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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.

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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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May 13, 2006

"Nice and Collegial and Relaxed:" Four Scenes From Tony Snow's First Meet with the Press

We're discussing them in the comments. What do you think is going on?

First, the Associated Press Report:

Snow has been on the job since Monday, but was waiting to hold his first televised briefing—taking advantage of a week when Bush was on the road most days—to practice and begin educating himself on a dizzying array of policy positions.

On Friday, he scheduled his first informal back-and-forth with the press, an informal, off-camera session called the “gaggle” which White House press secretaries typically hold in the mornings as a sort of warmup for The Big Dance _ the formal White House daily news briefing.

Snow had announced that he was moving the gaggle to his West Wing office from the theater-like White House briefing room, in hopes of making it more of a casual, intimate conversation.

But it got under way several minutes early. And though the press secretary’s quarters are among the more spacious in the West Wing, the room quickly filled to overflowing _ so that many reporters were stranded, unable to hear or ask questions, in the hallway outside.

From Tony Snow’s First Press Gaggle, May 12, 2006

Full Transcript

Scene One…

QUESTION: I noticed this week a more aggressive use of the “Setting the Record Straight” technique. It’s a device that has existed in the past. Is it just more was needed this week, or is there a change in attitude?

TONY SNOW: No, there’s not a change in attitude. What we’re going to do with “Setting the Record Straight” — and, by the way, after consulting with some of our colleagues in here, what we’ll do is we will also let you know in advance when we’re going to put one out, especially if it has to do with things that you’ve written or done is one of these things, and try to make it strictly factual.

So in any event, this is a practice that I think has been ramping up in previous weeks and suddenly it’s like, “Snow is here, this must be a change.” It’s not really a change; it’s a continuation of something that the Press Office has been doing. But I want to do this in a genial and collegial manner.

QUESTION: How are you going to make this administration more credible?

TONY SNOW: I’m not going to answer questions about credibility, other than to say that I’m eager to be here and I’m happy to be working with you.

QUESTION: Are you ever going to — always going to tell the truth?


Scene Two…

QUESTION: Different subject. Four lawmakers, senior lawmakers say that they sent a letter to President Bush on Russian WTO negotiations — opposing, basically, Russia’s entry. Are you aware of that?

TONY SNOW: No, and I will apologize as the new kid on the block. I am certainly not going to get myself into — for today, I’m not going to handle international issues or currency issues. I do not wish to set off global tempests — (laughter) — because I, frankly, just don’t know enough on those. I will be happy to get back to you.

As a matter of fact for gaggle purposes, if somebody can take notes on some of these things, I’ll try to get back to you on it. But I just don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: I’d like — this was 9:00 a.m., then it was pushed back to 9:30 a.m., and then I walk in at 9:20 a.m., and it’s already well underway.

QUESTION: Do not do that again.

QUESTION: This isn’t good.

TONY SNOW: Well, this is — it’s my fault. And it had to do with vagaries of the schedule today, and I apologize, period.

QUESTION: Because we’ve missed half of it. This is the first one you’re doing, and I just feel like —

TONY SNOW: Well, I apologize. That’s just flat my fault.

QUESTION: Can everybody get a gaggle — can everyone get a gaggle emailed to them?

QUESTION: Can we get a transcript?

TONY SNOW: Yes. And what we will try to do, I will make this a lot more predictable and regular, you’ve got to give me a little forbearance.

QUESTION: I was here, sitting out here in the hallway. I can’t even hear any of this conversation.

TONY SNOW: Okay, well, I’ll tell you what we will do then is we will move it back into the Briefing Room. I had this wonderful idea that this would be nice and collegial and relaxed, but it obviously at this point is just a mess. (Laughter.) So rather than doing that, we will go back to gaggling in the Briefing Room, and then as numbers dwindle, we may think of bringing it back here.

Scene Three…

QUESTION: Since it’s your maiden voyage, tell us, do you have direct access with the President every day? I mean, have you made some certain rules for yourself?

TONY SNOW: Well, I think the President makes the rules, but, yes, I’ve been granted access. My predecessors all had what was called “walk-in” access. But I have access to the President, yes.

QUESTION: What about the briefings — you’re talking about the gaggle — what about the briefings? We’re hearing a whole bunch of different things about the briefings. Are the briefings—

TONY SNOW: Okay, thank you for that. The question is, are we going to stop televising briefings and all that. I haven’t made any decisions. The briefings will continue as they have in the past. If there are any changes made in the briefings, I will do that in full consultation with you guys. I’m not going to wave a wand and change things. I have a feeling the televised briefings are not something that you can undo.

But, look, I want to make this office as effective as possible getting information to you. We’ll find out the best ways of doing that. But rumors of the televised briefings demise are greatly exaggerated.

Scene Four…

QUESTION: Tony, what has the White House — what’s the White House position on this report that the Justice Department investigation into the NSA program was blocked because people couldn’t get security clearance? Was that —

TONY SNOW: Dana, I’m going to toss that to you, because you’ve got a better brief on that. You don’t mind if I do that, do you?

MS. PERINO: That’s fine. The Justice Department has spoken to their office of professional responsibility. I think that they put out a statement I think last night, or on Tuesday night, when it was first reported back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PERINO: Excuse me?

QUESTION: We can’t hear any of the discussion.

TONY SNOW: I’ll tell you what, I’ll speak up. You’ll forgive me, but I’ll just — I will do the talking points on this because, again, as the new kid on the block, I’m not fully briefed into everything, but here it is.

“The Justice Department has, in fact, spoken about the issue. Only those involved in national security with specific need-to-know are given details about the classified program. That includes several more members of Congress on the intelligence committees. The TSB has been subject to extensive oversight. The review includes a scrutiny of the NSA inspector general, who, unlike the office at the Department of Justice, is specifically charged with overseeing the lawfulness of employee actions.”

I hate to read from a sheet of paper, but that’s —

QUESTION: Is there some effort to say — this is highly unusual, that these people wouldn’t be granted security clearance —

TONY SNOW: I’m not going to — as a lawyer, I’m not going to argue with legal experts.

MS. PERINO: There’s a very limited number of people who are fully briefed on that program.

QUESTION: We’re not asking you — isn’t it peculiar that Justice Department lawyers cannot get security clearance to look into the NSA?

TONY SNOW: Honestly, I can’t answer the question.


TONY SNOW: Because I don’t know enough about it.

QUESTION: Can you find out?

TONY SNOW: Yes, I can find out.

Posted by Jay Rosen at May 13, 2006 1:00 AM   Print


Me, I'm flabbergasted that he thought he could move the Gaggle to his office, and that it would be nice and collegial and relaxed if he did.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 13, 2006 1:38 AM | Permalink

"New kid on the block" and "I don't know but I'll find out" seem fine for an initial dry run, but can't last. More significant are the obfuscating talking points and the "Setting the Record Straight" responses which spread confusion. He seems like a charmer who has the ability to befuddle people for a while -- a page out of the Ronald Reagan play book. However, as with Reagan, facts never amount to much more than weapons at hand, while stories and anecdotes had long term impact. "You guys don't have the facs right; here's the compelling story," may become the MO.

Posted by: wflicker at May 13, 2006 2:19 AM | Permalink

He strikes me as a much, much smarter, more articulate and charming man who, so far, still has basically the same job description as McClellan. I get the impression that the same staff are probably still writing talking points in pretty much the same obfuscatory, noncommunicational language. He is vastly more professional and less gratuitously insulting. I'll believe he's bringing something else when I see it.

The expanded "Setting the Record Straight" operation does bring militant Fox/GOP committee conservatism to the White House press operation. It seems that the White House "correction" of ideological deviation on the part of the press and broadcast media now becomes part of the object of press coverage in a gray area somewhere between e-mails to reporters/news organizations and official press releases. This is a relatively innovative tactic, the consequences and stakes of which I'm not sure I quite understand yet.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 13, 2006 2:35 AM | Permalink

Jaw writes:

"The NY Times is hardly the problem; if in the eyes of its readers, it loses credibility, they will stop reading it, and it will soon perish."

Jaw, I hardly think you are that naive,- John Moore.

Moore, this is the ultimate in incompetent paraphrasing. That should be village idiot that you need to address.

Posted by: jaw at May 13, 2006 2:42 AM | Permalink

A newspaper is complex business, and to say that it sinks or swims on its credibility, especially in this age where most metropolitan dailies have virtually no competition, is ridiculous. The NYT has local competition, but not in the niche of "serious news."
That would be the last age Moore, where there was a circulation monopoly for local readership. In the Internet age, everybody is the the NYTimes's competition, other newspapers, TV networks, cable networks, blogs.

Posted by: jaw at May 13, 2006 2:50 AM | Permalink

Mark, Snow probably is smarter than McClellan, but I'm not sure that's an advantage; it can lead one down the path of temptation. On the insult front, it's early days yet. I've not seen his show, but from reading the transcripts I get the impression he has a pretty well developed snark module, and I don't know that he'll hold up any better when, or if, he starts getting beat on.

Jay, I can understand how moving the gaggle would have seemed a good idea in terms of changing the turf dynamics, but on the logistical front I can't imagine why he wouldn't think his first gaggle would draw a full house.

Posted by: weldon berger at May 13, 2006 4:54 AM | Permalink

Meta-commenting note (with tags showing):

When blockquoting, italicizing, or other formating of multiple paragraphs use consecutive breaks ... <br /><br /> ... to separate paragraphs.

Do not use line breaks and/or paragraph tags ... <p>

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 13, 2006 9:05 AM | Permalink

wflicker: "You guys don't have the fac[t]s right; here's the compelling story," may become the MO.

"Nobody heard what you said." Lesley Stahl's Fable About Reagan and the Press.

Where's Our Fox News?

Washington Post columnist Richard Morin (via Political Wire) reported this week on a recent study by a couple of economists that found that watching Fox News may have palpable effects on one's voting patterns -- an effect that in the macro may have helped change the results of at least one close election.
Jay Rosen:
This is the sandbox, this is the playground. This is patty-cake with factoids. (And the 15 percent, as well as the 5, are factoids.)
Too Little, Too Late:
Yet, even as conservative foundations were pouring tens of millions of dollars into building hard-edged conservative media outlets, liberal foundations kept repeating the refrain: “We don’t do media.” One key liberal foundation explicitly forbade even submitting funding requests that related to media projects.

What I saw on the Left during this pivotal period was an ostrich-like avoidance of the growing threat from the Right’s rapidly developing news media infrastructure.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 13, 2006 10:27 AM | Permalink

John Moore from the previous thread:

Polls show that media credibility is way below Bush's approval rating. Is the Grey Lady dead yet?

The media and the Grey Lady must be the same thing in your mind, then. That is probably how they teach set theory at Liberty University. For someone who claimed to be an expert at 'pulsing blackboxes', we have to assume that you are being intentionally sly there. With such clever wordplays and logic, no wonder red america was calling your talk show in droves.

So, you might ask yourself why the liberal/left/whatever world cannot field a successful national talk radio show, when the conservatives have a whole bunch.

Precisely what I was trying to get at; you guys go to your talk shows and leave the Times and AP alone. I like them fine the way they are. In return, (speaking for myself) I promise to stay away from Limbaugh et al; I have zero appetite for a daily diet of real and imagined enemies to lash out at, and wouldn't miss the toxicity one bit.

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 11:35 AM | Permalink

About the White House's expanded "Setting the Record Straight" operation:

"This is a relatively innovative tactic, the consequences and stakes of which I'm not sure I quite understand yet." -Anderson, above

I heartily agree. I think its impact will vary directly with how well publicized the information conveyed by the operation becomes. With frequent releases, aggressive fact-checking of our dominant media and wide awareness, the "Setting the Record Straight" operation has significant potential to help balance the tilt of this administration's press coverage.

But if "Setting the Record Straight" is limited to press releases posted to the White House website, and perhaps e-mailed to allies in the Administration and Congress, I'm afraid that won't be enough.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at May 13, 2006 12:13 PM | Permalink

village idiot: I promise to stay away from Limbaugh et al; I have zero appetite for a daily diet of real and imagined enemies to lash out at, and wouldn't miss the toxicity one bit.

Would you promise to stay away from PressThink as well?

Would you take your Limbaugh-like appetite for regurgitating your "daily diet of real and imagined enemies to lash out at" with you?

(Speaking for myself) I wouldn't miss the toxicity one bit.

John Moore:

I'm going to ask a personal favor. Let it go. Don't engage. Leave it on the previous thread. It's bait.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 13, 2006 12:25 PM | Permalink

And this drivel (via thinkprogress) is what apparently passes for expert commentary at FOX. I am waiting for the disciples of 'Markovitz' to express outrage and debunk this reactionary crap with the same trigger-happy alacrity as was done with Jamie McIntyre's perceived faux pas re the M249 SAW.

The Dow was down 120 points today, prompting Fox News’ David Ruder to suggest it was because USA Today made “the country less safe” by running its story on NSA’s data mining.

But Fox News host Brenda Butler disagreed, saying that Wall Street would “not going to let some puny, little traitor, some leaker who went ahead and compromised our national security, take down this, take down our market, take down our country.”

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 12:29 PM | Permalink

Would you promise to stay away from PressThink as well?

Despite efforts to the contrary, if you guys succeed in turning it into a Limbaugh lovefest, yes.

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 12:39 PM | Permalink

Don't know anything about David Ruder, but he was expressing a theory - one possible explanation for the selloff. That's a lot different from CNN's false assertion of fact.

Does his theory hold water? Some, but not much.

There is a precedent for stocks sliding on security concerns. And if it's true that the President said that the country is less safe, then that would explain some of the slide (though I doubt 120 points of it. The explosion of a Nigerian oil pipeline probably accounts for more.) Going back a few years, for example, Clinton sent biotech stocks tumbling by 14% after stating that scientists should have open access to research on the human genome.

At any rate, there is nothing the USA Today reported that was not already known to be occuring. It was even written into the law. The NSA phone records monitoring story has been out since Clinton was in office. An efficient market theorist would expect next to no effect from the USA Today story.

The thing is, efficient market types don't last very long on talk shows - a HUGE problem with TV financial journalism, which tends to worship active traders, and foster books like Maria Bartiromo's "Use The News" to perpetuate the laughable idea that a small investor can outgun institutions while he pays a broker's commission, bid/ask spreads, and other hidden trading costs with every sell and every buy order he places (No wonder brokerage houses sponsor these shows!)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 1:28 PM | Permalink

The gaggle in Snow's office. It's not as though 90% of the group got in the room. I guess it's a lot to ask for the press secretary to be able to estimate crowds and space, but when the move only fit half the press corps, that is a wide miss.

From Milbank: The new kid seemed to wrestle with how far he could go without getting in trouble. Asked about National Guard troops on the border, Snow began an answer but then paused. "Uh, well," he said, pausing, again, "I won't get ahead of my brief on this."

Snow's bosses in the White House needn't worry: The guy does know how to draw the curtains. Sipping from a paper coffee cup with the presidential seal, Snow had an arsenal of no-comments when asked about the NSA: "Can't confirm or deny. ... I will reiterate the points he made yesterday. ... You'll have to ask General Hayden. ... You'll have to ask the folks on Capitol Hill. ... I can't comment. ... You will have to ask the Senate committee."

Can't confirm or deny is a rule of engagement reporters understand. In the end, it doesn't transmit much more information, but Snow has a more palatable arsenal of no comments than Scotty's on going investigation or robotically repeating talking points.

Posted by: jaw at May 13, 2006 1:32 PM | Permalink

John Moore:

I'm going to ask a personal favor. Let it go. Don't engage. Leave it on the previous thread. It's bait.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 13, 2006 12:25 PM | Permalink

Sisyphus: It is interesting how you took the bait but were imploring John not to. The holier-than-thou is quite telling, or perhaps this is your style of 'meta-baiting'?

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 1:34 PM | Permalink

At any rate, there is nothing the USA Today reported that was not already known to be occuring. It was even written into the law. The NSA phone records monitoring story has been out since Clinton was in office. An efficient market theorist would expect next to no effect from the USA Today story.

The thing is, efficient market types don't last very long on talk shows - a HUGE problem with TV financial journalism, which tends to worship active traders, ....

I have to admit, there are some redeeming qualities about you, Jason.:-)

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 1:38 PM | Permalink

Here's why I think the USA Today report is a nonstory - we already knew the NSA was conducting monitoring of domestic phone records at some level, dating back to the Clinton years. Here's a transcript from 60 Minutes from March of 2000 detailing the NSA's Echelon Program.

Phone records are publicly available for sale.

Indeed, the authors of specifically advocated purchasing Republican's cell phone records, and offered to reimburse anyone for their search fees if they "discovered gold" in anyone's cell phone records.

Lastly, the law specifically allows the federal government to obtain cell phone records in conjunction with a terrorist investigation.

All this was known well before the USA Today story, so as a semi-strong EMT guy myself - and discounted by markets years ago. I don't think the USA Today's story would make much of a blip on markets.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 1:59 PM | Permalink


At any rate, there is nothing the USA Today reported that was not already known to be occuring. It was even written into the law.

Is this the law you were referring to?

Your contention is quite strongly disputed here.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 13, 2006 2:02 PM | Permalink


From the New York Times' Correction page:

An article and a picture caption yesterday about the funeral of Sgt. Jose Gomez of Queens, who was killed on April 20 in Iraq, referred incorrectly to the Army representative who comforted his mother. She was a sergeant first class — an enlisted woman, not an officer. The article also misstated the name of a service medal that a general presented to Sergeant Gomez's mother. It is a Purple Heart, not a Purple Star.

That's what I get for not bothering to read O'Donnell's article.

And that's how bad the New York Times has become.

You still think it's just a copydesk error?

How many layers of editing and fact checking did this howler survive?

How many times do you guys need your noses rubbed in the mess you made on the carpet before you stop excusing away the ignorance of newsroom staffs and finally realize you have a problem?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 2:04 PM | Permalink

Congress seems to have explicitly banned a data-mining program almost indistinguishable from what we are now hearing about from the NSA. It's hard to imagine Congress explicitly banning anything well-known to already be quite as legal as you claim.

Of course, congress does periodically discuss passing legislation directly stating that they explicitly deny to Bush authority he arrogates to himself in defiance of the clear intent of previous legislation.

Why they imagine a legislative order to a president (short of impeachment and conviction) insisting he stop ignoring the stated intent of the legislature would provoke anything beyond derisive laughter is a mystery I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 13, 2006 2:16 PM | Permalink

Jason provides us a different version of you're not normal with you don't know military weapons.

3. The New York Times must select its staffers from among people who don't care to drive their own cars to work. That's another pretty narrow group of people.

Statements like this are too absurb or comical to address.

Now he's find his new 16 words on the NSA case.
We already knew the NSA was conducting monitoring of domestic phone records at some level, dating back to the Clinton years. Then providing a link to Echelon, which captured international information. The USAToday story detailed domestic, unwarranted data collection.

Jason's red herrings are too tempting. But he ends up hi-jacking the thread with nonsense like that or McIntyre and the SAW or the E&P story on journalism bias.

And he's back on the NYT photo cutline.

Posted by: jaw at May 13, 2006 2:18 PM | Permalink

And now Jason, it would be interesting to hear your comments on what motives the FOX team may have had in weaving the overarching, right-wing 'NSA leakers are traitors' theme into their analysis of stock price movements even though the linkage between the two is so obviously tenuous.

And the next step might be to demand FOX for a retraction of the misleading comments, and compare if such retraction is as easily forthcoming as it presumably was when you obtained it from the Times.

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 2:28 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Jay.
I was concentrating on the pathetic and disingenuous White House PR releases trying to rebut specific stories -- reminiscent of the RNC's rapid response team in 2004 -- so I missed Snow's debut, and didn't realize that it was so full of howlers.
God, that's just pathetic.
It would almost be better (for the White House) to go back to McClellan or some other chubby little spokesbot.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 2:28 PM | Permalink


It ain't the photo cut line. It was the reporting.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 2:29 PM | Permalink

Jason, reporting, cutline, who cares?

I mean the mistakes are regrettable, but they're not central to the story. This is written by a metro general assignment reporter.

You know there are errors in front page stories, sports stories, business stories, style stories. Errors are human. Your examples of press woes are nothing but ankle biting.

Posted by: jaw at May 13, 2006 2:35 PM | Permalink

At any rate, there is nothing the USA Today reported that was not already known to be occuring. It was even written into the law. The NSA phone records monitoring story has been out since Clinton was in office.

Excerpted from the April 6th, 2006 testimony during the House Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing on the ‘United States Department of Justice.’

SENSENBRENNER: [...] Mr. Attorney General, in early February, I sent to you an oversight letter requesting detailed information on the NSA terrorist surveillance program. The department's responses provided much substantive information on the legal basis for the program. However, there was one question at the center of this committee's jurisdiction over the program that was not answered adequately. This question related to the legal debate preceding the implementation of this program, and was prompted by reports that some high-level officials involved in the discussion over the legality of the program who did not agree with its legal basis. Your response in the letter was, quote, "The president sought and received the advice of lawyers in the Department of Justice and elsewhere before the program was authorized and implemented. The program was first authorized and implemented in October 2001."

(Emphasis added.)

April 6th, Hearing

March 24th letter

Posted by: nedu at May 13, 2006 2:38 PM | Permalink

I'm on the side of accuracy, jaw. You're not. If you can't advocate for accuracy as a journalist, you might as well hang up your cleats.

Is there any level of ignorance you won't try to defend or explain away?

This isn't a matter of mixing up details on a technical matter. This error, even more than the officer vs. sergeant error, belies a fundamental deficit in her cultural fund of information - and that of everyone who looked at the story before it was published.

You should not have seen this error show up in a high school newspaper - much less the New York Times.

Though where I come from, most high schoolers are better informed about the military in general than the New York Times newsroom staff.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 2:43 PM | Permalink

I'm for accuracy, but I'm on the side of bounds of reason. Errors are not acceptable, but when they are made, they are corrected as the Times did here. But errors don't always go to motive or incompetence.

You on the other hand have decided the press is incompetent, especially on military reporting. So any or every error you will use to reinforce your tiring, tiring point.

Spare us your outrage. I'm sure you've never made an error on your blog.

Posted by: jaw at May 13, 2006 2:50 PM | Permalink

Congress seems to have explicitly banned a data-mining program almost indistinguishable from what we are now hearing about from the NSA.


The page isn't exactly a model of clarity. Nevertheless, I don't think you can say that without knowing the specific contents of the classified annex referred to in the document. Congress restricted something - but specified that the restriction did not apply to whatever was described in the classified annex.

I think your link is an interesting find - and it establishes that Congress did express some privacy concerns as a matter of record and law. But without knowing the contents of the document, I think it's inconclusive.

I'm open to correction, though, as I don't obsess over this stuff. I tend to rely on lawyer sites.

Was riding a stationary bike this morning watching FOX news in a circle jerk discussion of the issue and I just had to turn it off. Every single one of the panelists was less informed than I was, on the left and right. And I'm not up on the law, except for the contents of Ch. 121, and that just within the last day -- and FISA.

And people still misrepresent FISA.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 2:51 PM | Permalink

From wikipedia:

The Information Awareness Office (IAO) was established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense, in January 2002 to bring together several DARPA projects focused on applying information technology to counter transnational threats to national security. The IAO mission was to "imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness". Following public criticism that the development and deployment of these technologies could potentially lead to a mass surveillance system, the IAO was defunded by Congress in 2003.

Posted by: village idiot at May 13, 2006 3:05 PM | Permalink


When I do, someone points it out pretty quickly.

Never made an error like that one though.

Biggest error I made came with an 800,000 - 1,000,000 circulation. But it was a technical matter (I transposed Series I and EE bonds).

Made another error on the technical details of solo 401(k)s a year or so later, when they were coming out. Actually, I misunderstood what an advisor said and paraphrased her. So I blew that one big time. Both instances received a correction. I still feel bad about both of them, but especially the second. To this day I wince.

About a year and a half ago, I made another error in a newsletter on the techicalities of how Coverdell accounts were allocated when students are considered for Financial Aid for education under the federal system. I checked it out in a couple of texts and with a couple of experts' articles to be sure. But the Department of Education had changed its policy a couple of months before.

My fact checker and I routinely monitor financial sites, the NASD, SEC, and the IRS for regulatory changes. But this change came out of the DOE -- which we didn't realize was on our beat. It should have been. We both missed it, sent it to a compliance editor who also missed it, sent it to the client, a nationally known insurance company, whose marketing department also missed it, got the approval, published a newsletter, and blew the fact.

Believe me, I'm sensitive to this. And I think we had the best fact-checker in the business on that one and we still blew it.

But these errors don't rise to the level of cultural illiteracy category.

"Purple Star" rises to that level.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 3:06 PM | Permalink

If this thread becomes village and jaw and Mark Anderson (and Steve and Dave) arguing with Jason and Aubrey and Moore (and neo and whomever) over assertions made to correct assertions made about their previously incorrect assertions, then I am going to shut the thing down as useless. I am telling you to cool it. Don't you care that you're crowding out all other voices, all other subjects?

The "dialogue" you are conducting is not worth anything, besides being repetitive in the extreme and off topic. It's taking over the forum and I can't have that. Where did you get the idea that you must respond every time someone puts a worm on a hook and dangles it in front of your face? It's silly. It's narcissistic. I bid you to stop without assigning blame to yourself or anyone else.

People can and they most definitely will say outrageously incorrect and mis-reasoned things in comment threads. They can and will describe their entirely disputable observations as indisputable. It's routine. Get a clue: You can't stop them. The idea of "calling them on it" is mostly bull. Calling them on it is just an invitation to more.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 13, 2006 3:16 PM | Permalink

Point taken, Jay. I'm trying.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 13, 2006 4:22 PM | Permalink

RE: The Dow was down 120 points today, prompting Fox News’ David Ruder to suggest it was because USA Today made “the country less safe” by running its story on NSA’s data mining.

But Fox News host Brenda Butler disagreed, saying that Wall Street would “not going to let some puny, little traitor, some leaker who went ahead and compromised our national security, take down this, take down our market, take down our country.”

"The market" does not move on news. News is noise (trademark-Lee Adler at Capital Stool dot com) Nothing is sillier than the habit, a habit of thought, to ascribe market averages moves to some specific news item. All such are stories. Stories meant to satify the tellers beliefs but having no basis in reality. People love stories.

Never mind that the story told here is silly without even considering it's causal relationship to the market that day. As one wag summerized, terrorists were relieved and heartend to discover their conversations were subject to illegal, not legal evesdropping. It makes all the difference in the world to them, so goes this tale.

The market moved up/down today because (insert your story here) is an old tradition and one without any merit. It's all BS. Total unmitigated stool. 'The market' moves on the availibility of liquidity, ie. money, in the financial system on a daily basis and on the relative position of outsiders vs insiders. The latter meaning how The Street can best maximize their own profits at the expense of their customers. This has never been so true as now. Program trading, trading in big lots now accounts for 58% of all NYSE trading and more than a quarter of that is for the Wall Street firms own accounts.

I know it is totally impossible to disabuse people of the idea that news 'causes' market moves. Such is the nature of the human mind, always seeking a simple explaination for complex events. On any given day several competing explainations for 'the markets move' are offered up to a credulous public by an ignorant newsreader or simple minded commentator or worst of all a propogandist like Mr.Ruder. Every time you hear such a summary do yourself a favor and repeat this in your mind. Bullshit bullshit bullshit.

Posted by: rapier at May 13, 2006 5:19 PM | Permalink

I suspect the stock market fell 120 points because the big funds unloaded telecom stocks in the realization that AT&T, Bell South and Verizon and who knows how many unnamed others were about to get slapped with lawsuits seeking hundreds of billions of dollars in damages for compliantly loading all of our phone records into government trucks.
One suit alone filed in Manhattan yesterday seeks as much as $50 billion in civil damages from Verizon on behalf of customers.
More realistic perhaps is the estimate of Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor now teaching at George Washington who told the Times that his readings of the relevant statutes put the phone companies at risk for at least $1,000 per person whose records were handed over without a court order.
"This is not a happy day for the general counsels," he said. "If you have a class action involving 10 million Americans, that's ... $10 billion."
Even these days, a $10 billion charge is more than just a hiccup for mammoth communications company.
No wonder Tony Snow wants to keep this one at arm's length.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 5:48 PM | Permalink

rapier --

The market doesn't move on news ?

Care to explain that to former holders of Enron stock ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 5:53 PM | Permalink

Enron went bankrupt. That wasn't news, that was financial reality. Sort of like your dead when you have the heart attack, not when your obit appears. Also, one stock does not a market make nor was Enron a one day story. It played out over about two months as I recall. Coinciding approximately with the general market decline yes. Was one casual of the either? If that's your story and it makes you happy stick to it if you want.

......and then there is the post above. OMG. Prove my point for me why don't you. As if 'the market' even thought of such things. Lawsuits years down the road without a chance in hell of succeeding. In any case such were never mentioned in the mainstream bussiness press, that comes later.

Later we might see stories about this and how it means trouble for the telecoms. If so you must look at it on what I call a forensic basis. Meaning if the Wall Sreet touts start warning how this is going to be negative for the telecoms it will be done for the purpose of driving prices down so they can buy it. Eventually a crecendo of negativity will arrive and at that peak the stocks will rocket higher.

It isn't the news. It is the management of the news and the maufacturing of perceptions thru the news that counts. News is noise.

As long a liquidity is rising so will stocks. During Greenpans tenure M3 rose at a 9.5% average annual rate. During the same period stocks rose at exactly a 9.5% annual rate. Now there is your cause and effect.

Posted by: rapier at May 13, 2006 6:26 PM | Permalink


Dave McLemore has the right idea:

If we get bogged down in a military-media question best suited for CounterColumn, then come on over to my place and let me have it between the eyes.

I'll fire up the barbecue and keep a couple of 12 packs in the cooler. Hope you guys like Guinness.

That way, we can discuss the cancer afflicting the media, while PressThink can contemplate the acne.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 7:06 PM | Permalink

"Enron went bankrupt. That wasn't news, that was financial reality. Sort of like your [sic] dead when you have the heart attack, not when your obit appears. Also, one stock does not a market make nor was Enron a one day story. It played out over about two months as I recall. Coinciding approximately with the general market decline yes. Was one casual [sic] of the either [sic] ? If that's your story and it makes you happy stick to it if you want." -- rapier

How cute.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, rapier, and presume that you meant "you're" when you wrote "your," "causal" when you wrote "casual" and "other" when you wrote "either."

And yes, that's my story and I'm happy to stick to it. When you have the heart attack you're dead. When you show up in the obituary column, you're news.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 7:16 PM | Permalink

Getting back to the subject at hand (after our brief diversion into the vagaries of the stock market), here's Elisabeth Bumiller of the Times reporting on Tony Snow:

"Mr. Snow, the new White House press secretary, showed that being a talking head for Fox News, his previous job, was a lot different from being a talking head for the president of the United States. At a raggedy morning briefing, Mr. Snow also displayed characteristics not widely associated with the Bush White House; he admitted mistakes, apologized to reporters and said flatly that he did not know the answer to several questions."

Yes, Elisabeth, but did he actually explain any policy decisions ?

Ummm, no. "He admitted mistakes, apologized to reporters and said flatly that he did not know the answer to several questions."

How pathetic is that ? A press reduced to thanking God for small favors.

I fear Snow may be on to something.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 7:38 PM | Permalink

Funny I was the one whose voice was erased. But no mind, it appears Rove is in trouble now.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 13, 2006 8:10 PM | Permalink

[I]t appears Rove is in trouble now.

Two snips from the underlying rumor (which has been flying around teh intarwebs for a few hours now):

• [...] high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.
• An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said.

Might be news if there's some confirmation. But indictments are unsealed in open court.

Posted by: nedu at May 13, 2006 8:44 PM | Permalink

"If we get bogged down in a military-media question best suited for CounterColumn, then come on over to my place and let me have it between the eyes."

Makes sense to me. Thanks for the suggestion.

I cannot make sense of Snow's performance, myself. He did not seem to me ready for what he was doing. But if you are empowered to speak for the President of the United States you cannot meet the press on the record unless you're ready, because the consequences of a serious mistake are very large. Just look at:

TONY SNOW: Well, at this point the President is supporting Alphonso Jackson.

QUESTION: "At this point"?

TONY SNOW: Look, again, you're getting me ahead of my brief. I don't know any more than I've told you.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 13, 2006 9:14 PM | Permalink

Honestly, I couldn't care less if Snow picked the wrong venue for the press gaggle. Yes, he should have expected a bigger crowd of spectators. But your OP portrays a White House Press Corps that acts like a bunch of self-important clucking hens with feathers far too easily ruffled.

I also think that if the Administration thinks a prominent news outlet errs on a fact, or misrepresents things, they have an obligation to "set the record straight."

Now, the reader, or news consumer, can decide to buy the Administration's argument, or reject it. But their argument should be part of the conversation, and be entered into the public arena.

When journos take offense to this, well, they are demonstrating awfully thin skins. They are not above criticism, and freedom of expression runs both ways.

Hopefully, if the Administration sticks up for itself better on the facts, these folks will be a little more careful in there reporting.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 13, 2006 9:38 PM | Permalink

The law on Bush's spooks choosing to spy on each of us doesn't make it illegal for the government to ask for phone records. Rather, it makes it illegal for phone companies to divulge them.

As the NYT reports today, "The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 was passed when cellphones and the Internet were emerging as new forms of communication. Section 2702 of the law says the providers of "electronic communications … shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber or customer … to any government entity."

Companies that violate the law are subject to being sued and paying damages of at least $1,000 per violation per customer.

Adios, phone companies.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 9:40 PM | Permalink

Hopefully, if the Administration sticks up for itself better on the facts, these folks will be a little more careful in there reporting.
Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk

Ah, there's the rub, Jason. So far, they're avoiding "the facts."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 13, 2006 9:48 PM | Permalink

I just read Paul McLeary's article at CJR Daily. Its primary focus is the WH response to the AP story about Army Guard/Reserve recruitment numbers (headline: "Army Guard, Reserve Fall Short Of April Recruiting Goals").

Per McLeary:
The White House guns, under the command of new press secretary Tony Snow, wasted little time in shooting back that "The Army National Guard, Air Force Reserve, And Marine Corps Reserve All Have Exceeded Or Achieved Their Year-To-Date Recruitment Goals."

That's great, but there's a little problem: The AP never said anything about yearly recruitment goals, only the missed goals for the month of April. Nowhere in the rebuttal does the White House mention the April numbers, but instead, the release switches the issue to year-to-date goals and numbers. So the White House is, essentially, complaining about a story that was never written, while making it look like the AP got something wrong...'s already clear that Snow is both more nimble and more adept than the shambling McClellan. But he has yet to show that he's any more correct.

Steve claims the White House is "avoiding facts," but it seems to me that it is the AP that is guilty of fact-avoidance. If April numbers are down, but year-to-date recruitment is good, then where were the AP stories reporting the better-than-expected numbers in Jan-March?

Of course, that good news for the Administration went unreported by the AP in those months, and went unmentioned as context for the current report. A quick Lexis-Nexis search revealed that the UPI did report a March 12 story, "Army National Guard recruiting is up." But AP carried no such story.

So, in addition to AP's bias-by-omission, CJR Daily compounds the error by missing the relevant context, thereby burying the lede:

The AP never said anything about yearly recruitment goals, only the missed goals for the month of April.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at May 13, 2006 11:54 PM | Permalink

Is it up? Is not a downturn in April newsworthy? Or is the reality recruitment in the guard is overflowing as it would need to be to do the overload of work assigned to it? I'll expect numbers.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 14, 2006 12:12 AM | Permalink

Everyone is familiar with the failing campaign, politician, agency, administration, or political party that takes comfort in believing that nothing is fundamentally wrong, and therefore nothing much has to change. "We're just not doing a very good job of communicating our accomplishments."

It's tempting to describe a policy problem, a leadership problem, a strategy problem as a public relations problem, because then everyone can keep their job, keep their assumptions, keep doing what they have been doing, but more of the country will warm to it because it's being communicated better.

It's like firing the manager when the team on the field sucks, only more cosmetic. If Tony Snow becomes the instrument of that sentiment within the Bush White House he is cooked. The people who should be the most worried about this are Republicans still hoping for something from the current group in power.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 14, 2006 12:28 AM | Permalink

Care to comment on the substance of the WH /AP flap, Jay? Specifically, what it says about the Press? Or are you changing the name of the blog to BushThink?

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at May 14, 2006 12:47 AM | Permalink

Judging by the CJR piece, the "Setting the Record Straight" missives are official White House press releases so they are not simply e-mails to the news organizations as a previous journalistic account led me to believe. They do very much remind me of Republican National Committee talking points.

Whatever else it may do, this tactic is surely a new inflection of the tone and self-presentation of the presidency. I suspect that previous administrations felt that it was more appropriate to maintain a division of labor between the RNC and the White House in deference to the office of the presidency. How does this integration of RNC campaign-type same news-cycle feedback reposition the White House in the shifting media landscape?

Given that five of these have been sent out in just the last three days and Snow seemed so remarkably underprepared for his first gaggle even with the one week postponement, should we begin to wonder if Tony Snow, like Steve Lovelady, spent all his time on the flurry of "Setting the Record Straight" press releases, and thereby effectively missed preparing for his own debut? It seems this may be an important part of how his job description differs from that of McClellan.

Apparently Snow's miscalculation of prep time for the gaggle was even farther off the mark than his predictably failed experiment with holding the gaggle in his office. I'm guessing he's figured that much out by now himself.

It is surely too early to say with any certainty, but the fact that Snow's talking points were every bit as lockdown as McClellan's, even if delivered with considerably more panache, suggests to me we might consider reading Snow and "Setting the Record Straight" as not only continuous with rollback, but an expansion of the operation--perhaps we might call it Full Spectrum Rollback?

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 14, 2006 12:52 AM | Permalink

I think it's fine for the White House to make the point that facts left out of the AP story would alter the view of the April figures, as long as the White House doesn't charge the AP with being inaccurate because it wasn't.

But I wouldn't place any great weight on this as a "strategy." I don't think it accomplishes anything. It has one benefit: the rabid right that still wants to see put downs of the press will smile and nod and cheer for more.

Tuesday (first briefing) is going to be fun.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 14, 2006 12:59 AM | Permalink

For the record, the WH did not charge that the AP story was inaccurate. The WH response described the AP story as "misleading." Based on my comments above, I think that is a fair description.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at May 14, 2006 1:08 AM | Permalink

But I wouldn't place any great weight on this as a "strategy." I don't think it accomplishes anything. It has one benefit: the rabid right that still wants to see put downs of the press will smile and nod and cheer for more.

These guys are all they got.

It is likely the full court press is on to demonize the press in advance of what's coming down the pike between Rove's indictment and November ... which will likely be a tsunami of bad news for this administration and its allies.

And, perhaps unrelated, the bombing of Iran.

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at May 14, 2006 1:30 AM | Permalink

...So it turns out that the 22 suicides out of 120,000 soldiers deployed for Iraq last year is 15.3% lower than the 23 per 100,000 rate expected of 20-34 year-old males in the population at large.

That's right - despite the pressures and dangers of wartime service, the separation from family and loved ones, and the ubiquitousness of handy weaponry, the Army is doing a better job of suicide prevention than the rest of the country.

And what's the headline from the AP?

"Report: Suicidal Troops Sent Into Combat."

The AP reporter didn't bother to compare the Iraq suicide rate with the population at large. I had to do that for him.

Surprised an editor passed that through, but my experience is with montlies, not dailies. Still, I'd rather read it tomorrow right than read it today wrong.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 14, 2006 4:34 AM | Permalink

"The AP reporter didn't bother to compare the Iraq suicide rate with the population at large. I had to do that for him."

I don't think that's a fair comparison. Expected? The population at large has nothing to do with it as lives aren't on the line in normal everyday life as "a whole." The recruiting process is supposed to filter out this sort of personal flaw. You're an apologist with yet another false analogy fallacy.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 14, 2006 11:37 AM | Permalink

"Nowhere in the rebuttal does the White House mention the April numbers, but instead, the release switches the issue to year-to-date goals and numbers."

Shifting the burden. Almost every argument they have is fallacious.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 14, 2006 11:42 AM | Permalink

Jay Rosen: I think it's fine for the White House to make the point that facts left out of the AP story ...

Facts left out, indeed. But by the AP?

Compare the story linked by CJR Daily with this one at Sacbee.

Same AP writer? Same date? Same story?

Did you notice the absence of links to the actual data and sources in the AP stories, the WH response, and at CJR Daily?

DoD Announces Recruiting and Retention Numbers for April
U.S. Army Recruiting Command goals

Trust me journalism?

Does anyone else notice the similarities in the rhetoric of press critics/defenders and WH critics/defenders?

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 11:57 AM | Permalink

Here's a Google search for the "other" version of the AP story: Army Guard, Reserve recruiting falls short

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 12:29 PM | Permalink

Haven't read the article yet ... but recruiting is a very seasonal thing. April's always a slower month. The high school seniors have generally figured out what they want to do, committed to college plans by that point, or are focused on graduating and are putting off the decision until "after graduation."

Recruiters quotas don't change. They are expected to average two per month. But if they got four in March, nobody's too worried if they only get one, or none, in April.

You'll see another spike when these guys get back from basic training and AIT and brag to all their buddies about how they got to drive a tank.

Then there's another round of phone calls, another round of appointments and referrals, and the seasonal cycle begins anew.

So I'd look at year-ago numbers. But goals and benchmarks change within the year - as do economies. The economy is strong and grads have a lot of options - which is a tougher recruiting environment than when employment is at 8 percent.

You really can't tell anything except over the course of a year. A one month blip is just statistical noise.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 14, 2006 12:53 PM | Permalink

Big picture (while avoiding hooks and worms):

Normal recruitment by the military has no news value; On the other hand, shortfalls are the first whiffs of a potential draft. Sort of like in an economy that has to live or die by the housing sector, normal home sales have no information value to the markets, but the first whiff of weakness even if it only one data point, is big news. I don't need to know about good weather, but I want to be on the alert for early signs of a hurricane; think probability multiplied by the value of the outcome.

Posted by: village idiot at May 14, 2006 2:20 PM | Permalink

Jay, it's been about 24 hours since you've asked some participants to cool it.

I've counted 28 posts, and only 4 that I can clearly see on Snow and Rollback.

Calling out outrageously incorrect and misreasoned assertions is bull; but many are called, but few choose to abstain.

The false assertions flow like spam. But it can be hard to figure what is OT here. Is the CJR/WH/AP military recruiting stuff OT or not OT? It does have elements of rollback.

Posted by: jaw at May 14, 2006 2:30 PM | Permalink

But it can be hard to figure what is OT here.
Jaw, I can fault Jason for being Johnny One-Note as regards the military, but step back a bit. I come here occasionally for the metacommentary he quite often elicits. It's an important issue for a blog entitled "Press Think": specifically, what use is the Press? And having answered that from theoretical constructs, there's the followon question: what use is the Press we have?

Every time Steve Lovelady sighs and explains once again, with the patience of Job, that it doesn't matter in any way whether or not the Press got it right, that their task is to get the message out without being distracted by fiddlin' details like the difference between a PFC and a Field Marshall, and every time Sisyphus indignantly declares that if you really examine the absolutely vital relevant details the Press got it right after all, the answer to the second question becomes clearer. It is none whatever -- and the question and answer may very well be the root cause of the decline in circulation, and the resultant weakness that allows manipulation.

If facts don't matter, if indefeasible ignorance and the resulting error are irrelevant, if on any subject (military or otherwise) the Press is not only free but Obliged by Higher Duty™ to dispense its Wisdom without reference to objective reality -- well, I can get that from Uncle Ed, or from Rufus down at the coffee shop, or from my own crack-brained theories, and not have to pay subscription fees or put up with the resultant junk mail. The Pope is entitled to speak ex cathedra on a strictly limited group of narrow subjects. Four years at Columbia does not produce a Journalist whose word is TRVTH regardless of circumstances, and anyway I can get declarations of TRVTH, free, from any cocksure two-a-penny fanatic; why should I pay Pinch -- and, through him, Professional Journalists™ -- for them?

Jason is annoying, even to me, and I agree with him most of the time. But he seldom fails to generate amusing comments from people who consider themselves to be defending their profession, but are in reality vehemently declaring its irrelevance. It's a most becoming subject for a Press Think to consider.


Posted by: Ric Locke at May 14, 2006 3:17 PM | Permalink

"Does anyone else notice the similarities in the rhetoric of press critics/defenders and WH critics/defenders?"

It's up is downism. It's your facts aren't legitimate when it's clear they are. The story is about a downturn in that month. AP wire feeds are edited for length by the individual papers.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 14, 2006 3:34 PM | Permalink

Caution to Sisiphus: bait - proceed to next post.

The appearance (at least) of impartiality is a sine-qua-non of a reporter's existence. The right recognizes this as a weakness and has been following a strategy of provokement by waging a war of attrition on reporters that they view as being unsympathetic to their cause. They do this by continually instigating scurrilous attacks on Press integrity. Needless to say, the Press (reporting side of it) is not in a position to repel these allegations with the force they deserve, for fear of being seen as a participant in a partisan fight. As a result, these mostly baseless attacks are left unanswered, and accumulate over time in the public psyche, causing serious (and sometime irreparable) damage to one of the four pillars of our system of governance.

Even my untrained eye can spot many such Limbaugh-inspired, Powerline-propagated, attacks in Pressthink's comments section recently. While there are many among Pressthink's readers that see through the deceptions, there are probably many others, given the popularity of the blog, that just take most of what appears here at face value. To leave these allegations unanswered to the extent they are scurrilous, detracts from the mission of Pressthink, and inadvertently aids the right in its aim of neutering the free Press.

Posted by: village idiot at May 14, 2006 3:35 PM | Permalink

Ric Locke: ... and every time Sisyphus indignantly declares that if you really examine the absolutely vital relevant details the Press got it right after all ...

LOL. Been a while, Ric.

I'm afraid I'm unaware of my own indignant declarations, tho'. At least the ones you've described as "the Press got it right after all."

Could you help me out with that one?

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 3:42 PM | Permalink

Absence of links in a print story? The data look correct to me and anyone sure can go to the Defense site and check if they want to, so why is this portrayed as hiding something? It's this false "conspiratorial pressthink" that delegitimitizes everything critics say.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 14, 2006 3:44 PM | Permalink


Jason, the appropriate comparison for suicide rates in the military is with historical data for suicide rates in the military. For instance, the suicide rate for soldiers deployed to Iraq and Kuwait in 2003 was 17.3 per 100,000. It dropped substantially in 2004, and in 2005 it's back up to around 18 per 100,000 (couldn't find an exact figure).

For the active duty Army as a whole, the rate has increased from 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001 to 13.1 per 100,000 in 2005.

And of course all of that is misleading in some senses as well. But not as misleading as your comments.

Posted by: weldon berger at May 14, 2006 3:46 PM | Permalink

Trying to recharacterize the debate on military suicide rates:

The mains thrust of the story does not even seem to be one of suicide prevention by the military; it seems to be about how the military violated its own rules on such soldiers (the sub-heading says it clearly),

U.S. military violated own rules on mentally ill troops, newspaper finds

and consequently, on how this could result in harm to themselves and their fellow soldiers.

“I can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on (antidepressants), when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal,” said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection. “You’re creating chemically activated time bombs.”

Posted by: village idiot at May 14, 2006 4:14 PM | Permalink

“I can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on (antidepressants), when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal,” said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection. “You’re creating chemically activated time bombs.”

Uh ... suicide bombers?

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at May 14, 2006 4:25 PM | Permalink

Uh ... suicide bombers?


I just kinda, sorta doubt that on Tuesday, Tony Snow will address presidential concerns about the human missile gap.

Posted by: nedu at May 14, 2006 4:51 PM | Permalink

A journalistic reference: Covering Suicide

Special populations: Creativity, Depression and Suicide Prevention

Previous coverage: Army suicide rate last year highest since 1999

Courant's story referenced by AP: Mentally Unfit, Forced To Fight

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 5:06 PM | Permalink

Kinda hard to say the military "violated it's own rules" when the rules say it's the commander's call. As it should be.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 14, 2006 5:11 PM | Permalink

Concerning reading the tea leaves from the four vignettes posted from Tony Snow…

I agree with Lovelady and Anderson that the key straw in the wind, to mix a metaphor, is Setting the Record Straight.

The hypothesis being tested here is whether Snow’s arrival signifies a continuation of Rollback of the press (albeit by more telegenic and articulate means) or a reversion to the tactic of treating the press as a vital interlocutor in the process of government.

This latter attitude towards the press, as has been stated at PressThink repeatedly already, belongs to a broader tradition, that of the Bully Pulpit -- using the White House to address the nation at large, supporters, independents and opponents.

The Setting the Record Straight tactic is one that belongs the rhetorical practice of campaigning not governing -- the discourse of spin doctors, talking points and war rooms, where the primary political discourse is one of opposition not persuasion.

This is not to say that Presidents past have not talked on the governing mode and the campaigning mode simultaneously. It is merely to agree with Anderson that the conventional division of labor would be for the RNC to Set the Record Straight and for the White House to rise above the fray and not to be seen (in public at least) as entangled in nitpicking fights with CBS News on Medicare or AP on enlistments.

Accordingly, just as interesting as Snow talking about Setting the Record Straight is the President’s decision to make a primetime TV address to the nation tomorrow, a decision that falls squarely into the Bully Pulpit tradition of White House public relations.

These two tidbits side by side suggest that the White House is experimenting at this stage rather than has settled on one PR strategy or another.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at May 14, 2006 6:57 PM | Permalink

I agree.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 14, 2006 7:13 PM | Permalink

What use is the press we have ... and the question and answer may very well be the root cause of the decline in circulation, and the resultant weakness that allows manipulation. - Ric Locke

Ummm, Ric, I can only speak for my own modest little empire, but so far in 2006 CJR Daily's page views looks like this:

January: Up 11% from December.
February: Up 8% from January
March: Up 12% from February.
April: Up 9% from March.
Year-to-date: April's traffic exceeded December's by 46%.
And May is going to widen that lead.

Given that the size of our target audience -- journalists, those who love them, and those who hate them -- is steady state at best, we're pretty happy with that performance.

Might be time to rethink that "declining circulation" chestnut.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 14, 2006 7:19 PM | Permalink

The hypothesis being tested here is whether Snow’s arrival signifies a continuation of Rollback of the press (albeit by more telegenic and articulate means) or a reversion to the tactic of treating the press as a vital interlocutor in the process of government.
This latter attitude towards the press, as has been stated at PressThink repeatedly already, belongs to a broader tradition, that of the Bully Pulpit -- using the White House to address the nation at large, supporters, independents and opponents.
The Setting the Record Straight tactic is one that belongs [to] the rhetorical practice of campaigning not governing -- the discourse of spin doctors, talking points and war rooms, where the primary political discourse is one of opposition not persuasion.
-- Andrew Tyndall

Andrew, you, in what is fast becoming a fetid swamp of bile, are a breath of fresh air.

Keep the oxygen coming.

Posted by: Ann Kolson at May 14, 2006 7:31 PM | Permalink

Sisyphus, LOL back atcha. I lurk here a lot more than I comment.

I'll admit to generating output without checking the input real closely. But, then, according to you guys that's the Right Way To Do It™. Or do you have to be admitted to the Lodge, learn the Secret Handshake, and undergo the initiation to be allowed the privilege?

Andrew Tyndall's analysis seems to me persuasive as regards Mr. Snow and the White House's press strategy. But don't hold your breath for major changes. The Press having declared that nothing the President says can be admitted to public view without deprecatory analysis at the minimum, and having already booted people out of the Lodge for violating that rule, the only avenue left to Bush is the literal "Bully Pulpit" strategy, speaking directly and in propria persona. It's worked well for him before, but I expect this one to be a loser in terms of public approval.

A commenter on another blog found it hilarious that Bush might be losing ground because he isn't Republican enough, but that's just it. My son is a Reservist, just back from Iraq. I suspect he's about to be ordered down to the border to chase down Mexicans, and (to put it mildly) I disapprove. Perimeter security is bad security, whatever the threat, and I expect a TSA clone Real Soon Now. Mr. Snow will have a tough time making a silk purse out of that sow's ear, but you guys are going to have an equally difficult time persuading me and the people I know that an absolute requirement to support anybody who can make it across the line, to the detriment of myself and my family, is the only True Way of America.

I note that both the NYT and Gannet are down last week. Have a happy, guys.


Posted by: Ric Locke at May 14, 2006 7:33 PM | Permalink

The dawn of the 'Smart Newspaper'

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 8:40 PM | Permalink

Well, to be fair, almost everybody was down last week. But Gannett and the NYTimes have been down for years while broad markets have been going up.

I agree with the other commenter that Craig's List is probably the big driver. But their declining circulation doesn't make it any easier to compete with them.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 14, 2006 8:46 PM | Permalink

Apparently, in the 12 months ending March 31, 2006, USA Today and the NY Times are up while the broad market is down, according to ABC ....

Newspaper Circulation Falling Faster By James P. Miller, Tribune staff reporter. Chicago TribuneMay 09, 2006

For the most part, the nation's three largest papers held their own. Gannett Co.'s USA Today up 0.09 percent to 2,272,815. Dow Jones & Co.'s flagship Wall Street Journal saw daily circulation slip 1 percent, to 2,049,786. At The New York Times, circulation inched up 0.5 percent, to 1,142,464.

Maybe someone could provide the figures for earlier years ....

Posted by: village idiot at May 14, 2006 8:57 PM | Permalink

IMO, the reason for the emphasis on mistakes on matters military is based on two, or possibly, three circumstances:
1. It just happens that several people posting here are familiar with the military and are most likely to spot those errors. If there were, say, medical researchers instead, the area in which errors were found would be medical research.

2. Those familiar with the military find it almost impossible to believe people could be ignorant of the less arcane facts of military affairs. Some of us were born to WW II veterans, and/or grew up in the post-war subdivisions inhabited by young guys just getting started, which would be like growing up in a giant VFW encampment. HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW THIS STUFF?
Some of us pay atttention to the news. I had an e-mail go-round with Andrew about engineers. Except for committing a social faux pas while in the service--finding the combat engineers and the Corps of engineers are the same branch--everything else I know about them except that they are also trained to fight as Infantry, I learned after I got out of the Army. Ditto the M249, M240, etc. If can pick this stuff up while it floats in the air, why can't everybody? More to the point, why can't those who profess to tell us stuff about them?

3. Military affairs are more often front-page news, since we're in a war and how things go, well or poorly, is fodder for the political process, unfortunately.

"Purple Star". Have you ever heard of purple star? Something about a shooting star lights up a purple sky...? I'm so lonesome I could cry. Maybe that's it.

What American has not heard of a Purple Heart, while thinking of a Purple Star in the terms of battle wounds? Whatever the excuse, it's not good enough. Seeing what you expect to see. Hurrying. Missed it. Everybody knows better, but there were distractions.

I would like to know, in detail, what the corrective actions are after something like this.
Who talks to who, etc.
I asked the same thing about the blown story on Houston, Katrina, and federal aid. What does the paper do to find out how it happened and reduce the chance it will happen again? Step by step.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 14, 2006 10:01 PM | Permalink

We've had Purple Hearts coming out our collective ears during the campaign. It seems some Purple Hearts are dishonerable depending on the politics of who wears them. My old man turned one down for throwing up blood after a concussion so as to not worry his mother. What's your flippin point?

Posted by: George Boyle at May 14, 2006 10:53 PM | Permalink

Accuracy: Blah blah blah.

The Military: Blah blah blah.

Translation: You media snobs are a bunch of queers.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 14, 2006 10:55 PM | Permalink

The smart newspapers are gaining two Web readers for every print reader that they lose.

And there are more of them than you think. The online versions of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times are fabulously successful, as measured by traffic. Already, their traffic dwarfs print traffic.
And I'm not even counting regional successes such as the online versions of the Atlanta paper, the Austin paper in Texas, the paper in Portland, Oregon, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.

It's just a question of whether the publishers are willing to hang on until advertising follows readership to where it has already gone -- online. That takes a real gut-check -- to keep investing today's money in hopes of tomorrow's possibilities.

The smart ones will. The dumb ones won't.

And, sorry guys, but it has nothing to do with "bias."

It has everything to do with the quality of the product offered.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 14, 2006 11:00 PM | Permalink

George. I suppose it means that a mistake like "purple star" is beyond comprehending.

Powerline has a thread on this. I thought of posting there that Pressthink's journalists and journalist-sympathizers have decided that accuracy is irrelevant. At least, they have excuses for errors, and sneer at those who wonder about the reliability of a medium which both makes frequent errors and seems not to care that it makes frequent errors. Nah. You don't need any more people telling you that journalists need to do more homework.

So. Daniel. Is accuracy a good thing? Is not being accurate a bad thing? Is complaining about inaccuracies a bad thing or a good thing? Does it make one a press-hater?

If we replaced people who had the experience of either serving in the military or paying attention to military matters with medical researchers, would we have the same split we see here?

Errors, schmerrors.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 14, 2006 11:03 PM | Permalink

Steve Lovelady: The smart newspapers are gaining two Web readers for every print reader that they lose.

Yup. What they smarter newspapers are gaining is two Web writers for every print writer they lay off.

So when I link to something on the web and ask, "Where are the links?", I don't hear back, "Absence of links in a print story?"

I didn't link to a print story, get it?

There are many press podiums in Washington. Each with their own press corps. There are many media for communicating. The televised White House Press Briefing isn't where consumers go for news.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 11:20 PM | Permalink

It has everything to do with the quality of the product offered.

Nothing says "quality" like Purple Stars, eh?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 14, 2006 11:40 PM | Permalink

Ummm, Sisyphus, I don't know to whom you are talking, but if you think it's me, you're wrong.
Next time, check who said what before you turn on the armchair flamethrower.
Right-wingers -- they always pull the trigger before the pistol clears the holster.
Makes for some painful foot injuries.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 14, 2006 11:40 PM | Permalink

Ummmmm, Steve, I don't think it's you.

Next time, check your wrong assumptions before making stupid assertions.


Posted by: Sisyphus at May 14, 2006 11:50 PM | Permalink

The subject is Mr. Snow and his competence, or incompetence. He either is totally naive and slow to learn (after all, wasn't he being briefed for the past 2 weeks with McClellan?) or he is playing the press for fools and pretending to be "in the dark" about what any competent person earning a nice salary should have gotten up to speed on. I, for one, think his performance was unprofessional: the poor choice of venue, the supposed "lack of preparedness." I am very suspicious that we will just see more of the same obfuscation as before.Perhaps, it is inevitable, even if not intentional, as this administration is in a meltdown, with Rove about to be indicted, Cheney, possibly, and all the pools going "south."

Posted by: margaret at May 15, 2006 1:15 AM | Permalink

Sorry, that should be "...all the poll going "south."

Posted by: margaret at May 15, 2006 1:17 AM | Permalink

Jason and Richard Aubrey,

I have to agree -- "purple star" is a dumb mistake.

Still, as for "how could you not know what a purple heart is?" I think that every time I see someone end a question with a period. Or misuse a semicolon.

Each of us is expert in our own field, and society is pretty specialized these days.

Moreover, we have not lived in a militarized society since the early 1970s. And anyone who came of age since the end of the war in Vietnam -- unless they have active military in their immediate family or abundant among their immediate circle of friends, or watch a lot of war movies -- is not going to know their purple hearts from their yellow moons, orange stars, green clovers and blue diamonds. Let alone their M whatevers from their AK whooziwhatsis.

War babies, baby boomers, vets of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, you it for granted that everyone knows this stuff.

But we have a professional military now -- a warrior class that is, to some degree, separate from much of the rest of society.

We should expect accuracy in journalism.

But civilians don't automatically know military terminology anymore. It's not pervasive in the culture.

Maybe you could offer some constructive suggestions for how to improve the accuracy of military information in the press. But just railing about how dumb "journos" are is pointless.

Great story about Navy SEALS from those potsmokin' commies at the San Francisco Chronicle, BTW -- and awesome pics.

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at May 15, 2006 1:25 AM | Permalink

Richard B. Simon: Maybe you could offer some constructive suggestions for how to improve the accuracy of military information in the press.

Medill seeks reporters for "War" course, boot camp

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 15, 2006 2:57 AM | Permalink

I'm generally persuaded by your refinement of the thesis, "they're still experimenting." My reservation is that when I hear Bush give a public speech (for as long as I can stand it, usually about 60-90 seconds at a time, which means I generally have to read a transcript for the sake of my sanity), I still don't hear persuasion. I hear many things: clanging, incoherent stereotypes, geographically and historically impossible fantasies, etc.

Above all, I hear the sound of a vacuum. They hate us for our freedom? I just feel insulted. I hear plenty of bully and I hear plenty of pulpit, but I have yet to hear the barest hint of rational persuasion. Tomorrow's announcement of a "plan" will ultimately be the lead-in to a several hundered mile long photo-op designed to avoid having to resolve the glaring contradiction between his corporate-friendly guest-worker proposal and the militant anti-brown, lock-down fantasies of about a third of those who voted for him in the last election. In favor of the image of the latter and simple stall tactics on the substance of the former.

Of course, in the meantime he has refused to fully fund the border patrol! But this is a photo-op most essentially designed to distract from the likely indictment of his political godfather, Karl Rove, and the excrement hitting the fan over the discovery that the name of "Big Brother" is in fact, George W. Bush.

Continued at George W. Calls Out the Cavalry!

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 15, 2006 4:38 AM | Permalink

Ref Purple Heart:

A couple of years ago, writing to an individual who is a Viet Nam veteran and writer on military affairs, I mentioned I had flown through DFW, and seen the guys coming and going from Ft. Hood.
I remarked to my correspondent that they seemed to have their game faces on, while when I was in, it looked as if they needed their hands patted. He responded that he'd probably been one of the latter.

We agreed that the warrior class is a reality.

Having said that, I will say that, IMO, considering the circumstances (including the cost) it is a GD civic duty for every adult to know what the hell a Purple Heart is. Where the eff does he think his fat and happy life gets paid for, anyway?

However, the ignorance of the fat&happy class is not the issue. The point is the journalist who is telling us stuff about the military implicitly tells us he knows stuff about the military. He tells us implicitly that he knows more about the military than the blissfully ignorant fat&happy class. He implicitly claims to be a level of knowledge above that of the fat&happy class. As a result, he should be judged by a standard higher than that of the fat&happy class. That means his mistakes in the areas of the simplest and most obvious facts, the howlers most obviously susceptible of checking with a simple question, do not get to be excused because he is only as smart as the blissfully ignorant fat&happy class. If the guy knows no more than the F&H, and finds out no more, and if some of what he finds out is wrong, why are we paying him to tell us what's going on?

I have to admit talking to a couple of nieces and one of their friends recently and, with dread, asking them--all with post grad education--if they knew what Infantry was. They did not.

I tried to find out, without being offensive, if they had a corpus of knowledge that replaced what everybody used to know that they now do not.

I can't say that I felt comfortable enough digging into the question to get a result.

So I may slightly disagree with Jason and say it's more than NYT journalists who are stone ignorant of these matters.

Most unfortunate. Giving a monopoly of force to an institution and then dumping on it is bad policy.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 8:36 AM | Permalink

Jason: could you please set up a thread at your blog for the "isn't it amazing that the ignorant know-it-alls in the press don't know the difference between a Purple Heart and a Purple Star?" discussion. Aubrey's is the last post there will be here on that omninous and hugely telling error. We get the point: Journalists don't know squat, they think we're too stupid to notice, and all he hears is excuses. We got the point 300 iterations ago. Future iterations on the Purple Star error will be erased.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 15, 2006 9:36 AM | Permalink

He's talking to me Steve. And in some cases websites are printed in the print edition with the story so...That won't prevent those from seeking out the conspiracy of the left out up-is-down evidence even when it doesn't add up to anything. Those who seek that will always find it. There's no cure except perhaps electic shock treatments.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 10:43 AM | Permalink

i've been unplugged for three nights -- yes, i love camping, even though the wifi SUCKS -- and coming back to media after no access to news for a chunk of time is a little jarring.

And my first reaction, as I tried to catch up, was this: Rollback turns out to be a suicide bomb. Yes, it blew up a chunk of the news media, but Rollback has also made it more or less impossible for this administration to get its message out now. Not because the media is an extension of the partisan system, but because the administration message has been "don't believe anything these guys tell you."

Now comes Snow, trying to mend things, but it's too late. They spent six years using the media bucket for target practice, and now it just won't carry water.

The WH has counted on its ability to get out its message using its own media, including FOX News. But nobody, outside of the true believers, takes FOX seriously anymore, and American politics isn't about true believers anyway.

So now you've got a bitter, hungry press-pack, and a tough-talking administration that's bleeding from its self-inflicted wounds. Post-9-11 Rollback was based in part on the idea that journalists would be too afraid of being labeled "anti-American" to push back. But now nobody's scared of Bush, or the right wing.

I swear, it's like watching one of those savage nature shows on The Discovery Channel.

Either that or a real-time demonstration of karma.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 10:43 AM | Permalink

I would think the AP stylebook covers these sorts, any sort of within a specific paradigm of terminology questions?

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 10:49 AM | Permalink


No worries. Countercolumn is up and running and Purple Star has its own thread. Don't feel bad. We're talking about Dungeons and Dragons on it. :-)

Maybe you could offer some constructive suggestions for how to improve the accuracy of military information in the press. But just railing about how dumb "journos" are is pointless.

It goes to intellectual diversity in the newsroom. There are a lot of facets to this complicated argument. There's only so far I can boil it down.

Do try to follow along.


Hire veterans.


Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 15, 2006 11:28 AM | Permalink

Right. Like the solution to diversity in the newsroom is just to "hire minorities."

No complexities there.

What do you think, Jason? Do you think the press is intentionally NOT hiring veterans? That there's this big pool of military veterans sitting around in a bar somewhere saying "well, I'd have been a cop reporter if it wasn't for that damned media blacklist against former sergeants."

Here's the problem: The press is a middle-class institution, you have to have a college degree to get a job at a metro paper, and these days middle-class kids don't come out of high school and join the military. They go to college.

I suppose you could bring back the draft and get rid of all the deferments that middle-class kids used to stay out of the military during the last draft, but all-in-all that seems like a pretty radical solution to the problem of lack of military experience in the newsroom.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 12:24 PM | Permalink

Jason has had his Purple Star thread since Saturday. But that doesn't prevent him to bring his hooks and worms over here. McLemore is the only journalist willing to go over to Countercolumn to be yelled at or blamed for all journalism woes. Jason needs the PressThink audience. We do take a bite of the worm over and over and over.

Jay you mentioned on The Young Turks that rollback wasn't thought out. Conover took it a step further, calling it suicide.

While Jay ripped Alter's recent column, this part is spot on:

Most White House press secretaries aren’t well-known. (Quick: Who was Bill Clinton’s last one?) But even the ones who become household names cannot make up for the shortcomings of the president. If Bush is genuinely interested in making a fresh start, he will have to overhaul his own relationship with reporters, not assume that Snow can do it for him. In fact, some of the best-liked press secretaries have the least to show for it. Just ask Marlin Fitzwater, whose colorful style and longstanding personal friendships with Washington reporters couldn’t help George H.W. Bush get re-elected in 1992, or Mike McCurry, whose reputation for intelligence and candor did nothing to offset the abuse heaped on Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal.

Doesn't seem as though Snow has done a good job for Bush so far with Setting the Record Straight or the gaggle Friday.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 12:25 PM | Permalink

Reminds me the special pleader who (I kid you not) once wormed his way into my office to instruct me that the newspaper needed to asssign an alcoholic to cover drug abuse and alcoholism.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 15, 2006 12:36 PM | Permalink

You're right, Daniel, about veterans and newsrooms. There is, and will be worse, serious bad feeling among veterans toward the press.
Nevertheless, smart and canny folks can find solutions if they want to. Or they can line up the excuses if they don't want to.

As many have pointed out, lots of kids joined for a college education. After they serve, and graduate, they combine two characteristics: Veteran and BS/BA grad. You see a problem there? Only if you want to.

Or, you could go on as you have been. If that is satisfactory to you, then you would line up the excuses.

BTW. If Bush&Co have been doing rollback for six years and 9-11 is four and a half years ago, what did they use for intimidation prior to that?

I don't think the issue is what this continuous series of errors means to journalists. You aren't the issue. Your credibility is the issue. Do you think excuses for errors are as good as not making errors in terms of credibility?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 12:47 PM | Permalink

Oh waaaaaaaa-ah, Richard. If you're the judge of credibility, I'm not entering the contest.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 1:01 PM | Permalink

Daniel. I don't have much of a dog in the credibility fight.
Not as much as if I were a journalist.

Who, by the way, said anything about judging? Is credibility equally served by explaining, ignoring, or excusing errors, as it is by not making them in the first place?

So, as I say, I got a modest GPA from Enormous State University, then I was a grunt, and now I'm a pedlar. If I can figure out in a couple of seconds how to get a college-educated veteran, then nobody can't. Which means nobody will be believing the excuses.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 1:09 PM | Permalink

Richard --

Can you promise us the veterans will make fewer errors than the rest ? Or show any correlation whatever ?

I'm a veteran. That didn't stop me from getting a few things wrong during my reporting career.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 15, 2006 1:20 PM | Permalink

Just a little bit ago, I watched Karl Rove give a "major" wonk talk on econ policy at AEI on C-SPAN. (I was actually anticipating an episode of "Cops"... musta had the wrong channel....)

AP report and transcript. Rove:

But the polls I believe are the polls that get run through the RNC. And I look at those polls all the time.
The American people like this president. His personal approval ratings are in the 60s. Job approval is lower. And what that says to me is that people like him, they respect him, he's somebody they feel a connection with, but they're just sour right now on the war. And that's the way it's going to be.

Posted by: nedu at May 15, 2006 1:32 PM | Permalink

As far as rollback, didn't Clinton try rollback too?
This is somewhere during the Prehistoric Print Age, 1992, before the world wide web and Google. I'm going off memory here, which isn't great, but after the successes of playing the sax on MTV, Clinton at first either avoided or didn't kowtow properly to the WH press corps. The result: the hair cut story on Air Force One, (scroll down).

After that David Gergen came aboard to repair problems with the press and other Washington institutions.

Even if we stipulate to all right-wing complaints, (liberal, unelected media) the WH press corps is an entity every president must deal with. Sending McClellan out to stonewall will seem so silly in retrospect. Decades from now we probably remember that press secretary that Bush actually sent out to say absolutely nothing? What a hoot that was.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 1:42 PM | Permalink

After reading all the Tony Snow hoohah here, there appears to be two tracks of thinking in operation:

1. The press is to be forgiven, in perpetuity, for any incompetence, inaccuracy, mistake, misrepresentation,ignorance, dishonesty, no matter how long they've been on the job because, well, they're the press, and you're not.

2. If Tony Snow doesn't get it exactly right on his first day, and cater to the pampered poodles of the press, then he is a miserable failure, and so is George Bush. Because we all know that journalists never make a mistake on their first day or any other day----except when they do----then they are to be forgiven, because they are doing "the people's work" and besides they are to be held as sacred due to the First Amendment, and furthermore, ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 1:44 PM | Permalink

You don't read very well, Mister ZZZZZZ. If there's any consensus in this thread about Snow it's that he is still experimenting and not sure which way to go. The opposite of your summary.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 15, 2006 1:52 PM | Permalink

ZZZzzzzz indeed Kilgore. Yet you can't stay away.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 1:55 PM | Permalink

Reminds me the special pleader who (I kid you not) once wormed his way into my office to instruct me that the newspaper needed to asssign an alcoholic to cover drug abuse and alcoholism.

You don't have to be an alcoholic to cover drug abuse issues. But I don't think it's too much to ask that you insist that the reporter you send to cover an alcoholism story knows what a beer is.

Apparently that's too tall an order for you folks, though.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 15, 2006 1:55 PM | Permalink

Steve. I can promise a veteran will know from decorations.
A veteran will more likely know what he doesn't know. The "garden variety errors", as a poster mentioned some threads back, will likely decrease simply because a vet has the context to see past a missed reference, a typo, or some other kind of error. For example, a Centcom typo referred to some munitions captured in Iraq as "12mm mortars". Their bad. A vet would be 99% sure it was 120mm--quite common--and either take it upon himself to fix it, or try to get something further from Centcom, or drop the size and simply refer to "mortar rounds". A non-vet wouldn't have a clue. That it was Centcom's boner in the first place does not help the publication when anybody who does have a clue, including the tens of millions of grizzled vets from the days we had a garrison state and practically everybody knew this stuff, looks at it and snorts.
Correlation? How's our sample size?
A veteran will know that an M249 is light, compared to other machine guns. So he would either not write the Z-fool article as it was done, or, if the writer was not a veteran, might be a resource person if the writer thought of running it past a veteran. A vet would have witnessed slightly-built women competently firing the M249 on a range someplace.

A veteran, once reaching a position of influence, may be able to keep the publication from egregiously twisting a submission--see Cpl Starr's last letter. Or maybe not.

I would be surprised if a vet did worse. As a caveat, I would suggest the vet in question be Army or Marine combat arms. The aviation types and the Navy have their own complexities, but they doesn't seem that these figure in most of the stories.

A vet would possibly be browsing the milblogs or other sources and find other stuff non-vets would not know of. For example, while the NYT was doing all Abu Ghraib all the time, a vet poking around might have found the Bronze Star citation for a prison guard there who fought like Hector, for a long time, trying to stop a prison break against dozens of men who wanted to kill him, succeeded, and never used a lethal weapon.
That would be news, if you define news as "new and surprising to the reader".

Years ago, the WaPo stepped on its necktie with the observation that evangelicals are poor, dumb, and easily led. The blow-up resulting from that generated what seems to be a cultural change, including a religion reporter who is doing more than puff pieces on new churches.

It can be done, if the publication is interested.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 2:02 PM | Permalink

Jason, for crying out loud, we get it…

1)Journalists working on a specialist should have expertise in their topic.

2)Journalists working on a generalist beat should be aware of their ignorance, not be afraid to ask questions and should be subject to more rigorous editing and fact checking, especially in their use of basic terms, than specialists need to be.

3)One fertile field for hiring specialist journalists is to find people who in a former career worked in that field (when it comes to military reporting, we call those people “veterans”).

4)The more diverse the backgrounds of journalists working in a newsroom -- diverse life experiences, ideologies, socio-economic backgrounds, temperaments -- the more well-rounded and accurate the journalistic product is liable to be.

5)While accuracy in all things is desirable, a lack of accuracy in matters of common general knowledge undercuts a journalist’s reputation for accuracy in more arcane, specialist matters.

These are common sense propositions. You are right. It is no big deal. Can we stop now? Please.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at May 15, 2006 2:10 PM | Permalink

"Don't you care that you're crowding out all other voices, all other subjects?"

I'm tellin' you Jay... you ought to segregate the comments into two tracks. "Meets my criteria" (whatevery you decide it is) and a free-for-all.

It's just too hard to wade through the dreck.

Posted by: laurence haughton at May 15, 2006 2:15 PM | Permalink

Even Tyndall bites the worm. Andrew, FWIW we've discussed the more-veteran-in-newsrooms and expertise issue ad nauseum on previous threads. We've tried reason or explain why errors occur. You've seen the responses to that. That's why Jay told participants to cool it. Sorry about beating on the dead horse.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 2:18 PM | Permalink

Sorry Jay, but I don't agree with your "consensus". I see many here apologizing and offering excuses for press mistakes, but few to none offering excuses for Snow's mistakes.

But we all see what we want to see, don't we?

To Mr. Ms. or Mrs. jaw----please indulge me, I acknowledge you're way smarter than I. Hope that makes you feel better.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 2:20 PM | Permalink

It should be noted that the NYTimes knew what a Purple Heart was when their preferred presidential candidate, Sen. Reporting-For-Doody, was touting his Purple Hearts (one wound he later admitted was self-inflicted[accidentally]) and other medals. So it appears the NYTimes can be smart about military matters when they want to be.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 2:29 PM | Permalink

Apparently that's too tall an order for you folks, though.

Jason, your snark makes me angry. I could pretend otherwise, but I don't feel like it today.

You're being awfully clever with your little taunts and baits and word games, but clearly you've got something that you really want to say about yourself and people like you compared to the press and people like them and apparently we're your surrogant audience.

So come on, boy. Say it. Get it out of your system so we can move on to something else, because you're boring the hell out of me.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 2:33 PM | Permalink

Kilgore, pleaz i'm not smarter. just wish you ID yourself so everyone knows who is doing the snarking. the Sybil identities can be endearing, but why? unless Jay banned Kilgore.
sure i'll indulge you. i'll never call out your pseuds again.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 2:42 PM | Permalink

I like your solution, Laurence. I may in fact build it in to any PressThink re-design. (Coming this summer, I hope.)

Here is what PressThink wrote about group think in the drive for diversity in the professional newsroom: "The Crowd's Reaction Made Some Unity Delegates Uncomfortable." (Aug. 8, 2004)

* Group think among jourmalism ethicists says that credibility follows from obeying our profession’s rules; and the profession’s rules are The Rules because they produce our credibility. An argument like, “we’d be more credible with citizens if we acted like ciitizens more often” does not compute. Therefore it must not exist.

* Group think among conservatives says that it’s right to slam journalists for being liberal when they deny it; and it’s right to slam them when they show it. Too easy? Not to the American right.

* Group think among minority journalists holds that there are at most six groups in the category of under-represented— Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans, women, gays and lesbians. Diversity means more of those groups in the press room mix because that’s what diversity means. Conservatives can’t be a minority because they can’t. The devout aren’t a minority because they aren’t. Journalists with rural or working class backgrounds don’t count because we don’t count them.

I wish I had added, "We could treat people with military backgrounds as an under-represented minority (because they are) but that much diversity we don't need."

I think there's no question the press would be better off with more ex-military in the ranks; and there are probably things that can be done about it, too.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 15, 2006 2:42 PM | Permalink

Andrew -- Thanks for finally acknowledging points 1-5. I agree that these are common sense propositions, but apparently they are a big deal. Or at lease many of the journalists here seem to think so -- getting them to admit points 1-5 is like getting the Fonz to admit he was wr-wr-wr-wrong.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at May 15, 2006 2:47 PM | Permalink

I've been screaming about how we need MORE diversity in the press, not less, ever since Jay's cohort Siva V. stated the obvious, many posts ago.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 3:03 PM | Permalink

Well OF COURSE we'd be better off if we had more vets in our ranks -- and not just for the reasons cited here. Soldiers (and Marines, and sailors, and airmen, etc.) are task oriented -- great on deadline, resourceful, generally tough-minded. And they work well in groups. Plus those who've been promoted in the military show up in the newsroom with leadership skills you can develop.

Duh. Duh. Duh. Either the "hire more veterans" have a tenuous grasp of the obvious or they're using this no-shit statement as a pretense for some other oblique point.

Neuro: "Thanks for finally acknowledging points 1-5. I agree that these are common sense propositions, but apparently they are a big deal. Or at lease many of the journalists here seem to think so -- getting them to admit points 1-5 is like getting the Fonz to admit he was wr-wr-wr-wrong."

Jesus, Neuro, you want to be taken seriously, and then you go and write something like that? You just made yourself the poster child for Doesn't-Get-It.

You don't "get" journalists here or anywhere to "admit" points 1-5, you pompous tool. Those are the things you learn in J-101.


Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 3:17 PM | Permalink

Daniel: I was saying that the case for hiring veterans in the newsroom is obvious for the reasons you give, not that no one ever thought of it, or tried hard to find 'em.

As obvious as it is, recruitment of more ex-military never made it into the diversity ideology that came to be promulgated within the industry. Perhaps there are local exceptions I am not aware of.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 15, 2006 3:36 PM | Permalink

Daniel. Those points may be taught in Jrnl 101, but the evidence that they are learned in Jrnl 101 or elsewhere is thin.

In fact, if those points had been learned and implemented, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

And the same goes for science. The same goes for a number of fields.

As far as I can tell, the only place this actually works is in the sports section. And it appears that few of those guys are actually ex-big-time jocks. They have done their homework. They keep up.

If I had to make a suggestion, it would be that very few veterans would be interested, after this, in hanging out with journalists. The next best situation would be to train specialists.
If a newspaper had enough military stories of various sizes to keep, say, three reporters busy on nothing else, split them up among six reporters. They would learn by being frequently exposed to the subject, they would be "encouraged" to do a little homework on the subjects, and there would be sufficient to handle a surge in stories, or cover for folks who are on vacation or quit.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 3:37 PM | Permalink


I don't know why your comments in this thread have been so nasty and dismissive, but they are not in keeping with the Daniel Conover I thought I knew from our private correspondence.

I think you misinterpreted my "Fonzie" comment. I was not trying to "get" anyone to do anything. You may notice that I was not a participant in the "Purple Star" sub-thread. However, the defensive behavior evidenced by the working journalists here stands in stark contrast to the simple admission proffered by Andrew.

I submit that Jason and Richard would have needed to be much less repetitive if that simple point had been granted; the discussion then could have moved on rather than "getting stuck on stupid."

If this discussion is going to move forward in a reasonable and productive manner, it behooves everyone to concede, even against interest, the bleedingly obvious. Jay's admonition to "take it outside" runs the risk of merely driving the stuck-on-stupidness into other examples. In that light, I stand by my "Fonzie" analogy.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at May 15, 2006 3:43 PM | Permalink

As obvious as it is, recruitment of more ex-military never made it into the diversity ideology that came to be promulgated within the industry.

Jay, but unless the paper or medium is located near a base (or with a big military audience), most editors just look for reporters with journalism experience, period. Of course, editors need to hire the minorities you list. I'm one of those minorities. When I was a journalist, at every new job, I felt like I needed to prove myself. I'm a minority (which lead my co-worker to think that that helped me get this job), but I'm qualified anyway.

I'm not sure why you give Jason and Aubrey such a leadway. Plenty of business, or sports or legal news consumers probably can have the same gripe about expertise and errors.

There isn't a lot veterans out there in the candidate pool, and that kind expertise must isn't a major need when you consider the needs of the rest of the newsroom.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 3:52 PM | Permalink

Yikes. There isn't a lot veterans out there in the candidate pool, and military expertise isn't a major need when you consider the needs of the rest of the newsroom.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 3:54 PM | Permalink

"Those points may be taught in Jrnl 101, but the evidence that they are learned in Jrnl 101 or elsewhere is thin."

As I recall you don't even know what an inverted pyramid is, still. So why would anyone listen to your KPO (keen perception of the obvious) ranting, with others of a what could be a typo, misfire, or even a copyeditor inserted error? I would call that an an appeal to an inappropriate authority.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 4:08 PM | Permalink

The only "needs" being met in journalism are the upper middle class, mostly white needs. But what other "needs" are being met and what "diversity" do you mean?

Is it true that only the '70's type diversity is being met and ignored (i.e. race & gender)?

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 4:10 PM | Permalink

Can anyone tell me what role, or what prestige, the Military Reporters and Editors has in the community?

The reason I ask is you seldom see them listed among professional societies/organizations (i.e., here).

Also, to go along with the Medill link above ...

Knight Center for Specialized Journalism Seminar Fellowships
U.S. Military, At Home & At War
February 12-17, 2006

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 15, 2006 4:17 PM | Permalink

Many journalists are hopeless in science, but some are very good. Revkin, Wilford and Eilperin of late. The killer is use of the "false expert" who gets equal billing with NASA and NOAA like Steven Milloy's scrap pile on FOX. If a sceptic is on the payroll and an extreme minority view it should be clearly labeled as such and better yet not allowed into the story at all. Debates have to be real in the field not some economist telling a climate science his or her business from the amateur seats.

I don't know how much mileage one can get out of military citation expertise. Not enough to get I job I suspect.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 4:20 PM | Permalink

Minorities needs were listed: Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans, women, gays and lesbians. I'm sure some minorities are left out.

Conservatives, the devout can’t be a minority.

Journalists with rural or working class backgrounds don’t count because we don’t count them. Most of my co-workers over 8 years in journalism came from the middle class, not upper. I'm sure they felt more working class, than middle class.

So when you (former hill staffer) talk about diversity, you talk about diversity within the white males, our new minority.

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 4:20 PM | Permalink

George. If I don't like a type of car, if it's unreliable, I am not interested in telling an auto exec exactly how to fix the process. I may, or may not, even be interested in telling him why I'm buying some other car. If he wants to know, he'll ask me, or, considering how the US auto industry is going, he doesn't want to know and isn't asking.

So the bit about the inverted pyramid doesn't apply. I tell you the product is too frequently faulty and you tell me I don't know enough about the process. Well, if I did know about the process, would that fix the product?

This isn't about you, George. It's about whether people will continue paying for your product. You fix it any way you like, or not. Your problem.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 4:21 PM | Permalink

Let me be more clear----what are the "needs" of the newsroom?

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 4:25 PM | Permalink

I get the idea that former hill staffer wants parallel universe opinion views in the newsroom? Why not just go to Bill Sammon and have it over with?

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 4:26 PM | Permalink

It's not my product it's "a product" that for the mostpart works pretty well. Sweat the small stuff if that's all you have and please just stay with the WSJ, and NY Post, Washington Times. They'll make the mistakes you support. Big ones.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 4:29 PM | Permalink

To Boyle: I'm not really surprised that you took the easy way out, but tell me, should the press get a pass when they make mistakes and not Tony Snow? If not, please elucidate.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 4:33 PM | Permalink

George: The NYT egregiously and with malice twisted two different submissions. One was the last letter of a dead soldier and the other was a letter from a reserve officer who had been called up.

Each offense made the letter seem to say the opposite of what it did say.

Calame's response to the latter case was to say something unintelligible. It was that they have nutty editors who put stuff in that's crazy and a process to take it out. The process to take out the crazy stuff the nutty editors put in failed. Follow that one, if you can.

This is hardly small stuff.

The reason for the "small stuff" being discussed recently is because it seems small enough that it ought to be plain. Apparently not. But it isn't only the small stuff the media get wrong. Recently, we've been discussing honest mistakes of the ignorant and letting deliberate distortions go. Those hurt, too.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 4:37 PM | Permalink

I'll tell you why I'm so nasty today, Neuro: I just came back from a weekend in a place where people didn't talk like this. I came back and I plugged back into this thread and others and it all struck me as painfully disingenuous -- some abstract game we're playing.

I think the snark struck me. Most of the time -- when I don't feel it so directly -- I just let it go. Today I felt the urge to smack back. I'm sure I'll regret it later -- I'm sure of that as I type every word. But I also think that one of the reasons that people dislike the press so much is that we seldom show any passion for anything we do. People call and complain, and we give them some milquetoast answer, and we know it's bullshit and they know it's bullshit. People call up with the clear intention of being assholes, and we're trained to say "Thank you for expressing your concerns."

Guys with military backgrounds come here and stomp around because they can pretty much assume that the majority of PressThink readers aren't veterans and won't push back. And yeah, we might be "reasonable," but we're not convincing in our measured responses to bullies and show-offs. Of course people don't respect us. You can't respect anyone who kisses your ass all the time.

Well, sometimes I don't feel like being reasonable. And if you don't like me hostile, quit showing-out and we'll be just fine.

Jay: I don't doubt what you say about vets not being identified as part of the diversity ideology you mentioned. I had problems with the way that whole orthodoxy got translated into to policy anyway.

But I know from employer feedback that I got job offers over competitors because of my military background, and that anybody whoever walked in the door with a DD-214 when I was hiring got an offer.

I don't have to be a woman to write about breast cancer. I do have to be accountable to the material, though. Now, if I bumble that story, does that mean that blanket indictments of all male reporters are now legitimized? Because some stupid jerk on the NYT copy desk screwed up a cutline, now I've got to kiss Jason's ring and listen to lectures on accuracy from people who've never even considered the structural complexities of trying to create an organization that actually encourages not only accuracy, but context? Bite me.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 4:39 PM | Permalink

Conover speaks the truth, and I'll distill his comment into something we used to say back in the day-----you don't have to be black to be a nigger.

But good luck (and goodnight) telling the Diversity Warriors that. So sad about the press being stuck in the '70s, but really, what can we do and what can we expect from the press?

Not much.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 4:56 PM | Permalink

"but tell me, should the press get a pass when they make mistakes and not Tony Snow?"

No, but what kind of mistakes are we talking about? Where is this deliberate twisting? I've not seen it in the last two threads.

"With malice?" Really? NY Times v. Sullivan NY Times actual malice? This is Media Law which I'm sure you also missed, but let's see it?

Posted by: george boyle at May 15, 2006 5:13 PM | Permalink

And what Conover said, but if some folks fight back too hard they're banned. I've yet to see a winger go on any forum. The can't say that for the opposing viewholders.

Posted by: george boyle at May 15, 2006 5:18 PM | Permalink

Do tell, G. Boyle, what kind of mistakes are the press allowed, that the WH press secretary is not? Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 5:34 PM | Permalink

It's a hijacking, George, and a diversionary tactic to boot.

Happens to a lot of threads, generally some time after they grow to the 100-comment mark.

So we start off talking about Tony Snow and what he portends ... and we end up yammering about how many stripes are on the arm of some peripheral figure pictured in a photo who isn't even a protagonist in the attached story ... and about what a dumb caption writer some copyeditor is.

People shouldn't take the bait -- after all, we might as well be talking about the fabric pattern of the drapes in the background of the photo -- but they do. And the thread is thereby derailed.

In other words, it achieves its purpose. It works.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 15, 2006 5:43 PM | Permalink

Christ on a Crotch-Rocket, can we PLEASE get back to discussing whether Tony Snow's office was too small for the gaggle?

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 15, 2006 5:51 PM | Permalink

Why isn't it legitimate to ask why the press should get a pass for their mistakes, but the WH should not? Boyle asked "what mistakes?" and I asked him to elucidate.

Please explain how that is a "diversionary tactic".

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 5:53 PM | Permalink

Scene... The Riddle of Rove by Holly Bailey, Newsweek:

May 15, 2006 - For a dreary Monday morning in Washington, it was an impressive crowd. More than 75 reporters, most of them well-known members of the White House press corps, sat crammed into tiny wooden seats clutching notebooks and tape recorders. Yet their location wasn’t the White House briefing room, but rather a largish conference room in a nondescript office building several blocks from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Awfully kind of you to have me here today,” Rove grinned. “It’s a slightly larger crowd than when I last came here.”

Some sleepy time later... Asking Rove One Question by David Corn, The Nation:

The microphone was handed to me. "Too late," I said to Rove, and I put a simple query to the man:

On a different subject, Scott McClellan told the White House press corps--many are here today--that he had spoken to you and you were not involved in the CIA leak. Can you explain why the American public...two and a half years later hasn't been given an explanation? Don't you think it deserves one, for it does seem that you were to some degree--though it may be disputed--involved in that leak?
Rove replied:
My attorney, Mr. [Robert] Luskin, made a statement on April 26. I refer you to that statement. I have nothing new to add to it.
Then, with a half-smile on his face, he added,
Nice try, though.
That was it. (You can watch the exchange here.) I hardly expected him to provide a responsive answer. But didn't somebody have to take a swing?

Posted by: nedu at May 15, 2006 6:03 PM | Permalink

I'm sorry, but I don't think Rollback is dead.

I think it's here to stay. I think it's part of the National Discourse. Part of the noetic field.

It's part of the triangular relationship between President, Press and Public.

And we all contribute to it.

It's now one of the many forms public rhetoric takes.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 15, 2006 6:05 PM | Permalink

Do tell, G. Boyle, what kind of mistakes are the press allowed, that the WH press secretary is not?

Nobody is allowed mistakes. Mistakes happen whether you allow them or not. The real questions are: 1. How important is accuracy? 2. What are you willing to pay (or give up) to improve it? and 3. What systems are effective in improving the outcomes you seek?

Now, if what you want is a press that routinely produces higher quality stuff, you've got to address that systematically, or else you're not serious. Because let's face it -- if one error is fatal, you get an organizational structure like NASA's space shuttle program: expensive, slow, redundant and bureaucratic, but errors are rare (one hopes).

On the other hand, if you can live with a certain amount of noise in your data -- trading precision and caution for timeliness, you get a very different structure.

So we all individually make judgments about what errors are significant and what errors are ticky-tacky, and arguing about that is a legitimate debate. There's no single answer, because it's subjective, but people hate slippery subjective answers, so they try to make it something concrete.

Here's the typical demagogic solution: Someone (typically an editor bucking for a promotion) argues that all errors are the end of the world, that all errors are the same. It's an all-or-nothing gambit, and I've never seen it work. The usual result is a corrections bureaucracy that the NEXT editor has to come along and dismantle.

That kind of approach produces defensive journalism, because instead of rewarding quality work, the error-centric newsroom determines all value by counting corrections, and it doesn't make any distinctions between mistakes. Editors edit to avoid punishment rather than to produce stuff that's valuable to anybody out there.

One alternative might be to create a structure that encourages positive outcomes -- like high-confidence stories, complete reporting, curiousity, thoroughness. The problem is, any time you build a structure that's based on quality first, you have to change your assumptions about staffing and hiring and training. And as soon as you do that, the conversation ENDS.

Personally, I think there's a predictable level of shoddiness in news media because the focus of our organizations is perpetuating monolopy profits, rather than producing routinely higher-quality work.

I read something a couple months ago that said the difference between doubling the size of a newsroom is typically the difference between a 20 percent profit margin and an 8 percent profit margin. More doesn't automatically equal better, but "you get what you pay for" remains a true statement in almost any endeavor, and most Americans don't pay a thing for the news they consume. Do the math.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 15, 2006 6:37 PM | Permalink

"Do tell, G. Boyle, what kind of mistakes are the press allowed, that the WH press secretary is not? Inquiring minds want to know!"

I could have sworn I asked you for particulars? The WH press secretary is just supposed to say what the policy is. You can't expect any great truth, just PR spin. The press however are charged with finding the truth insofar as we can get to it. Hint: the PR guys don't give rip about that.

Screwing up some obscure factoid isn't equal to obsfucating negative ramifications of policy.

Posted by: George Boyle at May 15, 2006 8:04 PM | Permalink

So true, G. Boyle, the press certainly wouldn't spin anything, now would they? (Hint: compare a transcript with how it is spun, oops, I mean "reported" in the press).

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 8:12 PM | Permalink

Incompetent paraphrase, and failure to avoid bait: The 'What is good for the Press must be good for Tony' edition.

The press is a population. Quality (think six-sigma) in any large population is normally distributed. The vast majority of the population (95%) falls within two standard deviations on either side of mean performance. That leaves about 2.5% in the exceptionally good category and another 2.5% in the really bad category.

Now, unless you want to argue that the president and his council of learned elders, after careful consideration, have ended up picking a dud from the really bad 2.5%, there is no basis for according the same leniency to Tony's performance as that being accorded by some posters in this thread to the mistakes made by the 'press' as one might apply that term to a large body of practitioners of the journalistic trade.

Posted by: village idiot at May 15, 2006 8:13 PM | Permalink

George Boyle is a banned poster from years ago. From now forward his posts will be killed.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 15, 2006 8:14 PM | Permalink

While I don't exactly agree with vi's assessment,at least now I do understand why some think the press should have unlimited forgiveness for their mistakes and that the WH should have none.

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 15, 2006 8:48 PM | Permalink

The excuses and passes awarded to the press are awarded by the press to the press, or by a few press sympathizers to the press.

The problem is not in adjudicating who gets what bye. The problem is the general public's view of the press, and they aren't interested in internal issues.

They won't tell the auto exec why they aren't buying his cars any longer. And the auto exec's explanations of why the cars aren't as good as a competitor's won't help.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 9:13 PM | Permalink

The 'Take the bait to switch' edition:

In Richard's worldview, the Times is GM and Powerline is Toyota, and just like Toyota is worth more than GM, Ford, and Daimler Chrysler combined, Powerline must be worth the Times, USA Today, and the LA Times combined.

And the Moonie Times must be AM General ....

(Jay, please feel free to delete this post, if you think it is a distraction)

Posted by: village idiot at May 15, 2006 9:29 PM | Permalink

I don't think Jay monitors 24/7, or would he want to, to delete or not.

Unfortunately, Toyota buyers don't drive to an independent shop that evaluates GMs and shout at the shop and customers as if the shop is GM itself. Over and over and over. And over. It's a broken record about GM, skips at the same place everytime. Toyota, how about a new record, once in a while?

Posted by: jaw at May 15, 2006 9:41 PM | Permalink

To push the auto metaphor:

Perhaps the independent shop can be heard by GM management, since the customers can't.

And it appears that some of the folks hanging around the independent shop might be part of the--stretching further--the supplier network. Possibly some connection there.

On the other hand, the shouters amount to a tiny, practically invisible percentage of one percent of those who went from GM to Toyota.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 15, 2006 10:19 PM | Permalink

These press/automobile analogies are stretching a little thin.

Still, the cars that I preferred over the course of my salad years as an aspiring young reporter and editor were the Ford Fiesta and the Jeep Cherokee -- both solid as a rock.

And where did that get Ford and Chrysler ?


The wretched Toyota with the unfixable transmission was an unfortunate interlude caused by the vagaries of divorce.

Now that I'm grown up -- well past the college-tuition-for-two-kids-at-once ordeal -- I find that I prefer the Jaguar, even though I rent it only on weekends.

Jason guessed it right: The rest of the time I, like so many New Yorkers -- the horror! Oh, the horror! -- actually walk to work and to errands.

In press terms, I guess that preference for walking and Jaguars would translate to a partiality for, I dunno -- The Economist, or maybe ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 15, 2006 10:55 PM | Permalink

I got to tell ya, my worst car was an Opel Kadet. The cluth wore out monthly, the brakes didn't work and it got about three quarts of oil per mile.

I always thought of it as Germany's revenge. For everything.

But like Richard's analogy, it has nothing to do with newspapers.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 15, 2006 11:14 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen of "PressThink" called him the new Bob Woodward

How did your National Journal gig come about?

I was going to freelance a piece last year for the Atlantic . . . and we didn't think the news would hold until the magazine published. [National Journal Editor] Charlie Green asked if I could do it for the National Journal. [The Atlantic and the National Journal are both owned by David Bradley.) Did a second piece, did a third piece. Every story is a collaboration with Charlie Green and [Managing Editor] Bob Gettlin. But I'm largely independent. They let me roam to do the story, and as it takes shape we're on the phone several times a day. No story goes a moment before its time, but once we're certain about it, we go with it.

Are there roamers at the WaPost, NYTimes or LATimes? Are their D.C. reporters restricted to beats? Maybe Woodward is the roamer at the Post. But Woodward is no longer Bob Woodward.

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 12:43 AM | Permalink

Hugh Hewitt: "Memo to Tony Snow: The blogosphere/talk radio callers/e-mailers are turning against this speech in a decisive fashion. They simply do not believe the Administration is really committed to border enforcement, and the spokespeople sent out to back up the president's message aren't doing that job. Period.

"It is all about the fence. The real fence."

Excerpts from John Hinderaker at Powerline:

He Had His Chance...

...and he blew it. He should have given the speech I told him to. As soon as he started talking about guest worker programs and the impossibility of deporting 11 million illegals, it was all over...

President Bush is being destroyed by vicious people who hate him. So far, he hasn't seemed to notice. Apparently, he doesn't think he needs any allies. He certainly didn't win any with tonight's speech...

My cab driver was completely disoriented by this. I could tell he didn't believe it. Like nearly all African cab drivers, he listens to public radio all day long. Twenty minutes with me wasn't enough to overcome years of liberal indoctrination. He simply wasn't able to absorb the idea that President Bush might not be a racist who hates immigrants. I'm sure he'd forgotten everything I said by the time he left my driveway.

President Bush doesn't have many chances left to salvage his second term. After tonight, he might not have any.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 16, 2006 1:11 AM | Permalink


Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 16, 2006 2:05 AM | Permalink

Just to comment on Hinderaker for a second, many cab drivers in Minneapolis are Somalian (that would be "African" to Hinderaker). They are almost universally Muslim. They know what Bush policies have meant for fellow Muslims in the US (massive government generated violations of civil rights), and in the Middle East (that would be bloody catastrophe, not liberation). They have probably had friends or acquaintances interrogated for contributing to a legitimate charity while Muslim, charities they've contributed to locked down, their assets frozen for fruitless, years-long Bushco witchhunts while children starve in Northern Africa. Friends across the country legally abused and/or deported and potentially subject to torture when they get off the plane the Bush administration forced them to get on.

The idea that Hinderaker imagines one of them might not be a Bush supporter as a consequence of being brainwashed by public radio(!) (which is mostly milquetoast, pro-Republicanism here, anyway) is such a profound confession of ignorance--so surreal--it's almost amusing.

Muslim Civil Rights Report, 2002

Data gathered for this report demonstrate that Muslims in the United States are more apprehensive than ever about discrimination and intolerance. U.S. Government actions after September 11, 2001, alone impacted more than 60,000 individuals. Muslims have charged that the government's actions violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because they included ethnically and religiously-based interrogations, detentions, raids, and closures of charities...Unlike any other past crisis, the post-September 11 anti-Muslim backlash has been the most violent, as it included several murders...
...Excluding the September backlash incidents, this year's normal reporting period contains 525 valid complaints, up from 366 in 2000/2001--a 43 percent increase...
...Two particularly encouraging developments are noteworthy. First, on April 3, 2002, a federal judge in Detroit, Michigan ruled that the Bush administration's policy of closed immigration hearings was unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of Rabih Haddad, who had overstayed his immigration visa. In another case involving a hate crime, a Dallas, Texas jury convicted Mark Stroman for the murder of Vasudev Patel last October. Storman thought the Hindu man looked Middle Eastern and killed him to avenge the attacks on New York and Washington.

Damn public radio...

Posted by: Mark Anderson at May 16, 2006 2:59 AM | Permalink

Perhaps it's possible here to resist the temptation to become embedded into the various partisan factions struggling over the substance of Mr Bush's initiative. Although, I fear, that possibility may be an over-ambitious objective...

From Tom Raum's analysis, a quote from one partisan, characterizing his President's communication style:

"It's amazing how tone-deaf this man is. This is the No. 1 issue that will lead to the takeover of Congress by Democrats," said longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie. "The White House doesn't seem to have receivers. They only have transmitters."

Posted by: nedu at May 16, 2006 6:31 AM | Permalink

I think immigration reform was somebody's idea of the 2006 mid-term wedge issue, this cycle's gay marriage initiative, and I think it just slipped the bounds of machine control.

You could see this ramping up on FOX last year. Illegal immigrants were going to be the new "Welfare Queens," because you couldn't run against Welfare Queens anymore. And it had that nice little national-security tie into 9-11. Another media-generated outrage that would be ignored after the election.

But then the Minute Men came along, and people really started getting aggitated about this issue, and suddenly immigration had a life of its own and people were really serious about it.

The elephant in the room is employers. Because if you really wanted to cut off illegal immigration, you'd crack down on the businesses that hire illegal immigrants. Yet so far, the public debate seems to be focused on the immigrants rather than the jobs that are drawing them here. Why?

Rather than dividing conservatives and liberals, immigration winds up being the issue that divides business conservatives and cultural conservatives. And that's bad news for the GOP.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 16, 2006 9:50 AM | Permalink

Tom Shales: Neither the president, in his customary pale blue tie, nor the network commentators, for the most part, answered other questions that hung in the air if not on the airwaves: Was the speech really prompted by the urgency of the immigration issue, or by the severity of Bush's low ratings in popularity polls? Was the real purpose to spur debate on immigration, or to push Iraq out of the spotlight for the next few days, while pundits ponder immigration on op-ed pages and cable news networks?

A new wrinkle?

The White House made certain it was Immigration Day in Washington and the nation yesterday by leaking the major points of the speech very early, so early that it dominated virtually all the day's newscasts. The speech itself was like an anticlimax, a mere technicality positioned amid the clatter and clamor that preceded and followed it -- and will continue to follow it perhaps for the entire week. ...

The next time Bush makes a speech, however, the White House might consider breaking with its policy of leaking the talking points so far ahead of time. Back in the 20th century, administrations traditionally waited until an hour or two before air time to pass the speeches around to the media. Since what Bush said last night must have already been familiar to millions of those watching, they might have suspected it was all a rerun.

Was the strategy to pre-empt the decider?

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 10:26 AM | Permalink

Daniel Conover says: “Immigration winds up being the issue that divides business conservatives and cultural conservatives. And that's bad news for the GOP.”

Jay Rosen says: “At least until November, what the Democrats do is meaningless; what the left says is political popcorn. The action is on the right.”

Andrew Tyndall says: “At this stage ideological coverage of left-vs-right or Democratic-vs-Republican seems to amount to nothing more than the he-said, she-said repetition of vacuous message-of-the-day talking points. The fruitful ground, by contrast, appears to be the quarrels going on within coalitions, in particular quarrels between so-called conservatives.”

Eureka! We have unearthed the escape route from those interminable bias wars and all that media bashing. Abandon Chinese-menu political journalism -- one soundbite from column A, one from column B. Discard the anachronistic vestiges of the fairness doctrine.

Newsworthy events do not play out in some imaginary middle ground between conservatives and liberals, ground where the press can be subject to theological scrutiny about its exquisite success, or failure, in maintaining angels-on-a-pin fairness and balance.

Newsworthy events occur where consequential debates occur about actual public policy and the wielding of concrete political power. The President’s speech last night, for example, belonged at the platform committee of the Republican National Convention not on pre-empted primetime TV. He was trying to keep his coalition together, not lead the country.

However, it was no less newsworthy for the fact that its target audience excluded “political popcorn” eaters.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at May 16, 2006 10:51 AM | Permalink

Snow's debut will be on CSPAN at 12:30 EST, and after all this I'll be watching.

And... I will be doing a live Q and A at the Washington Post site this Thursday, 11 am EST. Topic: Bush White House and the press.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 16, 2006 10:53 AM | Permalink

He seems competent.

Strange moment of nearly crying there. Scripted to make him look human? Or human?

I didn't catch who asked the Q.

I don't know about the 1930s gangster costume, though ...

More than once, he let something out, then took it back.

The Rove answer was interesting.

Something like:

"I'm not going to comment on private communications between Karl Rove and the president, or on what is or is not going to happen."

It surely wasn't "no."

Posted by: RIchard B. Simon at May 16, 2006 1:10 PM | Permalink

Instapunk says you guys are winning.

He's depressed.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 16, 2006 1:52 PM | Permalink

The power-mad administration has a policy of press rollback versus the lefty press is obsessively anti-Bush.

Yankees versus Red Sox.

What a waste of time. Can we get on to pressthink issue that is refutable? That is, one where evidence, logic and analysis could lead to a conclusion, one way or the other.

Posted by: homerjones at May 16, 2006 2:59 PM | Permalink

(The other possibility, Richard -- and the important underlying assumption that the 30 percenters refuse to question -- is that Bush actually is a lousy President, and that they've sadly been wrong all along. And that the press is actually presenting a picture of reality.

(To rationally argue, you have to be able to consider that your opponent might possibly be right, and that you could possibly be wrong.

(What's telling is that the complaints from the right who have abandoned blind support of Bush is that they sound awfully close to what Bush opponents from the center and left have been saying all along. Among them: you can't trust this guy to do what he says. Even the Christian right has awoken to this reality, too. They were used.)

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at May 16, 2006 3:07 PM | Permalink

Richard Simon. We can take this offline, or to e-mails if you wish.

I would make one example: Bush made horrid mistakes in Iraq. Looting. Looting??? In a war? Where people DIE? And LOOTING is all you've got?
Disbanded the Iraqi Army, such as hadn't gone home? Matter of opinion.
However, the MSM can depend on the ignorant not to know who got fired, impeached, or resigned on account of the Chinese took us by surprise in Korea. Or anybody north of Fredendall who got hosed after or during Torch. Or who got fired after Task Force Smith bit the big one. You can find Task Force Smith simply by searching.
No context. Makes it easier to fool those who, although as others have said, are not of the warrior class and so don't know much about the military, presume to know that LOOTING, or a dispute on troop strength is the worstest military thing that's ever been.

How's current unemployment compared to the Clinton era? Think anybody has been informed by the MSM?

You see Instapunk's point, I'm sure.

Bush isn't perfect. The point is misrepresenting the stuff he does which isn't bad.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 16, 2006 4:00 PM | Permalink

This thread will be shut down soon enough, as Jay finishes a post on Tony' first day (I'm guessing).

Instapunk's point is that "the MSM" is (are) brainwashing people into disapproving of Bush.

The other option is that there is a pattern of major failure here:

Tora Bora
North Korea
Gas Prices
Global warming

What has been accomplished here? Preventing a second terrorist attack in the US? That's great, but that's it?

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at May 16, 2006 4:36 PM | Permalink

Richard Simon.

You prove my point. Bush had nothing to do with Enron save that the prosecution got going when he was president.
Nothing to do with global warming.
Ever see a president who had control over gas prices?

Most of the rest are the same.
As you know. You're not stupid, nor are the journalists. They know what they're doing.
You only hope the readers are semiliterate and susceptible to repetition.

I'd kind of expected you'd do better. This is elementary school stuff.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 16, 2006 4:52 PM | Permalink

You guys will enjoy this...

Here's an email exchange between Military writer Joe Galloway and Larry DiRita, the guru of media affairs at the Pentagon.

It encapsulates a lot of what Jay is trying to get at, and is a better case study by far, I think, than anything about Tony Snow so far - simply because the exchange is transparent.

I agree with Yon - Gallagher mops the floor with DiRita's bloody scalp. But I disagree with Gallagher on this: Our Army is far from broken.

Starting a thread on Countercolumn to discuss.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 16, 2006 4:53 PM | Permalink


To bring you back on track. You have successfully listed a pattern of major failures of the Bush Administration. Whether they are major is open to dispute, but that is not the point.

There is also a list of additional major Bush accomplishments.

Prescription Drug Benefit for Medicare
Education Reform
Campaing Finance Report
Corporation Financial Reporting Reform (SOX)
Libya's Disarmament
Unemployment Rate Reduction after 9/11 Attack
Highest Federal Revenue's in History

Whether they are major is open to dispute, but that is not the point.

The point is that anyone could create their own list of accomplishments and dissappointments. If all the major media outlets (NYT, CBS, ABC, NBC, AP, UPI, LYT, WP) choose the same list then the the coverage of those events could have an effect of the public at large.

If it didn't then why even have newscasts? After all isn't the media supposed to be the watchdogs of government? Isn't thwy why Bush's Rollback is so important?

Posted by: Tim at May 16, 2006 4:54 PM | Permalink

I've always wondered why Bill Clinton and especially the "environmentalist" Vice-President, Al Gore, didn't do more to push Kyoto through during the eight years they actually had the power to do something about global warming.

Why haven't our fabbalus watchdogs asked Clinton, and especially Gore, why they didn't use their political capital to promote Kyoto after the Senate sent it down in flames 98-0?

Gore is seen as a major force in global warming, yet no one has asked him why he didn't do something about it when he actually had the power to bring about change.

Wonder why?

Posted by: former hill staffer at May 16, 2006 5:43 PM | Permalink

Speaking of non sequiturs, I've always wondered why Andrew Jackson's populism didn't extend to his Indian policy?

I mean, he had the opportunity but he opted for a punitive Indian policy.

And don't get me started on Wilson and the League of Nations.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 16, 2006 6:16 PM | Permalink


I'm a Californian. When I say "Enron", I don't mean the financial collapse -- I mean the rape of California, which was only pulled off with the help of the Bush Administration. This was before most people were paying attention -- but our representatives, suspecting gouging, asked FERC to impose emergency price caps. FERC asked Cheney, Cheney asked Ken Lay. Ken Lay, obviously, said "don't impose price caps. let the market sort it out." The market that was being manipulated by Enron and friends.

Side effect: The ouster of Gray Davis, a popular, just-reelected governor of what was then the world's 7th largest economy; a Democrat; and an automatic contender for 2004.

Campaign Finance Reform as a Bush accomplishment? You're kidding, right?

The guy who campaigned aboard the Enron jet?

The jury's still out on many of the items on your list. To be fair, we won't know the outcome of Iraq, like Bush said, for a generation. It's a noble effort, poorly implemented.

Former Hill Staffer (aka Scooter, I suppose) said:

I've always wondered why Bill Clinton and especially the "environmentalist" Vice-President, Al Gore, didn't do more to push Kyoto through during the eight years they actually had the power to do something about global warming.

I agree completely.

From what I understand, Gore and Clinton both bowed to political pressure on Kyoto. From what I've read, they were afraid that signing on would cost them Michigan and coal states like Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

How'd that work out?

Not so good, for any of us.

Posted by: Richard B. Simon at May 16, 2006 6:23 PM | Permalink

Jason --

Once again, the stars cross and we are in agreement.

Thanks for that.


I've been wondering for a while -- like for two years now -- why Rumsfeld had not tried to isolate and terminate with extreme prejudice Galloway.

Once he did, he sent the wrong guy. If that clown is the "guru of media affairs" at the Pentagon, that explains a lot.

Of course, it was an unequal match. Galloway is a soldier's soldier and he has been right about Iraq again, and again, and again.

He is not to be fucked with -- not unless you want your head handed to you on a platter.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 16, 2006 7:00 PM | Permalink

Speaking of things that don't add up: Oops.

How do you possibly get the denials AFTER the story runs?

I don't know what happened at USA. But it should be fun to see what develops.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 16, 2006 7:27 PM | Permalink

How do you possibly get the denials AFTER the story runs?

I've been following the denials aspect since yesterday evening, but I didn't want to interrupt the Bush speech thread.

Bloomberg, May 11

Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, told reporters he was briefed on the program and said the U.S. needs “to use modern technological tools” to defeat terrorists. President George W. Bush, while not confirming or denying the effort, defended his administration's spying and said the government isn't “trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.”

(Emphasis added.)

Verizon, May 12

Verizon will provide customer information to a government agency only where authorized by law for appropriately-defined and focused purposes. When information is provided, Verizon seeks to ensure it is properly used for that purpose and is subject to appropriate safeguards against improper use. Verizon does not, and will not, provide any government agency unfettered access to our customer records or provide information to the government under circumstances that would allow a fishing expedition.

BellSouth, May 15

As a result of media reports that BellSouth provided massive amounts of customer calling information under a contract with the NSA, the Company conducted an internal review to determine the facts. Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract exists and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA.

USA Today, May 15 (Updated May 16)

USA TODAY first contacted BellSouth five weeks ago in reporting the story on the NSA's program. The night before the story was published, USA TODAY described the story in detail to BellSouth, and the company did not challenge the newspaper's account. The company did issue a statement, saying: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."
In an interview Monday, BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said the company was not asking for a correction from USA TODAY.

FCC Commissioner Copps, May 15

Recent news reports suggest that some – but interestingly not all – of the nation’s largest telephone companies have provided the government with their customers’ calling records. There is no doubt that protecting the security of the American people is our government’s number one responsibility. But in a digital Age where collecting, distributing, and manipulating consumers’ personal information is as easy as a click of a button, the privacy of our citizens must still matter. To get to the bottom of this situation, the FCC should initiate an inquiry into whether the phone companies’ involvement violated Section 222 or any other provisions of the Communications Act. We need to be certain that the companies over which the FCC has public interest oversight have not gone – or been asked to go – to a place where they should not be.

(Emphasis added.)

Posted by: nedu at May 16, 2006 7:54 PM | Permalink

That McNews story was broken Leslie Cauley, a telecom reporter, not by the political desk. (I've worked for Gannett.)

These were the statements in the story:

In another prepared comment, BellSouth said: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."

Verizon, the USA's No. 2 telecommunications company behind AT&T, gave this statement: "We do not comment on national security matters, we act in full compliance with the law and we are committed to safeguarding our customers' privacy."

Unless Cauley called these telcos the day before the story to get a comment (hoping for we neither confirm or deny), today's denials are very, very strange.

Wow, Galloway. (Real military coverage, not going postal over Purple Stars.) DiRita's replies got shorter and shorter, and all he can say in the end is that saying Rummy doesn't understand is wrong and offensive. How's that for sitting the record straight.

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 7:55 PM | Permalink

McLemore, regarding Jackson and Wilson, how about Nativism for Native Americans?

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 8:01 PM | Permalink

Today's denial: Verizon Issues Statement on NSA Media Coverage, May 16, 2006

Posted by: nedu at May 16, 2006 8:27 PM | Permalink

Thanks Nedu. Some strange spinning and parsing here.

Verizon cannot and will not comment on the program. Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to it.

One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls.

This is false. ... Contrary to the media reports, Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did Verizon provide, customer phone records from any of these businesses, or any call data from those records. None of these companies – wireless or wireline – provided customer records or call data.

So what is it that Verizon can't confirm or deny? If Verizon wasn't asked about phone records it was something else Verizon can't confirm or deny.

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 8:51 PM | Permalink

Lance is miffed that the AP reporter did not verify if Rove was right when he claimed that Bush continues to be personally popular ....

Rove went on to say that "some polls" show that up to 60 per cent of the people like the President.

The version of the AP story that ran in our local paper and the one I looked at at Yahoo this morning didn't report which polls Rove was referring to.

The story quoted "polls" showing Bush's job approval numbers are approaching the Nixon/Carter line.

But it doesn't appear that the reporter bothered to find out if Rove was right, if there is a big gap between his job approval and his personal approval numbers.

Of course there isn't.

Posted by: village idiot at May 16, 2006 8:52 PM | Permalink

Got an offer today to get a better rate on my mortgage. Somebodyorother in El Paso knew how much I owed and what my monthly payment is. I blame Bush and the NSA, which particularly worries me on account of I'm a privacy freak.

Get a grip, guys. Even if I believed the hyperventilating with which you attempt to make bricks without straw or mud or water, the mortgage offer would set me straight.

My point about context is that Truman got surprised twice. Once by the North Koreans and once by the Chicoms. Anybody calling him a failure? He damn' near let MacArthur pull a coup.

My father got three Purple Hearts, each of which put him in the hospital, and would have had two more if he'd had time to get treated. He was damn' near killed by a strafing P47 who got the navigation wrong, and his regimental HQ was bombed by the USAAF, killing most of the medical staff. His younger brother was a B24 pilot in the Pacific. He got out okay, but several of his gunners were killed. When he got back, he made an effort to call on the families to pay his respects. It did not go as in the movies.
Tragedy. Catastrophe. We still won the war--who on earth would have believed it--and nobody said this stuff proved FDR was a buffoon.

And the best you have is Tora Bora and museum looting, the story of which turned out to be bogus.

I will respect the fact that you have made headway in these matters by lack of scruples. It's effective. It is also not entirely invisible. Nor ethical.

The UN has figured that Kyoto, if adhered to as promoted, would retard the estimated increase in temp by about a tenth of a degree, while devastating several economies--ours among them. In fact, it would probably make things worse because India and China--excluded--would be manufacturing the hell out of stuff with no restrictions on greenhouse gases. The developing countries would be outsourcing their pollution, all just dan and finedy with Kyoto. The only way the greenhouse gases would be restrained is when the developed countries get so poor they can't even buy Chinese stuff, so the Chinese won't be making so much.

Richard. Why do you think others don't know this? You know it. What makes you think you're the only one.

I don't know what Gore and Clinton were thinking about coal states, etc. but the Senate would probably have rejected Kyoto by about 98-two guys absent.

Anyway, I have to take my hat off to a determined effort which seems to have actually worked.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 16, 2006 9:04 PM | Permalink

It is not difficult to find this stuff ....

Another way to view the macroeconomic effects is by looking at the effects of the carbon reduction cases on the growth rate of the economy, both during the period of implementation and during the early part of the commitment period, from 2005 through 2010, and then over the entire period from 2005 through 2020 (Figures 111 and 112). In all instances, the economy continues to grow, but growth is slower than projected in the reference case. In the reference case, potential and actual GDP grow at 2.0 percent per year from 2005 through 2010. In the 1990+9% case, the growth rate in potential GDP slows to 1.9 percent per year, and the growth rate in actual GDP slows to 1.6 percent per year when the personal income tax rebate is assumed or 1.8 percent per year when the social security tax rebate is assumed. However, through 2020, with the economy rebounding back to the reference case path, there is no appreciable change in the projected long-term growth rate. The results for the 1990+24% and 1990-3% cases are similar.

Posted by: village idiot at May 16, 2006 9:25 PM | Permalink

Poor Aubrey has gone off into babble land.

Anyone care to venture what in the world he is talking about ?

Aubrey's mortgage ? Aubrey's father ? NSA ? President Bush ? President Truman ? Tora Bora ? Kyoto ? Al Gore ?

And what the hell does any of this have to do with Tony Snow and Rollback ?

Somebody help me out here.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 16, 2006 9:30 PM | Permalink

it was about the chinese. when the developed countries get so poor they can't even buy Chinese stuff, so the Chinese won't be making so much.

it's 8 degrees of Aubrey, from mortgages to Kyoto.

i think Jay is wrong. Aubrey has press love, not press hate. he can't get enough of the press and press sympathizers.

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 9:44 PM | Permalink

it's 6 degrees of Aubrey, from mortgages to Kyoto to the press. it always circles back to the press.

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 9:48 PM | Permalink

Two birds with one stone ....

Jaw is hit twice in the same post by Aubrey, once as the reporter and once more as the mortgage banker. ;-)

Posted by: village idiot at May 16, 2006 9:54 PM | Permalink

village, i almost asked Aubrey if he wanted me to look into his mortgage. you can trust a former reporter, right?
your rate is 4% with no points, no closing costs. we put the FU back into Funding ;-0

Posted by: jaw at May 16, 2006 9:58 PM | Permalink

Let's try again. I can tell you know exactly what I'm saying, but find it inconvenient.

If some mortgage outfit can find out what my mortgage is, and what I'm paying, and do so so cheaply that they can send out presumably thousands of unsolicited mailers, then we have a privacy problem of considerable size. And you're pretending the government is doing something awful.

Steve, et al. You know what I'm saying about Iraq and the MSM's contextless reporting. But you find it inconvenient, so you attempt to obfuscate.
Let's try again. WW II was horribly, miserably run. Mistakes costing thousands and thousands of lives were made. Iraq and Bush's so-called mistakes aren't even chump change in this context. You count every casualty--they make good political points--as if they are unique and uniquely horrible. As if they didn't happen before, which, considering the NYT's ignorance regarding the Purple Heart, you may well think. Who said FDR was a rotten president because of these? Context, guys.

Korea. Truman got sandbagged twice. How awful a president is he considered to be, if Bush is awful for having been blindsided only once? See Task Force Smith. Who was president and let the military get that bad, and sent it to war anyway? Does Truman get the kind of treatment Bush does? Double standards, and no context.

No, jaw. I've had experience with reporters. No.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 16, 2006 10:14 PM | Permalink

Joe Galloway:

"i could wish that in january of this year i had not stood in a garbage-strewn pit, in deep mud, and watched soldiers tear apart the wreckage of a kiowa warrior shot down just minutes before and tenderly remove the barely alive body of WO Kyle Jackson and the lifeless body of his fellow pilot...the tears that i wept standing there in that pit, feeling the same shards in my heart that i felt the first time i looked into the face of a fallen american soldier..."

Richard Aubrey:

"My father got three Purple Hearts, each of which put him in the hospital, and would have had two more if he'd had time to get treated. He was damn' near killed by a strafing P47 who got the navigation wrong, and his regimental HQ was bombed by the USAAF, killing most of the medical staff."

I think Aubrey was simply trying out the heartstrings-tugging for which some commenters praised Galloway - - the kind of emotionalism that seems to captivate so many of our dominant pressmen.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at May 16, 2006 11:51 PM | Permalink


Don't get me started. I could write a book on mistakes made during WWII and in Korea - and Task Force Smith is an excellent example. If you have to ask 'what mistakes?' you simply aren't equipped to discuss the issue.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 16, 2006 11:53 PM | Permalink

Bush and Howard News Conference, May 16:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, you've said that the government is not trolling through the lives of innocent Americans, but why shouldn't ordinary people feel that their privacy is invaded by the NSA compiling a list of their telephone calls?
BUSH: [...]
For the Australian press friends here, we got accused of not connecting dots prior to September the 11th, and we're going to connect dots to protect the American people within the law.
The program he's asking about is one that has been fully briefed to members of the United States Congress in both political parties. They're very aware of what is taking place.

Press Briefing by Tony Snow, May 16:
Q In his news conference with John Howard, was the President giving kind of a back-handed confirmation of the stories that the NSA is compiling telephone --
MR. SNOW: No, he wasn't. If you go back and listen to the answer he gave you, he was talking about foreign-to-domestic calls. The allegations in the USA Today piece, which we'll neither confirm or deny, are of a different nature. So, no, he was not giving a back-handed confirmation.
Q Well, he said they're very aware of what is taking place, and he said the question he's asking about has been fully briefed to members in the United States Congress.
MR. SNOW: Well, what he's talking about is that all intelligence matters conducted by the National Security Agency -- and we've said this many times -- have been fully briefed to a handful of members of the Senate Intelligence and House Intelligence Committees and to the leadership.
Q So he's neither confirming or --
MR. SNOW: He's not -- no, you're not getting any advance on previous news on that question.

Fast footwork?

Posted by: nedu at May 17, 2006 12:11 AM | Permalink

Fast footwork by whom?

Bush was obviously only referring to the prior reports of tapping not data mining. Tony was 100 percent correct when he said look at the answer (as opposed to the question).

It's not like it's the first time a politician ignored a question and gave his own answer.

Not sure if this strategy is going to work...continuing to neither confirm or deny the USA today...but it may have if they did it in the first place with regards to Risen's it seems kind of silly.

Posted by: Ron Brynaert at May 17, 2006 12:21 AM | Permalink


Since I'm not interested in taking the stale bait, I thought I'd just call you on an assertion:

The press is a population. Quality (think six-sigma) in any large population is normally distributed. The vast majority of the population (95%) falls within two standard deviations on either side of mean performance. That leaves about 2.5% in the exceptionally good category and another 2.5% in the really bad category.

This statement is nonsense. If the population is subject to selection pressures, the distribution can be skewed all sorts of ways, it can be bimodal, there is no law forcing it to be Gaussian or anything else.

Otherwise, it loooks like senor Aubrey is doing a fine job.

I think I'll wander off and watch a TV show.

Posted by: John Moore at May 17, 2006 2:03 AM | Permalink

Trained. Thanks for the support. However, if I'd read Galloway, I'd have for sure figured out another way to make my point. I dislike emotionalism on principle. That and being against higher is basically what's left of Galloway's schtick.

My point about my father's travails is that in war people get hurt, a context which the MSM seems to wish its readers not to know--except for Iraq. If it's a horror that people get hurt in Iraq, and if that adds to Bush being a rotten president, let's see them apply the same to WW II.
Families do not wave the flag and say their son was killed for justice and right so Bush is a rotten president? My uncle's gunners' families were bitter and angry and had no time for him. Why isn't that a datum that FDR and HST were stupid and rotten presidents?

My brother and sister and I learned, as youngsters, not to ask what ever happened to so-and-so with whom my parents had had such a good time in college (class of 1943). There's plenty of emotionalism to share, but it's a slimy trick.

My father's division got to Europe about October of 1944. My father has always marveled that such an amateur effort (since we'd ramped up the military by a factor of forty or fifty it would have had to be)actually got the job done, and he's full of stories of things going wrong because the guys doing them had never, not once, had any experience in it. But when I got him Atkinson's book on Operation Torch, he couldn't finish it, being appalled at how much worse things were then. So is FDR a rotten president because Torch was so balled up?

We missed OBL at Tora Bora, presuming he was there, which for political purposes is a God-given fact. What if the jarheads had missed Yamamoto? Would that have made FDR a rotten president?

Cori Dauber, who is a professor in, I think, poli sci, and who has a background in rhetoric, has a blog called Rantingprofs, where she examines war reporting and is particularly big on context--she finds little except when reporters from small papers are in Iraq covering local units--and several other reporting issues. She doesn't use a longer historical view. Still. Good stuff.

Reporters still think we know only what they tell us. Comforts them, I expect.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 8:01 AM | Permalink

Of course people get hurt in war. And there are horrendous blunders in planning and execution in any war. It's the nature of the thing.

But. If you see a commander leading a column of troops off a cliff, do you question whether it's the right tactic and the right leader? Do you try to stop them? Or do you shrug your shoulders and say, c'est la guerre?

In my somewhat limited experience, I've come to believe that soldiers don't fight and die for flag or country or abstractions of justice or freedom - though I know many who are pleased that may be an end result.

They fight and die for each other. I believe the chief concern of each soldier in combat is the soldier on his left and the one on his right. That is what's important.

Which is why Galloway's emotionalism is effective. It's from the GI's perspective.

And all honor to Richard's father. But a soldier's wounds do not make a war's cause just. Or the conduct of that war sound.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 17, 2006 12:03 PM | Permalink

Dave. Nice to see you will admit wars are a series of blunders.

Problem is why this is news to you otherwise, and why the MSM have to go scratching around for "looting" as a way of condemning Bush, when neither historians or journalists condemned Truman for being caught napping twice with huge loss of life. FDR is in some quarters condemned for missing Pearl Harbor, but it's not used to make him out to be a total loser.
The argument isn't that the troops are marching off a cliff. The MSM is working on small potatoes, pretending they're bigger than anything that ever happened.

My father's wounds do not justify the execution of WW II. But had the nation been readier, he might have been less hurt, along with the four freshman roommates he had who didn't survive at all.
The point is that nobody has pointed to my father's injuries as some kind of special issue courtesy of FDR. As Dave says, this stuff happens in war. Except in Iraq, where it's all Bush's fault, as if it had never happened before.

Contextless. Also, to believe anybody who says he didn't think Iraq was a good idea but he'd be ready to support fighting a fool's game.

I had an English prof who thought Ernie Pyle wrote flat, undistinguished prose. Not entirely true, but mostly. Even the stuff which was emotional is effective because he gets himself out of the way. Unlike Galloway. Pyle will be read when Galloway is footnote.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 12:28 PM | Permalink

When counting apples, Richard, you can't include the oranges. But then, you'd never have an argument.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 17, 2006 12:42 PM | Permalink

Bad military propaganda from Gomer Pyles.
For all Jason's strum und drang about the incompetent press and Purple Stars, he wrote on blog Gallagher for Galloway. Gallagher is the one that smashes watermelons.

Aubrey, about your mortgage, unless that mailer is exact to dollars and cents, mortgage companies send the same EXACT mailer to thousands of addresses. I worked for a company that bought names and addresses (nothing else) from the credit bureaus. There is some fine print on the letter giving 800-numbers of each bureau for you to call and opt out of them selling your info.

My company also had our 800 number for suckers (or the curious) to call us. The firm also included credit card information for a debt consolidation, and you don't know how many idiots call and say how did you get my info, the balances are exact, the payments are off a little. Or they will call and say please stop sending this to my teen-age son or that my father is dead or in prison. Or you made me walk all the way to my mail box to pick this up, stop sending them.

Plus it wouldn't be hard to look at zip codes and comparable sales and estimating home values and mortgage balances and payments. Just takes a little time or money. And your mortgage is recorded for anyone to see. Stay paranoid, though. Maybe it was Karl Rove, the direct mail expert.

Tony Snow's near crying. Cancer and losing family members are serious and touching issues, but there is no crying in politics. There is no crying in politics.

Posted by: jaw at May 17, 2006 1:24 PM | Permalink

Once upon a time, Republicans and conservatives, the base of Bush's support, were suspicious of victim talk. They mistrusted it, in the manner of a Shelby Steele essay. They saw how it eroded principles of self-reliance and accountability, and prevented a grown-up outlook about the world and its injustices.

Now victim thinking is a staple in their diet, and they wallow. They portray themselves as being victims of the MSM directly, or they sympathize with Bush, the biggest media victim ever:

The MSM are winning

And while the bloggers were fighting their various and diverse battles in the name of truth, justice, and common sense, the MSM ocean was harnessing its entire immensity on just one story, told an infinite number of times, in every possible inflection, from every direction, and with the deadly persistent accuracy of a dripping tap: George W. Bush is no good.

It doesn't have to be true, it doesn't have to be fair, it doesn't have to be consistent in its terms. All that matters is that it is repeated with uniform constancy: drip, drip, drip. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good.

Or take the whining of Richard Aubrey here:

Truman got surprised twice. Once by the North Koreans and once by the Chicoms. Anybody calling him a failure? He damn' near let MacArthur pull a coup.

Bush, the most powerful man in the world, who boasted about not reading or needing the press, is in Aubrey's endless, rancid whining a victim of the press that hates him. So Aubrey hates the press because (in my opinion) he identifies with the potentate-as-victim.

It would take a sensitive student of Republican ideology to explain how this happened, and why it happened, but it's a significant shift in sensibility-- a de-maturing of the Republican outlook.

Wallowers don't realize I think that the grown-ups in the Republican party, the pros who know the game, would never, if you caught them in a private moment, explain Bush's troubles as the outcome of press hostility. They feed that to the yahoos in the base--like instapunk, and Aubrey--because it fires up the troops. It's not a serious political analysis and everyone in charge knows that.

It works too. Instapunk isn't eviscerating Dan Bartlett, though he could be. MSM victimology keeps the yahoos in the tent shooting out. It's bread and circuses for the more hapless and downmarket members of the Bush coalition. Real politics is elsewhere.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 17, 2006 1:35 PM | Permalink

One of my favorite Laws of Combat: "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy."

So yes, we should distinguish between tactical mistakes and strategic failures. And yes, we would be wise to make allowances for the fog of war when evaluating the execution of various missions. And no (drawing from our previous discussions of errors), a list of mistakes isn't what determines the worth of a leader, but the outcome. You don't determine the winner of a baseball game by comparing batting averages after the eighth inning.

We get all of that. Are there any other red herrings out there?

Now, having set all of that aside, how may we appropriately proceed to evaluate the effectiveness of our leadership? Because evaluating it isn't an option if you take citizenship in a Republic seriously. We have a responsibility to think critically about such matters, and to make individual judgments about them. And, because we believe in democracy, we cannot wait until all the facts are collected and history has been written. We have to make decisions every two years.

So, for what is the President accountable? For what is the Defense Secretary accountable? For what is sheer random fate accountable? Because the argument here isn't about competing anecdotal points, or about straw men, but evaluation.

The press is supposed to have a role in this process, but I don't think it understands that role very clearly anymore. I can say this, though: "Let's trust our government officials" didn't turn out to be good press policy in 2002-03, and I don't think it's gotten any better since.

My favorite dodge after Katrina was that "liberals /journalists are so stupid, they're blaming the weather on the President!" Which was a word game, designed to deflect accountability by the same political group that has always embraced personal accountability as a value. Let's not do the same thing when it comes to matters of war and peace.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 17, 2006 1:47 PM | Permalink

Wrong, Jay.

The press had screwed me and my family before Bush showed up. The press hasn't done much to redeem itself.

Jaw. The mailer is exact to the penny. Both the monthly payment and the amount due--now down some from when we started. In other words, whoever it is doesn't have just the first number, he has the monthly balances. And your comment about zip codes is, serendipitously, false. The guys think the mortgage is on our home. It isn't. It's on my late father-in-law's place 125 miles away. The average worth of the homes in each zip code is substantially different. But the paperwork was sent to me at my home with the location being my home, on which we do not have a mortgage. So they're not perfect, but the data-mining is pretty high-speed.

Jake. It wasn't the Germans who forced the US to use the Sherman tank. Ten feet, it stood up. Bad. Turret armor vertical. Bad. Armor thin compared to the armor-piercing capabilties of German guns. Bad. Gun lousy, ineffective against German armor. Bad. Reliable and fast. Good. Called by the Germans "Ronson" for the cigarette lighter that was advertised to light first time, every time. Or, when the Brits had them, "Tommycooker". One series was powered by six Packard automobile engines, for lack of a real tank engine. I am assured it was a bitch to keep running. Most used high-octane avgas, especially the one with the Wright airplane engine for a power plant. That stuff burns really good. One of the things my father liked least was climbing into a burned out Sherman to look for dogtags. Nasty work, that. Blaming FDR, are you?

It was turf battles and sheer incompetence which kept an effective model of the P51 out of the Air Corps for months, thus dooming thousands of Eighth Air Force bomber crews to death when flying unescorted against the Luftwaffe. Not the canny and adept Germans.

It wasn't the Japanese who arranged for our torpedos to not work.

It was incompetence and inertia which initially kept the 3.5" rocket launcher out of Korea, where it would have been far more effective against Nork tanks than the 2.36" left over from WW II. Lost some Infantry because of that.

If there's no blame to Truman about the Nork invasion in 1950, or the Chicoms later, then there can't be much blame to Bush for 9-11, which was hidden much better, there being considerably less to hide.

I keep saying the problem here is not whether I can get anybody to admit to anything. The problem here is if I can get anybody to understand that the readers know more than just what you tell them, than you think you are allowing them to know.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 1:58 PM | Permalink

Daniel. "set aside". If you would.

We aren't seeing results being tallied up. We see complaints about troop strength. Looting. Armored vehicles. More body armor. Less. Missed a guy who might have been in a place, or not.

So, yes, we should do as you suggest. Have you told the MSM? Might strike them as a novel approach. Right now, they're working on the chump change.

IMO, it's because they fear the result might turn out to be pretty good. Accounting for that might make Bush look good. So we go along pretending chumpchanging errors are new and unique to war.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 2:03 PM | Permalink

Good analysis, Jay.

As noted before, we can all understand the grievances of the disenfranchised. But the grievances of the enfranchised ?

"I control the White House, both houses of congress, the Supreme Court and most statehouses in America -- but I'm the victim, goddamit, and don't you forget it."

That is the number one baffler of our times.

As for the confused Mr. Aubrey, his faith is touching.

Apparently it's okay to screw up in a way that costs tens of thousands of lives -- so long as you are Truman, or so long as you are Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice et. al.

But as for a newspaperman who writes a dumb cutline on a story of minor interest at best ? Hang him from the highest tree !

There is plenty wrong with the press -- structural dilemmas, outmoded business models, lockstep groupthink -- as you and others have pointed out relentlessy.

Unfortunately, Aubrey's disjointed ramblings address none of that.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at May 17, 2006 2:17 PM | Permalink

Steve. You have plenty to be defensive about, so your last post is understandable.

The point about big-time screwing up is that 1, a single standard should be used, and, 2, it isn't, with the MSM chumpchanging the current situation to make Bush look bad for downturns in operations reported completely without context--Truman, etc.

We're not asking reporters be hanged. We're asking them to get as smart as the readers--for starters--and for the MSM to stop making stuff up. Also to make such changes as would help with the improvements.

We're also suggesting that insisting that none of the foregoing is necessary is going to cost the MSM.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 2:25 PM | Permalink

Aubrey's press hate, which I've told you about, has origins...

"The press had screwed me and my family... The press hasn't done much to redeem itself."

That's the message no matter what the subject.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 17, 2006 2:32 PM | Permalink

The only shared context between Bush and Truman are plain talking and approval ratings in the 20s. It's the MSM that knows about your mortgage Aubrey, not the NSA.

Ida, call the NSA, there are gazillions to be made in data-mining mortgages. Then we can be like Verizon and BellSouth. We can neither confirm or deny that we were asked by the NSA to provide data. We volunteered it, no asking needed. How's that for incredible speculation?

The press screwed over the Aubreys? I bet some driver once cut Aubrey off in 1967 merging without signaling, and he's been hounding the guy since. Please Aubrey, we don't need the details.

Posted by: jaw at May 17, 2006 2:40 PM | Permalink

Jaw. You wanted to get detailed about the mortgage. Unfortunately, although you may have been correct in general, you were not correct in my case. I just happened to think of something even weirder. The monthly payment and the reduced amount still owing could be deduced from knowing the beginning balance and interest rate. However, we pay a bit over. This drops the balance owing faster than the amortization table would show. They got that right, too.
Anyway, if the NSA is this intrusive, please let us know. Until then, the lack of interest among the rest of us--instead of the MSM and beltway types--might be that we're used to considerably more intrusion than looking for patterns among phone numbers.

If the press can start performing competently, I think most people will be pleased with it. I would be.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 2:47 PM | Permalink

No, Richard. There isn't a fixed standard because all wars are not equal and all presidents are different.

You're ignoring the magnitude of scale between Iraq and WWII. Iraq isn't WWII. Iraq isn't Korea, which involved a Chinese invasion and the UN. Iraq isn't even Vietnam.

You create equivalences were none exist. FDR and Truman were NOT immune to criticism during their respective wars. WWII and Korea were conflicts cast upon us. We created the war in Iraq. The reasons why keep shifting.

Wait, never mind. Forget it. You have no interest in listening to anything that doesn't wrap around your warped view of the media and Bush. Frankly, I have no more interest in hearing it.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at May 17, 2006 2:57 PM | Permalink

I guess there isn't much to say when you feel you can change the standards as convenient. I know the wars were of a different scale. So?
How does that affect whether getting blindsided by the Chicoms in Korea was more, less, or the equally blameworthy compared to 9-11. Hell. There was a war on. Somebody should have been watching. Not like the summer of 1950 when nobody was watching--probably should have been but nothing was happening as on 9-11. No. A war, hot war, with the Chinese not that many miles north, actively supplying the Norks, sharing an ideology. Should have been somebody watching.
I really fail to see what, besides partisanship, would consider this a one-of-those-war things and 9-11 something that goes right to the top.

If you want similar standards, let's use Katrina. Same storm. Same time. Reaction only lousy in NOLA. Difference is that Mississippi and Alabama had competent local and state officials. Bush was president over all the states. So that couldn't have been the difference. Difference was locals. But you guys continue to pretend it was Bush's fault, while not doing the logical thing and telling us that the way things went well in other states must also be Bush's responsibility.
FEMA in Florida standing around, as one guy said, hands in pockets asking if anybody needed anything. Nope. Things went well. Going to lay that to Bush? Didn't think so. But a single standard should apply, the whole thing being hurricanes in the same year.

If Iraq is a war Bush created, then he gets the blame or praise for creating it and its eventual outcome. But you guys don't even bother with that. LOOTING!!! SHOULD HAVE HAD MORE TROOPS!! HUMVEES NEED MORE ARMOR!!! GUY GOT KILLED!!!

Whether Truman was unpopular or not then isn't really the issue. The issue is whether you would, today, blame him for the same shortcomings you blame Bush for. You don't. The possible reasons do not, any of them, make you look good.

And you provide no context, probably to keep readers from reaching any other conclusions but those you specify.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 17, 2006 3:14 PM | Permalink

Rosen and Lovelady…

I know Aubreybashing can be an amusing pastime of a Wednesday afternoon, but please stop now. The point is that, at root, Richard Aubrey and Instapunk have discovered a conundrum that needs to be addressed, and seriously, through the prism of PressThink.

However inept or incompetent our President’s performance in office has been in fact, what they point out is undeniably true: George Bush’s failures alone do not account for the abject state of his approval ratings.

The economy is not that bad.
The war in Iraq is not that catastrophic.
Hurricane Katrina was not all his fault.

Something is indeed going on that makes the public at large perceive a mediocre Presidency as a disastrous one.

That “something,” in the mind of Instapunk and Aubrey and their ilk, is a successful anti-Bush propaganda campaign by the MainStreamMedia. In this comment section it is not enough simply to contradict that claim as self-pitying or springing from a victim mentality (even though these observations may be true). A plausible counter explanation has to be offered.

For my part, I agree with Rosen when he noted that Instapunk “is not eviscerating Dan Bartlett.” What he was alluding to was that the President’s predicament derives from his communications strategy. In other words Rosen and Instapunk refer to the same phenomenon -- “how the Bush Administration is represented in the mass media” -- as the explanation for his disproportionate negatives. Instapunk blames the scribes; Rosen blames the spinners.

Three quick examples:

Why are so many negative about Bush’s economic policies when we are not in recession? My answer goes beyond the inegalitarian distribution of the benefits of growth (which is real), to the President’s communication strategy: he spent the first four months of his second term guaranteeing to us that we would live our retirements in penury because Social Security was beyond repair. No wonder we think the country is headed in the wrong direction!

Why is so much attention being paid to the relatively low death toll of the War in Iraq? My answer goes to the rhetorical strategy the Bush Administration used to increase civilian support for a war effort in which the majority of the population is not involved, in an era with no draft and a professional military that is recruited disproportionately from certain demographic, ideological and regional populations. His rallying cry was a sentimental one: Support Our Troops (not our policy). The public response was a sentimental when even a few of our troops are killed or maimed.

Why does the War on Terrorism appear to be losing traction? My answer goes back to Bush’s Second Inaugural, in which he committed the nation to a struggle against Tyranny and invoked Democracy as its antidote. Yet the democracy he admires has elected an Iranian government that wants to build a nuclear bomb; a Palestinian government that wants to wipe Israel off the map; and an Iraqi government that may be veering towards warlordism, ethnic cleansing, theocracy, all in alliance with Teheran. No wonder the public cannot see his overarching principles as a guiding light to a bright future through the current storm.

Government by talking points, photo ops and slogans is inevitably going to be exposed as unhinged from reality. The medium through which that government is conducted is, of course, the MainStreamMedia. Instapunk, Aubrey et al are correct when they see the President’s poor performance played out in the medium. They blame the messenger. A PressThink analysis can be more subtle than that, it can blame message mismanagement.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at May 17, 2006 4:22 PM | Permalink

George Bush’s failures alone do not account for the abject state of his approval ratings.

Humm. Tyndall, where would Bush's ratings land if he had better message management? 40s? 50s?

I'd love to hear your PressThink for the Instapunks and Aubreys on the left who said the messenger failed in its duty to speak truth to power. For the left, the MSM is the stenography arm of the WH. In that conundrum, should Bush's numbers be in the teens, or low 20s, because the MSM helped prop them up?

Posted by: jaw at May 17, 2006 4:56 PM | Permalink


Sure, 45% seems about right--below half but not in the toilet.

The "Instapunks and Aubreys on the left" as you call them seem to be fighting old battles, still stewing over a couple of close elections that they lost and a decision to go to war that they opposed, but even Democratic leaders supported. I do not hear many contemporary complaints from the left about the MSM propping Bush up. That would seem like piling on.

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at May 17, 2006 5:03 PM | Permalink

Just visit PressThink at the next WaPost, NYTimes dust up for voices on the left. Or look up Steve Schwenk on this thread or the previous thread. The comments are usually one-sided depending on topics. The only non-political thread was the Sago mining here and here. You just have pure press hate, sans politics, from the usual suspects.

Posted by: jaw at May 17, 2006 5:41 PM | Permalink

Here's the announcement and home page for my Q and A tomorrow. Go there to submit questions:

Examining Journalism
A Look at Politics and Press Coverage
Thursday, May 18, 2006; 12:00 PM

"Jay Rosen, author of the blog PressThink and journalism professor at NYU, will be online Thursday, May 18, at noon ET to examine current issues in journalism: relations between the press and the Bush White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow's first week behind the podium, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten's influence in the administration, media coverage of alleged leaks, the role of bloggers and how the White House press corps has changed."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 17, 2006 6:00 PM | Permalink

ABC's George Stephanopoulos on World News Tonight about his network's latest poll: "89% of the American people are optimistic about their own personal futures. You know, a President just should not be at 33% when you have got 89% optimistic."

Posted by: Andrew Tyndall at May 17, 2006 6:18 PM | Permalink

Our personal futures extend beyond 2008. ABC should ask a different about optimism, if Bush were to remain our president in our personal futures.

Posted by: jaw at May 17, 2006 6:27 PM | Permalink

In an attempt to avoid this thread reaching critical Aubrey mass, here's Tony Snow responding to a question about Rollback:

Tony Snow on Rollback (via Hugh Hewitt)

Hugh Hewitt: One of the lead bloggers of the left, Jay Rosen, up at New York University, who writes at Pressthink, has argued that this Adminsitration is intent on "rollback," the delegitimzation of the White House press corps and main stream media generally, and part of that was to deny the spokespeople and including the number one spokesperson, in this case you, the ability to reply effectively, is that just sort of leftist overthink?

Tony Snow: I think so. Yea. It has always been the case that there are certain things that a press secretary can't talk about such as matters of national security, and, Jay can go back and look through every White House and find that there are times when you want to swing back and even when you have great facts at hand, you can't. There are just certain boundries that you can't cross.... (the whole exchange supposedly will be here later)

Snow (no big surprise) denies a strategy of Rollback, saying basically there's always stuff the press secretary can't divulge and the situation isn't unique to this administration. Plausible deniability, I guess. It'll be interesting to see if there's been a noticeable change in strategy over the next few months.

Posted by: Mike at May 17, 2006 6:30 PM | Permalink

Well, that was an interesting surprise. Thanks, Mike; and thanks Hugh. I will have to weave that into my post. Rollback is leftist overthink because there's always been stuff you can't say, even though you want to.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 17, 2006 6:59 PM | Permalink

If low approval ratings can be blamed on the press, should a politician credit the press when his or her approval ratings are high? Maybe, but I don't recall people saying "well, Bush is so popular because the press is really behind him" back in 2002.

Politicians always think they're popular despite the press and unpopular because of the press.

But there's another trend in play here.

We're coming up on the mid-term election in a second administration: the dreaded "Sixth Year Swoon." I think the average loss for the dominant party in this sixth-year cycle is more than 30 House seats, which should tell you something. In other words, absent all other information, Bush and the GOP would be expected to be falling in the polls right now.

Stephanopoulos, for my money, is a tool. I don't like these political pros who go into TV punditry -- if they weren't trustworthy BEFORE (and they weren't), why should we be trusting them NOW? Anyway, Georgie should know about the Sixth Year pattern, so I'm not convinced by his 89/33 reasoning.

I'd offer another interpretation: After six years in office, Americans have pretty much figured out what their presidents are all about. They knew they didn't like Nixon, they knew they liked Reagan, and they knew that they liked Clinton, despite the whole Lewinsky scandal.

Maybe they've had six years of watching this act, and they've figured out they just don't like the job this president is doing. I think there are limits to the amount of packaging you can do with a political figure, and that eventually even Pravada-style propaganda can't prop up a guy who doesn't have the confidence of the people.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at May 17, 2006 7:17 PM | Permalink

Approval and Midterm Seat Loss: Two Problems

In all but two years the president's party loses seats. That is one of the most reliable regularities in American politics, or at least it was until 1998. Prior to that, 1934 was the last time a President's party gained seats in a midterm. Before that only 1902 saw a gain since 1860.
2006 Midterm Elections Preview

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 17, 2006 9:43 PM | Permalink

That is too funny: Jay as "one of the lead bloggers of the left."

I love Hugh Hewitt -- it's like reading the view from Mars - but only he could come up with that characterization. (Well, considering Aubrey or Jason, maybe not.)

Can you imagine what Jane Hamsher and her Firedoglake cohorts would have to say about that description of our host ?


Posted by: Ann Kolson at May 17, 2006 10:08 PM | Permalink

Why are so many negative about Bush’s economic policies when we are not in recession?

Great question, and I don't think Social Security is the answer. What's the economic message? Who's John Snow? Ever see him talk?

Why is so much attention being paid to the relatively low death toll of the War in Iraq?

Two reasons, expectations and perceived progress/ROI (also see Post-Conflict Iraq: Prospects and Problems).

Why does the War on Terrorism appear to be losing traction?

I actually think this is a result of fighting the war "over there." I don't think there is a perceived threat of terrorism in the US. I think we're very close, almost back to but not quite exactly, the mindset we had in the 1990s.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 17, 2006 10:19 PM | Permalink

"The White House is notorious for not having any receivers -- only transmitters." That statement came this week from Richard A. Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail pioneer and Chairman of He was expressing frustration after the President's speech on immigration.

Andrew: I don't agree with you that this is a mediocre Adminstration with an inexplicably low approval rating. We don't start in the same place on that. So an argument with that premise is not going to fly for me.

I understand that this view is not accepted by many interpreters who pass through PressThink, but...I think the government has been led by radicals--game changers was Karl Rove's phrase this week--who are bent on transforming the map, re-writing the rules, blasting away the old impediments and making the world anew.

They are less risk-averse than previous Administrations, Democratic and Republican. That's a big difference. They're more united, determined and disciplined as a leadership cadre. You could also say they're more visionary. They dream of new powers; they have vastly expanded the size of the beast and the unchecked powers of the executive branch. Though not very competent at the less glamorous parts of government they feel wholly qualified to re-make it.

I also think Sep. 11 caused a temporary suspension of "normal" politics, creating approval ratings near 80 percent, and a climate of fear. This was mistakenly interpreted by the Bush team as a permanent breakthrough that changed the rules and permitted them things that would have sounded self-defeating, dangerous or nonsensical to previous Administrations. It took a while but when the return to normal conditions happened, these "breakthrough" methods started to become major handicaps but the White House had already formed itself around them. (Which is one reason Bush's refusal to go outside his circle has been so costly.)

Among them are Rollback, the Bush Bubble, "not having any receivers -- only transmitters," the doctrine of White House infallability, the unitary executive, the destruction of oversight, the campaign to "nullify the professionals" throughout government (they and their notions of civic duty are in our way) the "fifty plus one" strategy (an election gambit turned into a governing style) and letting the tools of persuasion fall into disrepair because assent was assumed.

First Democrats became implaccably opposed to the radicalism in the Bush Administration; then independents grew disgusted with the war, the incompetence and the hubris; now conservatives are leaving the reservation over cronyism, corruption, the return of big government (after Clinton said it was over) and the failure to deliver on the social reforms the Christian right wants. The sudden emergence of split-the-difference politics after so many years of Game Changers Ball is shaking the Bush coalition. The White House doesn't know how to operate that way; it isn't built for it.

Where does press hostility to Bush fit into that picture? First, the hostility is earned many times over. But it's a minor factor in his political plunge. The approval ratings are a reaction to things far more fundamental than the drip-drip-drip of "bad" press. Bush is reaping what he sowed.

You see it's not a radical country; we're pragmatic. We have a government that's somehow overlooked this.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 17, 2006 10:31 PM | Permalink

Good luck with the Washington Post Q&A, Jay. I'm sure you will do fine. (But it might be a good idea to stay away from Aubrey's mortgage.)

Sisyphus: No more links to, okay ? We know the static. We're looking for the information.

Posted by: Ann Kolson at May 17, 2006 10:40 PM | Permalink

Statement by Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of, on President Bush's Immigration Speech, May 15

President Bush has failed to convince conservatives [...]

Press Briefing by Tony Snow, May 17:

Q I want to ask you the same question about conservatives that I posed yesterday, because the President said that his approach to this is to lead; that's how you bring conservatives around. Well, he said the same thing about Social Security, and they didn't come around. He lost that issue among conservatives. There's been, frankly, and even more --
MR. SNOW: Well, first let me say --
Q Well, I'll just finish my point, which is, there's been a more vociferous outcry on issues that are well-known to the President in terms of what conservatives oppose about this immigration idea. So what specifically is he prepared to do to bring them around, other than to lead on the issue?
MR. SNOW: Well, the general -- the use of the catch-all term, "conservatives" about particular issues, I don't think allows me to give a specific answer, because, as you know, David, on any given issue, you're going to have shifting groups of people who are for and against. [...]

Responsive leadership?

Posted by: nedu at May 17, 2006 10:47 PM | Permalink

I agree with everything Jay Rosen said. This administration lives in a cocoon of its own construction. What anyone thinks of the way they operate is irrelevant to them. We've been decommissioned. For now.

Posted by: Robin Sampson at May 17, 2006 10:54 PM | Permalink

Ann: Thanks for the well wishes. My biggest obstacle in doing those things is slow typing speed. (One secret of Howard Kurtz's success: he's fast.) The technology they use for instant publishing of the online Q & A does not allow for preview and editing.

And whatever Hewitt says I'm not one of the "leading bloggers of the left." PressThink is like a boutique firm, not one of the majors.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 17, 2006 11:11 PM | Permalink

Jay Rosen: They dream of new powers; they have vastly expanded the size of government and the unchecked power of the executive branch.

I actually find this the most interesting, specifically the Homeland Security Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Responding to Homeland Threats:Is Our Government Organized for the Challenge? [Opening Statement]

The Hart-Rudman Commission proposes the establishment of a National Homeland Security Agency, an independent agency whose director would be a member of the President’s cabinet. The agency would be responsible for coordinating an array of federal activities relating to homeland security. FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, and other relevant entities would be transferred to the new organization, which would be functionally organized around prevention, protection of critical infrastructure, and emergency preparedness and response.

The Gilmore Commission went in a different direction, recommending the creation of a National Office for Combatting Terrorism. This new White House office would report directly to the President and would be responsible for formulating anti-terrorism strategy. It would also coordinate terrorism policy and have some influence over national budget allocations for anti-terrorism activities.
[Press Release]
Lieberman praised the President’s Wednesday evening address to Congress in which the President announced his intention to establish a White House Office of Homeland Security. "It’s a positive step forward," Lieberman said of the President’s proposal, "although we may need to determine the contours, makeup, and powers of the new office.
Executive Order Establishing Office of Homeland Security

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 17, 2006 11:16 PM | Permalink

And what exactly is fascinating about this old news? From what we've seen hence the thing didn't work out so well. Isn't this an example of Big Government Republicans?

Posted by: Robin Sampson at May 17, 2006 11:42 PM | Permalink

Sisyphus: No more links to, okay ? We know the static. We're looking for the information. - Ann Kolson

Ann, I'm sorry you found that link inappropriate, unhelpful, redundant and/or noisy.

On your browser, you can set the status bar to display the url of a link when you hover over it with your mouse. If you see that a link goes to, then you can choose not to click on it.

If your point is that I should NOT link to original sources or websites related to my commentary, then you simply ... and fatally ... misunderstand where you are and what you're doing.

Posted by: Sisyphus at May 18, 2006 12:04 AM | Permalink

Wes Clark Jr. was a guest host on The Young Turks last night. He talked about his dad's 2004 campaign, political consultants and Dems.

Posted by: jaw at May 18, 2006 1:44 AM | Permalink

That is too funny: Jay as "one of the lead bloggers of the left."

I love Hugh Hewitt -- it's like reading the view from Mars - but only he could come up with that characterization. (Well, considering Aubrey or Jason, maybe not.)

Well, that's just New York media types are swimming in a school of fish so far to the left that you look around, see fish on both sides, and think you're centrist.

That's the problem with putting so much media influence in one city. You guys get so inbred, you can't tell the girl you're bickering with in bed is really your sister.

Even Jay himself self-describes as a radical, Ann.

There's no doubt that Jay is a voice of the left. If you don't think so, it's because the New York media wouldn't know where the middle of the road was if they marked it with a double yellow line.

Jay is not a "leading blogger," in terms of traffic, of course. But based on the quality of his essays and the depth with which he digs into his chosen topics - the "aftermatter" feature is particularly strong - there's also no doubt he's one of the best.

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk at May 18, 2006 2:27 AM | Permalink

Ann Kolson, just curious about your “left” comment regarding Jay…. Do you not consider Jay “left” b/c Jane Hamsher may be further left? Or were you saying that Jane Hamsher and that crowd would not consider Jay “left”? Are “left” and “right” perjorative terms? Labels in general are “lazy shorthand” and allow us to disregard otherwise credible info, but I was curious b/c Jay, in his response to you simply claimed not to be a “major” blogger… he avoided the “left vs. right” positioning.

This is an interesting short “quiz” b/c it looks at the “left-right” continuum as an x-y axis combining economic and social views. A brainless exercise but it certainly placed me exactly where I would describe myself!

The Political Compass™

Posted by: Kristen at May 18, 2006 2:28 AM | Permalink


Your comment and Jay's subseuent response are why I return to PressThink.... not b/c I agree with one view or another (although I do), but b/c the interchange makes me think, evaluate, refine.

Which I will do tonight and perhaps respond tomorrow a bit more....

Posted by: Kristen at May 18, 2006 2:34 AM | Permalink

New Post: That al Qaeda Doesn't Believe in Transparency is a Big Reason We Do.

It's got new suggestions in it, promise!

This thread is closed. See you at the new one.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at May 18, 2006 3:18 AM | Permalink

From the Intro