Dogging the doggers

Dogging the doggers
: Columbia’s J-school and the Columbia Journalism Review have started to watch over the best and worst of campaign coverage. They’ll have a full-time professional staff led by Steve Lovelady (ex-WSJ, Philly Inqy, Time Inc.) and Bryan Keefer (of Spinsanity). Well, that’s a good mix. The welcome letter from J-school Dean Nicholas Lemann promises:

A few assurances are in order: The Desk will be politically nonpartisan. While it will call attention to journalistic sins, both of omission and commission, it will by no means be exclusively a finger-wagging operation. It will have a lively, engaged tone, not a grim, censorious one. One of the Desk’s important functions will be to praise work of high quality, and one of its most useful aspects will be its ability to bring distinguished work in the local press to national attention, instantly and (through links) in full.

The Desk aims to decrease, not enhance, the self-referential and self-enclosed tendencies of the campaign press. It is quite difficult for reporters traveling with a presidential campaign to get information independently; the Desk intends to make this easier, by making available links to briefing materials, accurate information, and other documents from the outside world that will help reporters evaluate what the candidates are saying.

If it’s just pros talking to pros about pros and prose, that will get a bit insular and boring fast.

I suggest that they also pay attention to what others, including weblogs, are saying about coverage. And if they’re smart, they’ll find that bloggers will do a lot of their work for them, pointing to the best and usually worst of coverage. If CampaignDesk brings all that together, that’s also a good service to the rest of us; it could beat the adopt-a-journalist truth-squad grudge approach.

Two other bits of advice:

Enlist students (!) to use as a model of how an open group can do a much more thorough job than a limited group of pros.

And open up comments! Hear what the people have to say! [via Lost Remote]

: I’m snowed-in and the NY Times is buried, so I just saw its story on Campaign Desk. And it got my dander up. Lovelady contrasts what he’s doing to mere blogs:

Most blogs are 99.9 percent opinion,” said Steve Lovelady, the site’s managing editor and a former managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is a Web site run by and staffed by responsible journalists whose job is to monitor, critique and praise the campaign press, on a daily basis.”

So we’re irresponsible journalists? Jeesh. I sure hope that quote was taken out of context because on its face, it exhibits the worst of the cloistered attitude of the press priesthood. And I guess my suggestions to open up to blogs and commenters was just journalistic heresey.

Well, Lovelady, if you don’t open up and if you try to do this with your staff of “professionals,” I will bet you right now that weblogs as a collective will do a much better job of meeting your mission than you will.

We’re watching you watching the press.

: Ed Cone: “I vote clueless old media snobbery.”

: Dave Winer advises bloggers: Instead of tracking journalists, compete with them.