Category Archives: journalism

It Was All A Big Joke

Ok, I’ll admit it. I got totally duped on this one:

Christwire has lately reached new levels of popularity, in part thanks to an Aug. 14 column, “Is My Husband Gay?” Written by Stephenson Billings, the piece is a 15-point checklist to help wives diagnose possibly closeted husbands. “Gym membership but no interest in sports” is one warning sign. So is “Sassy, sarcastic and ironic around his friends” and “Love of pop culture.” “Is My Husband Gay?” was picked up on The Huffington Post and mentioned by Ryan Seacrest on his radio show; so far it has been viewed 8.3 million times.

Oh, by the way: Christwire is all one big joke.

Not the readership — which hit a high of 27 million page views in August — but the content, the opinions and the fake authors who write the stuff.

Well played, gentlemen. Well played…

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‘The Cravenness of the Legitimate Press”

If you missed Josh Marshall’s commentary on the Breitbart/Sherrod affair, well, it’s a must-read. Here, he dissects the real essence of the problem, which is, of course, our news media:

What’s most instructive about the whole episode, however, is the cravenness of the legitimate press. You’ll see no end of ‘media stories’ about the Wiegel nonsense and now even more about ‘journolist’. Politico, I think, has published half a dozen pieces on each I imagine. But I doubt you’ll see many if any of these ‘media criticism’ or ‘media stories’ about the perpetrators of the offense in this instance. All I’ve seen so far is Kurtz’s piece referenced above, which is apparently intended as a Fox-defending corrective to the almost non-existent critiques of their role in the affair.

It’s much easier to focus on Obama or Vilsack or ‘what it says about race in America’ or whatever other nonsense. Because most reporters are simply cowed by Fox and Breitbart and Beck and the rest of the organized forces of bamboozlement — too afraid, too bewildered, too hapless to apply anything remotely approaching standards in analyzing the fourth estate of which they are the nominal custodians. So what we get is this ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak not at all’ routine from reporters and journalists who should know better.

The entire post is worth reading.

Journalism Wants To Be Free

By now, surely everyone has heard, and seen, the Iraq video from Wikileaks. Of particular interest from the NYT article on the story, is this section:

By releasing such a graphic video, which a media organization had tried in vain to get through traditional channels, WikiLeaks has inserted itself in the national discussion about the role of journalism in the digital age. Where judges and plaintiffs could once stop or delay publication with a court order, WikiLeaks exists in a digital sphere in which information becomes instantly available.

“The most significant thing about the release of the Baghdad video is that several million more people are on the same page,” with knowledge of WikiLeaks, said Lisa Lynch, an assistant professor of journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, who recently published a paper about the site. “It is amazing that outside of the conventional channels of information something like this can happen.”

A big part of the Wikileaks story is they were able to decrypt the video, apparently using some borrow time on a high-powered computer system (one would be needed to break strong encryption; obviously, it could turn out the encryption used on this video was very weak). That’s not something CNN would likely be willing to do, let alone have the resources to spend on such an effort. But it’s the perfect sort of task for a site that falls outside the field of journalism — or, perhaps more precisely, a site that is redrawing its boundaries.

The question of just “what is journalism” has dogged journalists and academics since the rise of bloggers and “citizen journalists.” Wikileaks, though, seems to be a different sort of thing. Wikileaks isn’t a bunch of intrepid bloggers running through a FOIA data dump, and it’s certainly operating outside of what we’ve come to recognize as traditional journalism. The founder of Wikileaks, in fact, compares what the site does to something more like the CIA:

“That’s arguably what spy agencies do — high-tech investigative journalism,” Julian Assange, one of the site’s founders, said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s time that the media upgraded its capabilities along those lines.”

One byproduct of the digitization of nearly everything these days is that information wants to be free. It should not be surprising that a video such as the one from Iraq, which is digitally captured and stored, could find its way in front of our eyes, just as the photographs from Abu Ghraib made their way onto our screens.

And it should not be surprising that a site such as Wikileaks would not only find a place in this new digitally-enhanced ecosystem of journalism and politics, but even thrive.

Journalist Admits Journalists Don’t Do Journalism

Howard Kurtz’s column today contains a stunning admission — Journalists really don’t do journalism:

In the end, [healthcare reform] may simply have been too dense for the media to fully digest. If you’re a high-information person who routinely plows through 2,000-word newspaper articles, you had a reasonably good grasp of the arguments. For a busy electrician who plugs in and out of the news, the jousting and the jargon may have seemed bewildering.

Once the law takes effect — its provisions stretched out over years — perhaps journalists can help separate rhetoric from reality. That is, if we don’t lose interest and move to the next hot controversy.

Kurtz tries to save his fellow colleagues, by attempting to point out where they actually provided value:

One stellar moment for the press was the refusal to perpetuate the myth of “death panels.” After Sarah Palin floated the idea that government commissions would decide which ailing patients deserved to be saved, journalists at The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and ABC News, among others, said flatly that this was untrue.

But even this is a stretch. Oh, it’s true in the eyes of the news media, but that is because they have a warped sense of “journalism.”

In our corporate-funded news media system, providing “objective” news means bringing the two sides of a debate into a room and letting them have their say. In our media system, it is never the journalists job to actually state something is not true.

Take, for example, the above-mentioned healthcare debate. Here is the transcript from an August 2009 CNN news show, at the height of the Tea Party protests. Anchor John Roberts is “fact-checking” the claims of the Republicans:

ROBERTS: Well, here again tonight to help us fact-check some of what we’re hearing is Bill Adair. He’s the editor of PolitiFact.com, which earned a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of hundreds of political claims during the 2008 campaign.

Bill, it’s great to see you tonight. You heard the president’s response to this idea of death panels. Sarah Palin has a new posting on her Facebook page where she claims it’s the president who’s wrong. Here’s what she says.

“With all due respect, it’s misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients.”

So, what do the Truth-O-Meter say about all this bill? Is the former governor correct or is she incorrect?

BILL ADAIR, EDITOR, POLITIFACT.COM: She is incorrect. We gave that a false on our Truth-O-Meter on PolitiFact.com.

Really when you look at the bill, when you look at the language, it is voluntary. There is nothing in the bill that says that it’s mandatory. There’s nothing that backs up this claim. Now, Palin makes the point, well, perhaps seniors could feel pressured to take this care. And perhaps that’s possible.

But as the language is written now, as we have discussed it with experts, it’s just not true to say that it’s not voluntary. It is voluntary. It’s an optional thing. So, she gets a false on our Truth-O-Meter.

ROBERTS: False on the mandatory death panel. All right, Bill, cleared that one up.

A CNN anchor would never come out and say something is not true; he relies on someone from “Politifact.com” to say it. He needs the Truth-O-Meter, instead of just speaking the truth.

More importantly, I am sure it would be easy enough to find a campaign contribution made by Bill Adair, or some other statement he has made, to discredit him with an accusation of “bias.” And this is not just Bill Adair, but it’s the hundreds of other pundits and interviewees that are used in the same way in similar stories all the time. This is why our news system does not work.

Until journalists start doing their job, until they stop relying on “experts” to provide the requisite two-sides-to-every-story, our politics will never be served by their existence.

Punked

Balloon boy, all a big hoax, it seems

Old Versus New Media: Food Writer Edition

Cook’s Illustrated editor Chris Kimball has thrown down the gauntlet!

If you haven’t been following this food blogger versus professional writer battle that’s been simmering, it started when Kimball wrote a fairly silly op/ed in the Times, bashing both the so-called amateurish writing of bloggers, as well as the larger movement of participatory culture that is happening in all areas of media, where “regular people” have been given a voice through social media. When it comes to food writing, Kimball doesn’t seem too keen on this at all:

…in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up.They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers.

Bloggers have hit back; in particular, Adam Roberts, over at the Amateur Gourmet, has a great response:

The derision and condescension in this statement is baffling. Every food writer—from MFK Fisher to Ruth Reichl herself—started at the bottom and worked their way up. Kimball, at the end of his column, invokes Julia Child, a cook who didn’t start her food career until much later in life. If she’d had a blog documenting her time at Le Cordon Bleu (and maybe she would have, if she’d been born a few decades later), would Kimball complain that she hadn’t spilled enough blood in the kitchen yet? That “inexperience rarely leads to wisdom?”

It’s naïve to think that all food writing on the web is created equal, that the “million instant pundits” are all valued the same. The truth is that there are, indeed, an enormous number of food blogs out there, but it’s still a meritocracy: only the good ones gain traction. The most popular food blogs are popular because of their quality; in many ways, their content is better than much of what you’ll find in actual food magazines, including Kimball’s.

Kimball comes across here as elitist, an old guard fighting off the new. If he doesn’t read food blogs, he’s missing out on a diverse world of recipes and ideas and perspective on food. His notion of an “anonymous Twitter comment” is also strange — while we may not see each other on Twitter, the people I talk to there are hardly strangers. And yes, if someone I follow (and trust) on Twitter makes a recipe or restaurant recommendation, I’ll surely be paying attention.

In any case, perhaps looking to settle this (or cash in on the controversy, more likely!), Kimball has upped the ante, challenging any recipe found on a wiki to one of his from the Test Kitchen:

So, I am willing to put my money, and my reputation, where my big mouth is. I offer a challenge to any supporter of the WIKI or similar concept to jump in and go head to head with our test kitchen. We will jointly agree on a recipe, on the rules, on a time frame, etc. At the end, we will ask a panel of impartial judges to make and test the recipes and declare a winner.

It’s a fantastic idea, and should be lots of fun.

Let the games begin!!!

Parasitic Media: Butcher Edition

A good example of parasitic media, this time involving, well, butchers.

What’s significant here, though, is there’s not a blogger in sight: New York mag writes a story, copied by the Times, copied by Nightline.

New York details the, um, “borrowing,” here.

Greatest. Quote. Ever.

“The world is literally her oyster.”

– Meg Stapleton, spokesperson for Sarah Palin

link

Unethical

That’s the only word I can think that properly describes this.

I would like to understand why it’s not unethical, and how it could be considered proper journalism.

Demise of Journalism, Part 168

The State releases national media’s desperate attempts to score an interview with the then-missing Sanford:

National media blitzed Gov. Mark Sanford’s staff, offering big ratings and, possibly, a sympathetic venue in an effort to land the first interview with the governor after his six-day trip to Argentina.

In addition, a blogger and state leaders reached out to Sanford’s office to try to coordinate a way to “push back” on the growing mystery surrounding Sanford’s absence.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering is detailed in e-mails released by the governor’s office this week in response to The State’s request under the freedom of information act.

This (that is, the institution of journalism) is all-too-cozy with its sources to serve the public’s interests.