Posts from September 27, 2004

Dan Gillmor in New York

Dan Gillmor in New York

: I’m in New York now at the Markle Foundation; had the honor to intro Dan Gillmor for a talk he’s giving here on his book, We, the Media.

Isenberg is here. Ditto Weinberger. And Blaser. And Spiers. And Weiss. And Sifry (Micah).

Dan is telling a very personal story about his experience with citizens media starting with the 2000 election and how online gave him a better perspective online than TV would give him, up through 9/11, up through Lott and today.

The kidnap weapon spreads its deadly cancer

The kidnap weapon spreads its deadly cancer

: Danny Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan. Foreigners of many countries and jobs are being kidnapped and held for ransom of all sorts and killed in Iraq.

Now a CNN producer has been kidnapped in Gaza.

I fear this weapon of terrorism will spread everywhere.

Mud v. substance

Mud v. substance

: It’s so nice to hear one’s own stands echoed in Big Media. First Safire (below), now Adam Clymer (an ex-neighbor) on today’s Times op-ed argues that mud-slinging is distracting from the real work of the campaign and those covering it. The upcoming debate, he says, is not only a test for the candidates but also for journalists:

Phony documents and dishonest advertising have captured more attention than the facts of the candidates’ competing claims about health care, or whether either has a plan – a plausible plan – for Iraq….

The test for journalists is whether they can appreciate the importance of the event and help voters make sense of what is said, checking the accuracy of claims about the past and the present and the plausibility of what is claimed for the future. It won’t do to say, “We covered that in August.”

So if Mr. Kerry says he will solve the situation in Iraq by getting other countries to send more troops, the press needs to examine whether this could happen if he should win. And if Mr. Bush says he is going to solve the health insurance crisis with more community health care centers and fewer lawsuits, then journalists have to help voters determine whether Mr. Bush is offering cures or Band-aids.

Exactly. That is the job of the press. And, let’s add, an army of fact-checking bloggers can help.

The kidnap weapon; the media target

The kidnap weapon; the media target

: William Safire said today just what I said Saturday about examing our role and responsibility in media giving terrorists publicity for their atrocities. He also said that candidates and government leaders (read: Kerry) have an equal responsibility not to be manipulated by the enemy. I agree.

Nobody should order reporters and editors to “downplay” a gut-wrenching human interest story involving cruelty, violence and death. Nor should the media flinch from covering casualty counts or honoring the fallen. War involves sacrifice.

But responsible journalists should consider the wisdom of allowing media-savvy terrorists to play them like a violin….

Do we have to become conduits for this grisly, real-death kidnap choreography? We are obliged to report it, but we need not go along with the terrorist propagandists in milking the most horror out of it.

We know that the primary purpose of the kidnap weapon is to drive the coalition forces out of Iraq and to prevent a free election there.

We know, too, that the kidnap weapon is aimed at the U.S. election….

John Kerry, who has evidently decided to replace Howard Dean as the antiwar candidate, last weekend helped to magnify the terrorists’ kidnap weapon. In a scheduled commercial Kerry personally approved, just before charging that George Bush had no plan to get us out of Iraq, the Democratic campaign underscored the message Zarqawi has been sending: “Americans,” said Kerry’s announcer, “are being kidnapped, held hostage, even beheaded.”

Though undoubtedly accurate, that paid evocation of horror by a political candidate is a terrible blunder.

Say goodnight, Jay

Say goodnight, Jay

: Conan O’Brien to replace Leno. It could only improve.

: The NBC press release here. [via Lost Remote]

Sprawl is good for you

Sprawl is good for you

: A new “study” argues that suburban sprawl is bad for your health.

What a hock of hooey. It appears to be another of those coincidence-of-statistics “studies” that confirm somebody’s desires for the truth.

They found that people in the suburbs complain of more ailments. Could it be that people in the suburbs are more likely to have health insurance and they can afford to complain of ailments more often? Could it be that people in the suburbs have jobs that are stressful and, in fact, their homes are what make life better for them? Could it be that the jobs and competition in bigger, more crowded, more central locations are frequently more stressful than the jobs in out-of-the-way places? Could it be that people in the suburbs grow old out there and get sick more often than young yuppies? I think it could.

Here’s the Washington Post report on the “study.”

The real problem I have with this is that “sprawl” is such a dirty word. Hey, yesterday’s “sprawl” is today’s “preservation” project. The house you’re living in was sprawl when it’s built but now that you’re in it, it’s not sprawl — but the new one going in next door is.

My town is wasting millions buying land by the Interstate that no one should want to build on — and if they wanted to build, who’d care? — in the name of “open space” and its moral opposite, “sprawl.” It’s a waste of good land and good money and doesn’t really serve the interests against “sprawl” because it only forces people to move farther and farther away from their jobs and communities.

“Sprawl” is a boogyman for the age.

Technorati’s ills

Technorati’s ills

: Dave Sifry explains why Technorati has been down all weekend: a fire in the hosting facility caused one mean game of dominos. I have complete sympathy, having been hosed similarly by the big New York blackout a year ago. And I also see that Dave is going to the obvious next step already: new disaster and back-up plans (we’ve just finished implementing ours). I’m utterly addicted to Technorati and I’ve been shaking and quaking with chills and sweats without it.

: UPDATE: It’s back. The data appears to be a little out-of-date; I’m guessing it came from a back-up. But that should catch up soon.

Credibility gaps everywhere

Credibility gaps everywhere

: The other day, I posted the momentous news from Gallup that trust in big media has declined markedly. Tor the first time in recent history, more people distrust than trust big media. That is big news (which, no, we haven’t seen prominently displayed on the news).

But big media isn’t alone with declining trust.

In the post below, I quoted results of a USC/Annenberg Center for the Digital Future study on Internet v. TV time and when I went to the original study, I found some sobering stats on the public’s trust of the internet — and particularly of sites created by individuals — which, of course, includes blogs.

Now this could just be the general cooties attached to the internet and to personal home pages from the start. But I think it’s more than that.

First, I do fear that the tone of much of what comes from the internet and blogs contributes to this; thus my sermonizing on mud-slinging. I doubt that contributes much to this decline in trust, but I will say that we’d better watch out, or it will.

I also think that there’s a new skepticism rising in the land (and it’s not necessarily a bad thing): Just as we come to distrust big media more, and just as we come to realize that we can go to the source of news ourselves and judge for ourselves, we have to wake up to the notion that making that judgment isn’t easy. We’re not sure whom to believe. Call that mistrust. Or call that cynicism. Or call that healthy skepticism. When every citizen becomes his own reporter, every citizen becomes as skeptical as a reporter should be.

I actually think that the Rathergate case will improve the reputation of internet (and individual) media. If this survey were taken again today, I’d just bet that among those aware of the Rathergate story and of the internet’s and blogs’ role in it, we’d gain a few points. But that’s only a bet.

uscchart.jpg

The USC study says:

Web sites mounted by established media (such as nytimes.com) ranked highest in perceived accuracy and reliability; 74.4 of users say that most or all information on established media Web sites is reliable and accurate.

Government Web sites also fared well with users in the current study; 73.5 percent say that most or all of the information on government Web sites is reliable and accurate.

Information pages posted by individuals have the lowest credibility; only 9.5 percent of users say the information on Web sites posted by individuals is reliable and accurate.

Even though large percentages of users say that most or all of the information on Web sites posted by established media and the government is reliable and accurate, it is worth noting that significant numbers of users believe that only half or less of information on these sites is reliable and accurate; 25.7 percent of users say that about half or less of news sites posted by established media are reliable and accurate, while 26.5 percent of users judge that about half or less of government Web sites are reliable and accurate….

Of very experienced users, 83.5 percent say that most or all of the information on news pages posted by established media is reliable and accurate, compared to 49.1 percent of new users who provide the same response.

When asked about government Web sites, 81.4 percent of very experienced users, compared to 50.1 percent of new users, say that most or all of the information on those sites is reliable and accurate.

New users and very experienced users agree about the low credibility of information posted by individuals; only 9.2 percent of very experienced users and 7.5 percent of new users say that most or all of the information on pages posted by individuals is reliable and accurate.

The bottom line: Trust is something you earn every day and can lose anytime. Little media has to work just as hard — no harder — at gaining trust than big media. And you know how hard big media has to work at it.

: UPDATE: Ken Layne doesn’t buy the huge decline in media trust.