Posts from February 13, 2005

Serfs at the news cathedral’s gates

Serfs at the news cathedral’s gates

: Howard Kurtz sums up the stories that were big in blogs and not big in big media this week: l’affaires Jordan, Gannon, and Steffen. This is what we’ll be talking about this morning on Kurtz’ Reliable Sources at 11:30a ET. Before these kind of appearances, I also try to summarize the talking points (aka sound bites). Here are myi notes:

What ties these stories together is really just that citizens sought the truth without much help from the press (who used to have exclusive call on that job).

In the case of Jordan, we (still) want to know what he said in Davos about U.S. soldiers and the deaths of journalists. As a journalist, what Jordan said or did not say is relevant because it reveals his attitude and his network’s attitude toward covering the military and the war in Iraq. It is also relevant because a journalist should not make an allegation without the facts to back it up at the ready (isn’t that our most fundamental principle?). This is not to say that all the citizens knocking at his door were out for his head. We wanted to know whether he indeed said this and if he did, what did he have to back it up. As I’ve said and Glenn Reynolds has said in Kutz’ story, if he’d admitted it and apologized, that probably would have ended it (though not without continuing grumbling). But clearly there was more to the Jordan story inside CNN, and so he is gone.

The blog angle: Citizen journalists are being portrayed in some quarters as the lynch mob that got him but that’s both wrong and perilous.

In the case of “Gannon,” this is more a story about the White House than him. Did the White House stack the press deck and was the President cued to pull the friendly card out of that deck? Is the White House manipulating the press in this way (too)?

The blog angle: A few issues here. First, it’s hard to insist that “Gannon” as a partisan should not be allowed into a press conference when we opinionated bloggers — including the activist advocate, Kos, who led the charge on “Gannon” — are also demanding access. Second, by going after Gannon’s personal issues — his made-up name, his hinky past, made all the easier because he comes off like an intense jerk — the bloggers lost focus on the real issue (above) and shifted the focus to themselves, getting them portrayed as a lynch mob. That, again, is perilous.

In the case of Steffen, a political operative used the internet to smear the mayor of Baltimore with lies and the internet helped catch him.

The blog angle: The internet gets to the truth quickly.

The press angles to all this:

First, journalist-priests are no longer the gatekeepers in either direction — to authority and truth for the public, or from newsmakers to the people. Now the public can demand answers from the powerful and the powerful can avoid the press and talk to the public in new ways.

Second, news just speeded up and old media isn’t ready for this. We used to control the speed of news because we were the gatekeepers. No more. That is a big disconnect between big and citizens’ media: We want answers and we don’t want the press or the powerful to take their sweet time to give them to us.

Third, off-the-record is dead. Now that everyone has access to a press — the internet — anyone you talk to could be a Wolf Blitzer in sheep’s clothing.

Welcome to the age of transparency.

Finally, big media won’t get away with portraying the citizens at the gates as serfs and mobs for long or they will storm the place. But the better way to look at it is this: Big media should welcome the voice of the people for now we can work together; now we can find out what the people want to know and help them know it; now we have more eyes and ears where news happens. Now every witness can be a reporter and every citizen a pundit and that is good for news and the democracy.

: UPDATE: Here’s Glenn Reynolds’ reaction to the show.

: I was impressed that both David Gergen and Bill Press gave props to blogs as a very important new force in news and politics.

: Trey Jackson has video.

: LATER: The trancript is up. If only Davos could say that….

: At Dean’s site, Joe Gandelman excerpts the transcript.