« Oil Bucks | Main | Fran Townsend Resigns »

November 19, 2007


Its like Thomas Jefferson said: "The only truth in the newspapers is the advertising."


Was there any discussion about forming some type of investigative journalism consumer's report or some type of peer reviewed certification for investigative journalism (blog, print ...)?

Perhaps some type of certification would give readership some confidence in the fact finding of the journalist (print or online) and force the issue of citing work from blog investigative writers. Quite honestly EW, you could lead the way on this due to the high quality of your research and investigation displayed in your postings. Additionally, this type of certification could be acknowledged on a website. I know I will only do online business with a company that has secure settings displayed and a BBB approval.

Additionally, a certification process would most likely build the legal process for protection of work and force the card on acknowledgement of sources. For instance, listing the BBB symbol on ones business card or website offers a level of copywrite and trademark protection.

Crazy? Perhaps. But I thought I would toss it out there in the idea universe...

Building readership confidence in the quality of the product could drive the industry.

Not that it answers the question you posed, but Krugman's column in todays NYTimes is a serious smackdown of Brooks and Cannon. Seeing the conservative strategy unmasked is a great thing. See this search for the rest of the series.

“No American newspaper will print anything contrary to its own interests”
George Bernard Shaw

"Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper”
George Orwell

Carr is a good man. Every year the sport loses more men like Carr, that are actually teachers, educators and college men in addition to, really above and beyond being, mere football coaches. Every year such losses are filled with self centered younger mercenary coaches mostly about themselves, the biggest payday and the most glamorous job; instead of being about the institution, students, players and the game. College football is bigger than ever, but the heart and soul of the game now rests in the lower divisions and in the students, fans and players in scenes like the Amherst-Williams game last weekend.

KLynn, the short answer to your question about "discussion of certification" is no.

I enjoyed the three panels, but wished there had been more interaction with the audience. On at least two occasions the audience booed loudly, and overall seemed generally restive. One got the sense that the representatives of the MSM really have not fully come to terms with the failings of their industry, much less any personal contributions they may have had to overall public dissatisfaction with their work.

There was an overarching sense that the MSM is in a serious state of crisis due mostly to the rise of ureliable blogs and the heathens who read them. Even during the third panel which specifically addressed the business of news, there was inadequate discussion of the degree to which the current crisis is attributable to media consolidation and the pressure from Wall Street to hit increasingly unrealistic quarterly profit targets. In short, they are still looking for external blame first and foremost, with much much less emphasis on internal practices contributing to the current problems.

With limited time for real discussion with the audience, there were things not fully discussed (or in some cases mentioned at all) that deserved more attention:

1) I agree entirely with EW's point that the strength of large well-funded news organizations is in
covering stories too expensive for other smaller operations to cover. When it comes to college sports, the NYT really ought to let the locals cover it, then pick up the stories (with proper attribution) like they would from a wire service. Then they can focus their financial resources on what they do best.

2) What is the current balance between using local reporters in foreign reporting v. sending Americans? Depending on the balance, one can imagine that a greater reliance on local reporters would be more cost effective. Further, it would improve the quality of the reporting by giving American readers a better sense of the perspective of those in foreign locations.

3) Given the critical role news plays in the proper functioning of democracy, perhaps it should be treated as essential infrastructure (like roads) rather than a Wall Street driven for profit business. The public relies on the press to be informed and that information should not be skewed as it has been in our pay-to-play playground for the powerful political/corporate elite.

4) As noted during the 3rd panel, readership of MSM publications has increased due to the ability of people everywhere to get access to their reporting via the internet. It seems to me that the vibrant discussion that occurs on the blogs enhances interest in the news and engages the citizenry in a way that can lead to greater participation in civic life. This should be viewed as a winning combination. Unfortunately, there still appears to be a continuing desire on the part of the MSM that they should retain their privileged position to tell the rest of us what to think. They don't yet really appear to be interested in hearing back from us about what we actually do think.

I think I may be reaching into the realm of Mary's word count with this, so I'll leave it at that ;) But, before I stop I should add that our dear EW acquitted herself very well. She was the most articulate panelist of the day, with a grasp of factual information that she used to real advantage. It was an interesting afternoon as much for what was not said, as what was said. But of course the best part was meeting EW in person :)

bmaz -- I take it your dismay with the Wolvereenies as related to OSU had something to do with the Buckeyes ending up ranked higher than AZ State? Great. Another fun-filled Thanksgiving for me ;)

And um, did you see the Packer game??? :)

Ironically, in many way blogs are responsible for airing the public drum beat of negative attitudes and unreasonable expectations toward coaches like Carr. I follow the Univ. of Tennessee football team on a forum called volnation.com and the vitriol against Fulmer there who has had much success including a national championship but also some bumps in the road like Carr is endemic. This critical voice of unreasonable negativity is in many ways the voice of the so-called "public" newspapers putatively serve. Its a kind "I love the smell of napalm in the morning," mindset. And so there is a values question which in the end I suspect pertains to education. The notion of a reasonable quest for excellance is often sacrificed to the reactionary passion of the moment and calls to more sane long-term views are often mocked and derided. Its says much about the emotional incompleteness of many. But football is a martial sport.

Still just to keep the record straight, we all know how it went when Carr and Fulmer met up a few years ago. Nevertheless it is sad that Carr with his successes and admirable values would be subject to hue and cries of the angry dissatisfied Michigan hordes. The subjunctive mindset only laments: if only the passion of this dissatisfaction were directed toward critical thinking.

Something's gotta be done.

EW has combed through news reports and followed storylines, doing all the blocking the and tackling that goes into quality journalism - no matter where it's taking place - and authoritatively pieced together a clear-cut case of the Executive claiming Absolute Power, and subverting Our Constitutional processes in order to avoid Accountability to the People and the Rule of Law - all in the Conduct of a Political Smear of Bush's Critics, the Wilsons.

Anatomy of Deceit, the Libby Live-blogging with FDL, and all of these consistently excellent posts (with superb commentarial analysis) have made a much better case for Conspiracy and Treason against Bush and Cheney, than the Administration has made for taking away Our Rights.

Something's gotta be done.

The Press needs to be strong enough to make Bush take his finger off the scale of Truth.


Oh, did the Packers play yesterday? I hadn't noticed.

As to your #2, that's actually something that came up on my panel's earlier conference call. I pointed out that the Economist had great international coverage (I subscribe bc Mr. EW refuses to read blogs), and the response was, "Well, they're not employed by the Economist."

Which might explain why it's foreign coverage, even with its neoliberal bent, is so good.

Phred - Yes, mostly I wanted another loss tagged onto Ohio State to get them out from in front of ASU in the BCS standings (probably irrelevant; not sure ASU can beat USC this Thursday); but I have always preferred Big Blue to the Buckeyes (Grandparents and father were from Michigan and, hey, they have cooler helmets). Yep, saw the Packer game. Am kind of getting spooked that the bubble is going to burst....

EW - Yada, yada, yada; you think the Pats are the only team with a quarterback. You are secretly suffering from Favre envy.....

No no, I love Favre, and I'm thrilled he's having this year. He deserves it.

Note, of course, that the Lions have begun their inevitable spiral downwards, thereby alleviating Favre of even the merest worry about footsteps behind him. I suspect by Thursday the Packers may be guaranteed their Div win in all but name (unless the Lions pull off one of their perennial Turkey day upsets, in which case phred's going to send me a bill for the beers she bought me over the weekend).

Hey, no crying in your bitters and Beamish; the Lions are 6-4. The, as I have previously described, pathetic Cardinals are at 5-5; which is only the second time since they unloaded their carpetbags in Phoenix, that they have been .500 or better ten games into the season. The Cardinals make the Lions look like the Patriots.

Yeah, but the Cardinals IMO are the favorite to represent the NFC west, and they're improving. Not so the Lions.

You have been hanging around Fleischer, McClellen and Perino too much; are trying to sell me a Snowjob....

It could be much worse: look at the Dolphins. (I'm a Niners fan for most purposes, but the Packers and Denver are also in the running.)

Former Ambassador John Bolton "Dealing with Rogue States After Iraq" 12/3

EW, I'm sure the only reason you may have missed the Packer game was due to the poorly chosen time of your flight home to MI. Really, you should have thought through your travel arrangements more carefully ;) By the way, if anything unfortunate does happen next Thursday, I should be able to assuage my misery with extra helpings of stuffing and pie (make up a bit for any prior liquid excesses ;)

bmaz, like you, I have always, always, loved the Woolverine helmets. They are way cooler than any others in the Big 10. Good luck against USC! And congrats on the Cardinals yesterday, too!

At the risk of going ON topic, I find it really interesting that they were so dismissive of the Economist's foreign reporters. Just reinforces the impression I have that if the story is not written by "them" (i.e. NYT, WaPo, etc. stable of reporters) it isn't really news. Shines a bit of a light on their contempt for bloggers, who lack even the modicum of respectability of being "not employed" by a respectable publication. Sigh. It really doesn't have to be like this.

bmaz -- did you actually watch the Cards yesterday? I really thought they looked good. I know they were playing the Bengals, but still, I thought they played well.

Neil -- Does Amherst have any intentions of having a sane person lecture on the same topic?

PJ, I have a cheesehead I could send you, if it would help ;)

In defense of Morgenson, she was the first in the MSM that I saw to write an article on the subprime meltdown. True some of us in the blogosphere had been predicting that meltdown for a couple of years but it was her article that brought this financial fiasco into the wider public domain when it really hit the fan. Nevertheless, I agree completely that if she got the Deutsche Bank story from a blog she should have credited it.

phred @ 11:12:

Thanks for the summary. Honestly, a citizen and journalism peer based review for some sort of certification for investigative journalism (print and blog) could be interesting and re-calibrate the role media (MSM or blogs) must play in a democracy. The "Good Housekeeping Seal" has played a big role in consumer consumption as does the BBB and Consumer's Report.

Your summary points are interesting. On point three regarding the MSM as infrastructure to a democracy. Only as long as it is a free press infrastructure which I realize is implied but infrastructure tends to get me thinking "totally government funded" which I would not support. Nor do I think corporate elite ownership supports the role media must be in a democracy. Hey, if we want the MSM to get back to where it should be in our current environment of corporate elite, we have to do it and we will need to create the vehicle to make this happen. After all, MSM needs us.

I totally expected EW to be articulate and outshine the rest of the panel. Yet, I knew she would be humbled by meeting such journalism "greats".


Don't forget, a daughter of a former OSU coach visits this sight and respects your strong feelings against OSU. Remember, OSU came into this season with a healthy view of itself --Tressel stated this was a rebuilding year. It was just a pleasant happening to do better than expected. Honestly, I've enjoyed all the upsets this season. Leaves us all guessing. I think Georgia will beat LSU... Cooler helmets? Hmmm...

Let me correct myself. EW would not be humbled but HUMBLE in meeting the honorable members of the panel.

I meant humble.

So sorry.

phred, I dunno.

I saw Bolton on CNN with Wolf Blitzer advocating air strikes on Iran to disable their nuclear energy/nuclear weaponry. Bolton described how the strike would be different, not an invasion but a surgical bombing. He described it as if it wouldn't set off a series of events beyond our control.

Wolf never asked, "Wouldn't this be an act of war?" I really wonder who Bolton spoke for. He is no longer in governemnt. It struck me as incongruous that Bolton could describe the nature of the strike being considered and give assurances about its effect.

I don't think Bolton will be the most popular speaker on campus this year but it is a heady audience mostly committed to the ideas of Engage, Ask questions, and Debate. Bolton's propositions will be (mostly) discussed on their own merit.

Speaking of corporate elite and MSM, Christy has a piece up at the Lake worth reading. My regrets for not linking.

Phred, and to a lesser extent PJ by way of the Dolphins analogy (the Dolphins are a rich and storied franchise with perfect seasons and Super Bowls; even in their current state, they should not be compared to the Cards) - Don't be fooled by the shiny object that is the apparent current success of the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have a stunning total of exactly ONE victory in a playoff game in the LAST 60+ YEARS. They, and the Bidwell family, have earned every bit of their reputation as woeful losers.

KLynn - Don't get me wrong, I very much respect OSU. I was being honest about the family from Michigan part; and that really did play a part in how I formed my opinions as a kid in the 60s as to what teams I liked and why. Plus, I am still smarting from that come from behind win by the Buckeyes over ASU in the 1997 Rose Bowl (ASU should have won, but they couldn't stop OSU for squat on the last drive; ASU still would have won if Plummer had either had 20 more seconds or had used timeouts better when they got the ball back with about a minute left. Damn OSU quarterback Joe Germain was from Tempe and wanted to go to ASU, but they wouldn't take him; guess that is poetic justice).

Aw, c'mon KLynn, even you must have thought the Woolverine helmets were cool, even if you liked the Buckeyes best ;)

Just wanted to follow up quickly, on your comment that equates infrastructure with total government funding. That is not what I meant. Indeed government funding could easily lead to even greater manipulation of the press than we currently have. I'm not really sure how I would fund an infrastructure like this. Given the fact that broadcast network news back when I was a kid was considered the loss leader of the networks, it seems to me that it is a business inherently ill-suited to be treated like a commodity on Wall Street. It seems a non-profit structure would make more sense, with a more distributed allocation of resources (i.e., reporters) as in point #2 above. In this case I envision a much broader marshalling of talent, better collaboration between citizen journalists and MSM perhaps. I haven't though this through carefully, but I think a broader range of alternatives needs to be considered than what was discussed on Saturday. Clearly the current model for the MSM isn't working, so my hope is that we can find a better model that serves our democracy rather than just another model to serve business interests. That was what I had meant to convey previously.

And one other minor point, my long-winded comment above was really more of my impression, than a proper summary. I just mentioned the points I wished had been given greater attention, but did not go into any detail of what was actually covered.

Neil, thanks for the follow up. It should be a really interesting event. If you make it, I hope you let us know how it goes...

It's become a game at my house: read NextHurrah and DK and then count the number of days until some "original" work (that covers the same "investigative reporting" as those blogs) makes it to my morning LA Times. Remember the ice sitting in trucks after Katrina? I and others broke that on DK and a week later were surprised to read it in the paper and watch it on CNN. In stories that in some cases were almost word for word.
I'm pretty sure the reporters at the big papers are reading specific blogs each day and taking notes.
Oh, and you should have read the pre-season coverage in the LA Times on USC this year---SC was essentially crowned national champs, the best college team ever, with a decent chance of ending this year unbeaten; all before a single snap of the ball. Ha. Now we're kind of doing it around Yet Another UCLA Basketball Season. Makes up for not having an NFL team, I guess. And having the Lakers to fight about.

phred, I won't attend but we may get to watch it here. Your question, and the news that UofF would pay Gonzo $40,000 to speak there, made me wonder about the size of Bolton's honorarium.

Well, it's so much easier to get from downtown to the Coliseum than to the Rose Bowl or to Westwood. [/snark] (Given that they have a hard time finding anything more than five miles from city hall, even with a map and a driver!) I wondered how much they'd been paid to hype USC, myself, or if there's an editor or two who has connections pushing it.

You do get cynical, after watching the political stuff for so long.

Perhaps we should pick back up the discussion we started back in this post. It is possible that independently funded operations, or collaborations, like Pro Publica, could serve a dire need in the news game. On that post, I made this comment about the IRE as kind of a historical framework to expand on in "certifying" and regulating the new level of independent and blog reporting in investigative journalism:

There actually is a group that somewhat monitors, assists, tries to establish standards, gives out annual awards etc. for investigative journalists. The group is known as the Investigative Reporters & Editors, or IRE for short.

IRE did one collaborative effort that was really remarkable where IRE members from many different papers from all over the country got together and worked on a single project known as "The Arizona Project". The Arizona Project involved a very long term investigation of organized crime and political corruption in Arizona and was motivated by the car bomb murder of one of the founding members of IRE, Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles in June of 1976. It is a great story if anybody wants to click the link. At any rate, the point here is that there is a framework and existence of standards etc., and at least some history of independent work, collaboration and whatnot that could support more independent work in the face of the diminishing nature of heavy duty investigative journalism and big projects by the daily papers.

Yeh well, I GUESS the helmets are like Woody from Toy Story thinking Buzz Lightyear's helmet, "Makes that whoosh sound!" The Wolverine stripe does have an element of "cool". A brush of "whoosh" so to speak.

Thanks for the clarification on infrastructure. I like your ideas. However, realistically, I think it will be a hard way to go to fully change the corporate elite ownership we now see. That is why I was suggesting some sort of vehicle which challenges the "quality" and "balance" of content which could drive level of readership and sales as well as hold MSM accountable.

The '97 Rose Bowl -- quite the game. I understand. Don't forget, it has been ten years... ASU has a great deal of potential...

marksb @ 13:39

Funny you should share that...At my house when I share something I read here at NH, the Lake or at Kos, I get told, I did not hear that on NPR or read about it in the Times, are you sure you have that correct?

Then I share the posting and links to documents. Everyone is amazed at "how" long it takes for the same story to hit the MSM and hit with the appropriate citations to government documents or appropriate quotes from insiders as the blog news broke the story. My parents feel like I have some "inside" track on what is really happening. I tell them, "I do, but we all do." I refer more friends because of their amazement with the regularity I learn of vital government news issues and learn them days to weeks in advance to MSM "rebreaking" the news.

I am in debt to EW. Thank you.

Sales ad's, puppy training and lining the birdcage...and oh I hear it's great to clean windows with....lmao....sorry first things that came to mind.

Maybe you just understandably have "Carr" on the brain today. So who was the reluctant "Hack Who Admitted To Rosen"?

Damnation, emptywheel. I had no idea you read Calculated Risk. I am wonderfully flattered that you like it. I read your blog and spend a lot of time being deeply impressed by what you do, and how you spend so many hours clearing the smoke so the rest of us can see what's really going on.

Thing is, I write about a subject around which billions of dollars change hands every day. I know when I write certain things that it could, actually, affect the value of your retirement account (and my own). And I'm just some blogger.

Morgenson has been on a roll writing about Countrywide lately. On the one hand, there's lots of highly negative truthful things to be written about that company. On the other, there's a lot of rumor and innuendo, and there are a lot of short sellers and competitors, many of whom would be thrilled to call up Gretchen and plant a juicy story in her ears. If you, or other folks, care about the story because you're just concerned about housing and the economy, you don't necessarily realize that what you are reading is a mixture of fact and hype that is putting money in someone's pocket.

Actually, then, I have a big problem with business writers not disclosing the original "tip" for any story, whether it started on a blog or somewhere else. I'll bet that if writers like Morgenson had to start their articles by saying, "A hedge fund manager with a large position in this stock called me yesterday to bring my attention to this blog post about Deutsche Bank," then things would change a bit.

Anyway, thanks for the nice post and thanks for your wonderful efforts over the years.


The thanks is mutual. I'm smart enough to know the mortgage crisis is a mess, but I get really dumb anywhere beyond that. I'm really grateful to have somewhere to go read about it to make sense of it.

scrolled thru to read the discush on sports and culture. Where's da culchah? pro football blah packers blah osu blahblah...
i love me some football, but ballet? now, you're talkin'.

Stagemom - I don't know squat about ballet; but am more than willing to meet you halfway, say, for instance, discussing dancing cheerleaders at football games.....

stagemom -- glad to see you at least picked up the most important sports bits, those about the Packers ;) FWIW, I like ballet, theater, music, but football positively lends itself to talking a bit o' smack with your chums :)

And since we've already gone pretty well off topic on this thread, just wanted to pop back in quick to wish everyone a yummy Thanksgiving! And a belated one to our Canadian friends who celebrate Thanksgiving in October :) Enjoy the football (and ballet? ;)

Culcha? I got ya culcha right hea.
Santa Barbara local theater director/producer Maurice Lord put on Sam Shepard's God Of Hell over the last couple of weeks in a small theater. Strange play, but good. Great acting.

Back to the topic of the post... b/c it's of particular interest to me.

What the blogs seem to do extraordinarily well -- at TNH, at FDL, at Harpers.org/NoComment, at Iraq Oil Report -- is to identify specific legal documents (or in the case of IOR 'oil deals') that serve as a framework for analysis and discussion. IMHO, the added value that comes from someone who has experience with a process, or a system, or an area of expertise is enormous; they are better able to ask the right questions, and then to extricate the meaning, than some random reporter.

I don't mean to knock reporters; I think it must be a terribly difficult job to have to scrap together an article. However... on occasion, I've given interviews, or been asked for background info, and have found a huge range in the abilities, 'smarts', savvy, and interest of reporters. I've seen reporters who are probably just 'mailing it in', and then I've seen a few who are really engaged, who want to understand things -- and as far as I'm concerned, they're 'gold'. But for the really engaged reporters to do good work... as near as I can tell, it's rare. Primarily because in order to do GOOD work, even to write short articles, they have to actually have the smarts and patience to cull through public documents.

Now one of the problems with public documents is that they are often dismally written... The committee decided to request a recommendation... So unless a reporter engages with those kinds of documents fairly often, they can't distinguish between the forest and the trees. So they get lost. Which means they can't cut through the bullshit. Which means they don't actually KNOW to go ask the guy who sits by the copy machine and just happens to know where the RELEVANT files are kept... Shorter: we live in a complex age. that is riddled with stupidity, bullshit, confusion, and documents that appear to fulfill legal obligations, while actually being profoundly deceptive (think the Global Warming crap out of Bu$hCo).

Basically, if the media aren't paying someone to chat with the guy who sits by the copier, touch base with him every week or two, know HOW to read the documents, know which section of the document to read FIRST, in order to better interpret the rest of the document... This is a very long way of saying that there's a huge learning curve for any complex subject. And when I look at some of the reports that I see, it seems as if the reporters have to start over, start over, start over... when what the publishers ought to do is pay them for ten weeks of culling through the files of their local Assessor's offices, or other areas of government that actually keep documents, and get some mastery of the basics. That way, the reporters have a better grasp of what's REALLY going on.

Why do I say this...? I've seen too many instances of a glib, effusively amiable elected enthusing about some issue about which, in fact, the elected knows very little. But that same elected wants to get credit for making some Big Deal Decision, or they may want to appeal to their public persona while working behind the scenes to grease the skids for their pollluter buddies. And the reporters never, ever call them on this horseshit, b/c the reporters don't know their asses from holes in the wall. They don't know, b/c they don't have time to go LOOK in the documents that actually state that the elected just allowed for 2,000 tons of gravel to be removed from Stream X, and that same elected has also been a party to 'streamlining' the environmental review. So the reporters never call the elected on their bullshit -- because they don't see what's really going on. Because they're on deadline, or it's their expectation that 'an interview' will give them the information that they need for 'a story'.

And it's my increasingly frustrated view that the press is missing most of the good stories.
Maybe, for the 50 cents that I pay for a paper, that's all I should expect -- lots of ads, and quick, butt-covering interviews.
But I'd prefer to spend $2.00 and get A STORY that actually has some meaning in my life. That helps me understand why my local streams have no fish left, or why dumptrucks are driving up and down my road constantly.

Forgive me, but as near as I can tell, the human species is basically a primate with a very large cerebral cortex. That very large part of the brain has to do with social learning, with social interactions, and with assessing violations of social norms.
But I feel as if the MSM are providing eye candy, or else some emotive crappola aimed at my limbic system (the emotional part of the brain). That sh*t is NOT A STORY.
It's just NOT.

I want S-T-O-R-I-E-S.
And even better, I want to enage with what in the bloody hell that info MEANS in my own life, or those that I care about.

Yeah, I'm writing way too much (and procrastinating on my work at the same time -- double dipping!).
But dammit!

Why in bloody hell, if this is such a kickass country, do we have 'newz' that's about as lifeless, glib, uninformative, and plain vanilla as school paste?

I love stories.
But trying to find one... damn, should it be so hard? They're all over the place!
But to tell GOOD ones requires more than interviewing Mr. Butt Covering Elected, who is going to kiss the ass of a reporter, bleat about how hard it is to 'compromise' or to 'negotiate' or to 'accommodate all stakeholders' when in actual fact that same asshole is selling the citizens straight to hell at Wal-Martized prices, because the guy's not all that bright, but the papers will never get the goods on him. So he gets elected to a higher office, where he does even more damage....

I have several friends in my region, who share my disgust at how the political system has become a tool for polluters, and we all ask one another, "How come things have gone to hell around here, we have 8 teevee stations, at least 6 newspapers, and no one can tell a coherent version of how this sh*t went down?!" We all know, because for a variety of reasons, we've been involved with the creation, writing, or policy processes through which the bad decisions are made. We KNOW that 'all the evidence is in plain sight'. It's sitting in legal documents, in our local city and county offices. It's lurking in budget documents, all of them public. It's in plain sight in legal decisions.

But do you think that our local reporters (or ANY reporters!) seem to grasp that most of the information they need in order to tell INTERESTING, relevant, meaningful stories is right under their noses? Few seem to realize it. And fewer still are paid to take the time to read through the documents, and then combine the budget cuts with the fact that (surprise, surprise!) NO Environmental Impact Statement was ever even requested for Project F*ck Over the Habitat #158.... so the elected officials are not accountable. Because the information -- sitting around in plain sight! -- is never accessed, read, sythesized, et cetera.

So instead of this: "Mr BIg Deal spoke today about the new water quality standards he's moved forward. However, a look at budget documents for the Water District, plus transportation budgets, suggest that the money required to actually meet the new regulations will not be requested. This, despite the fact that the population has increased by 10% the past 5 years.... In addition, our crackerjack staff of curious, witty, kickass reporters also noted that during the past 6 years, not a single one of the new proposals for over 1200 new homes was required to perform an Environmental Impact Statement, despite the fact that they are required under the law..."

Instead, I'm served up lame bullshit like this, "Mr. Big Deal spoke today about the new water quality standards that he's worked hard the past two years to move forward. Speaking today from his swank office overlooking the new XX park, he said, "It's really gratifying to know you've been a part of preserving the local community."

What blogs do well:
Offer expertise, and the level of analysis that goes with it. Two of my favorite examples: Scott Horton at Harper's, and Ben Lando at Iraqi Oil Report. (Both link to other interesting resources.)
Analyze original documents
Allow people to ask questions, or ask for clarification about what things mean
TEACH people about basic aspects of issues, of civic activities, and of where to go find interesting info that's related.
Call bullshit on butt-covering, lying swine. And those that do it with the greatest wit (EW, Jane Hamsher, Christy Hardin Smith, Scott Horton) do it best.

What news operations can do well:
Mark up original documents, in order to help people quickly spot key patterns and shifts. One of my all-time favorites is from the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/washington/20070123_STATEOFUNION.html

Include more multimedia in the reporting -- the NYT again has, IMHO, really pushed the envelope (a la BBC) in merging video with interactive maps, and with marked-ed up documents. But the marked up documents require some basic programming. So what I think the media can do well is to merge programming skills with storytelling. If they figure that mix out, and if they give their reporters the necessary resources to go delve into background information, then they really have a chance to provide service, bring value to readers, and revolutionize the POTENTIAL for people to solve large, collective, complex problems more effectively.

Was this a rant, or what?

In my dreams -- the papers integrate basic elements of online gaming technology with reporting and marked up documents, so that if I have to vote on yet another gawdawful transit proposal, I can go online, pull up the 'Transit Proposal' section of my local newz site, and run through a few different scenarios in which I can see the differences over five years between More Walkways, versus More Roads.

Come to think of it, I should have spent my time working up a biz proposal for this concept, rather than ranting on a blog comment.

But dammit, I'm disgusted with the lame-ass 'interview' He Said/She Said crapola.
I'm pissed at the fact that getting newz in little tidbits and morsels is just meaningless. It's complete bullshit. don't have to read a novel every day, but I do want to feel that whatever I read was worth my time!
I don't need more bullshit buttcovering from interviews.


I swear, if my local papers would just stop giving me tidbits about shootings, and instead offer me some kind of resources -- online, as well as in print, that allow me to 'play' with information, with scenarios, with budget numbers, with document markup... well... I honestly believe that people WOULD be engaged. And I also think that venal sleazebots like Karl Rove and Kenneth Mehlman, etc, would just sort of fade into the woodwork. Because they wouldn't matter. They wouldn't be 'the story'. What they say, or what they think would NOT be 'the story.'

'The story' would be more complex.
The newspaper or the teevee wouldn't have '8 page one items'. It might have two. But they'd have context: economic, geographic, a little sidebar for 'timelines'... maybe even links to Google Earth.

It's entirely possible that I'm a head case.
It's also possible that I'm really tired of watching the world get trashed, while the headlines serve up admiring commentary about people who make really venal decisions.
Then there is a third, completely remote, possibility that I'm a visionary.

Here's what I know - the world's a mess.
We got lotsa big problems. Those problems require collaborative solutions.
Without moving to some kind of collaborative models, that engage readers/users by helping them LEARN about things, the media are going to be history.

People like to learn. And they like stories.
Every time two neurons in your brain make a connection, and every time you have an epiphany, you get a little hit of dopamine. And it changes your brain in a very small way. But more synaptic connections, in a city of 2 million, over a period of 6 months, and...who know? Maybe you'd move beyond the kind of shitfest, despicable mindrot served up the Rovian view of Politics as Unending Vendetta.
Maybe a conversation would develop...? Maybe people would see that the public policy process is not simple.
Maybe people would stop settling for allowing morons and fools to make very important decisions (to say nothing of judicial appointments!).

Maybe people learn about more the world -- the one they actually live in and impact -- and more acccurately assess the consequences of Policy A over Policy B.
Maybe if the newz told better stories, people would recognize that just because 'Joe is a nice guy', doesn't mean he should be the Governor. People might have higher expectations for elected officials. People might figure out some better ways to determine which candidates actually have the hutzpah and the skill and the integrity and the brains to make the preferred policy a reality. Kind of like the same way that people prefer a good doctor over a hack, or a smart mechanic over a nitwit. People are used to having to figure out that kind of information, but in the current media environment, it's very hard.

The media need to stop being Regal Pontificators, and take a few Ed Psych classes.
We were an audience when teevee and print were the dominant technologies.
We're not an audience anymore, and we never will be again.
Too many neurons got too much dopamine, created too many new synapses, and we passed some collective Tipping Point when no one was paying much attention.

Old media need to stop blaming bloggers, and pick up a few books on neurology and the neurobiology of learning.
For fun and easy reading, I'd recommend they start with Steven Johnson's "Everything Bad is Good For You."

If you actually finished reading this, you should be canonized.

Yeah, I'm passionate about this.
I have see too much sh*t get pulled by unethical, stupid people while the media got rolled by those very same f*ckwits. We just can't afford this any more.
But the media need to get their sh*t together and facilitate the kinds of conversations that enable collective problem solving. Because their role as gatekeepers and Guardians of the Commentariat is over. The audience is now cognitively, technologically, socially, and economically in a different place and they don't need that half-baked, white bread, pasty outworn information anymore.

People need context, collaborative opportunities, and mechanisms by which they can assess validity (of people, as well as information). And they need summaries.
And they need navigational cues as they search a very complex and growing Information Space.

ROTL - On the other hand, you can scan the papers and cable for the critical stories of interest and then come here and your other few great sites and truly discuss and learn the issues and, hopefully, work toward solving them. That is the way it has started playing out for me, a person who shares your beliefs and concerns. I indeed see the media getting more bells and whistles like you, but probably not the wonky, useable, hard data ones you want; just more video clips from Wolf Blitzer or Katie Couric repeating an even thinner version of the same freaking poor report you just read.

rOTL -- BRAVO! Best rant I've read in ages and I agree completely. Ok, off for vacation, I mean it this time. But holy smokes, I'll be smiling all week about this. The genie is out of the bottle and the current purveyors of corporate news can step up or be passed by...

phred - thx. Really, I feel like I should crawl under my desk and hide for a week after this rant. Jeepers 8(
bmaz, thx also ;-)
But I am increasingly coming to the point of view that Katie Couric isn't going to cut it. Period. Blitzer... strikes me as having changed and become more engaged -- still a long way to go, but farther along than Couric.

But those videos still make them all vulnerable to the 'liberal press' meme. I swear, if I were The Press, I'd just do a lot more of what the NYT did in that SOTU -- not comment, not offer up opinion. But offer A SERVICE. You want to see the highlights? The keywords? Here they are... you decide what you think, then you can talk about it.

But by marking up the SOTU, the NYT not only provided a public service, they're encouraging people to THINK DIFFERENTLY. Which, God only knows, we need to do in a hurry. Because the whole 'LiberalMediaHeSaidSheSaidAndByTheWayHere'sAnnCoulterAndOReilly' just isn't cutting it.

But thx for your kind words.
My background includes some teaching experiences, so I've seen people surprise even themselves by what they really can achieve if they just look at things from a slightly different angle.

I'm not surprised that Countrywide is in trouble,. I know someone who was a night guard there, and there were lots of stories about the insanity in the way the guard detail was being run, enough to make you figure it was nuts all the way up. (Example: Every time they ran into a problem, they'd issue a memo with a new rule, without reviewing the rest of the existing rules, which resulted in things like rule A saying 'you must do x' and rule Z saying that 'doing x is a mandatory firing offense'.)

again. shut up. you don't know bupkis about the media or the way the media works. you're an outsider

Football? Right over my head ("bupkis" describes my football knowledge pretty good)

I just wanted to comment on "blow job":

it's always struck me as funny, in sad way, that Americans get so upset about sex (BLOWJOB eek!!!) when it's ok to display and discuss violence (deer hunting, movie action, TORTURE fergodsake). What'll the children think? It's disgusting really.

youse guys, you don't know what a college football fan i am. i know sports. 3 older brothers.
i still read the sports section first every morning.
i was raised with the arts and sports, as well as lit-erachur.
gesundheit me!

Newspapers best for? 1)bottom of bird cages, 2)wrapping fish and chips, 3)making paper mache logs for grade school Thanksgiving tableau projects (complete with pine cone turkeys). Anything else?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where We Met

Blog powered by Typepad