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Monday, January 31, 2005

Why Is DOJ Keeping Convicted Illegal Alien Data Under Wraps?

Did you know thousands of illegal aliens who have served time for serious crimes they committed in America are still wondering our streets? Strangely, the Justice Department is refusing a Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau Freedom of Information Act request for data that journalists and the public could use to help locate these criminals so they can be deported, as required by federal law.

This case is the focus of my latest column for Knight Ridder Tribune's regular series, Focus on Freedom of Information.

WARNING: This column will make you very angry!
By law, illegal aliens convicted of heinous crimes — rape, murder, child molestation — are to be deported once they've served their jail terms. But lately, thousands of them have simply been let go. And Justice Department officials have refused to release a government database that could help journalists and private citizens find these aliens.
No one knows exactly how many of these criminals there are nationwide, but Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau journalists Eliot Jaspin and Julia Malone examined Georgia state prison records in 2002 and found numerous cases like convicted pedophile Miguel Angel Gordoba. He served a four-year sentence for molesting a 2-year-old girl in Alma, Ga., then disappeared following his release.
Federal officials are required by law to deport people like Cordoba when they are released from prison, but immigration officials are often nowhere to be found when the illegal alien felons walk away from jail. Federal investigators say there are thousands of Miguel Angel Gordobas. As scary a prospect as that is, this story gets worse. Much worse.
After finding so many cases in Georgia using state records, the Cox reporters decided to look at federal data to get a better idea of the scope of the problem. They submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs seeking an electronic copy of all records collected on alien inmates in the government's Grants Management System. The GMS funds are used by Washington to reimburse state and local governments for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens like Gordoba.
The Justice Department refused to provide any of the data sought by Jaspin and Malone. Why? For three reasons, according to Rachal Madan, Office of Justice Programs' general counsel: (1) the grants data are exempt from disclosure under the FOIA because it concerns matters "of internal significance in which the public has no substantial interest," (2) processing the data "would place an unjustifiable administrative burden" on the Office of Justice Programs, and (3) releasing the data would "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of (the convicted illegal aliens') personal privacy."
In other words, the government refused to make the data available because the public — that's you and me, our families and neighbors — wouldn't benefit, the agency can't be bothered and it would be wrong to violate the criminals' privacy!
Such "reasoning" defies understanding. It is the most outrageous violation of the concept underlying the FOIA — taxpayers have a right to know what their government is doing with their tax dollars — I've seen in my two-decades-plus as a journalist in our nation's capitol.
This case also illustrates, however, the value of the FOIA. The public clearly has a "substantial interest" in knowing the identities of criminals among us; that's why we see "Wanted by the FBI" posters in every U.S. Post Office in America. It's why police so often ask the public for help in finding accused criminals who are at large. It's why the "Amber" system works so well in finding kidnapped kids.
Think what would happen if photos of these thousands of illegal alien criminals and other information about them gleaned from the data by Jaspin and Malone became available on Cox Newspaper's Web site. You can be sure lots these thugs would deport themselves as soon as possible. Federal officials, aided by citizens, thanks to the FOIA, would catch many more. My guess is that incoming Attorney General Alberto Gonzales disagrees with Madan's view that her agency can't be bothered to aid such an outcome by compiling the data sought by Jaspin and Malone.
As for Madan's fear of violating a convicted illegal alien's privacy, here's another thing to think about: Homeland Security officials admit they can't adequately protect our borders. Things are so bad in Arizona that citizens there are volunteering to help monitor the border.
How many terrorists lurk among those thousands of convicted felons who should have been deported? Which is more important — protecting an illegal alien's alleged privacy or finding and deporting somebody planning the next 9/11?
Cox Newspapers is appealing the Office of Justice Programsí denial, but FOIA appeals often take years to complete and always costs thousands of dollars that most media organizations simply don't have. You can help. Ask OJP's boss, Assistant Attorney General Deborah Daniels, to release the data sought by Cox. Her address is: 810 Seventh Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20001.

USA Today Reports One of Three High Schoolers Want More Government Control of Media; Bare Majority Support Freer Press

USA Today reports this morning that a third of American high school students think the government should exercise more control over the news media. Only 51 percent of the 112,003 kids interviewed favor more freedom for the news media. For anybody who cares about individual freedom, this is truly alarming news. Click on the headline above to get the full USAT story.

It's difficult to know with whom we should be more angry, the MSM that has so discredited the profession of journalism in the past two decades or the public school system that so utterly fails to teach American kids about the basics of their government, including why the Founders recognized with the First Amendment that an independent media is essential to Republican government.

UPDATE: Over at Ombudsgod.com, Mithridate has it exactly right, here. Don't miss it!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

BLOG SWARM! How the Blogosphere Can Get the Real Washington Payola Scandal

Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus have been much in the news in recent weeks, thanks to revelations in the MSM about their contracts with various federal agencies. Their troubles illustrate a maxim of public policy commentary in the Internet age - failure to disclose potential conflicts of interest can have devastating consequences.

Still, I have found it more than a little irritating to read these revelations - especially those in The Washington Post - because for many years one of the most serious unreported scandals of the Washington Establishment has been the fact that many of the people regularly quoted in the MSM on public policy issues are recipients or beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of tax dollars annually doled out by federal agencies to favored non-profit advocacy groups, ideologically motivated groups of consultants/experts, individual scholars, writers and public relations firms.

Yet, I don't recall ever reading a story in the Post, The New York Times or any other MSM outlet in which a quote from one of these people is followed by a sentence disclosing how much that person or his or her organization receives annually in government-paid largesse. The hypocrisy here, of course, is that the MSM has long been a leading cheerleader for campaign finance reform and financial disclosure for public officials (which I, too, strongly support).

But if we are going to be consistent (yes, I know what Mr. Emerson snarkily said about hobgobblins and consistency but he was wrong), then what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If financial considerations - i.e. contributions - influence how congressmen vote, surely advocates on public policy issues testifying before Congress and speaking to journalists while on the federal dole are no different.

BTW, that's also why comprehensive documentation of all government grants, contracts and consulting deals should be posted on the internet. The public should also be able to access the government's assessments of the performance of its contractors on previous contracts, as with the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS). But that's a discussion for another time.

National Review's Jonathan Adler has a super column on this very point, which you can read by clicking on the headline above. Adler zeroes in on the flow of tax dollars from EPA to its numerous non-profit allies in the environmental movement, but the same phenomenon is found in virtually every area of government activity and public policy debate.

Here's how Adler describes the Post's treatment of that cash flow:

To the contrary, most major environmental organizations are on the federal dole. Environmental Defense received a $240,000 EPA grant last September and has received over $4.5 million from the EPA since 1993. Likewise the World Resources Institute has been awarded over $1 million from the EPA in the last five years. The Natural Resources Defense Council is one of the loudest advocates for increasing the EPA's regulatory authority — and one of Bush administration's most persistent critics. Yet NRDC has received over $6.5 million since 1993. Just last month the EPA awarded NRDC another $400,000 grant. Yet when these organizations appear in the Washington Post, whether in bylined pieces or reported articles, their federal support is scarcely, if ever, disclosed.

To be fair, I recall seeing such a disclosure only occasionally in the pages of The Washington Times, and let's not have any illusions about which side of the political spectrum receives federal funding. I believe most of these tax dollars go to organizations and individuals on the Left because they have a philosophical predisposition to support activist government. But there are significant organizations and people on the Right who benefit as well. For the record, my employer, The Heritage Foundation, receives exactly zero government funding and never has been the recipient of a federal dollar.

Thanks to the success of the Contract with America, this issue received some public discussion in the mid-1990s when House Republicans began insisting in 1995 that individuals testifying before Congress disclose all federal funding received by the organizations they were representing. Unfortunately, the MSM didn't get the hint and start following a similar practice. Nor has the Republican majority taken further steps to increase transparency such as applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.

What is surprising about this state of affairs is that the MSM continues to keep its readers in the dark about the federal financial considerations behind the comments and commentary of so many of its sources, despite the relative ease with which those considerations can be documented.

As Adler points out, there is a federal tax form required of all non-profits - the IRS Form 990 - that includes a section listing sources of income. Having spent countless hours during my reporting days poring over the 990s of non-profits like Maryland teachers unions, I can attest to the target-rich environment provided by the disclosures in these federal tax forms.

There are several fairly easy ways to obtain the latest 990 filed by any non-profit. First, IRS regulations require the organization to provide a copy to anybody requesting it via written, telephone, email or in-person. No reason for the request must be provided and and the IRS regulations allow only reasonable copying charges. Be forewarned, however, it is not unusual for a 990 to consist of multiple pages, so the copying charges can mount up.

The second way of obtaining a non-profit's latest 990 is to go on the internet and check out the web site of Guidestar.org. Guidestar is a private organization publishes hundreds of thousands of 990s. All you have to do is type in the name of the non-profit in which you are interested and odds are good you'll have its latest 990 in a few seconds. Before you do that, however, spend some time on Guidestar's excellent tutorial that describes line-by-line the nature of the information that should be contained on each line of the 990.

Now, think what might be found when the Blogosphere goes into swarm-mode and starts researching the government funding received by non-profit advocacy groups across the political spectrum. I guarantee you the results will dwarf anything Howie Kurtz of the Post or anybody else in the MSM has in mind on this issue.

Such a blog swarm would also force a much-needed transparency in public policy advocacy that the MSM has avoided for decades, perhaps because of a shared ideological perspective among some journalists and their favored sources in the advocacy community. Such a swarm would also put down a marker for the importance and utility of transparency in government that would immensely enhance and advance the public policy debate in this country on all important issues.

So my question now is: What are we waiting for, bloggers?

UPDATE: Newspaper columnist and Marriage Savers founder Michael McManus released a statement that adds important factual details and appropriate perspective to the USA Today story regarding his alleged conflict of interest in receiving an HHS grant. Most critically, Michael points out that the grant was announced on the Marriage Savers web site and that the grant was to the organization, not to him personally. These are details the USA Today story should have made clear.

Here is the complete text of Michael's statement:

"USA Today published a front page story today which states 'The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged Thursday that it paid a syndicated columnist at least $4,000 for work on behalf of Bush administration efforts to promote marriage... Mike McManus, who writes a weekly column syndicated in 30 to 40 newspapers, said he was paid about $4,000 to train marriage mentors in 2003 and 2004. McManus was subcontracted by the Lewin Group, which had a contract to help communities 'form and sustain healthy marriages.'
"Let me correct the record: After checking our records, HHS paid a total of $10,199.98 to Marriage Savers, Inc for making six presentations (including travel expenses). We also were awarded a federal grant of $48,993 (via a competitive bidding process) in a 'capacity-expanding grant' to adapt our materials to serve unwed couples having babies out of wedlock. These funds came to Marriage Savers Inc., not to me personally. They are only 2.7% of the $2.1 million we have raised, mostly from churches, foundations and individuals.
"Marriage Savers® is a 501©3 organization, founded in December, 1996. It is a ministry that equips local communities, principally through local congregations, to help men and women to 'Prepare for lifelong marriage, strengthen existing marriages, and restore troubled marriages.'
Far from failing to disclose these federal funds, the news was prominently displayed on our website
"In addition to my work as President of Marriage Savers I write and self-syndicate a column, Ethics & Religion, to about 50 newspapers. There is no connection between my column and the federal funds awarded Marriage Savers.
"I'm very proud of Marriage Savers’ work. We pioneered the use of the Community Marriage Policy®, in which clergy agree to specific effective marriage-saving strategies. (For details see our website). Clergy of nearly 10,000 congregations in 191 cities and towns in 41 states have signed CMPs.

"According to an independent study ('Assessing the Impact of Community Marriage Policies® on County Divorce Rates') published in the October, 2004 issue of the scholarly journal Family Relations, the divorce rate of 114 Community Marriage Policy counties fell 17.5% while it dropped only 9.4% in comparison counties without a CMP over a seven-year period.
"The study concludes, 'We found that the number of divorces that actually occurred...averaged about 30,000 fewer than the 700,000 expected without the intervention.' Since we are now in 191 cities, the study estimates we saved '40,000 to 50,000' marriages.
"Marriage Savers® has thus pioneered one of America’s most effective marriage interventions. Our contract with HHS recognizes that work and I'm very proud of it, and more importantly of the children and adults we've help protect from the traumas of family fragmentation."

I have been an aquaintance of Michael McManus for more than a decade and find the suggestion that he could be persuaded to articulate a pro-marriage view in return for a federal grant about as ridiculous as anything I've heard since Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet. Michael and his wife were laboring on behalf of improving marriages for many years before receiving the HHS grant in question.

Having said that, I also continue to believe that any columnist writing on a public policy issue in which he or she has a related professional interest funded in part by government should disclose that funding, if only to be like Caeser's wife.

UPDATE II: Several readers have kindly pointed out that in my initial post on this topic I was incorrect in ascribing that wonderful consistency quote to Lord Keynes. It was in fact Ralph Waldo Emerson who said it and I have now corrected it above.

Friday, January 28, 2005

A Fine Time Was Had by All

An enthusiastic crowd just about packed The Heritage Foundation's Van Andel Center earlier today to hear three of the Blogosphere's stars answer this question: Is the Blogosphere the New Media Establishment?

I am perhaps a tad biased since I hosted this august event, but I am confident the assembled horde of bloggers, blog watchers and blog enthusiasts were a satisfied bunch when the last word was spoken by RatherBiased.com's Matthew Sheffield. Joining Matthew on the panel were Paul Mirengoff of Powerlineblog.com and Kevin Alyward of Wizbangblog.com.

If you were unable to attend this event but would like to listen to an audio of the proceedings, go here to Heritage Live. Listen closely to Sheffield's comments during the Q/A and you will hear an intriguing comment about his next project.

Oh yes, the trio had somewhat different answers to the query that brought about the program. Not wanting to discourage you from listening to the entire webcast, let me just say one of them said no, one of them said a and one of them said it already is, almost. Now you have to go listen to find out who said what.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Dan Rather is Retiring. Is the Blogosphere the New Media Establishment?

Three of the finest minds in the Blogosphere will try to answer some of the questions raised by the headline above tomorrow, January 28, 2005, at an 11:00 a.m. panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy in the foundation's Van Andel auditorium.

The panelists will include Paul Mirengoff - AKA as Powerline's "Deacon" - as well as RatherBiased.com's Matthew Sheffield and Wizbang's Kevin Alyward. Sheffield was the motivating force behind the assembly of this panel and, since I will be moderating the event, I can tell you from my own inside information from the participants that the discussion is going to be fascinating. Somebody might even commit some news before it's over!

If you are in the Washington, D.C. area and would like to attend, the event is open to the public and there is no admission charge. A light lunch will be served to all attendees following the panel's completion. The Heritage Foundation is located at 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., just two blocks east of Union Station, on Metro's Red Line.

And if you can't attend but would like to listen in on the proceedings, the panel will be webcast here.

Will Blogosphere Competition Inspire MSMers to Use Computer Model for Deeper Social Security Reporting?

Social Security reform is starting to heat up a bit in the Blogosphere, too, thanks largely to Hugh Hewitt. As usual, Hugh zeroes in on the gut issues in the debate, with particular emphasis on the extreme disparities in the rate of return for minorities, compared to the majority population.

Now Social Security reform might not seem like a topic that would fall under the usual purview of Tapscott's Copy Desk. I mean after all, it says right there on top that TCD is "tracking the internet revolution in media and government."

In fact, however, I have a hunch that a blogosphere milestone is ahead in the coming debate in Congress on President Bush's proposals to reform Social Security by allowing younger workers to contribute a portion of their Social Security taxes to a private investment account. The Baby Boomer generation-led MSM for the most part is horrified by the prospect of such reforms and much of the reporting and analyses one reads in the pages of publications like The New York Times exhibits a studied refusal to look at contrary facts.

But with the Blogosphere awakening to the debate, we might see the MSM being forced to widen its reporting perspectives sufficiently to at least acknowledge that there is a factual case for reforms like Bush is expected to propose and that all of the demographic and actuarial data makes the sorry state of an unreformed Social Security system a national embarrassment.

One way that could happen would be widespread knowledge of the facts about Social Security's lousy rate of return for everybody, but especially for minorities. The Heritage Foundation, (for which I work, though not as an analyst) has had a Social Security Calculator up on its web site for more than a year. Anybody can go to it, enter a few basic facts about themselves and get a projection of their likely Social Security benefits, compared to their likely returns with a conservatively invested private account.

National Review Online's "The Corner" mentioned the Heritage Social Security Calculator a few days ago and traffic skyrocketed. The value of the Calculator is that it is methodologically transparent and based upon the same demographic and actuarial data used by the Social Security Administration.

In effect, the Calculator is a computer model that could be a valuable reporting tool for any journalist willing to drop the preconceived notions about the viability of an unreformed Social Security system and look at the facts as the first step in some truly valuable reporting. For example, any journalist can enter a zip code and get data on likely Social Security returns for
any reader or listener.

To date, though, there seems to be a reluctance to use computer models like the Calculator in MSM reporting of major public policy issues like Social Security reform. It will be fascinating to see if pressure from the Blogosphere results in more MSMers looking for new edges and angles in their reporting and thus results in more interest in the Calculator. I'll keep you posted on that score.

Bloggers Would Send Karl Marx Back to the Drawing Board!

More fall-out from the Harvard conference, thanks to Slate's Jack Shafer who came away from the gathering thinking there has been too much ado about blogs. You can read his column here. As soon as Shafer's column hit the cyber road, folks responded and it isn't pretty. But read it anyway, starting with Ed Cone who thinks the Slate guy needs to get a clue, then The Professor, who finds a certain absent decency.

Also commenting is Captain's Quarters who makes a fundamentally important point that he thinks Shafer missed completely. The real revolution wrought by the internet and the blogosphere is that the key question is no longer the Marx-inspired query about who owns the means of media production, but who has access to the means of media distribution. By making that access so incredibly affordable for millions of folks and thus empowering them to become part of the conversation, the internet obsoletes most of the advantages claimed by the MSM.

Here's how CQ puts it:

"Now, however, that fast Internet connection renders all sites essentially equal. Once one has toured the Internet, the fact that all sites are essentially equal becomes quickly apparent. The CNN page differs only from Captain's Quarters in the amount of product they can distribute -- but we're sharing the same distribution channel now.
"The distribution, not the product, is the revolution -- and bloggers thrive off of their ability to out-pace and out-react the mainstream media, which for the most part remains stuck on the notion of a full-day news cycle.
"In fact, now that the distribution channels have opened up to the end-user as well as the media moguls, that long-awaited video revolution may not be far behind. Videobloggers have already popped up, promising not just opinion and news but also independent entertainment.

"As the capacity for broadband increases, filmmakers will have the ability to download their latest movies direct to consumers over the Internet, without having to spend money on the physical media or kowtowing to theater-chain owners.
"We may see this in the next five years -- and citizen newscasters may push today's bloggers to a subsidiary position in the Internet hierarchy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Anti-Semitism Growing in Russia, AP Ignorant of Soviet Era Outrages

Little Green Footballs calls it the "most disgusting" news of the day. It is that and much, much worse. The monster of Russian anti-semitism is again slouching toward Armagaddeon, as 20 members of the Duma, the Russian legislature, are calling "for a sweeping investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations and punishing officials who support them, accusing Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and saying they provoke anti-Semitism," according to Steve Gutterman of AP, courtesy of Yahoo News!.

This is classic, especially the claim that Jews provoke the very anti-semitism that can lead to a new Holocaust. Joseph Goebbels no doubt would get a chuckle out of that one. One can only hope President Bush will quickly and completely condemn any effort by the Russian government to mount any sort of anti-Jewish "investigation." And put pressure on his good buddy Putin to quash this nascent hatred instead of encouraging it with winks and nods.

An interesting sidepoint here: AP's Gutterman apparently knows nothing about the systematic and comprehensive anti-Semitism that ruled the highest ranks of the Soviet Politburo, particularly during the Stalin Purges years. Here's how Gutterman puts it:

"The stunning call to ban all Jewish groups raised concerns of persistent anti-Semitism in Russia. ... Echoing anti-Semitic tracts of the Czarist era, the letter’s authors accuse Jews of working against the interests of the countries where they live and of monopolizing power worldwide."

As if Lenin's arrival ended the anti-semitism of the Czars. It is this kind of abyssmal ignorance of history that led me as a managing editor to insist that new hires read Paul Johnson's "Modern Times." Like the cliche says, those who are ignorant of their own history are bound to repeat it.

And why didn't somebody on the AP foreign desk catch this???

Monday, January 24, 2005

Harvard Conference Highlights Need for New Definition of "Journalist"

Discussion and reaction continues in some quarters from the Harvard conference last week on bloggers, journalism and credibility. Robert Cox, managing editor of The National Debate blog, director of the Media Bloggers Association and a participant in the conference, has a number of "what now" suggestions for much-needed initiatives. You can read the Cox list here.

The Professor also has a stimulating compilation of observations from the two-day gabgest in Beantown, which you can read here. Especially worth thinking about is Rosen's point number six concerning the vital importance of open archives to maintain access to big media organization's reporting record. Rosen's point here is worth quoting at length:

"I made one empassioned plea during the conference, and it was on an issue I didn't know about or care about a year ago: the open archive. Most of the big news combines have, I believe, the wrong pollicy-- wrong for the future of the news industry, wrong for the practice of journalism, and wrong for the public on the Web. They believe in charging for their archive, and they change the urls (or Web address), meaning that all links to the original address go dead.
"But link death and the pay wall are killing the news business for reasons explained by Simon Waldman of the Guardian:
The Importance of Being Permanent. At the conference I asked whether the newsroom troops fully understood what the generals had decided about their work: that through this ill-fated archive policy all their good journalism will be "lost to Google, lost to bloggers, lost to online forums and conversation, lost to the long tail where value is built up." (From the Waldman post.)
"Shortly after, Weinberger's
notes show, "Bill Mitchell of Poynter says this discussion is changing his mind. He came in thinking that archives were one of the reliable sources of revenues, but now he's thinking about the social impact of locking up the archives and about alternative business models."
"For those who wonder whether Big Journalism can change itself and get with the more open language of the Web, the key issue to watch--the signal for a big switch in philosophy--is the archive policy.
"My suggestion: Open archive, permanent url's, free public access, make your money off smart advertising keyed to search, plus added-value services that make sophisticated use of the data in the archive, which you know better than anyone else because you own it and create it.
Weinberger: "Jay calls upon journalists to demand this."
"In fact I do. But not just to demand it-- get involved in trying to figure this thing out so that the open archive pays for itself, or even makes money. Dan Gillmor knows way more about this and will be posting on it Monday, he tells me.
"One more thing: News organizations, once they grasp Waldman's argument about content accumulating in value on the Web, will figure out how to do journalism so as to continually improve the (future) value of the open archive. That's not where anyone is focused now. But it could be done.
"A simple example would be: if you make an effort to always do the bios of the key actors when you have any sort of newsmaking public controversy, then you are always building your public actor bio file, and new products may emerge from that."

Now that's an interesting concept - a media organization reporting over time on a public official, agency or issue, or some other field that commands attention and making the results of that reporting available on the web creates thereby a web product the value of which will continually increase. Ease of access and relevance of the content make it easy to envision a reporting "morgue" that is the opposite of the dusty files and storage demands of microfiche in the pre-web days. We might even say the governing paradigm of the newspaper morgue is totally and forever changed by the web.

But that is just one area of journalism in which the governing paradigm is being changed fundamentally. Consider the paradigm of who is a reporter. In the daily newspaper world of the MSM, credentials and experience with accepted organizations are the pre-requisites for admission to the guild of the ink-stained wretch. Note that it is virtually impossible to separate the reporter from the organization.

This fact gives rise to, among much else that is damaging to the MSM's ability to see reality, the idea that real journalism can only be done by certified journalists employed by a media organization with the requisite structure of assets, including newsrooms full of editors, a library and research staff, bureaus in distant locations, communications links among all of these assets and so forth.

A vivid example of this attitude came Friday at Harvard during a discussion (which I listened to on the webcast of the conference) of bloggers alleged inability to do things like go to Baghdad to cover the War in Iraq. There came a point in that discussion when Jill Abramson of The New York Times asked in a voice that dripped with condescension if the bloggers present had any idea how much it costs the Times to maintain a Baghdad bureau. The implication was that such a bureau - i.e. infrastructure - is required to cover Iraq.

Just how much of a relic that notion is becomes clear when we contemplate the fact that all that is required for a blogger to blog an event is a laptop, a web connection and perhaps a healthy measure of the obnoxious curiosity that so endears traditional reporters to the message managers of modern governance. Sure, the logistics of blogging the Democratic National Convention in Boston are of a different magnitude compared to those of posting daily from Iraq.
But consider the likely product of a traditional MSMer operating out of the Baghdad bureau of a daily newspaper, compared to an independent blogger operating from the same city. (Yes, I know there are access, diplomatic roadblocks and other variables that can be serious obstacles for the blogger).

Even so, the fact remains that the MSMer may be the best war correspondent since Ernie Pyle but he or she will get one byline a day, which will not be read until the following morning, plus perhaps a couple of shots at filing updates on the newspaper's web site. The traditional structure of the newsroom and the handicap of hard-copy newspapers imposes serious limits on how much reporting reachers readers and constrains the timeliness of that reporting.

The blogger faces no such structural limitations. If he or she can get the story, all he or she has to do is write it and post it. "It" will consist of a series of posts, none of which by itself tells all the relevant facts, but all of the posts will have three priceless advantages - the incomparable advantage of instant access for readers around the world, the power of links to expand the reporting picture and the multiplying energy of inter-activity with knowlegable readers. In other words, with the blogger's multiple filings, the wisdom of crowds becomes part of the reporting process.

Anybody can read the blogger's posting as soon as it is posted. Each posting can include links to explanatory sources, each of which in turn will possibly direct readers to additional useful information. And thanks to the instant inter-activity of instant reader comment, the blogger can quickly obtain significant new leads, information sources, original analyses, expert ssessments and much else. And the blogger gets quick feedback on the credibility of the post. "We will fact-check your a--" applies equally to bloggers and MSM anchors.

Compare the two: the MSMer is like the stopped clock that is right twice a day even though it's batteries are dead, while the blogger can post multiple updates as they are available throughout the day. Due to space and time limitations, the story that appears in the paper will lack depth, will be far from comprehensive and will be in effect one frame from a film that goes on running long after the MSMer's deadline for filing to the foreign desk back home.

The reader who has resources that could aid the reporting process stands little of chance of reaching the MSMer, even if he or she has email and checks it regularly. The same reader not only can post a comment with the posting that will be seen by the blogger, it will also be seen by countless other readers who in turn will possibly enhance the resource.

By the time, the daily appears on the front step the next morning, the story has changed how many times? And been updated how frequently on Fox News, shredded by the hour on Talk Radio and fisked beyond recognition by the Blogosphere. The blogger gets constant feedback and can update subsequent postings as the information required to report the event in question becomes wider, deeper and more useful to readers.

Frankly, when you think about comparisons like these, you have to wonder why the MSM would ever hesitate to make blogging skills a hiring prerequisite for every journalist. I also wonder how long before folks outside the MSM realize how comparatively easy it would be to assemble a team of bloggers who could cover, say, Congress, or a key committee in Congress with a comprehensiveness, accuracy, responsiveness and timeliness that no MSM organization could hope to approach?

Here's where the journalist paradigm shifts. Instead of the generalist skills and attitudes that typify MSMers, consider the lawyer or engineer who has knowledge and expertise on a particular issue, committee, agency or program. Give that same lawyer or engineer the blogging skills needed to observe and post quickly, accurately and concisely and you've got yourself a new kind of journalist, my friend.

Start with this paradigm and then envision the people and resources needed to assemble a reporting staff to cover a county government or a federal agency and you begin to realize how antiquated is the MSM newsroom. It's like the difference between the lean production concept that makes mass customization possible in a Toyota or Honda factory versus the production rigidities and design inflexibility that marked Detroit's Big Three prior to the shock of the Japanese invasion of the 1970s.

I have much more to say on this score in this space in future postings. In the meantime, I would love to get some feedback. Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 21, 2005

About That Harvard Conference On Blogging, Journalism and Credibility

An august group of journalists, academics and bloggers that includes a number of Media Bloggers Association folks - Robert Cox, Dan Gillmor, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen among them - are having serious and meaningful dialogue as this is written about the relationship of blogs, the MSM and the ethics which define and govern professional conduct within, among and between each sphere. You can and should listen to as much of the conversation as possible here.

In the meantime, there has been some controversy in some quarters of the Blogosphere over various aspects of this conference. To be honest, I have not been able to follow the various threads of the controversy. I've looked over the list of participants and the schedule and I am quite impressed with it, even as I note that, like lots of others "out there," I probably could have suggested any number of alternative folks who could/should have been invited instead or in addition to those present now.

That said, I just ran across this observation on Ed Cone.com from John Robinson, editor of The Greensboro News & Record, regarding some of the issues being discussed at Harvard:

"As far as this editor of a small daily can tell, the discussion of whether to blog or not blog, whether to adopt open source journalism or to maintain a gatekeeper role is moot. The gates have been breached and no amount of workers are going to rebuild them.
"The only viable option for a news organization that values its readers time and tendencies is to go online, solicit and encourage citizen journalism, and enable the process in which citizens get the information they need to govern themselves, to paraphrase Bill Kovach.
"How? Tell the truth, be independent, be transparent, tell the truth, put your readers needs first, be proportional, tell the truth, and monitor the powerful. I didn't make that up, of course. "It's common journalistic parlance that I think Kovach and Rosenstiel articulated. (I don't have the book by my side here.) Do bloggers do that? My observation is that some do and some don't, just like some traditional newspaper journalists do and don't. (Don't get me started on broadcast journalists.)
"So, where does that leave us. You open the doors and talk to readers. They, in fact, know more than we do. I listen to the conversations around me when I'm outside of the newsroom. Do they talk about the inauguration? Hell, no. They talk about their children being transferred from Aycock to Lincoln Middle School.

"Do they talk about cancer now edging out heart attacks as the No. 1 killer? For God's sakes, no. They talk about their daughter's soccer game, the new coffee shop downtown, the best pizza in town (uh, I stole that from your wife). Imagine if they talked with the newspaper -- and by newspaper, I mean all of the platforms we use -- about that.
"Think of the value of a newspaper that talks to readers, listens to readers, lets readers in the door to tell other readers that, dammit, the best pizza is at Vito's and, by the way, did you know that Terry Grier is interviewing in Dallas? That here is this interesting plan to develop the north end of downtown? That here's the story of an American GI from Greensboro who was almost killed in Iraq, in his own words.
"News is a conversation, not a lecture. My readers know more than I do. Journalism is a function; blogging is a form.
"Look, we're going to continue to pay staff members to 'cover the community,' to monitor the powerful, to give voice to the voiceless, to shine light in dark place, to do all those things that people like me got into the business to do.

"That's journalism. That's giving citizens the information they need to self-govern. Readers are smart enough to believe us. If we're good, if we blog wisely, if we let readers in the door and help us, if we tell their stories and let them tell their stories, they will trust us. It's all good.
Everything else is BS."

I come to these matters as a newspaper journalist by profession and a blogger by choice. Whatever else he says, Robinson is precisely right that the choice of to blog or not to blog has already been made for the MSM. Open source journalism is no longer a possibility, it is becoming a reality. People in the MSM have no choice but to come to terms with the Blogosphere and all that it represents about the past and future of media.

Like Robinson notes, some bloggers do the same thing as traditional newspapers and broadcast news media - they provide information and commentary about current events and personalities. How exactly that looks when the focal point of consideration is the ethical code isn't clear yet, but the sooner bloggers recognize and embrace their opportunities and obligations as our society's principal source of news commentary and reporting the better it will be for everybody. Put simply, that means our mantra must be "get it right, now." And be prepared to accept the consequences when we get it wrong.

Thoughts on the Innauguration: Is the American Millenium At Hand?

Normally the topics addressed in this space relate directly or indirectly to the impact of the new media being generated by the Internet upon traditional media and government. But I'm going a bit "off-topic" today with some thoughts occasioned by yesterday's events on the west front of the Capitol, specifically the President's second innaugural address.

Let me say first that I consider myself a strong Bush supporter, even though he often pursues courses in regard to the public's right to know about the actions of their leaders that I find extremely troubling. That said, Bush's leadership in the war on terrorism has been magnificent and that issue trumps all else, at least for the immediate future.

Still, an unneasy thought has been in my mind since the early days of the aftermath of 9/11 and understanding it requires linking several distinct dots among the events that have dominated the previous four years.

First, there is an unstated but clear assumption to Bush's approach to domestic policy that Big Government cannot be rolled back, confronted and dissassembled or otherwise reduced by frontal assault. Even if it could be, the GOP bungled its historic opportunity to do so by failing to put real meat on the bones of the Contract with America. Not eliminating bureaucratic monstrosities like the departments of energy and education meant Big Government would be left essentially undisturbed. Letting term limits fall by the wayside assured a paucity of new blood and energy to mount fresh assaults.

In the aftermath of the failure at the core of the Contract with America, Bush's strategy appears to be not to confront it directly but rather to sow the seeds of Big Government's undermining by establishing within its major programs today principles of choice that tomorrow will eliminate the historic rationale for the current federal establishment. Presumably then the liberal state will wither away.

In healthcare, there are Health Savings Accounts. In Social Security, there are private investment accounts. In education, there is the measure of academic achievement, which sooner or later will pave the way for some form of vouchers. Bush seems to believe that whatever is required now in the way of practical political compromises to establish these approaches is justified because in the long run they will inevitably undermine the pillars of Big Government.

Put another way, today's conservative demonstration project is tomorrow's pillar of the more limited government required for the Ownership Society. The problem here is that in the meantime, Big Government goes on consuming endless resources and compromising individual liberty in every corner of our society.

Second, the Global War on Terrorism is obviously a necessary war and it is in some respects even more a struggle for our national survival than were the great crusades of World War II. This is because at least we knew where Hitler and Tojo put their forces and we could thus confront and kill them. Ditto with the Communist Empire headquartered in Moscow. As long as the Fulda Gap was secure and our Reagan-inspired resolve to win the endgame of the Cold War did not falter, America the Republic would survive.

But the GWOT is different and not simply because its distinguishing characteristic is the unmassed nature of the enemy force we confront. Whatever happens in Iraq (and I supported the invasion and continue to believe democracy is in fact possible there), we must never forget that our open borders and terrorism's ability to infiltrate our great cities poses a lethal danger with an immediacy that could never be matched no matter how many V2s Hitler might have launched against London.

I don't doubt that a military victory over the Osama bin Ladens of the world is possible, though it will require decades of expense, casualties and sacrifice. What I fear is that one of those sacrifices will in the final analysis be Republican liberty. Which brings us to the third point - the GWOT requires the temporary sacrifice of some portion of our liberties, especially in the realm of knowing what we must know to hold our governors accountable in the traditional ways. The problem is we don't know, indeed cannot know how long such sacrifices will be necessary and we thus run the risk of the temporary sacrifice becoming more or less permanent. The result of that process can only be the undermining of the Republican principle of the accountability of the governors to the governed.

This is not a new thing in history. Our founders knew full well the history of republics and how foreign wars so frequently undermined them. They read especially Thucydides and Plutarch, Seutonius and Livy, and knew the terrible toll of Athens' invasion of Sicily and Rome's victory over Carthage. Other factors were surely involved but the liberties that marked Athenian democracy and the Republic of Rome did not survive their wars of imperial conquest.

And so the question becomes are we now confronting our own Hannibal in Osama bin Laden and his legions of evil minions? Bush's clarion call yesterday that America's historic burden is to spread freedom to every corner of the earth makes that question unavoidable. Peggy Noonan's column in today's WSJ speaks of her unease with this notion. Whether she realizes or not, Noonan expresses an unease we should all be mindful of because it has deep roots in our history.

If you know the Puritans and their theology, you know they were post-millenarians. That is, they believed the Millenium would come about as God worked through righteous men in history to establish His Kingdom on Earth. Christ would return in His Second Coming at the end of the Millenium. Think Cromwell and the Protectorate of the English Civil War, with the expectation that it would endure 1,000 years and be capped by Christ's return.

It's important here to understand that the Scots-Irish Calvinists so wonderfully described by James Webb's "Born Fighting" gave us our contemporary evangelical culture, which is intrinsically pre-millenarian. That is, Christ comes back and establishes His kingdom at the outset of the Millenium, not at the end. He doesn't need men in history to do so and indeed, because of Original Sin, men cannot do it. And by the way, we evangelical descendants of our independent, hard-headed Scots-Irish ancestors don't need Big Government to tell us how to live in the meantime.

Inevitably, the Puritans' City on a Hill millenarism decayed over the years intellectually and theologically, becoming secularized by stages. What remains among our Northeastern/Blue State elites who inherited the Puritan mantle is the urge to create the beacon society. In the process, a direct line was traced from Cotton Mather through Lincoln and Wilson to FDR, the New Deal and the Great Society. Wise and virtuous men establishing the Millenium on earth. Jesus can come back, if indeed He even exists, once we have perfected the United Nations abroad and the entitlement culture at home.

Now comes Bush with a vision of democracy triumphing across the globe. I believe Bush is sincere and honest in his belief and would be aghast if he saw the potential for a triumph that required the end of the Republic and the beginning of an American Imperium. But we cannot and should not be so trusting of his successors.

Click on the headline above this posting and read Noonan's column in its entirety. She puts concrete words on the vaguely felt unease that troubles so many on the Right. Then think on these things and if you believe in the power of prayer, as I do, spend some serious time in conversation with Him about what is to be done. We are blessed and we live in perilous times.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

GM Blogs It's Small Block V-8

Thanks to blogging maestro Hugh Hewitt, you probably know GM's Bob Lutz is doing a blog now, but did you also know GM's last best hope "car guy" is not alone among GMers pounding away in the Information Reformation?

Look closely in the right hand column on Fastlane and you will notice a link to the GM Smallblock Engine Blog. For the non-auto types reading this, the small block is the long-time moniker for GM's amazing overhead valve V-8 that debuted in 1955 as a 265 cubic inch wonder of performance. In the years since, GM has produced successive versions with 283, 302, 305, 307, 327, 350, 400 and, now with the C6 Corvette, 427 cubic inches of displacement. Power has ranged from 162 horses in that first version to 500 horsepower in the new C6.

The small block V-8 has powered just about every kind of vehicle a GM division has produced since 1955 and the small block has powered more professional motorsports winners than any other design, ever. Much as I delight in the tearing sheet note of a Ferrari V-12 at full song or the incredible whine of a turbocharged CART Indycar V-8, there is nothing else in racing that sounds as good as a high-winding small block being blipped as the driver heels and toes a downshift.

Ok, Tapscott, that's enough of the racing reverie, get back to business! My initial review of the Smallblock blog is cautiously hopeful - it's commendable that GM would recognize the utility and applicability of the blog format to the legions of small block fans and users.

The fact that one of the world's most conservative and cautious corporations has taken the dive into blogging is an important milestone in the development of new media in the 21st century. But having covered the auto industry as a journalist, I have to admit retaining a lot of skepticism about how long it will be before the corporate urge to "control the message" takes over and ruins the GM blogs. Hopefully, I will be proven wrong.

Is Trouble Brewing for Rather on the Left?

Don't ever let anybody tell you Dan Rather's critics are all a bunch of Right-Wingnut bloggers running around in their PJs. Ron Rosenbaum, a columnist for the reliably lefty New York Observer, has a long letter today in which he skewers Rather for being so Nixonian about taking responsibility for the actions of his underlings. See if you can read this without wincing:

"Well, Dan this is your Moment. This is the Moment you’ll be remembered for, and so far you’ve blown it, and unless you listen to my advice, one thing you won’t be remembered for is courage.
"The way it looks now, you’ll be remembered as the craven boss who let all his underlings get fired because they went the extra mile to please you. You’ll be remembered as the Nixonian character who hid behind a screen of "My underlings made mistakes, not me; I wasn’t in on it."
"While everyone in the world knows they rushed the "story," skipped steps, rushed the verification process for the greater glory of you, Dan. What if the bloggers hadn’t blown the whistle, and you and your crew never learned how pathetically you were gamed by your "sources" ("Lucy Ramirez," come on down!)—and you succeeded in putting one over on the public? Who would be getting the credit? Mary Mapes? No it would be Dan (the President Slayer) Rather."

Ouch! Dan Rather going down in history along with Tricky Dicky? I seriously doubt that there is a sharper wound one liberal could offer another liberal.

Rosenbaum goes on at length about Rather's responsibility for the September 8 broadcast and concludes with this recommendation:

"This is what you have to do, Dan. You’ve got to go on air, let’s say at the beginning of your Evening News broadcast, and say something like this:
'While I accept the findings of the outside commission on the failings of our vetting process, I still believe the underlying facts we reported on were correct. Nonetheless, mistakes were made in the process of vetting the documents. I am responsible for what goes out over the air in my name, and I accept responsibility for those mistakes, including—and let’s stop mincing words here—passing off forged documents to the American public.
'Therefore, after thinking over the process in the last few days, I have decided to resign and to ask the network to reinstate the employees who were fired or forced to resign for mistakes that are my ultimate responsibility, because they knew I wanted this story and wanted it in too much haste.
'I have given this some thought after my initial reaction to the outside report to CBS on the matter, and I think my initial reaction was in error. I shouldn’t have defended the forged memos. Even though I believe our investigative unit was on the right track, this doesn’t excuse my having allowed an inadequately vetted report of this explosive nature to go out under my name in the midst of a Presidential campaign.
'And I realize that only a gesture such as offering my resignation might succeed in restoring the jobs and the honor of the people who essentially were fired for being loyal to me.'
"Think of it, Dan, think what a sensation it would cause! CBS would probably not go along with it, but even so, you’d be defining and framing the moment, defining and framing yourself as a brave leader who took a bullet for his crew—not one who hid behind their skirts."

Following Rosenbaum's advice wouldn't get us any closer to knowing the answer to the two most important questions raised by Rathergate - who actually created the forged documents and why doesn't CBS News pull out all the stops to find out? But it sure would give ol' Dan'l one last dramatic chance to be a man.

BTW, maybe CBS News evinces so little interest in determining the identity of the forger because CBS News already knows who produced those documents but is loathe to admit it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Scylla & Charybidis Point to More CBS/DNC Links

The communication and coordination line between CBS's Mary Mapes and the DNC/Kerry campaign is becoming clearer with each passing day. Latest here is from Scylla & Charybidis who note that CBS Rathergate reporting team included the network's senior political editor, Dottie Lynch. Lynch should be familiar to many as she is often heard on the talking heads circuit, invariably defending whatever happens to be the current liberal democrat position on the issue of the moment.

S&C includes this quote from Lynch describing her political evolution:

"From 1972 until 1985 I worked in politics as a pollster for Democratic candidates and liberal causes. Most of the candidates, most notably Presidential contenders George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy and Gary Hart, were simpatico with my liberal values and I felt somewhat fulfilled in working through them to build a better society. I had become a very ardent feminist...."

Let's see now, Chad "They better hope we don't win" Clanton is the buddy of Mapes' hubbie and makes certain Mapes is able to talk to another Kerry campaign aide, Joe Lockhart, re: Bill Burkett. And CBS's politcal news editor is a long-time DNC/liberal candidate pollster who viewed her profession through liberal millenarian lenses. But Thornburgh/Boccardi found no basis for concluding there was political bias in the September 8 Rathergate broadcast.

Here's my prediction: If we ever do find out definitively who produced the forged documents regarding the Bush service in the Texas Air National Guard, they will either be a long-time DNC/liberal activist in the Mapes constellation of friends and sources or somebody from the fever swamp left of Texas Democrats. If you are from Texas or familiar with Texas politics, as I am, you will know instantly the crowd to whom I refer in the latter link.

This probably explains why CBS has no apparent interest in discovering who slipped them forged documents. If CBS were to determine the identify and then disclose it publicly, it would provide a useful template for identifying a multifaceted network of links between the network's news operation and the world of DNC/liberal activism. And of course, the same template would likely work for ABC, NBC and CNN as well. BTW, this is not to suggest a conspiracy, bur rather to reiterate the reality of echo-chamber isolation within which the MSM operates. Put another way, the MSM desperately needs to expand its universe of news sources.

Speaking of which, since Les Moonves and the rest of CBS management has a fiduciary responsibility to CBS stockholders, aren't these people obligated to at least try to determine the identify of the forger?

Monday, January 17, 2005

God Bless TheraFlu

I'm not posting today, thanks to a week-long battle with some kind of flu bug that culminated in a rather sleepless night last night. TheraFlu does help, but it makes me so drowsy that I can't take it if there is anything on the schedule other than dozing. Today, I'm dozing.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Malkin Endures the Cost of Conviction

Columnist Michelle Malkin is a frequent guest on the talking-heads cable TV circuit these days and she never leaves any question about what she believes. Michelle expresses her views in a direct, concise and sometimes brutally honest manner.

It appears, however, that for some in the audience extremely intelligent and articulate women of Asian ethnicity are not supposed to think for themselves or talk (unless they are married to Maury Povich?). Click on the headline above and you will see the gutter-depths to which some who dislike Michelle's views will sink.

Michelle, I don't always agree with you but I always admire your guts, tenacity and toughness. You elevate the public discourse by insisting on intellectual honesty and rigor, and I promise you that there are legions of people "out there" who listen more closely when you speak. Never let the thugs silence you.

Momentum Gathering For More CBS Firings, Including Dan Rather

The New York Times is reporting this morning that CBS Chairman Les Moonves is now saying Dan Rather will remain as a "60 Minutes Wednesday" reporter as long as the show itself continues. Hmmm. That sounds like the next in a series of thinly veiled requests from CBS management that Rather retire from the network, not simply as the network's top news anchor.

Meanwhile, Fox's Eric Burns is asking why CBS is not devoting energy and resources to determining the true source of the forged National Guard memos, noting that forging federal documents is a criminal act. At one level, Burns is zeroing in on the most important issue presented for the rest of the media by Rathergate.

All media organizations - and all bloggers who comment on public policy issues and events - have a vested interest in discouraging potential sources from trying to pass-off forgeries as genuine. That means CBS is betraying everybody else in the MSM by not aggressively pursuing the identity of "Lucy Ramirez" or whoever produced the forged Naitonal Guard documents. This explains in part why some MSM notables like Al Neuharth, Gannett's retired czar, are now blasting CBS and why in the days ahead we will see more MSM figures putting distance between themselves and CBS News.

Meanwhile, the Blogosphere is chock full today of in-depth analyses of the CBS Rathergate report and its ramifications - including speculation about why somebody made it impossible to copy and paste from the web version of the report. Here are three that are most worthy of your attention: Hugh Hewitt goes after The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz and his quibbling with Newsweek's Howard Fineman over the media-as-political-party metaphor. Captain's Quarters' has a lengthy analysis as "Fallout for CBS Continues."

Finally, Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine is cranked up about the many ways in which CBS management has blown the opportunity presented by the report to begin the process of reconstructing the network's credibility. Click on the headline above and start reading at "Dan Rather: Unemployed after all?" As always, it's tough figuring out what Jeff really thinks, so read closely! :)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Just As TCD Predicted! Apple Going After Bloggers' Confidential Sources

Yesterday, I encouraged the Blogosphere to recognize the importance of journalists protecting confidential sources because the day is coming when it will be bloggers who need to protect confidential sources.

Little did I know that day is here already, courtesy of Apple Computer, which is trying to force a couple of bloggers - AppleInsider and Powerpage - to reveal who told them details about the firm's upcoming Asteroid product release. Read the Newsday story by clicking on the headline above. And thanks to Instapundit for spotlighting this turn of events in the Apple odyssey.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is taking up the legal defense of the two bloggers. Here's how EFF sees the case:

"On December 13, Apple filed suit against "Does 1-20" in a Santa Clara court. The company obtained a court order that allows it to issue subpoenas to AppleInsider and PowerPage for the names of the "Does" who allegedly leaked the information in question.
"EFF is defending the publishers against these subpoenas, arguing that the anonymity of bloggers' sources is protected by the same laws that protect sources providing information to journalists.
"'Bloggers break the news, just like journalists do. They must be able to promise confidentiality in order to maintain the free flow of information,' said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. 'Without legal protection, informants will refuse to talk to reporters, diminishing the power of the open press that is the cornerstone of a free society.'
"'I am very disappointed by Apple's behavior and its new policy of issuing legal threats to its best customers,' added Jason O'Grady, publisher of PowerPage. 'Is corporate paranoia really more important than the First Amendment?'"

I was unable to find a comment on Apple's web page, though I have to admit this was my first-ever occasion to visit that particular web site and it's quite possible I just didn't know where to look. If somebody knows the link to an official Apple response, please let me know.

Former CBS News Prez Prefers NBC, Fox; Expects Moonves to Save the Day

Former CBS News head honcho Van Gordon Sauter all but says Rather and company at Black Rock had it coming, thanks to their penchant for letting liberal slant color their news reporting. Sauter, who ran CBS News during the early days of the Reagan era, writes in today's edition of The Los Angeles Times, that in more recent years he turned off Rather and CBS, preferring instead NBC and Fox.

Sauter thinks there is a future for CBS News in a new incarnation of what it long claimed to be, an impartial reporter of the news, and he has faith that Les Mooves is the man to make that happen:

"But my guess is that CBS Chairman Les Moonves, the most effective executive in broadcasting today, will try to use the current frailty of CBS News to reshape it. The insufferable hubris and self-righteousness of the organization have been replaced by apprehension.
"Although himself a liberal, Moonves will mandate a clear and defensible center for the news organization. CBS News long has been in third place — once an intolerable position. Much of that disaffected audience must be restored if CBS News is to be resurrected. Flavored news, of the right or left, won't work. Networks must offer nonpartisan, objective news."

I don't share Sauter's optimism about Moonves or the prospects for a rebith of a Tiffany Network-kind of CBS News, but Sauter is well worth reading, which you can do by clicking on the headline above.

By the way, there have always been good people in CBS News, but their voices were hushed by the pervasive culture of liberal values defining the network's news process. Bernard Goldberg is an example of such people, as is Sauter. There will be others coming out of the woodwork in the days ahead because the Rathergate report forces a new debate about what's wrong with CBS.

Grassroots Journalism Update: J-Lab, Knight Foundation Funding Startups

Jan Schaffer's J-Lab at the University of Maryland has begun "New Voices," a grants program funded by the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation and designed to help startup grassroots journalism initiatives.

Here's how J-Lab describes New Voices:

"Over the next two years, the 'New Voices' project will help fund the start-up of 20 micro-local, news projects; support them with an educational Web site, in collaboration with the Poynter Institute’s News University; and help foster their sustainability through small second-year grants.
"Under the grant, J-Lab, a center of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, will call for proposals from nonprofit and education institutions with new ideas for distributing news and information. A national Advisory Board will award seed grants of $12,000 to $17,000 to help create new types of self-sustaining community media projects.
"The Web site will provide training in online content creation, production and revenue generation and help spread core journalism values to the new efforts.

Schaffer, who is executive director of the J-Lab, approaches the new initiative as a way of recognizing and encouraging growth in new journalism projects that help citizens keep "mainstream journalists and public officials honest' and aid 'reporting community news that falls below the radar of daily news outlets."

Along with the doings in Greensboro, The Pegasus News project in Dallas and Dan Gillmor's new grassroots journalism endeavor, the J-Lab grant program should add significant momentum to the creation of new media.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

It's Time to Shutdown the Plame "Investigation"

There is actually important news other than Rathergate today. You may recall that columnist Robert Novak disclosed in 2003 the fact that Valerie Plame, wife of Bush administration Iraq critic Joseph Wilson, was employed by the CIA. Some in the MSM subsequently got into a peculiar high dudgeon of rage against Novak, including especially the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which characterized his disclosure as "perilously close to treason."

Novak's alleged treason was the result of his supposed violation of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a federal crime to disclose the identity of an active undercover CIA agent. According to those in the MSM demanding an investigation of Novak, somebody in the Bush administration maliciously leaked Plame's employment in retaliation against Wilson for his criticism of administration Iraq policy during congressional testimony and numerous media appearances.

Wilson was a hero to many in the MSM at the time, thanks to his opposition to Bush's policies. Largely in response to demands from prominent quarters of the MSM, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was then tasked to investigate the leak to Novak. Fitzgerald has subsequently gone after journalists with an energy and audacity not seen since John Kennedy sicced his brother on the Mob.

Fitzgerald has gone to such extraordinary lengths trying to nail the leaker that he forced reporters from Newsweek and The New York Times to choose between jail and revealing a confidential source to the Special Prosecutor.

Now we learn from an op-ed in The Washington Post today by the authors of the 1982 law that there is no crime for Fitzgerald to investigate. Here's the key line from Washington, D.C. attorneys Bruce Sanford and Victoria Toensing:

"It's time for a timeout on a misguided and mechanical investigation in which there is serious doubt that a crime was even committed. Federal courts have stated that a reporter should not be subpoenaed when the testimony sought is remote from criminal conduct or when there is no compelling "government interest," i.e., no crime. As two people who drafted and negotiated the scope of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, we can tell you: The Novak column and the surrounding facts do not support evidence of criminal conduct."

But why simply have a "timeout" if there is no crime? If there is no crime, Fitzgerald's Star Chamber ought to be shut down forthwith. And the Blogosphere ought to be in the forefront of demanding that result.

Why? Because the First Amendment covers the Blogosphere just as it does the MSM and the day is coming sooner than we think when bloggers will need to protect confidential sources, too. We owe it to ourselves, friends, to get in front of this issue now. Stopping the Plame investigation is an excellent place to start doing that.

Think about it - what would you do if a zealous government prosecutor offered you the choice of revealing your source or going to jail indefinitely for contempt?

Amen, brother! Hewitt on Why Rathergate Won't Be Going Away Anytime Soon

John Ellis thinks the Blogosphere ought to pipe down on Rathergate. Hugh Hewitt - the first blogger to declare the Thorburgh/Boccardi Rathergate report a whitewash - takes exception to Ellis and explains why that report is far from the end of the controversy:

"Sorry, but the fact remains that CBS' Les Moonves proclaimed the network exonerated, Heyward and Rather are still there, the connections between Kerry HQ and Mapes are still undocumented, and the raw data isn't in the public domain. That's not an investigation, that's not even oversight. That's a long and detailed head fake leading to the dismissal of the fall gals and little else. All the condescension in the world doesn't change the reality that a whole bunch of people in and around media mistook page count for thoroughness."

Here's what Ellis said:

"The blogospehere needs to get a grip. I'm not sure which was more pathetic, bloggers posting their phone numbers for "media interviews" or all the bloviating about "whitewash" and "cover-up." Memo to bloggers: (1) we don't care if you're on TV and; (2) The report is the most scathing indictment of the standards and practices of CBS News ever published, by anyone at anytime (with the possible exception of Renata Adler's work on the Westmoreland vs. CBS case). Stop preening and stop whining."

A New MSM Obit Comes in the Wake of Rathergate, Confirms Rise of "Blogger Nation"

Newsweek's Howard Fineman says in his MSNBC.com column this morning that the party is over for the MSM because the Rathergate debacle is merely the tip of the iceberg. This is a significant not only in what it says about how the once-dominant influence of the MSM is gone but also because Fineman pinpoints the fundamental hypocrisy behind the objectivity pose from the first day Walter Cronkite editorialized against the Vietnam War.

"The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans. The problem was that, once the AMMP declared its existence by taking sides, there was no going back. A party was born," Fineman said.

That AMMP acronym means American Mainstream Media Party, Fineman's way of saying Dan Rather and the rest of the MSM's powers-that-be functioned much like a partisan political party, their claims of objectivity notwithstanding.

Fineman is not the first MSM voice to acknowledge the reality behind the objectivity claims, nor is his column today the last we are likely to hear in the wake of the Rathergate report. I think what we are now seeing is the first stage of the essential step in recovery - MSMers admitting the seriousness of the problem. You can click on the headline to this post to go to the full Fineman column.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Here's the Blogosphere's Essential Reading on Rathergate

You knew release of the CBS Rathergate report would generate an avalanche of analyses and commentary on the Blogosphere but wow! How to sort it out, right? Well, here are my recommendations of posts that are must-reads. There are more that I haven't found yet, so if you don't see one you think should be included here, please let me know.

Powerline can't resist pointing out the key role of their "The 61st Minute" posting in igniting the blog swarm that led to Rather's downfall. And you shouldn't resist reading everything those guys have posted thus far, which you can do here.

Little Green Footballs is calling the report a "greywash," not a whitewash, and hones in on what I agree is the most disturbing aspect of the whole affair, the "DNC connection."

Hugh Hewitt was the first blogger I saw yesterday to pronounce the CBS report a whitewash and his subsequent postings amount to a systematic dismembering of the grounds for taking a charitable view of the report's conclusions. Weekly Standard's Jonathan Lash puts the dismembering into a nice, neat package here.

The Professor also has an outstanding suggestion for the new CBS vice president tasked with restoring the network's credibility in news reporting. Jay Rosen of PressThink suggests making public via the internet unedited versions of all of the interviews that were done in preparation of the September 8 segment, including those that didn't ultimately contribute something seen on screen by the public.

If you can only read one blog, go to Ratherbiased.com.

But if you can only read one post, you won't do better than to go to Captain's Quarter and read this. "The Perils Of Advocacy Journalism And The Case For CBS' Bias" brings all the key facts together in the overwhelming evidence of political bias.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Powerline's CBS Analysis is Now Up!

As I suspected, Powerline's Hindrocket read the entire CBS Rathergate report before commenting. It was worth the wait, especially the discussion of Kerry aide Chad Clanton's contacts with Mary Mapes. You can click the headline above to get to Powerline. But before you do that ...

... Just for the record, Clanton is the same guy who during the campaign said of Sinclair Broadcasting that "they better hope we don't win." So now we know that while she was preparing what can only be viewed as a vicious campaign smear, CBS's Mary Mapes was talking to the very Kerry campaign aide threatening to use the power of government to shut down a media organization perceived to be an ideological opponent.

Cozy, huh! One can only wonder how loudly Mapes would scream about the First Amendment and freedom of the press if instead of Kerry's Clanton threatening to invoke the FCC to suppress a competitor, it was Ken Melman of the Bush campaign. You can read my October 2004 column on Clanton's threat here.

Anyway, here's Powerline's summary of the significance of the Mapes-Clanton connection:

"The second issue that the report fails to address is the communication and apparent coordination between 60 Minutes staff and the Kerry campaign. We now know that there was more communication than had previously been acknowledged. In addition to Mapes's famous phone call to Joe Lockhart, asking him to talk to Bill Burkett, she had several conversations with Chad Clanton, who also worked for the Kerry campaign.
"Clanton told the panel that Mapes asked him what information the Kerry campaign had gotten from other reporters about the National Guard story, and also told him about the story she was working on for 60 Minutes. So at a minimum, we know that the Kerry campaign knew about the 60 Minutes story while it was in preparation. And it is fair to assume that Clanton put the most benign interpretation on his several conversations with Mapes.
"There is obvious circumstantial evidence for coordination as well as communication, given that the DNC launched its "Fortunate Son" ad campaign, which duplicated the themes of the 60 Minutes program, the very next morning after the program aired. The Thornburgh report raises some tantalizing questions about the timing of the 60 Minutes report, but does not try to answer them.

"First, it notes that early in the summer of 2004, Mapes wrote in an email that the program would air in September--a time usually devoted to reruns. At that time, the story had not yet coalesced; how could Mapes state with such assurance when it would run?
"Then, the program was moved at the last minute from late September to September 8. The Thornburgh panel attributes the haste with which the show was put together to this schedule change, but never asks why the change was made. An obvious possibility is that 1) the show was moved up because the information being put out by the Swift Boat Vets was killing John Kerry's candidacy, and the Kerry campaign wanted the show moved up to help stem the tide; and/or 2) the show was moved to September 8 to tie in with the DNC's "Fortunate Son" ad campaign. Unfortunately, the Thornburgh group seems not to have pursued this important question.
"The relationship between the Kerry campaign and the 60 Minutes story is a subject that badly needs to be investigated, but the Thornburgh group did not pursue the issue beyond noting the communications between 60 Minutes staff and the Kerry campaign."

Are We Looking at Actual Malice?

Perhaps the most damning incident in the run-up to the September 8 "60 Minutes Wednesday" broadcast segment on President Bush's National Guard service was the telephone call from producer Mary Mapes to Kerry campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart. Yet, the CBS Report on Rathergate said it "does not believe political motivations drove the September 8 segment ..."

The panel reached that conclusion despite the fact it was "unable to resolve definitively" the utter conflict between accounts of the Lockhart call given by Mapes and executive producer Josh Howard. Mapes told the investigators Howard gave her permission to call Lockhart, even encouraged her to do so. Howard claims he told investigators he specifically warned Mapes that "it would be inappropriate to intervene with Lockhart or anyone else associated with the Kerry campaign" on behalf of Bill Burkett, Mapes' document source.

"Whether or not permission was given to Mapes, the panel finds this contact to be highly inappropriate. The September 8 segment had a strong political focus and it was to air in the middle of a hotly contested presidential campaign. While it is certainly proper to receive information from a variety of sources, this contact crossed the line as, at a minimum, it gave the appearance of a political bias and could have been perceived as a news organization's assisting a campaign as opposed to reporting a story," the report said.

So what we have here is the panel saying that, despite its own damning indictment, it can't say if the documents were fakes, the litany of violations by the veteran CBS journalists of the most basic rules of honest journalism were simply the product of competitive pressures and no political agenda was involved even though one of those CBS veterans sought to connect the source of the tainted documents with the Kerry campaign more than a month before the election.

I hate to say it, folks, but, despite producing a report that presents as damning a description of unacceptable journalism as I have ever read, former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Associated Press head Lou Boccardi failed. Makes me want to watch an old Paul Newman/Sally Field movie, "Absence of Malice," (not the "Actual Malice" I initially and ineptly posted).

And thanks to an anonymous commenter who pointed out the correct title of that Newman/Field flick. You will love how the guy who ran the "investigation" in the movie used the results of his probe far better than did Thornburgh/Boccardi in real life.

Meanwhile, the Blogosphere is ripe with reactions to the CBS report that you must read, including Hugh Hewitt, Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine and, of course, RatherBiased.com. I can't wait to read assessments from LittleGreenFootballs and Powerline, but the former site seems to be inaccessible and the latter has not yet posted.

Could This Be the Source of the "Fake but True" Rif?

One of the basic themes in the CBS Report is that the mistakes and misjudgements that resulted in Rathergate were "driven in significant part by competitive pressures" within the news industry. Much is made, too, of the fact that, while all of the principal broadcast journalists involved in producing the segment were veterans of CBS, neither the executive producer nor the senior broadcast producer "had an extensive working relationship" with anchor Dan Rather or producer Mary Mapes prior to working on the Bush national guard segment.

But both of these two possible explanations ring hollow precisely because everybody involved had worked at the highest levels of broadcast news reporting for so long. These are people who know the basic tools for qualifying a source: The person must have been in a position to have first-hand knowledge of the issue being reported and he or she must provide relevant facts that are independently verifiable by at least one other contemporary source.

But consider how the CBS Report describes why Lt. Robert Strong should not have been used in the segment attesting to the accuracy of the documents. Note that Strong appeared on camera saying the documents "are compatible with the way business was done at that time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being. I don't see anything in the documents that are discordant with what were the times, what were the situations and what were the people involved."

Here's the CBS Report's conclusion on the use of Strong: "The panel finds this use of Lt Strong's statement to be misleading. Lt. Strong told the panel that he resigned from the TexasANG in March 1972, two months before the date of the earliest Killian document used in the September 8 segment, that he had no personal knowledge of Lt. Bush's service in the TexasANG and that he did not have any personal knowledge of the documents."

In other words, Strong was useless as a source regarding the president's service in the TexasANG, and it absolutely defies logic and common sense to say Mapes and her colleagues either didn't know Strong was useless or they did know but put him in front of a camera anyway to beat the competition. It just doesn't wash.

More to come.

CBS Report Won't Say Documents Were Fake

My first scan of the report comes upon this passage in the executive summary:

"The Panel was not able to reach a definitive conclusion as to the authenticity of the Killian documents."

This is puzzling because the passage that follows begins what thus far appears to me to be a rather damning indictment:

"However, Mapes made oral and written presentations to the Panel during its investigation in an effort to demonstrate that the content of the Killian documents was in fact authentic. These presentations were done primarily by comparing the Killian documents with official Bush records to show how well she believed that the Killian documents “meshed” with the official Bush records.
"The Panel finds that the meshing analysis submitted by Mapes does not withstand scrutiny for two reasons. First, in many instances, the content of the Killian documents does not mesh well substantively with the official Bush records. Second, the Killian documents vary in significant ways from the standard format and jargon of documents issued by the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group in the early 1970s.

"Thus, the Panel believes that there remain substantial questions regarding the authenticity of the Killian documents. The Panel believes that careful reporting prior to airing the Segment should have identified these questions and, at a minimum, should have delayed the broadcast so that more reporting could be conducted."

That last observation that the broadcast at a minimum should have been delayed is a careful way of saying the principals involved in the preparation of the segment were simply irresponsible. It's a 234 page report (not counting appendices), so much more analysis is needed.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Jeff Jarvis FOIAs Feds for More Armstrong-like Deals

Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine is asking the question that ought to be the next step in the reaction to news of Armstrong Williams' sweetheart deal with the Department of Education to flak for the No Child Left Behind Act - Who else is the government buying to tout the government's agenda?

To that end, Jarvis vows to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to all agencies seeking information and documentation on all similar contracts. More specifically, he requests:

"Records of any and all advertising and/or public-relations fees to promote No Child Left Behind or any other Department of Education program or agenda. This includes payments made through an agency or directly to any media organization -- including but not limited to newspapers, magazines, TV shows, radio shows, webloggers, commentators, or spokesmen. This should include any payments made in the last four years."

Having filed more FOIA requests with federal agencies during my years as a newspaper journalist than I care to remember, I can probably predict fairly accurately what kind of responses Jeff will get to his requests. The law requires a response acknowledging receipt of the original request within 15 days. I once received such an acknowledgment more than a year after filing the original request!

That said, the FOIA can be a powerful weapon, especially when the Blogosphere discovers its potential. I say it all the time to MSM colleagues and now I say it to blog colleagues as well: If you haven't filed at least one FOIA this week, you aren't doing your job as well as you could. Maybe the Armstrong Williams/DoED deal will inspire a blog swarm of FOIAs!

If you are interested in filing an FOIA for any reason, but you don't know how to do it, go here for straightforward, easy to read explanations, including sample letters. Believe me, the process is so simple that you shouldn't need an attorney. You can also find lots of useful information on the Justice Department's FOIA office page here. And there is the web site of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which has a good FOIA section, including a handy FOIA letter generator, here.

Thanks a lot, Armstrong!

What on earth was he thinking? LaShawn Barber says it all on her blog this morning. When people ask me what I think, I'm sending them to her blog because she says it better than I can. Here's just a taste, but you should read her entire posting on the issue:

"Reinforcing the black-conservatives-are-sellouts stereotype, Williams has just handed to liberals, on a plate made of pure gold served by a well-dressed butler in a most tastefully decorated setting, enough fodder to keep them gobbling for months to come. In the aftermath of John Kerry’s demoralizing defeat in a failed bid to lead the free world, liberals have found the scandal they’ve been searching for. Thanks, Mr. Williams."

Just click on the head above and you'll go to LaShawn's blog, which after reading you probably will want to add to your daily reading list.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Victim or Perpetrator? About the CBS Rathergate Report

Lots of commentary today in the Blogosphere about that upcoming Thornburgh/Boccardi report for CBS on Rathergate. Frankly, I've never expected the report to be of much value for the simple reason that it was commissioned by the very people whose actions are under review. Sort of like a defendant being allowed to select the witnesses who testify against him in court.

The best analysis I've seen is that of Powerline's Hindrocket, who among much else offers this trenchant observation:

"The fundamental question here is whether CBS was the victim of a hoax, or the perpetrator of a hoax. It has been our view for a long time that Rather and his colleagues were perpetrators, not victims, in part because the documents were such obvious fakes that it strains credulity to suppose that they were actually fooled. When you read the Thornburgh/Boccardi report, keep that question constantly in mind: victim, or perpetrator?"

Excellent advice. You should read the entire post in which that advice is contained, if you haven't already. Just click on the headline above this post to go to Powerline.

Also worth reading is Hugh Hewitt's memo earlier this week to CBS, the last line of which ought to be (but probably isn't) burned into the newsroom culture throughout the MSM by now:

"Release a draft of the Rathergate report to a half-dozen bloggers for pre-publication comment (on the condition that they not comment on the report until it is released. The right list will produce honorable people who will abide by the embargo.) At a minimum, run any paragraph mentioning a blogger past that blogger for vetting.
"Receive their comments and publish them along with the report, along with responses. Don't pretend that the bloggers that humbled Rather and CBS don't exist.
"The new medium brought you low. Try to figure out how to at least engage it. Be sure as well to e-mail the report to every major blogger the moment of its release, and to make it available on the web, and not just in PDF format.
"This will be among the most scrutinized documents ever. Don't expect any error to be overlooked."

More useful insight from Scylla & Charybdis on some of the legal implications that may stem from the report. And lots of good stuff at RatherBiased.com, too, as you would expect.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Here's the real Backstory in Greensboro: The Rhinoceros Times

The Greensboro News & Record and its editor, John Robinson, are receiving boatloads of much-deserved attention and praise in the media industry this week, thanks to the decision to move the North Carolina daily into the Blog age. You can read the plan here, and you should also read Robinson's blog and the Professor's extensive coverage at PressThink here.

But as I predicted yesterday, there is more to this story than simply an adventurous MSM editor bravely venturing forth against all obstacles to move his archaic print daily into the new world of online media. Something else has been happenning in Greensboro for several years that helps put The News & Record's ambitious plan into a more complete context.

It's The Rhinoceros Times and its online edition at rhinotimes.com, which you can see simply by clicking on the head to this posting. I asked Rhino publisher William Hammer about The News & Record's plans yesterday and here is what he said this morning in reply:

"Regarding your question of whether our free weekly newspaper The Rhinoceros Times has had any editorial influence on the monopolistic daily newspaper, The Greensboro News & Record and its new plan to be the hippest thing on the web with editorial blogs, I am biased but I think we definitely have. The key is readership. Readership is the lifeblood of any publication, including blogs, and the News & Record is having problems with declining readership.

"Consider this: Here in Guilford County, the main weekday news section of The News & Record over five issues will reach 36.7 percent of the 25-49 year olds. In that same demographic category, the four issue cumulative readership of The Rhinoceros Times is 40.4 percent. We are reaching 3.7 percent more of these readers than The News & Record’s best-read weekday section.

"This 25-49 category is extremely vital to advertisers, but readership dominance of The Rhinoceros Times is even greater in the 18-24 year olds category. The News & Record's weekday A-section reaches only 10.7 percent of these young Guilford County adults. The Rhinoceros Times readership in this same hard to reach category is an astounding 33.6 percent.

"We are reaching 3 times the number of young people as The News & Record’s A-section. These readership numbers come from an independent accredited media rating company, International Demographics of Houston Texas (The Media Audit Program & Report Guilford County, NC Jun-Aug 2004). The News & Record used this same company’s reports for years, so there should be no question about the source of the data.

"This is a huge problem for The News & Record, particularly because advertising rates in The Rhinoceros Times are a fraction of the rates in the News & Record and eventually revenue follows readership. So the editors at The News & Record must be asking themselves, or are surely being asked by their publisher how The Rhinoceros Times with an editorial staff of three can be beating them in readership with their monstrous staff.

"Perhaps the editors have finally realized that it is due in part to their stiff and stodgy editorial style and a policy of discouraging readership participation. Of course, The News & Record’s extreme left-wing bias doesn’t help. It now appears that The News & Record is experimenting with a Rhinoceros Times-style on the Internet.

"The Rhinoceros Times was launched in Greensboro, NC in 1991 as a free distribution weekly with a cutting edge, irreverent editorial style and unapologetic conservative outlook. One of our tag lines is 'We make conservatism cool,' and has from the beginning had an unusual interactive approach.

"Every week we print over one hundred transcribed phone calls, essentially phone blogs called in from readers and we have a policy of printing letters to the editor of almost any length, often without attribution. The News & Record will only print signed letters of 200 words or less. The Rhinoceros Times truly is the interactive town square that The News & Record wants to become. Our editorial model is more similar to many blogs than to a traditional newspaper and it is an editorial model we are having success with in other markets.

"Our editor, my brother, John Hammer is showing The News & Record every week how to create an intense, passionate, and fun publication and their editors are clearly paying attention, but are struggling with duplicating a Rhino Times-style. (It is fun to watch them try; sort of like a dinosaur taking ballet lessons.)

"The News & Record can afford to experiment with the website because as of yet the revenue is miniscule relative to their daily hardcopy publication. That will eventually change. But whether this online experiment will lead The News & Record to abandon the ridiculous notion of unbiased journalism and embrace a more honest and more blog-like approach to journalism is yet to be seen. "

I've been following for a couple of years developments with Rhino and the sprinkling of other explicitly conservative online media efforts like The Leader in Illinois, The Texas Insider , MichNews.com in Michigan and The Carolina Journal. These typically combine varying mixes of aggressive reporting, original commentary and links to other media, focusing on local or state government and guided by openly acknowledged principles. These publications are examples of one of the many directions in which the new media inspired by the internet are moving.

Like them or not (whether you do is probably mostly governed by your particular political perspective), conservative online media like The Rhinoceros Times and The Illinois Leader are having a significant (even if mostly unacknowledged) impact on the MSM and helping shape the new media in important ways, so they merit more attention than they have heretofore received from the media "experts" among us.

There are also undoubtedly numerous examples out there of similar online publications governed by liberal perspectives. I'd love to hear from you if you know of or are associated with such publications, regardless of ideological perspective. It's all part of the Information Reformation.