January 24, 2006
Brady, Hamsher, Reynolds, Jarvis, Rosen at the Post site. Plus: Elite Newspaper Divergence (END)
Our live Q and A begins 1:00 pm Wednesday... Brady says he's working on adding comments to news articles... Times columnist David Carr’s take on the “whirlwind” around Deborah Howell includes some extraordinary instructions for how to e-mail him: don’t... "Wow," says Dan Gillmor.
Word has arrived on the blogger’s roundtable you may have read about with Jim Brady, executive editor of the Washingtonpost.com. It was to be done in person, around a table in Arlington, VA, headquarters for the Post site. That proved impractical. Instead it will be a version of the Post’s online Q and A’s. Here are the essentials:
What: Ethics & Interactivity online roundtable
Where: at washingtonpost.com
When: Wednesday, January 25, 2006; 1:00 PM
Jim Brady, Washingtonpost.com.
Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine
Jay Rosen, PressThink
How do I suggest questions? You can’t, too late. But you can go to this page and read.
Or you can post in comments here. I told readers of my last entry, Transparency at the Post, a Q & A with Jim Brady, that if this roundtable at Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive (WPNI) happened, I would open a new thread about what ought to be discussed if we’re going to get somewhere. After 388 comment posts, it’s time to start the meter over anyway. (A record for PressThink.)
There’s a small bit of news from Brady, further evidence for my Elite Newspaper Divergence (END) theory. It states that the Washington Post and New York Times are going to grow more apart as they take different paths on the Web. (For more, go here and here, and here.) Brady told me that within two weeks washingtonpost.com will introduce by-lines for Post writers that are “hot linked,” as we used to say when the Web was a marvel. The difference between
By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
may seem slight. But it’s not, because that simple link can go a lot of places. (Reporter’s blog, for example.) I asked Brady what writers’ names would be linked to, initially. “The bylines will be — for now — hyperlinked to e-mail forms so that reporters are all accessible via email,” he said. “Eventually, we’ll probably include recent stories, maybe a bio and photo. But, for now, it’s a communications device.”
Which makes sense, but also makes a point coming after New York Times columnist David Carr’s take on the “whirlwind” around Deborah Howell. Carr gave some extraordinary instructions for how to e-mail him: don’t. Causing Dan Gillmor to say: wow. What startled Gillmor was Carr’s closer.
“Personally, I’m all for a robust interaction with the reading public. My address is David Carr, New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10036. And don’t forget that the price of stamps just went up.”
Which I read as defiance projected at these people. For robust interaction with me write a letter, put it in an envelope, and mail it, Web hordes. What theory of modern newspapering is that?
Of course, Times watchers know that Carr is pioneering a Times blog, called Carpetbagger— which is about Hollywood and the Oscars. It has comments, which seem to work just fine, and there’s an easy way to e-mail the author. So it’s not clear what the defiance in Monday’s column means. Is Carr clowning? (Steve Lovelady in comments: “Of course Carr is clowning.” Jeff Jarvis said Carr confirmed it: clowning.) Or will he soon be telling Len Apcar, the editor-in-chief of NYTimes.com, to disable the e-mail link and comment function at Carpetbaggers? (Obviously he won’t, because he was clowning. Right.)
Jim Brady told Dan Gillmor that more changes are coming at the Post site, once the Post fixes the problems it had last week. He also explained what the problem was: the site wasn’t requiring a valid e-mail address from people leaving comments
because we were working through Movable Type, and we had not synched up our registration system with it. But we are hoping to add comments to articles reasonably soon, and when we do that, we’ll have that layer of security. But, after the events of the past week, we now know we need that layer on our MT blogs as well. Lesson learned, I guess.
Brady said comments at post.blog will be back soon and I have no reason to doubt him. He also said that he’s adding comments “reasonably soon” to Washington Post articles online. This is bigger news— if it happens. It will increase substantially the two-way-ness of the Post site. (See Brady’s clarification in “After Matter” below.)
There’s no telling how the ability instantly to comment on breaking news will affect the Post’s journalism. (Yesterday Jack Shafer of Slate, a Washington Post property, used his column to explain how their moderated system, The Fray, works. Slate pays somebody to oversee, and give order to it, including awarding stars for people who contribute greatly. Who publishes Slate? WPNI.)
Meanwhile, the New York Times is breaking new ground with blogs you have to pay to read. It’s not clear which theory of the blogosphere such blogs could operate within. Does linking to subscriber’s only content make sense when the point is to participate in public discussion?
Now if you are in Select company, you can “send a comment,” which is not the same as posting one. “TimesSelect aims to offer subscribers unique opportunities to communicate with Op-Ed columnists,” the site tells you. “Please use this form to submit your questions and comments for any of the Iraqi bloggers.” I understand what they’re doing. They are adding value to being a Times select subscriber, but not by “taking away” what had been available freely— instead, you add bloggers, a new class of vendor, and a subscription should be worth more. Except that a blog that can’t be linked to is automatically worth less on the Web, so who’s worth counts?
- Elite Newspaper Divergence (END), the result of different strategic choices by the Graham and Sulzberger regimes. Track it because it could be consequential.
- Right and Wrong in Making the Post More Interactive. (My title would have been: Howl!.) Jim Brady, Jeff Jarvis, Jane Hamsher, Glenn Reynolds and me are online tomorrow, 1:00 pm. War game it in comments now, review it after.
But first let Will Femia at MSNBC’s Clicked guide you through recent events: “The dots I’m clicking show a change in mood and tactic by online liberal activists.” Could be consequential.
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links
Well, the results are in. (Jan. 25)
Jane Hamsher isn’t satisfied, not by a long shot. She tells us she had a lot of people “conferenced in” and assisting:
Peter Daou, Atrios, John Amato, Digby and jukeboxgrad from DailyKos (who would not let Jim Brady slide on his nebulous explanations, much to Brady’s irritation) — not to mention Markos and Brad DeLong who offered their input yesterday, Matt Stoller who was patrolling comments over at the Open Letter to the Washington Post blog (as well as Taylor who has been moderating), and Redd who was holding down the fort here. All I can say is that the answers that were given were the result of lots of people thinking together, including all the emails and commenters, and I can’t tell you all how much I appreciated the collaborative effort.
She thanked the post.com for the opportunity, then added. “Brady gave himself the last word many times, goaded me for a response and then closing it before I could answer, despite the fact that I was asking in the accompanying ‘chat’ box for a chance to do so. Neither would he give substandial, meaningful answers to questions I posed to him.” And she challenged Brady to a one-on-one.
Furthermore, Hamsher and Digby agree that Jarvis and Rosen were just “filler” and the real debate—the only debate—was between Jane Hamsher and Jim Brady.
Hamsher and Brady have an exchange in comments here. Jane:
Structuring the debate like they did allowed Brady to continually evade answering some serious questions about some very sketchy excuses. Were he not using those excuses — which he refuses to backup — for repeated flame throwing at about largely civil comments left on the post.blog, I would not be hammering him.
Jane, Not giving you the answers you want is not the same as evading questions. If you’re waiting for me to break down and confess that we shut down the blog to stifle dissent, and that there were really no profane comments and that we did all this because we don’t care what our readers say, then you have a long wait ahead of you.
Bob Somerby at the (aptly named) Daily Howler: “Today, Jane Hamsher is leading the liberal brigade.” Others have passed on that opportunity, he says, because they wanted jobs at Newsweek and the Post! “To our ear, career liberal writers are still unable to describe the press as it actually is—- as it has strangely (but plainly) been over a long stretch of years.”
National Review Online’s Stephen Spruiell thinks we’re seeing The Left’s Revolution Against the Media.
Brutally sarcastic, extremely funny and well worth a read: Poor Man Institute, Let’s stage an all-star panel on blogger ethics in my pants.
Vapor Trails. Daniel Glover at National Journal’s Blogometer reviews the Post Q and A and reactions to it.
Katie Couric pulls a Deborah Howell on the air; Liz Cox Barrett of CJR Daily lets her know.
Highlights from the discussion at washingtonpost.com.
The barriers to entry in blogging are very low. You want to get your ideas out? You can start a blog in 15 minutes. So why do you feel entitled — and that’s not too strong a word for what I hear sometimes — to put your comments on someone else’s site?
If Deborah had appeared in the comments immediately asking people to treat her as a person, not a silent oracle, then I’ll bet the tone of the exchange would have changed. That’s not to say that some would not still be angry and rude but what were they really asking for but answerability? So if you answer, you defuse that demand.
I’ve used the word “civility,” but it’s true that it’s a tough word to define. Among the things we’ve learned here is that we need to have clear rules and examples to help people understand the limits of what we’ll accept. So I’ll retire “civility” at this point.
The post.com should be thrilled by the passion and intelligence and civility exhibited by the vast, vast majority of commenters. Over at Kos, someone compared an archived version of the original comments on the “Maryland Moment” blog with the ones that were restored and found only ten that were deemed so “offensive” that they had to be deleted. That’s a 99% civility rate.
For my highlight, click.
Dan Froomkin is back, big time. (His wife just had a baby.) Here’s what he said in his Post chat today:
I think washingtonpost.com’s comment cutoff was a mistake. It’s a big paradigm shift for people used to controlling every word that appears in their newspapers — but online, a little loss of control pays off big time.
We should glory in the passion of our readers. We should listen to what they have to say, respond to their concerns, and if necessary correct their misimpressions. In short, we should empower the reader, not shut the reader up — even temporarily.
Rem Reider, the boss at American Journalism Review, writes an insight-free column about the Howell episode. “Much has been made of the Web’s great contribution to instant and freewheeling political discourse. But this wasn’t discourse, this was target practice.”
“The shift to trying to prove Brady a liar was a mistake, in my opinion.” Me, in the comments.
Stephen Spruiell at National Review’s Media Blog: As Reynolds Explains Decision not to Host Comments, Reuters Provides Case In Point.
Jim Brady e-mails (Jan. 24). The comments-for-articles feature isn’t quite ready for prime time, he says:
“Just to clarify the post on the comments on articles project. It is something we’ve been working on for months, but based on the events of the past week, we’re re-evaluating the technology behind that feature. Obviously, we want to make sure it works the way we need it to. I don’t want folks walking away with the impression that this is an imminent launch. It’s not. But we have indeed been working on it.”
Brady did the PBS Newshour (Jan. 24): Online Feedback Goes Offline.
At Buzzmachine, (Jan. 24) Jeff Jarvis gets warmed up for the big match the next day:
Q: Are media required to play host to the opinions and criticism of others?
A: No. But they will be judged by their interactivity.
That’s the real issue here: One-way media are trying to figure out the two-way world and it’s hard, but necessary.
Steve Outing at Poynter, Taming the Comment Monster. Relevant. Also see the reactions. They’re relevant too.
Atrios gets acerbic about the Q and A:
Nothing like convening a panel to discuss how to deal with internet comments which consists of someone who doesn’t allow them, someone who doesn’t get any because nobody gives a shit what he writes, and someone who deletes them and clearly exaggerates the reasons why.
Oh, and Jane, who we of course love.
The first someone is Reynolds, the second Jarvis, and the third Brady.
Posted by Jay Rosen at January 24, 2006 6:28 PM
is the anger at Howell solely for Abramoff? or is she paying for Woodward's and Harris' sins?
Posted by: bush's jaw at January 24, 2006 07:52 PM | Permalink]
actually, Howell has made it clear that she represents just about everyone other than readers at the Post: Woodward, Harris and now, Schmidt, who originally wrote that Abramoff gave money to Democrats
and, as another wrinkle, in the Froomkin episode, so not only aligned herself quite openly with the national politics journalists at the Post, such as Harris, but also, with the print side of the operation against the web side
and, it is this sometimes subterranean struggle that Jay has appropriately emphasized, as it is frequently ignored or downplayed by people with a partisan political perspective
but, ultimately, Howell is a pawn, selected by Post management to do exactly what she is doing, just as, in her own way (and I disagree with Jay on this), Judith Miller was similarly a pawn, empowered by a NYT management that has great sympathy for neo-conservative foreign policy views
Howell makes it appears as if the Post wanted an old school type journalist, one, like Edsall, for example, that believes that the readers, such as us, should be passive, awestruck recipients of the purportedly brilliant insights served up by its staff
if so, it was a gross miscalculation, to say the least, given the blogs and the connectivity that so many of us possess, sort of like expecting Brett Easton Ellis to write like Virginia Wolff
so there is volatile mixture that is combustible at any time, the arrogance of some of the journalists who have grown up with the insularity of the old, print media world, combined with communications technology that exposes their mistakes and hard headedness, a technology that they are ill-suited to utilize themselves, with Howell being a classic case as she demonstrated with the "clarification" that she posted in her sole outing on the Web
even if some of the critics of the Post's coverage of the Abramoff scandal were politically motivated, one has to admit that they choose their terrain well, they had Howell and the Post dead to rights on the facts, and, instead of acknowledging the problem, and having it disappear within the next newscycle, a blip that would have quickly disappeared, they did the opposite, stood by their erroneous story and smeared their critics, which naturally caused many people to believe that the Post valued its ability to maintain close relationships with high ranking Republicans through the manipulation of spin than it did its compact with its readers
You know Jay (and all), the more I think about this entire episode, the more I think of it in terms of a failure of "Customer Service" by WaPo.
Has anyone else here had to deal with aggrieved customers on a regular basis? I have, in IT. And believe me, the level of aggravation (not to mention bad language etc) in the comments at WaPo are not even a drop in the bucket compared to the bucket-load I had to deal with daily!! Honestly... I really believed that the understandably aggrieved *CUSTOMERS* (ignoring the obvious trolls and laud-mouths) were trying to keep control be reasonable. WaPo don't seem to know a thing about customer service! Which, I have to admit, astounds me! So, perhaps the issue here is a breakdown in customer service. The WaPo customers expectations were not met. The customers believe that have a legitimate complaint, and the complaint has not adequately been addressed. First, the customers were ignored (always a very bad thing to do to a customer!) then, they were essentially told to go away! If I was a WaPo customer, I'd be doing a lot more than posting a few peeved comments!
The fact is, it is *NOT* WaPo who is the damaged party here. And WaPo so far have done nothing except to make things worse.
I too can understand and sympathize with Jim Brady's position, but that does not excuse the mess that WaPo created and continue to make worse.
The customers want honest answers to (what they see as) legitimate complaints, and they want the problem fixed. WaPo is a long-standing corporation. Hand wringing and crocodile tears is hardly suitable or acceptable. Either they are a professional corporation (who treats their customers in a professional manner), or they are not. If not, then perhaps they deserve to join the graveyard of corporations who failed in customer service.
I apologize if that seems harsh, but I too am simply fed up with all the finger pointing, and all the commentary about everything and anything except the issue, which simply is: customer service. This has been kicked around for two weeks now, and it's not getting any better. That's ridiculous.
I hope that in the upcoming *discussion*, this issue is addressed. It really doesn't matter now if WaPo actually did anything *wrong* in the first place, they certainly are wrong in the way they handled their customers after.
I think what matters is that the Post corrected it in various ways. Less so the issuing of a correction. I care about what is reported by the Post as fact. So when Paul Farhi writes...
"The deluge, which overwhelmed the Web site’s screening efforts, began after Howell wrote in a column published Sunday that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff 'had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties.' That is incorrect. As Howell noted on Thursday morning in a short piece on Post.blog, Abramoff did not make direct contributions to Democrats but directed his lobbying clients to do so."
That's a correction in the narrative, and there are more here but not here, I think. Along with the correctives come many other attitudes, opinions and "these people..." statements, which can be criticized on their own terms, apart from whether Correction has happened, in the heavenly sense.
My advice for correction-seekers is take the W on Jack's contributions, and move forward to other priorities you have with Brady, the Post, and its journalism. One of them might well be how do you know Abramoff directed additional monies to Democrats and where are those charts?
Paul Farhi refuted Powell on the mistaken points, and that's good enough for me. (Then Howell said flat out she had been incorrect.) But that's because I respect the Post's reporting in a general, presumptive way, aside from Howl!, despite all the problems I see. If I didn't have that base line respect, why would Farhi's refutation matter? Or a correction? In fact, only a newspaper you respect as generally capable of telling the truth can be self-correcting in your eyes.
If you don't have that respect, and yet you call for a "correction," you should, in my opinion, be prepared for a hostile reception of the type Thomas Edsall seems to have had. If I wanted to dis-credit the newspaper--I don't--I would act in an entirely different way toward the matter of correction. I think I would continue to demand something more stringent, and formal.
I would never say something like: good enough.
Just engaged in a cursory reading of the transcript, and here are some thoughts:
As much as I like Hamsher, Jay was not "filler", and he actually gave the most focused presentation. At the risk of sounding obsequious, his comments surgically focused on the big issues, and, hence, had the most damning impact.
Anyway, ami, I believe, suggested that the Post should have included a commentator on the panel, someone who actually posted a comment on the Post blog, and this would have been a good idea, because there were several issues that a commentator could have highlighted that evaded the panelists
this would be es
(1) consistent with Jay's remarks that the Post has not considered how it's journalists can learn from this experience, learn from the Internet readers themselves, the Post persists in seeing the identity of the people who posted in response to Howell's column as part of a bipolar, political world, Republicans and Democrats, but this isn't true, and hasn't been true for a long time, as I said before, I'm registered as DECLINE TO STATE, and live in a state, California, where such voters may become a plurality of all registered voter in the near future;
so, sometimes I think what I read on firedoglake and DailyKos is important (and, of course, I read a lot of other blogs as well), but, frequently, and most often, I don't, and I also frequently disagree with what I read there, so the Post should give serious thought as to why so many people responded, when they don't necessarily respond on other issues, in other words, they really need to try to understand their Internet readers, and address what is important to them, instead of sending someone on a radio talk show to describe them as part of a "fever swamp", otherwise the Post will just keep going down this road over and over again
(2) this was touched upon somewhat, but elliptically: the Post freaked out when hit with a blizzard of negative e-mails, and overreacted, getting rid of all them, and I still don't think Brady has provided a plausible explanation, but leave that to the side, the real question becomes, to what extent should the Post treat these things as the equivalent of weather events, a thunderstorm that blows through and then subsides, with relatively narrow limitations for clearly offensive speech?
after all, what is the consequence of 200, 500, 1000, 10000 people engaging in variations on the same theme? clearly, the volume reveals that there are a lot of unhappy people, but, as anyone familiar with surfing the Net knows, at some point, comment fatigue sets in, and people slowly stop posting and slowly stop reading, as they are overwhelmed with the sheer number of posts
the bottom line here is that a lot of people familiar with the more free wheeling Internet are more thickskinned than people outside of it, and, let's face it, as much as we'd like to say it ain't so, Internet comments are still perceived as possessing a kind of superficiality, they just aren't taken as seriously as various forms of hard copy communication, and the Post, ironically, actually lost the benefit of this perception by pulling all the comments, thereby giving them a degree of legitimacy that they didn't previously possess
for example, note the response of Joel Stein to the barrage of negative remarks, many of them grossly insulting if not personally threatening, to his LA Times column about his refusal to "Support the Troops"
in a Reuters article, he said, it'll probably go away in a day or so
now, there's no blog involved, I realize, but the attitude is one that understands the ephmerality of the Internet
(3) does the Post understand that Internet readers have many sources of information, both foreign and domestic, web sites of newspapers as well as blogs? for example, in this instance, a number of people were able to independently research the question of Abramoff and his contributions over the Internet, and refuted the claims made by Howell and Schmidt
yet Howell, Kurtz and even Brady, in his Hewitt performance, kept putting out the same discredited line, acting as if Internet access to government records doesn't exist
they also seem to be unaware that much of the dissatisfaction with papers such as the NYT and the Post is associated with the fact that I can also read publications like the Manchester Guardian, the London Times, Asis Times Online, etc.
so far, I see little indication that the journalists at papers like the Post and the NYT are aware of it, yet it has tremendous implications for the public perception of what they do, because their credibility has also been seriously eroded by alternatives accessible via the Internet
for example, if I can read a veteran journalist like Patrick Cockburn describe conditions in Iraq (which I couldn't do 10 years ago), what I am going to think when the NYT reporter who appears to spend much of their time at Occupation Authority press conferences, tells me something very different, and, ultimately, implausible?
these are some things that the Post might consider when attempting to draw some lessons from this affair.
Jim, I'll make it simple. You cut Paul Lukasiak's comments and Richard Estes' comment from the website and they were not returned. Please explain to me how any of these qualify as the "hate speech" you complain about when you continue to denigrate all the participants in this affair:
Willis wrote: "But contrary to what some commenters have said here, Abramoff did direct donations to Democratic candidates and committees. Our reporters have documents showing this to be the case, and I have asked that we post at least some of them so that readers can see for themselves."
That was two hours ago. Now, it takes me about ten minutes to scan a document, and upload it to my own website, and post a URL -- and that's because I'm not very good at all this "internets" stuff.
Willis claims that there are documents in which Jack Abramoff directs his clients to give to Democrats. One assumes that these include signed letters or memos from Abramoff to his clients, or emails directly from Abramoff to his clients --- and one assumes that if such documents actually existed, the Post would have written about them as part of what Deborah Howell described as Susan Schmidt's "explosive" investigative work on the Abramoff scandal.....
But to date, all the Post (and Willis) have ever come up with are these facts
1. Native Americans tribes give money to both parties
2. Some Native American tribes were represented by a firm that Abramoff worked for
3. Some of these tribes gave money to some Democrats -- but since Abramoff has been around, they aren't giving Democrats as much
So, Willis, where are your "documents"? Its been two hours plus -- ten times as long as it would take for you to scan and post the "Abramoff memo" you need to show us that you aren't lying through your teeth....
Posted by: paul lukasiak | Jan 17, 2006 10:31:19 AM | Permalink
well, its now three hours and counting since Willis claimed that "Abramoff did direct donations to Democratic candidates and committees. Our reporters have documents showing this to be the case" and also claimed that he was going to get those documents posted...
but instead of posting these "explosive" documents, the Post deletes Willis's claim....
Posted by: paul lukasiak | Jan 17, 2006 11:29:24 AM | Permalink
Howard Kurtz has a hilarious water carrying defense of Schmidt and Howell, with the pertinent excerpt posted after at Romenesko:
Fort Washington, Md.: Reporter Sue Schmidt and ombudsman Deborah Howell have both asserted repeatedly that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. The FEC shows no record of any Democrat getting any money from Abramoff, period. Some Indian tribes who were among Abramoff's victims contributed funds to some Democrats, but suggesting that that somehow is a donation from Abramoff defies logic. How does the Post justify passing on what appears to be nothing but GOP spin as fact?
Howard Kurtz: Howell's column Sunday said that a number of Democrats "have gotten Abramoff campaign money." That was inartfully worded. I believe what she was trying to say, and I have not discussed this with her, is that some Democrats have received campaign cash from Abramoff clients, and that this may have been orchestrated by the convicted lobbyist. That's why you have a number of Democrats (as well as many Republicans, now including Denny Hastert) giving back the tainted dough or donating it to charity. Even National Review Editor Rich Lowry says this is basically a Republican scandal -- we are talking about a Bush fundraiser and Tom DeLay pal -- but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too.
Posted at 12:50:56 PM
So, the bullsh-t continues. Here's Kurtz saying, Democrats received money from tribes through Abramoff, which "may have been orchestrated by the convicted lobbyist." Note, Kurtz completely glosses over the inconvenient fact that these same tribes were among Abramoff's victims. After all, it is critical, as Howard was advised in the White House talking points e-mail not to "get off message". By the end of the remark, he concludes, "but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too."
So, in the absence of any proof that Abramoff was channeling tribal funds to Democrats, "the tangled web has been extended to Democrats"???
Good work, Howard. Have your received Karl's appreciative e-mail yet?
As for Howell, reliable sources in the newsroom state that she will be reporting that WMDs have, in fact, been discovered in Iraq, and that Iran successfully conducted a nuclear weapons test over the Christmas holiday.
Posted by: Richard Estes | Jan 17, 2006 1:43:58 PM | Permalink
The heart of the matter is not that we want to nail you to some cross for not coming clean about what happened -- it is because you continue to obscure the legitimate, civil points of most of the complaints by mis-characterizing them as "hate speech."
And to the extent you insist on justifying this mischaracterization based ignoring comments like those above and relying on proof you will not produce, then yes, the skepticism -- and the inquiry -- will continue.
[Hewitt said "fever swamps," not Brady. not the Post.
Don't tell me, you expect Brady to argue with Hewitt on that characterization?]
Certainly not, not when you are having a lovefest.
[HH: Jim Brady, who do you think these people are? Because I run into them in this business, but we have a six second delay, goodness knows why. Who do you think they are? Why are they so fundamentally unhappy?
JB: Well, I mean in this case, there was very much a concerted effort to...when Deborah wrote her column on Sunday, a lot of the bloggers on the left side of the spectrum really...they got together and they said let's go to the Post blog and tell them how unhappy we are with this column.
HH: Was there an epicenter of that effort?
JB: It looked like it was in a bunch of different blogs. I mean, it certainly was getting a lot of attention on Atrios and Daily Kos, and some other places.
HH: Well, you've just named the two central islands in the fever swamps. So I'm not surprised. When you write on...in your online edition today, I think it goes to basic human decency. Are you saying protecting Deborah Howell? Or are you saying...I hope you're saying both, you're protecting your readers from it as well?
JB: Yeah, and we've been clear about that, that we're not going to tolerate anybody being called these names, whether they're employees of the Washington Post or other commentors. And this was more directed at Deborah than it was at other commentors. But that was certainly part of the equation, and it's just...you know, as I said in the discussion, if you can't make your point without calling people some of the names they were being called, then you don't have a point in my opinion.]
Brady lead Hewitt into the comment, and then let it go without rebuttal. Maybe, he's skilled at that sort of thing.
Indeed, he hypocritically allowed Hewitt to call the commenters on the Post blog "names" and then proceeded to condemn people for engaging in similar behaviour with Howell.
One rule for them, another for us.
Accordingly, the questions are legitimate: Does Brady believe what he and Hewitt said during the course of the interview, and, if so, why should expect the numerous people who commented sharply, but non-offensively, to patronize the Post if he does?
Like I've said, strikes me as a suicidal business strategy, but, then, I've never owned a newspaper.
Jane's comment about the "ground rules" for the roundtable today is interesting, too, as it appears that the only person that Brady felt compelled to respond about Howell's reporting was Hewitt, a sympathetic ear for recycling all the false information that Schmidt, Howell and Kurtz had been putting out about Abramoff.
“In an age where there's less control, I think that such informal measures matter more, not less.” -- Glenn Reynolds.
Thought the discussion of “entitlement” was very important. Personal responsibility and self-restraint in general may be “coming back in style” (not fast enough), mostly due to peer pressure, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I thought your comment, Jay, about the tone set by the blog’s author is correct (if that’s what you meant, as opposed to the “tone” of the original Wapo-Howell mistake starting the whole thing).
The concepts in the “what constitutes journalism” responses by Jeff Jarvis and Glenn Reynolds is reflected daily in their blog posts and links. I include them in my daily reads because I like finding new sources of information and apparently they’re always looking. To me, they appear open-minded, not necessarily politically, but in terms of the ability to be persuaded by experience or fact. That’s not to say I couldn’t tell, for example, how they’d most likely vote in a presidential election but as an interested reader I can move past that with them to the information they’re giving and feel like it’s time well spent.
Your comments, Jay, came across to me as I think of you and one of the reasons I also include you in my daily reads. You have a theoretically-oriented POV, deep understanding of “press theory” and history and how that relates to press behavior. You’re trying to help set up new and adapted processes and methods for the “press,” or whatever “it” will be called, to provide the function of informing us citizens as near “The Truth” about stuff as you can. I especially liked your comment about comments/feedback, “Not only is it a "useful tool," but I think eventually that kind of feedback will make possible a higher level of accuracy.” I do think that the “echo chamber” remark by Jeff Jarvis, however, is a little evident here. But that’s just my opinion!
And Jane Hamsher, I’m sorry, because I’m certainly not calling her stupid, but if there was ever a situation that depicts General Honore’s “stuck on stupid” it is this. Her questions support that. Someone said she was “Staying on topic….,” ?? I thought the topic was ethics and interactivity? Good grief, objective people could name a dozen similar or much worse press errors that not only did not get the obnoxious responses, but also didn’t get "their own live blog.” Enough already.
My opinion didn’t change of Jim Brady. I thought he sounded like a reasonable man in the Froomkin dustup and again, here. Frankly, he gives me faith that maybe there are calm, reasonable, relatively non-agenda-driven (at least not necessarily a “dishonest” agenda) professionals running the news or press rooms. Plus he chose 3 out of 4 people whose blogs are ones I read every day so he must have damn good judgement! (that’s a joke BTW)
Brady write above:
If I wanted to evade questions, then why exactly would I do two live discussions, go on Hugh Hewitt and Air America, do 10-20 press interviews and make a TV appearance to discuss this? The truth is, you just don't like the answers. Again, that's not the same as evading questions.
Let's see - Brady runs around to every possible media outlet proclaiming that the Post was attacked by "hundreds" of posts that were profane, obscene, and "hate speech." In fact, in his interview with Editor and Publisher, he said there were "150-200" of these posts - yet in the intro description for today's "chat," the Post said there were "several" of these comments.
It sure looks like Brady is very good at spin control and attack publicity but not very good at simple factual reporting - how many were deleted, if you don't have a total, what precisely were your criteria for deletions - and why were some comments with "obscenities" included in the restored posts while the ones Jane is referencing, which do not include hate speech or profanity, permanently deleted?
If Brady actually cared about responding to his readers and to supporting "transparency" as he claims, he would answer those questions and the following:
Why has the Post refused to post and link an actual correction to the original Howell column? At minimum, including a link at the 1/15 Howell to the 1/22 Howell would be a decent, ethical step.
Simply because Howell runs around to his media buddies complaining about us riffraff does not make him a hero of accountability - instead it makes him PR flack for his corporate brand after his decision to close and delete posts started getting some notice.
and I write that as a proud PR flackette - very effective damage control, Jim - but mighty dreadful journalism.
[I'm afraid I'm not on board with the great Brady comment deletion cover-up investigation, and the charges that derive from it. Others see far more merit there than I do. My guess is after his media and online blitz Brady isn't going to address you anymore because you clearly don't believe him, so the case is "in" and awaits your full prosecution.]
I generally agree, there is a bit of the old "missing the forest for the trees" aspect to this situation, and it actually serves the purposes of the old guard at the Post to get engrossed in such a dialogue, as it allows some of the fundamental issues related to Schmidt's and Howell's journalism and how the Post perceives its readers, and how it intends to deal with them in the future, to recede into the background.
Obviously, I don't find Brady very credible, but I also see little traction in continuing to emphasize the issue as to how the Post operates its website.
I also think that the Post has learned the wrong lesson (blame the readers), and we will, unfortunately, be revisiting this problem in the near future.
Brady can open up the paper through the web, but he can't avoid the fact that the Post retains some recalcitrant reporters, reporters who practice a form of access journalism that is increasingly repellent to a lot of its readers.
This is the combustible mix that will probably explode again sometime soon.
[But the charge that he wanted to kill criticism of the Post was misguided from the start, in my view.]
I think Brady panicked when the old guard dinosaurs at the Post got upset because, by their standards, they believed that the blog was out of control.
I also think that he initially pandered to upper managment in a really embarrassing way, such as when he participated in that terrible interview with Hewitt, and that, not surprisingly, is, in my opinion, the biggest albatross that he has to overcome, and that's why I am still very mistrustful of him.
But, realistically, we are at the 'one day at a time' stage, as in watch what he and the Post does, and take it, "one day at a time"
Jay: With your narcissism comment and some of what you wrote above, are you arguing that Brady is "on our side" or has done what he's done in good faith?... am interested in a clearer understanding of where you come down on this
Brady is not on your side where "side" means the political struggle in which you are engaged. You should realize that, and never forget it.
Of course, I didn't say he was on your side, or imply it. I said he was on the side of the angels in the sense of wanting a Washington Post that is more two-way, more interactive, more open to what the Web is making possible, and more open to participants outside the usual "Washington conversation." That's my conclusion based on everything I have observed him doing at washingtonpost.com.
In my previous post I wrote: "About transparency and the need for the Post to engage with critics, you’re not going to find anyone in the national press who gets it more than Jim Brady does." And, yes, he is acting in good faith, but that does not mean without error.
I know it was just filler (because it involved what I said in the Q and A) but Brady did agree that "civility" was the wrong thing for him to demand. Which means incivility was the wrong charge for him to make. This was one of the things people had jeered at him for (underlining the left's incivility while Howell stood by her untruths) but here he abandons it and you don't even notice. I did, and to me that's a sign (though certainly not "proof") of someone acting in reasonably good faith.
He's not on your side; but he's more open to having you and yours (Jane) in the conversation than any other "executive editor" around. By fixing on discrepancies in his explanations, inconsistent details in his statements and other slights capable of instant rhetorical inflation (of which "shilling for the GOP" can stand as example) you are engaging in the narcissism of small differences.
As Dan Glover wrote at Blogometer: "For the interested liberal bloggers, much of the focus has moved away from Howell toward the removed comments." Brady has been slammed because Brady is talking to you about his decision, and yet not on your side or inside your narrative.
In my opinion, responding that way isn't wise, it isn't fair, it isn't effective, it isn't far-sighted, it certainly isn't progressive, but it is expressive and it is the online left.
It's likely they'll come for me too, eventually. Or next week.
[As Dan Glover wrote at Blogometer: "For the interested liberal bloggers, much of the focus has moved away from Howell toward the removed comments." Brady has been slammed because Brady is talking to you about his decision, and yet not on your side or inside your narrative.
In my opinion, responding that way isn't wise, it isn't fair, it isn't effective, it isn't far-sighted, it certainly isn't progressive, but it is expressive and it is the online left.
It's likely they'll come for me too, eventually. Or next week.]
at the risk of instigating a flame war, I don't think this is accurate
I personally think it is online liberals who have a greater degree of confidence in the American political system, as opposed to the online left, which includes me when I periodically post over at Joe Wezorek's American Leftist and, for example, defend Joel Stein about his published refusal to "Support the Troops"
(and, note, that, in this case, where we actually had some significant responses on a highly contentious subject, everyone was actually pretty "civil")
[You know, a lot of these conflicts come down to the fact that I am not a radical.
I'm more interested than a radical would be in the "messy" practical problems of professionals who are learning how to:
* establish their authority in general matters of first-wave fact-gathering;
* and b.) interact with a live, inter-connected and intelligent public]
actually, I again think this is wrong
this is a radical subject, as demonstrated, I think, by the fact that I, as someone who openly identifies with the left as opposed to liberalism, indirectly touched upon some similar themes in my immediate responses to the Post roundtable here earlier, as well as her
I certainly engaged in more than my share of attacks upon the Post's credibility, some of them quite snarky, but it is essential that the issue be placed in a larger context, and the Internet, rather strangely, and rather consistently, seems to drive people in the opposite direction, into the "narcissism of small differences", as I have observed, and (confession) participated in myself, for many years
with Brady, it is a challenging proposition, as I don't find him very personally credibile as a result pulling all those comments, and that horrible Hewitt appearance, but, he does serve the purpose of everyone who wants to see a more accountable media when he pushes for a more open, interactive, responsive Internet presence for the Post
but, he only gets one bite at the apple
if the Post pulls down comments like that again, he's done
and the refusal of the old guard at the Post to deal with its errroneous coverage of the Ambramoff scandal is just going to fester until the next eruption of discontent, which will probably be just as legitimate as it was in this instance
finally, can't resist a reference to an old Talking Heads song, which is often applicable to myself and others who post in places like here:
"Say something once, why say it again."
usually, by the time I remember it, it's too late
Jay, you quote Dan Glover with, presumably, agreement. But you and he both seem to miss the point of his following paragraph:
Among the highest-traffic liberal blogs, it's hard to find someone who doesn't have comments: the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and Crooks and Liars do, Huffington Post does and Tapped just added them. Talking Points Memo does not, although its sister site TPMCafe does. Most of the A-list conservative blogs do not -- Instapundit, Power Line and Michelle Malkin do not, but then Captain's Quarters, RedState and PoliPundit all do. They all have active boards does, albeit not at the level of Eschaton or Little Green Footballs, 2 of the biggest on the left and right, respectively.
Move down into the mid-tier and lower- trafficked blogs on both sides of the political divide, and nearly everyone has comments -- comments are a scarcer commodity, and certainly less of a hassle.
That cracks me up. Gosh. Why on earth would high traffic conservative blogs not allow comments, when high traffic liberal blogs do? I know! Let's invent a philosophical difference that explains it. And then he undercuts his observation without apparently even realizing it--the supposed philosophical difference evaporates further down the ranking.
New media types always want philosophical, personality-driven explanations and determinedly ignore the incentives that point to a much simpler cause.
The top conservatives blogs generate traffic through readers. The top liberal blogs generate traffic through comments.
That's the only reason liberal bloggers in the top ranks "allow" comments. Without the comments, they'd have a lot less traffic to report. Daily Kos is his comments--his site is much more a forum or discussion board than blog. The rest of the top liberal bloggers are relying on their comment traffic to keep their numbers up in the top echelon. Likewise, Little Green Footballs is not subscribing to the "open" community driven liberal view--he, like the liberal bloggers, just wants the traffic.
Move further down the blogosphere and both right and left bloggers want traffic, so they allow comments.
If a liberal blogger ever gets sufficient traffic to end the hassle of comments, he or she will do so. In fact, if you consider Sullivan mildly left of center, it's already happened.
You must know that. It's hardly rocket science. So why are so many people determined to find some overarching philosophy behind it?
"Totally unreliable assumption. I thought it was worth reading-- that's it. One of the reasons was the possibility of its triggering a response like yours."
Well, then, Pavlov (woof!), do you acknowledge that there's a link between the decision to allow comments and the desire for traffic?
Available evidence suggests that bloggers allow comments to increase traffic stats (misleadingly, I might add). While some bloggers allow comments out of a sincere desire to engage in a conversation with no regard for traffic, they all have readerships that are either highly specialized and well-behaved or small enough that management is minimal.
Both you and Jeff make a direct connection between commenters and the larger audience. (Jeff: "they should take advantage of -- that is, enable and share -- the wisdom of their crowds". You: " I think we should start debating not the user's right to speak through comments, but the journalist's right to hear, and discern what users of their work are saying.")
As I said last time, the research on lurker to commenter ratio consistently demonstrates an enormous gap, usually 10:1 or better.
There's been a fair amount of research demonstrating that commenters, like those who write letters to the editors, are very different from the larger community of readers.
Start with the premise that the decision to allow comments is a function of management time vs. desire for traffic. Add in the strong evidence supporting the contention that commenters are not a significant or representative slice of the readership.
If (a big if, I know) you start from these premises, would it alter your view on the definitive value of allowing commenters?
Comments are one method of generating and encouraging debate in the greater online community. They aren't necessarily the best way, and they certainly aren't the only way. They are also extremely expensive, and it's well worth wondering if any high traffic site should enable comments and bear the resulting costs when their larger readership has no interest in the entire activity.
Jay, just out of curiosity, who exactly is "the online left?"
It's my own shorthand, not a analytical term, and it simply means what you see happening, talked about, and getting big play at the major blogs and online sites: Daily Kos, Atrios, firedoglake, Crooks & Liars, AmeriBlog, Think Progress, Huffington Post, My DD, The Next Hurrah, Talking Points Memo being some of them.
Cal: No Pavlovian intent. Much simpler: at PressThink, a link is not an endorsement. Period. A link means: "check this out, you may find it interesting." Or it means: "if you're following this as closely as I am, then go here." Or: "For a rounder view, try..."
I don't know where you are getting your paraphrase of what I think about the comments issue, but it isn't right. Since I don't side with the Hatfields I must agree with the McCoys is, in general, a bad rule of thumb.
In fact, I haven't said anything about the the "definitive value" of allowing comments. (I am interested in the potential use of them, however.) I haven't criticized the sites that don't have comments. Nor have I come up with any theories for why the top left sites have comments and most of the top rights don't.
As most could tell who read the transcript, I was a little skeptical of Glenn's claim that the reason he doesn't have comments is that the media will atttribute to him what some nutty poster says in the comments. However, I don't see how Glenn could have comments without someone to moderate the action, and that costs money. And as you said, he doesn't need them to have a powerful and influential blog.
I see the comment feature largely as you do, "one method of generating and encouraging debate in the greater online community. They aren't necessarily the best way, and they certainly aren't the only way."
It may well be true that lots of bloggers like having comments because they increase traffic. However, I don't see how the traffic numbers generated by users who are frequenting threads would translate into the linking patterns that put Kos, Huff, Crooks, Atrios, etc in the Technorati Top 100.
Finally, I'm not sure why comments skeptics may such a big deal out of the one-in-ten ratios. Who ever claimed that commenters were some stastically valid cross-section of the larger lurking readership? I haven't, and I wouldn't. The relevant comparison is not what the comments say vs. what the total user base would say if asked; rather, it's what I suggested in the Post chat. Prior to the Net, five letters and two phone calls was a "big" response to a work of journalism.
There's always the chance that journalists who get more responses will become more responsive.
[I'm not sure your choice of language is any more precise, Richared Estes.
Most of my liberal friends don't give a fig about Chris Matthews comparing Bin Laden's speech to Michael Moore's talking points.
So there must be yet a better way to name the group that is taking the actions mentioned by Jay.
Posted by: MayBee at January 28, 2006 01:28 AM | Permalink]
Well, this is certainly true. Perhaps, the term "online left" is about as meaningful as the term, "weapons of mass destruction", i.e. either meaningless or subjective, in the eyes of the beholder.
I'm not familiar with all of the blogs that Jay mentioned, but I doubt, if the ones that I do know are any indication, that any of them really are "left", although DailyKos has a number of people who post there who have left leanings.
For me, "left" as understood globally, is defined by two primary characteristics, anti-imperialism and anti-neoliberalism. Accordingly, the online universe cited by Jay satisfies neither of these criteria.
By contrast, Jay seems to arrive at his definition through a vague application of liberal activist political sentiments and the volume of traffic associated with the sites.
His definition also seems to subconsciously integrate the right wing's attempt to characterize liberalism as "left" , which they do to try to delegitimize it, while I object before I consider an incorrect reading of social history.
Anyway, I think that I will stop trying to substitute for William Safire. The point, I think, has been made.
As for village idiot, as to my reduced number of posts, they are slowly declining, and there are a couple of reasons (although I do stop by and post daily, still): (1) I think that Post story, the Schmidt/Howell/Brady saga is on its last legs, until the next inevitable explosion; and (2) I have been busy posting as a co-blogger over at American Leftist, most recently about Katrina/New Orleans and The Power of Nightmares
finally, for those who think that Jay is too soft on the Post, read his dissection of Jim Vander Hei posted above
[Haven't heard from Jason and Richard in a bit, and I had been wondering what is up? This is what is up, and I am sure they are busy at LGF or someplace making a case for 'embedding troops in newsrooms':-):
L.A. Times writer defends incendiary Iraq column
24 Jan 2006 23:49:59 GMT
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES, Jan 24 (Reuters) - A Los Angeles Times columnist who infuriated conservatives by writing that he does not support American troops fighting in Iraq -- and calling those who do "wusses" -- stood by the article on Tuesday. ....
Posted by: village idiot at January 28, 2006 01:01 PM | Permalink
"I haven't, and I wouldn't. The relevant comparison is not what the comments say vs. what the total user base would say if asked; rather, it's what I suggested in the Post chat. "
Your comment: "the journalist's right to hear, and discern what users of their work are saying."
I understood "users of their work" to be the entire readership, not just those who bother to write back. Sorry if I misunderstood.
However, it's not a relevant comparison. In the old days, people wrote letters to the editor on their own dime and the choice to publish was entirely up to the newspaper. In a comments section, the "letters" are written on the publication's dime. So it's extremely relevant to decide whether this additional cost is incurred on behalf of a large proportion of its readers, or to represent views that reflect those of the larger readership.
Suppose as a result of this hooha, Brady decides not to expand its blog section due to the increased costs of monitoring the comments section. Instead of adding 12 new blogs, he decides to add a staffer to monitor blog comments.
Is he serving his wider reader community, or the small percentage who want to write on his site? The wider reader community might trade the opportunity to read comments for the opportunity to read Post writer blogs. Is it then relevant to "compare" the preferences of the 1 to the 10?
"Who ever claimed that commenters were some stastically valid cross-section of the larger lurking readership?"--Pretty much everyone in the debate, it seems to me.
"There's always the chance that journalists who get more responses will become more responsive."
Do we want journalists to be "more responsive"? Should they commit journalism after carefully listening to the readers to decide what they should say? That would be worrisome enough if the reader response were an accurate sample of the community.
I know you aren't in favor of journalism by vote, so why suggest that more responses should, ideally, lead to more responsiveness?
Glenn Reynolds identified the other problem with becoming more responsive: " I think that the real danger to bloggers comes from the commenters with whom they agree." Or, for that matter, be deluged with angry emails when the majority of his readership isn't bothered at all.
On your Technorati observation: Of course. Influence and traffic are entirely different. Many top traffic blogs have no influence, and vice versa. But ads pay on traffic, for the most part. Besides, if you have more traffic, you're higher on the traffic rankings, and get more attention--which may lead to more influence.
I wish I had checked in here a few days ago. I realize I'm showing up just in time to notice your segue into Postman. But I was busy writing this, and then I was busy sleeping.
Jay, I generally enjoy what you write, and I think what you said in the WaPo panel was astute. But I'm perplexed at your willingness to give Brady a pass.
"The shift to trying to prove Brady a liar was a mistake, in my opinion."
In my opinion, it's not a question of trying to prove that Brady's a liar. It's a question of noticing that there are many substantive problems with his narrative. I think those problems are inescapably obvious to anyone who takes a close look.
I think you and I can imagine all sorts of reasons why it would be a good thing for Brady to be successful. I don't see how he can do that if he lacks credibility. And I don't see how he can have credibility if the serious problems with his narrative are not addressed, one way or another.
"the charge that he wanted to kill criticism of the Post was misguided from the start, in my view"
I think it's a good idea to try to avoid speculating about someone's motives. Trouble is, Brady's statements don't add up, in very material ways. In the absence of plausible clarification, speculation about sinister motivations becomes hard to avoid.
"Others see far more merit there than I do"
Needless to say, I certainly don't expect you to write 10,000 words on the subject (like I did, and that's only counting my most recent article, and not the three that preceded it). But it would be enormously helpful (and I think I'm not alone in feeling this way) if you could offer some explanation for why you're inclined to look away from the gaping holes in the story Brady has told.
I'm not even clear where you stand among the following perspectives:
1) There are no holes in his story.
2) There are holes, but they're small and therefore should be ignored.
3) There are big holes, but we should be willing to look the other way because generally speaking he's on "the side of the angels."
(Of course I realize maybe your perspective isn't reflected on this list, somehow.)
Here's where I stand: there are big holes, and ultimately no one benefits (not even Brady) if they're swept under the rug.