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October 15, 2007


Scientists routinely judge, from written accounts, the quality of work they did not perform themselves. It's not an idea just now bursting upon the human race, Mr. Keller.

These days the world is filled with unintentional irony.

Perhaps that is what Mr. Keller is saying:--"look, we can't even run our own shop when it comes to real investigative reporting--how the heck will we ever evaluate others' work?"

my hypothesis:

if mr. keller were capable of judging rap from quality he would not have been promoted into the position of editor he now holds. how else was judith miller and michael gordon to get their "work" published on the front page of the NYT?

mr. keller's inability to judge crap from quality is not a bug. it's a feature.

... 'course, i don't know how to test my hypothesis - which makes me a just another bullshit artist.

It's because real judgment is involved. Nobody gets to that management level without gaining a black belt in CYA. Open Source Journalism, for such a person, only delivers vulnerability, no protection.

Same principle as, Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.

More rantings or maybe just sour grapes against the free press.

What concern is it to you their work method?

Why stop at guest writers? Why not have guest editors, too? I nominate Marcy.


By spot-lighting Keller, you've highlighted the central issue of Editorial Function with regard to information dissemination via Reporting.

In the Bush era, GOP Talking Points became the 'Word of Bush' and none of the Corporatist MSM Editors (the Story 'managers') would let story-lines disrupt the Agenda.

Keller is still thinking that way. Forget Jayson Blair and Judy Miller, 'our' archives contain the record of the Truth as we knew it during the Reign of Bush the Controller.

Real Editorial Function, and ianaj, rather than 'steering' the story for 'controlled' impressions and results, aims to keep the Processes of Professional Journalism operating smoothly, without obstruction. This way, the Reporters report the facts, as seen by all parties involved, and - with the help of his or her Editor - puts the story into context with both prior events and anticipated future events, without bias.

When the storyline eventually emerges with clarity, then a summary Editorial calling balls and strikes on Truth-telling amongst the various Parties, and the implications for the readership community, brings a natural closure that We can build on to improve our lot living and sharing this Life together.

This way, the Story can go wherever It goes, and the paper is *right there* reporting it to US - keeping everyone informed on Matters and Principles that most of us truly care about - by fulfilling the function of the Free Press.

That's the Principled Free Press, not the Subservient Controlled Press, Mr. Keller.

Our Reporters are only as good or bad as their Editors let them be - it's time for the Profession - the Journalists and Editors - to put the focus on Freeing the Reportial and Editorial Process, and getting back to the basics of Following Stories Wherever they go, versus Steering Stories towards the Talking Points.

So, one man's pair of kneepads is another woman's, and her blogsite's, opportunity to Tell the Truth by simply ensuring the Quality of the Reportial and Editorial Processes, and letting the Stories go where they go.

Three cheers for TNH and the Best of the Blogosphere!

What concern is it to you their work method?

Why should I care whether the story is fact or opinion? You're absolutely right! I'll likely never agree with you unless I'm willing to accept what you say without a reality check. To hell with reality!

More rantings or maybe just sour grapes against the free press.

What concern is it to you their work method?

Well, if they publish stories that are lies, or just plain misleading, it's of concern to all of us, because people make decisions based on those stories. And when they publish press releases as if they were actual stories, they aren't functioning as the 'free press', they're functioning as PR flacks for whoever put out those press releases.

Of course, being a troll (and a paid troll at that) you probably believe whatever you've been told, regardless of its truth.

Let's look at who's bankrolling this.

If there are any progressives involved I will be VERY surprised and pleased. But there are more likely at least five rich conservatives putting their money down for this.

Executive Editor Bill Keller and publisher Pinch Sulzberger are very much the problem. So many of the reporters at the Times turn in pieces that could have been written by White House publicists that it is clear that the editorial policy of the Times is to promote such articles, not curb them.

You mention Michael Gordon but John Burns is really just as bad. Both ultimately parrot the Petraeus/Bush line. On the domestic side, David Herzenhorn wrote something a few days ago bashing the Democratic base. Who did he use as his political analyst? A Republican member of Congress.

The NYT is certainly not alone in its journalistic failures. It shares them with most of the rest of the mainstream media. We point up their mistakes and try to pressure them in to doing their job of journalism. This may be a misapprehension on our part. If Bill Keller is any guide, journalism quit being what they were about some time ago.

I'm fascinated by this question. I wish Keller were staking out an argument along the lines of Borges' Pierre Menard, but, alas, Keller is not nearly that interesting. As Jay Rosen has elucidated so well, traditional journalism has become a sort of religion. Adherence to journalistic rituals is more important than the quality of the story. Keller sees his job as enforcing the observance of ritual and is reluctant to trust anyone else to do that. Traditional journalists (for the most part, there are always heretics and not quite true believers) have bought in to the idea that ritualizing the process is the thing that matters. Anything that is produced by following the forms is quality journalism and anything that is produced by some other process is, by definition, not journalism.

When a newspaper becomes distrusted it loses circulation.

Or more particularly, when a newspaper doesn't give its readers what they want, it loses circulation.

The same for blogs.

Sorry Jodi, but most blogs are not in the business of making money as newspapers and television broadcasters are. Hence the conflict that Big Media has with itself. Marcy only has to please herself. Her standards are so exceedingly high that she has attracted regular readers who can generally also tell crap from truth. Along with a few nutters who keep trying to pull her down. ;~]

Phoenix Woman - I agree with your concerns as to the paymasters of this effort, and that this is the real issue as to the trust that should be placed in its efforts - it could be another Politico, and particularly so given the Wall Street Journal pedigree, although as a business newspaper it is known for its accuracy and standards (as distinct from the Pravda-like Op Ed page).

EW - I agree with your assessment of Keller and his fear of outside work and the "difficulties" in judging its quality if it were done outside the Factory. Keller and the rest of the Journalistic Establishment are just worried that if people realize that good work is available outside the NY Times, they lose the rationale for their existence and high salaries. Perhaps journalism should look to academe for some guidance on judging the work of others. Peer review of the techniques and research methods in published work by those other than the author is considered to complement the quality of the published piece, and presumably the editor of the NY Times shouldn't be afraid of exercising the same type of critical analysis - unless, of course, the accuracy of what they print in the NY Times isn't always the most important goal.

Oh, and thanks for the memories of supervising undergraduates - in my younger and less tolerant days, before I got slack, I was known as the Grammar Nazi among certain students (apologies to Godwin's Law!)

Speaking of Politico, did anybody else read the preposterous thingee today that claims that John McCain has bounced back in the GOP sweeps? All the people quoted in the piece say the exact opposite, that McCain's chances are virtually dead, except one (Lindsay Graham, long-time McCain supporter). The Politico, never letting facts stand in the way of a good story.

Must read your post, ew, but a quick remark that the Nobel in Economics that was announced today is for work that deals with the problem of achieving criteria through institutional mechanisms when the various actors might have different motivations, and pertinent information is not visible to all. Therefore, the work —"mechanism design" or "implementation theory"— is relevant to all manner of professional agency problems, including these "Society of 'Professional Journalists'" matters.

General treatments of this material are pretty scarce, though I hope that will change soon, but here's a pdf link to a paper co-authored by one of the winners, "Mechanism Design for the Environment". The intro gives some context on MD, which they apply to the problem of getting polluters to pollute less; wikipedia is pretty good for defining econojargon like externality, Coase and Pigou arguments, etc. Proceeding with mathematical exactitude, the authors do not, repeat, do not conclude that free market or voluntary solutions to this problem are likely to be efficacious. This is a common sort of result in MD, and in any other way of looking at econ that involves information problems and the like: markets in general do not work best here.

What it implies for agent bodies like journalists (think of them as like the polluters, only providers of a good instead of a bad), which a democratic society does not wish to compel by government, is that the ultimate principals —us— must collectively always be on the job.

When a newspaper becomes distrusted it loses circulation.

Or more particularly, when a newspaper doesn't give its readers what they want, it loses circulation.

The same for blogs.

Posted by: shit stain | October 15, 2007 at 13:07

the shit stain could be right

you guys could lose all of your ad revenues and then ...

oh, wait a minute

that's right

you "Dirty Fucking Hippies" don't play fair, you ain't got no ad revenues

well then, you know what the freepers will do ...

they'll make you guys the most famous liberals in the world

bigger than Oprah and Barbra Striesand

that will show you

I don't know why I'm channeling freeperisms lately, but if I dropped the sarcasim, I'd be a better troll than the shit stain

Actually, journalism is probably undercapitalized. I learned this recently in a conversation that was quite enlightening to me -- as well as quite surprising. In addition, if you look at the pay scales of newspapers, reporters' salaries are nothing close to what most business managers expect to make.

IMHO, there's a huge need for the kinds of investigative projects being proposed -- long term work with big impact. (TPM, EW, and FDL are notable in leading the way, in my view.) To unravel a Duke Cunningham story, or follow the Dept of Interior crapola with oil, gas, and Indian gaming fraud is more than one paper can take on.

Papers got in the mode of having to fill 'X' number of pages every single day, and to do that reporters have had too few opportunities to delve into original documents; newz has been too heavy on car crashes and too damn light on who's planning, building, and buying new skyscrapers (and who's financing them).

What I see on the blogs is remarkable -- rather than interviewing butt-covering politicos (as seems to be the norm in my region), the blogs look at original documents and ACTUALLY ANALYZE the bullshit. Therein lies the hook, line, and sinker of everything from USAG firings to PlameGate.

As for Keller... who knows? Be interesting to see what he's willing to say publicly one year from now.

I hope the concept is a huge success; given something like 82 Congressional investigations, years of no-bid military contracts, a war gone completely sidewise, and a dearth of reporting on campaign financing fundamentals, something like this notion could be very useful and important.

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.

Actually this blog TNH is quite an exception.

Over on FDL they beg people to donate, or look at the ads, and help them out. Likewise on Kos and moveon.org.

One way emptywheel cuts corners is to have a bare minimum of user abilities. Few options are offered for alternate text, etc.

I don't bother to post on the others because over on FDL for example, much of the comments on every thread are nothing but padding or filler. Here there is none of that. If people don't have anything to say, the thread goes uncommented on.

I like that honesty.

We like it too, Jodi, but we also like Kos and FDL. If you look at the comments you will see that a lot of us here also comment there. We are one community. When FDL does a fundraiser it is to do something specific like fund Plame House, where Marcy and the FDL'rs stayed while blogging the Libby Trial.

About the rich donors to this project: the Sandlers are pillars of the progressive Northern California community who have supported vital progressive projects for a long time. In addition to what I'd call established institutions like the ACLU, they'll give to obscure initiatives on racial equity. They are us, folks, only really, really rich.

It is a concern that a project like this had to depend on philanthropy. But since newspapers are going down the tubes because of the shift in distribution channels for information, we can only hope something like this can preserve some quality.

On the real issue of this post: I was trained as an historian. I've known since I was about 16 that I had to read all data critically as to source and interests. What's wrong with these editors? The ability to judge a story is second nature to anyone who actually reads.

Rush Limbaugh found the idea of this independent journalistic effort horrifying yesterday on his show. He said (I paraphrase), if you give people enough money they can find something wrong with anyone. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Maybe Ken Starr will sign up?

mr. keller "the ass-pens are turning..." so much for judging crap at the NYT...

rock on EW...

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