Who can gag the FCC?
: Now an FCC commissioner says the commission should investigate the case of Armstrong Williams to see whether laws were violated. Oh, come on. We don’t need the FCC on the case (or on any case!). Williams definitely did a no-no. So did the Department of Education. So have others. What’s the FCC going to do about that? Get airtime, if they possibly can.
: UPDATE: In the comments, Eileen points out:
From the article: “Specifically, Adelstein said the Buffalo case and Williams’ contract could be possible violations of federal telecommunication law that requires disclosure of any payment or gift for airing any material for broadcast, like a radio disc jockey being paid to play a particular recording.”
Well, by that rule, then the starlets who go on Jay Leno’s show to drop plugs for cheese are violating telecom law. Hmmmmm.
Her point is valid. Yes, I’m just sick of the FCC not paying attention to its proper business (though as their own chairman has said, when they do pay attention to something, they kill it). So yes, this is a case for the FCC Anti-Defamation League.
But I do think that this is not the real avenue for investigation. It’s not a telecommunications issue. It is an issue at the Department of Education over the proper and improper use of tax money.
If the FCC did go after Williams himself, I do think there are First Amendment issues: Does his mean that an author can’t appear on a show without a disclaimer on the screen saying she’s making money because of this? Does this mean that we have to end up with disclaimers on the screen every time a company spokesman goes on the air? It’s another game of line-line-where’s-the-line? It’s another instance, then, of the problems you get to when government tries to regulate speech. I should have said all that before. But I also confess I now enjoy sputtering about the FCC for the sheer sport of it.
The credibility crisis
: Journalism’s credibility crisis keeps growing. From a transcript of tonights’s PBS Newhour sent to me by their PR, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Center says:
When we first started our People in the Press series, we asked people, a representative sample: Does the media usually get the facts straight, or do they often get it wrong? And we found, I think we have a slide on this, we found 55 percent then saying that media usually gets the story right. The 55 percent was defined as a very low number and it was a shockingly low number. But over the years, that number has gotten lower and lower.
And at this point in time, we have a majority of people saying the media usually gets it wrong, and only 36 percent saying the media usually gets it — the facts straight….
Back in the 1988 campaign, 58 percent said there was no media bias in the reporting. That number slowly slipped down over the course of the ’90s. We got to this campaign. It was only 38 percent, both Republicans and Democrats increasingly critical and skeptical about how fairly the media is doing campaign coverage.
Frightening stats, eh?
Kenneth Smith, the interviewer, tries to blame that on Fox. But in his opening spiel of news sins, it was The New York Times, CBS News, and USA Today that were listed, not Fox. Smells like media bias about media bias to me. Closed loop.
Then Ken Auletta says, with not a hint of irony:
I think if you watch, say cable television, you see reporters moving out of their normal job as reporters to become what I would call bloviators, and so what you have is people watching them and saying, wait a second, they’re not reporters, they’re just expressing opinions, so how can I trust them?
Hmmm: A reporter bloviating about reporters bloviating. (And, yes, here I am bloviating about the bloviator bloviating on bloviating. I’m exhausted, how about you? More closed loops.)
Cosi, favorite hangout of bloggers
: Yesterday, I mentioned running into a blogger in Cosi. Here’s his post. And today, I went to another Cosi (prisoner of habit and the Cosi frequent-sandwich-eater-card that I am) and ran into Tristan.
: LATER: So I’m meeting Michael Totten this afternoon as he flies into Manhattan from Portland. And where do we meet? Where else? Cosi.
Exploding TV: The network is dead. Long live the net.
: I left this comment over at Lost Remote in an effort clarify my exploding-TV belief that the big, old networks and their programming won’t die. They’ll just be lapped:
I don’t think that network programming will die but I do think that the means of distributing it will no longer be locked into the old networks. That wouldn’t happen if all we were seeing were the advent of an alternative pipe: the internet v. cable. What we will see at the same time is the growth of alternative content that will be produced at a MUCH lower cost, FAR better targeted to niche interests (the mass market is dead; long live the mass of niches), providing, as a whole, new competition to the old networks. The old networks and their programmers and advertisers will see that they can get BETTER distribution via the new, distributed network and consumers will DEMAND to get material that way — because it puts them in control — and so we will see the hegemony of the old, centralized network start to fall away and break apart: explode.
Sell-side advertising: The ad that expires
: Just saw something fascinating on Slickdeals: a Dell coupon that expires after 5,000 uses. Add this to the discussion of sell-side advertising, where ads bring with them a limited budget and time.
: Jay Rosen writes a letter to Dan Rather. Maybe, coming from a respected journalism professor, Rather might actually read it. Oh, no, that’s right: It comes from a blogger. Drat. Well, if he did read it, he’d get damned good advice from Jay, who says Rather should hire a blogger to not only write — putting up the full text of interviews, as Jay suggested earlier — but also read, letting Rather know what is being said about him and his stories so he can actually improve his reporting. Jay begins:
Dear Dan Rather: “Lest anyone have any doubt,” you said in your statement yesterday, “I have read the report, I take it seriously, and I shall keep its lessons well in mind.”
I still have my doubts. Perhaps these would be lessened if, for example, you had bothered to spell out which lessons you saw for yourself, and for CBS News in the review panel’s report.
* Was it the lesson about the deadly consequences of dismissing criticism because you think you know the motivations of the critics?
* Was the lesson that a prudent journalist ought to fear and respect the fact-checking powers of the Internet?
* Or was it that by stretching yourself thin you had stretched thin the credibility of the very network you thought you were serving by taking so many assignments?
* Maybe the lesson is not to apologize when you think you did nothing wrong.
Jay caught on the same head-scratching quote from new/old CBS truth czarina Linda Mason that made me harumph yesterday:
The blogger is a feedback loop and fail safe device. Part of what she does is monitor the online world for what is being said about Dan Rather and his reporting. Such a person, well connected to the discussion, would have been extremely valuable to you during the twelve-day period, Sep. 8-20, 2004. After six months of your blog, statements like this from Linda Mason, your new vice president for standards:
“Dan does think he’s constantly attacked. If we backed off every story that was criticized, we wouldn’t be doing any stories.”
would be rendered inoperative by reason of being inane.
And then comes the knockdown punch:
So I kind of resent your attitude toward your numerous critics who operate their own self-published sites on the Web. They were being more accurate than you were, much of the time.
: Ed Cone and Glenn Reynolds point to a post from former Dean web siren and campaign shaman Zephyr Teachout about “financially interested blogging.”
Brush with geek fame
: At MacWorld, Doc comes within a degree of separation from Robin Williams.