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April 16, 2007


I prefer a less cynical view of journalism: a journalist is a proxy set of eyes and ears for the public. If a journalist can see and hear something, they can tell us what they saw and heard. If they don't provide this service, we don't buy newspapers (what do you know?), and the First Amendment falls into disuse except for pr0n and scatology anywhere but broadcast. In order to take the best possible advantage of our liberties, we need a free flow of information, and the First Amendment provides us with the right to both collect and deliver it. If journalists no longer deliver accurate information, then our ability to exercise, protect and extend our liberties is diminished.

Isn't that why we're here?

I think emptypockets is/was having an Twilight Zone experience.

When Gore and Bush was running in 2000, the first election I could vote in, I had a few of those myself with Mr Gore being the main protagonist as we were led down a rabbit hole. I wanted someone more stable and practical, and so voted for Mr Bush.

Bush did fairly well until he decided to do Iraq on the cheap.
I didn't vote for him a second time and had to settle for a clown named Kerry.

Terrific post emptyp, and any venture that includes The Onion is a welcome one. I'd add that I think in the freezing out stage, ABC/Disney would be a good second focus after Fox. From copywrong (mickey mouse) to The Path to 9-11 to the Michael Savage radio show, there are some pernicious forces at play in that corporation.

It all starts with the end user, so I guess I just got to not bitch until I don't consume... though it's hard when they get the college championship for football, but other than that I see no probs. Maybe they, Congress, could give all playoff games to PBS for a year, then I wouldn't have to frequent ABC.

Where do I get my regular doses of Krugman, of Sy Hirsch, of Walter Pincus, to name only three of my most valued informants? Who keeps them alive in their business of keeping me informed?

Of course it comes at a price, but I'm happy to pay that price.

I think we need to take a look at the new Pew report on what people know, and whether citizen awareness is improving or not. What the report showed is that the informed segment of the population is still about the same size as it was 20 years ago. But near the end of the NPR story on this report (last 30 seconds) on ATC today, Kohut (?) made an interesting observation: he said that young adults *don't like* the news. I think this is possibly why all of the news shows are slipping towards infotainment, with the possible exception of PBS, which probably has a low penetration of the young adult market.

So what's the deal? Here's what I think is happening: There is a largely unnoticed war going on among different media formats for the young adult market. Who will get their eyes and ears?

I think there's an interesting answer: Barack Obama and his staff seem to have found a way to get the attention of the young. And they're not utilizing any of the media you or the Pew research looked at. According to the Wikipedia,
"Obama began podcasting from his U.S. Senate web site in late 2005. He has responded to and personally participated in online discussions hosted on politically-oriented blog sites.[115]"

They're using YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5h95s0OuEg) and the "social" spaces available on the internet (http://my.barackobama.com/page/user/login?successurl=L3BhZ2UvZGFzaGJvYXJkL3ByaXZhdGU=) and MySpace, where he is said to have more than 100,000 "friends" (http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=5173909).

The campaign was launched well before the official launch by a student who set up a myspace site? But here I lapse into new media of which I am ignorant. The point is that not only does he have such sites, but they seem to be productive mobilizing tools.

There's something new going on here.

Bob in HI

anwaya, you're right that my view of journalism is more cynical, and that's an interesting difference. If I understand right, the view you're describing is one where journalists are in the "noble selfless" class like doctors, police, fire and rescue workers, and teachers -- quasi-public servants. Interestingly, the two on that list I don't buy as public servants are journalists and doctors, the same two that are not actually paid by the public. (Private college professors would be another, but I've got a soft spot there -- and at least in the sciences many are paid through public funds, actually.)

I think there are a lot of really good journalists working for private employers but essentially, because they're underpaid and working harder than they're compensated for, doing a public service. I just can't include the high-profile pundits, op-ed columnists, and editors at the country's top papers in that set.

Along those lines, Jodi succinctly provides two of the biggest pieces of misinformation the press has peddled: that some of the most enormous intelligence failures of the last 50 years did not detract from the administration doing "fairly well," and that taking thousands of lives is somehow "cheap." How did the press go from noble public servants to blindly repeating this kind of spin? Were the September 11 attacks the catalyst that neutralized the independent press, or had it already happened and it just became more obvious after those events?

Alex, one concern I have with the "freezing out" strategy is basically as you described -- every outlet has some pattern of doing things we don't like. I feel like the calls to boycott/shitstorm various media bounce around so erratically depending on the flavor of the day, that they become easy to ignore. Each outlet, caught in our glare, realizes that if it just waits a week there will be some outrage on another network that will shift our attention.

Alabama, exactly what price -- other than the cover price -- is appropriate to pay?

Bob, points well taken. On the other hand, the big media companies are already moving in to control these new media as much as possible -- whether they can is a different question. More importantly, these new media are by design democratic which means many many voices, and consequently a smaller reach of each one. Weren't there predictions 25 or 30 years ago of cable TV replacing the big networks? Now, most homes have cable but the big networks still dominate in viewership -- their programs are slicker, and (more subtly) there is a social element to watching the same things you know the folks in the office will have watched the next day. Cable is a permanent part of the landscape and it continues to eat away at the big networks, but it's not clear to me it will ever replace it (and, in fact, given the quality of cable journalism, I wouldn't want it to). Likewise, and I may be wrong, but my prediction is that over the next decade or two portable user-created media like podcasts (or whatever comes next -- YouTube-like videos you create, share, and watch on your cellphone) will take up a solid position in our media landscape but remain in the hierarchy somewhere around or below cable -- going from the most centralized, slickest production values, largest audience of the networks; to the more chintzy, more diverse, more fragmented audience of cable; to the home-brewed, completely democratic, completely chaotic and multi-voiced world of blogs and new media.

All of which, I suppose, strays somewhat from my larger point which is that I'd like to see specific elements in the media held publicly to account for their specific failures of the last 5 years. I just can't imagine who would be the ones to hold them to it.

As you indicate, empypockets, the cover price is not the most costly price--quite the contrary (costly, specialized newsletters can serve up some timely information and refined analysis).

The price in question is the bad reporting of a Judith Miller, the bad thinking (and unreadable prose) of a Tom Friedman, the uncritical subservience (and bad prose) of a David Brooks. Media material at this level must be ten, twenty, fifty, or a hundred times more plentiful than its opposite, depending on what show you watch or what paper you read. And that's the price I'm willing to pay.

But then I'm sixty-eight years old, I come from a family of journalists, and I've done some magazine and newspaper work myself. I know what I'm looking for, and I know where to find it.

alabama, well put -- but mustn't we distinguish the direct cost to ourselves in having to search out quality reporting and analysis, from the indirect costs we pay by living among so many fellow citizens who don't?

The first is a cost I'm willing to pay -- indeed, between Tivo, podcasts and blogs I've got a pretty effective little media bubble where I get only the broadcast media I want (and print media is even more readily opt-in). The second is the cost of a lot of the disasters of the last five years, for which a handful of administration fallguys are barely being held to justice, and the complicit press not at all...

Thanks emptypockets.
I couldn't agree more about physicians. While there are many fine individual physicians, the AMA pays the "Liaison Committee on Medical Education" to artificially restrict the number of Medical School seats. That insures a critical shortage of physicians in a variety of specialties. This of course contributes to the high number of errors in patient care, but physicians continue to whine about the high cost of malpractice insurance.

But emptypockets, when was the press ever otherwise than complicit? Not in my lifetime. And as for the indirect costs we pay "by living among so many fellow citizens who don't," well, I take them as direct costs, because the news is there for anyone with the felt need to read it.

Citizenship is a discipline, in my view, and "searching out quality news and reporting" is a cost that everyone can, and should, bear. It's a long, slow haul, and hardly error-free!

I'm a teacher, and I know what my students don't know, and what they need to know if they hope to prosper. Some seek me out, and learn where to go, and then go there. At best, they number about one in ten.

But this is as old as teaching itself, or reporting.

I have another reason for holding my view of journalists: if we begin by allowing Journalists to be self-aggrandizing muck-shovelers, then that's what we'll get, more JudyJudyJudys, and we lose the power to say that we want to know and have a right to know, because if we assert this right the answer is "but I'm just a journalist, I regurgitate press releases, go to cocktail parties, and ingratiate myself with the powerful. That's all I do. You know you don't get more".

If we can't hold them to a higher standard, then very few - fewer than now - will go there on their own. The time of journalists as independent observers and reporters has not passed. We still need them, but if there weren't any, I think we'd lose a great deal.

I would like to know more of what alabama thinks about the journalists view of journalism.

Jodi, I bet you become a liberal before you turn 32. Read this when you get a chance BOOK

anwaya, journalists think about journalism as doctors, lawyers, artists, art dealers, and even bankers think about their own lines of work: everyone knows that standards really exist, and everyone likes to think he or she has, or has not, met them at least some of the time, or could do so if given the chance. No one has enough money, and no one has enough time. Everyone has their regrets, their excuses, their envies, their hatreds, their missions. The sociopathic members of the tribe tend to rise to positions of leadership--which may or may not be a good thing.

But the one sure thing is this: some do very good work, whether or not their work is acknowledged by the larger public, and that's what makes them happy. Sometimes the ones who do the good work are actually more gifted than the others, because nature is wasteful and life is unfair, and their less gifted colleagues are very fortunate indeed if they can convert their envy of that gift into admiration.

No one practicing journalism could function at all if he or she didn't circulate in the world he or she covers. Cocktail parties, or some version thereof--access, bonding, and all the seductions and betrayals that go with the game--are a necessary, but insufficient, basis for doing the thing at all, let alone doing it well.

I apologize for stating the obvious, but that's the best I can do.

For what it's worth, the journalist who interests me the most nowadays is Robert Novak.

Having been converted to Catholicism some years ago by a charismatic figure in Opus Dei, he's taken to visiting the Holy Land, and writing absolutely fearless pieces about the ruinous activities of the Israeli government. In the two pieces of his that I've seen on the subject, he tells the story straight, and does so without the least attempt to provoke, to appease, or to please. At a very late stage in the game, it seems, he's busy improving his work, changing his very tone and approach to the task. I find this quite astonishing.


by "on the cheap" I meant that Bush ignored the Army recommendations for having 250 to 350 thousand men on the ground in Iraq from the getgo, and sent less than 150 thousand, and opted for a tax cut.

Because people in the news have different opinions doesn't mean they have sold out, are immoral or stupid. The most pervasive thing I have noticed about blogs in general, and this blog and FDL in particular is egos that don't allow any other kind of thinking except that on the local extreme fringe.

I came here to hear what one side has to say. But 99 percent of the people don't want to hear what I say. They only want or enjoy blind parroting of things that are never proven. ie. Rove-Wilson-Plame. And now Rove-emails.
There is a blindness here about Karl Rove. There is always the big conspiracy that just seems to be continually out of reach. Surely you have noticed that.

I go other places to hear the other sides. In fact I go to quite a few places for there is a whole spectrum of views. Still it is most instructive to look at the extreme fringes to see where the delimiters/(end conditions) are.


I too am outraged at Bush. However I don't find any shining hero among any of the politicans including the liberals. They all will outrage me from time to time.

Alabama said:

"Citizenship is a discipline, in my view, and "searching out quality news and reporting" is a cost that everyone can, and should, bear. It's a long, slow haul, and hardly error-free."

Touches on something I though about posting late yesterday but didn't, basically the idea of how modern consumers have been spoiled by slick media packaging, and that there is probably a non negligible portion of the population who wouldn't be able to discern good packaging from good content even if the latter were readily available. We've been spoiled, in other words, by programing so overproduced that it would be difficult to suspend reservations about the appearance of quality in order to appreciate true quality of content.

OT sort of, Bill Moyers has got himself a blog:


"But 99 percent of the people don't want to hear what I say."

Tokyo Jodi, it's so rare that you ever say anything worth reading. In addition, your worthless comments are perpetully OFF TOPIC.

Here's your first comment tonite: "I think emptypockets is/was having an Twilight Zone experience."

Start your comment with a completely gratuitous swipe at emptypockets; are you under the mistaken impression that your insult was in anyway clever or relevant to anything except your own nastiness? Do you figure emptypockets gets paid for posting here?

More TJ: "When Gore and Bush was running in 2000, the first election I could vote in,"

LMAO, TJ, do you think this is a singles bar?

I do believe you're trying to advertise your age range, but you "packaged" it as discretely as a run-away-train. When did you first think anyone here would remotely care what was the first Presidential election you could vote in?

"I had a few of those myself with Mr Gore being the main protagonist as we were led down a rabbit hole. I wanted someone more stable and practical,

TJ, "stable and practical" are terms people use when looking for a mate.

"and so voted for Mr Bush. Bush did fairly well until he decided to do Iraq on the cheap. I didn't vote for him a second time and had to settle for a clown named Kerry."

TJ to call you "OFF TOPIC" is to do a serious disservice to OFF TOPIC. None of your comment has anything remotely to do with emptypocket's post. The only part that is remotely accurate is your remark about tax cuts. The idea that we had 250,000 troops to put into Iraq is laughably wrong. The idea that 250,000 troops would have been more successful at occupying a country with 25 million people is just as laughably wrong. If it positively, absolutely has to be destroyed by 10:30 tomorrow, send in the Marines. Building a democracy in a foreign language, not so much. What Bush has done and is doing only makes Russian and Iran more dominant in the region.

My guess is that your "I voted for Kerry" was solely designed to oh-so-cleverly "position" you as "pro-choice."

TJ, just tell us what you're looking for, besides "stable and practical?" Can African Americans apply and other guys of color, or are you only trolling for European Americans? What's your preferred age range, income....? I'm guessing you're only interested in one gender for mating purposes, but you know if you voted for Kerry, maybe I'm wrong?

Tokyo John Casper

As for saying emptypockets was having a Twilight Zone experience, you should remember he said he had "a strange dream" and then listed some really outlandish things. I would consider that a Twilight Zone experience. And no disrespect for emptypockets intended.

Your other statements indicate that you don't have anything to say, so you are winging it very badly.

(I wait with baited breath to see how you turn that into a come on.)


I think the media, in DC at least, has gotten a little cowardly. I once heard Bradley say that one thing they learned from Watergate was that they had caused harm... 'what had God wrought.' I think you can clearly see this sort of behavior in elders like Woodward and Broder. Probably after the Clinton impeachment, et al, everyone again needed a long bath and swore to never slime again. There's also a fight for the right wing viewers/readers that prevents strong reporting -- blogs sure are a great alternative in this respect.

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