Posts about News

Melting pot v. bouillabaisse

There’s so much irony in The Times of London’s coverage of the French riots.

America was supposed to be the melting pot — when I was raised, color-blindness was a would-be national virtue — but instead we’ve become a multicultural chunky chicken pot pie, where everyone except for ethnically indeterminate products of the cultural crockpot (like me) maintains some measure of ethnic identity.

France, meanwhile, was supposed to be protecting its culture, so it tried to be a melting pot by having immigrants assimilate.

Now The Times says France’s “colour-blind policy has fed Muslim radicalism.” The implication is that melting pots are bad but a culture bouillabaisse is good. File that under failed policies with separate-but-equal and racial quotas. And add in France’s policy of not allowing religious headgear, which many of us in America took to be a sign of intolerance (and French critics criticized us for that at the time). Even The Times ends up confused in this house of cultural mirrors:

Under the ethnically colour-blind “French model”, the immigrant workers who came in the 1950s and 1960s from the former colonies in North and black Africa were to be regarded as equal citizens. They and their descendants would take advantage of the education system and generous welfare state to assimilate with “white” France. To promote the idea of assimilation, neither the State nor any other body publishes statistics on ethnic or national origin.

In practice, France turned its back on the minorities, shunting them into suburban cités denying access to the so-called ascenseur social (social elevator) that was supposed to lift immigrants into the mainstream. Unemployment on the estates is up to three times the 10 per cent national average. Laws supposed to promote integration and oppose multiculturalism, such as the ban on Muslim headwear in schools, have often heightened resentment and the feeling of exclusion. This has in turn fed the rise of Muslim radicalism, which has now become the dominant creed of the young in the French ghettos.

France has always deemed its model superior to the Anglo-Saxon approach of diversity, which has enabled ethnic minorities to retain strong bonds in cultural and religious communities. France calls this “comunitarism” and says that it promotes ghettos, exclusion, poverty, race riots and religious extremism that can ultimately lead to actions such as the London bombings.

Three decades on from the big inflow of immigrants, everyone now agrees that the French model has not worked, although almost no one says that the American and British approach has produced better results.

And as I heard on Brian Lehrer’s show last week (I think), a caller said it’s not right to call the rioters “immigrants” since many are second- and third-generation. They are now French. But they are, indeed, unassimilated and unwelcome. Could it just be that the French are snobs? Well, yes, and that’s not as snobbish of me as it sounds. I’ve known Americans who’ve lived in France for decades who were seen as outsiders. That’s the way France has always been, no? But prejudice is prejudice and poverty is poverty, no matter. So perhaps we’re seeing a condensed and delayed version of America’s ethnic strife: minorities are mistreated and then there are ineffective or insincere efforts at assimilation and then the minorities revolt. Is France facing its ’60s? Is Paris burning? Will Europe? And why is America still being painted as the only bad guy in the Muslim worldview? Let’s also not forget France’s own problems with 19th-century globalism and Europe’s own problems with 20-th century ethnic tolerance. In none of this am I nya-nyaing France for its problems; they are too serious. And they, like our problems, are far from simple.

How quaint

Two quotables on this thing we call a newspaper. This one from ArtDodger in the comments on my post below on imploding newspaper circulation:

This business of pureeing trees and wringing cuttlefish to make the day’s transient news permanent seems positively archaic, doesn’t it?

This one from a comment on Attytood [via Porter]

It’s a product you have to go and get in the rain, snow or wind and pull out of the hedge, the leaves or a coin-eating box on a dirty street corner. It’s heavy. It’s big. You’re not interested in 90% of its content. And when you’re done with it, you — literally — have to wash your hands and figure out how to properly dispose of the thing.

: More newspaper quotes here, here, and here. Among them:

Half the American population no longer reads newspapers: plainly, they are the clever half. — Gore Vidal

People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news. — A.J. Liebling

It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper. — Jerry Seinfeld

Trees rejoice

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is coming out with its report on newspaper popularity (what else should we call sales) and it’s going to be bad. The Wall Street Journal (free link) sums up the numbers:
: Gannett down 2.5 percent
: Knight Ridder down 2.9 percent
: Tribune Company down 4 percent (not including scandal-scarred Newsday)

More numbers from E&P:

: “McClatchy is breaking its 20-year winning streak this period. Daily circulation dropped around 1% while there was a “steeper decline” on Sunday.”
: Knight Ridder’s breakdown: down 2 percent daily, 3.5 percent Sunday.
: Belo’s Dallas Morning News: down 7 percent.
: Providence Journal down 2 percent.
: Riverside Press-Enterprise down 3 percent daily, 4 percent Sunday.
: Boston Globe down 7.7 percent daily, 7 percent Sunday.
: NYTimes up 0.4 percent daily, 0.1 percent Sunday. “The increases came mostly from the paper’s national effort. Circulation for the New York City area declined.


: Notable quotes above.

Late news is bad news

Well, the good news is that NBC is going to stream its nightly news online. The bad news is that they’re going to do it three and a half hours after the show airs in the east…. for the obvious reason that they don’t want to piss off west-coast affiliates. Still, can’t they all see the absurdity of this, on its face: Old news is not news, it’s just old. Why didn’t they give the affiliates all the right to show the news on their own sites? Why didn’t they all say that if they can get anyone under the age of 60 to watch their news anywhere anytime, they should thank their lucky news stars. This is why the future of news cannot come from the past of news: It is weighed down with deals and issues and precedents and contracts like Marley’s ghost.

Iraqi democracy

I will fully confess that I have been remiss in not linking to reports of the Iraqi constitutional vote. My fault.

But I will link to reports that voter turnout is even higher than it was in January and that there was opposition — what democracy does not? But it appears the constitution will pass.

These are a people who are dying to build a democracy. And we continue to have an obligation to help them. How we got there is not an excuse to abandon them and their quest to secure their freedom.

Plastic explosives

David Kline finds the ideal Christmas present for the age: The Playmobil airport security toy. Surely, I thought, this must be a joke. But, no, it’s really on the Playmobil site. Coming soon: subway bag checkers… Guantanamo interrogators… FEMA ice trucks…

Yahoo’s news includes blogs

Yahoo’s news search now includes blogs and that is good news.

Eric Auchard of Reuters called me about it last night and probed the question of separating blogs from … what should we call ?… real news, professional news, journalism?

I got on my high horse, predictably, and said the separation is artificial and even perilous (see the post directly below)

Robert Thompson, a media studies professor at Syracuse University, said it was important to preserve the distinctions between professional journalism and personal commentary.

He defined professional journalism as reporting which adheres to standards of accuracy and writing subjected to an editorial process, and all done with an eye to journalistic ethics, although he said journalism often falls short of these goals.

“There is a distinction between something that has gone through an editorial process as opposed to something put up by someone that has been through none of those processes,” Thompson said.

But media critic Jeff Jarvis, author of the blog Buzzmachine (, said major Internet sites such as Yahoo and Google continue to patronise bloggers by treating them as secondary sources of news.

I was complaining that GoogleNews will not includ a site unless it has multiple authors… as if that makes a difference. Google to I.F. Stone: Drop dead.

Jarvis, who is a former TV critic for TV Guide and People magazines, mocked the notion that journalists live by a shared set of professional standards, that they are better trained or more trustworthy than the anyone-can-join blog movement.

“What made the voice of the people somehow less important than the paid professional journalist?” he asked. “You don’t need to have a degree, you don’t need to have a paycheque, you don’t need to have a byline,” Jarvis said.

“If you inform the public, you are committing an act of journalism,” he declared.

I went to Yahoo’s news search and looked up “Meirs.”

In the left column, under “news,” I found this: commentary from a student paper in Tennessee. In the right column, under “blog beta,” I found this: analysis from law professors. Which is more valuable, more authoritative, more trustworthy? The only way to find out is to read them.

Bottom line: I am delighted that Yahoo now includes blogs in search; I’m not complaining. Good on Yahoo. Take a lesson, Google. But to Thompson and others who keep arguing that there is a clear distinction, I say: Show me the line.

: Winer says:

1. Blogs don’t belong in the margin, they belong in the main results. There’s so much confusion about what is and isn’t a blog, why bother even trying to make a distinction. BusinessWeek has a blog, but it’s not the same thing as Scripting News, right? Or is it? Where should BW’s blog be? Why should it be in a different place from their editorial stuff? Don’t expect the line to get more solid in the future, it’s going the other way, getting more blurry all the time.

: Lisa DiCarlo at asks:

But is Yahoo! taking another big step in the blurring of lines between professional media and grassroots journalism?

The line is already blurrier than you know….

Past print

Squared finds the key quote from John Battelle’s interview in I Want Media:

Print is an extraordinarily important, wonderful medium. But I think we’ve seen the passing of print as the medium of news delivery. There are plenty of examples where print was the best we could do because it’s all we had. But the online medium is better.