I emailed to Jay. The economy of language in this excerpt is astonishing; 57 carefully chosen words -- Mailer hates a poorly chosen word -- yet we learn not only exactly what happened to Benny Paret, but also what happened to those watching Paret being bludgeoned to death. Most intimately, we learn about Mailer, the ringside witness, as he processes the event in real time.
One more time, with the part that is not about Paret, but that is about Mailer himself, emphasized:

And Paret? Paret died on his feet.
As he took those 18 punches something happened to everyone who was in psychic range of the event. Some part of his death reached out to us. As he went down, the sound of Griffith's punches echoed in the mind like a heavy axe in the distance chopping into a wet log.

I think Jay is right. Turn that searchlight of a mind on a typical Scott McClellan song and dance, and, trust me, you're not going to get Helen Thomas or Lester Kinsolving. You're going to get Norman Mailer. And in 57 words, you will understand the vapor of a Scott McClellan performance as you never did before.

We're getting close to something essential here. It reminds me of a journalism seminar on "fairness and accuracy" that I attended 15 long years ago with Richard Ben Cramer, who is no Mailer, but who is a phenom of a writer and reporter in his own right.
During the break, Cramer approached the seminar leader and, truly puzzled, asked: "Well, which is it, man ? Accuracy or fairness? Pick one. You can't have both."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 28, 2005 7:52 PM | Permalink

TA, in all seriousness, what do you mean by 'objective' reporting?

You sound as though you take it to be reporting sans experience or feeling or understanding. If so, that's stenography.

So what's your take?

Posted by: David McLemore at June 28, 2005 8:36 PM | Permalink

Great, Jay stretches the idea of Mailer with a weblog into a full article (something Mailer can't seem to do). Steve Lovelady starts up the fanboy section to this very amusing idea. A couple of boomers trying to goad a little life out of one of their cultural icon has-beens.

Mailer, like Hunter Thompson, trafficked in boozy sentimentality; Lovelady actually provides a sample. This appeals to a certain type of man, usually drawn to it in adolescence, but most sensible adults get over it by age 30, because it is a form of literary con artistry.

And Steve, if you're going to whine in Mailer's defense, at least do us the favor of acknowleding that Mailer's HP submissions were hilariously stiff and senile from someone who is supposed to be a master of language. Oh, someone's impugned your idol...

Posted by: Brian at June 29, 2005 9:22 AM | Permalink

By the way, "It would use up what I have left" is a pathetic excuse for staying back with the memories of all his past accolades. The truth is Mailer with a blog would receive merciless attention--he'd definitely have to shed that thick, pretentious style or face cruel taunting--and I don't think Mailer the egotist wants that kind of attention. He would rather have the quiet reverence of a Rosen or the noisy, clamoring applause of a Lovelady. Face it: Mailer doesn't have the stuff to put his self-image on the line.

Posted by: Brian at June 29, 2005 9:27 AM | Permalink

No reporter (nor editor) is devoid of experience or feeling or "understanding". I accept that. Unfortunately, despite insistence to the contrary, many reporters' (or their editors') political feelings and "understanding" are often all too apparent in their work-product.

Your question, David, and Jay's identifying Norman Mailer as journalist (I was previously only aware of his novelist reputation) prompts serious thought, including about differences in the deliverables produced by journalism. That is, hard news reporting differs from feature narratives and commentary. I find the latter objectionable when disguised as the former. Truly objective reporting may in fact be boring, indeed more like a transcript than a narrative.

The objective reporting I would like to see could be more properly understood as both transparent and balanced. So how do reporters and editors with inseparable biases deliver an objective work product? In contrast to much of the dominant news media today (largely a liberal monoculture), I believe that can best be achieved where journalists with opposing ideologies (disclosed to readers) collaborate on a story, each empowered to veto the contributions and writing of the other if he deems they will materially bias the result.

Conflict-inducing (within the newsroom), time-consuming, duller results? Perhaps, but I suspect the outcome would be more "objective".

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 29, 2005 10:07 AM | Permalink

Brian says above:

Face it: Mailer doesn't have the stuff to put his self-image on the line.

Well, maybe not--but even without being here, he's got the stuff to get Brian trash-talking.
By the way, that's Brian who?

Posted by: adamsj at June 29, 2005 11:03 AM | Permalink

The call for powerful, Mailer-esque critique of the White House Press Show shouldn't just be limited to Mailer, but there's little doubt that only someone of Great Man Status would be granted our tentative support for such language and thought.

Greatness and insight are subjective qualities. No matter what we do to make our factual reporting better, we should take care to see that we never adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to journalism that levels everything to a middle muddle.

Such contributions are valuable because they go beyond strict journalism by searching for intangible truth instead of materialistic fact. Artists are not bound by our rules and therefore wade out of the kiddie pool to swim at the deep end. We generally respond by talking amongst ourselves about how silly they look in their bathing suits.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at June 29, 2005 11:06 AM | Permalink

Don't forget, Jay, that Mailer and David Halberstam and one of the other new journalists from that time, Gay Talese, were aided in their careers in a significant way by Willie Morris from Mississippi. He was the youngest editor in Harper's magazine history. He published a lot of the best new journalism and paid real money for it, which allowed those writers to make a living at it. Where is there an editor like him today?

Speaking of links, you can read and listen to my interview with Gay Talese in the old Southerner magazine online on this page. This may be the first recorded interview to be posted on the Internet as an audio file in an online publication.

Gay Talese on Willie Morris

You can read the entire tribute issue from here:
Special Issue on Willie Morris

Posted by: fast2write [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2005 11:25 AM | Permalink

Norman Mailer doesn't need the likes of me to defend himself from bitter and baleful trash talkers and spam artists like Brian.

I'm sure Mailer is more than willing to let his life's work speak for him, and to his talents.

You never know ... but that work might even hold up well placed next to the erratic, frustrated and spiteful rantings that dominate Brian's blog.

This is one bitter puppy -- but it's never quite clear about exactly what.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 29, 2005 12:23 PM | Permalink

Yes, Steve, just ignore the bad nasty man who made light of your hero! Still, the idea of Mailer writing a blog is pure comedy gold. It's like a ray of sunlight in my bitter, spiteful, etc. life!

Posted by: Brian at June 29, 2005 1:36 PM | Permalink

Btw, Steve--"erratic, frustrated, and spiteful"--say, I do have something in common with Normon Mailer after all!

Posted by: Brian at June 29, 2005 1:44 PM | Permalink

Wow! Fabulous idea Jay---I couldn't agree more. Don't get Mailer a day pass to the WH, get him a permanent pass. Think of the possibilities----Mailer could demand GWB release all the terrorists at Gitmo so they can kill innocent people again---just like Jack Abbott! He would show up at the WH in an open bathrobe, drunk and/or stoned and would proceed to stab Kit Seelye. He would then beat up Elisabeth Bumiller----what great theater!

Of course there is always a chance the MSM would cover for him---after all it's just not Garrett Graff who went to Harvard and worked on the Crimson---it would be a media elite circle jerk!

But unfortunately,there would always be those pesky transcripts to give us the "alternative" story. I can't wait---bring it on!

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 29, 2005 2:14 PM | Permalink

This is my first time to your site and I have to say your insite is very interesting! I'm not all to sure about how you feel about Mailer.

Great stuff though!

Posted by: James Canton at June 29, 2005 3:55 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the response, TA. It''s an interesting view of journalism. And an imminently unworkable one.

"I believe that can best be achieved where journalists with opposing ideologies (disclosed to readers) collaborate on a story, each empowered to veto the contributions and writing of the other if he deems they will materially bias the result."

That sounds more like the discussion section of a blog than journalism. The bulk of journalism involves what the mayor did, how city council acting wisely and the wages of sin, crime and pot-holes.

Journalism reports the what-happened. If the mayor's getting a payoff or the president's economic policy is a disaster, it's not a political statement. It's a reflection of their respective actions.

(Now, of course, columnists and op/ed writers deal in analysis and opinion. Thus they have more leeway. But you knew that.)

Reporting is also a group effort. Reporters report. Editors edit. Layout folks layout. Photographers, etc. Imagine composing such a mob of conflicting political views in order to 'provide transparency.'

So much for clarity and conciseness.

And since the report would be a dispute on the facts, it would not be particularly useful. Or factual. Nothing would get done.Certainly not on deadline.

And it would be dull. Deadly dull. So dull no one would read.

Just what journalism needs: something duller and more contentious than what we have now.

Posted by: Dave Mclemore at June 29, 2005 4:09 PM | Permalink

I'm interested to see that the PressThink conversation on the DSM has already moved on. I recall the PressThink conversations about Jordan, Newsweek and the Rather/Guard Memo, which seemed to last over several PressThink entries and carry on heatedly in the comments for extended periods.

By contrast, has the DSM been dropped already? Does this mean it has lost its appeal--in the metaphorical trial sense. Having been rejected as a scandal by the MSM, we had the appeal to the blogosphere to resurrect it but that failed to gain support except among the interest groups you'd imagine. I note that several other Downing memos have now leaked that seem to support the notion that Bush et al actually believed everything they were saying in regard to WMD and Saddam as terrorist threat. Do those get a mention? Or is this case just dead.

Posted by: Lee Kane at June 29, 2005 4:41 PM | Permalink

Naw, Mailer's not my "hero," Bryan.
That would be A.J. Liebling
But next to the alternatives offered here so far --, transcripts, Lester Kinsolving, for God's sake -- Mailer is a giant striding the earth.
And Jay's idea is looking better by the minute.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 29, 2005 4:42 PM | Permalink

Oops! Obviously, I meant to say that Mailer would stab Helen Thomas, not Kit Seelye, whom Mailer would want to f**k.

I read The Naked and Dead sometime in the '60s, but unfortunately for Mailer, there were many more writers out there who were pushing the envelope more. I think Some Honorable Men is moldering away in my attic---I read it back in the '70's when I was a clueless liberal. But at some point, Mailer became a parody of Mailer, and not worthy of consideration.

Everyone here should consider what happens when the biography overtakes the literature. I don't really know.

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 29, 2005 4:45 PM | Permalink

Correction: I see the case goes on (just noticed the AfterMatter link). Please strike my previous post (for now).

Posted by: Lee Kane at June 29, 2005 4:48 PM | Permalink

Nope. It's not dead. In fact, there's another message from England

"(We) have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows.

"Meanwhile, our unfortunate troops ... under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the wilfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad."

-- T.E. Lawrence, in a letter to the Sunday Times of London, Aug. 22, 1920

Posted by: David McLemore at June 29, 2005 5:15 PM | Permalink

Meanwhile, those of us who haven't had Koolaid lately, agree with Callimachus who observes and respects history and was a "liberal" before reality (not to be confused with the 'reality-based community') got in the way: BTW, anyone here ever read blogs by Iraqis? You'll rethink the "(We) have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap..." meme. But don't look to the future, look to----D.H. Lawrence???? Hey, has Mailer beat anyone up yet? Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 29, 2005 6:22 PM | Permalink

I don't think, Dave, that local news is so much a concern when I and other "bias warriors" castigate the dominant liberal media. It's coverage of the Iraq war, for example. (Or gun control, abortion, tax cuts, etc. - - the major, polarizing political issues.)

I realize my prescription for objective journalism is unpalatable to those content with our current (slanted) dominant news media. I acknowledge it may be problematic to implement. But can you just imagine how much more balanced coverage of, say, the Iraq war would be if former CBS News Managing Editor Dan Rather had to get buy-off on his copy and story selection from Sinclair Broadcasting News Director (and creator of Sinclair's NewsCentral) Joe DeFeo, and vice versa?

By amending the current leftward tilt of so much of today's political news coverage, I believe such a newsroom environment would level the political playing field now refereed by the dominant media. But our liberal press friends know this - - which is why they might oppose such a change.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 29, 2005 6:55 PM | Permalink

So when you say, "the media is biased," you mean only those specific reporters and news outlets that report things contrary to your point of view.

Posted by: David McLemore at June 29, 2005 7:48 PM | Permalink

I forgot so I ask again: why is it you guys, "Trout," "Brian," "Auditor," cannot share with us the name of a real person who stands behind your outraged or darkly sarcastic words and that slashing style? Lovelady, myself, David McLemore, Daniel Conover, Ron Brynaert, Glynn Wilson, Lisa Williams (to name some frequent guests) all have bylines that connect to biographies. And the reason you do not is...?

Is it because you speak truths so dangerous they could cost you your job? Do you face social ostracizing by embittered blue staters who are losers but nonetheless run the world? Do you need protection from misguided men and women who would take revenge on brave words of dissent like "the leftward tilt of so much of today's political news coverage..." which were just heard from our anonymous source, Trained Auditor? Would it be the torch lit mob, or just the cold shoulder coming your way if people knew...?

If politics is the reason people say what they say, which is one thing I hear consistently from all of you, then let's be clear about the politics of speaking publicly via weblog and putting your ass on the line for what you think... are you guys like: whistle blowers?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 29, 2005 8:05 PM | Permalink

Dave --
Bingo !
Thanks for that letter to the Sunday Times penned in 1920 by T.E. Lawrence.
As soon as I read it, my first thought was, "Shit ... the whole thing could have been avoided if someone had just sat Bush down after 9/11 and said, "Here, genius: Before you do anything else, put down 'My Pet Goat' and read 'Lawrence of Arabia' instead. It will show you what not to do."
T.E. Lawrence at a White House briefing ... can you imagine .... that might be an even better idea than Mailer at the White House briefing.
And Kilgore: These days, the possibility of someone "showing up at the WH in an open bathrobe, drunk and/or stoned," while, I admit, both intriguing and tempting, calls to mind a Jeff Gannon more than a Norman Mailer or a T.E. Lawrence.
And, somehow, I don't think it's Kit Seelye or Elisabeth Bumiller that Jeff would have his eye on.
The image is hard to shake, though, isn't it ?
Sort of like when someone says, "Don't think of a pink elephant."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 29, 2005 8:06 PM | Permalink

No more George Lakoff for you, Lovelady!

You bring up an interesting point Jay. For better or worse, you have a very firm opinion of me as "kilgore trout". But what if I commented under the name of Aisha Washington? Pedro Garcia? Robert Kennedy Jr? Festus Hagan? What if any of these was my real name? Wouldn't that change your perception of me and my comments? I do use my real name to comment on some blogs, but I don't want to here.

But how do you know that Kilgore Trout isn't my real name? I could be the love child of Robert Trout and Ed Kilgore.

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 29, 2005 9:34 PM | Permalink

Jay, I'll allow my sometime ideological opponents speak for my feelings here:

"The Internet has invigorated free speech in this nation and around the world. It has brought the ability to engage in public political discourse into the home of the common man and woman, and one catalyst in the growth and the health of this free marketplace of ideas is the broadly accepted fact that most individuals participate in Internet political debate using pseudonyms." - Brief for Appellant at 11, Melvin v. Doe, et. al., No. 2116 WDA 2000, Superior Ct. of Pennsylvania, Western Division (February 2001) (Barber, Walczak, et. al. [counsel for appellant includes ACLU attorneys])

The brief speaks eloquently about the virtues of anonymity in Internet political speech.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 29, 2005 10:10 PM | Permalink

Great point, Jay.
For all we know, "Kilgore Trout" is Scott McClellan. (Actually, that makes a lot of sense.)
Or "Trained Auditor" is ... I dunno ... Robert Novak ??
"Brian" ? Lynn Cheney, no doubt about it.
But since they aren't putting their biographes on the line, along with their hard-earned views, who the hell knows ?
The whole thing reminds me of all those articles we've read about fat 47-yr-old housewives posing as horny young starlets on phone sex lines.
You might enjoy what they say -- but you'll never learn who the hell is saying it or where, exactly, they are coming from.
Which, of course -- how can I put this delicately -- somewhat devalues the currency.
Ah, transparency, transparency -- wherefore art thee ?
At least with Mailer, you know who the fuck you are listening to.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 29, 2005 10:13 PM | Permalink

What is this, Auditor? I ask you a question about your values and you respond with a defense of your rights?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 29, 2005 10:52 PM | Permalink

I hate to interrupt a really fascinating conversation, but back to reality for a moment:

Three most recent headlines at Romenesko, as of 11 pm:

* Knight Ridder special correspondent shot to death in Iraq

* Is it wrong for a sports editor to cheer for the home team? (Substitute "political" for "sports" and "adminstration" for "home team.")

* Rumsfeld wants stories about Iraq's functioning hospitals

In the end, always and forever, it's all about news versus propaganda, isn't it ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 29, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink

On anonymity online, in blog and comments - I'm somewhat of an expert on the subject now, having recently been de-anonymized (against my request) by the local paper. The pattern of reactions was illuminating:

* Nonlocal bloggers, both pseudonymous and named, who spoke up:
Disapproval of those at the paper

* Local [named] conservative bloggers:
Disapproval of me, for my previous pseudonymity ("it's cowardly not to stand behind your words")

* Anonymous commenter ("pb", who claimed to have no vested interest yet went around and opined on at least 5 comment-enabled blogs that had covered it:
Disapproval of me, for expecting those at the paper to a) grasp and b) respect "please don't use my last name".
("pb" did subsequently 'come out' in email, after I'd pressed him to, but has almost no visible online presence...)

Jay, 'we're building a culture'; so how would you structure it - for bloggers and for commenters - so as to make it constructive? (assuming human nature isn't changing anytime soon)

Related - Daniel Conover's latest post is required reading. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, Mr. Conover has shown he's not like the rest of us.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at June 30, 2005 12:05 AM | Permalink

From Dan Froomkin's latest live chat with Washington Post readers:

Washington, D.C.: The reporters in the White House Press corps finally seem to be getting tough with McClellan, but he still dodges everything I understand that's his job but how do you get more honest answers?

Dan Froomkin: I agree that there has been quite the outbreak of assertive questioning, particularly from Terry Moran at ABC, David Gregory of NBC and Bill Plante of CBS. My hat's off to 'em.

But ultimately, yeah, it's useless, beyond making theater. Scott has his marching orders, and he's a good soldier.

A few thoughts:

In some ways, the further you get from the White House, the more accurate your picture of the place is.

Dogged questions are good, but dogged reporting is better.

And: Maybe, just maybe, with members of Bush's own party starting to peel off from the official White House groupthink, maybe we'll start to find out more about what's really going on in there.

Clifton, Va.: Dan, I think the first step in dogged reporting is being confrontational at news conferences. Giving lip service to non answers does nothing but spawn more non answers, as you've pointed out many times. More bloggers asking more pointed questions seems to be shaking reporters out of their slumber. Do you think this trend will continue, or will the usual summer slowdown occur regardless?

Dan Froomkin: Yes it's a good start, but just a start. Yes I think it will continue. No, not through August. Nothing continues through August in Washington.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 30, 2005 12:32 AM | Permalink

More excitement over at Romenesko:

Yes,Time, Inc. is giving it up. All the major cliches are there in the released statement; the "chilling effect", the Sacred Watergate Myth, plus an unsupported statement that US contempt laws are as bad as China's press laws.

The main missing ingredient is condemnation of that right-wing rag, NYTimes which led the charge to investigate Plame, demand that Ashcroft recuse himself and appoint a special prosecuter. Oh well, I guess you can't have it all.

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 30, 2005 9:59 AM | Permalink

I think I get it now. Trout has a by-line, works in a newsroom or media operation somehow, is disgusted with the "liberal monoculture" that surrounds him and is afraid to come out for fear of reprisals. But he is also disgusted with himself for such reticence, so he comes here to express it all.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 30, 2005 10:26 AM | Permalink

OK Jay, whatever. I have obviously misunderstood your position at NYU---I thought you were a professor of journalism, but it appears your field of expertise is psychology. My apologies for not acknowleging your position as psych prof.

But enough of this---if you don't want me to comment here, just say so.

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 30, 2005 11:23 AM | Permalink

Jay, I was referring to my values (they are simply recognized as a right) - - which were stated very profoundly in the brief to which I linked above. As an example (referenced in the brief):

"Anonymity is a sheild from the tyranny of the majority. (citation omitted) It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation - and their ideas from suppression - at the hand of an intolerant society." - Justice Stevens for the majority, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) at 357.

You may not know how intolerant liberals can be unless you are a Bush voter in a very blue state (very many liberals are not as temperate as PressThink's fine contributors). I prefer to comment anonymously for the same reasons I vote anonymously. Though I don't seriously expect retaliation, one can't be too careful.

As to transparency, my anonymity is obvious. My ideology is evident in my comments, which I don't deny - - I accept that you may apply a discount factor accordingly (frankly, I would be happy with that, as a minimum, applied to our dominant media).

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 30, 2005 11:27 AM | Permalink

Sorry to hear that Conover is off and away, leaving the rest of us alone here at night in a high-crime neighborhood.
His voice will be missed.
Though it's hard to argue with his observation, borne of experience, that "most media discussion threads eventually devolve into political arguments. My experience: There are right-wingers who camp out on these threads and make sure that all discussion is framed in terms of their grievances."
Dan, all you forgot was to include the term "anonymous."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 30, 2005 12:25 PM | Permalink

Lee kane,

I'd like to read the DSM's you reference. Got a link?

Posted by: Jeff Hartley at June 30, 2005 12:42 PM | Permalink

Since the discussion has turned to our values and right to anonymity online at PressThink, I thought Ben Franklin probably ought to make one more appearance for old time's sake in honor of Hugh Hewitt's dedication to sustaining those values and rights. Good thing I didn't particularly care or have anything to hide or Hugh would have told you about it.
Mark Anderson

Posted by: Ben Franklin at June 30, 2005 2:28 PM | Permalink

Wow, Ben/Mark, I didn't know Hewitt did that. I certainly do not support what he did to you.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at June 30, 2005 3:59 PM | Permalink

I don't want to diminish Dan Conover's road-to-Damascus moment, but so much of his "final" post is why many of us have lost faith in the press.

Dan says that "Most media discussion threads eventually devolve into political arguments." But on a recent PressThink thread, my continual kvetching could not prevent him from reliving the 2004 election. When I said the caravan had moved on, he had no clue.

Conover says that "Conservatives, by their very definition, favor protecting the old over allowing the new..." But doesn't this describe current liberals who are isolationists and who fight to retain the status quo of FDR and LBJ, and are really anti-progressive, rather than reformers?

Of course, no journo could pass up an opportunity to parrot the "Bush lied-Halliburton-sock-puppet" trifecta school of intellectual thought that permeates the left/lib/Dems.

Also, I had to smirk when Conover said he would be going "anonymous" in the future.

These things are typical of the press---no one here will be surprised to learn that the press is left/liberal/Dem. I also want to thank Conover and other journos who comment here at PressThink. In my view, this is one of the best features of this blog.

My final thought is that the PressThink political posts are the weakest, because they exclude all who don't share the ideology---the best posts are those concerning the press. I've learned a lot about the press from Jay Rosen, who can be an original thinker---but about the political---not so much.

Posted by: kilgore trout at June 30, 2005 4:42 PM | Permalink

"The political posts are the weakest, because they exclude all who don't share the ideology."

"He was at his best when writing about what he saw during events in the life of the nation. His political judgments were not to be trusted, but that's true of most writers, artists and intellectuals (bloggers too.)"

I don't exclude you. You exclude yourself.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at June 30, 2005 5:58 PM | Permalink

Ahh, Trout, Trout ... if you had been trying to write a post that proved Conover's gloomy observation that "Most media discussion threads eventually devolve into political arguments," you couldn't have done better.
Then, after your usual attempt to turn a discussion about the nature of the press into a rant on politics, you turn an abrupt 180 and confess that at "PressThink political posts are the weakest, because they exclude all who don't share the ideology."
Exactly !
So there may be hope.
They say the first step is to acknowledge that you have the problem.
So, hell, who knows ?
Three more cautious steps along the rocky path to self-acknowledgement and transparency and you could be telling us who you are and where (in every sense of the word) you come from.
It isn't easy, coming out of the closet. But once you do it, it's a huge relief. Converts report a huge weight lifting off of their shoulders, and a sense of giddiness that lasts for days.
I'll be cheering for you.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 30, 2005 7:31 PM | Permalink

One other thought, Kilgore.
When I said, "Three more cautious steps along the rocky path to self-acknowledgement and transparency and you could be telling us who you are and where (in every sense of the word) you come from," I forgot to add:
Kit Seelye really wants to know.
She's still trying to get a grip on what kind of mind imagines her having congress with Norman Mailer.
(Dept of Full Disclosure: Kit and I worked together for 20 years in Philadelphia.)

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 30, 2005 7:52 PM | Permalink

And a final note to all of our beloved anonymice, speaking so bravely from behind the curtain:

"Never suffer a thought to be harbored in your mind which you would not openly avow. When tempted to do anything in secret, ask yourself if you would do it in public. If you would not, be sure it is wrong."

--Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to his grandson, Francis Epps.
Monticello, May 21, 1816

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at June 30, 2005 9:42 PM | Permalink

"When tempted to do anything in secret, ask yourself if you would do it in public. If you would not, be sure it is wrong."

That's one way to cut down on the birthrate.

Regarding the outing of Mark Anderson/Ben Franklin - what I found illuminating at the time, and wish was still extant, was the first set of comments on Mark's post-outing weblog, which formed a powerful argument for the institution of tenure.

And, regarding anonymous blog commenters - I think my rule's going to be that, if I ask, the commenter must be willing to disclose his/her identity privately, either to me or to a mutually-respected third party.

I wonder if such a person exists for Kilgore Trout and Jay Rosen.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at July 1, 2005 1:38 AM | Permalink

I like Dan Froomkin's "Dogged questions are good, but dogged reporting is better."

Barking up the same (right) tree:

"Watchdogs, bah. We don't need poodles OR pit bulls. We need bloodhounds, and we're getting golden retrievers."
(Peter da Silva on Poynter's "Creating a Watchdog Culture")

Posted by: Anna Haynes at July 1, 2005 1:55 AM | Permalink

This is a test: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.

Posted by: kilgore trout at July 1, 2005 2:37 PM | Permalink

"At least with Mailer, you know who the **** you are listening to."

Yeah--a burned out old has-been. And what does knowing that aging writer Norman Mailer wrote the following paranoid screed do to help it seem any more rational or worth reading? If you want to argue that you're more fascinated by the personalities than the thoughts, go ahead--there's a whole genre of celebrity journalism that will be happy to oblige you. The mentality will fit right in on a TV discussion show if that is what you aspire to.

Posted by: Brian at July 1, 2005 4:18 PM | Permalink


Would you like me to point out a list of famous writers who wrote anonymously or under pseudonym? I guarantee there will be someone more impressive on it than Jay Rosen or Lisa Williams. The shocking reason (for anonymity) is: because I feel like it. If you have a problem with that, feel free to moan about it in lieu of a pertinent response. It makes you look so very smart.

If you want to argue that anyone writing anonymously must be doing so out of cowardice or weakness, go ahead. It's a dumb argument, but you've advanced those before.

Posted by: Brian at July 1, 2005 4:37 PM | Permalink

By the way, Jay, you should fix your content filter. After several tries I finally figured out what was tripping it: quoting your own words. Beware of technology that claims to be able to make subjective assessments with reliability.

Posted by: Brian at July 1, 2005 4:40 PM | Permalink

Jay -- What is your comment tool blocking?

Posted by: Lee Kane at July 1, 2005 8:21 PM | Permalink

Ah: don't use ellipses.

Jeff -- The DSM stuff: It's in the a-matter section of the Mailer post, near the end. A roundup of sorts of a dying would-be scandal that could catch fire again if some people blow on the embers enough but, I think, is likely to go out for lack of fuel.

I want to add on other topics--and then bringing it back to Mailer--that I sort of cheer Norman P. at Time Inc. He made a tough call. I think you either believe the government is abusing its prosecutorial powers and the reporters in this particular case should protect their sources as a form of civil disobedience or the government is acting responsibly and so the reporters who defy the court are acting above the law. I haven't seen much argument in favor of the former construction, except some weak noodle stuff in the Times op-ed a few months back (which earlier argued an opposite case when it suited its anti Bush tendencies), so as of right now I'm inclined to go with the latter view.

I think its important for the press to follow the law if it is to carry any weight in accusing others of breaking it. I don't think any journalist on this list would excuse Bush of defying the courts if he did it for, in his own judgement, "the good of the country" or of "truth," etc. But a lot of journalists think they have the ethical, let's say, prowess to ignore the law when required by their "larger mission."

It's interesting to watch the journalistic dismay directed at Norm for bowing to the court, in the context of the earlier discussion regarding journalists who consider themselves "citizens of the world." I guess here again they claim, uh, diplomatic immunity.

Perhaps this is the problem with American journalism in some quarters; it tends toward treasuing itself more than the democracy that has engendered it. And to round that back to Norm Mailer--we treasure, I think, de tocqueville for what he said about America. We treasure Norman for being "a character"--the focus is Norman, not what is revealed about America (by, it so happens, a guy named Norman). The writer, as usual these days, is put first. I don't think "the press" can maintain a national constituency with this kind of narcissim, though maybe using that word goes too far.

Posted by: Lee Kane at July 1, 2005 8:22 PM | Permalink

Lee Kane:

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 1, 2005 8:48 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady

a.) Civil disobedience requires an unreasonable government. Your article assumes the government is unreasonable without making the case--I think that weakens your argument.

b.) I think you misunderstand the nature of civil disobedience as layed out by Thoreau--since it is he you cite. Perhaps you wish to refer to some other principle of disobedience--for Thoreau's requires that you free yourself of *need* of the state, so as to free yourself of the consequences of its punishment. The journalists existence is founded upon the protections of the state--including those of intellectual property and copyright. Therefore, it is, in a sense, to make a mockery of Thoreau to demand the state's protection on the one hand and to skirt its rules as "unjust" on the other--which was sort of my point in regard to the "citizen of the world" stuff and narcissim.
c.) Nevertheless, if you could make the case that journalists should be allowed to shield criminal suspects pursued by the court: I would like to be convinced.

Posted by: Lee Kane at July 1, 2005 9:24 PM | Permalink

"c.) Nevertheless, if you could make the case that journalists should be allowed to shield criminal suspects pursued by the court: I would like to be convinced."

That depends, Lee, on whether you believe there was value in the New York Time's shielding of Daniel Ellsberg.

The Pentagon Papers effectively revealed the sham of the government's conduct of the war in Vietnam. Had Ellsberg not broke the law and released them - and had not the Times chose not to obey the government and printed them, would the interests of government truly be served?

Are you really arguing that reporters or anyone in the public should never challenge government actions, Lee?

Yes, you did say something about government being 'unreasonable.' And, arguably, the government's pursuit of a case against two reporters who received confidential information that revealed the name of a CIA agent and didn't publish it might be considered unreasonable. Given that the information has been reported as coming from I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in Cheney's office.

What do we say about Robert Novak? Is he the good journalist because he did the administration's bidding?

I guess it comes down to how we define 'government.'

Ellsberg went to prison and the Times waged a lonely legal battle to bring light to secrets long kept in the dark. Both Ellsberg and the NYTimes decided that the people in the White House weren't the government. That distinction belongs to we, the people.

Posted by: David McLemore at July 1, 2005 10:11 PM | Permalink

Lee --
I am not demanding "the state's protection."
I am demanding that the state stay the hell out of the business of the transmission of information from the observor who was there to the citizens who (understandably) couldn't take the time to be there.
I fully reaize that that is a novel concept to many here -- but it happens to be one of the ideas that led to the formation of the Republic in the first place.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 1, 2005 11:55 PM | Permalink

Joe Hagan, Wall Street Journal, July 1.

"I find it hard to get worked up into the same outrage as others about the Time decision, which seems to me to be a practical decision," said Jay Rosen, chairman of New York University's journalism department. "I think that if a court had given Time magazine an order to turn over documents and they refused all the way to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court refused to provide relief, then they have done what is expected them as far as fighting the fight. I think after that, other considerations do take over."

He had my title wrong. I'm no longer chairman. The rest is accurate.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 2, 2005 12:35 AM | Permalink

I actually think anonymity is important, and I wrote about it in a little piece called The Virtues of Anonymous Blogging.

I think of anonymity as being a workaround for a broken part of our social system: namely, that the penalties for truth-tellers vary radically depending on who is telling.

But anonymity is itself a kludge. Like a lot of good things it has a serious "free rider" problem -- while most people will use it for good, there will be some minority of people who use it in ways that hurt other people or make the resource less useful to everybody.

In short, trolls.

I think of it like roads. If you build them, people will speed and crash their cars on them; but that's not neccessarily a reason to pull up the road. It is a reason to install traffic lights and maybe a speedtrap on Saturday nights.

(And as for my unimportance when up against, say, Celine or the pseudonymous authors of the Federalist Papers -- I admit my unimportance freely and give way happily to greatness as it parades by with its shiny tinkling band).

Posted by: Lisa Williams at July 2, 2005 12:49 AM | Permalink

"The shocking reason (for anonymity) is: because I feel like it."

Indeed. And don't forget: because you can.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 2, 2005 2:23 AM | Permalink

La Kakutani

Oops, he did it again. Jewish-American novelist Norman Mailer, a grumpy old man at 82, took a swipe at Japanese-American literary critic Michiko Kakutani in a magazine interview recently. Photos of both here.

Kakutani, 50 and the daughter of a retired Yale maths professor who came up with the "fixed point theorem," is a Yale graduate and has been a book reviewer for the New York Times for over 25 years, even winning a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1998. In the interview, Mailer, whose books have often been dismissed by Kakutani, used several racist and politically incorrect terms, calling the Times reporter a "one-woman kamikaze" and an "Asiatic, a feminist," who was
a "token" minority hire at the popular newspaper. This led the Asian American Journalist Association to issue a protest letter over Mailer's "racist" comments.

So who is Michiko Kakutani? Click here and read an informal, gossipy blogsite about her.

Posted by: danny bloom at July 2, 2005 8:19 AM | Permalink

Steve -- What Jay said (above). Also -- you have fallen into a trap.

Actually, that is to make light. I am actually very afraid of government, so one likes to see it have limits. On the other hand, I'm not particularly in favor of further power being absorbed by our amok corporatist press.

If you want government's legal hand out of the information business, then I suppose you were a very loud cheerleader for M. Powell when he tried to end government legal regulation of information outlet ownership. Or when it came to those restrictive legal regulations, you wanted them preserved? And I guess you filed an amicus brief on behalf of Grokster against Time Inc.'s parent, which would use the power of the law (e.g., copyright) as a sword to slay the free, open and democracy-promoting information service. And so on and so on. See your business is more dependent than most upon the upholding and exercise of the law; you need it to survive, really. Norm P. was just recognizing that. He couldn't very well go sue teenagers in Virginia while defying the court in D.C.

See, here's the thing--there is no "press" But there are presses. I think "freedom of the press" means freedom to use presses, not freedom for a priveledged class employed by a select set of giant corporations that owe their existence to government regulation. If you argue this priviledge, it must be a priviledge for everyone, a kind of 5th Amendment Plus, in which people have the right not to incriminate themselves but also the right not to reveal the name of someone they know if they also happen to write, speak, broadcast, etc. in a public forum, something in relation to knowledge gained from that person. Should we have such a, ahem, law?

Posted by: Lee Kane at July 2, 2005 11:17 AM | Permalink

Lee --
I agree that civil disobediance requires an unreasonable government.
And that's what we have in this case, if not an outright abuse of power on the part of both Fitzgerald and Hogan.
(I also agree that if you argue the privilege, it must be a privilege for everyone, and have never said otherwise.)

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 2, 2005 11:49 AM | Permalink

E&P is reporting that frothing partisan shill, Larry O'Donnell is saying that the source in the Plame idiocy is Karl Rove. If true, the irony would be delicious. The left-wing newsletter, known as NYTimes-Democrat, has tied itself in knots defending the second most hated man in the "reality-based community". Blood and treasure spent on Karl Rove. I hope it's true! (Shill O'Donnell has a post about this on the fair and balanced Huffington blog)

I can't wait to see what Clinton operative leaked in the Wen Ho Lee case.

Sure, we'll have to endure more blather about the "chilling effect" (ZZzzzzz) on journalism, but do we really need this kind of "information" to protect and defend democracy? Uh, no.

Posted by: kilgore trout at July 2, 2005 1:55 PM | Permalink

Oh, yeah, one more thing. I agree with what you said in the WSJ article Jay, and especially in the comments here when you say "The rest is asscurate". I suggest that instead of the "fake but accurate" meme, which is wearing thin, we should substitute "asscurate" in situations where the press just gets it wrong, but believes it's right.

Posted by: kilgore trout at July 2, 2005 2:21 PM | Permalink

I like that idea, Trout:
Karl Rove, criminal.
At last we stumble onto something each of us finds delicious.
It had to happen.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 2, 2005 5:06 PM | Permalink

PS - But I don't believe it for a minute.
Rove may have ordered it done, but he didn't do it himself.
He's too smart for that.
Plus, he never leaves fingerprints.
Some underling twice removed will take the fall for this little piece of treason.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 2, 2005 10:38 PM | Permalink

Does anyone here care that this despicable character got a murderer released so he could then take ANOTHER young life?
...and feels no remorse?

Posted by: Doug [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2005 7:39 AM | Permalink

Well treason is a strong word Lovelady, and even the Times-Democrat now says that a crime has probably not been committed. Besides, I read the Isikoff article after the E&P thing too. Larry O'Donnell as a source of information should have been my first clue that the report was false.

Doug, you threw me for a minute there. I forgot we were talking about Mailer.

Posted by: kilgore trout at July 3, 2005 11:47 AM | Permalink

Trout --
I'm pretty sure that making public the name of a covert CIA agent does qualify as treason.
Rove already told the FBI and the grand jury that it wasn't him, so if it was, add perjury to the list.
And he's too smart for that, too.
That's why O'Donnell's little fantasy doesn't add up.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at July 3, 2005 12:33 PM | Permalink

From the Intro