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Thursday, June 30, 2005

What If McCain-Feingold Had Been the Law of the Land in Earlier Times?

Campaign reform advocates like Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, fear the mischief anonymous bloggers could get by with during election campaigns if the Federal Election Commission opts not to regulate political speech on the Internet.

But the potential harm warned of today by Darr and others who want the FEC to regulate bloggers is nothing compared to what occurred more than 200 years ago in what is arguably the most successful anonymous conspiracy to shape public opinion in our nation's history.

Just consider: These connivers sought nothing less than to subvert the federal government but they hid behind a non de plume that gave no hints about who they were or anything else about their characters, positions in society or professions. They disclosed nothing about their professional or personal relationships, nothing about who signed their paychecks, nothing about where they lived and nothing about any special interests they served.

Not only did they obscure the truth about themselves behind an impenetrable shield of anonymity, they contrived to be heard in every state of the nation by somehow persuading those who controlled America's main communication lines to spread their subversion, thus making them partners in the plot.

As a result, this anonymous conspiracy touched every American and was able to seduce many to support their plan in public forums held in towns and cities across the land. Among those thus fooled were legions of public officials, lawyers, bankers, tradesmen, farmers and mechanics. Truly, this conspiracy reached into the furthest corners of the nation.

But the anonymous plotters were opposed by some in numerous states. Large assemblies were called to discuss and analyze the ideas put forward by these anonymous advocates of a revolutionary change in our government. Often those assemblies would break out in fierce debate, spreading divisiveness, undermining longheld friendships and loyalties and fueling new dissafections everywhere.

Nevertheless, the plotters refused to give up and kept pushing and pushing until the whole nation was convulsed. Looking back today, we should not be surprised that they were such skilled propagandists. But at the time, no one knew one of the plotters came from the most aristocratic and privileged element of our society, while another had deep ties to special interests seeking only to make money. A third plotter practiced international law and cultivated ties to some of the most repressive regimes of Europe.

Truly, their conspiracy was wildly successful. Admittedly, it was a very close thing but just enough of their fellow citizens went along with them to force the central government to fall. In its place was erected a completely new regime, one previously conceived in secret by a small group of similarly positioned men who often looked to the plotters for leadership.

Eventually, the plotters' identifies became known. In fact, once their plan was adopted and they felt sufficiently entrenched, they stepped forward, removed their collective mask and became strong men in the new ruling order.

Their ideas and influence remain so powerful that every American today is governed by them. Their slogan - Novus Ordo Seclorum - is printed on every dollar bill printed by the U.S. Treasury.

You see, their names were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They were phampleteers - the bloggers of their day - and they wrote under the collective pseudonym of "Publius" to insure that their arguments for adoption of the proposed Constitution would not be obscured by their names and reputations.

Their works were later collected and published as "The Federalist Papers," an extraordinary book that is found in every public library in America and indeed in many around the world.

Thankfully, the old Articles of Confederation provided for no government commission in 1787 with the power to regulate political speech then as the FEC does today and as the reformers want it to do even more so tomorrow. Were it otherwise, Publius would today simply be the name of a long-forgotten Roman playwright.

Time Magazine Goes Down in Plame's Case, Will Turn Over Reporter's Notes, Other Records

Time magazine announced earlier this morning it will comply with a federal court order and turn over records sought by by Special Prosecuror Patrick Fitzgerald, including the notes of the magazine's reporter, Matt Cooper.

No word yet today on whether The New York Times will follow Time's lead and comply with a similar subpoena it received involving its reporter Judity Miller. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Cooper and Miller of a judge's decision to hold them in contempt for refusing to reveal their sources on stories unrelated to columnist Robert Novak's disclosure of Valerie Plame's CIA employment.

Time, The New York Times and a host of professional journalism organizations have resisted Fitzgerald's demands, citing fear that revealing confidential sources will jeopardize the ability of reporters to find and publish stories on official corruption, crime and other public policy issues.

More than half of the states have laws that shield reporters from being forced to reveal confidential sources. Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, has introduced a bill establishing a similar law at the federal level.

Here's the Time Inc. statement, courtesy of Jim Romanesko:

New York, June 30 – Time Inc. said it would comply with a court order requiring it to deliver the subpoenaed records to a grand jury in connection with the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Valerie Plame matter. The decision follows the Supreme Court’s refusal to review a federal court order requiring production of the documents in a case involving Time magazine’s White House correspondent, Matt Cooper (Matthew Cooper and Time Inc. v. United States, No. 04-1508.) Norman Pearlstine, Editor in Chief, issued the following statement:

“The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, including the right to gather information of interest to the public and, where necessary, to protect the confidentiality of sources.

Time Inc. believes in that guarantee. That is why we have supported from the outset the efforts of Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper in resisting the Special Counsel’s attempts to obtain information regarding Mr. Cooper’s confidential sources. Time Inc. and Mr. Cooper have fought this case all the way from the district court to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In this particular case, where national security and the role of a grand jury have been at issue, the Supreme Court chose to let stand the district court’s order requiring Time Inc. and Mr. Cooper to comply with the Special Counsel’s subpoenas. It did so after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed that order.

In declining to review the important issues presented by this case, we believe that the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society. It may also encourage excesses by overzealous prosecutors.

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has left uncertain what protections the First Amendment and the federal common law provide journalists and their confidential sources.

It is also worth noting that many foreign governments, including China, Venezuela, and Cameroon, to name a few, refer to U.S. contempt rulings when seeking to justify their own restrictive press laws.

Despite these concerns, Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law. The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.

We believe that our decision to provide the Special Prosecutor with the subpoenaed records obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration.

Time Inc.’s decision doesn’t represent a change in our philosophy, nor does it reflect a departure from our belief in the need for confidential sources. It does reflect a response to a profound departure from the practice of federal prosecutors when this case is compared with other landmark cases involving confidentiality over the past 30 years. Since the days of Attorney General John Mitchell, the Justice Department has sought confidential sources from reporters as a last resort, not as an easy option. Neither Archibald Cox, the Watergate Special Prosecutor, nor Judge John Sirica sought to force the Washington Post or its reporters to reveal the identity of “Deep Throat,” the prized confidential source.

Although we shall comply with the order to turn over the subpoenaed records, we shall continue to support the protection of confidential sources. We do so with the knowledge that forty-nine states and the District of Columbia now recognize some form of protection for confidential sources, and that legislation is now pending in Congress to enact a federal shield law for confidential sources.”


UPDATE:

The New York Times is not pleased and has issued the following statement by publisher Arthur Sulzberger:

"We are deeply disappointed by Time Inc.’s decision to deliver the subpoenaed records. We faced similar pressures in 1978 when both our reporter Myron Farber and the Times Company were held in contempt of court for refusing to provide the names of confidential sources.
"Mr. Farber served 40 days in jail and we were forced to pay significant fines. Our focus is now on our own reporter, Judith Miller, and in supporting her during this difficult time."

I expect more will be heard from Time, the Times, the individual reporters and a lot of other folks as the day develops.

What are you doing out there? William Safire wants to know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

What Bush Understands About Democracy, Freedom That Clinton, Kennedy Missed

President Bush's speech last night is getting all the usual predictable reviews in the MSM, so those reviews simply aren't news. He spoke, the critics decried and the world goes on. The Captain assays the Bigs with his usual deftness here. But then you read a trenchant analysis like this one by Belmont Club's Wretchard, which takes the next step and puts the speech into a longer historical perspective and you appreciate even more the importance and value of both men's work. Superb, simply superb.

FEC's Weintraub Asks "What is the Best Way for Us to Regulate Bloggers?" Constitution Answers: Don't!

Constitution's Answer: "Congress shall make NO LAW respecting freedom of speech ..."
Go here for C/Net's excellent summary of testimony given during the opening day of the FEC's hearing on its proposals to regulate political speech on the Internet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Is Newsweek's June 27 Dinosaur Feature Based on Science or Science Fiction?

Imagine that instead of dinosaurs a Newsweek feature focused on President Abraham Lincoln and, based on nothing more than one solitary passage written by old Abe to explain why he considered Blacks naturally inferior to Whites, constructed an entire biography of the man?

Based on such thin evidence, we would not be surprised if this hypothetical Newsweek article described a fictional Lincoln who opposed emancipation, refused to lift a finger to prevent the secession of the South and died without completing his first term as a result of stumbling into a low-hanging door beam that cracked his skull.

Lest you think me lost in fantasyland or in the clutches of Jack Daniels, consider that Newsweek reporter Jerry Adler's June 27 portrait of the dinosaurs necessarily is based on just about as much actual physical evidence.

Even Adler alludes to the paucity of concrete evidence to support the suppositions and speculations that make up the conventional wisdom's portrait of the dinosaurs and all that came before and after them. For instance, he calls palentology as a "field in which entire life histories are routinely inferred from a tooth."

That statement alone makes Adler more knowledgeable and intellectually honest than the vast majority of journalists who typically cover the Design versus Evolution debate in our public schools, on college campuses and in the halls of government. Most journalists just assume there are vast vaults of concrete evidence to support the accuracy of familiar vignettes like Adler's opening anecdote about a Hadrosaur lying down to die near a vast inland sea that once dominated North America.

Now I have no claim to any more scientific expertise than that possessed by any other journalist and so I don't claim to know the truth about many of the issues that separate those who believe the design evident in the universe is impossible without a designer from those who contend the material world is eternal and thus uncreated.

I do know this - Newsweek would be laughed out of business if it published a cover feature on Abe Lincoln based on the same amount of hard evidence as is available to support the "science" underlying Adler's dinosaur feature. Is Evolution exempt from the sort of systematic and critical examination as evolutionists in the media and elsewhere claim disqualifieis Design Theory from even being considered?

Journalists are supposed to deal in verified fact. Newsweek's dinosaur cover feature deals extensively in unverified speculation presented as authoritative proof. For those with a mind sufficiently open to consider alternatives based on the available evidence, check out Dr. Brad Harrub's analysis of the Newsweek piece here. His links are well worth pursuing, too.

I don't know that Harrub is right about everything in his case, but I do know with certainty that his opponents are likely to dismiss his case without giving it a serious examination. Every journalist who takes the same attitude ought to be ashamed.

And if your mind is still open after going through Harrub's observations, your next step towards liberation could be giving consideration to this post by mathmetician/philosopher William Dembski on possible explanations for why evolutionists so often come across to him as mere salesmen.

Krempasky Asks FEC Not to Invoke Federal Might Against Bloggers, Political Speech on Internet

RedState.org's Mike Krempasky has been the Blogosphere's man on the spot concerning proposals being considered by the Federal Election Commission to regulate political speech on the Internet. The FEC began a two-day hearing on the issue today and Krempasky was among those testifying.

Here's just a snippet from his fine testimony:

"There is no doubt that the Commission recognizes the difficulty in extending the media exemption to these citizen journalists. It is imperative that it does so. What goal would be served by protecting Rush Limbaugh’s multimillion dollar talk radio program – but not a self-published blogger with a fraction of the audience?
"How is the public benefited by allowing CNN to evade regulation while spending corporate dollars to put campaign employees on the airwaves as pundits, while forcing bloggers to scour the Record and read Commission advisory opinions?
"Worse yet, if the Commission were to adopt a policy of examining individual blogs on a case-by-case basis, how is that to be distinguished from a government license to publish free of jeopardy – only granted (or denied) after the fact?

"Unlike previous Commission investigations in the offline world, these cases would affect not large corporations or interest groups with the ability to hire the best firms in Washington, but instead unsophisticated and unfounded individuals poorly suited to navigate the Commissions regulatory process."

You can and should read the entire Krempasky statement here. Others testified today and will testify tomorrow. I'll be posting commentary and links on all of them.

UPDATE:

Former FEC staffer Alyson Hayward updates on the progress of the hearings thus far, observing that "in general, I understand the testimony and the Commissioners questions have seemed protective of internet journalism and communications." That's encouraging, but let's wait till we see the final rule before reaching any conclusions.

Krempasky offers some initial post-hearing observations here.

Credibility Committee Update, Keller Response Show Progress but The New York Times Has a Long Way to Go; Time for Some 'Attaboys' From Critics

Things are definitely improving in some key areas, but a review of a response by The New York Times top editor to a recent update by the paper's Credibility Committee of its original recommendations contains evidence the outlook remains grim on other vital issues.

Among the most surprising - and thus far almost totally unnoticed - aspects of this story is the admission by executive editor Bill Keller that "even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages." That in a nutshell is what critics across the political spectrum have said of the Times for decades.

Beyond such considerations, the update and Keller's response contain much that ought to persuade thoughtful critics - even if only pending further progress - that the people in charge of the newsroom at the nation's newspaper of record are serious about getting things right.

The Credibility Committee's update focused on a host of specific steps it recommended in the following areas:


  • A dialogue with our publics
  • Reaching out to readers; improving our use of sources
  • Unidentified sources: some next steps
  • Reducing factual errors
  • The news/opinion divide
Several aspects of the committee's preface bear comment. First, the committee noted that it had divided into five subcommittees to address the above topics. One of those subcommittees "assembled half a dozen noted journalists from outside the Times for a searching discussion of perceptions of bias or favoritism."

The five outside journalists aren't named but whoever they are, the fact the committee apparently invited only fellow MSMers to talk about "perceptions" of bias suggests both that committee members believe charges of bias are nothing more than a perceived problem and that committee members only accept other journalists as legitimate critics. Insularity clearly remains perhaps the most basic problem at the Times.

Second, the preface notes that when it began its work on the update, "the election-year shouting was still ringing in our ears" and "it was hard to resist a defensive crouch." Now that those passions have cooled, the committee thinks "explaining ourselves actively and earnestly to our various publics can only strengthen the bond between the Times and its loyal readers."

Unfortunately, both the committee's update report and Kellers' response provide abundant evidence that a defensive crouch remains too characteristic of the Times' attitude toward its critics, both those within and those outside the journalism profession.

On the Times dialogue with its readers, the language of both the committee and Keller is that of the harried defender under unjust attack. The committee recommends, for example, that "the newsroom should establish a coherent, flexible system for evaluating public attacks on our work and determining whether they require a public response." That response should be "more vigorous" when the Times is "unfairly maligned."

Similarly, Keller notes in his response that "there may have been a time when we could remain aloof and impervious in the face of criticism, but if so that time has passed. The proliferation of critics and the growing public cynicism about the news media pose a threat to our authority and credibility that cannot go unanswered."

Keller echoed the committee's terminoly in adding that "we will be more systematic in responding to attacks on our work," especially when "there is a significant or concerted impugning of something we have reported ..."

Legitimate criticism is not the same thing as "attacks," "maligning" or "concerted impugning," but the tone and frequency with which such language appears in connection with criticism of the paper suggests the Times folks mainly reject the legitimacy of critics outside the profession. As long as that attitude persists, it will be impossible to regain readers trust by, as the committee describes it, "being more open and forthcoming."

And there is this graph near the end of the committee's preface:

"We fully accept that there are those who love to hate the Times. Though there may be no dissuading them, often there is value in engaging with more open-minded critics. And beyond that debate, productive communication is certainly possible with a much larger body of people - readers and non-readers alike - whose opinions of the Times are no so fixed. We should focus our efforts on them, with the goal of making it far easier for them to see more than unanswered attacks on our ethics and professionalism."

There is a hint of the martyr about that first sentence, or at least something of a pity party. I suspect, too, that by "open-minded critics" the committee members have in mind folks like those five outside journalists they invited in to have a "searching discussion" about the "perception" of "bias." Do the committee members think all other critics are closed-minded dullards interested only in "attacks on our ethics and professionalism"?

On balance, it appears the Times folks still don't get it on the matter of having a dialogue with readers and critics, rather than delivering an old-fashioned MSM lecture on the news.

On the Times efforts to reach out to readers and improve its sourcing, there are some notable advances, but how to deal with anonymous sources remains a significant challenge. The committee recomended and Keller agreed that the Times will institute a system that allows readers to send editors and reporters emails, but without disclosing their email addresses through "dialogue boxes" that will appear with stories on NYTimes.com.

"The Times makes it harder than any other major American newspaper for readers to reach a responsible human being," the committee said. On the same issue, however, both the committee and Keller agreed that there are legitimate reasons for keeping a shield between journalists and readers. "There are valid reasons for this: An accessible address opens a reporter to spam, crude personal attacks and orchestrated campaigns that are easy to organize on the web but can be terribly time-consuming for the reporter on the receiving end.

Dialogue boxes are used by other news organizations and a good solution to a difficult problem.

The committee and Keller also agreed that Times reporters should more frequently verify quotes and facts with sources prior to publication, but only as time and prudence allow. The reluctance to open the door officially to what are often termed "read-backs" - wherein the reporter calls a source back and reads a particular quote from him or her or other relevant passages of a pending story - is understandable as well.

The problem is the source who hears himself being quoted and gets a sudden case of cold feet or who for reasons unkown to the reporter has become fearful of being identified as the source of a fact or document that is damaging to somebody else.

Even so, Keller noted that "a surprising number of staffers seem to believe that [read-backs] violate an occupational taboo." Actually, Keller observed, judicious use of read-backs are "a valuable safeguard of accuracy" that "reassures sources that you are scrupulous."

The committee and Keller also rejected the use of post-publication questionaires sent to sources and newsmakers who are quoted in the paper.

On the use of anonymous sources, the committee offered mostly broad generalizations about the importance of minimizing such sourcing. But it also made this telling observation, which could be applied with equal accuracy to virtually every major news organization in America:

"Almost every issue of the paper includes anonymously attributed information of no great moment. That material could easily be cut or with some extra effort put on the record. Many instances involve government officials saying routine things. Others have business executives, athletes or cultural figures making expendable comments about their fields. Some articles quote anonymous bystanders who happen to be interviewed at crimes scenes, sporting events, political rallies, theatrical premieres and other events. No department or section of the paper is immune."

Keller was much more specific. He reiterated the Times' official policy, which provides that anonymous sources are to be used only when they provide newsworthy, credible information that cannot be obtained any other way. "We resist granting anonymity for opinion, speculation or personal attacks," he said.

Keller also said he has tasked selected editors to develop training and orientation materials describing tactics used by Times veterans to persuade recalcitrant sources to go on the record. And he reiterated that "an editor must know the identity of any unnamed source, that editors
must press reporters to get information on the record, and that when anonymity is unavoidable, editors must press for adequate disclosure - how the sources know what they know, what motivated them to share the information and why they are entitled to anonymity."

Keller then added an important detail on the issue: Times editors must press reporters to explain in their stories using anonymous sources "not why they ask for anonymity, but why we feel they are entitled to it." I think that distinction is at the root of the proliferation of anonymous sourcing throughout the MSM in the past decade.

But then Keller says something that seems to undercut all the previous good work on the issue of anonymous sourcing: "Department heads must be prepared, in some cases, to hold back stories - even competitive stories - if the sourcing does not meet our standards."

I hope that sentence reflects inartful wording because otherwise it says the Times will use substandard sourcing in some, or a few, or perhaps many cases. If that is true, what is the point of having any standards?

Still, I believe fewer anonymous sources will appear in the pages of The New York Times in the next year if Keller and his editorial leadership ranks are serious about tightening up the application of its official policy. He offers this admittedly subjective measure of whether there is further progress:

"A year from now, I would like reporters to feel that the use of anonymous sources is not routine, but an exception, and that if the justification is not clear in the story they will be challenged."

Kellor and colleagues should assume that somebody is counting and will do the numbers in a year to see if progress has actually been made in reducing the use of anonymous sources on the Times' pages.

Mispelled names, inaccurate addresses and other errors of simply fact do much to undermine journalists' credibility. In the case of the Times, eliminating such errors comes under the same heading as detecting plagiarism before it is published.

The committee strongly encouraged establishment of "a newsroom-wide tracking system" designed "to detect patterns of errors and take action to avoid repitition." The committee also encouraged the Times newsroom to "take greater advantage of electronic tools for gathering and checking information."

For Keller, the first thing to be noted here is his amazement "that some people at this paper believe fact-checking is someone else's responsibility." This is a point that cries out for amplification and further clarification. There must be more than merely isolated examples of such people in the Times newsroom, otherwise, why mention in a public memo a problem likely better dealt with privately?

And if such an attitude is indeed more widespread, how did such an amazing situation come to be at America's "newspaper of record"? What specific instances brought Keller to his realization? Has anybody in the Times newsroom been disciplined in any way in the past two years for failing to get their facts right?

In any case, Keller says writers, copy editors, desk editors, everybody is responsible for making sure the Times gets it right every time. Perfection being impossible, he agreed with the committee's recommendation of establishing a newsroom corrections tracking system and he pledged the Times would take steps to "make it easier for readers to reach us with complaints about errors."

On the issue of plagiarism, the committee said systems like Lexis-Nexis are "not yet refined enough to allow newspapers to use databases ... to determine whether material has been plagiarized." But the Times has talked "with Lexis-Nexis, which has begun a partnership with I-Thenticate, a plagiarism software company mainly serving academia."

Curiously, Keller did not address the plagiarism issue.

Finally, on the news/opinion divide, other than encouraging appointment of an editorial team to standardize the appearance of "news analyses and other reportorial pieces that are authorized to convey voice and viewpoint," the committee offered, again, mainly broad generalization.

But like Keller's wonder that there are people in the Times' newsroom who don't think it's their job to insure accuracy, more discussion is needed about the committee's recognition of a need for distinguishing visually news analysis and viewpoint from straight news writing.

Such a distinction ought to have been obvious long ago at the nation's newspaper of record. Why must it now be clarified anew? What examples of insufficiently clarified analyses or other reportage containing viewpoints sparked the committee's observation?

And what is the connection between such questions and this intriquing paragraph from the committee: "Our news coverage needs to embrace unorthodox views and contrarian opinions and to portray lives both more radical and more conservative than those most of us experience. We need to listen carefully to colleagues who are at home in realms that are not familiar to most of us."

Perhaps the committee had in mind on this point St. Paul's admonition that speaking in tongues is only permissible when somebody is present to translate the speakers words into a familiar language.

That this point bears further discussion is borne out by Keller's observation that "even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages." Is this not an amazing admission from the top editor of the nation's most important daily newspaper? Is it not also a concession of the fundamental premise of so much of the criticism of the Times for the past several decades?

Almost as eye-opening is the recognition by both the committee and Keller that the Times must in the latter's words make "a concerted effort to stretch beyond our predominantly urban, culturally liberal orientation, to cover the full range of our national conversation."

He noted as examples of what such an effort should produce the recent coverage of political conservatives and religious evangelicals by Times reporters David Kirkpatrick and Jason DeParle.

I hope the many critics of the Times in the Blogosphere and in the Right media will take the time to read these two documents in detail and not simply cull statements they believe confirm their severest criticism.

And in any case, portions of what is said by the committee and Keller can legitimately be dismissed as mere rhetoric and only they can demonstrate over time the substance behind their words.

Even so, there is much here for critics to be genuinely encouraged by, enough that the time has come for folks habitually otherwise inclined ought now to offer some "attaboys" for a change.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Can The New York Times' Credibility Committee Fix the Paper of Record?

Bill Keller probably has the toughest job in the MSM. He took over the severely listing ship of The New York Times in July 2003 in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal and the departure of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd as, respectively, executive editor and managing editor. In so many ways, Keller returned to a newsroom in unprecedented dissarray.

Among the measures taken by Keller and others was the appointment of a Credibility Committee made up of Times insiders - with a heavy emphasis upon people from the paper's Washington Bureau - who were tasked with recommending approaches to restoring the paper's tattered position as the daily newspaper of record.

The committee delivered its recommendations last year. Earlier this month the committee issued a status report on implementation of its recommendations. Keller has now responded to the updating with a memo of his own to newsroom colleagues.

Taken together, the committee report and the response to its recommendations by Keller and the rest of the Times' newsroom leadership and rank and file represent a milestone in the MSM's history. For that reason, both bear serious thought and analysis. The committee report is here and Keller's first response is here. I will have my own observations later this week.

Meanwhile, others are reading and reacting. Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute.com evidently is not heartened, observing of a Keller admission of confusion among some readers about when the Times is reporting the news and when it is commenting about the news: "I filed this under 'No Kidding': 'Even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages.'" Maguire extracts a number of crucial quotes from Keller here and summarizes the committee's main points here.

Editor & Publisher is promising multiple stories on the report and Keller response. The first article from the daily newspaper industry's leading trade journal is here.

Stay tuned, folks.

Will Bush "Turn Over" FEC to McCain?

Brad Smith's departure from the Federal Election Commission is a loss for the First Amendment because he has been indefatigible in his defense of freedom of speech. As bad as his loss is, though, more disturbing are the rumors floating about that the Bush administration may let Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, call the shots on Smith's replacement and future appointments to the panel. That would be a calamity for the First Amendment. Go here for Ryan Sager's thoughts.

UPDATE:

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-MT, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Online Freedom of Speech Act. Read the Burns letter to colleagues here.

ATTENTION WASHINGTON POST: If Flag-Burning is Free Speech, Why Aren't Campaign TV Advertising Spots Also Free Speech?

The Washington Post editorializes today against the proposed constitutional amendment banning flag burning. And what a stirring defense of the First Amendment! There's just one problem ... but first, here's the stirring defense:

"The other effect would be to water down one of the most profound principles that the Constitution articulates: that Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. The great power of this principle is that it admits no exception: not for the most odious racism or Holocaust denial, not for the most insulting criticisms of those in high office, not for cone-shaped white hoods or hammers and sickles, and not for burning or otherwise defiling the Stars and Stripes.
"Passing this amendment probably wouldn't create a great substantive shift in the general scope of the First Amendment's protection, but it would sap it of the idea that gives it its power: that American government does not punish even the most offensive ideas."

All of that is absolutely true, of course, but what about the free speech that is exercised when somebody buys a TV or radio spot to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for Congress 60 or fewer days before Election Day?

Either the Post must argue that such speech is not covered by the First Amendment, which means there are exceptions, or admit that campaign finance regulations banning such electioneering are gross violations of the Constitution.

Chrenkoff has some advice for advocates of the flag burning amendment - "don't be a girlie-man and you are big enough to deal with idiots yourself and you don't need the government to hold your hand on this one." More here from Down Under.

Scarborough Study Shows Dailies Must go Online Sooner or Later To Attract Younger Readers

Newspapers simply cannot avoid the necessity of becoming exclusively online if they wish to survive into the 21st century because going online is the only way they will penetrate the ranks of younger readers. At least that is my read of a summary of a new Scarborough study comparing traditional hard-copy readers with readers of the same newspapers' online editions.

Here's how Online Media Daily describes the Scarborough results:
"For example, the printed version of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reaches, on average, 51 percent of adults in the Atlanta local market, but when the AJC.com and AccessAtlanta.com Web audience is included, that average increases to 56 percent--a 10 percent gain, which translates to almost 223,000 readers.
"In addition, more than 38 percent of the AJC.com and AccessAtlanta.com audience is between the ages of 18 and 34, compared to 28 percent of the readers of the printed newspaper."


Those 223,000 younger readers represent the tip of the generational iceberg that newspapers must conquer, as the Baby Boomers age and fade from the heart of the news-consuming market and Generations Y and X replace them.

If you are interested in these sorts of issues, Online Media Daily's free email alerts are essential reading. Go here for more information.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Why Hating America and Hating Jews Are Two Sides of the Same Irrational Coin; And Why the MSM Should Take Notice

Paul Johnson, author of the classic "Modern Times" - inescapably the finest history of the epoch that followed the end of World War I - has a must-read essay in the latest issue of Commentary magazine entitled "The Anti-Semitic Disease." This essay is among the most important reading you are likely to experience this year.

Why? Johnson makes two fundamentally important points that cry out for public discussion in this country, but especially in the news media. First, anti-Semitism is not merely a species of racial prejudice, it is a virulent disease of the mind and is indeed utterly irrational:

"What strikes the historian surveying anti-Semitism worldwide over more than two millennia is its fundamental irrationality. It seems to make no sense, any more than malaria or meningitis makes sense.
"In the whole of history, it is hard to point to a single occasion when a wave of anti-Semitism was provoked by a real Jewish threat (as opposed to an imaginary one). In Japan, anti-Semitism was and remains common even though there has never been a Jewish community there of any size."

There is a reason why anti-Semites so often seem to be spittle-sputtering fanatics, Johnson points out:

"Asked to explain why they hate Jews, anti-Semites contradict themselves. Jews are always showing off; they are hermetic and secretive. They will not assimilate; they assimilate only too well. They are too religious; they are too materialistic, and a threat to religion.
"They are uncultured; they have too much culture. They avoid manual work; they work too hard. They are miserly; they are ostentatious spenders. They are inveterate capitalists; they are born Communists. And so on. In all its myriad manifestations, the language of anti-Semitism through the ages is a dictionary of non-sequiturs and antonyms, a thesaurus of illogic and inconsistency."

Tragically, anti-Semites comes from every level of society, including those with multiple PhDs and those who have never set foot in a college classroom. And it is a highly contagious infection:

"Like many physical diseases, anti-Semitism is highly infectious, and can become endemic in certain localities and societies. Though a disease of the mind, it is by no means confined to weak, feeble, or commonplace intellects; as history sadly records, its carriers have included men and women of otherwise powerful and subtle thoughts. Like all mental diseases, it is damaging to reason, and sometimes fatal."

Tragically, anti-Semitism is again spreading in Europe, and not merely because of the influx of obsessively Jew-hating Muslims from the Middle East, Johnson notes. His discussion of the national consequences of anti-Semitism that befell Spain following its brief glory years in the 1,500s, Russia following the reign of Catherine the Great and Germany after Hitler's ascension to power is masterful.

Which brings us to Johnson's second point. Perhaps others have previously made this argument and I simply missed it, but Johnson is the first I'm aware of to document the remarkable similarities between the anti-Semitism evident throughout most of recorded history and the anti-Americanism that poisons so much of the contemporary era's news.

"No less worrying, to my mind, is a related European phenomenon—namely, anti-Americanism. I say 'related' because anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have proceeded hand in hand in today’s Europe just as they once did in Hitler’s mind (as the unpublished second half of 'Mein Kampf' decisively shows).
"Like hatred of Jews, hatred of Americans can similarly be described as a form of racism or xenophobia, especially in its more vulgar manifestations. But among academics and intellectuals, where it is increasingly prevalent, it has more of the hallmarks of a mental disease, becoming more virulent, widespread, and intractable ever since the United States began to shoulder the duties of the war against international terrorism."

Like anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism is at its roots anti-rational, Johnson argues:

"After all, to hate Americans is against reason. For centuries, and never more so than at present, the U.S. has harbored the poor and persecuted from the entire world, who have found freedom and prospered on its soil. America continues to receive more immigrants than any other country; its most recent arrivals, including the Cubans, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, and the Lebanese, have become some of the richest groups in the country and are enthusiastic supporters of its democratic norms. Indeed, since American society is now a vibrant microcosm of the human race, I would say that to hate Americans is to hate humanity as a whole."

Ponder for just a moment Johnson's list of parallels between these two isms:

"That anti-Americanism shares many structural characteristics with anti-Semitism is plain enough. In France, as we read in a new study, intellectuals muster as many contradictory reasons for attacking the U.S. as for attacking Jews.2 Americans are excessively religious; they are excessively materialistic. They are vulgar money-grubbers; they are vulgar spenders.
"They hate culture; they are pushy in promoting their own culture. They are aggressive and reckless; they are cowardly. They are stupid; they are exceptionally cunning. They are uneducated; they subordinate everything in life to the goal of sending their children to universities. They build soulless megalopolises; they are rural imbeciles."

And as does anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism has its scapegoats who personify the alleged evils of the U.S.:

"As with anti-Semitism, this litany of contradictory complaints is fleshed out with demonic caricatures of particular individuals like George W. Bush. Just as 14th-century Christians once held the Jews responsible for the Black Death, Americans are blamed for all the ills of today’s world, starting with (real or imaginary) global warming. Particularly among French intellectuals, such demonization has become almost a culture, a way of life, in itself."

Interesting, isn't it, that President Clinton made such a big deal of having a national dialogue about racism in America and that so many liberals in the media and elsewhere echoed the former chief executive in citing an allegedly still prevalent racism as among America's chief problems? And continue to do so at every opportunity.

Considering the ongoing conjunction between some elements of the radical Left in America with radical Muslimism - both of whom hate America obsessively and seek its destruction - isn't a discussion of the links between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism of urgent importance?

Let us see now if the powers-that-be of the MSM have the courage and intellectual honesty to take up Johnson's case and give it the thorough vetting it surely deserves. A good place to start that vetting would be here where Captain's Quarters details the "Ten Euros for the Resistance" campaign. Trust me, the Ten Euros do not go to help orphans in Iraq.

Go here for the full Johnson essay.

Have You Done the MIT Blog Survey Yet?

If you haven't, you should! It only takes about 15 minutes and you will become part of what appears to be the most statistically credible survey yet of the Blogosphere. Go here. Hat Tip to Kimberly Swygert's Number 2 Pencil, a blog which I read often and which ought to be required reading of anybody concerned about, involved with or responsible for education.

Kelo Case Could be a Blogosphere Turning Point if Bloggers Seize Investigative Reporting Skills

That 5-4 Kelo decision by the Supremes is inspiring quite a ruckus on the right side of the Blogosphere. Michelle Malkin notes the link of the Kelo decision to the broader scandal that underlies so much urban development, especially when it involves "public/private" partnerships:

"My wonk-ish hope is that more attention will be paid to bogus community redevelopment/urban blight eradication/tax increment-financing schemes masquerading as 'public use' projects.
"In the New London case, the private corporate beneficiary was Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant. In Seattle, it was Nordstrom (reg reqd). Across the country, it's money-losing multiplexes and luxury stadium deals. In all cases, the losers are taxpayers, homeowners, and small businesses."

Go here for Michelle's complete post, which also includes a helpful listing of additional Kelo postings. Also check out Discriminations' extremely disturbing analysis of this decision and its potential for making "diversity" a justification for the bureaucrats taking your property from you. Here's Discrimination's bottomline:

"If 'diversity' is a 'compelling' state interest in colleges and universities, as the Court held in Grutter, surely it is equally if not more compelling in K-12 schools. And since 'diverse' neighborhoods are the clearest, and perhaps the only, path to 'diverse' schools, what could be a more compelling 'public purpose' than to exercise eminent domain over the homes of blacks in center cities and sell them to whites (at prices that will also enhance the tax base) and to take the homes of whites in the suburbs and sell them to minorities?"

Allow me, please, to note that Kelo points to what could be a tremendous opportunity for the Blogosphere to scoop the MSM in an unexpected arena - right in Everytown USA. The cozy relationships among urban and suburban government officials with private and corporate interests are a target-rich environment for energetic bloggers with a desire to uncover graft, waste and fraud, conflicts of interests and bribery schemes that daily newspapers mostly ignore.

To get at such stories, though, often requires knowing your way around arcane stuff like budget spreadsheets, consultants studies and campaign finance reports. It helps immensely to have some basic skills in using software programs like Excel and Access. Believe me, if a math-goof like yours truly can get this stuff down, truly anybody can!

You can get those skills Sept. 23-24 at the Database 101/201 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) Boot Camp co-hosted by the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) and The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

More than 200 editors, producers, reporters and researchers representing virtually every major news media organization in the country have attended the CARR boot camps since their founding in 2000. BlogNashville featured the first CARR boot camp jointly hosted by MBA and the Media Center, which was held May 5-6 at the Freedom Forum's Diversity Institute Newsroom.

There are no enrollment charges for attendance and all classroom materials, including a textbook and much else, are provided at no cost, but registration is strictly limited to 12 attendees. All bloggers are eligible to attend, but priority is given to MBA members.

For more information on the CARR boot camps, go here. To enroll in the Sept. 23-24 event, go here.

Chrenkoff Has What Karl Rover Should Have Said

Folks at the White House ought to give Arthur Chrenkoff a call. Here's his take on the current Karl Rove contretemps (for liberals, that is):

"While guilty of making broad - and thus inaccurate - generalization, Rove is correct to point out that all too many liberals, from John Kerry down, insisted that the war on terror should not be a war but a law enforcement operation.
"And all too many leftists (they're not really liberals, but since the mainstream media insists on calling every socialist a liberal, you can hardly blame Rove for using the commonly accepted Beltway terminology) chose to blame America first."

Read it all here.

And don't miss Patrick Ruffini's observation that with liberals their response to criticism often tells us more than the criticism itself.

Two Cheers for NBC's Brian Williams, First Network News Anchor to Blog; Kudos for MSNBC, Too

Brian Williams , NBC's evening news anchor, has a blog. That is news and not only because he is the first of the major network anchors to take the plunge, but because it could open the door for a lot of other folks in broadcast journalism to do the same thing.

Once these people experience for themselves the power of news as a conversation and the wisdom of a crowd of news producers and consumers, great change in the way the networks cover the news will surely result.

The first real test of Williams and his The Daily Nightly blog will be determining the limits of his topics. Yesterday's lead post focused on the afternoon news meeting and the fact that journalists in such meetings often include "boisterous and vigorous exchanges" about what ought to be the lede.

Having gone through a few such boisterous meetings myself over the years, I am encouraged that Williams at least broached the possibility of talking about how he and his colleagues arrive at such decisions. Transparency is just as healthy for the newsroom as it is for government.

The test will come, however, the first time he goes into detail about the process of sorting out the day's news touts - that is, deciding in the morning what stories should be covered and which shouldn't. Folks associated with the stories that get left out will have something to say and it likely won't be positive.

Newsroom advocates for those stories won't be happy, either, and that will complicate the internal jostling that typifies every news organization. There will then be pressure on Williams to limit his blogging to "safe" topics. Which, of course, will render The Daily Nightly largely irrelevant.

There is another aspect of the Williams blog that bears comment. Glance over the list in the right column on The Daily Nightly and you will see a box with a list of 15 blogs associated with NBC and MSNBC news personalities and programs, plus GlennReynolds.com. MSNBC is getting an important leg up on its cable news competitors at CNN and Fox by emphasizing blogging in this manner.

Figuring out the best way of integrating blogging and traditional cable news operations is a task not yet completed, but MSNBC could well be laying the groundwork for a future surge past its competition in the ratings. Are you listening, Roger Ailes?

As Jeff Jarvis points out, by allowing Williams to start The Daily Nightly, NBC stole the march on CBS and its recently unveiled plans to turn its news operation inside out to by incorporating blogs, online access to the unbroadcasted portions of video interviews with news sources and coverage of daily news meetings.

Go here for an account of a recent presentation by new CBS Digital honcho Larry Kramer on the plan to bring the Tiffany Network's news-gathering into the 21st century. "You'll see us morph our news business into a web-centric one. We're doing what we call the cable bypass. The web is going to be our cable news network," Kramer told the American Press Institute's Media Center earlier this week.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Brad Smith to Trevor Potter: It's the Volunteers, Not the Special Interest Big Wigs That Lose at FEC

Departing FEC Commissioner Brad Smith - the guy who deserves a freedom medal for exposing his panel's plans to regulate Internet political speech - has a letter in the latest issue of Roll Call replying to Trevor Potter's assertion that campaign finance regulations are worthwhile no matter the inconvenience they create or what they cost in lawyers fees. Unfortunately, Roll Call requires you to be a subscriber to read its coverage of the issue.

But former FEC staffer Allyson Hayward has the full text of the Smith letter on her new blog, Skeptics Eye. Here's Smith's major point:

“'Corporate leaders' have the financial resources to hire high-priced lawyers, accountants, managers and consultants. The volunteer activists who chair most local political party committees around the country do not.
"Patent laws are written to enhance the value of discoveries, not to limit inventors’ activities, and most biologists have the support of large research universities or corporations to handle legal issues.
"The typical campaign volunteer does not have such resources, and would not volunteer if he or she believed it would be necessary to hire a lawyer."

Put another way, campaign finance regulations are likely to decrease volunteer participation in the political process, thus making it easier for moneyed special interests to influence the outcomes of elections and the public policy process. Government action typically creates consequences that are opposite the intended effect of a new program or regulation.

You can read the entire Smith letter here. And don't miss Democracy Project's super analysis of Smith's significance.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Online Coalition Leaders to Testify at FEC Hearing on Rule Regulating Internet Political Speech

Both Mike Krempasky and Michale Bassik of The Online Coalition are among the scheduled speakers on panels scheduled to testify before the FEC June 28-29 on its proposed rule for regulating political speech on the Internet. Here's the full lineup.

Newspaper Execs Whistling in the Dark on Future Prospects in Mid-Year Media Review for Wall Street

Knight Ridder honcho Tony Ridder thinks his business has a "bright future." Judging from this quote in The Wall Street Journal, I wonder if he also still believes in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus: "On any given weekday, Knight Ridder newspapers reach nine million readers. When people are reading newspapers, they're not multitasking as so often happens with electronic media."

Somebody should tell Ridder that most of those non-multi-tasking nine million readers won't be around in a few more years and neither will his business when he realizes those who replace the lost readers are multi-tasking. But they won't be reading words printed on dead trees.

The same WSJ piece quotes The New York Times' CFO Len Forman indirectly acknowledging that the salad days are over because it's no longer possible to maintain the 10-15 percent profit margins of the past decade and a half that did so much to ruin a once-great industry. Forman predicts five percent will be enough ... if the newsroom and other expenses are cut enough. Sheeshhh.

WSJ reporter Janet Whitman ends her piece on the Mid-Year Review with this telling paragraph:
"The Times, blaming 'uneven' advertising, last week cut its forecast for full-year ad-revenue growth and said it expects second-quarter earnings to decline from a year ago amid charges for stock compensation and job cuts.
"For the full year, the company expects ad-revenue percentage growth to be in the low- to mid-single digits, down from an earlier projection of mid-single digits. It expects second-quarter earnings of 38 cents to 42 cents a share, down from 50 cents a share a year earlier."

Read the whole WSJ piece here. And a tip of the editorial hat to Mr. Romanesko.

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are, Linda Foley (From Behind Journo Guild Flak Andy Zipser)

You remember Linda Foley, president of the Newspaper Guild union for journalists, who several weeks ago repeated former CNN executive Eason Jordan's ridiculous claim that journalists are being purposely targeted by the U.S. military in the Global War on Terrorism. Actually, you may have forgotten Foley amid the hub-bub of the Michael Jackson acquittal, Natalee Holloway's disapearance in Aruba, Dick Durbin's self-destruction and so on.

Guild member Hiawatha Bray hasn't forgotten Foley. In fact, he recently ran against her for head of the union, but lost decisively. Now that her re-election has been secured, Foley is slowly, slowly inching back into the public discussion. More precisely, she's put a union's flak's toe in the water on her behalf. Bray has the details here.

And don't miss Michelle Malkin's take on flak Zipser's observations on why the problem isn't that journalist Foley repeated a malicious, unfounded lie about U.S. soldiers but that "right-wing attack dogs savaged" Foley for her statement. With people like this speaking for journalism, it's a wonder our public credibility rating is still in double digits (still below those of congressmen and used car salesmen) rather than nearing zero.

UPDATE:
Foley comes out, sort of.

Media Slander thinks its many Newspaper Guild visitors may provide a hint of why Foley came out, sort of. Think b-a-c-k-l-a-s-h.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Reflections on Socialism and the Newspaper Business

Go here. Hmmmmm. Hat tip to Buzzmachine's look at why The Los Angeles Times' editorial page experiment with a Wiki got sickly so quickly.

"Beltway Blogroll" is National Journal's Newest Column; Written by K. Daniel Glover

Mention National Journal to Capitol Hill or White House aides and most will mention something about being comprehensive, credible, influential, factual or objective. Or some variation on all five of those august characteristics. The magazine is expensive and access is strictly limited to subscribers, yet it is among the most frequently quoted and consulted publications in Washington, D.C.

National Journal specializes in serving a select audience of Washington policy-makers by providing timely, thoroughly researched and scrupulously balanced reports on major issues, legislation, executive branch programs and proposals and federal court cases.

The flagship weekly magazine is complimented by a stable of traditional and online publications that includes The Hotline, Congress Daily, Government Executive, Technology Daily and American Health Line.

And now National Journal is adding "Beltway Blogroll," a bi-weekly column on blogging authored by K. Daniel Glover, managing editor of Technology Daily. Unlike so much of National Journal's content, Glover's column is available to all comers and can be found on the magazine's home page.

In his first offering, Glover notes that "the blog days of Campaign 2004 are over now, but this year the technology that transformed the political scene is taking root in the wonky world of Washington. Web logs are quickly becoming a more visible and influential policy weapon.
The high-profile debate over Social Security is a good example. The topic already has generated thousands of blog postings."


Glover's purpose is to cover developments as blogs become more influential in Washington's policy making environs on Capitol Hill, in the White House and elsewhere in the executive branch, the federal courts, K Street lobbyists and the think tank communities of policy wonks and wonkettes. I know Glover as a solid, hard-working journalist. You can reach him via email at: DGlover@NationalJournal.com. And the column itself is at: http://beltwayblogroll.nationaljournal.com/

That National Journal now thinks the Blogosphere is having such influence on national politics and policy making is yet another vitally important sign that the continuing communications revolution brought about by the Internet is also reshaping other major sectors of our world. Just as did Mr. Guttenberg's wonderful invention centuries ago.
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Bloggers Should be Abuzz on Brand Buzz Study

Three automakers topped a recent study by a New York firm of consumer attitudes in 31 countries. While it is perhaps of little interest to most of the blogosphere that Mercedes, BMW and Toyota have the most loyal and influential customers, there may nevertheless be some important implications for the cyber world in the the results.

NOP World Consulting in New York interviewed customers in 31 countries seeking to measure their brand loyalty and degree of influence on purchases by others. More than half of the customers of the three automakers were classified as "active brand advocates" who talk up - i.e. create what marketeers call "buzz" - their preferred marque.

Ford was ninth among the top 10, which also included Nokia in fourth, followed in order by Sony, Estee Lauder, Lancome, Clinique and Nike. Note the absence of Apple, Dell, Gateway, IBM, HP and the rest of the major computer manufacturers/retailers.

What does this have to do with the Blogosphere? NOP World Consulting claims its results also indicate that word of mouth is the most influential source of information for 90 percent of Americans and personal testimonials are twice as influential as paid advertising and editorial content.

Why are word of mouth and personal testimonials such powerful tools of marketing? Because they embody trust and credibility. What do blogs do? They create massive amounts of "buzz" and they equal a personal testimonials factory that runs 24/7 worldwide. To be successful in the Blogosphere, the first essentials are ... trust and credibility.

This is why Hugh Hewitt is far from indulging in hyperbole when he compares the Internet age with the Protestant Reformation. Hewitt says in his book "Blog" that "the Blogosphere is about trust. CNN lost the trust it once had and its fall has been sudden and shattering. FOX News is trusted by millions, so its numbers have shot up, much to the dismay of lefties who don't understand why viewers would trust FOX News."

Think about it. The Blogosphere puts the power of personal testimony in Everyman's hands.

Freedom Forum's McMasters Points to Campus Threats to First Amendment, Free Speech

Freedom Forum columnist Paul McMasters' latest effort focuses on threats to freedom of speech in an unlikely place - the college and unversity campuses of America that are supposed to be bastions of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, free speech is an illusion in far too many corners of academia, according to McMasters:

"Take for instance the nation’s college campuses, where robust speech and inquiry supposedly claim sanctuary. Nevertheless, students — and faculty — are frequently punished for mistakenly thinking the First Amendment means what it says. The penalties can be swift and harsh.
"In a recent column, Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education catalogued just a few recent punishments at some of our finer institutions of higher learning, which have evicted students from campus housing, suspended them from classes, sentenced them to mandatory psychological counseling, threatened them with expulsion and charged them with crimes ranging from harassment to disorderly conduct — all for engaging in expression that someone found objectionable."

You can read Paul's whole column here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Somebody Please Explain to Me ....

... if it's just my imagination or has Oklahoma's environment changed dramatically in the past 40 years? When I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma City, it seemed like the place was always flat, hot, windy and dry. Trees were a rarity, hills were unknown and you simply didn't see green grass after May. The Sooner State seemed like a landlocked Sahara of sorts.

Thus, I was ecstatic when I moved to Dallas in 1972 for graduate school and even more happy when a job in conservative journalism opened up in Washington, D.C. where I have lived since 1976. There are lots of trees, azaelias everywhere in the Spring, actual mountains within a half-day's drive west of the D.C. region and a whole ocean within a half-day drive the other direction.

But something seems to have changed in Oklahoma in recent years. For one thing, there are trees all over the place in the Oklahoma City area. Tulsa has always had lots of trees but not Okie City. You even see pine trees growing in places around the OKC suburbs.

My family pioneered growing pines in central Oklahoma way back in the 1960s when they planted a bunch of East Texas pines around the outer perimeter of our home. Despite drought, deadly winds and winter frost storms that bowed them to the ground, those pines are still there and are absolutely majestic against the Oklahoma sky.

Anyway, there are trees everywhere in OKC now and you can find green lawns in August. The wind still blows constantly and it can get hotter than Hades in the summer, but somehow it doesn't seem quite as severe. What happened? Has the climate changed and if so why? Oklahoma has an incredible amount of fresh water lake surface. Could increased evaporation of moisture into the atmosphere be involved?

Claudia, Virginia and I have been in OKC and Tulsa for the past five days visiting family and preparing for Marcus's wedding Saturday. I find myself actually wanting to "come home" because things are so different. Driving to Tulsa yesterday on the Turner Turnpike, for example, I was amazed at how beautiful the area just east of OKC and before Chandler has become. There are rolling hills, trees everywhere and lovely green grass waving in the breezes.

What gives? Am I just imagining this? Somebody out there knows the answer.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

How Much Better Off We Are Today (BTW, It's News to The New York Times)

How does one know you are living in a golden age? Well, check out this posting from Powerline, which began as a critique of one of The New York Times' many resident intellectual luddites and got really interesting when a knowledgeable reader responded. Check it out here.

Knowing The Difference Between "Distribution" and "Content"

Just as economy of scale is being replaced in the digital age by the power of aggregation, the power of distribution in the old economy is being replaced by the power of contenting for aggregated markets. Not sure what that means? Check out this from Jeff Jarvis.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Happy Birthday Michelle!

One year isn't really all that long, but Michelle Malkin has made more than the most of it with her tremendous blog, which has gone from its Day One to Required Daily Reading for thousands of folks, including me.

Michelle has a tremendous post that gives a great review of some of the highlights of her blog work during the past year. I especially admire Michelle because she knows how to dig for the story the journalist pack is missing and she often goes after angles others are either unaware of or are afraid to pursue.

In other words, Michelle Malkin burns up shoe leather looking for the truth and that is what real journalism is about.

Brad Smith on Why Proposed FEC Regulation of Internet Political Speech is Just the First Step

FEC Commissioner Brad Smith lays it out in such plain English that any Member of Congress, newspaper editorial writer or even a college professor of political science can understand in an interview with Nick Schultz of TechCentralStation.com. Here's the money quote:

"So it's not necessary that the FEC would be setting this rule-making determined to shut down blogs before bloggers have to get concerned or before people should be concerned about their rights to participate in politics; or before people should be concerned about what effect the regulation might have on what has been a very democratizing medium.
"And what this rule making does is it sets the stage. We will have changed the presumption from the idea that the Internet is not regulated to one that it is regulated. And once we have made the presumption that it's going to be regulated, it's only a matter of time before people will find things that they think therefore ought to be regulated."


It is the same precise pattern that has been followed in the federal takeover of every major area of American economic life - Some politician comes along with a "little" proposal for a little federal aid here and just a few small implementing regs there. That opens the door. And from there it is one expansion of federal authority after another.

Read the whole Schulz interview here. Then call, email and write your congressman and senators and ask them what they are doing to stop the FEC from regulating political speech on the Internet.

BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE!
Ryan Sager explains why it's not enough for the political speech police of the campaign finance reform movement that the Internet represents a virtual utopia of equal political expression.

WELCOME HUGH HEWITT READERS!

The answer to Hugh's question about The Heritage Foundation and bloggers is YES. Enjoy your visit to Tapscott's Copy Desk and look around a bit. We talk about a lot of interesting stuff around these parts in part because we are one of the legions of Hugh Hewitt-inspired blogs.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Posting Will Be Very Light This Week

My son Marcus is marrying the lovely Morgan Brassfield of Tulsa June 19th, so Claudia, Ginny and I are in Oklahoma this week visiting relatives and making preparation for the big event. Back active next week.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Blogboy Tells All, Describes New Media Newsroom, How New Journalists Will Work (Many Already Are!)

BuzzMachine.com's Jeff Jarvis - aka "Blogboy," courtesy of Howard Kurtz - may have the fastest mouth in the Blogosphere, but he's also one of the sharpest when it comes to understanding what is happening to the MSM and through the New Media.

One of the biggest challenges for MSMers is getting out of the Old Media way of thinking that is anchored around the concepts of the single hard-copy or broadcast being the basic news product and the daily deadline cycle required to produce that product. Thinking in those terms is a prescription for death these days, but that fact doesn't make it any less difficult for folks who have operated in traditional newsrooms throughout their careers to start thinking in completely new ways.

But it can be done and Jarvis is the proof. He has a superb point-by-point summary of the major changes that must be made to convert the old newsroom into the New Media newsroom. For anybody who cares about how the news is produced, Jarvis' summary should be fascinating reading, but just consider his description of the new deadline cycle that is emerging:

"The way newsrooms operate today, it's hard to capture and share the news as soon as we know it. It's also hard to capture the value of a reporter's voice and perspective. And it's hard to make news conversational when it's all fed into a one-way pipe.
"So imagine if blogging software became the publishing system of the newsroom. Imagine if reporters were told to put everything into that system: They come back from reporting a story and write up the pitch or skedline, as we say, with the essence of the story. That reporter or an editor could with one button publish that to the internet.
"They could link to the AP story that has more details until the reporter writes the bigger piece, if that's even necessary. The public could weigh in and ask the reporter questions or share knowledge to improve the story before it is "finished" and published. They could do this even before it is reported, when reporters ask for help.
"The reporter could post the transcript of her interviews, in case anyone wants to see that. The reporter could post audio interviews, photos, video scenes. The reporter and editors could ask the public to add their photos and stories.
"And after the story is published -- or, as we like to say, posted -- the public can still join in and add facts or viewpoints or links. And the reporter and the public can find themselves in a conversation about the story.
"In short: Anything can be posted and made public anytime."

Don't be thrown off by that last sentence. If perhaps not quite literally true, like it or not, it certainly represents the controlling assumption of the New Media reality. Jarvis' post is rich within insight and I strongly encourage you to read it, think about it and tell me (and Blogboy!) what you think about it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Good News on the FOIA Reform Front: Senate Judiciary Committee OKs Cornyn Measure Requiring Explicit Exemptions

There was some good news on the FOIA reform front on Capitol Hill today because the Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a voice vote a measure introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, requiring that Congress make explicit any new FOIA exemptions included in any future legislative proposal. The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT.

Cornyn's office issued a news release this afternoon that included these graphs:
"The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday cleared legislation ... to ensure greater openness in the legislative process. The bill (S. 1181), approved by a voice vote, creates additional legislative transparency by requiring that any future legislation containing exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements be 'stated explicitly within the text of the bill.' It is Cornyn’s third open government reform bill ...
"'This bipartisan legislation will help to ensure an open and deliberate process in Congress, and today’s vote gives me optimism that we will be able to clear this bill in the full Senate soon as well,' Cornyn said following the vote. 'The justification for this provision is simple: Congress should not establish new secrecy provisions through secret means. If Congress is to establish a new exemption to FOIA, it should do so in the open and in the light of day.
“'In recent years, we have seen more of these types of exemptions tucked in legislation, and while some are appropriate, every single one deserves scrutiny. Congress must be diligent in
reviewing any new exemptions to prevent possible abuses,' said Leahy, a longtime advocate for open government and FOIA champion.
Sens. Cornyn and Leahy introduced the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005 (OPEN Government Act, S. 394) on Feb. 16, and a separate bill on March 10 to establish an advisory Commission on Freedom of Information Act Processing Delays.
"Other co-sponsors of the OPEN Government Act include Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)."

The Cornyn-Leahy measure still must be voted on by the whole Senate and the House, then be approved by the President. In other words, there is a long road ahead. But Cornyn and Leahy are making progress.

Former Staffer Casts "Skeptic's Eye" on FEC, Campaign Finance Issues

Allison Hayward has worked on Capitol Hill, for Washington law firms and for FEC Commissioner Brad Smith. She's also proprietor of the recently activated "Skeptic's Eye" blog. Hayward combines an insider's knowledge of how federal commissions like the FEC function (please note, I did not use the word "work") with a keen political sense and a solid background in campaign finance law at the state and federal levels.

Does that sound like the perfect background for somebody devoted to, among other things, Little Feat, the band that gained immortality with its rendition of "One Ton Tomato" more years back than I want to recall.

Anyway. Hayward is now on my blogroll and will be visited regularly. You should do the same.

Soros-backed Group's Attack on Ashcroft Is a Serious Setback for FOIA Reformers

Former Justice Department Office of Public Affairs head Bert Brandenburg's report - "Open Government in the Ashcroft Era: What Went Wrong, and How to Make it Right" - was made public today during a panel at the National Press Club.

I was privileged to serve as a member of the panel, which was expertly moderated by PBS's Terence Smith and included in addition to Brandenburg and I Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and retired reporter Ron Ostrow, who covered the Justice Department for many years for The Los Angeles Times.

Brandenburg's report was published by Watching Justice, which is associated with one of the many George Soros-financed groups, the Open Society Policy Center.

I'm afraid I was the skunk at the party this morning. The first chapter of Brandenburg's report is an extremely harsh 22-page critique of former Attorney General John Ashcroft's approach to dealing with the national media.

Ashcroft's approach is contrasted with that of his predecessor, Janet Reno, during the Clinton administration. As you can imagine, Brandenburg thinks the Reno era was vastly more friendly to open government than was the Ashcroft reign at Justice.

I was the skunk because I pointed out that, whatever one thinks of the Ashcroft media strategy, it has little to do with the case for reforming the federal Freedom of Information Act, as proposed by Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, in his "Open Government Act of 2005." Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, is the major Senate co-sponsor.

In fact, I argued, the Brandenburg report is illustrative of the constant bashing of Bush and Ashcroft that typifies so much of the FOIA reform effort's public discourse and it is that rhetoric which is creating unnecessary obstacles on Capitol Hill.

Here are my talking points in making that argument:

1. The biggest challenge for FOIA reformers on Capitol Hill is persuading the conservative GOP majority in Congress that transparency is their best friend and Big Government’s worst enemy. Portraying a kind of Clinton administration FOIA Camelot under Janet Reno while constantly bashing Bush administration “spin and secrecy” is exactly the wrong strategy, yet for the most part it’s the only strategy FOIA reformers seem to know. Do we want to score cheap political points against Bush or persuade GOPers on the Hill to vote for FOIA reform?

2. It is not credible to claim – based on 64 anonymous sources in a mere 22 pages - that the Clinton FOIA Camelot ended the day John Ashcroft walked into the Justice Department. (Chapter One of Brandenburg). Brandenburg says in his intro that he was “not interested in a simple rehash of the past few years or in bashing Attorney General Ashcroft and his staff.” Yet Brandenburg’s report does exactly that and does so in language so divisive and hard-edged it might even make a highly partisan Democrat like Henry Waxman wince.

3. Brandenburg distracts officials from dealing with more significant problems by exaggerating the importance of Bush political appointees, the Ashcroft Memo and the Justice Department’s role in guiding federal agencies on FOIA issues. At least 99.99 percent of all FOIA requests are handled entirely by career federal employees and are never even seen by a political appointee. Political appointees represent only .00119 percent of all executive branch workers. There are 2.4 million career employees, compared to 2,830 Bush political appointees, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

4. The fundamental FOIA problem is not political appointees of any administration, but the complete absence of negative consequences when career employees who administer the law or the careerists they must depend upon violate the law. No career or politically appointed federal employee has ever been fired for violating the FOIA. It truly is a law with no teeth.

5. Emphasizing the Ashcroft memo and the Justice Department role in FOIA misrepresents the real problems for two reasons: First, career employees can ignore orders from higher ups without fear. This is why 61 percent of the agencies surveyed in 2003 by the National Security Archive said they simply forwarded the Ashcroft memo to the FOIA officers with little or no change in how they administer the law. Second, whether the Justice Department defends agencies or not in FOIA cases is essentially irrelevant because so few FOIA requestors can afford to take the government to court.

6. The Justice Department has little effect on how agencies administer the law because Justice devotes virtually no resources to FOIA enforcement. With a total workforce of 104,383, according to the latest available OPM data, Justice’s Office of Information Policy's 42 employees represent 0.0004 percent of the Justice Department workforce.

Are Bloggers and Journalists Enemies? Captain's Quarters Morrissey, Post's Hill to Speak at The Heritage Foundation

The Captain - aka Ed Morrissey - proprietor of the fine Captain's Quarters blog will answer the question posed in the headline above on a panel devoted to the topic at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. at 10:30 a.m., July 8.

Joining Morrissey on the panel will be Jim Hill, Managing Editor of The Washington Post Writers Group, who is a veteran of The Los Angeles Times, The Arizona Republic and The Kansas City Star.

Morrissey and Hill will each speak for about 20 minutes and the floor will then be open for questions from the audience. The event will be held in the Van Andel Center at Heritage, which is located on the Senate side of Capitol Hill at 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., two blocks east of Union Station.

The event is open to the public and those planning on attending are asked to RSVP at 202-275-1761 or online here. Lunch refreshments will be served in the Heritage lobby following the event.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Read This if You Still Think Kerry Released All His Military Records to The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe purported to have received the rest of Sen. John Kerry's navy records that had previously been held back from public release on orders from the former Democratic presidential candidate. Now we learn Kerry's grades at Yale were virtually identical (slightly lower actually) to those of the "moron" who defeated him last November, fellow Yalie George W. Bush.

End of the Kerry military records controversy? Not according to Powerline reader John Boyle who explains in great detail that "what The Boston Globe got was the remainder of whatever the Navy received from Naval Personnel Records Center, less what Kerry wished to withhold. It may be that the Globe is unaware of this game; although I wrote about this at length last week to their reporter Joan Vennochi, who had written that Kerry's 180 was in the pipeline, in order to alert the Globe to what was afoot."

Adds Boyle: "A real shell game."

Check out the rest of Boyle's explanation on Powerline here.

Bopp Submits Comments to FEC on Proposal to Regulate Political Speech on the Internet

One of the unsung heroes of the battle to protect Freedom of Speech in America is lawyer James Bopp. He was the lead attorney in McConnell v FEC, the legal case against McCain-Feingold, and continues to be the guy out front fighting the good fight to the First Amendment.

Bopp's comments on the FEC's proposed rule for regulating political speech on the Internet provides a succinct summary of what is at stake:

"America’s Founders embraced liberty, threw off the British monarchy with its limitations on
free expression, proclaimed the sovereignty of the people, established a Republic with strictly
limited powers, and built a palisade of express rights to protect liberty from the depredations of
government. To be an American meant to be free to express yourself without a second thought
about restrictions. Libel and slander carried legal consequences, of course, but those and like
limited prohibitions had been well understood by all for millennia. The people didn’t need a
specialist in the minutiae of statutes, rules, court opinions, and advisory opinions before they
could speak or print their thoughts. The spirit of the present age is regulation, not liberty, and a distrust of the people and of the ability of truth to come to the fore in a free marketplace of ideas. Regulatory restrictions are disguised as “reform,” allegedly in the name of the common man.
"People must now think twice before speaking. But the common person should not need (and most cannot afford) to retain a legal specialist before speaking. And that is the effect of increasing regulation—a creeping chill on expression and participation in self-government. The Founders understood that liberty is fragile, that it needs room to breath and strong protections, and they gave us the first and best reform, which is the First Amendment’s command that 'Congress shall make no law . . . abridging freedom of speech, or of the press . . . .'"


Citing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Bopp notes three qualifications that bloggers must meet in order to be covered by the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press and thus be included in any official media exemption, such as is being considered by the FEC:

"From Austin’s justification, here are the crucial question that must be considered with
respect to Internet bloggers and other online news sources: (1) are their resources devoted to
collecting and disseminating information to the public?; (2) do they inform and educate the
public, offer criticism, and provide forums for discussion and debate?; and (3) do they serve as a
powerful antidote to governmental power abuses and holding officials accountable to the people?
"If so, they should be included in any media exception, even though they already hold the
constitutional rights to free speech and press, which in themselves protect such activity."

Bopp also includes an excellent description of how the British crown stifled free expression and why that led the Founders to include a blanket guarantee of free expression in the U.S. Constitution. For the full text of Bopp's comments, go here.

Look What the Moonbats Are Doing to Ground Zero

Debra Burlingame's piece yesterday in The Wall Street Journal is getting attention. Michelle Malkin is on it, too. Here is her latest column on it and here is her latest post on it. All are worth reading.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Nobody Ever Died Covering Don Rumsfeld but What If They Were About to Expose Bin Laden?

One of the MSM's most maddening foibles is pack journalism, which has been so vividly demonstrated repeatedly during the War on Terrorism. The most recent illustration is the aftermath of Newsweek's repudiation of its story about the Koran being flushed down a toilet in Guantanamo Bay by U.S. interrogators. The MSM has been obsessed with "proving" the Newsweek story was right after all.

Revelations about former FBI man Mark Felt being the Deep Throat of Watergate fame have fed those flames, if only because seeing Woodstein bloviating on the boob tube about the glories of bringing down Richard Nixon revives all the old juices.

But there are other views out there. Kevin Meyers is a Brit journo who has some penetrating observations about this and much else concerning the MSM here and throughout the West. Arthur Chrenkoff uses Meyers' comments as a starting point for additional observations that probably won't be very popular among MSM diehards, including this one:

"The government and its agencies, such as the military, are constantly targeted because they are, in effect, sitting ducks: they will take accusations and will answer them in a civil manner. Yes, there will be some stalling and cover-ups from time to time, but more often than not the authorities will respond and accommodate criticism.
"There is preciously little personal and physical risk for a journalist in attacking the powers that be - they won't kill, imprison, or intimidate in return - and the rewards, in terms of public adulation, work recognition, and professional advancement, are virtually unlimited."

I've known more than a few MSMers who certainly have the courage to go after a story that involves the potential of great personal harm or even death. Mike Hedges of The Houston Chronicle comes immediately to mind. And there are others, perhaps quite a few others.

But Chrenkoff's point deserves pondering even so. It is a myth that Joe Blow Journo ever risks losing life, job or family by taking on the local cops, the NEA or Enron. What is always risked, however, is the opprobrium of colleagues and superiors in the newsroom whenever a reporter or editor has the guts to stand against the pack's (typically liberal) instincts. We're not merely talking about nasty looks or the silence treatment, either, because promotions and awards may well become scarce.

Put another way, Don Rumsfeld - or the president of the local public schools union, the powerful mayor or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company - can get grouchy, he might even cut you off and not recognize you for questions for six months, maybe even more if you ask a really tough question.

But can you imagine how Osama Bin Laden would react, assuming he would ever consent to a news conference? Tragically, Daniel Pearl found out. The aftermath of Pearl's brutal murder has been quite unlike the reaction in 1976 to the blowing up of the Arizona Republic's Don Boiles. Journalists from all over the country converged and in a concentrated cooperative campaign without precedent in American journalism history, produced an investigative series that led to the eventual conviction of Boiles murderers.

We didn't see teams of MSMers headed to Pakistan to find Pearl's killers.