Thursday, May 07, 2009

More "Bad Blogger" BS And Fourth Estate Fiction

(I also posted here.)

I guess I should be a bit sympathetic to Lindsay Graham, but I really don’t feel like it.

You see, the Repug senator from South Carolina found out here that Tom Ridge won’t run in a PA primary against Pat Toomey after all (would have been tough sledding for the former PA gov, but who knows), so he must’ve been feeling bad about that. Also, he incorrectly stated here that all GITMO detainees could be held indefinitely (wrong again – as Think Progress tells us, 17 Chinese Muslim prisoners, among others, were no longer to be regarded as such).

But I guess what really got me stoked about Graham today was when he said the following from here…

“If we’re going to let the bloggers run the country, then the country’s best days are behind us.”
(I should note that those “bad bloggers” had the effrontery to actually hold Graham’s little Repug Senate play mate Jeff Sessions, who took Snarlin’ Arlen’s seat on the Judiciary Committee as ranking Repug, accountable for his past racial insensitivity, which kept him off the Federal bench in 1986 – Specter ended up casting the key “No” vote to make that happen, strangely enough.)

But believe it or not, that wasn’t the worst commentary that I read about your humble narrator and others of my political orientation; this Washington Post story by Dana Milbank reports on the funereal atmosphere of a Senate hearing on the future of newspapers chaired by John Kerry yesterday, including the following…

It was getting very morose. Fortunately, Kerry livened up the proceedings by inviting two accused newspaper industry killers -- Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and Marissa Mayer of Google -- to share their views.

"The future of quality journalism is not dependent on the future of newspapers," announced Huffington, whose Web site relies on free newspaper reporting. She scolded newspapers for having the nerve to want to charge money for their products.

Mayer, who oversees Google News, explained how "Google is doing its part" to preserve journalism -- by keeping the lion's share of ad revenue before directing readers to newspaper sites. "Google News and Google search provide a valuable service to online newspapers specifically by sending interested readers to their sites," she said.

Oh? Let's plug in "Senate Commerce Committee 'Future of Journalism' hearing" into Google News and see what comes up. After a link to a wire story, the second headline is "Google's Mayer to Dispense Advice to Newspapers At Senate Hearing."
You know, this is the typical big-media grousing that has, in part, led to our current sorry state.

So it’s Google’s fault that they’re not kicking back some more dough to the WaPo as well as some of the news organizations lamented in the story? And it’s supposedly their fault also that readers may want to use their search engine to find other accounts of the Senate hearing besides the one in Milbank’s paper?

And as we know, Milbank has never been guilty of journalistic malfeasance himself (uh, right).

But it gets better…

In the real world, Google and the Huffington Post are triumphing over traditional news-gathering organizations. But before the senators, Huffington and Mayer were decidedly in the minority. Newspapers, said Cardin, are "essential to a free and democratic society" and provide "much of our news that we see echoed in blogs and on the Internet."

"The words of Joseph Pulitzer are still true -- our republic and its press will rise or fall together," Kerry concurred.

But it was (David) Simon, (creator of the HBO series The Wire and) once a Baltimore Sun reporter, who struck the strongest blow for newspapers. Though scolding publishers for their "martyrology" and mismanagement, he spoke of how "aggregating Web sites and bloggers contribute little more than repetition, commentary and froth" and added: "The parasite is slowly killing the host."
Memo to self – never watch The Wire (a shame, because I've heard it's good).

Gosh, what a charming metaphor...“the parasite is slowly killing the host.”

I’ll tell you what I’ll do, dear reader. I’ll merely link back to this prior post if you want to read yet another rant from yours truly in defense of bloggers in general and opposing the “martyrology” (Simon is at least right about that) of our corporate media.

Yes, there is a particular type of reporting that is more often performed by seasoned news professionals than bloggers, and that should be respected and encouraged; there are many examples, but one that comes immediately to mind is that of David Barstow of The New York Times about the conflict of interest of the military consultants used for commentary on the Iraq war (and it’s instructive that Barstow himself has said more or less that bloggers paid more attention to it that his media peers with initials for names, as noted here - Update 5/13: Hat tip to HuffPo for this, which tells us that the Pentagon withdrew its exoneration of the whole "generals as TV war analysts" program). That is something that I, for one, quite simply cannot do by virtue of ability and experience (or, at the very least, if I were to try, I would have to devote myself to it exclusively for months at the expense of all else).

But instead of reading another one of my hissy fits in response to another unjustified slam against online miscreants such as myself, I’ll merely link to this incredibly thorough analysis of how we got to this point by Walter Pincus (h/t Atrios). He provides some illuminating reminders of what the news business once was, what it became, and what it could yet be again.

And by the way, I should point out that, though my current blogging circumstances are fairly comfortable (if that changes, I’ll let you know), there are many, many other bloggers around the world who face imminent danger and even death threats for trying to communicate what is truly going on in countries where free speech is quashed at every opportunity.

This Moonie Times editorial tells us what bloggers in Iran face, including Mojtaba Saminejad, who was arrested, tortured, and spent three months in solitary confinement. This story tells us how bloggers in Egypt are trying to reconcile Islamists and that country’s Democrats in uniform opposition to president Hosni Mubarak. And finally, this tells us how the Chinese blogger “Zola” is considered a “potential threat to state security” for encouraging citizen journalism and, among other things, investigating China’s “black jails.”

There is a wealth of interesting information and viewpoints in Pincus’ CJR article, but I’ll include this excerpt since I think it’s particularly relevant (concerning what the craft of journalism is supposed to be about and why it motivates people to do good work)…

Newspapers across the U.S. were often begun by pamphleteers, political parties, or businessmen who wanted to get involved in local, state, or even national affairs. The founding editors of The New York Times started that newspaper as supporters of the Whig party and later switched to the Republican party. Adolph Ochs, who bought the Times in 1896, was helped in his negotiations by a letter from President Grover Cleveland, who wrote that Ochs’s management of The Chattanooga Times had “demonstrated such a faithful adherence to Democratic principles that I would be glad to see you in a larger sphere of usefulness.” The Washington Post’s publisher Phil Graham helped put Lyndon Johnson on the ticket with John F. Kennedy.

They used their presses to influence government, but that is what the founding fathers contemplated when they wrote the First Amendment. The idea was that citizens in a democracy were to read more than one paper or pamphlet, weigh all opinions and facts as presented, and make up their own minds.

Today, mainstream print and electronic media want to be neutral, presenting both or all sides as if they were refereeing a game in which only the players—the government and its opponents—can participate. They have increasingly become common carriers, transmitters of other people’s ideas and thoughts, irrespective of import, relevance, and at times even accuracy.
In whatever form, advocacy of an issue, cause, or political opinion will exist in this country for as long as there is a means to freely communicate (I cannot imagine that we wouldn’t be able to do so – I don’t want to imagine what kind of country this would be if we couldn’t). People like Graham (an admitted partisan), Milbank, Simon and others surely know that this will take place with or without their help.

Even if it’s accomplished by a bunch of “parasites.”

Update 5/11/09: Yet again, what kos sez (he's been spot-on with his recent comments on "dead-tree media"...and yes, Howie Kurtz really is an idiot).

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