Over to you

NY Times Executive Editor Bill Keller speaks at the Association of National Advertisers about bloggers, among other things, and Jon Fine quotes him in Business Week:

“Most of what you know, you know because of the mainstream media,” Keller said. “Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.”

Keller pointed out that it cost the Times around $1.5 million to maintain a Baghdad bureau in 2004. (It cost one Times freelancer much more last month: He was murdered.) “This kind of civic labor can’t be replaced by bloggers.” The Times’ assets: “A worldwide network of trained, skilled [observers] to witness events” and write about them, and “a rigorous set of standards. A journalism of verification,” rather than of “assertion,” and maintaining an “agnosticism” as to where any story may lead. And, borrowing a key buzzword of the day, he said the Times practiced “transparency,” or, in math-teacher terms, “we show our work.”

Some are eager to see Ms. Miller’s work.

Keller made repeated references to the extreme partisan nature of current discourse, and cited voices that he said urged the Times to “give it up. Embrace your biases,” and write about them “openly.” To this, he said “I object. It’s like saying since genetics account for so much, we should abandon being parents.” Still, he conceded that “a lot of people want journalism that thrills them by telling them what they believe.”

And some would say that transparency would include revealing your biases, whether or not you choose to embrace them. More:

Although online portal Yahoo! (YHOO) sent tremors through the chattering confines of journalism by announcing the high-profile hire of Kevin Sites to cover Iraq, Keller does not see them as large-scale rivals. “I’m confident [Yahoo! and Google (GOOG )] will not be the next generation of press barons,” he said. “Yahoo! could buy 1,200 journalists tomorrow,” a figure which roughly compares to those employed by the Times. But, he added, “to them, it’s a boutique” business.

I’m confused. Employing a worldwide network of trained, skilled observers makes your product journalism but employing 1,200 journalists doesn’t. I’ll have to chew on that.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    From that article, Keller said that he “did not know” what Rush Limbaugh’s true beliefs were. Amazing considering that Rush has been on air for 3 hours a day for what 17 years or so and also written many newsletters and a couple of books.

    Maybe it’s projection, Keller has to conceal his “true beliefs” and therefore everyone else must be doing it to.

    Then he bashes Bill O’Reilly claiming that O’Reilly

    “denounced” the Times so frequently that “if he didn’t have The New York Times, he might be selling Ginsu knives on late-night TV.”

    The Times will probably earn slightly less than $20 million this quarter, probably on par with the combined quarterly incomes of Rush and Bill.

  • http://amomentwith.typepad.com/ Easycure

    Why hire “journalists” when there are about 6 million (potential) journalists in Baghdad. Every person there could write a blog and tell you what’s going on? Who need the Times (or the Post or the Chronicle, etc.) ?

  • http://yarnsandyarns.blogspot.com anne

    How much of what the Times writes is actually found out by the Times? Very little, if any, I would assert. The Times takes stories off the news tickers and muses about it and writes its articles. Isn’t that exactly what bloggers do, if a bit more punchily and more personally sometimes?

  • http://peterdawson.typepad.com /pd

    What they ( Times) want are independant observers to do their fact checking for them. They luv the rumormill, but hate to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. So the next best thing is to have 1200 odd observers all aiding n abetying what they write. Now that’s supposed to mean – good journlism in their minds !!

    Yes kevin sites will give them a run for their money any day !!

    Oh btw Jeff, u need to do some housekeeping :)- Spamozilla seems to have visited your site. !!

  • http://tirbd.blogspot.com John

    It seems that these arguments always confuse two different things. To be a journalist is to have a job in which you seek out information about specific things and then report the most interesting things you find. You report until you have enough to support the story in question, and then keep looking at the issue, filing reports as your efforts warrant.

    Blogging often involves reporting what you see, without taking the additional steps needed to present the whole picture (or as close as one can reasonably come) and without waiting to make sure you have your facts straight. That’s no slight; the immediacy and singluar view of blogs makes them a wonderful addition to the information landscape.

    But newspapers, television, etc., take these additional steps, offering more thoroughly researched stories that are more balanced (yes, slap away, critics, but every journalist at least attempts to present a well-rounded report, and this doesn’t mean catering to left and right) and draw upon more sources. Journalists act as a filter, verifying and checking things before they are reported. Do bloggers offer valuable information that is hard to find elsewhere? Absolutely. Would I rely solely on their efforts to know what is going on in the world? Not a chance.

    Journalists are rightly defensive on this subject because blogs and the Internet represent the first real challenge to their position in decades. But just as newspapers survived radio and radio survived television, all will find ways to co-exist with the Internet, all adding to the rich media landcape.

  • Andy Freeman

    > To be a journalist is to have a job in which you seek out information about specific things and then report the most interesting things you find.

    Then there aren’t many journalists. Many reports are merely reworded press releases. Many of the rest are press conference transcriptions.

    MSM’s defenders defend MSM journalism in terms of some ideal that has little if anything to do with what MSM actually does.

    > more thoroughly researched

    Giggle. The strongest form of MSM’s “fact-checking” is verifying quotes, and it’s not uncommon to skip even that. Making up quotes is reasonably common.

    This sort of confusion is the rule in MSM’s belief system.

    Here’s another example:

    > every journalist at least attempts to present a well-rounded report

    Only in fantasy land. Every real-world journalist seems to believe the “if both sides are mad, the story must be somewhat correct” fallacy.

  • penny

    ” The Times’ assets: “A worldwide network of trained, skilled [observers] to witness events”

    When you step back and think about that utterance the arrogance underlying it is mind boggling. Exactly what training would a journalist have that would make their powers of observation more valid than anyone else viewing the same event? Some special quality known only to the journalist class?

    Should we assume that all of the Times’ worldwide stringers – the locals that they pay piecework wages to – have been given this special witness training?

    This, this and this example of journalistic duplicity put the myth of journalists as fair witnesses to rest.

    Blogging often involves reporting what you see, without taking the additional steps needed to present the whole picture………..

    Sorry, John, but blogging strives for the analysis and truthful re-assemblage of the MSM’s “whole’ and rather incomplete picture. See links above to see how that works.

  • penny
  • http://unbeknownst.net KirkH

    Microsoft likens open source software to communism. That notion has since been debunked. These major media companies are doing something similar. They assume that you can’t wrap a business model around something it must be harming the free market system. Others would argue that open source, in software or journalism, has been the only force capable of breaking down the old, inefficient system. They can buy up the grass but the roots remain.

    The fact that you need a huge decentralized web of reporters should say something about the need for a high rent, centralized bureau in the heart of NY. The Graying Lady has an interesting article today about the biz.
    here.

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    penny sez:
    but blogging strives for the analysis and truthful re-assemblage of the MSM’s “whole’ and rather incomplete picture. See links above to see how that works.

    Bloggers, including myself, can give a different persepctive from MSM, but many who blog do not understand simple concepts such as “integrity” and “reason,” let alone how to punctuate, use good grammar, and properly credit our sources. Blogging, more often than not, strives for a degree of self-promotion. At its best, blogging strives to create conversation. If we bloggers go out and find a “truth” and create conversation around it, then that’s a good thing. But we are not journalists…even if we call ourselves “citizen journalists” our empahsis is on the idea of “citizen,” whereas someone like Johnathan Micha Marshall is a journalist who decided to become a citizen, still, in his writing, has the emphasis on journalist.

    Tish G
    http://spap-oop.blogspot.com/2005/10/we-media-talk-amongst-yourselves.html

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    To finish my thought: don’t think bloggers are better than journalists or journalists better than bloggers. both have faults. and what the big media people think isn’t going to change as long as they keep patting each other on the backs and never talking to The People.

  • http://tirbd.blogspot.com John

    I am continually amazed at views like that espoused by Andy Freeman. He must live someplace with truly horrible newspapers. I’m sorry to see that. Journalists who do their jobs do check facts, try to write balanced articles and work to present original reporting. In this world of the 24-hour news cycle, some of those things have fallen by the wayside at the highest levels; that’s an unfortunate side effect of having as much news as we want, when we want it.

    To echo the point made earlier, bloggers aren’t better than journalists or vice versa, though each is much better at providing certain things. Yes, bloggers fill in the gaps or offer insightful commentary and perspectives unavailable elsewhere; at the same time, much of their content (if not their value) is in reaction to what the mainstream media offers. I write for a paper and I blog, and each allows me to do different things. There is plenty of crossover at times, but much that is mutually exclusive as well. I’m a fan of many mainstream media outlets and many blogs, and find it sad that so many feel the need to offer a blanket indictment of either.

    Finally, if there is so much hostility toward mainstream journalists (which really means the Times, WSJ, Post and TV, it seems), perhaps the democratization project that is the web will yield the positive result of shaking out those journalists and outlets who aren’t cutting it.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Blogging, more often than not, strives for a degree of self-promotion.

    That’s why reporters never ask for by-lines and the phrase “New York Times” never appears in the NYT.

    > At its best, blogging strives to create conversation.

    0-2.

    > Bloggers, including myself, can give a different persepctive from MSM, but many who blog do not understand simple concepts such as “integrity” and “reason,”

    In what universe does MSM do any better?

    The most obvious consequence of MSM’s resources is the staged event.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    John,

    Where do you find hostility to the WSJ?

  • pj

    At Bloggercon III at Stanford, one former Pentagon reporter said there was 3 types of journalism: hard news, analysis, and opinion.

    Bloggers are just as good as mainstream reporters at the last 2, and Bill Keller points out exactly why the mainstream reporters usually, but not always, best at the first. I think blogging has added a fourth item to that list, acting as a filter.

    Compiling links and information, providing context, and in many cases, providing the opportunity to build a debate or a discussion around the facts has been one of the strengths of blogging since its inception.

  • http://tirbd.blogspot.com John

    Re: CaptiousNut – Sorry, two points got mixed up there. I was writing about hostility toward the mainstream media in general. Then, because I’m a Midwestern print journalist tired of people using the blanket term “media” when they are complaining about the New York Times or the network news, I jammed that point in there as well, confusing the issue.

    As for PJ’s point, I would agree, for the most part, though again, bloggers don’t go through editors, so while their opinion and analysis might be as good, it’s not always as clear. As with all of these points, there are bountiful exceptions on both sides, of course.

  • penny

    He must live someplace with truly horrible newspapers.

    John, I’ve lived over the span of the last 15 years with truly horrible local papers in three cities…..local papers that fill their content with unoriginal wire service articles, run vacuous local fluff pieces and craft stories that are not much better than the local high school newspaper.

    The local paper’s staff doesn’t have the knowledge to analyze international or economic events any better than a blogger with a background or interest in a subject.

    “Truly horrible newspapers” may be a clue into why across the board dead tree circulations are falling. Craigslist will continue to kill newspaper’s classified revenues too. Oh, and the local tv news isn’t much better if you omit the weather and sports segments.

    The bottomline is that when your product is shoddy, your honesty is suspect, and there are alternatives presented that weren’t there before the consumer will make choices not in your favor

  • Keone Michaels

    Just another indication that the “powers that be” at the NYT have their heads up their rectums. Jason Blair, Judith Miller, Times Select, etc. I go elsewhere for my news.

  • kat

    Keller obviously believes he is “god” and the NYT, the ‘bible’ while his reporters are the good disciples and we who want a reformation don’t know what we are talking about–we are interpreting his bible incorrectly. We should just believe without questioning.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    There are a handful of respected newspapers in most countries and a vast number of also rans.
    In the US they are the dailies of the major cities: NY, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and LA as well as the WSJ (perhaps I’ve slighted a few).
    In addition there are a handful of news magazines that do real reporting (perhaps Time and Newsweek, the Nation and the New Yorker). Several others get scoops occasionally.

    Television news tends to take its lead from what is featured in the Times and Washington Post. Any original reporting they do is usually in their news magazines and is mostly of a human interest nature.

    The right has been bashing these few remaining news sources because they know if they get discredited then the field is wide open for unchallenged propaganda. Perhaps Keller is a bit smug, but his paper still leads the pack in investigative journalism.
    And yes, papers also rewrite press releases and contain opinion pieces.

    When Karl Rove calls a blogger with a leak instead of Judith Miller then the blogosphere can start to consider itself a primary news source.

  • kat

    What we have now is propaganda from the left–and they hate being challenged.

  • EverKarl

    Jeff, you’re not confused; Keller is. As always.

  • Joe

    I want to know the location of the blogger from reports. That tells me whether or not to even believe the person. A blogger here in the US has no value when it comes to events in Iraq. Also locally a blogger who “reports” on events 50 miles away but never physically goes there is in my mind nothing more than opinion and at worse garbage (possible lies).

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    Andy—

    wow. you don’t get it. a byline is something you earn by writing a well-written piece. most bloggers are either aggregating, re-hashing, commenting or voicing some opinion, often without any sort of idea of how to construct a reasoned arugment, as well as having horrific grammar.

    if you’re getting all your news from bloggers…well….

    I will say, though, that I’ve seen what penny means when she says:
    The local paper’s staff doesn’t have the knowledge to analyze international or economic events any better than a blogger with a background or interest in a subject.

    Often the better blogs are indeed by those who have backgrounds in a particular subject…and it seems that the best citizen journalists aren’t necessarily the “citizens” inasmuch as they are the journalists who decided to try blogging and liked the feedback.

    Although I tend to disagree that Craigslist will replace print want-ads. Craigslist is for the computer savvy. And, believe me, there are many, many people who don’t even own computers.

    People who use the ‘net for everything have the worst social myopia I’ve ever seen. Y’all need to live in a ghetto or working-poor neighborhood and see how many of those folks have no clue what Craigslist is, but still need jobs. For that matter, ask some of your middle-class buddies who only use the computer for business tasks and for their kids’ music downloads…

  • pj

    “A blogger here in the US has no value when it comes to events in Iraq.”

    That could not be more wrong. I wish I had the resource to translate daily what is coming out of the Arab press, but 98% of it is not reported here in the US.

    What we get is what the mainstream media deems is important. Rebuilding the financial markets in Iraq? Nothing to see here. A suicide bomb at a hospital maiming and killing scores of civilians? Front page news.

    It has gotten so bad in Iraq, that there are increasing rumors about many of the freelance journalists and videographers who capture the “if it bleeds it leads” Iraq footage. Just lately a blogger went over frame by frame Reuters and wire photographs of staged insurgent photos and video. The fact that the BBC aired it to illustrate their point that parts of the city were slipping out of the coalition and Iraqis control? Nothing to see here.

    Another blogger witnessed militant Islamists being trucked in and interviewed by an Arab network after a bombing on his street. Guess what, the “interviewees” didnt live there, but they spouted virulently anti-American statements in front of the cameras. Another soldier blogged about Arab stringers paying civilians to throw rocks and chant anti-American slogans in the background.

    There was even a report from an excaped Egyptian hostage, that said another stringer was preparing to film his hostage video. Where are these mainstream media networks getting their footage from exactly?

    This does not represent all of the journalists, the photographer who captured the Fallujah hanging images risked his life to get the shots. Others have been kidnapped, held for ransom, or assasinated. By Baathists, terrorists and Shiites in the south.

    Just being in Iraq means jack squat. I want to know the reporter/photographer/bloggers past history. I want to be able to read his work and see his images, and read what him/her has covered in the past. On blogs sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is not. With Arab stringers, it is near impossible.

  • penny

    People who use the ‘net for everything have the worst social myopia I’ve ever seen. Y’all need to live in a ghetto or working-poor neighborhood and see how many of those folks have no clue what Craigslist is, but still need jobs. For that matter, ask some of your middle-class buddies who only use the computer for business tasks and for their kids’ music downloads…

    And your point is what? Regardless of income strata most people’s children are very net savvy. And what has Craigslist got to do with employment in the ghetto? The billions of retail dollars transacted over the internet tells a different story. Your smug half-baked assumptions of how the lower to middle classes don’t use the net in a purposeful manner smacks of the same condescending arrogance that we are discussing about journalists.

  • Andy Freeman

    > wow. you don’t get it. a byline is something you earn by writing a well-written piece.

    I “get it” quite well. A by-line is promotion. Such promotion is something that journalists value highly. If bloggers are damned for valuing it as well….

    BTW – Well-written isn’t the goal. Truthful and informative is. Well-written helps, but if it’s wrong, well-written doesn’t make it good. (In other words, truth is not beauty.) This emphasis on “well-written” explains many of MSM’s failures.

    > most bloggers are either aggregating, re-hashing, commenting or voicing some opinion, often without any sort of idea of how to construct a reasoned arugment, as well as having horrific grammar.

    Yawn. Tish doesn’t get it. MSM isn’t competing with the worst bloggers. It isn’t even competing with the average bloggers. It is competing with the better bloggers.

    Let’s talk about a specific event. Do you really want to argue that the MSM’s coverage of Harriet Miers approaches what I can get on-line?

  • Andy Freeman

    > Journalists who do their jobs do check facts, try to write balanced articles and work to present original reporting.

    Then there aren’t many journalists who do their jobs. (BTW – “balanced” isn’t the goal either.) Ideals and plans don’t trump work product.

    When I talk to folks who were personally involved in some story, I always hear the same thing about the reporting. That same thing is that the report was significantly wrong on at least one point.

    Journalists can’t have specialized knowledge in multiple fields. Heck, there are individual fields that they can’t know in useful depth because of the time demands of being a journalist. No amount of writing ability/skill can change that.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Often the better blogs are indeed by those who have backgrounds in a particular subject…and it seems that the best citizen journalists aren’t necessarily the “citizens” inasmuch as they are the journalists who decided to try blogging and liked the feedback.

    Let’s test this “the better are by domain experts but the best are by journalists in a new medium” hypothesis.

    If I’m looking for keep up with the law, what “journalist turned blogger” beats the law blogs?

  • Andy Freeman

    There are two areas where MSM is clearly superior to the alternatives.

    Those areas? Sports and “society”.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    “trained, skilled observers”…but what is the training and what are the skills? How many journalists actually know the language of the country they are reporting on, for example? How many have any real knowledge of its history, culture, and economic geography?

    In business reporting, how many journalists have a serious comprehension of the structure and technology of an industry? (I recently saw an article in a biz magazine that talked about “kilowatts per hour” and seemed to think that 100kW was huge amount of electricty)

    To the extent that journalists have special knowlege, it often tends to be *process* knowledge rather than any form of substantive knowledge.

  • http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2005/10/keller-disses-bloggers-again/ Richard Silverstein

    Thanks to Jeff I first learned last March about Keller’s querulous attitude toward blogs here at Buzz Machine. I wished you’d slashed him a bit about his continuning inability to ‘get it’ when it comes to blogs. Perhaps your earlier exchange w. him made you so exhausted at his obtuseness that you didn’t want to go over the same ground again.

    Anyway, I’ve taken him to task over some of these issues (& the dumb, misleading comment about TimesSelect’s subscriber base) in the post linked to this comment in my own blog.