Posts from January 19, 2005

Trade in

Trade in

: Editor & Publisher has long been a laughingstock of the industry it purports to cover — doubly embarrassing because it’s not good and reporting on reporting. Today gives us a classic example: They write up Boxer’s unjournalism as if it were news, as in: Wow, look, The Times is quoting blogs. First, that’s about a year late to the party. Second, the reporter could have looked up a few blogs to find out what a piece of crap the Boxer story was. But that’s nothing new for E&P, which should just fold. It has been replaced by Romenesko anyway.

Shame on The New York Times, Chapter II

Shame on The New York Times, Chapter II

: Ali, the subject of Sarah Boxer’s reprehensible exercise in unjournalism (dissected here), responds to the story on his blog. I quote in full. Hang your head in shame, Boxer:

I feel I should give my opinion on the NY times article about me and Iraq the Model that has created some variable reactions on the blogosphere. The article was, despite Ms Boxer’s kindness, a bad piece of journalism. I had around 45 minutes long phone call with the reporter about my journey with Iraq the Model, my new site, the elections, the general situation here in Baghdad but she (or the paper) seems to have a certain agenda and managed to change the whole issue into a very silly gossip (going as far as quoting trolls!) that is way beneath any respectable paper and certainly beneath me so I won’t give it more attention but lesson learned and I won’t make the mistake of talking to anyone from the NY times again. It’s important to note though that my feelings of respect, gratitude and love for the American people have never and will never change.

Also before I turn to discuss more important issues that I created this site for, I’d like to ask the people who are coming from the site of the very informed Dr. Cole a favor. Can you please ask him to show us his sources (regarding the Fallujah myth) that he consider superior to mine? The funny thing is that he links to my site but continue to ignore linking to Iraq the Model! Maybe he thinks I’m on his side now? I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind a bit but not to the degree of standing against America and my own country! Also he seems to not remember that it was me who pointed his little ‘slip’ about Fallujah, not my brothers, and the fact that he insist on this issue can only turn his slip into * gasp* a lie? Now could it be possible that higher beings like Dr. Cole are actually capable of lying!? I hope not but I won’t hold my breath waiting for him to show us his credible sources.

Prof. Pondscum will never hang his head in shame. He says on his site (no permalinks) that he “became suspicious of the original site when they mysteriously attacked” — that is, dared to disagree with — Cole. He continued the insult: “Being dentists, of course, they don’t know their way around the British archives and don’t realize that secondary works aren’t exhaustive.” Prof. Pondsnot.

I also got email from Ali’s brother Omar of IraqTheModel, who called Boxer’s work “that ugly piece on the NYT.” For shame, Boxer. For shame, Times.

: THURSDAY UPDATE: Michael Jinks alerts me to this comment discussion at Ali’s blog:

Ali,

You say the article on you was shoddy journalism. Why? Simply because a troll was quoted? Were you misquoted? The article seemed accurate to what I remember occurring at ITM.

Ash

Ash,

Not just quoting a troll. The manner I was quoted gives others the sense that I have changed my mind about America as a whole ( it’s like someone cutting and pasting randomly, or better say, to make it look different than what it meant) which is not true and not what I said at all. And yes, in some parts I was even misquoted.

Ali

This is why it would be good to have a recording of that 45-minute interview Boxer did — and a list of all the interviews she did (and did not) do… so we could judge her work ourselves and so the interview subject could have his say.

Gained in translation

Gained in translation

: Gotta love it: Now the FCC is mucking up international relations. The Greeks are pissed that the FCC would investigate the decency of the Olympics.

Greece does not wish to be drawn into an American culture war. Yet that is exactly what is happening. The Federal Communications Commission has launched an investigation into the broadcast of the opening ceremonies of the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

The first step was taken in December, when the commission demanded that NBC provide it with tapes of the broadcast. This was in response to nine complaints about indecency from U.S. citizens (globally, viewers exceeded 3.9 billion).

Into the jaws once more

Into the jaws once more

: Slate D.C. bureau chief Chris Suellentrop goes after Kos — not for taking money from Dean, which he disclosed, and not for using a blog for activism, but for this:

The hanging offense is that Moulitsas took money from other, undisclosed, political clients. And while he may have disclosed

JibJab jabs again

JibJab jabs again

: Go see the latest JibJab, a preview of the inauguration.

CBS: Changing the book, not just the cover

CBS: Changing the book, not just the cover

: Les Moonves, head of CBS, described the changes he plans to bring to CBS News as an effort “to create less of that guy sitting behind the chair who is preaching from the mountain and do something much younger, more of an ensemble feeling.”

My emphasis. He’s looking at CBS News the way a network programmer would: As a sitcom. Ensemble: Here’s the funny guy, here’s the clever woman, here’s the fat guy. I could be describing Seinfeld or the Howard Stern Show or the next rendition of the CBS Evening News.

Fine. Get multiple anchors in multiple cities. Window dressing. Lipstick on a pig. It’s about changing the surface — yes, the face — of the news and not changing what’s behind.

So quit the snarking, Jarvis, what are your suggestions?

: I say they need to invite citizens into their process: yes, even invite blogger-devils into your news meetings. One condition: Tell them they can’t break your scoops before you. But let them see how the sausage is made and let them speak. I know how you’ll respond (I’ve heard it before): People won’t feel free to speak frankly and so they’ll end up having shadow meetings. Well, there’s something wrong with that. Try this: Imagine throughout the entire process of putting out the news — phone calls, interviews, meetings — that you’re being watched by the public you serve.

: Create the means for people to tell you the news they need. No, don’t do more focus groups. Open it up. I know your reflex may be to have people email you or to start an official forum. And then I know you’ll say: But our competitors will read it and steal stories from us. Ah, but they’re doing that today whenever a smart reporter reads citizens’ media and finds a good story big media missed. You should have your people do just that — make it part of their job. And then close the loop: When you get a story from a citizen, let them know. Thank them.

: Let the people contribute news. Thanks to technology, citizens who are witnesses to news can now report it. So use the video they take and the stories they put on their blogs. Learn from the tsunami: You couldn’t get your cameras there for days but the citizens who were witnesses recorded the event for you. Invite people to send you their scoops. Use what they send (yes, after you vet it — better than you did those memoes somebody sent you). And then thank them.

: Create the means for the people to correct you and ask the questions you didn’t ask. Again, I know your reflex will be to do this quietly, to create an email address where people can send you — well, actually, some ombudsman way down the hall from the newsroom — complaints. But I say you should do this in public: start a forum or a wiki and appoint an in-house blogger to link to all the things people are saying about your stories — already, anyway — out her in citizens’ media. Yes, this will start as a snarkfest. Sorry, buy you kind of deserve it. But once you take your blows, if you do this right, I’ll bet it will turn into something more valuable: a conversation about news.

: Jay Rosen and I already suggested that CBS make public its complete interviews and source material.

: Joe Territo suggests that if CBS wants a younger audience, it should move the CBS Evening News later: CBS Late News.

It’s all about — once again — tearing down the walls that separate you from the public you serve. Don’t be scared of the masses. Join them.

: So here’s one more: Have your reporters and producers blog. I know what you’re going to say: It’s not edited; we don’t know what they’re going to say. But look at it another way: This is a way to engage in a conversation with the public. I just had an email exchange with one of the participants in this weekend’s Harvard journalism-meets-bloggers confab at Harvard, who questioned my contention that reporters should reveal their background and perspective. He wondered how much is enough or too much and who determines that. I said the public will. This isn’t about filling out a one-size-discloses-all form or putting up a resume. Why not have reporters blog? Why not let the public ask whether you’re a church-goer — to probe your experience or your perspective, that’s up to them — after you report on a religion story? Why not use the form to explain your view? Doesn’t the reader/viewer/user/public deserve to know your perspective? When they ask, shouldn’t we have the means to answer? When we know they will ask, shouldn’t we tell them?

Purple prose

Purple prose

: Andrew Sullivan regrets that blogs have not spawned political hybrids so much as political partisans, like old media.

In big media, the pressures of conformity can be as great as they are subtle. At the Boston Globe or the Washington Times, you know what you’re getting. How many columnists in the mainstream media can be described as unpredictable in partisan terms? How many “liberal” columnists ever praise the president occasionally? How many conservative ones tear him a new one from time to time? (This is a moment to thank God for Tom Friedman, by the way.) The reason is subtle pressure from suits and colleagues and readers. But the point of blogging is that it can liberate you from such pressures. A political hybrid has a secure outlet at last – his or her own. So why, then, the preponderance of the partisans? I know that’s what happens more generally in a polarized polity. But the blogosphere had the potential to be a solvent of this rigidity. Instead, it has become yet another reflection of it (with a few honorable exceptions). Or have I missed some blogs in this regard that deserve more exposure?

I can’t speak for the rest of the blogosphere (well, I could try…) but speaking for myself, I do think he is right in saying that this medium does allow one to become a hybrid. I am a hybrid and I know that’s true because I can get criticism and praise, back to back, from both sides of partisans (and I do not include in that calculation the flamers who live to insult; they are not even partisan but merely rude).

Let’s take it out of the realm of the partisan. I am a journalist but I value this new medium’s ability to push journalism to be better. I value this medium’s ability to teach by example by pushing to make itself better.

That is how I view politics now: I am a Democrat but it’s not disloyal to push for the Democrats to do better in certain issues; neither is it disloyal to support a Republican administration in certain issues. I am an American but it’s not disloyal to push for the the President to do better.

And Andrew’s right that this medium facilitates that kind of thinking precisely because it is a conversation; it’s not about writing a weekly sermon from a pulpit of type.

Andrew, I believe, is a good example of a hybrid (to the consternation of many who thought he was on their side).

But blogs will only reflect the world and the world is filled with partisans — not as many as media would paint in its single shades of red and blue. And blogs — because they are about conversation — also amplify partisanship sometimes because that’s what you do when you argue a point.

This is part of what is interesting about the Zephyr/Kos kerfluffle this week and it’s why I agreed with what I believe was Kos’ distinction that he is not a journalist but an activist and it’s important to label oneself so what you say can be viewed in that context.

And in the broader conversation, partisans can be handy to have around so you can see an issue from opposite sides of the prism. The Wall Street Journal does that effectively today by having bloggers of red and blue stripes argue Social Security.

Giving witness

Giving witness

: There is an odd bit in Virginia Heffernan’s review of a documentary series about Auschwitz starting on PBS tonight. She talks about her high-school teacher who came back to the Holocaust frequently and says:

Why, with so much history to learn, did we spend so long on the particulars of Auschwitz and the practices of the Nazis? I couldn’t help thinking that there was something about the Holocaust – or at least about the Nazis’ cold efficiency – that we weren’t meant to grieve, but to admire.

In “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State,” a six-part BBC/KCET co-production by Laurence Rees that starts tonight on PBS, Melvin Jules Bukiet, a novelist who is the son of a survivor, says of the Holocaust, “I think we learn nothing from it.”

He goes on, “It is simultaneously endlessly fascinating – because it does embody extremes of human behavior – but it is also endlessly exhausting, because it provides no reward whatsoever.”

What if the Holocaust is no longer fascinating, but only exhausting?

I have not seen the series and have no idea whether it is any good.

There can be many reasons to give such a series a bad review: if it is not well-made, if it tells its story badly, if it exists to exploit (I am always mindful of what Elie Wiesel said: that you should give theater to Auschwitz or Auschwitz to theater).

But if it is “exhausting?” That’s odd. That’s saying, in essence, that we should move on — to other history — because the Holocaust might bore this student/viewer/critic.

I am of the school that remains important to give witness to this event.

I also don’t know Heffernan’s high-school teacher but I imagine he dwelled on the Holocaust because he thought it was an important lesson for his students and for the future. Her accusation regarding his motive — that he may have wanted his student to admire Nazis — is devastating to the reputation of someone people in that New Hampshire town know. I wonder what her evidence is of this.

Yes, this is the second day and the second criticism of Arts critics. Maybe they need new critics or maybe they need an editor who will push back at their assertions about people’s motives. Or maybe we need to keep pushing back.