Tuesday, September 30, 2008

let them eat cake

Newspapers and magazines are folding right and left. (Latest casualty, the New York Sun) Those that survive are cutting back. The economy is in shambles, with (as of today) no bail-out in sight. And yet.

The Wall Street Journal reports that magazines and websites devoted to food are not only surviving, but thriving. There will be 336 pubs targeted toward foodies this year -- with several new ones ready for launch.

Interesting. Probably says something about the times: When the going gets tough, the tough want to cook? bk

Monday, September 29, 2008

quick riffs

Mayka sent a link to an old article from The Guardian in which Nicholas Carr defines blogs as, well, parasites that rest on the work that other journalists have already done. He says that's a good thing: The blogosphere, he writes, "acts as a kind of global echo chamber. An idea gets swatted around like a ping-pong ball for a few hours until a fresh one takes its place." And while it's bouncing around we all make more sense of it. Or at least pay attention.

In that spirit, a few quick hits:

It will be interesting to watch the reaction to the very conservative Kathleen Parker's column in the uber-right National Review Online, suggesting that Sarah Palin step down for the good of the Republican party. A trial balloon? An echo of intra-party talking points? A way to pre-spin the VP debate by shooting expectations down to negative numbers?

Speaking of spin, the Washington Post's media critic Howard Kurtz takes us for a spin inside the spin-doc tents after Friday night's debate. Pretty ridiculous premise, actually. Let's review: reporters who watched the debate need -- or will listen to -- partisans to tell them what they saw? Really? Hope there was food.

Still on the campaign: The Nation's Eric Alterman questions the pseudo-objectivity of news orgs that will report what politicians say --- but are reluctant to call them on it when they lie. Referencing McCain's accusation that Obama pushed for sex ed for kindergartners, he writes, "... many in the media cling to the belief that it is the calling of a reporter to report a politician's lies without apparent prejudice. In the Washington Post, not only did Jonathan Weisman and Peter Slevin take no position on the truth or falsehood of McCain's dishonest allegations; they waited a full eleven paragraphs before noting that the Obama campaign believed 'all of the accusations against him are a reach, if not fabrications.' "

I riffed about this earlier this month, and again last week. Our job: not stenography.

On another topic entirely, Editor and Publisher columnist Steve Outing outlines his vision for news 2.0 (or possibly news 3.0) as newspapers migrate completely online. Taking the "we are our own editors" concept one step further -- he calls it "The Daily Me 2.0" -- we would all configure our own pages on our daily paper's website, combining content from staff reports, wire services, news from unaffiliated websites, blogs, user-driven forums and even social networking sites. All at our own choosing. Interesting.

And finally: tabloid journalism. Tracing the history of the National Enquirer, Newsweek reports that the tab, which once had a circulation higher than the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal combined, is now, like its respectable cousins, falling victim to the internet, where celebrity gossip is quicker and cheaper. Love it or hate it, its headlines (my daughter once had her bedroom door plastered with them) are always good for a laugh. Like this one, from Newsweek's piece:

Cheers. bk

Sunday, September 28, 2008

mayka makes good

Congrats to Mayka Mei (SCU '06), who is now a featured writer on That Minority Thing, a new web community where minority voices can come together -- as well as a filter for news about issues relating to groups often marginalized by the mainstream press. The site launched last week. You can read her first piece here.

Back at SCU, Mayka Mei was Director of the Multicultural Center her junior year and before and after that, a writer and designer for The Santa Clara. She won an award for a piece on clubbing she did for the paper her senior year. She started her latest blog, theMaykazine -- subtited "overthinking so you don't have to"-- a couple months ago. Below, she talks about how a post on her blog led to her current gig: A good lesson on why you should always practice good blog etiquette.

"A few months ago I started my latest blog. (My oldest blog is old enough to enroll in second grade.) Even though I don't have a singular theme for theMaykazine, I discipline myself in writing about my core interests in culture and intercultural relations at least once a week.

After writing "You can't see me!" in response to John Ridley's Huffington Post article "Are Asians the new invisible man?," I received an invitation from Ridley's publicist to contribute to That Minority Thing. It excited me a lot. I didn't expect to be receiving any messages other than silly press releases, and here was an opportunity to contribute to a new media outlet devoting itself to minority issues and minority voices.

TMT just launched officially last week, but I already love the Featured Writers section, where other socially conscientious bloggers like myself have aggregated to examine current events and ongoing issues.

Advice to aspiring bloggers: Always practice good blog etiquette and hotlink your sources."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

everything i know about blogs ...

I learned from blogging. Well, sort of.

Here's how Technorati defines the blogosphere: The ecosystem of interconnected communities of bloggers and readers at the convergence of journalism and conversation.

This came up about a month ago in a conversation about "quick-click journalism" that made our heads hurt. (check the comments) As i wrote then, primordial soup: You gotta wonder if, as the blog world continues to expand and evolve, if various distinct "neighborhoods" will take shape. Will there be boundaries? Should there be? With rules? Will that change the nature of the blogosphere itself? And what about protections? That came up a month ago to, with regard to a post (and comments) about Josh Wolf.

Interesting to watch how this will play out, yeah? Your guess being as good as mind, let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, you can find Technorati's complete State of the Blogosphere/2008 here.

From that report:
"But as the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

jumpin jack flash

Congrats to Jack Gillum!

The former Editor in Chief of The Santa Clara just landed his dream gig at USA Today, where he will be a database editor, overseeing data-driven projects, working on some of his own enterprise projects and coordinating with IT folks on interactive Web apps. He interned there the summer after his sophomore year.

Jack will be leaving for DC as soon as he wraps things up at The Arizona Daily Star, where he has covered cops, business and been part of the computer-assisted-reporting team. er, maybe he WAS the computer-assisted-reporting team. He'll correct me if I'm wrong.

You can check out his work here. I'll post a headshot if he ever sends me one. (update: he just did!) Meanwhile, pretty darn cool for someone barely a year out of j. school, yeah? Should give you all hope. bk

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fact checking sites: more

Mark Glaser just posted an in-depth look at political fact-checking sites at MediaShift. No doubt, fact-check sites may do what media doesn't to hold politicians accountable. But still, so many questions. As I wrote Sunday: still not sure about the answers.

Do these sites increase the perception that we can't trust journalists to get it right? Who are the final arbiters of truth? (if, indeed, there is any such thing. but let's not go there.) And why do we annoint certain sites as more reliable than others? Because they say they are? Because we want/need to believe in them?

And are those reporters who still have jobs too overworked to do the fact-checking themselves?

I also worry that if there is distance between the original report and the subsequent fact-check, folks who don't happen to be computer geeks or news junkies like yours truly might never find the straight story. And even if there is no distance at all, there's still room for the message to get lost.

Anyhow, you'll find me toward the end of Glaser's piece, dancing on...

“Can [fact-check sites and mainstream media] work in tandem? I think they absolutely should,” said Kelley. “But that also can bring problems. There was a Boston Globe piece that referenced Obama talking about McCain’s plan to privatize Social Security and how the recent stock market collapse could have affected current retirees. Then the article quoted FactCheck.org saying Obama was wrong because McCain had proposed this plan only for those born in 1950. The article left it at that — without getting into any of the nuances, so Obama’s statement was dismissed as non-factual, but the point of what he was saying was missed.

“Finally, how many fact-check sites will reporters rely upon? You have to wonder where the sites themselves get their info — do they go back to original transcripts? Multiple sources? And also, which ones will become the arbiters of truth? Will it be like relying only upon the New York Times or AP to tell us what’s going on in Washington or Iraq? I guess what I’m saying is that, like soup kitchens, fact-check sites address crucial problems, but the real issue should be why we need them in the first place.”

to blog or not to blog...

That's the question posed in a post by Mark Glaser on MediaShift, his PBS-sponsored blog that tracks the ways in which the digital media revolution is changing our world.

His post digs into the story of one NYU journalism student who, after blogging about one of her journalism classes, was apparently called to the woodshed by her professor and told not to blog, not to twitter and not to write about the class again. The professor found the student's blog to be an invasion of privacy of the other students in the class.

But then, isn't forbidding students to blog about a class a restriction of free speech?

Interesting post, interesting comments, all multi-layered. On a deeper level, the post illustrates one of the many ways in which evolving technologies are changing the rules and forcing us to reconsider what we thought we knew. (Think l'affaire Mayhill Fowler.)

So join the conversation: So much more fun than learning AP Style. Not that there's anything wrong with that. bk

Monday, September 22, 2008

not just a clever name

You have to wonder if the late Herb Caen, the San Francisco Chronicle's Pullitzer-winning "three-dot" journalist, may have been the original blogger: a bunch of short items, bold-faced names that, had he been on the internet, would certainly have been links, and lots of random connections.

In that spirit, a bunch of short J.linx. Something for everyone.

Possibly an attempt to compete with all the political blogs out there that, ahem, offer a bunch of quick links, the Washington Post has just launched Political Browser, a site that will provide links to what it considers the best political coverage, even by rival news orgs, of the day. According to Editor and Publisher, "the idea behind the Political Browser, expected to start Monday, is to brief political junkies on the top "must reads" of the day, from an article on a scandal to a humorous video making the rounds on Google Inc.'s YouTube." Interesting.

Lots of interesting data in the latest "State of the First Amendment Survey": Among the more, uh, interesting findings, the majority of Americans surveyed strongly disagrees that the news media "tries to report the news without bias." Regarding the presidential campaign, 48 percent of those surveyed found coverage of Obama to be "very fair" while only 30 percent felt the same about McCain's coverage. And just over half (51 percent) of those surveyed strongly agree that it is important for our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog over government. Just over half? Baffling.

Richard Perez-Pena, writing in the New York Times, notes that many reporters covering Wall Street's meltdown used very careful language so as not to add to the panic. He writes: "...in most of the news, stocks have “slid” and markets “gyrated” but not “crashed.” Companies have “tottered” and “struggled” rather than moved toward failure and bankruptcy." Were those writers minimizing the danger? Acting responsibly? Misplacing their loyalties?

For those of you who can't get enough of the campaign -- and are numbers nerd to boot: check out this detailed, continually-updated website on electoral projections and polls.

The American Prospect discusses the demise of yet one more newspaper's Washington bureau, and what that means not only for political coverage but for the newspaper industry itself. I talked about this last year when i played "bad cop" on a panel with a couple of folks from the San Jose Mercury about their attempts to recreate their newspaper: As newspapers constrict and close bureaus to concentrate on "hyperlocal coverage", you are left with a diminishing marketplace of ideas where one or two news orgs controls the agenda -- and the filter -- as well as, in your local paper, a front page full of silly stuff. Like, for example, the day last summer that the front page story in the Merc -- above the fold, complete with graphic, was about the local kid who was poised to win Nathan's hot dog eating contest. Hello?!

And finally, after some office chitchat today about "he said/she said" journalism, my officemate Gordon Young writes the following about a couple of pieces in the NYT.:

Here are links to the NY Times items I mentioned in the discussion of balanced coverage.
Here's the Krugman column:

And here's the key section:
"Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well,
they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of
being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician
says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong,
it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie
from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other,
conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.

They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race
reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it
becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”

And here's the news article "McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as

And here is the painful attempt to be balanced by including some of
Obama's "distortions":

Mr. Obama’s hands have not always been clean in this regard. He was
called out earlier for saying, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain supported a
hundred-year war” in Iraq after Mr. McCain said in January that he
would be fine with a hypothetical 100-year American presence in Iraq, as
long as Americans were not being injured or killed there.

More recently, Mr. Obama has been criticized for advertisements that
have distorted Mr. McCain’s record on schools financing and incorrectly
accused him of not supporting loan guarantees for the auto industry — a
hot topic in Michigan. He has also taken Mr. McCain’s repeated comments
that American economy is “fundamentally sound” out of context, leaving
out the fact that Mr. McCain almost always adds at the same time that he
understands that times are tough and “people are hurting.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

just the links ...

... and nothing but the links.

Make that the facts. Or more specifically, fact-checking, which has moved into prime media real estate this presidential campaign season.

The idea: to provide quick and easy measure of the truthfulness in ads, speeches, blogs and other avenues of campaign rhetoric, all at internet speed.

There's FactCheck.org, run by the Annenburg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. It's goal: "to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases."

There's Politifact.com, which among other things has a "truth-o-meter" to separate fact from fiction when the candidates go on the attack.

There's even a new widget called spin-spotter, which will automatically point out bias in articles you might read online. According to Business Week, "
The application's algorithms work off six key tenets of spin and bias, which the company derived from both the guidelines of the Society of Professional Journalists' Code Of Ethics and input from an advisory board composed of journalism luminaries." In addition, spin-spotter will also rely on the wikipedia-like wisdom of the crowds -- which could keep it honest or could also inject a whole new kind of bias.

No question that being able to dispatch the truth at cyberspeed is good for the reader/viewer. But here's what gives me just a bit of the uh-oh feeling: Don't you wonder why we need all these fact-checking sites apart from the newsrooms? After all, isn't separating fact from fiction the reporter's job in the first place? bk

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a slow write ...

The next time you spend hours and sweat blood, all in pursuit of that perfect lede -- which eludes you nonetheless-- refer to the work of the late mystery writer James Crumley, often called one of the most influential and revered crime novelists of the post-Vietnam era. He died Tuesday.

From his obit in the Washington Post:

"Mr. Crumley published 11 books, the best-known of which was 'The Last Good Kiss' (1978), whose opening line has been widely called the best in crime fiction: 'When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.'

"That line, he said, took him eight years to write. ..."

Photo credit:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

life continues to follow capstone

Two years ago Kristin Swenson spent hours upon hours reporting and writing a long-form piece on KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. She hung out in the classrooms, the schoolyards, the cafeterias, talked to students, teachers and principals. And when she was through, she was left with almost as many questions about the program as answers. Clearly, she put a debate on the table.

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, education writer Nanette Asimov comes to many of the same conclusions, and wonders about many of the same issues that Kristin did: teacher burn-out; high drop out rate; disciplinary measures; and whether the program's overwhelming success with the students who stick it out can be replicated in other schools. Like Kristin, she finds that the verdict is still out.

Speaking of Kristin, be sure to read her comment (there are two) on this post. Natalie's too.

And speaking of students, check out Pat Semansky's photo essay on New Orleans post-katrina in the SCU alumni magazine.

More later. Maybe. bk

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

and again.

It continues to baffle: The idea that when you reduce the quality of a product -- in this case, news -- more people will buy it and you will make more money. To paraphrase the late, great Molly Ivins: "It's not that newspapers are dying that pisses me off. It's that they are committing suicide." Clearly.

McClatchy newspapers just announced it will trim its workforce by 10 percent -- or roughly 1,150 full time positions -- in the face of advertising revenues that had decreased by 17.8 percent this past year.

According to the press release issued by the company:
"It is painful to announce these staff reductions, but the continued restructuring of our company is necessary given the relentless economic downturn and its impact on our business," McClatchy Chairman and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a release. "But it is also part of a strategic vision of becoming a hybrid print and online media company. McClatchy is committed to remaining a healthy, profitable company positioned to meet current challenges."

Photo courtesy of Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press. Molly Ivins in 2006.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

on gary smith

For all you Gary Smith fans: The award winning Sports Illustrated feature writer who has just come out with a new book, “Sports Illustrated: Going Deep,” was profiled in the New York Times yesterday.

I got my first dose of Smith's work when Melissa Segura (SCU, '01) brought a copy of her favorite piece to one of the first j. classes she took from me: he was her idol, and his work probably did more than anything else to inspire her to pursue a career in journalism.

Which she did. She is currently a writer-reporter at Sports Illustrated where she often works with Smith, who has become both a mentor and a friend. Segura covers baseball. Like her mentor, Segura looks deeply at the players, not just the games. Here's a link to one of her pieces.

Anyway, Smith's work is now a staple -- and a favorite -- of Magazine Journalism. From the Times article:

"Mr. Smith writes for Sports Illustrated. But his work is only tangentially about games, with great appeal for people who wouldn’t know a nickel defense from a triangle offense. Each year he produces four long, earnest feature articles that probe the psyches of wounded people, some of them famous but most obscure, from Andre Agassi to high school basketball players on an Indian reservation.

"And if the results are sometimes called melodrama, they have more often been praised as the work of perhaps the greatest American magazine writer currently working. He has won four National Magazine Awards — that industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize — for nonfiction writing, more than anyone else. He has been a finalist 10 times, also a record."

egregious self-promotion

So I wrote this op-ed on choice overload for the Christian Science Monitor a few months ago. It was reprinted in Santa Clara Magazine's fall issue, which just came out. I'd be very interested in your feedback as to whether or not you can relate. You can email me directly or leave an anonymous comment.

btw, hideous picture. bk

Monday, September 15, 2008

another riff on numbers

Just a short one. You'd think that counting heads is pretty objective, right? It depends on whom you ask.

Bloomberg.com reports that recent crowd size estimates provided by the McCain campaign not only seem to be at variance with reporters' own observations but also with the officials who supposedly supplied the numbers in the first place.

Obvious lesson here: When you're covering a crowd, either count heads yourself or make sure you get estimates from more than one reliable source -- folks without a horse in the race. Which is why I am baffled as to why reporters would rely solely on the campaign's word. That's it. bk

who controls the message?

I think we all agree that too much information clearly trumps not enough information. Still, New York Times columnist Adam Nagourney brings up an interesting question today regarding the unintended consequences of our ever-expanding marketplace of ideas -- especially with regard to the current presidential campaign.

Amidst the fog of "blog postings, cable television headlines, television advertisements, speeches by other candidates and surrogates, video press releases, screaming e-mailed charges and counter-charges — not to mention the old-fashioned newspaper article or broadcast report on the evening news", Nagourney suggests that both presidential campaigns are more than a little bit flummoxed in figuring out how to proceed.

Clearly, the message is no longer in the control of either the campaigns or the journalists who cover them.

I think the bigger question regards the voters themselves and how they will filter all that the media -- using that term in the widest possible sense -- serves up on a minute-by-minute basis. (and don't forget youtube.com) You also have to wonder if the same expanded marketplace that has brought us both fact and fiction will also allow the so-called wisdom of the crowds to prevail.

Meanwhile, however, here's what Nagourney sees as the biggest challenge facing each campaign:

"... the ways in which the proliferation of communications channels, the fracturing of mass media and the relentless political competition to own each news cycle are combining to reorder the way voters follow campaigns and decide how to vote. It has reached a point where senior campaign aides say they are no longer sure what works, as they stumble through what has become a daily campaign fog, struggling to figure out what voters are paying attention to and, not incidentally, what they are even believing."

Friday, September 12, 2008

which white women?

Digging deeper into the numbers: According to tracking interviews conducted before and after the DNC and RNC, the Gallup poll found that there was no disproportionate shift in the preferences of white women after Sarah Palin's nomination as McCain's running mate.

Check out the raw numbers and you'll find a different picture of the so-called white women phenomenon. The actual surge amounts to 4 percent, almost the same as for white men, which may or may not be due to the post-convention bounce.

According to the analysis:

"Despite the intense focus on the potential impact on white women of McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, the Gallup data do not show that to this point white women have been significantly different in their response to the convention period than has the average voter."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dispatch from Columbia University: Obama/McCain

Jeremy Herb (SCU '08)
now a grad student at Columbia's J-School, sends the following dispatch re the Obama-McCain panel on public service at Columbia University in New York today:

"It's been a fun day, though the speeches were a bit of a letdown. After classes, I grabbed a camera and a notebook and went out without knowing what I'd find. I ended up writing about some other non-Columbia students who made it into the speeches, and then also protesters outside the school. I even took photos for a slideshow of the protesters, something I don't have too much experience with. The atmosphere was pretty crazy, both outside and in the student center, which has turned into a newsroom. I'm glad I got to be part of this project, which probably had about 20 people contributing either as reporters, photographers, multimedia people or editors. And there was a lot of good stuff on there from all over the city. This was completely student planned and run, and is a good sign of the entrepreneurial ability of my class. It would have been fun had I gotten into the event either as a student or press, but that's OK."

Here's Jeremy's complete blog.

Here's an excerpt:

It's been a zoo here today at Columbia: police surrounding the campus, entrances closed, having to show a school ID to get on campus.

After finishing classes, I went out and did some reporting, adding to the above blog. I put myself on the protest beat, as I was first to put up a slideshow when protesters gathered a little after 5 p.m. It was very peaceful, I even saw protesters talking with a nearby officer.

The steps outside Columbia were full of students, as a giant TV screen was outside. I watched inside the J-school student center, which has essentially turned into a newsroom, complete with a live feed of the room on the blog.

photo courtesy jeremy herb

and more...

Back in J-school, we were required to take a class in Precision Journalism in which we learned how to conduct surveys and polls, how to interpret them, and how to write about them. It was tons of work and I'll be honest. Everyone of us hated the class in every possible way.

But what I learned lingered. Which is why i am, er, perseverating on the "white women" poll. A couple of quick linx might help put those -- and other -- polls in perspective.

First, some background: NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen writes about political reporting in general, and herd reporting in particular. He also discusses the "horse race" narrative in political reporting.

Second, some quick rules on writing about polls from the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

Third, Sheldon R. Gawiser, Ph.D. and G. Evans Witt, cofounders of the Associated Press/NBC News Poll, layout "20 questions a journalist should ask about poll results." (Some of you may recognize some of these questions from comm 40.)

Finally, University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles Franklin, co-developer of Pollster.com, talks on polling techniques and issues on Minnesota public radio. A little dull, a little dry -- we're talking numbers, after all -- but informative nonetheless.

You also might want to check out the link in Andrea's comment on yesterday's post. It offers a different perspective on the white women phenomenon. That's all. bk

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

quick linx for j-kids, past and present:

YouTube is partnering with Pulitzer in sponsoring a video journalism contest for aspiring reporters and j. students "to tell stories that might not be otherwise covered by traditional media." There's money involved and the clock is ticking.

And: check out the work of some of Pam Moreland's summer comm 4o kids, again on youtube. cool, yeah?

lies, damn lies and statistics

Numbers don't lie. Unless they do.

Polls are showing a sudden surge of support for McCain-Palin among white women. I'm feeling a little bit of backlash about the way those numbers are being used. I smell some sexism going on here -- not necessarily in the way Palin is being portrayed by the media -- but more in the way these polls are being spun by pundits and cynics.

I'm a white woman. I know lots of white women. Some of my best friends are white women. I don't know one of them who would kick her political ideals to the curb simply because a candidate shows up in a skirt.

I do know two who were impressed and intrigued by Hillary early in the primary season, but as lifelong Republicans, they have always sworn their allegiance to McCain. As for the PUMAs, yes, they make for sexy interviews, but clearly we are talking outliers here.

So my question is, who ARE these white women rushing to support the Republican ticket? Independents? Undecideds? Were they there all along and are just now making their numbers known? Clearly, we need to drill down the data to find out more about these women -- rather than to use the numbers to imply that white women voters on the whole are fickle, foolish and more interested in gender than issues.

As i said, backlash: demeaning, insulting, marginalizing.

Speaking of which, I heard a new term today to refer to a certain segment of the vote: "K-mart moms". Really?! Enough. bk

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

no such thing as bad ink

A funny thing happened while the Republicans were setting up the so-called elite media as enemy number one: The McCain-Palin ticket took complete control of the news agenda. According to The Project for Excellence in Journalism Coverage Index for last week, Sarah Palin dominated campaign coverage, even earning more press than her running mate. Her selection itself and her acceptance speech garnered the most coverage at 28 percent. Family issues came in at 10 percent, while stories about her public record scored 6 percent. Whether the coverage was positive or negative, it had one desired effect for the McCain camp: it knocked Obama off page one.

According to the report:

"Sarah Palin, the first woman on a Republican ticket, was the focus of feverish attention as the media tried to find out more about her, convey her record and biography, and calculate her impact on the race. For the week of Sept. 1-7, Palin was a significant or dominant factor in 60% of the campaign stories, according to the Campaign Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. McCain was fairly close behind, a significant or dominant factor in 52% of the stories.

Put another way, Palin enjoyed more coverage as a VP candidate during the GOP convention than Obama did a week earlier when he became the first person of color to accept the nomination for president of a major party. With the other ticket making most of the news, Obama was a focus in 22% of the stories last week, by far his lowest week of coverage in the general election season. His running mate Joe Biden registered at 2%."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Running against the press, redux

Ever since the RNC closed up shop on Thursday, one of the prime players in the inchoate campaign continues to be the "elite media". Check these links, and let me know what you think. bk

Jack Shafer writes about the way Sarah Palin will run against the press.

Howard Kurtz writes that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews are out as news anchors for live political events at MSNBC because of their lack of neutrality.

Marketwatch's Jon Friedman interviews CNN's Campbell Brown on the aftermath of her questioning of Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for McCain's campaign, about Palin's qualifications shorty after McCain chose her to be his running mate.

Finally, in a public editor column in the New York Times, Clark Hoyt defends and explains much of the media vetting of Sarah Palin. He writes:

"The drip-drip-drip of these stories seems like partisanship to Palin’s partisans. But they fill out the picture of who she is, and they represent a free press doing its job, investigating a candidate who might one day be the leader of the Free World."

Friday, September 5, 2008

life follows capstone

A lot of the discussion in last spring's capstone class revolved around Facebook, mainly because senior Natasha Lindstrom was reporting on the potential of widgets (or applications) to not only wreak havoc with your computer, but -- worst case scenario -- steal your identity. A few days after Natasha turned in her piece, all 4000 words of it, the LA Times broke a story on that very topic.

But we also talked in class -- well, they talked. I ranted -- about the way Facebook can deliver highly targeted audiences to advertisers based on what appears on users' profiles. And again, life follows capstone. In Thursday's Washington Post, staffer Rachel Beckman writes that every time she logged onto her home page, she was bombarded with diet ads.

"Maybe it's my age, my sex or the fact that it knew I was engaged," Beckman writes, "but the site decided I was a gal who needed to drop a few pounds. And it wasn't shy about its tactics."

The old Facebook fear was that prospective employers (not to mention university officials) would have far too much information about what a particular user did on a Saturday night. Now it appears you not only have to worry about losing your identity -- but admen telling you that identity just doesn't measure up.

Natasha, by the way, is currently doing good work as a reporter at the Victorville Daily Press.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Speechification, 101

If last night's speeches at the RNC are any indication, the McCain campaign is running hard against two opponents: Barack Obama and that darned old Elite Media, suggests Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times. It's an old, old song -- Dan Quayle, anyone? -- but is a sure-fire trick to rally the faithful. This time around, the lightening rod is Sarah Palin, who is being portrayed as the victim of the nasty media -- read "liberal" -- which has had to the nerve to take a peek into her background beyond the campaign bio.

Hmmmm. I thought that was our job. Heartbeat away, and all of that, right?

Prepare to hear more of the same tonight -- and whenever else the news media deviates from the party line.

Speaking of which, there is a good lesson in the true meaning of journalistic objectivity in all of last night's speechiness wrt Palin. Meaningless definition: Slam, bam, thank you ma'am: Record what's said and your job is done. True definition: Add context.

Speakers can say whatever they want. Reporters need to remember that the speech itself is just the beginning. As Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn shows here, it's up to reporters to let readers/viewers know whether what's said in a speech is fact or fiction. Check it out.

Have just returned from a family va-kay, where we had a steady diet of sun, news, and political chitchat -- not necessarily in that order. Back on track tomorrow. bk