Posts from September 24, 2004

Elevating the debate

Elevating the debate

: Catching up with Virginia Postrel’s on-target response to Glenn Reynolds’ post – she calls it “a bit defensive” — about whether blogs elevate the political debate… or not.

It’s true that many bloggers, including Glenn, do a lot of media criticism. Media criticism is relatively easy, and Web links are ideally suited to it. But it’s hardly true that “the political blogosphere isto a large degree about media criticism.” Many of the best policy blogs have almost no media criticism, nor do they go looking for political scalps. They don’t even constantly write about the superiority of blogs. That’s why you almost never read about them. Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.

Hence, newspapers don’t writes stories about how blogs like Volokh Conspiracy elevate the debate over legal issues or how blogs like Marginal Revolution improve the public’s understanding of economic scholarship. You won’t read any articles about comparing the military policy discussions on Intel Dump and Belmont Club. Education blogs, science blogs, and foreign-policy blogs all engage in excellent issue discussions, but you’ll never, ever hear them held up as examples of the blogosphere at work. Even Glenn forgets they exist.

And more….

lwv.jpg: I may be accused of being a member of the League of Women Voters (do you like my new hairdo?) but I’ll carry that card proudly. The Issues2004 posts demonstrate that given half a chance, you all will read and comment on and blog and link to posts about issues just as you do to the sexier topics of mud-slinging. If I didn’t have faith in that — in the citizens — then I wouldn’t be a believer in democracy. But I am.

I’m no expert on any of the issues I have posted on or will post on. And so I again encourage you to post links to the kinds of blogs Virginia writes about. The experts are among us. I want to learn from them.

That’s what I call elevating.

Just vote

Just vote
:

: Halley is blogging voter registration deadlines to make sure we don’t miss any of you.

More blogcasts: Updated

More blogcasts: Updated

: More broadcast appearances on blogs and Rather and all that…

: Brian Lehrer’s WNYC show Friday at 10:40a…. Done this morning. Enjoyed it. I’m a fan of Lehrer’s. He runs a smart show.

: Capital Report on CNBC at 7p ET on Friday.

: FoxNews between 1-2p ET on Sunday. Preempted by the next hurricane, they just told me.

: Possibly Aaron Brown’s show (minus Aaron) tonight on CNN at 10 ET. Preempted too. Or maybe it was something I said….

Unspun

Unspun

: FoxNews’ Bill O’Reilly gives an interview to 60 Minutes — matter meets antimatter — and says:

Long a favorite of conservatives, O’Reilly’s stances on big issues came as a surprise to Wallace, as did his answer to whether he would vote for George W. Bush.

O’Reilly states he is pro-gun control, against the death penalty, for civil unions, for gay adoption (as a last resort instead of state custody) and mindful of the environment.

But when asked if he would vote for President Bush, O’Reilly left open the possibility he would vote for John Kerry.

“I’ve known Kerry for 25 years. He’s a patriot. I’m listening to what he has to say,” he tells Wallace.

Bill O’Reilly, undecided voter?

Blogs bring relief

Blogs bring relief

: NJ.com blogger and colleague John Shabe tells a story about how, indeed, “Turns out we can change the world one blog at a time.”

: In unrelated news, Shabe finds that lobster-lovers prefer Bush.

Scoop

Scoop

: Note that Gawker scooped the tabs on Cynthia Nixon’s sexual flip-flop. And who says this isn’t real journalism with real reporting, eh?

The advantage of bias

The advantage of bias

: Getting ready to go on Brian Lehrer’s show, I was thinking about the advantage of bias.

We’re always painting a refusal to admit bias as an underhanded secret, a lie of omission, as I’ve called it lately.

Well, partly that’s because “bias” is loaded; it’s a perjorative. So let’s call it “perspective” instead.

I’ve been saying that transparency about your perspective is a good thing. Hell, I said it yesterday about FoxNews on FoxNews. It’s a refrain I’ve sung in this blog often but it was fun to blurt it out on Fox: Not to suck up to the air on which I’m appearing, I said, but FoxNews is No. 1 because it has a perspective — label it what you want — and the audience wants to see that perspective, to know what it is and judge what is said accordingly.

Perspective is context.

This morning I thought of another example: A few days ago, I praised Ira Glass’ This American Life on NPR (PRI) for a surprising show about the Republican Party as the party of the big tent.

Now I don’t know that Glass is liberal. But I think it’s a safe assumption he is. And even if he’s a closet McCain supporter, you can bet that a lot of his NPR (PRI) coworkers are blue-staters.

So that’s what makes the story they did praising the Republicans’ efforts to open their tent — and criticizing the PC Democrats for closing theirs — all the more noteworthy. If I heard Bill O’Reilly talking about the GOP tent, I’d discount it. But hearing Glass go on about it, I said: Wow, there’s a real story here. This is something I should pay attention to; this perception (or reality) is why the Republicans are winning right now. Thus this is something the Democrats listening to certainly pay attention to.

My point is that Glass’/NPR’s perspective (bias) added a lot to that report. I judged what they said in that context and it helped the story; it gave it more credence and importance.

My colleagues in journalism mostly act deathly allergic to the notion of revealing their own perspective. I say they shouldn’t be. Being transparent about your perspective, when you have one, adds to the trust and credibility of what you say; it respects the audience and gives them more information to let them judge what you say. It’s about telling the truth. And isn’t that supposed to be what journalism is supposed to be about?

Are you listening, Dan Rather?

The Daily Stern

The Daily Stern

: Be warned: The Daily Stern is about to rise again. Congress is about to send its indecent indecency bill to Bush’s desk. So if you are on TV and say “F Bush,” you could be bankrupted. Well, let me get this in while I can: F Congress.

On Howard Stern yesterday, they recounted a Dr. Phil show in which the quack put a 9-year-old boy on, showing him smearing feces on a wall, and said he had most of the warning signs that said this kid was going to be a serial killer. Now I call that obscene (and irresponsible and inhuman). But Congress — and, apparently, the American psychiatric governing body — won’t go after that. But Congress and the FCC will rule that a four-letter word and a breast are obscene.

I’m just getting revved up.