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: " 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.”


Lotta K said...

I wonder: journalism aside, don't people work that way too? Try to balance things? As if somehow balance makes thing better. More stable, at least. When in reality obviously they are not.

Jeremy Herb said...

The poll numbers about journalism weren't encouraging, I'll admit, but I'm not surprised that the public doesn't trust "the media." When that includes TV news -- and political pundits like Keith Olberman, Bill O'Rielly and, in some cases, Karl Rove -- I don't agree much that the media "tries to report the news without bias."

The problem is that journalists writing news aren't distinguished from the public by a lot of the public. Even at Santa Clara, I remember the outrage when the newspaper went so far as to, gasp, endorse a school presidential candidate. People didn't understand that it was opinion, not news (among other our right to do so...)

I think newspapers can do a better job of helping the public become media literate, especially in this age of over-saturated content. That is one key to improving how the public looks at journalism.

The only mentions of newspapers in the poll, in fact, are about newspaper "commentators" being both liberal and conservative, and then about print dying for Internet sources.

One other interesting tidbit from the survey:
"The U.S. Constitution estbalishes a Christian nation:"
55 percent agreed.

Also, is a great site, suggested to me first by the resident tech guy from the J-School Dean's office.