Posts from May 17, 2005

Bad timing

Bad timing

: What a rotten week Jon Stewart picked to take off. What he could do with Newsweek….

You vill do vhat I say

You vill do vhat I say

: That’s the punchline; see the joke here.

The real stories

The real stories

: Tom Evslin, one of the smartest guys I met in a decade online, branches out from his blogging on telecom and business and writes about the news and how news media often miss the real story:

UN oil-for-food Program

Press Take: This is a story about whether Kofi Annanís son improperly used his influence to benefit from the program. Story is over when Volker Commission apparently canít find proof of this.

The Real Story: An enormous and extremely important program was mismanaged in a way which let Saddam Hussein divert billions meant to feed his people into arms and palaces (apparently more of the latter than the former) and bribes for government officials worldwide. This may be the biggest case of misdiverted resources in the history of the world. Incompetent management of this program was certainly a contributing cause to the Iraq War. The same people are still ìmanagingî the UN and all of its could-be-important programs today.

My Rant: The issue of Annan Jr.ís venality is irrelevant compared to the issue of gross mismanagement. Somehow Annan Sr. got a hall pass for mismanaging on an historic scale because his son wasnít caught with his hand all the way into the cookie jar. He needs to be fired for incompetence….

Disrespecting The Koran

Press Take (BBC): The most important news in the world on Wednesday were the charges that an American at Guantanamo Bay desecrated a copy of the Koran. This was reported as sufficient cause for violent outbreaks throughout the Muslim world.

The Real Story: The Koran is being desecrated by those who carry out terrorism in its name.

My Rant: Symbolic tolerance is important but punishing some pieces of paper is not on the same scale as beheading hostages…..

Tom needs to spin this off into a blog of its own.

Newsweek, continued

Newsweek, continued

: Jay Rosen says the only source we had in the Newsweek story was Newsweek itself. And that was not a reliable source, as it turns out.

Under these conditions, it is imperative that journalists in the United States raise their standards for reliability, because the consequences of being wrong–for themselves, for their profession as a whole, and for others far removed–are graver. The most difficult part of raising standards is not to figure out what to do that might improve reliability, but to admit that standards weren’t as high as they could have been in the first place.

For professionals who have achieved a certain standing this is hard because it requires some humbling first: We aren’t as good as we need to be. But the alternatives are worse. Instead of improving reliability, the press can simply become more timid, reducing risk by increasing its own toothlessness. It can fall back into formalisms of the “he said, she said” variety, and never really try to figure out the truth. It can switch the mission to entertainment, and select news that way. There is always denial that anything is different today, a favorite among the crumudgeon class.

The Periscope item in the May 9th issue of Newsweek is a creature from an earlier climate of credibility: when a single-source story was good enough; when anonymous was okay as long as you trusted “your guy” at the Pentagon or the DA; when the consequences of being wrong were not as great, as instant, or as global; when the game of being first–which always meant more to journalists than anyone else–could go on as if it had intrinsic value to the public.

A good analysis.

A nation of sopranos

A nation of sopranos

: Broadcasting & Cable reports that the so-called American Family Association is going after condom ads and “the immorality, violence, vulgarity, profanity, etc., which the media is forcing on our children.” They don’t want condoms, they don’t want erections, they don’t want things that cause erections, they don’t want gay people, they don’t want romance. They want to castrate the nation.

More = merrier

More = merrier

: Antonia Zerbisias, a leading columnist for the Toronto Star, is now a blogger. [via Doskoch]