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Saturday, April 30, 2005

TCD IS BACK! And Here is The First Thing That Caught My Eye While Trying To Catch Up

Jeff Jarvis likes Craig Newmark's adaption of the American Idol concept to advertising, but, not surprisingly, Jeff also has an even better idea:

"Craig Newmark has a change-the-rules idea the new Current.TV: Let the audience vote off the worst commercials.
"I like that: Sponsors would know the rules when they advertise and would operate under fear of being voted off, so they would improve their commercials. But it's so, well, negative. How about a more aggressive scheme:
"How about having a contest for the best commercials, products, and brands on the network. Make it a game. Hire the Simon Cowell (or Bob Garfield) of the people to slam the spam. Have the sponsors compete for our affection.
"Everybody wins:"

You have to follow the link to BuzzMachine to see what Jeff wrote after the colon. And it is worth going there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


It being our 10th anniversary, my sweet wife and I will be celebrating at an undisclosed location for the next week or so, which means no posting till May 1. In the meantime, ya'll all have a great week!

Monday, April 18, 2005

E&P Says Something is Up With The Los Angeles Times, Reporter Eric Slater

Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp reports that an announcement regarding reporter Eric Slater of The Los Angeles Times is coming sometime later this week. Times spokesmen and editors refuse to say anything more other than something is about to be made public.

That approach guarantees a maximum of uninformed speculation in the Times newsroom, as well as in every other major MSM newsroom and across the Blogosphere. Strupp explains why Slater is at the center of this episode:

"A March 29 story Slater wrote about the death of a college student in Chico, Calif., drew complaints and accusations of poor reporting, questionable sources, and factual errors.Slater's story had followed up on the February death of Matthew Carrington, a student at California State University, Chico, who had died after a hazing ritual that included drinking up to five gallons of water.
"In a March 31 correction, the Times apologized for a string of errors in the story, including mistakenly reporting that a fraternity pledge at a nearby community college had died of alcohol poisoning when he was only hospitalized, and that the city of Chico has a population of 35,000 when it is really 71,317."

But that correction was not the end of problems with Slater's reporting, as Strupp further explains:

"The problems did not end there. Observers ranging from Zingg to editors at the local Chico Enterprise-Record to LAObseved.com, a media watchdog site, have spent the past few weeks hammering at the Times and Slater.
"Those and others have questioned whether students quoted anonymously actually existed and raised questions about whether he was ever at the Chico campus, which has more than 15,000 students.
"'If he was here, he didn't do much reporting,' Chico State journalism professor Glen Beske told the San Francisco Chronicle for Saturday's paper."

Why is the list of MSM journos getting caught up in such controversies growing at such a steady pace?

UPDATE: The Times confirmed it yesterday, announcing that Slater has been fired as a result of specific errors of fact and sources whose existence could not be confirmed in his reporting. This parade of Jason Blairs at major MSM dailies is beginning to look like the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Here's E&P's report.

But here's something to think about: Think Rathergate, exploding pickup trucks and Audi 5000 unintended acceleration. How many "news" segments reported by Jason Blair types have appeared on broadcast news over the years?

Where Do We Find Men Like Captain Waskow: Ernie Pyle 60 Years Ago Today

Legendary war correspondent Ernie Pyle died 60 years ago today. Here is one of his best-remembered columns, but it is only one from a body of reportorial work that will stand out decades from now.

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin for reminding us.

MSM's Pro-Govt. Reporting Hurts Circulation, Encourages Narrowly Focused Reporting

Jon Ham was managing editor of the Durham Herald-Sun for 15 years and swears he was not the cause of his paper's circulation decline during the period. Ham's paper was far from unique in suffering declining circulation. The Los Angeles Times has lost six percent or more than 50,000 paid subscribers just in the first quarter of 2005.

Ham thinks he knows one of the least-discussed reasons why dailies are declining - newsroom myopia. Most MSM editors and reporters have a presumption in favor of government programs and believe those programs are actually solving our society's major problems. Unfortunately for the MSM, that fascination is at odds with both reality - no government program is succeeding in solving any of our major social problems - and with the interests of most normal people.

The result is dailies that devote too much attention covering things readers don't care about or don't think are as important as a lot of other issues and events:

"You’ve all seen them, especially around the holidays. Editors seem to think this activity is the essence of American life. Except for the advertising, a newspaper reader from another planet would never know there was a private sector. Editorial content is skewed heavily toward the activities of the welfare state because that’s the sector that reporters and editors identify with.
"Unfortunately for newspapers, most people have nothing to do with the welfare state and its many mechanisms, except for funding it with their tax dollars. The private sector is where they live.
"They go to work, raise their kids, pay their taxes and don’t ask anything from the government except for national defense, good schools, garbage pickup, water and sewer hookups and effective police protection. They don’t want to be hit over the head with stories designed to make them feel guilty for not needing government welfare."

Having spent more than a few years as a managing editor myself, I can attest to the accuracy of Ham's observation, at least within my own realm of experience. I realized this preoccupation and its effect on journalists' perception of what is news when a couple of reporters suggested in a morning news meeting that since it was the anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision we should interview "pro-choice advocates on how much better it is now that women don't have to get back-alley abortions."

There was a stunned silence when I responded by suggesting that we should also interview women and men who have had to undergo post-abortion counseling to deal with guilt and post-abortion medical care to deal with health complications. None of the reporters even knew such people existed.

The same sort of ignorance that there might actually be a contrary view was often expressed whenever a news story was proposed on some aspect of the welfare state's local manifestation and I required the reporter involved to seek out experts with alternative views.

Ham had the same exerience because he describes it so well:

"Newspaper reporters and editors have always covered the public sector. But while they used to cover it as a preventative to corruption and abuse of power, they now cover it as a partner in the effort to get government more involved in people’s lives. Implicit in government coverage these days are that non-defense government programs are good and the more people are attached to some government program, the better society will be.
"Just look at your local paper. Most stories about government programs are reported on in glowing terms. Grateful recipients of public largesse are interviewed and tell how good it is that taxpayers are paying for the program. And to head off any future effort to cut the program, the recipient or the program director predicts dire consequences for the community should the program ever be discontinued.
"Reporters and editors love these stories. They play into the standard journalism template that the private sector has questionable motives, i.e., profit, whereas the public sector’s motives are pure, i.e., altruistic. Often ignored in reporting is the view that it’s easy to be altruistic with other people’s money, which is all the government has at its disposal."

You can read Ham's complete piece here at the Carolina Journal, of which he is now the publisher.

Speaking of Talking (On Radio, Internet, etc.)

Democracy Project's Win Myers has a great analysis of why liberal Talk Radio has failed to generate significant audience share outside of the bluest of blue areas. Along the way, Myers offers this analytical gem:

"Conservative elites aside, it's the conservative base that makes up the bulk of take radio's audience. And these folks, after all, are always the target of the liberal elite's scorn. It's the latter who cling to the hope that they're the natural aristocracy. Born superior, they should rule by default. It's this sense of privilege that, in their eyes at least, allows them to substitute attitude for argument, posturing for thinking. Put simply: any movement whose intellectual elite includes Michael Moore and Jimmy Carter is in deep trouble precisely because of its shallow nature."

Put another way, it's hard to get folks to follow you when you keep telling them how stupid they are for following somebody else.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

WHAT IS GOING ON AT: The Boston Globe?

We've all seen stories and photos of those cruel seal hunters braining helpless baby seals. Some people even see those stories when they don't happen. Where do we find such people? No, not in an institution, at least not that kind of institution. How about The Boston Globe? Yes, the one owned by The New York Times.

Michelle Malkin - who was absolutely superb filling in for Sean Hannity Friday night, especially in the moment at the end of the show as she gazed back at the babbling Combs with a look of utter pity - not only has the details on the Globe's apparent hiring of Jayson Blair, but a handy list of similar episodes from throughout the MSM in recent years as well.

BTW, the "What is Going on At:" hedder has heretofore been reserved for the AP, but the way things are going elsewhere in the MSM, it looks likely to be used with many of the wire service's clients.

MEMO TO MSM: Get it Right and Stop Referring to Eric Rudolph as a 'Christian'

Confessed Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph is being called a "Christian" in the MSM largely as a result of ignorance. Rudolph is connected to the outfit that calls itself "Christian Identity." These folks believe the lost tribes of Israel went to Britain and were preached to by Christ, who vacationed on the island during those adolescent years that are not described in the New Testament. Ergo: the only people going to heaven are whites descended from the lost tribles in Britain.

Of this, Doubletoothpicks observes:
"'Christian Identity' makes a mockery of the best-known verse in the New Testament, John 3:16: 'For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.'
"It dismisses Revelation 5:9's description of Christ: 'For Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'
"Christian Identity, in short, denies Christ and His mission.
"Eric Rudolph is a member of an anti-Christian group with 'Christian' in its name."

So when is the MSM going to get this right?

Training MSMers to be Bloggers Can be Tough. Just Ask the Spokesman-Review.com

Just ask Ken Sands, who runs the Spokane Spokesman-Review's online operation. Better yet, go to the Morph blog of API's Media Center and read Sands' observations about what it takes to make an MSMer into a successful blogger.

And it can be done, as Sands points to such success stories as Dan Webster's "Movies & More," which attracts more than 6,000 page views per day and D.F. Olivieria's "Huckleberries Online," which attracts more than 4,000 page views per day.

Sands also offers this intriquing observation: "It might be easier to train a blogger how to be a good journalist than to train a journalist how to be a good blogger."

You can read the whole Morph here.

WSJ.com Looks Like a Successful Online News Business Model to Me!

For years, just about everybody and anybody thinking about and working in online news and the MSM has been trying to figure out an "economic model that works." How do you move news and advertising from the dead trees to the Internet?

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal made the decision early on to do what nobody thought was possible - charge people to read the online edition. Literally no other MSM or Internet-based news operation has been successful with the subscription strategy on a mass basis. So why has it worked so well that WSJ.com now has more subscribers than the dead tree edition?

The Professor has a lengthy interview up with WSJ.com managing editor Bill Grueskin that is chock full of insights, common sense and points worth pondering. Consider just this sample in an exchange regarding Grueskin's observation that online success requires knowing who you think your readers ought to be, not just who they are, but not forgetting who your dead tree readers are, either:

"Bill Grueskin: You're right. The 'balancing act' approach disappoints new online readers and fails to excite print readers making the transition. So you have to come up with a new language of journalism, with traditional roots in our standards, but that treats online like the revolutionary medium that it is. And then you have to hammer it home with your staff.
"Here's a real-time example. I'm writing this response at 2 pm on a Friday, April 8th. The best-read story on WSJ.com at the moment is an exclusive Page One Journal piece about how Warren Buffett provided a key tip in the AIG investigation.

"Down the list a bit is the Online Journal's latest survey of nearly 60 economists; it includes an interactive graphic and tons of downloadable data. Next is a richly reported story from the paper about a Wal-Mart executive fired for allgedly defrauding his firm.
"Then comes an online-only column by Carl Bialik, WSJ.com's "Numbers Guy" who looks at how US News' new law-school rankings could affect minority admissions.
"That, to me, is a perfect most-popular list. Our readers are clicking back and forth between print stories that showcase the best of the Journal and online columns and graphics that make the most of the medium.
"Jay Rosen: It almost sounds like you're talking about just-in-time journalism.
"Bill Grueskin: Here's another example, this one from a Wednesday morning last February: Hewlett-Packard announces that it has asked CEO Carly Fiorina to resign. This is a huge story for WSJ.com: H-P is high-tech, Fiorina is high-profile, and most importantly, the news breaks after the morning's paper.

"Our newsroom goes all out, blending reporting from Journal reporters, Dow Jones newswire staff and our own people, updating the main story 15 to 20 times that day before the paper’s final Page One piece comes in late that night.
"A few days later, I looked at the total traffic to the main story, from Wednesday morning until Thursday night. It turns out that about 75% of the traffic came during Wednesday. By Thursday, when the paper's story appeared in its full form, most of our readers had moved on."

The Professor's observation that what Grueskin describes sounds almost like "just-in-time journalism" is an allusion to the automotive production strategy perfected by Toyota in which suppliers are required to provide parts "just-in-time" to allow the factory to build cars and trucks that customers order without having to maintain an incredibly inefficient and expensive warehouse onsite. The customer orders are constantly updated, so that the flow of parts is constantly changing, which means the suppliers and the factory must constantly adjust to the pull-demand from customers, not push-demand one-size-fits-all products.

It's not an exact analogy but it's good enough. The point is that online news must always be current and it must always be available when the customer wants it, not when the provider wants to provide it. The Internet makes that possible, but it also requires building a completely new newsroom culture that retains the traditional skills required to be accurate as well as new skills to be timely.

It's a lengthy interview and the Professor's usual format includes a wealth of "After Matter" that is as interesting and useful as the interview itself. Don't miss it.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Are We to be Present at the Creation of Mary Mapes Churchill? Or Mary, Queen of Snots?

The Anchoress has excerpts. Hat Tip to Instapundit who thinks the excerpts are genuine.

What is the Connection Between Faith in America and Filibusters in the U.S. Senate?

Stones Cry Out has an interesting take and additional observations on the Family Research Council's "Justice Sunday" program April 24.

Justice Sunday is an attempt by FRC to make clear to America's evangelical pentacostal and fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics that there is a critical faith component to the Senate debate on the Democrats' use of an extra-constitutional super-majority as an obstruction to Bush judicial nominees.

The organizers hope the result will be a massive expression of public support for the so-called "nuclear option" Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been fitfully threatening to use since January to force up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.

Among the featured speakers will be FRC president Tony Perkins, Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson, Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson and Frist. If advance registration is heavy, don't be surprised for other GOP and conservative movement politicos to appear on the program, or try to anyway.

Here's how FRC describes the need for Justice Sunday:
"For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.
"Federal judges have systematically grabbed power, usurping the constitutional authority that resides in the other two branches of government and, ultimately, in the American people.
"We now have a President who is committed to nominate judicial candidates who are not activists, but strict constructionists -- judges who will simply interpret the Constitution as it was written.
"We now have a majority in the U.S. Senate that will confirm these nominees. However, there is a radical minority that has launched an unprecedented filibuster against these outstanding men and women.
"Many of these nominees to the all-important appellate court level are being blocked, not because they haven't paid their taxes or because they have used drugs or because they have criminal records or for any other reason that would disqualify them from public service; rather, they are being blocked because they are people of faith and moral conviction.
"These are people whose only offense is to say that abortion is wrong or that marriage should be between one man and one woman."

The way the Democrat minority is able to impose a super-majority requirement on confirmation of judicial appointees is simple: By threatening to filibuster any nominee and thus requiring that nominee to have at least 60 votes - a super-majority - for confirmation. Under Senate rules promulgated when Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, was Majority Leader, any senator can filibuster and the filibuster can only be broken when 60 senators agree to do so.

But here's the two-fold catch for the Democrats claim they are only using a time-honored parliamentary procedure in the filibuster. First, before the present debate, the filibuster was never used against a presidential nominee. It is most commonly associated with efforts such as those of Southern Democrats to frustrate passage of civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s.

Second, there are seven supermajority requirements in the Constitution. None concern presidential nominees and Senate votes.

Notes Stones Cry Out:
"While Frist’s decision to use the faith card is by no means the threat to the republic that Chuck Schumer and others claim, it is nonetheless a risky calculation. It may help focus the attention of Christian conservatives on the filibuster issue, but if the concentrated power of the Christian lobby is defeated here, it may embolden those who seek to discredit the newly realized power of the movement."

Of course, losing is always a potential downside of taking a risk, especially in politics. But the worst outcome comes from doing nothing, which is esentially what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, has been doing on this issue for the past three months. Do nothing and the Democrats succeed on two levels: They effectively bar any presidential nominee they choose to bar and the expose yet again the sorry fact that too many Senate Republicans are scared to death of making Senate Democrats angry.

Here's my prediction: MSM coverage of Justice Sunday will either be sparse or condescending, or both. Blogosphere coverage on the Left and Right will be diverse, comprehensive, informative and most of all impassioned. And the MSM wonders why it has lost credibility and readers?

There is another possibly even more significant angle to Justice Sunday. Note that it is being simulcast on the Internet and via satelite. (For information on participating, go here.) To my knowledge, it is not being broadcast live or delayed by any of the networks or cable outlets.

So this will be strictly an Internet/New Media event. If FRC succeeds in mobilizing an effective force on the issue, there will no longer be any doubt that the MSM can indeed by circumvented by a coalition of advocacy groups. It will also spark numerous imitators on the Left and Right, and could lead to the creation of a whole new genre of public lobbying. There are undoubtedly additional implications of a successful Justice Sunday, but we'll leave for another day that analysis.

Conversely, if Justice Sunday comes and goes with little or no impact beyond its participants, the MSM's attitude towards Christian political activists will harden and grow more explicitly arrogant. Which will only drive the former to work harder to find more successful ways around the latter.

On the Left side of the Blogsophere, the reaction is mixed, ranging from mere opprobrium to much worse. Eschaton, for example, says Justice Sunday participants "hate the Constitution. They hate everything, everything that we were taught (back in the day at least) that is supposed to be great about this country."

And Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall adds this contribution to the civility of American public discourse by calling Justice Sunday "sick, dark and demented." Marshall adds this: "I don't know which is more amusing -- the wingnut jihad against a federal judiciary that is already predominantly Republican or the fact that the intellectual and often literal descendents of the upholders of Jim Crow now seek to enlist the dark legacy of segregation as some sort of arrow in their rhetorical quiver."

This is going to be fascinating to watch regardless of the outcome.

UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini asks some hard questions for Left critics of Justice Sunday and all other manifestations of Christians exercising their First Amendment rights:
"What is it about politically-oriented Christians that elicits this peculiar line of attack? Why is it that so many believe that people of faith must be especially circumspect in how they express their views as compared with others?
"How can it be that once can "impose a theocracy" simply by speaking out? How come frankly stating one's beliefs is a healthy part of the public debate if you're anti-war, or pro-gun, or anti-death penalty, but if that belief has to do with the divinity of Jesus Christ, you are "imposing" your views and you must be silenced?
"Those who think that a couple of references to God will uniquely corrupt the body politic must have incredibly fickle minds."

It's because these questions are so obvious and yet the critics of the Religious Right refuse to answer them that it is so difficult to avoid concluding that the Left simply seeks to silence its opposition. Which is another way of saying the Left wants the First Amendment only for itself.

Bush White House Gives 1965 Response to 2005 Armstrong Williams Issue at DoED

The Culture of Government in Washington, D.C. is so slow to catch up with the real world beyond the Beltway. Michelle Malkin notes that the Bush White House is refusing to allow current and former Department of Education officials to talk about the hiring of Armstrong Williams.

It makes absolutely no difference that the administration has the law on its side in matters like this. In 1965, when Washington wanted to keep something behind closed doors it was easy because the MSM was for the most part willing to abide just about anything in the interest of advancing the New Frontier/Great Society.

In 2005, there is no way to keep something behind closed doors for long. If it is damaging to Republicans, odds are good the MSM and the Left side of the Blogosphere will find it sooner or later. If it is damaging to the Democrats, odds are good Talk Radio and the Right side of the Blogosphere will find it sooner or later.

Bottom line: Trust is earned through transparency. Distrust is earned through evasion. When is Washington going to get this?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Is the First Amendment Being Hijacked by the Mainstream Media?

Intriquing title, right? It's the title on Chicago Tribune Public Editor Don Wycliff's column on journalists' image with the American public and the connection therein to the emerging debate on a proposed federal shield law introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year by Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, and a number of co-sponsors.

I was initially quite enthusiastic about the Pence proposal because it addresses a problem highlighted by the plight of two reporters facing jail time. This is simply because they refuse to reveal sources requested by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the Valerie Plame case. It seems clear now that no crime was involved in that situation and the justification for the whole investigation has vanished. But the reporters still face the jail time because Fitzgerald wants to muck around in their contact files on other matters.

I believe strongly that journalists - who represent the people and enable much of the accountability that distinguishes democracy from every other form of government - should have a right to protect confidential sources except in those extraordinarily rare cases in which there is no doubt that either national security is at stake or a serious crime has been committed and the authorities have no reasonable alternative to solving it without recourse to knowing a source.

There are shield laws of varying depth and strength in 30 states, but none at the federal level, though, the U.S. Supreme Court has said journalists should have a qualified right to protect sources.

But I am beginning to wonder if the necessity of government defining who is and who's not a journalist is simply too fraught with risks to justify. Wycliff has made that argument in the past and now makes another good point:

"Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, tells a revealing anecdote about a recent conversation with a colleague during a morning workout in the Senate gym. A campaigner for openness in government, Cornyn was trying to interest a fellow senator in legislation that he was sponsoring along with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT.
"The colleague indicated his lack of interest by saying, according to Cornyn, 'That's just a press issue.' How do you spell kiss of death?"

Put another way, the arrogance and abuses of the franchise granted by the First Amendment to the MSM during the past several decades are catching up with journalists. We've become so unpopular that growing legions of people react with enthusiasm at the prospect of government imposing more restrictions on the media.

This is not simply a matter of blaming the victim for the crime. People within and without the MSM have been warning for years that this would happen if the bias, arrogance and elitism of so much coverage was not eliminated.

Tragically, too many in the MSM don't understand that they can be, they are being replaced by Internet-based media. People who read newspapers every day for years don't simply stop wanting news; they go elsewhere and find it when the paper no longer delivers the goods. Journalism goes on in America with or without The New York Times/The Washington Post/CBS News/etc./etc. as they have been known for so long. The news will be reported, just not by the MSM any more.

So not only does the MSM now face a lethal challenge from Internet-based media for its future audience and advertising revenue, it also must find a way to of winning back the trust of the American people and renew their understanding that it is their right to a free and independent press that is violated whenever government bureaucrats and elected officials thumb their noses at the public's right to know how its business is being conducted.

UPDATE: Chris Daly has a history lesson of relevance here, the major point of which is this:

"Common Sense and other pamphlets like it were precisely the kind of political journalism that Jefferson had in mind when he insisted on a constitutional amendment in 1790 to protect press freedom -- anonymous, highly opinionated writing from diverse, independent sources.
"In historical terms, today's bloggers are much closer in spirit to the Revolutionary-era pamphleteers than today's giant, conglomerate mainstream media. On those grounds, blogs deserve the full constitutional blessings that the First Amendment guarantees.
"But that is not to say that bloggers have carte blanche. It is important to remember that the First Amendment is a limit on the government's power to impose prior restraint -- that is, to prevent ideas from reaching the public by shutting down a newspaper before publication.
"It has always left journalists open to consequences that might arise after publication -- such as being sued for libel or being ordered by a judge to reveal a confidential source.
"It is clear that bloggers enjoy First Amendment rights, which are strongest at protecting opinions.
"It is less clear that they should be entitled to the protections of all the other laws that have been passed since the Founding that affect journalists.
"Consider, for example, the state and federal "shield laws," which in general allow journalists to protect confidential sources, as in the Apple case. Many bloggers say they should be covered by those laws.
"Here again, history offers a guide. Most laws protecting journalists are much newer than the First Amendment. They were passed in recent decades in order to protect and foster a specific activity called reporting.
"What we think of as reporting -- the pursuit, on a full-time basis, of verifiable facts and verbatim quotations -- was not a significant part of journalism in the time of Jefferson and Paine. In fact, the practice of reporting began around 1833 in New York's "penny papers" and gradually spread during the 19th Century."

Is there a significant distinction to be made between a "journalist" who conveys facts and opinions about those facts and a "reporter" who simply collects facts and the thoughts of others about those facts, all for consumption by the public or some portion thereof?

I don't think so, but what do you think?

BTW, Daly is a professor of journalism at Boston University. He is writing a book, "Covering America," on the history of U.S. journalism. He can be reached at: cdaly@bu.edu.

Now the MSM Joins the Side of the Angels in Apple Case, But There is More at Stake

There are new developments in Apple's mis-guided suit against some bloggers, a case which could prove to be a landmark case in the development of reasonable media law precedent for bloggers.

Dan Gillmor has an important observation occasioned by the case, and it is one in which I increasingly share:

"The question of who is a journalist has been basically taken off the table in this case, given the judge's initial ruling that dodged the issue. Now it's about whether any journalist can write or broadcast about something Apple or any company has deemed a trade secret.
"Big journalism organizations are on the case now -- late to the party, I note, having ignored it earlier -- because their own interests have been threatened.
"I'm uncomfortable with the "who's a journalist" question, and am still working on what I think. It's clear to me that we need to separate the who from the what -- that is, we need to protect people who are doing the deed of journalism, as opposed to naming the people we are calling journalists; this is the only sensible approach, if we're going to protect journalism and the public good, in a world where anyone can be a journalist at one time or another."

My initial reaction was to cheer the proposals in Congress to enact a national shield law for journalists. But this observation by Dan, Amy Ridenour's trenchant discussion of the issue earlier this year and comments I've heard from others I respect are making me re-think that support. Not that anybody important cares what I think, but for the record, I am re-thinking the issue.

A 'Chilling Moment' at ASNE Conference

Jeff Jarvis calls it a "chilling moment." Tim Porter calls it "a telling moment."

I call it just about what you expect from a roomful of MSM editors being harrassed on one side to cut costs AGAIN so the corporate owners can make more dough and on the other trying to figure out how on earth he or she can put out a daily newspaper that somebody, anybody, please will read, despite not having enough people in the newsroom to do it "right."

Jarvis and Porter both offer a wealth of valuable insights on much of what happened at ASNE this year. Reading it all makes me wonder if perhaps future historians of journalism might not see this year as a turning point - one way or the other - for the MSM. Anyway, you should read Jeff's illuminating post here, then go to Tim's site here. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with both sites.

And while you are on Tim's site, do not fail to follow the links to his "Six Things That Should Be On The Agenda," which he wrote a week or so before the ASNE convenes. Or just click here. If you love newspapers and journalism, you will copy those six items and send them to every journalist you know.

UPDATE: Dan Gillmor wonders how many railroad execs in 1908 would have recognized a photo of ?

Ditch the Wire, Lose the National/Foreign Stuff. Just Do Local News and Survive?

Jeff Jarvis sums up the most important task facing the MSM newspapers with this statement: "We need to stimulate radical discussion of radical new views to rethink this business before it's rethought without us." He makes that statement in the midst of an intriquing post inspired by Rupert Murdoch's ASNE speech Wednesday.

Jarvis proposes the possibility of a new business model for newspapers that intend to survive in the Internet era - cut out everything except the core franchise of local news. (That roar you may hear in the background is from the National Newspaper Association chanting "We told you so!). Lose Sports, lose Business, lose National News, lose the foreign desk and stop wasting money trying to persuade people that chicken tastes differnt in Philly than it does in Peoria.

Then comes the hard part and the opportunity succeeding will create:
"And what are you left with in this exercise? You are left with your core value: local news. That's not a commodity. That's a uniqe value. And that's the point.
"So now take some of your savings -- net savings after, yes, you do lose some sports fans and elderly mutual-fund owners -- and plow it into reporting. But find new and efficient ways to get more local news:

"Harness the power of your public and get news and information from new sources that you help support with information, promotion, training, trust, and most of all revenue. Pay the person who covers the school board if the audience agrees it's valuable. Become the meeting place , as Hugh McLeod says, for everything local, all the news that matters to you -- and the conversation about it.
"Become a better local news operation than you've ever been with more news and more reporting and more engagement from the public you serve.
"I'd argue that you could cut all that stuff out of the old, one-size-fits-all paper and even raise your price because it would be unique and valuable.
"Then you could ask the next question: Do you still want to print it on paper? For now, yes, because advertisers are slow to adapt and so there's still more money in print. But the public is not slow to adapt, so you must adapt to them and give them this valuable local news where, how, and when they want it; don't be limited by the press and its schedule."

Frankly, I think local Sports is intrinsic to the Local News Beat generally, just as much as the schools and transportation beats are, particularly in the suburbs. But Jeff's basic point is spot-on - survival means being willing to rethink everything. Because everything is literally at stake for the daily newspaper we all once knew and loved.

Don't Miss Captain Ed's Letter of the Week

Captain's Quarters gets some, uh, interesting letters from time to time. So, putting the maxim about turning lemons into lemonade into action, the Captain has begun sharing the Letter of the Week. He's got a live one this week.

We hear a lot about the decline of civility in American public life these days and the letter writer recognized by the Captain this week provides a perfect illustration of why there is so much truth to the observation. But the Captain's response is the really noteworthy end of this exchange. Enjoy! Civilly!!

Fisker's Whiskers III Finds Cat's Meow in Belmont Club's Scalpeling of AP Photo

What a great weekly feature is "Fisker's Whiskers," from the fertile mind of Steve at The Word Unheard. It's really simple - Steve puts the spotlight on the best examples from the previous week of bloggers fisking, or perhaps exposing would be a better word, the false assumptions, missing facts and analytical weak links in the MSM.

This week's Cat's Meow is the scalpeling performed by Belmont Club's Wretchard on the AP account of how its photographer happenned to be in the right place at just the right time to shoot the bloody executions of two Iraqi election workers during the run-up to the January elections. AP won a Pulitizer Prize for that shot last week.

Do not miss Wretchard's analysis because it is a classic illustration of applying a known law of physics to the alleged facts of an event. Wretchard would be one heck of a prosecuting attorney!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Is The Blogosphere As Big As We Think It Is?

Michelle Malkin quotes a Harris Interactive Poll that says two of every five adult Americans have read a blog at least once and a fourth of them read a blog at least once a month. Michelle doesn't mention it, but the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life has a different estimate - at least seven million Americans are bloggers, and their ranks skyrocketed 37 percent in 2004 alone.

Michelle is skeptical of the Harris numbers, noting her contention "that the survey results would be quite different if respondents were informed that the Drudge Report, Slate, Free Republic, Democratic Underground, rushlimbaugh.com, and lucianne.com are not blogs."

Michelle has an excellent point, but the more relevant point is the profound impact that blogs and other Internet-based news reporting and analyses sites are having on American society and culture, especially in our politics. And even more to the point, the one area of our society that seems yet to be disturbed by the explosion of Internet-based news and analysis is government, especially in Washington, D.C.

Why is that?

Why Won't The MSM Cover These Crimes?

LaShawn Barber reports that it is not a hate crime in New York when as many as 30 black males brutally beat four white females. Nor is it a hate crime when a group of black football players knock out a white guy for dancing with his wife ... who is black. These kinds of crimes are far from rare.

But the MSM hardly ever covers them. Why is that? LaShawn has the answer:
"Hate crime laws are designed to punish the thoughts of white, straight, Christian males. Only blacks, Hispanics and Muslims (women, too, on a good day) are protected under these laws. I’m black, so I guess I qualify for the skin privilege.
"My gratitude is gushing all over the place. Really."

Hate crime laws are really tools in the PC war against freedom of speech and the First Amendment. LaShawn has much to say on this, as will I in the future.

Are You Being Blocked by Censorware?

Dan Gillmor has two links that provide information that may well be crucial to everybody who like me uses Blogger or Typepad to host a blog. The bottomline is there appears to be more than a few corporations that don't want employees to be able to access blogs hosted by Blogger or Typepad. That of course won't be the end of it. Credit Robert Ambrogi with breaking this story.

Murdoch Lays Some Straight Talk On The Nation's Newspaper Editors About Survival

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch laid on some straight talk to the assembled members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE). I suspect he won few fans with this statement, especially the concluding sentence:

"What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands of the digital native. I said earlier, what is required is a complete transformation of the way we think about our product and the Internet itself.
"Unfortunately, however, I believe too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers. Too often, the question we ask is “Do we have the story?” rather than “Does anyone want the story?”
"And the data support this unpleasant truth. Studies show we’re in an odd position: We’re more trusted by the people who aren’t reading us. And when you ask journalists what they think about their readers, the picture grows darker.

"According to one recent study, the percentage of national journalists who have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the American public to make good decisions has declined by more than 20 points since 1999. Perhaps this reflects their personal politics and personal prejudices more than anything else, but it is disturbing.
"This is a polite way of saying that reporters and editors think their readers are stupid. ...
"Newspapers whose employees look down on their readers can have no hope of ever succeeding as a business."

That is also a polite way of telling the newsroom leadership of the MSM that the attitudes expressed by them and their staffs are a root cause of their loss of readers in the past decade. Like Pogo used to say: "We have seen the enemy and he is us."

BuzzMachine has lots more from Murdoch's speech. Enjoy!

Krempasky Again Deconstructing FEC Rule to Regulate Political Speech on the Internet

RedState's Mike Krempasky - nominated here previously for the Blogosphere's first Freedom of Speech Hero Award - has a new post on Personal Democracy Forum responding to a recent Findlaw column by Loyola Law School Professor and Election Law Blog writer Rick Hasen.

Hasen's basic point in a column otherwise devoted to arguing that the FEC's rule will probably end up being mostly not a problem for bloggers is that there is nothing wrong with forcing bloggers to disclose who signs their paychecks those doing the signing are with a campaign.

To which Krempasky notes that:
"Under the current law, the FEC does not have the authority to force ANYONE to disclose payments from the receiving end, the onus for disclosure rests with the entity writing the check. To ask bloggers to do so would actually place a higher regulatory burden on them than anyone else in the political universe."

The point that bears repeating over and over and over for people like Hasen is that once the camel gets his nose under the tent, the rest of him follows sooner or later. A little only mildly intrusive regulation today is always followed by a lot of very intrusive regulation tomorrow. It's always easier to stop it today than tomorrow.

UPDATE: Krempasky says a bill exempting the Internet from the FEC has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX, as a companion to the measure introduced recently by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV. Go here for details on the Hensarling effort.

They Obsessed on Enron. Now MSM TV News Ignores $30 Billion Fannie Mae Scandal

Dan Gainor, head of the Freemarketproject.org and a former colleague of mine at The Washington Times, asks the question posed in the headline above by a superb New York Post op-ed that you can read here.

Dan points to the stark contrast between the saturation coverage given the Enron and other business scandals in recent years by the MSM broadcast and cable news operations and the virtual invisibility of a government financial scandal that is vastly bigger.

Here's Dan's basic point:
"Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage association, has been battling a mounting scandal since last year. It has accounting errors of about $11 billion. That's more than 19 times larger than Enron's $567 million error. Fannie faces a Justice Department inquiry, an SEC investigation and an Office of Federal Housing Enterprise complaint.
"The mess has caused the departure of CEO Franklin Raines and several other top executives. And Fannie Mae stock has dropped roughly 30 percent, from nearly $80 a share to around $55. That's an added loss of more than $20 billion.
"All of this is news — $30 billion worth of news — but the only journalists out there covering it on a regular basis are print reporters. TV news is out to lunch."

You don't think the fact Raines was one of Bill Clinton's OMB honchos has anything to do with it, do you?

Anyway, if the financial disparity of the Enron and Fannie Mae scandals strikes you as extreme, consider how much more extreme is the difference in coverage between the two:
"Just doing a LexisNexis search produced 3,017 hits for 'Enron' — 1,385 hits on CNN alone. During that nine-month time period, Enron disclosed that it had overstated its earnings by $567 million since 1997.
"A similar LexisNexis search was performed for the term 'Fannie Mae' for those same media, from June 1, 2004, to March 1, 2005, again during the time the story was breaking. This search discovered a paltry 37 matches.

"Through those nine months, Fannie Mae was asked by its regulator to revamp its accounting practices, key executives resigned and about $11 billion in accounting errors were revealed."

After you read Dan's column, check out the blog commentary compiled by Michelle Malkin here.

Frankly, having covered government waste and fraud for years, I am not surprised that Fannie Mae's travails don't get much attention on the boob tube and certainly has received less coverage in the print media than Enron continues to receive. The reason is simple: There are staggering levels of waste and fraud in Washington, D.C. and in every state and local government.

But the MSM is by and large supportive of government programs to deal with every major and most minor problems faced by our society. Exposing the real magnitude of fraud, inefficiency and corruption in the government would thus undermine its claims to be able to solve those problems (if you think government has solved problems, name one). So government waste usually gets a pass with the MSM.

Lets you think I exxaggerate the scope of government waste and fraud, check out this Top 10 list compiled by Heritage's budget analyst Brian Reidl and the Congressional Pig Book compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste.

And what has this to do with the Blogosphere? Think what would happen to all that waste, fraud and abuse if bloggers were fisking spending bills before they are voted on by Congress and contracts proposed by federal agencies before they are signed? Think about it.

Where's the Civility for LaShawn?

A familiar theme among those on the Left in recent years has concerned the alleged loss of civility in America's public policy discussions. On closer inspection, such comments often turn out to mean the speaker is upset that somebody, anybody would actually have the temerity to disagree with some liberal shiboleth.

I always think of the civility dodge when I hear of things such as the invective LaShawn Barber is being exposed to by bloggers who for all appearances are from the Left side of the Blogosphere. LaShawn is an articulate, intelligent and courageous blogger. She is also a born-again Christian who is not afraid to speak of her faith in any context, a conservative who has little patience for political cant and a Black woman who has been through it.

In other words, LaShawn is just the kind of person who is likely to have something original, refreshing, controversial and thought-provoking to say to those who have an open mind and a reservoir of intellectual curiosity. Perfect qualifications for being a blogger, right?

Well, check out this post from LaShawn and then drop her a note of support and encouragement. Frankly, she is an inspiration to me and I admire her tenacity, inner strength and faith.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ASNE Sends APB for "Lost" Journalists, Arguments Yard Finds Blogs' Silver Lining

The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) is meeting this week and among the speakers is Dan Gillmor, author of "We the Media" and one of the genuine gurus of the Blogosphere. He will be telling the assembled editors that they need to embrace the potential news-empowerment available to them and their readers with the Blogosphere. We will see what kind of response Dan receives.

Meanwhile, ASNE always has a study or two to release at these annual confabs on trends in the nation's daily newsrooms. This year, the results of the study on newsroom staffing is a surprise to no one who has worked in a newsroom in the past decade, but are rather disheartening even so.

Rich Tucker of Arguments Yard has the silver lining in the bad news:
"I love the passive voice. 'Newsrooms lost ...' Lost? Are there search parties out? Any chance these reporters will be found soon?Nobody was 'lost.' Many have been fired. There are fewer journalists because newspapers keep firing people, even when profits are soaring.
"Eventually, there simply won't be any reporters left. And we'll all be dependent on bloggers."

Rich, by the way, is a colleague of mine at The Heritage Foundation and a former CNN desk editor. He'll deny it but he also has one of the sharpest analytical minds in the news business about the news business.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis does a number on the ASNE staff reduction numbers, comparing the decline in MSM jobs to the phenomenal increase in the number of bloggers, and comes up with a bunch more reasons why the MSM must find a way to incorporate bloggers into the reporting process.

Notes on the Revolution: How Internet Aggregation is Replacing Economy of Scale

Buzz Machine's Jeff Jarvis ticks off a list of markets and describes in a sentence or two how the New Economy made possible by the Internet's power of aggregation - empowering individual choice to guide production - is replacing the Old Economy made possible by economy of scale.

"Scale Doesn't Scale" by Jarvis is the most effective illustration I've found to help understand how the Internet is having the same kind of revolutionary impact on our daily lives as the Industrial Revolution that brought about mass production via centralized control to capture economies of scale in serving large markets.

It is important to understand that New and Old economies are both forms of capitalism and represent significant advances in freeing the individual. The difference is the underlying paradigm shift from centralized production control to distributed networks of production control. The New Economy advances the individual's ability to determine the choices made available in the market.

Consider these three illustrations from Jarvis' lengthy list:

  • "Insurance: In New Jersey, folks fed up with expensive insurance created their own not-for-profit insurance companies for cars and now malpractice: They aggregated the underserved. Oh, how I would kill for that with my health insurance.
  • "Labor: If you don't need your employees to be in one place, on one old assembly line, how much more efficient it is to employ them wherever they are, whether that's at home in the 'burbs or at home in Bagalore. You aggregate the work instead of the workers.
  • "Consumer products: Customized Barbies are about aggregating a customer base of one. I'll be that car consumers will revolt against having premium packages shoved down their throats. Imagine how this could work even with Coke, which has to fight and pay for shelf space for all its many products trying to attract ever more tastes. If the let me go online and order what I want -- caffeine-free C2 cola in bottles -- I'd order a few cases and Coke would have a loyal customer and save shelving and even marketing costs... and also learn what consumers would want if they could control product design. Aggregate me, baby."

Think about it. And read Jeff's whole post.

Monday, April 11, 2005

New Blog Has 'Intelligent Design'

It gets only occasional, virtually always insulting, coverage in the MSM, but there is a revolutionary movement afoot in the science community and it has to do with what the latest discoveries in genetics, bio-chemistry, physics and other fields may say about evolution. Take these developments seriously because we may be closer to a fundamental paradigm change on the issues of human origin than anybody in an American newsroom realizes. That is why you need to know about ID the Future blog.

ID the Future is a blog written by such ID luminaries as William Dembski, Michael Behr and Guillermo Gonzalez, though Dembski seems to be the most frequent contributor. A good place to start exploring this important new blog would be Dembski's post on "Evolution: Cloaking Ignorance in Terminology." Keep an open mind.

What Liberals Mean With Fairness Doctrine: Make It Fair and Complete Or We Will

Democracy Project picked up on the upcoming conclave of liberals devoted to restoring the FCC's so-called Fairness Doctrine and adds important additional information, including some quotes from the Pew Center that illustrate how little those folks understand about the Blogosphere and excerpts from a disturbing interview by Bill Moyers of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, one of the chief Fairness Doctrine advocates in Congress.

You will also find additional evidence of the strength and resources behind the liberal push to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in the following article, which I wrote earlier this year for the National Religious Broadcasters' national convention program:

Can you hear it?
Boom. Boom. Boom.
There it is again … louder.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
What is it, you ask?

It’s the liberal drumbeat for bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, so they can silence people with different views. People like you and me. It’s time we wake up and see the writing on the wall.

Lest you think me a Chicken Little, let’s look back on the last year and see what influential liberals in the communications industry have been saying, starting with the University of Michigan’s Susan Douglas, professor of communications and author of “Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media.”

Like legions of her fellow liberals, the day after President Bush’s re-election campaign victory found Douglas, in her own words, “barely functional,” “sickened” and in a “deep depression.” Barely a month later, though, Douglas regained her fighting form, shouting defiance with a disturbing piece in the far left In These Times proclaiming “this is our country, it is not a revival tent. We must continue to fight to save it.”

Guess what’s one of the key planks in the Douglas platform for saving America? Recognizing “how important media reform is, particularly the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, which the Reagan administration abolished in 1987. We see the results of too much Rush and O’Reilly without any balance: voters who don’t have the facts.”

If they can silence Rush Limbaugh, the most popular radio personality in America, how much easier will it be to silence religious broadcasters who collectively represent a much bigger audience, but who singly present irresistible targets by virtue of their often-modest legal resources?

Douglas is far from a lonesome voice on the Left in calling for the return of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulatory policy that was so enthusiastically used by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in the early 1960s to silence Christian broadcasters and others whose political views failed the liberal litmus test of the day. You can read the history of that oppressive era in former CBS News president Fred Friendly’s landmark 1975 book, “The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the First Amendment: Free Speech vs. Fairness in Broadcasting.”

Others on the Left have not been quite so blatant as Douglas in calling for a return of the Fairness Doctrine. Usually they couch the demand behind the cloak of other issues like diversity and media concentration, thus calling for the return in everything but the actual name. Consider these recent speeches by FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.

Copps, a former Clinton administration appointee and long-time chief of staff for Sen. Ernest Hollingsworth, wrote in dissenting from the FCC’s controversial media concentration regulations: “The Commission has allowed fundamental protections of the public interest to wither and die, requirements like ascertaining the needs of the local audience, the Fairness Doctrine, teeing up controversial issues, providing demonstrated diversity in programming, ensuring decent quality programming for our children, to name a few of the safeguards we had once but have abandoned.”

In a March 2004 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, Copps called on industry to voluntarily write a “tough new code” of programming standards like those of old that “affirmed broadcaster responsibilities toward children, community issues and public affairs.” As Friendly notes in his book, community issues and public affairs were precisely those the FCC cited in shutting down Christian broadcasters. This voluntary code would almost certain be an interim step to clear the way for the return of the government regulation.

Similarly, speaking in Las Vegas last year during the “Public Interest, Public Airwaves Coalition” press conference, Commissioner Adelstein, noted that “the FCC’s specific public interest obligations have been so weakened that broadcasters have very little they are required to demonstrate. We are entering the digital age of broadcasting and it’s time to restore these public interest obligations.”

Among the purposes of that restoration would be, according to Adelstein, expanding “the diversity of viewpoints and voices available to a community over its airwaves” and “fostering a diversity of perspectives through independent production.”

By the way, before his FCC appointment, Adelstein worked for many years for former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). Is it too far-fetched then to wonder if what Adelstein has in mind is some sort of mandated “public interest programming” produced by independent producers such as … Michael Moore?

The past year also saw back-door efforts by liberals in Congress to bring the Fairness Doctrine back from the grave. Fortunately, a bill doing just that introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) went nowhere, thanks to conservatives who properly saw it as an attempt to muzzle conservative and religious Talk Radio.

Over in the Senate, Tom Harkin (D-IA) took a more subtle approach, attaching an obscure amendment to the massive Department of Defense budget authorization bill. Harkin’s amendment would have required a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.

Thanks to the eagle eye of folks like the National Religious Broadcasters legislative staff, the Harkin mischief was stopped but not before it got all the way to a Senate-House conference committee. No wonder the NRB magazine recently observed that “some Members of Congress and pundits will most likely begin calling for re-instatement of this collectivist tool in the wake of a brutal election season” in the 109th Congress that just convened in January.

What if the liberals somehow succeed in restoring the Fairness Doctrine? The presidential campaign produced a vivid answer to that question when Sinclair Broadcasting, an independent Baltimore-based firm with 62 stations disclosed plans to air a documentary that was highly critical of Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam war record.

Up stepped Kerry aide Chad Clanton, a political operative and campaign talking head with a chilling message for journalists, publishers and broadcasters everywhere - “they better hope we don’t win.” Speaking to a national television audience on Fox News, Clanton clearly was threatening to use the coercive powers of the federal government, including especially the FCC, to punish Sinclair if it went ahead with its planned broadcast.

One need not agree with the political views of Sinclair’s owners or the critique of Kerry voiced in the “Stolen Honor” documentary that sparked Clanton’s threat in order to recognize his thuggish remark for the danger it posed to the First Amendment. Kerry has never repudiated Clanton.

It would be foolish, however, not to assume that what too many liberals mean when they talk about a new or restored Fairness Doctrine is using the FCC and other federal agencies to bludgeon into silence or otherwise control non-politically correct voices. And religious broadcasters are about as un-PC as you can get.

What should we expect in the months ahead? Spend some time on the web sites of liberal groups like Democracy Radio, Media Matters for America and the Media Access Project. These groups are jointly and aggressively pushing an internet-based petition drive to force restoration of the Fairness Doctrine or its modern equivalent.

The boards and advisors of these three groups represent a virtual who’s who of influential liberals from the worlds of media, public affairs, political activism and non-profit philanthropy. They are united in a well-funded drive to bring back the bad old days when Washington decided who could say what on America’s public airwaves.

They have numerous allies in the Mainstream Media, which is losing audience and influence as a result of new media like Talk Radio, Christian broadcasters and the Internet’s Blogosphere. Those of all points on the political and spiritual spectrum who love the First Amendment, the right of unfettered religious expression and an independent, free press had better take notice before its too late.

The New Media Revolution is Gaining Important Momentum in Unexpected Places

The Professor has about as comprehensive an update as I've seen anywhere in a long time on all of the new citizen's journalism projects springing up all over the country. Take for example Debbie Galant who is overseeing Barista of Bloomfield Avenue, a hyper-local application of Internet possibilities to reporting in an area of New Jersey.

Here's how PressThink's Rosen describes Galant, who he nominates as somebody who ought to be invited to future think-think panels on how to develop a profitable economic model for news on the Internet:

"One I would certainly invite is Debbie Galant, the Barista of Bloomfield Ave, who can tell us how it's working in the New Jersey Towns--Glen Ridge, Montclair, and Bloomfield--where she's synthesizing the formula for hyper-local blog-style news coverage and comment.
"Galant was Jersey columnist for The New York Times for five years; she's done Big Journalism and now she's gone small and independent. Baristanet is doing well on growth. It has a
second writer (journalist and NYU grad Liz George) and a business manager.
"And ads. It has a columnist, and classifieds, and listings. It knows when the Superintendent of Schools is about to be dumped, and when there's a car fire around the corner."

And there is Jim Zellmer, who started the School Information Center. Having overseen coverage of a major public school system in one of the Washington, D.C. region's inner suburban counties, I can attest to this assessment by Zellmer of why SIC has been a touched a live nerve in Madison, WI:

"The epiphany for me was a 2004 Madison School board Candidate Forum where one of the three local tv stations was present. The result on that evening's news was a 10 second clip-- 'There was a school board candidate forum.' No substance. The newspaper folks generally cover these, but they remain encumbered by the traditional 300-500 words with no media, or perhaps a photo.
"SIS gives voice to parents, teachers, taxpayers and citizens. Further, SIS uses the latest tools to provide depth (links, video, mp3 audio, surveys) to important issues such as boundary changes, budgets, referendums, curriculum, local elections and events (protests, fine arts rallies, election events)."

Public school systems are among the most vital institutions in our country and yet they generally get either fawning coverage by MSMers who depend too much upon the word of teacher unions and school bureaucrats or only scanty or virtually no coverage at all. As a result, parents generally have no idea about the true state of learning in their local public schools and the attitude often is "ours are fine, the problems are all in the other districts."

Don't Miss Philly Future, either. Frankly, I think sites like this one created by Jason Calcanis that seek to be the hub of a local area's online activity are a significant step towards the "newspaper" that will be taken for granted by the grandchildren of the Boomer Generation much as their parents in turn took the traditional deadwood daily for granted.

This summary of a must-read PressThink post would not be complete without mention of Josh Marshall and the idea of using a blog to do things like ask congressmen on the record how they voted on critical issues that were decided on voice votes.

The Professor describes Marshall's effort in this area as "Open-Source Muckraking," which sounds like something very close to my heart:
"'Open source muckraking.' Potentially a big deal. But not a big business deal. Marshall has the traffic, the user interest and the political savvy to make it all work. He's a talented journalist, and he plots his moves carefully. It's been fascinating to watch him discover what work TPM can do."

This exactly the kind of thing I mean when I talk about blogging government. Members of Congress, federal judges and career civil servants in the executive branch do so much that begs for public exposure and discussion, yet it is never covered by the MSM because there simply isn't room between the ads, celebrity profiles, weather and "business-news-you-can-use." Marshall is a Lefty but I hope he succeeds beyond his wildest dreams in getting other bloggers to start asking questions like this.

Black Righters Form Conservative Brotherhood Blog to 'Expand the Dialogue'

More evidence of how the Blogosphere encourages an incredible diversity in political expression is spotlighted by LaShawn Barber who notes new members of the Conservative Brotherhood group blog. LaShawn is among the founding members of the new blog.

Here's how the Conservative Brotherhood explains its reason for being:
"The Conservative Brotherhood is a group of African American writers whose politics are on the right hand side of the political spectrum. Expanding the dialog beyond traditional boundaries, they seek to contribute to a greater understanding of African Americans and America itself through advocacy and commentary."

I especially like the idea of "expanding the dialogue beyond the traditional boundaries." That is precisely what the Blogosphere is best at doing and I am confident the Conservative Brotherhood will in turn inspire additional blogs doing the same thing.

Oh yes, be sure and check out Wizbang's prediction about the response from the Left bloggers.

What is Going on at AP?

Does AP know the news before it happens? It appears at least one AP reporter does when it comes to the confirmation hearing today for John Bolton to be U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Check this out. And check out the comments on this story at Lucianne.com.

And over at Powerline, D. Gorton, a former award-winning photographer for The New York Times, has some eye-opening comments about that controversial Pulitzer Prize shot of Iraqi insurgents executing Iraqi election workers in broad daylight on a public road. The issue, which was inspired by the awarding of journalism's most prestigious award for the shot, is what the AP photographer knew from the insurgents before the executions.

Put another way, the issue is at what point does having advance information about a news event that involves murder become complicity? Among The New York Times D. Gorton's disturbing comments are these: "Moreover, there is nothing in the information put forward that would definitively answer critics who believe that the photographer may have been complicit in the event on Haifa St."

Powerline has posted on this here and here. Both are lengthy posts but well worth the reading time in order to understand fully the issues at stake, as well as some of the dangerous intricacies involved in being a news photographer in a war zone.

UPDATE: Then there is this from Trevor Bothwell of The Right Report on AP's inability to discriminate between a .45 caliber pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle while reporting that Texas football coach being shot last week.

UPDATE II: Let's see now, Detroit Free Press sports columnist Mitch Albom is under fire for writing a recent column that made it appear as if his two sources were actually present at the Michigan State-North Carolina Final Four college basketball game.

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Hirsley, assisted by Tribune colleagues Ed Sherman and Mike Downey, asked some MSM colleagues for their views on what should happen to Albom. Here's what the Baltimore Sun's Randy Harvey, the paper's assistant managing editor for sports, said: "I don't see how they will have any choice at the end of their investigation but to fire Mitch and the editor or editors who read the column before it was published."

I wonder what Harvey would suggest for the AP reporter and desk editors who used advance copies of testimony to write what appeared to be an eyewitness story on the Bolton confirmation hearing piece earlier today?

Keep an Eye on This: Does Hugo Chavez Have WMDs? And When Will MSM Notice?

Captain's Quarters is quoting a Spanish blogger's report regarding evidence from the Europa Press that Spain sold Venzuela's Hugo Chavez small amounts of radioactive and chemical warfare materials. The amounts weren't large but even so it could indicate something in the development stage.

Captain notes that:
"This report needs further investigation to determine its accuracy and the current status of the materials in question. Given Chavez' hostility of late to the US and his coziness to Cuba, we might find that material deployed against us in the near future."

It will also be interesting to see how long it takes the MSM here to pick up on this story that has now been broken in the U.S. by a blogger. Read the Captain's full post here.

UPDATE: The conservative part of the MSM is definitely getting on this story. The American Spectator's Clinton Taylor has more, including this assessment of what may be behind Chavez's activities:

"President Chavez may be a thuggish autocrat, but he isn't stupid enough to use chemical or biological weapons against American civilians, at least directly. He may see them as insurance against the possibility of an American invasion; however, the United States demonstrated in Iraq that threats of chemical retaliation will not deter us should we decide to invade.
"A more likely scenario is the use of these WMD's for international extortion against South American governments. Chavez's alleged links to Colombia's narcoterrorist FARC and to Evo Morales's cocaleros in Bolivia suggest he could find a vector for the weapons should he need one. "The implicit threat of arming insurgent groups with WMD's may compel these governments -- especially the precarious democracy in Bolivia -- to accommodate Venezuela's policies or to reject ours."

That makes sense, in the same way a South American Ghaddafi makes sense.

UPDATE II: Michelle Malkin has more bloggers picking up on the story with more details.

Check Out the Earth Day Information Center before April 22 Rolls Around

Could this be a hint of better things to come from the enviros? Check out this quote from Amy Ridenhour's tout of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Earth Day Information Center:

"Environmental groups have spent the last 40 years defining themselves against conservative values like cost-benefit accounting, smaller government, fewer regulations, and free trade, without ever articulating a coherent morality we can call our own. Most of the intellectuals who staff environmental groups are so repelled by the right's values that we have assiduously avoided examining our own in a serious way."

You will have to go here to find the source of that quote. It will be worth the effort, believe me.

Brace Yourself, Here Comes Another 'Restore the Fairness Doctrine' Campaign

Liberals frustrated with America's preference for non-liberal media are stepping up their campaign to restore the FCC's Fairness Doctrine with a gathering in May in St. Louis of such luminaries Al Franken, David Brock, FAIR, Frank Blethen and others at the National Conference for Media Reform. Jeff Jarvis translates the conference promo's statement about the group wanting to "increase informed public participation" here.

Any time somebody prefaces a statement about public participation in the media with the qualifier like "informed" or "credible" or "diverse," you can be certain you are hearing a liberal who wants to use the FCC to silence non-liberal media. JFK and LBJ were the masters of this form of suppression of dissent, as detailed in former CBS executive Fred Friendly's classic, "The Good Guys, the Bad Guys and the Fairness Doctrine," which you can order here. And you should because the campaign to restore the basic tool of suppression is not going away anytime soon.

While you are at it, take a few minutes to read this column by Paul McMasters of the First Amendment Center. How right he is about "how quickly and easily a whiff of regulation can turn into the stench of censorship."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A New Star is Born! Check Out Michelle Malkin on 'Heartland'

If you missed Michelle Malkin filling in for John Kasich (as I did, unfortunately) on Fox News' "Heartland," you may well have missed something of a milestone. Michelle is an absolute natural in front of the camera. I predict lots of good things are going to be happening for Michelle. And lots of good things could happen for somebody like CNN if they have the insight and guts to hire her! Check out the video here at Trey Jackson's wonderfully useful site.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Does Time Know What Time It Is?

Folks of a certain age will remember the scene in the sappy 60s classic movie, "Love Story," in which our brave hero Oliver - a Harvard preppie played by a suitably callow Ryan Young - confronts his old fossil WASP father - Ray Milland in the twilight of his career - with plans to marry an Italian hottie from the wrong side of town played by Ali McGraw in her one notable role.

OFWP is not pleased: "If you marry that girl, I won't give you the time of day," he snarls. To which our hero heroically responds: "Father, you don't know the time of day." Oliver storms out of his father's club, free to throw off the shackles of WASP hypocrisy and pursue the pure love of his life.

Mention "Love Story" and people tend far more frequently to recall its signature line, which became something of a cultural icon: "Love means never having to say you are sorry." But for me the scene with the father is the one I recall as I've grown and matured and come to realize how perfectly it captures, among much else, the blind generational arrogance of the young.

And it came immediately to mind when I chanced upon this ad for Time magazine and read Powerline's confusion about what the marketeers were trying to say with the photo of an apparently exhausted U.S. soldier sitting in an airport somewhere.

With Powerline, I suspect the Time peddlers were assuming smart people would see it as a picture of a superpower confronting the futility of its plans to dominate places like, oh, I don't know, Iraq maybe?

Rather, the Love Story scene came immediately to mind for me because like that lunch scene the ad vividly demonstrates an institution wholly out of touch with reality. The evidence grows by day that the U.S. effort in Iraq is becoming an historic success. A murderous tyrant will soon face justice from the people he oppressed for nearly four decades. A democratically elected government is in place and solidifying a regime change that goes far beyond its own borders. And American military might has again been shown to be a force for peace and democracy, not conquest and death.

Clearly the world evoked by this Time display requires a special kind of myopia, the sort that doesn't have a clue about things like the truths of the times.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Los Angeles Times' Dan Neil Is Right - General Motors Needs New Blood at the Top

General Motors has cancelled an estimated $10 million worth of advertising with The Los Angeles Times in protest of what the Detroit giant calls a series of inaccurate editorial products. Apparently the last straw was a column by the Times' Pulitzer Award-winning automotive opinion columnist Dan Neil, "An American Idle."

Neil called for a major housecleaning of the top executive echelons at GM, including GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Waggoner. Neil pointed to GM's continued loss of domestic market share and the apparent absence of a credible recovery plan as justification for sweeping out the present executive leadership.

Noting GM product czar Bob Lutz' widely publicized comments about the possibility of the Pontiac and/or Buick divisions being killed, Neil offered this summary observation about the state of things at GM:

"GM is a morass of a business case, but one thing seems clear enough, and Lutz's mistake was to state the obvious and then recant: The company's multiplicity of divisions and models is turning into a circular firing squad.
"How can four nearly identical minivans — one each for Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet and Saturn — be anything but a waste of resources? Ditto the Four Horsemen of Suburbia, the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X. How does the Pontiac Montana minivan square with Pontiac as the "Excitement" division?
"Why, exactly, is GMC on this Earth?"

I covered the automotive industry for many years at The Washington Times and continue to maintain an active editorial interest in the biggest of what used to be the Big Three. I grew up in a Chevy loving family. But Neil is exactly right about GM's problem - it is still trying to function as the company established by Alfred Sloan, with a division for every taste and pocketbook.

The time remaining for GM to fix itself is getting shorter and shorter. And journalists covering the industry have heard too many times before in the past 30 years that this time, the new guy's plan is going to work. Sooner or later, GM has to reinvent itself. Or go the way of the Oakland Motor Company.

Should GM penalize the Times for publishing a harsh editorial opinion like Neil's column? Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters thinks GM's decision is a healthy one for the MSM because it sends a message about accurate journalism. Unfortunately, encouraging accurate journalism has nothing to do with advertising strategies in Detroit or any other automobile company. If it did, we wouldn't still be seeing GM spots on NBC. Remember the story about exploding pickups?

UPDATE: Riehl World View has some very interesting observations about the several backstory lines likely at work behind GM's decision:

"More dynamics than one can imagine went into the GM decision to give the LA Times a slight smack on the wrist. And it is no more than that, as individual dealers - which spend the vast majority of newspaper automotive advertising dollars, will still be advertising. GM did NOT say it was stopping its dealer subsidization programs, only its Corporate spending. Their dealers would revolt if that happened."

RWV has the benefit of experience at several Fortune 500 corporations, so this post is worth pondering for those who seek to understand how GM thinking could lead to a decision to slap one of the nation's largest dailies on the wrist. Red Staters, are you listening?

Don't These People Know They Will Be Found Out?

A Boston Herald op-ed columnist gets a contract to promote Gov. Mitt Romney's environmental policies, even as he continues to write columns. This stinks. Here's the rival Boston Globe's account of the situation:

"The columnist, Charles D. Chieppo, started working yesterday with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. His job calls for writing op-ed pieces and internal documents ''to support the efforts of senior management to promote education, awareness, and acceptance of major policy initiatives' on the environment.
"Chieppo will work two days a week until at least June 30. He also plans to continue writing op-ed columns for the Herald, where he is paid for each article.
"Chieppo, who signed his pact on April 2, declined to comment yesterday. In January, he left a six-figure job in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance to start a private consulting business and to write the weekly Herald column."

And The Boston Herald agreed to continue publishing Chieppo? Dan Gillmor has observations here.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has more and as always she is tough as nails and absolutely on point:
"Disclosure is not the only issue. Perception matters, too. Do we really need another paid partisan hack to confirm what the liberal MSM already unfairly assumes of all conservatives in the media--that we're all on the payroll of the Republican Party and incapable of independent journalism?
"Take off the Bad Idea Jeans and show better judgement, people. Crikey."

Me, too, Michelle!

UPDATE II: The Herald fires Chieppo. Way to go, Shelley!

Nelson Luong, RIP

Thanks to Amy Ridenour for pointing out Jeff Harrell's loss. I dread the hopefully long-off day when Abby, our 105-pound bundle of chocolate lab joy, follows Nelson to doggie heaven.

Only in San Francisco ... Update on That Anti-Blogger Bill for the City By the Bay

Only in San Francisco would the city fathers and mothers pass two versions of the same law, but with only one to go before the local ethics review board. Chris Nolan has been the Blogosphere's voice of sanity in covering this episode and he has the latest here.

There's More to Schiavo Memo Story To Be Told, But Only The Post, Harkin can do it

And when the telling comes, it should be by a minimum of four people, including three at The Washington Post, and one member of the U.S. Senate, Tom Harkin, D-IA. Let's take them in sequence, as expertly assessed by Powerline's Hindrocket:

"Notwithstanding the revelation of the memo's source, some of the most important questions about this story remain unanswered. Foremost among them is, what led the Post to report, on March 19, that the memo was written by "Republican officials" and "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders”?
"Was the Post misinformed about the memo's origin and significance, either by Senator Harkin or by someone else? Or did the newspaper's reporters see the memo and simply leap to the conclusion that it was a statement of policy authored by the Republican leadership and distributed to the Republican Senate caucus?
"The former seems more likely, but Mike Allen, the Post's principal reporter, has not responded to our request to clarify the source of the error in the paper's original report."

You can read the full Powerline post here. While you are away, also check out RedState's "Idiot Extraordinair" posting by Eric Erickson here.

Okay, at the Post, we need to hear more from reporters Mike Allen and Manuel Roig Franzia, and whoever on the Post copy desk pushed the button to publish the March 19 version of the story asserting that the Schiavo memo was being circulated by GOP officials. Who were the sources for the story's basic assertion that the memo represented official GOP thinking and was being circulated by GOP officials as such to GOP senators? It is one thing to identify the author of the memo but that is not necessarily the same as the journalists' source of the memo and all of the information they were told about it.

If Allen and Franzia depended upon Martinez staffer Darling, a very senior editor needs to sit down with them and explain that junior Senate staffers often have an inflated view of their knowledge and importance [I know, I was one once] and for that reason you must always independently verify what they claim. Otherwise, they will have you reporting as fact mere gossip, uninformed speculation, malicious innuendo and purposeful hyperbole. You know, the disreputable kinds of stuff MSMers claim dominates the Blogosphere.

If the source was a Democrat senator or staffer, then surely an experienced reporter like Allen or Franzia would have automatically sought independent confirmation from another source; otherwise, he would be making the Post a conduit for Democratic talking points. That is unthinkable because we all know how the Post assidously avoids allowing itself to be used by anybody in the Washington Establishment to send messages. Don't we?

Then there is the Post copy desk editor who gave the March 19 story its final edit and pushed the button. Did that editor at least ask Allen or Franzia about the sourcing for the key element of the story? If they responded, what about their satisfied you that their characterization of the memo was accurate?

If you didn't ask, why even have a copy desk except to make sure the names are properly spelled? We are, after all, talking about a pillar of the MSM, which, as we are repeatedly told by MSMers, has layers of editors back-stopping reporters and insuring only factual stuff is reported. Unlike those bloggers at home in their pajamas.

Finally, what about Sen. Harkin? Where has he been since this flap began? Since he claims to have direct knowledge of the memo's link to him, what else does he know about how the memo came to be? Did Martinez really say something to the effect that "this is talking points" on the issue? If it is Harkin's word versus Martinez's word, who are we to believe and why? Most importantly, why did he remain silent as the MSM circulated a story he knew to be patently false? Surely, his silence was not merely for partisan political advantage, was it?

It appears to this ink-stained wretch of the MSM that the most important issue raised by the Post reporting of the Schiavo memo has nothing at all to do with that poor women's fate or how it was dealt with by Washington politicans of either party. The important issue is this - Was the March 19 story a mere anomaly in the Post newsroom or an indicator of a broken editing process?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mann Confirms Treglia's Account of Pew Campaign Finance Reform Astroturfing

A July 2004 Pew Charitable Trust newsletter article by Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann confirms the account of former Pew program director Sean Treglia's March 2004 desciption of a multi-million dollar effort to create the appearance of widespread public support for campaign finance reform.

Democracy Project's Win Myers found the Mann article and has an incisive analysis of its contents and implications. Not only does Mann confirm the Treglia account, according to Myers, the well-known Brookings political authority also provides rich new details about a systematic and lavishly financed effort that began in the wake of the 1996 campaign scandals.

As important as those aspects of the Mann article are, I believe it will ultimately prove even more significant for what it says about the war against the First Amendment being waged for more than a decade by campaign finance reform advocates. In a fundamental sense, what these people represent is an attack on the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition every bit as serious as Lincoln's jailing of newspaper editors in the Civil War and Adams' jailing of political critics with the Alien & Sedition Acts.

Mann's article begins by noting the stunned amazement that greeted the U.S. Supreme Court's wholly unexpected affirmation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 - aka as McCain-Feingold - in its 2003 decision of McConnell v FEC. The Court's decision:

"... affirmed critical decisions made years earlier: to refocus the reform agenda on a limited set of pressing problems that emerged in the 1996 election, to frame legislative proposals that could attract bipartisan support in Congress and pass constitutional muster, to build a substantial empirical record documenting how contemporary campaign-finance practices departed from the intentions of existing law and to attract to the reform coalition a broader, more diverse set of groups and interests.
"These decisions transformed what had been a fractious reform community pursuing an ineffectual legislative strategy since the mid-1980s into a more pragmatic, formidable, and ultimately successful force.

"Looking back on this history, I am struck by the pivotal role played by The Pew Charitable Trusts and allied foundations in nurturing the efforts that made possible the new campaign finance law."

But there is another paragraph in Mann's article that includes a particularly troubling but revealing statement about what the campaign finance reform effort really seeks:

"Defenders of the new law, myself included, could not have been more pleased by the substance of the decision or by the rationale used by the majority to uphold Congress’s handiwork. The Court explicitly recognized the care the bill’s authors took to craft constitutional means to achieve a limited set of policy ends.
"While many BCRA critics see an ambitious and threatening departure in campaign finance regulation and jurisprudence, supporters are comforted that the Court recognized that Congress took measured and considered steps to restore a regime that was undermined in recent years by the rise of party soft money and the explosion of electioneering disguised as issue advocacy[emphasis added]."

Did you catch that last phrase? "Electioneering disguised as issue advocacy." It's not clear from Mann's formulation here which is the greater crime, electioneering or advocacy, but it seems a good bet that electioneering is the truly bad thing, so let's look at that word closely.

Here's another phrase that means exactly the same thing: "political speech." It comes from our English word "politics," which itself is derived from the Greek "Polis." The polis is literally we the city. Thus, politics is at the heart of the city's deliberation about itself and political speech is the language of that deliberation.

Now consider the meaning of "issue advocacy." The city's conversation is full of issues and those who express views on those issues are engaging in "issue advocacy." But that issue advocacy is simply another way of describing the politics of the city, its conversation about itself. Thus "electioneering" and "issue advocacy" are two different ways of describing the same thing. To limit electioneering is necessarily to limit issue advocacy, which is to limit political speech.

That is why protecting political speech - and its correlates of religion, press, assembly and petition - is the sine qua non of constitutional liberty. There is no alternative to a Bill of Rights that makes it absolutely clear - Congress shall make no law abridging those freedoms.

Campaign finance advocates protest and wail that they are being misrepresented by such a view, but the words come from their own mouths that freedom of political speech is something to be feared and that they mean to limit it by force of law. And once one such limit is accepted, there is no end to the limits that will follow.

Mann’s distinction between electioneering and issue advocacy is a false one. But campaign finance reform advocacy is full of such false distinctions because otherwise the clarity of the First Amendment would expose the whole enterprise for what it is, a threat to constitutional liberty.

This is why I believe the First Amendment has never been so threatened as it is now by campaign finance reform. Lincoln could at least point to a civil war in progress to justify jailing Copperhead newspaper editors in Ohio. And Adams could at least point to credible evidence of a war with France being near. But people like Mann want to regulate political speech simply because they must in order to control how candidates seek office and how voters debate the candidates' qualifications and promises. And the Supreme Court said go ahead.

Put another way, these people seek power to tell the rest of us what we can and cannot say about our city.

Another word for that is tyranny.