March 31, 2008
The Love Affair Between McCain and the Press Sprains the Brain of the Liberal Blogosphere
"Though I await further reports, talk of some blogospheric war makes little sense to me. We're in a dynamic situation here. And one of the biggest unknowns is: will Obama match McCain in radical openness with the press?"
At Attytood, where I check in regularly, Will Bunch had some news for me on Saturday. Liberal bloggers declare war in Philly over media, McCain. He later changed it to, “UPDATED: Liberal bloggers say media-McCain love will be the battleground in the fall.” Having just written about that affair, I was interested in his report:
The left-wing blogosphere is declaring an all-out war against the mainstream media – desperately concerned that inside-the-Beltway reporter-love for D.C. fixture McCain is already creating too large a mountain for any Democratic nominee to scale.
“This campaign is not going to be between the Democrats and the Republicans,” said Philadelphia’s Duncan Black, who writes under the name Atrios and whose highly popular progressive political blog, named Eschaton, inspired the gathering of bloggers and political activists called Eschacon ‘08.
“It’s between the Democrats and the media.”
I look forward to learning more about how “the media” stepped in for “the Republicans” in 2008, such that the media now have to be defeated for the Democrats to win. But even that provocative idea stops well short of war.
How in-your-face and personal to get?
If Bunch’s report is correct, and “the left-wing blogosphere is declaring an all-out war against the mainstream media,” there’s a few things I want to know: against whom, exactly? Is this a war of the pen, a matter of what we think and write about as critics? Or is this… let’s take culture war to the next level and de-legitimate the media for as many people as we can reach? (Of course, the right had that idea already.)
If Bunch’s report is not accurate, and no such war was declared, then I would expect him to be corrected today and tomorrow, as people get back from the conference, think about what happened there, and compose their posts.
Will’s updated account said “there was a lot of discussion and debate over how to deal with the media love affair, [over] how in-your-face and personal to get with allegedly wayward reporters, and what is fair game in undercutting the McCain narrative. For example… is McCain’s past divorce and speedy remarriage into the rich Arizona family that helped launch his political career in the early 1980s, something to go after?” (See this column from 2000)
From Sinfonian, who live blogged the day.
Digby: one idea, like Josh Marshall did, is to have readers cover local press and submit them so that there’s a national clearinghouse of information. Media Matters is good at media criticism, but they can’t go after reporters “on a very personal and ugly basis if we have to” like the blogosphere can. “The press must be shamed … by a relentless public.”
Where public conduct is shameful, public shaming is good. Bunch said that Vermont blogger NTodd Pritsky brought up the recent episode where a questioner of Chelsea Clinton asked about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“People are asking Chelsea Clinton about Monica,” he said. “Why aren’t we asking McCain about Cindy” – his current wife, who McCain left his first wife for after returning from Vietnam – “or some of his lobbyist connections.”
The young man who asked Chelsea about Monica Lewinsky was a student at Butler University. He told the AP he’s a Clinton supporter. I’m not sure what relevance that has for the coming war, if it’s war that’s a-coming.
True, anyone who manages to get called on in a “town hall” session can speak the unspeakable and ask what the media refuses to ask. (See this example.) If its dramatic enough, it can go viral, either by Big Media tape looping or the new sharing networks that work around it. Trying to get called on by McCain so as to confront McCain with questions he hasn’t been asked by the regular press? Definitely possible. For unlike Bush he is not afraid of being questioned. Definitely risky, too. I can imagine McCain taking a Cindy question and turning it to viral advantage.
Targeting whom, exactly?
On February 21, the New York Times published a front-page expose on “some of his lobbyist connections,” the ones that never get written about. Remember, it blew up in their faces because the article insinuated that he’d had an affair with one of the lobbyists. But it tried to do what I believe the liberal blogosphere is calling for. That is, the Times tried to say: “Here’s a man who holds himself up as different, a man of principle, of rectitude, but is that the real McCain? We found troubling evidence that it isn’t….”
So is the war going to target the people at the New York Times who tried to take on the “upright character” part of the McCain mystique and—in journalistic terms, at least— blew the story? And are they going be warred on for blowing it (losers!) or for failing to ask if the McCain of legend is the real McCain? Listen to Bill Keller explain the “larger point of the story” and “our purpose in publishing it.” After the Keating Five scandal, McCain
rebuilt his career and his reputation by becoming a champion of clean government, a critic of lobbyists and the vested-interest money that courses through American politics. More than most politicians, he was keenly aware that, as he put it in one of his books, “questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in politics.”
The point of this “Long Run” installment was that, according to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation.
War on Keller, then? John Armato of Crooks and Liars, linking to these rumors of war, says he writes “as someone who knows what our liberal media will do to Obama as well, because John McCain has them wrapped around his finger.” My view: If you already know what the press and the makers of political television are going to do with McCain and Obama in 2008, you know far too much.
Saturday at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher previewed the talk at Eschacon.
This is the guy who wants to “Bomb Iran” and be in Iraq for the next hundred years. In the junior high popularity contest that this election has become, McCain is the Once and Future Prom King. On the other hand, the media have locked their sights on Obama, and he can look forward to more and more constant video repetition shitstorms of the Jeremiah Wright variety.
Unless someone starts pushing the media to apply some equivalent skepticism to McCain, the slog to November will be one long foot massage for St. John the Divine.
Pushing big media to bring equal skepticism to McCain is an intelligent demand; and there’s plenty of material for bloggers to work with. But this requires war? It seems to me to require good blogging.
“This relationship is lethal.”
Same day I published How Did John McCain Obtain What He Has in the Bank with the Press? Digby posted Cosmological Flyboy. It’s good blogging, her reaction to Neil Gabler’s compelling op-ed on the pose of ironic detachment that McCain and the press share.
Obama is cool, but not in the proper ironic, post modern way the press loves so much. His call to hope and change is probably going to give McCain and his fanboys a lot of laughs down the road. Look at all the silly hippies. And even if he were a cynic and a ironist, which he isn’t, Obama is stuck with the liberal party and they are, like, totally uncool with all their useless blabbering about icky women’s issues and goo-goo anti-war crap and talk about poor people. Talk about a bunch of bringdowns.
This relationship between the press and McCain is lethal. They’re already subject to GOP narratives about the faggy, mommy party and having their awesome maverick actually in the race is a perfect opportunity to show their cool, manly bonafides. They’ll be on the straight talk express no matter what crazy bullshit McCain spews out. Because they know he really doesn’t mean it. He’s a cool guy, just like them, and they don’t mean anything they say either.
Digby is right to emphasize how much it’s a guy thing between McCain and the press. “Because of his POW history and his savvy manipulation of their hero worship, they have imputed the character of the young man of integrity who stood steadfastly by his fellow prisoners forty years ago to the older sleazy, self-serving, intellectually lazy politician he became.”
Something like that did happen. But I don’t think Digby is right to see this relationship—which is deeply neurotic—as a fixed thing. It’s more in motion, and about to come under a lot of stress. Some of it from within journalists themselves. This is why, though I await further reports, talk of some blogospheric war makes little sense to me. We’re in a dynamic situation here. And one of the biggest unknowns is: will Obama match McCain in radical openness with the press?
The best indications are that McCain is about to throw a press think wild card into the mix. We don’t know what difference it will make because it’s never been tried by one nominee in a head to head presidential race, as far as I know. Like so many other things this year, none of the pros had predicted it would happen. And maybe it won’t pan out as the pressure builds. But McCain says he is going to continue to open himself to questioning by reporters throughout his run for the White House. You travel with McCain, you get to ask him questions. On the record, with lots of different opportunities, day and night.
“It keeps me intellectually stimulated.”
Can you really run for president like that? Most campaign advisers campaign against it. Besides the risks of gaffe and misstatement, they know that their own control over the campaign—the whole idea of message discipline—is diminished when the candidate is constantly sounding off to reporters. The handlers insight: you can’t run the campaign and be the nominee at the same time. (The 1972 movie, The Candidate, is all about this.)
Howard Kurtz asked McCain about it in January.
As the JetBlue charter from Michigan touched down in South Carolina, I strolled up to John McCain’s front-row seat — none of his aides batted an eye — and asked if he would continue to chat with reporters around the clock if he won the Republican nomination.
Most candidates, after all, grow more cautious around the media mob as the stakes get higher.
McCain said he couldn’t stop, because “that destroys credibility.” And besides, he said, “I enjoy it a lot. It keeps me intellectually stimulated, it keeps me thinking about issues, and it keeps me associated with a lower level of human being than I otherwise would be.”
Can’t stop. Destroys credibility if I change now. Keeps me thinking. Reporters: lower level of human being. Kurtz was supposed to chuckle at the insult, which is the towel-snapping part of the affair. “They keep me thinking” is a bit subtler. The man who is benefiting from hero worship is well advised to tell the worshippers that they instruct him. This allows them to think the interaction more equal than it really is.
“Access and New Hampshire townhalls.”
Kurtz’s check-in was more than two months ago. The other day in my comments section I asked Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason, who wrote a recent book on McCain mythology, whether the kind of aides now being added to his campaign were the kind who wouldn’t bat an eye at unrestricted access by Washington Post reporters with open notebooks. His reply surprised me:
Back when he was still running as the presumptive GOP front-runnter — in 2006 and early 2007 — he surrounded himself with Bush media types who erected some protective layers around him: Barring rabble like me from having any sit-downs, and (more importantly) eschewing the cozy bus rides for incessant (and largely unsuccessful) fundraising events.
In July of last year, when his campaign was on the verge of implosion, he fired a whole hell of a lot of those people, and got back to the basics of Access & New Hampshire townhalls. The architects of that story arc — of Getting Back to What We Do Best — are not likely to jump so quickly back into protective mode. Especially since he’ll likely be going up against a candidate who the media also adore, and therefore will have to compete for their favors.
Jane Hamsher says: “The media have locked their sights on Obama.” If she’s referring to what happens when the perception of Obama love becomes strong enough within the press corps that they self-consciously look for ways to bring some bad noise… yeah, that moment is here. (And it can happen with the press and McCain, too.) If she means the admiration for Obama within the press corps is over, and now they seek to destroy him, just like they did with Al Gore… no way. Political reporters are in the main still astonished and impressed with Obama. He defied their odds, and proved himself better at horse race punditry than they are.
An alternative to declaring some all-out war against the mainstream media lies within these coordinates:
- Call on Obama to match McCain in radical openness. (He did it here and it worked:)
- Keeping pounding on the press for what it refuses to ask McCain, or hasn’t tried to report upon. This is the most legitimate kind of criticism there is, and—as Atrios once noted—part of what the blogosphere was originally for.
- Check it out: If the press has the opportunity to ask lots and lots of questions, the demand for good questions goes up. Someone may ask yours, especially if bloggers develop the background narrative that shows why the unasked questions matter to the nation.
- “The journalists who covered McCain in 2000 feel very self-conscious about the criticism that the press came under for apparently being so taken with John McCain” says Ana Marie Cox in Kurtz’s January 20 report. She’s been covering McCain for Time.com, so she’s been on the bus with the gang. “There’s a sense that the first time was so fun and exciting, but this time we’re really going to be sober and critical and the dispassionate observers we’re supposed to be.” Doesn’t mean “sober and critical” will happen. It does mean they feel uneasy about it. They feel watched, and the blogosphere is definitely part of that. So… watch!
- Press for more women reporters on the McCain bus. This can only help.
- Press for more liberal bloggers included as “press” on the McCain bus. This would really help.
- Robert Stacy McCain, coming from the right and reacting to Bunch’s report out of Philly. “If liberal bloggers want to chastise the MSM for its long love affair with Senator Amnesty — hey, get in line. Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin have been complaining about this MSM-McCain romance for years, and Rush Limbaugh’s been doing it since at least 1999.” This is worth more thought.
- Try to feature the best of the Arizona press as a “check” on the worst of the national news media. Here’s a place to start (courtesy of Matt Welch): The Pampered Politician.
- What Paul Waldman said at Firedoglake this weekend. He’s co-author with David Brock of Free Ride, a new book on McCain and the press. “Our book alone may not be enough to convince the entire Washington press corps to do some introspection on the way they’ve been covering McCain. But we hope we can start a conversation - one that will be enhanced in the blogosphere - that will ultimately push the issue to the point where they can’t ignore it. And while some of my friends might not agree, I do believe that reporters want to do a good job. So our hope is that they can be persuaded to take a step back and ask whether their coverage of McCain has been what it should be, or whether they’re just repeating that he’s a principled maverick delivering straight talk, over and over and over.”
That’s the opposite of war. That’s persuasion.
* * *
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…
April 21: Kevin Drum says he is “baffled” by Obama’s stingy press availability and doesn’t understand the thinking. I’m with Kevin, but watch his commenters give him an earful.
For the topically obsessed: watch a Bloggingheads video of Time’s Ana Marie Cox and Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. They argue in detail about Neil Gabler’s take, barbeque at the candidate’s ranch and the tempestuous affair between McCain and the press, as well as the tension between bloggers and journalists. All matters in my last two posts are covered, though not always well. My summary here.
Eric Boehlert of Media Matters (who was there in Philly) emails about my line, This requires war? It seems to me to require good blogging.
I think the point Duncan and others were making this weekend is that the press doesn’t really respond to ‘“good blogging.” For instance, Media Matters for the last month has noted again and again and again and again that McCain clearly flip-flopped on immigration and yet almost nobody in the press mentions it when the topic, in reference to McCain, comes up… So sure, it’d be nice if bloggers simply had to point out reporting deficiencies and the press then responded. But the blogosphere is tired of politely, and repeatedly, pointing out the media’s errors regarding McCain. So i think many within the blogosphere will declare war.
Digby replies to this post. It’s a long and thoughtful answer, which I won’t try to summarize.
When I said that bloggers could get “personal and ugly” in ways that institutions like Media Matters couldn’t, I wasn’t suggesting that we “take the culture war to the next level and de-legitimate the media for as many people as we can reach.” That’s hyperbole that nobody even came close to saying.
By going personal and ugly, I meant that we could write about the press the way I did in the excerpt from this post which Jay positively quotes at length. In other words, we can write like bloggers, laying out the critique in edgy, irreverent, aggressive terms that an organization like Media Matters would not want to do. (And our new organizing tools may make it possible to drill our national critique down to the state and local level and mobilize readers to take it to the writers themselves.) The informality and shoot-from-the-hip style, along with our outsider status and freedom, is the essence of blogging.
Well, I agree with that.
In his Washington Post column, Howard Kurtz wrote about my exchange with Digby. “It’s no surprise that liberal bloggers are starting to train their fire on McCain and what they see as his media enablers, but some have apparently concluded that journalists are the enemy.” Meanwhile, more signs that McCain plans to run an unconventional campaign.
The blogger TRex, an FDL-alum, who was also at Eschacon.
I think that it’s kind of an overstatement that an oath of blood-vengeance was sworn out on the Big Dogs. We definitely need to be putting the spurs to the people who are supposed to be holding McCain accountable and are instead literally eating from his hand, but that’s kind of what we’ve always done.
Over at Firedoglake, Eli explains that a declaration of war on the mainstream media is meant…
not to completely discredit them as an institution (although, come to think of it, that might not be such a bad thing), but to hammer them ruthlessly every time they attack Democrats with lazy stereotypes and high-school sniping, and every time they fawn over McCain or any other macho Republican manly men who might set their loins a-quiver. And maybe, just maybe, we can scare some of them into occasional honesty, or raise a big enough stink to damage the worst offenders’ credibility.
The post also includes a fantastic claim that is, essentially, a lie. “The media are telling us that Barack Obama is some kind of Muslim or Muslim sympathizer.” No, “the media” aren’t telling you that, Eli. But it makes for a nice war cry.
Later at Firedoglake, Scarecrow explains it this way:
Liberal bloggers are convinced that Democrats aren’t just running against the Republicans; they’re running against a media framing of the parties and the candidates that makes it far more difficult for Democrats to win. But this year it’s worse; the Democratic nominee must overcome the media’s blind love affair with John McCain, a bias so effective in shielding McCain from criticism it could put McCain in the White House.
“Our only question is how to increase the speed and amount of pain we can inflict.” Philly blogger Mithras in the comments:
Political reporters are a fickle, amoral herd. When the GOP proxy guns are trained on Obama or Clinton, they will eagerly repeat right-wing talking points in order to heighten the conflict. When Gore got gored and Kerry got swiftboated, we argued and reasoned and got no where. (Also, the candidates hoped in vain that people would see through the BS.)
This time is going to be different. We know what to do when reporters join the Drudge-led puke funnel: kneecap them immediately. Our only question is how to increase the speed and amount of pain we can inflict; the morning session of Eschacon was devoted to exactly that. And it will be different in another way: Neither Obama nor Clinton will fail to respond to attacks.
Bottom line: Rosen is wrong. The news media will collaborate with right-wing propaganda, as they have consistently done since Clinton’s first term. You can’t use reason to counter slander. The only thing that works to stop it is deterrence.
This blog is new to me. The author writes well. Ché Pasa comments on this post and Digby’s: This means war!
War on the AP? You may want to read this first. Cindy McCain’s Fortune Provides Senator With Private Jets, Vacation Homes.
Washington Times: Blogger outreach boosts McCain.
Even as talk radio was brutalizing Sen. John McCain in the Republican presidential primaries, conservative bloggers reached a respectful truce with the Arizona senator over touchy issues and gave him what the campaign called a “tremendous positive psychological” boost.
The main reason: Mr. McCain’s blogger outreach, the most extensive of any presidential campaign in either party.
Same article, “McCain treated bloggers similar to other reporters, including repeatedly inviting them to travel on the campaign bus with the press.”
Michael Hisrch in Newsweek: The World According to John McCain.
There is McCain the pragmatist: worldly-wise and witty, determined to follow the facts to the exclusion of ideology—a man willing to defy his own party and forge compromise, even with liberals like Ted Kennedy (on granting illegal immigrants some amnesty) and John Kerry (on normalizing relations with Vietnam). And then there is the zealous advocate, single-minded about pressing his cause, sometimes erupting in outrage at detractors and willing to stand alone—without any allies at all, if need be.
There is much to like in both McCains. He’s pragmatic in the service of the national interest; he rises to passion when he believes that America’s best values are at stake.
Posted by Jay Rosen at March 31, 2008 1:18 AM
well, since I was there, let me give my two cents.
The people at Eschacon declared war on the media, then refused to appoint any military leadership to run the war.
There was lots of talk about how absolutely essential it was to promulgate a reality-based McCain counter-narrative to the false one that the media will be promoting -- and then go after reporters/news organizations when they ignore the real McCain, and present him as the "bright shining lie" that is the McCain myth.
There was also lots of talk about the successes of the progressive blogosphere in the past -- the 15,000 letters to the editors sent to local papers after Nedra Pickler's AP smear of Obama's patriotism, the humiliation of Joe Klein, the Deborah Howell/Post fiasco, as well as actually substantive accomplishment like (so-far) preventing telecom immunity, and the effort to stop Social Security privatization (which J. Marshall should get partial credit for, but the idea that it was the progressive blogosphere that did it is kinda silly.)
But since it was a bunch of progressives, the very idea that accomplishing the goal would both leadership to organize the effort (i.e. a person or group who would decide on 2 or 3 specific efforts to make each week), and a commitment by at some a decent chunk of the progressive blogosphere to follow through on what "the leadership" decided, was treated like a skunk in the road. "We're not like Republicans", "we don't do top down", "I'm a liberal, and nobody tells me what to post about", "our successes have been organic" and "but what about the risks?" were all used to shoot down the idea.
To the progressive blogosphere, "war" means the occasional blogswarm to Swampland or the Post's comment section. The idea that you need leadership at the top (the agenda setter), and in the middle (the bloggers themselves), to actually point the troops in the same direction is alien to us.
Joe Klein and Deborah Howell, and Nedra Pickler still have their jobs (as do Michael Gordon, John Solomon, Jay Carney and tons of other regular committers of journalistic atrocities -- except for Judith Miller, I can't think of any "mainstream" journalist who has lost their job because of shoddy reporting that was in keeping with conventional wisdom in "the village", and the real reason Miller lost her job was that the whole "Libby" thing brought to much attention to how she did business).
So while "war" was declared, its pretty much the "underpants gnome theory of war";
Step 1: Progressives complains about the media
Step 2: ???????
Step 3: McCain is defeated in November.
oh, the reason I stopped by was to point out something completely off-topic, but is the kind of thing that jay discusses a lot here -- another case of the realization of the potential for citizens to play an important role in reporting.
Burnt Orange Report got its readers who attended the Texas Democratic County/State Senate District Caucuses to report on the results -- and what happened at the . Here's an excerpt...
11:35pm by Phillip - We adjusted SD 13 slightly, adding 17 delegates to account for the "at-large" portion. I used the numbers from the Houston Chronicle. What's really funny is that, despite the massive amount of documentation we provided here tonight, they still use the AP's numbers --- which show a relative split between Obama and Clinton at 933 (Clinton) and 937 (Obama). That means the Associated Press is only 3,700 delegates behind us! Show some love to us bloggers for better reporting, and donate to TexBlog PAC!
Liberal bloggers who follow things closely get mad at the press for not doing extensive follow up on issues like John McCain and his views on Social Security.
In the WSJ, McCain says he agrees with President Bush on Social Security and private accounts, in contrast to the policies posted on his own website:
"You can't keep promises made to retirees," says Mr. Holtz-Eakin, referring to the level of benefits the government is supposed to pay future retirees. "But you can pay future retirees more than current retirees."
Asked about the apparent change in position in the interview, Sen. McCain said he hadn't made one. "I'm totally in favor of personal savings accounts," he says. When reminded that his Web site says something different, he says he will change the Web site. (As of Sunday night, he hadn't.) "As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it -- along the lines that President Bush proposed."
This isn't some quibble. Social Security is a $608 billion dollar annual item and 21% of the entire budget. Can we get a little follow up on McCain's statement "I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it -- along the lines that President Bush proposed." ? McCain surrogate Joe Lieberman didn't get the memo (Think Progress):
On ABC’s This Week today, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) falsely claimed that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “is not for the private accounts to take the place of social security.” “He’s for what Bill Clinton used to call Social Security plus,” said Lieberman.
Lieberman didn’t disagree, however, when host George Stephanopoulos pointed out that McCain had “disputed that in the Wall Street Journal” recently. Instead, he brushed the contradiction aside and changed the subject.
It's been a month of ping-pong in the press trying to nail down John McCain's position on private accounts and Social Security. How hard is it to read back to John McCain his quote "I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it -- along the lines that President Bush proposed." and ask "Is that your position or the position on the website?" It's a pretty large, basic policy question that can be resolved with follow-ups by reporters with access, not by bloggers.
If something this simple can't be resolved with basic follow-up then don't be suprised if DFH bloggers start reporting on John McCain schtupping Belle Starr, Bart Starr, and Bart Simpson. And if that doesn't work, it's going to be DFH bloggers covering Tim Russert's forbidden trysts with a Krispy Kreme worker. And the war of uncouth words will escalate until....some reporter actually gets a freakin' ANSWER to a follow-up question about Social Security from John McCain.
You can say the press is doing it's job by asking but 1) the lack of clarity on such a major issue doesn't seem to be outrageous to a majority in the press and 2) the minority in the press who actually find McCain's answers on SS troubling aren't so troubled that they stay on topic and ask any fruitful follow-up questions.
When Digby says she's going to fight the press, this is why. All these BBQ eating McCain-loving reporters on the Straight Talk Express and none of them can take 30 seconds to ask John McCain one question on SS and one follow up to resolve an issue that involves one-fifth of the entire federal budget.
I really don't know what Jay wants.
No list of demands. But one thing that concerns me is well represented by this comment at Digby's place:
Like I wrote several weeks ago in response to a post on this same topic, the best, if not only way to combat media bias, laziness, stupidity, dishonesty, etc., is by "taking out" a couple of fairly well-known and respected journalists and pundits, by humiliating them publicly beyond the point of redemption. I.e. do to them what they did to Rather (except in a reality-based manner). The rest will get the message loud and clear, and start to clean up their act. Not out of conscience or ethics, but out of self-preservation--which for most people is really the only thing that ever truly motivates (well, there's also that carrot thing, but these people make way too much, and the average blogger too little, to be able to buy them off, plus it's not ethical). They'll scream bloody murder, not fair, lynch mob, blah blah blah. But they'll get the message and act accordingly.
Not nice? Sure, but do I really give a flying fuck if we're talking about the likes of Joe "too busy to fact-check" Klein and John "How cool is the surge!" King, when we're talking about human lives and the egregious official malfeasance that they're enabling? Exactly. They had their chance. They blew it. These are not good people. We need to apply some hurt. They'll survive, maybe even be better off for it. But most of all, so will the rest of us, the country, the world... Plus it's the only way to do this, as I see it. We have limited power, and this is one of the main ways we have of improving things--for now.
And let me emphasize--only the people who truly deserve it, and only via a fact-based approach. No going after the good guys and lesser offenders, and no making shit up or going after off-limits stuff like their families or personal lives (unless, of course, they're committing crimes, exhibiting rank hypocrisy or hurting people). I'm sure everyone can figure out the rest.
kovie | 04.01.08 - 2:27 am | #
It's the naivete of thinking that "taking out" a few pundits and ruining them the way Rather was ruined is simply a matter of will, of being angry enough to do it, but of course to do it "with a fact-based approach." As if big investigations relying on documents that no one can authenticate are simply lying around, waiting for the blog push that would humiliate the journalists involved.
Meanwhile, if McCain does keep the straight talk express going--meaning constant access and question time at all hours of the day and night--what then? Like Jay Ackroyd, I have my doubts whether it can be sustained, but there are some signs that he's planning to run an unconventional campaign.
To me it's an unknown, but it's striking that the liberal blogosphere isn't focused at all on the differences between the Bush Bubble and the Straight Talk Express. Like Weldon, I find it impossible to believe that the "love affair" will remain the same amid the crucible of general election campaigning. However, what will remain the same is that Chris Matthews will always be a clown and a blowhard, and this could obscure a more fluid situation.
Finally, Howard Kurtz wrote about my exchange with Digby today. He digs up the same quote of his that I used from his January check-in with McCain, and adds... "It's no surprise that liberal bloggers are starting to train their fire on McCain and what they see as his media enablers, but some have apparently concluded that journalists are the enemy."
In going through this thread, I was surprised how unusually agitated Jay became, particularly with what I thought was a reasonable response by p.lukasiak in his pointing out the Wa. Post’s bringing to broader and brighter light the memes re: Barack Obama’s Muslim/madrassa connections. (I am an Obama supporter, but the angriest political note I have ever written is the recent one to ABC News when they breathlessly reported on Hillary’s whereabouts during the time the Bill/Monica tryst allegedly took place, literally hours after the Clintons finally released the White House logs.)
What made Jay’s reaction to the “left’s” sincere complaints - some admittedly more angry than others (ya think?), sort of bewildering is how deftly and bemusedly he handles the right-wing culture warriors who habitually come in, not to learn anything, but to do their best to trash Jay’s comment threads by cloaking the same tiresome talking points in the journalistic discussion of the day. They typically do not succeed because of the high quality of Jay’s posts and many of the other comments, including Jay’s follow-ups, which often round out his points, and which have often led to a greater understanding of the issues at hand and even a few revelations. Jay’s discussions on Bush/Cheney’s unprecedented use of “rollback,” “decertification,” “creating their own reality” are personally vivid examples.
Another one: what the “liberal blogosphere” is attacking and what Jay is defending are not even close to the same thing. What the left is attacking is much broader; it is, for the lack of a better term, the whole of the political message rendering system that many on the left (and not just a few in the center) would argue has cheapened the dialogue and sharply skewed the politics to the right, and which has reached a level of influence that has the left feeling helpless - hence the anger and the willingness to do whatever they can to fight it. What Jay is defending, if I understand correctly, is the mainstream media’s active complicity in all this; that the left is wrongly accusing the media of aligning itself in ideology and in action with the right-wing agenda. Jay even allowed as to how the left and right both have the crazies, which is true, but the point that I think is being missed is the matter of scale. The fact both camps have wacky inhabitants is irrelevant, and looking at these issues by comparing sides or camps, even more so.
I wish I had more time to get into what the left is really complaining about, but this diary from a while back at Daily Kos covers a lot of it.
As you can see, this diary was written over a year ago, and I hope gives one the sense of the never-ending barrage of personal attacks that come at the left - imo to deflect attention from the real issues, the ease with which they get to the front pages and television screens, and how it all has been enabled. This is what p.lukasiak is talking about imo; the mainstream media is not so much complicit in it as it has been swept up by it.
Previous discussions here set forth that Bush/Cheney’s use of “rollback” and “decertification” of the media is unprecedented, and that it was a radical departure from some gradual trend of a couple of decades. I submit that the “rollback” and “decertification” started in earnest with the creation of the right-wing think tanks, talk radio, news organizations and so forth in the 80’s, and greatly enabled by the deregulation of media ownership and content shortly thereafter. Bush/Cheney’s treatment of the media has been radical, sure, but is an absolutely logical extension of what had taken place before.
This blog is not immune. I made an erroneous comment the other day about the right-wingers who do not realize this is a journalism blog; they realize fully well what this is and they are simply doing their small part to rollback or decertify Jay’s blog with their repeated attempts to run Jay’s comment threads off the rails.
Thanks, Rollo. I thought the ABC News item about Hillary's whereabouts while the blue dress was being stained was disgusting and unfair.
Yes, I am fighting the tendency of the left to allow its complaints about "the whole of the political message rendering system" to focus on the people who produce the news, who have their own problems and need lots of criticism arising from those problems. I think this is a very bad habit. It's unfair, analytically weak, and it encourages a foolish symmetry between the left and right wing's attacks on Big Bad, Be-My-Daddy Media.
To me it is sandbox politics, often done for fun as much as anger, an endless repetition of the social dynamics of high school, in which the losers on the fringes get to take their frustration out on the "cool kids" they despise-- and vice versa, of course.
In fact "cool kids" has almost become almost a synonym for "political journalists" in the liberal blogosphere. Those who use it think they are transcending by poking fun at a high school atmosphere when they are actually wallowing in it. Maureen Dowd's entire reputation was built on treating politics like a replay of high school, and here are all these "critical" cynical hyper-informed left-leaning MoDo-hating blog writers and blog readers adopting her frame for the same reason she did: it's more fun.
The liberal blogosphere should be thinking about how it can get one or two of its own--Glenn Greenwald, David Neiwert, Marcy Wheeler--on the McCain bus so as to ask the questions it thinks the press won't ask, and so it can observe up close the love affair it already knows will last--strong and true--throughout the election. That would be real "press politics." That would be interesting.
But it prefers, "The media are telling us that Barack Obama is some kind of Muslim or Muslim sympathizer" because of the self-infantalizing glow you get when you are done saying it.
Oh, and the right is worse, way worse. Also different, very different. But at the moment I am not talking about them.
Ferdy: Places where Ana Marie Cox and Glenn Greenwald got stuck in their Bloggingheads segment.
Whether liking and hanging out with someone and having an adversarial relationship with them are mutually exclusive.
Whether the press is "enamored" with McCain, as against just having a close, intimate relationship, and whether this has an effect on their coverage.
Whether Greenwald should lighten up about such things as McCain's "base" being journalists since he clearly doesn't get the joke.
Whether journalists should be concerned about the "perception" of too much coziness with politicians by showing up at barbeques, Gridiron dinners, social events, or whether they should care only about their coverage, and not worry about perception.
The most interesting part for me is when Ana admits that she never heard of and had not considered a suggestion in my last post, which Greenwald shared:
Maybe Iran is training Al Qaeda is a “last throes”-type statement, McCain’s way of signaling that he intends to pick up where Bush and Cheney left off in discarding the whole reality-based approach to policy-making. You plant dubious associations in the public mind, and then don’t care if you get called out on them because an image is left on the retina, so to speak.
She said it was a fascinating and intriguing theory, but no... never occurred to her.
Ana also notes that campaigns up close are a lot less planned and intentional than they seem to be, and so any "specific deceitful plans" that Glenn was suggesting are... out of touch with reality.
Lots of things that reporters talk about on television, she said, are distorted by their tendency to put themselves in the frame too much, so as to sound savvy and insidery ("McCain's got enough of that in the bank..."); thus, when Glenn takes those things and reasons from them to what journalists really think he is using distorted evidence-- distorted by TV and by professional narcissism.
Ana also said, in the most revealing part: Lately I have a crisis in my approach to my work. The volume of attacks from bloggers has gone way up. I've always felt that I was irreverent, willing to challenge people and piss them off in what I write. But now I'm asking myself, "Do I want to deal with the headache that will come if bloggers decide to gang up on me."
Glenn said: Getting attacked in waves online? Tell me about it! But we wouldn't want to go back to one-way media where "feedback" was a letter to the editor. Ana agreed.
I give the Straight Talk Express about three more weeks. As videotaped falsehoods are going to become standard fodder.
This is not any different from the Bumiller exchange. He constructs a false story, says that the listener may disagree, but that's the way it is.
Ana Marie Cox has told us that he stands up to this tough questioning well, and sometimes even changes his mind. But this isn't standing up well, at all. He's just lying. And, as always with Senators who've been sitting for a couple of decades, there's a record.
This is exactly what handlers tell him will happen. It could, conceivably, have worked without video cameras everywhere. But with video, there is no way for the reporters to soften the story without looking like idiots.
Michael Cooper (McC BBQ) ran this part of the quotation:
On his campaign plane this week, Mr. McCain said he had changed his mind after learning more about Dr. King. He noted that less than a decade later he bucked some Republicans in his home state, Arizona, to support a state holiday for Dr. King.
“Well, I learned that this individual was a transcendent figure in American history, he deserved to be honored, and I thought it was appropriate to do so,” Mr. McCain said on his plane on Monday. “And my home state of Arizona, I was not proud that we were one of the last states to recognize Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday, and I was pleased to be part of the fight for that recognition.”
As Markos points out in the link above, this isn't true. Without the video, this would be the record of the conversation with the reporter, almost certainly left uncorrected--as it's an accurate quotation, that just happens to be not entirely true.
Lots of things that reporters talk about on television, she said, are distorted by their tendency to put themselves in the frame too much, so as to sound savvy and insidery ("McCain's got enough of that in the bank..."); thus, when Glenn takes those things and reasons from them to what journalists really think he is using distorted evidence-- distorted by TV and by professional narcissism.
So journalists don't really deep down in their hearts think John McCain is cool and mavericky and an ironic twinkly grandpa and their best buddy but they present him that way anyway because they think it makes them look like "savvy" (urk) insiders?
This is the same press that's struggling to appear sober and critical because people are watching?
We've seen this movie before. Let me spoil it for you. The cool guy squeaks through because the public somehow didn't pick up on the postmodern nature of the press coverage (you'd be amazed how unironic people who still read the news are about being told the news).
Six months after the election, when the warning signs that are being ignored flare up into Really Bad Stuff, Mr. Fineman and Mr. Alter make the rounds of the NPR chat shows and explain to the rapt hosts that absolutely everyone in Washington knew about The President's Issues, and Howie Kurtz explains that he just wasn't sure it was, you know, News, although indeed everybody sorta knew about it.
Here's a radical concept: If the journalists covering McCain are giving him a free ride and (to say the least) not extending the same misplaced courtesy to his opponents, who cares why they're doing it?
If, as Ms. Cox says, she and her fellow Serious Journalists are putting their thumbs on the scale of a democratic election with the kind of stakes we have in this one because they think it makes them look cool on the teevee, and John McCain's campaign has figured that out (and, you know, I suspect since that nice Mr. McKinnon who worked the same trick for Bush is on board that John McCain's campaign has figured that out), the outcome is precisely the same as if she and her fellow Serious Journalists were completely in the tank for the candidate they're covering.
So 'splain me - the press, in this theory, are as shallow as rice paper and their coverage is intended to burnish their own images. This analysis comes from someone whose insights into the candidate we're expected to approach as they were credible, because one of the largest news organizations in the world pays her to cover him.
I'm a little lost. At what point do you think bloggers are going to be able to bring sweet reason to bear on this situation? Why on earth, absent unpleasantness, would these people listen?
Remember, they're Serious.
Using Peter Daou for blog outreach on Clinton's part, or using a Townhall blogger on McCain's part is not the same thing as putting David Niewart on the Bus. Jerome is a supporter, not a journalist.
Now this does raise a more interesting question about the nature of blogging and its relationship to journalism. You mentioned Marcy Wheeler, Glenn Greenwald and David Niewart.
All three of them could be characterized as partisans, because they are, in different ways*.
They are also dedicated to truth and some principles of government, which I think is why those names came to mind, rather than other popular bloggers. This is in contrast, IMO, to people like Bill Kristol or pretty much the entire right blogosphere which is dedicated to their team winning, even at the expense of truth and principle. A good chunk of Marcy's and Glenn's work is focused on apostate Democrats.
But my question is: Do partisan bloggers get to be on the bus with "objective" journalists? They certainly aren't viewed the same way. Peter Daou's role (and his equivalent on the Obama campaign) is providing information and spin to prominent lefty bloggers, as well as crafting an online presence and strategy.
This is why I think McCain would refuse to allow these folks on the bus. He would claim, with some justification, that they are operatives rather than journalists.
Now, suppose it was one of Josh Marshall's crew on the bus? I don't think the objection would hold. (And I also think some of his fans will be surprised if a Democratic administration comes to town. Because he is not a partisan.)
This is a suggestion worth making.
*Very different, actually. Marcy is a Democratic party official. Glenn is partisan by circumstance; the authoritarian bent of the Republican party is what he is responding to. David is, IMO, a journalist first, partisan second.
thanks for the Greenwald/Cox bloggingheads link, Jay. I generally avoid that format (including the option of playing it 1.4 times faster is a godsend), but this was fascinating in a "rubbernecking a Cox train wreck" kind of way.
Not to get all meta on you, but Cox seems to function as the "received Super-ego" of the media. She's not really a reporter herself -- she was hired away from Wonkette to jumpstart Swampland for Time Inc., and wound up in a "reporter" role because of cutbacks at Time. (Swampland never generated the kind of traffic that justified Cox's salary). And when you compare her credentials to those of other reporters assigned to the campaign from major media outlets, the contrast is startling -- Cox is pretty much on the level of a High School newspaper editor, compared to her peers.
So when Cox talks about the press as a member of "the press", she doesn't bring the kind of perspective that people who have been writing about politics for decades can bring. Instead, what we get is a distillation of how the rest of the media sees itself -- Cox literally personifies the people 'on the bus', especially those travelling with McCain.
And the results are fascinating. Cox asserts that her relationship with Greenwald is an appropriate template for the relationship between a reporter and his/her subject. She draws an equivalence between Al Gore "joking about inventing the internet" and McCain joking about the "media being his base." And when confronted with the media's own criticism of McCain coverage, Cox asserts that [paraphrase] "none of those people know what they are talking about" -- going so far as to say that Ruth Marcus was unqualified to comment on the coverage because Marcus had spent only a day or two covering McCain.
As one of the Swampland originals (now banned -- imagine that! ;-) ), it was always obvious that Cox was completely out of her depth when trying to be 'serious', and was generally tone-deaf when she wasn't "being serious".
But Cox is also a magnified personification of another aspect of the "political media" -- the fact that campaign coverage is provided by "political media", people who know a lot about how "politics" work, but it seems like that is all they know about.
As a result, we get assertions from Cox and those she personifies that the access the press gets to McCain gives them the chance to ask "tough questions". The questions may be "politically" tough, but the questioners have little or no substantive knowledge of the issues that they are asking about, and seem incapable of (or unwilling to) truly challenge a candidate.
(Cox once put up a video of herself and other reporters asking McCain 'tough questions' about Iraq -- it was glaringly obvious that none of these reporters really understood the full context of their own questions, let alone McCain's answers. And when a reporter did challenge McCain, he shrugged off the challenge by acknowledging the reporter's point, and then going on to give the exact same spin -- and McCain gets away with it.)
I think Jay is defining/encouraging one kind of conversation, and it's bloggers-to-journalists-to-bloggers. Which has its merits. It's a constructive-creative-press-criticism conversation. In comments we've got some refining of that goal: It should take into account affecting the institutions, since they're the entities that create the press context.
But I'm more persuaded by Paul, and I'm more interested in the unmediated conversation that is taking place between bloggers and "the culture," an admitted vague term that I'll use despite not being able to define it fully. That conversation is about what things "mean," about how to get results directly.
Liberal bloggers at this point strike me as more interested in making sure a Democrat wins in November. Influencing/improving press coverage is mostly just a means to that end for them now, not a goal of its own.
I'm less interested in the press-criticism conversation because I've come to the conclusion that our current journalism-industrial-complex (Seth Godin talks about the TV-industrial-complex, and I consider this a subset of Godin's idea) is now irrevocably broken. You can't reform it as currently constituted. You just work out strategies for dealing with it as it declines towards its inevitable event horizon.
Jon Taplin, in writing about economics and politics, has been using a word that I really like: Interregnum. It refers to the gap between the death of one order and the beginning of the next, and I can't think of a more obvious example than the current status of the news media. The for-profit print and TV business models that generate sufficient revenues to pay for "professional journalism" are declining rapidly in the face of new competition, but the incoming era hasn't yet figured out a sustainable financial model to replace the outmoded existing system.
We all know one has to end and the other has to begin, but the practical answers elude us. Which suggests this interregnum will include a rather traumatic thud at some point. This discussion is part of that thud.
If that's your outlook, do you put your energy into reforming a profession and an industry that are headed toward forced reorganization? Or do you focus on your desired outcomes and get to work on them directly?
One conversation presumes the best way to improve the outcome is to influence the media to produce better results. The other treats news media as a tool that can be discarded. Then discards it.
Julia: Thanks for stopping by. I cannot dissent from a thing you wrote. I think what Cox said about TV and narcissism was true, but damning. She tried to present it as true, and so not damning. Greenwald was sayin; "Damn, if journalists themselves are explaining how they give McCain an unfair advantage, why do I have to prove it? and why are you, Ana, resisting it?"
Julia asks, "At what point do you think bloggers are going to be able to bring sweet reason to bear on this situation?"
I don't. It's an unreasonable situation. What I said in this post is not, "journalists will listen to reason, so reason with them, bloggers." I can see how the last line of my post might suggest that, but no. I said this was a fluid--not reasonable--situation and there were some openings. Declaring war isn't going to help us understand them.
I also said that if McCain goes with radical openness and the Democratic nominee does not, or can't, this would be a significant difference.
To me the liberal blogosphere is crazy not to try to get one of its big bloggers on the bus with McCain. (And if you already know it would not work before you try than you know too much.) If it was turned into a high profile event and the effort failed, it would still succeed, by showing what McCain is afraid of, or at least make him explain why he can't straight talk liberal writers as well as conservative ones. The guy thinks he can handle anyone because there isn't anyone he can't out-honor. Don't you get that yet?
Here's the quote I would use in the first post announcing a drive to get Niewert (let's say) on the bus:
John McCain in a Feb. 12 speech:
As I have done my entire career, I will make my case to every American who will listen. I will not confine myself to the comfort of speaking only to those who agree with me. I will make my case to all the people. I will listen to those who disagree. I will attempt to persuade them. I will debate. And I will learn from them.
Paul: You were banned from Swampland? Jeez-us. I think Cox deserves a lot of credit for Swampland. It's got more balls than other Big Media political blogs, with unmoderated comments and writers who occasionally write back.
However, as I watch her position herself and make fun of the bloggers while she makes fun of the candidates and joins the smart set on television, I see her angling for the slot MoDo and Dana Millbank grabbed for themselves. The surface-skating opinion columnist with no ideology, no deep beliefs, allegedly tuned into the "hyprocrisy" part of politics but always, always, havin' fun with it. A post-ideological opinionator has to surive on style, which inevitably turns smug and annoying.
Remember, MoDo came to prominence at the Times for her "voice." The only thing that prevents her from going further on television is that she has a terrible speaking voice. Cox is better looking, better voice, and totally comfortable with "everyone's a hypocrite, isn't this funny?" journalism.
To respond to what Dan said upthread, here's Michael Scherer of Time magazine at Swampland trying to breach the divide between bloggers & their readers and journalists & their institutions. And also adding some data for this thread. "[McCain] has traditionally been far more open than anyone else, but right now he is campaigning in a more traditional mode."
Seems like a story to me.
I don't think there is any way to navigate between "you want us to be partisan," vs. "no, we just want you to do your job." That's as far as that conversation is going to go. The gulf will remain.
An idea that mediates between them is the "innocence agenda," which I tried to explain in my "Beast Without a Brain" piece. But I'm afraid that idea is never going to be accepted by either bloggers or journalists. (Interesting list of what Scherer has actually covered last few months.)
Okay, Scherer into the breach:
Calm down now. I have been on a plane, stuck in southern thunderstorms. (Am stuck at ATL now.) How could I foresake you all, my commenters, my Greek chorus, the voices from my nightmares? I'm not messing with you. I am not ignoring you. I am not retaliating, Cliff. I have not changed the way I do my job, James.
But here is the thing, if we are going to have an extended conversation about McCain and Clinton and Obama, and whether or not I suck, and whether or not there is any hope for corporate media, you are going to have to allow that I will not always promptly reply in these threads. I am not always online. I am not always free. (Sometimes, I just don't want to respond.)
And we should clarify our expectations. I am not going to always write stories that have the edge you all want me to have. The reason is simple: There are a lot of other stories that I think are interesting and worth telling that have nothing to do with the sort of stuff you want to see. I think it is valuable, for instance, to know that a presidential candidate not only has a well documented, misspent childhood like McCain, but that he is using it as evidence of his own virtue.
Now, I understand that you will be unhappy with my choices sometimes, and that is okay. We don't always have to agree. We just have to keep listening to each other.
I was with McCain for two days, Wed. and Thu., during which he did not hold a press avail or gaggle. I did not get to ask him any questions directly. Most of the questions that you want asked concern his specific plans for Iraq. I agree completely that more answers are needed here, not only from McCain but from Obama and Clinton. I am pursuing this. I am pursuing some of the other topics that have been raised as well. But I don't want to get into the habit of telling too much about my plans in a public forum, so you will have to wait to be pleased or disappointed.
As for whether I have changed from my glory days with the left-leaning press, here is what I would say. In my mind I have no doubt that I have not. I am still trying to write what is happening, to find out things the public does not know, and to make the Democratic process seem as fascinating to my readers as it seems to me. You can contact my old editors at Mother Jones, or Salon, or the Nation, where I have freelanced, and they will tell you that this is how I approached my job. I never made it a goal to fight for one party or political ideology. And I am not doing that here. I am doing the same job I have always done. Now that is just my view, but I am hoping that by the end of this cycle, you folks at least take me at my word.
I am trying to figure out the balance of how transparent to be on this blog about my work, my plans and other things. But let me begin with this insight: The popular impression that reporters always have constant access to McCain to ask whatever they want is not accurate. (Also inaccurate: The popular view that reporters covering McCain are unwilling to ask him challenging questions, or do stories that will upset the campaign.) He has traditionally been far more open than anyone else, but right now he is campaigning in a more traditional mode. Nothing outrageous about it. But is not as simple as you sending me a question and me nailing McCain down with the question. And this has nothing to do with McCain avoiding me or the question, or me not wanting to ask it. That is just the way the game works. So hang in there all.
You won't like everything I do. But I am still hopeful that you will find much to appreciate as well.
Swampland can be annoying as hell, but in its own way it's doing something to the people who write it.
I can still remember the big deal when bloggers were "credentialed" for the 2004 campaigns. Getting on the bus seems a reasonable next step.
Yeah. I was part of it. Convention Coverage is a Failed Regime and Bloggers Have Their Credentials (PressThink, July 7, 2004)
No one knows what a political convention actually is, anymore, or why it takes 15,000 people to report on it. Two successive regimes for making sense of the event have collapsed; a third has not emerged. That's a good starting point for the webloggers credentialed in Boston. No investment in the old regime and its ironizing. The blogs come at this fresh. I'm going.
I was on that bus. It was educational.
McCain could easily use the blogger as a challenge to Obama or Clinton to take on a righty blogger.
Just so. Which is why I have tried in two posts to infuse online discussion of McCain and the press with the unknowns about Obama involving journalists, access and openness.
I should probably do a separate post on this.
Play your scenario out for a bit
Liberal bloggers: Hey, why can't we ride the McCain bus?
McCain campaign: You can. Welcome aboard.
Pro reporters: It's, uhhh... not what you guys think...
Liberal bloggers: We can think for ourselves, thank you. We're sending Greenwald, Niewert and Wheeler first.
Secret service: Not so fast.
Conservative bloggers: Hey, we want the right to travel with the Obama and Clinton campaigns.
McCain campaign: I want to talk to all Americans, and liberal bloggers are Americans who care about this country. We may not always agree--heck, we may never agree--but I welcome their questions.
Hillary campaign: Fuck, we have to answer that? I know what Peter's going to say. Does Penn have any data on stiffing bloggers?
Conservative bloggers: The Democrats are showing their true colors.
Pro reporters: It's, uhhh.. not what you guys think, either...
Liberal bloggers: Hey, Democrats. Get with the tide. Let the conservatives have three of their clowns, sorry, their bloggers on the bus. This is crazy. McCain is looking good here and he shouldn't be!
Pro reporters: Actually, we agree with the bloggers. From both sides!
And thus for a moment bloggers vs. journalists actually is over, while left and right agree :-)
Now from my point of view: radical openness is exactly what Obama should do. I think he's the kind of candidate who would see that, but how I do I know...? I don't until he is forced to decide.
Hillary is not for that, has never been about that, has 101 problems with going in that direction. On the other hand, she did it, in a way, with the Post-Tribune and Scaife.
Michael Scherer tells me that press availability for McCain sometimes looks like every other campaign. Maybe he's backing away from radical openness. Jayackroyd said it cannot last. I still believe in it, and hope for a comeback.
If it was turned into a high profile event and the effort failed, it would still succeed, by showing what McCain is afraid of, or at least make him explain why he can't straight talk liberal writers as well as conservative ones. The guy thinks he can handle anyone because there isn't anyone he can't out-honor. Don't you get that yet?
I do, actually. It's part of what disturbs me about this campaign (and pretty much all of the campaigns of my adult life.) I don't see how far that lone blogger would be able to get their message out without institutional support, but I concede that watching how things have played out since I've been watching has probably instilled a certain amount of learned helplessness about working within the system to effect change. I also know some folks who have tried it, and the bubbles have pretty much stopped coming up.
I don't disrespect journalism as a profession. I think that there are journalists out there doing magnificent work under really difficult conditions. I think one of those difficult conditions is the propensity of media organizations to reward Maureen Dowd and Dana Milbank (and I actually think Milbank could be a fine journalist if he weren't rewarded for being a cheap one) instead of the reporters doing magnificent work.
All the more honor to the good guys, whose work I'd be SOL without. Still, I didn't choose the sparkle ponies to be the public face of the press in this country.
It sucks that honorable journalists have to pay the price for their employers' poor taste and judgment, but we live in a big picture world. While I try to draw the distinction between people who perform journalism and people who play journalists on TV, it's kind of hard to find a term to describe people who call themselves reporters and who produce most of the news that most people see that isn't, well, reporters.
I'm truly sorry that's so, and I expect that there are reporters out there whose work I admire who have reason to be terribly offended by what I write. That sucks too, and I regret it, but I'm kind of short on language that I can use to describe the elephant in the living room. The existence of the phrase "Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter Maureen Dowd" limits my options when it comes to making distinctions that aren't parsed into incoherence.
Which, of course, could easily have to do with my own lack of skill, but I'd gladly snatch up a better frame if someone would come up with one.
I suspect the professionals have a similar difficulty when they're writing about bloggers.
PressThink: An Introduction
We need to keep the press from being absorbed into The Media. This means keeping the word press, which is antiquated. But included under its modern umbrella should be all who do the serious work in journalism, regardless of the technology used. The people who will invent the next press in America--and who are doing it now online--continue an experiment at least 250 years old. It has a powerful social history and political legend attached...
The People Formerly Known as the Audience:
"You don't own the eyeballs. You don't own the press, which is now divided into pro and amateur zones. You don't control production on the new platform, which isn't one-way. There's a new balance of power between you and us." More...
Migration Point for the Press Tribe: "Like reluctant migrants everywhere, the people in the news tribe have to decide what to take with them. When to leave. Where to land. They have to figure out what is essential to their way of life. They have to ask if what they know is portable." More...
Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over: "Here is one advantage bloggers have in the struggle for reputation-- for the user's trust. They are closer to the transaction where trust gets built up on the Web. There's a big difference between tapping a built-up asset, like the St. Pete Times 'brand,' and creating it from scratch." More...
"Where's the Business Model for News, People?" "It’s remarkable to me how many accomplished producers of those goods the future production of which is in doubt are still at the stage of asking other people, “How are we going to pay our reporters if you guys don’t want to pay for our news?'" More...
National Explainer: A Job for Journalists on the Demand Side of News
This American Life's great mortgage crisis explainer, The Giant Pool of Money, suggests that "information" and "explanation" ought to be reversed in our order of thought. Especially as we contemplate new news systems. More...
The Beast Without a Brain: Why Horse Race Journalism Works for Journalists and Fails Us. "Just so you know, 'the media' has no mind. It cannot make decisions. Which means it does not 'get behind' candidates. It does not decide to oppose your guy… or gal. It is a beast without a brain. Most of the time, it doesn’t know what it’s doing.." More...
They're Not in Your Club but They Are in Your League: Firedoglake at the Libby Trial: "I’m just advising Newsroom Joe and Jill: make room for FDL in your own ideas about what’s coming on, news-wise. Don’t let your own formula (blog=opinion) fake you out. A conspiracy of the like minded to find out what happened when the national news media isn’t inclined to tell us might be way more practical than you think." More...
Twilight of the Curmudgeon Class: "We’re at the twilight of the curmudgeon class in newsrooms and J-schools. (Though they can still do a lot of damage.) You know they’re giving up when they no longer bother to inform themselves about what they themselves say is happening." More...
Getting the Politics of the Press Right: Walter Pincus Rips into Newsroom Neutrality "The important thing is to show integrity-- not to be a neuter, politically. And having good facts that hold up is a bigger advantage than claiming to reflect all sides equally well." More...
A Most Useful Definition of Citizen Journalism "It's mine, but it should be yours. Can we take the quote marks off now? Can we remove the 'so-called' from in front? With video!." More...
The Master Narrative in Journalism: "Were 'winning' to somehow be removed or retired as the operating system for news, campaign reporting would immediately become harder to do, not because there would be no news, but rather no common, repeatable instructions for deciding what is a key development in the story, a turning point, a surprise, a trend. Master narratives are thus harder to alter than they are to apprehend. For how do you keep the story running while a switch is made?" More...
He Said, She Said Journalism: Lame Formula in the Land of the Active User "Any good blogger, competing journalist or alert press critic can spot and publicize false balance and the lame acceptance of fact-free spin. Do users really want to be left helpless in sorting out who's faking it more? The he said, she said form says they do, but I say decline has set in." More...
Users-Know-More-than-We-Do Journalism: "It's a "put up or shut up" moment for open source methods in public interest reporting. Can we take good ideas like... distributed knowledge, social networks, collaborative editing, the wisdom of crowds, citizen journalism, pro-am reporting... and put them to work to break news?" More...
Introducing NewAssignment.Net: "Enterprise reporting goes pro-am. Assignments are open sourced. They begin online. Reporters working with smart users and blogging editors get the story the pack wouldn't, couldn't or didn't." More...
What I Learned from Assignment Zero "Here are my coordinates for the territory we need to be searching. I got them from doing a distributed trend story with Wired.com and thinking through the results." More...
If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue: "Those in journalism who want to bring ethics to blogging ought to start with why people trust (some) bloggers, not with an ethics template made for a prior platform operating as a closed system in a one-to-many world." More...
The View From Nowhere: "Occupy the reasonable middle between two markers for 'vocal critic,' and critics look ridiculous charging you with bias. Their symmetrical existence feels like proof of an underlying hysteria. Their mutually incompatible charges seem to cancel each other out. The minute evidence they marshall even shows a touch of fanaticism." More...
Rollback: "This White House doesn't settle for managing the news--what used to be called 'feeding the beast'--because there is a larger aim: to roll back the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country." More...
Retreat from Empiricism: On Ron Suskind's Scoop: ""Realist, a classic term in foreign policy debates, and reality-based, which is not a classic term but more of an instant classic, are different ideas. We shouldn't fuzz them up. The press is capable of doing that because it never came to terms with what Suskind reported in 2004." More...
Karl Rove and the Religion of the Washington Press: "Savviness--that quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, 'with it,' and unsentimental in all things political--is, in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Karl Rove understood and exploited for political gain." More...
Journalism Is Itself a Religion: "We're headed, I think, for schism, tumult and divide as the religion of the American press meets the upheavals in global politics and public media that are well underway. Changing around us are the terms on which authority can be established by journalists. The Net is opening things up, shifting the power to publish around. Consumers are becoming producers, readers can be writers." More...
News Turns from a Lecture to a Conversation: "Some of the pressure the blogs are putting on journalists shows up, then, in the demand for "news as conversation," more of a back-and-forth, less of a pronouncement. This is an idea with long roots in academic journalism that suddenly (as in this year) jumped the track to become part of the news industry's internal dialogue." More...
Two Washington Posts May Be Better Than One: "They're not equals, but Washington and Arlington have their own spheres. Over the newspaper and reporting beats Len Downie is king. Over the website Jim Brady is sovereign. Over the userï¿½s experience no one has total control. There's tension because there's supposed to be tension." More...
Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die: "An industry that won't move until it is certain of days as good as its golden past is effectively dead, from a strategic point of view. Besides, there is an alternative if you don't have the faith or will or courage needed to accept reality and deal. The alternative is to drive the property to a profitable demise." More...
Grokking Woodward: "Woodward and Bernstein of 1972-74 didn't have such access, and this probably influenced--for the better--their view of what Nixon and his men were capable of. Watergate wasn't broken by reporters who had entree to the inner corridors of power. It was two guys on the Metro Desk." More...
Maybe Media Bias Has Become a Dumb Debate: "This here is a post for practically everyone in the game of seizing on media bias and denouncing it, which is part of our popular culture, and of course a loud part of our politics. And this is especially for the 'we're fair and balanced, you're not' crowd, wherever I may have located you." More...
Bill O'Reilly and the Paranoid Style in News: "O'Reilly feeds off his own resentments--the establishment sneering at Inside Edition--and like Howard Beale, the 'mad prophet of the airwaves,' his resentments are enlarged by the medium into public grievances among a mass of Americans unfairly denied voice." More...
Thoughts on the Killing of a Young Correspondent: "Among foreign correspondents, there is a phrase: 'parachuting in.' That's when a reporter drops into foreign territory during an emergency, without much preparation, staying only as long as the story remains big. The high profile people who might parachute in are called Bigfoots in the jargon of network news. The problem with being a Bigfoot, of course, is that it's hard to walk in other people's shoes." More...
The News From Iraq is Not Too Negative. But it is Too Narrow: "The bias charges are getting more serious lately as the stakes rise in Iraq and the election. But there is something lacking in press coverage, and it may be time for wise journalists to assess it. The re-building story has gone missing. And without it, how can we judge the job Bush is doing?." More...
The Abyss of Observation Alone. "There are hidden moral hazards in the ethic of neutral observation and the belief in a professional 'role' that transcends other loyalties. I think there is an abyss to observation alone. And I feel it has something to do with why more people don't trust journalists. They don't trust that abyss." More...
"Find Some New Information and Put it Into Your Post." Standards for Pro-Am Journalism at OffTheBus: "Opinion based on information 'everyone' has is less valuable than opinion journalism based on information that you dug up, originated, or pieced together. So it’s not important to us that contributors keep opinion out. What’s important is that they put new information in. More...
Out in the Great Wide Open: Maybe you heard about the implosion of Wide Open, a political blog started by the Cleveland Plain Dealer with four "outside" voices brought in from the ranks of Ohio bloggers: two left, two right. Twelve points you may not have seen elsewhere." More...
Some Bloggers Meet the Bosses From Big Media: "What capacity for product development do news organizations show? Zip. How are they on nurturing innovation? Terrible. Is there an entreprenurial spirit in newsrooms? No. Do smart young people ever come in and overturn everything? Never." More...
Notes and Comment on BlogHer 2005 "I think the happiest conference goers at BlogHer were probably the newbies, people who want to start blogging or just did. They got a lot of good information and advice. Some of the best information was actually dispensed in response to the fears provoked by blogging, which shouldnï¿½t be avoided, the sages said, but examined, turned around, defused, and creatively shrunk.." More...
Top Ten List: What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism? "The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas most of today's journalism comes out of the market economy." More...
A Second Top Ten List: What's Conservative About the Weblog Form in Journalism? "The quality of any weblog in journalism depends greatly on its fidelity to age old newsroom commandments like check facts, check links, spell things correctly, be accurate, be timely, quote fairly." More...
Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds: "Sure, weblogs are good for making statements, big and small. But they also force re-statement. Yes, they're opinion forming. But they are equally good at unforming opinion, breaking it down, stretching it out." More...
The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism "It's pirate radio, legalized; it's public access coming closer to life. Inside the borders of Blogistan (a real place with all the problems of a real place) we're closer to a vision of 'producer democracy' than we are to any of the consumerist views that long ago took hold in the mass media, including much of the journalism presented on that platform." More...
No One Owns Journalism: "And Big Media doesn't entirely own the press, because if it did then the First Amendment, which mentions the press, would belong to Big Media. And it doesn't. These things were always true. The weblog doesn't change them. It just opens up an outlet to the sea. Which in turn extends 'the press' to the desk in the bedroom of the suburban mom, where she blogs at night." More...
Brain Food for BloggerCon: Journalism and Weblogging in Their Corrected Fullness "Blogging is one universe. Its standard unit is the post, its strengths are the link and the low costs of entry, which means lots of voices. Jounalism is another universe. Its standard unit is "the story." Its strengths are in reporting, verification and access-- as in getting your calls returned." More...
Dispatches From the Un-Journalists: "Journalists think good information leads to opinion and argument. It's a logical sequence. Bloggers think that good argument and strong opinion cause people to seek information, an equally logical sequence. What do the bloggers bring to this? My short answer to the press is: everything you have removed."More...
Political Jihad and the American Blog: Chris Satullo Raises the Stakes "Journalists, you can stop worrying about bloggers 'replacing' the traditional news media. We're grist for their mill, says Satullo, a mill that doesn't run without us. Bloggers consume and extend the shelf life of our reporting, and they scrutinize it at a new level of intensity.."More...
Raze Spin Alley, That Strange Creation of the Press: "Spin Alley, an invention of the American press and politicos, shows that the system we have is in certain ways a partnership between the press and insiders in politics. They come together to mount the ritual. An intelligent nation is entitled to ask if the partners are engaged in public service when they bring to life their invention... Alternative thesis: they are in a pact of mutual convenience that serves no intelligible public good." More...
Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!: "How is it you know you're the press? Because you have a pass that says PRESS, and people open the gate. The locker room doors admit you. The story must be inside that gate; that's why they give us credentials. We get closer. We tell the fans what's going on. And if this was your logic, Bill James tried to bust it. Fellahs, said he to the baseball press, you have to realize that you are the gate." More...
Psst.... The Press is a Player: "The answer, I think, involves an open secret in political journalism that has been recognized for at least 20 years. But it is never dealt with, probably because the costs of facing it head on seem larger than the light tax on honesty any open secret demands. The secret is this: pssst... the press is a player in the campaign. And even though it knows this, as everyone knows it, the professional code of the journalist contains no instructions in what the press could or should be playing for?" More...
Die, Strategy News: "I think it's a bankrupt form. It serves no clear purpose, has no sensible rationale. The journalists who offer us strategy news do not know what public service they are providing, why they are providing it, for whom it is intended, or how we are supposed to use this strange variety of news."More...
He Said, She Said, We Said: "When journalists avoid drawing open conclusions, they are more vulnerable to charges of covert bias, of having a concealed agenda, of not being up front about their perspective, of unfairly building a case (for, against) while pretending only to report 'what happened.'" More...
If Religion Writers Rode the Campaign Bus: "Maybe irony, backstage peaking and "de-mystify the process" only get you so far, and past that point they explain nothing. Puzzling through the convention story, because I'm heading right into it myself, made me to realize that journalism's contempt for ritual was deeply involved here. Ritual is newsless; therefore it must be meaningless. But is that really true?."More...
Convention Coverage is a Failed Regime and Bloggers Have Their Credentials: "No one knows what a political convention actually is, anymore, or why it takes 15,000 people to report on it. Two successive regimes for making sense of the event have collapsed; a third has not emerged. That's a good starting point for the webloggers credentialed in Boston. No investment in the old regime and its ironizing." More...
Philip Gourevitch: Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat: "'A presidential election is a like a gigantic moving television show,' he said. It is the extreme opposite of an overlooked event. The show takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen by the Secret Service. If you go outside the bubble for any reason, you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand."More...
What Time is it in Political Journalism? "Adam Gopnik argued ten years ago that the press did not know who it was within politics, or what it stood for. There was a vacuum in journalism where political argument and imagination should be. Now there are signs that this absence of thought is ending." More...
Off the Grid Journalism: “The assignment was straightforward enough,” writes Marjie Lundstrom of the Sacramento Bee, “talk to people.” When a writer dissents from it or departs from it, the master narrative is a very real thing. Here are two examples: one from politics, one from music. More...
Questions and Answers About PressThink "The Web is good for many opposite things. For quick hitting information. For clicking across a field. For talk and interaction. It's also a depth finder, a memory device, a library, an editor. Not to use a weblog for extended analysis (because most users won't pick that option) is Web dumb but media smart. What's strange is that I try to write short, snappy things, but they turn into long ones." More...