The people’s news judgment

The people’s news judgment

: The great, vaunted talent/skill/art/gift from God that editors supposedly have is news judgment. I had to work my way up in the business until one day a light shone from heaven and it was decreed that I had news judgment. Editors have it. Mortals don’t.

Or not.

Glenn Reynolds puts together a bunch of opinions from many quarters that say the news business has no news judgment regarding the murder of Nick Berg.

He’s right. And now we have the means to prove he’s right. We can look at what people are talking about on weblogs. We can look at what people are searching for online (see this Google search for “Nick Berg“). We can see what people are linking to on Technorati (this takes you to the latest links on “Nick Berg“). We can look at the traffic on stories about an evil enemy killing one of our innocents versus stories about — to go to Page One of the NY Times today: stories about our “abuse” and even a story blaming us for the murder of our innocent.

The people have news judgment. And it beats the judgment of many an editor.

The people have their own newspaper now. And you’re looking at it.

: UPDATE: Even Jimmy Breslin, an old-time newsman if there ever was one, gets the new religion:

Here is the new news reporting. If something is too gruesome, too ominous for the newspaper editor’s taste, it matters not. The Internet will decide what you print, and if you don’t care, if you want to stay in the past, then stay there with your dead newspaper.

[via Leonard Witt]

  • Yogi Berra

    what a hypocrite!!! You run Web pages for how many newspapers, Jeff? And how many of YOUR newspapers ran multiple photos of the beheading? Nope. Cleveland Plain Dealer? Nope. Any of them at all?
    You can’t both be a critic of big media and member of it, Jarvis.

  • mm

    People have their own sounding boards, is more like it. Until the blog world shifts towards more original reporting, and not just commentary on the traditional media, it won’t be a replacement. Blogs are little more than news aggregators with embedded opinions.

  • button

    Jeff – sharing:
    This is Jimmy Breslin’s column today on the subject. Haven’t read a column by him in years. Have mostly lost track of him. This is from Newsday online. He’s still got something special, a special touch; it’s quite a piece of writing. Maybe he’s mostly an old windbag by now, I don’t know, but this is impressive.
    The ultimate reality show by Jimmy Breslin.-30-

  • John

    Jeff the only way the major media is going to push the Nick Berg story is if Berg’s dad, who lashed out at the treatment of his son by U.S. officials in Iraq last month, endorses John Kerry for president. In their eyes, it will then become a legitimate long-term news story and not something they hope to have buried on page A-23 by Sunday’s paper.

  • mm

    All these comments about how stories are “buried” in the NYTimes ignore the fact that any war coverage that is not on the front-page will always be further back in the first section. The first 5-10 pages are always broader international issues, and then the Iraq war, and then more general national news. Complaining that an Iraq story isn’t on page 2 or something like that is bs.

  • Michael

    Blogs are the newspapers for those who have computers and internet access and the skills and the time to sit and read them. Not everyone has such luxury.

  • When a pre-sex tape Paris Hitlon sat in Brian Urlacher’s seats at the opening of Soldier Field on Monday Night Football last year, my little gossipy blog experienced a surge in traffic because, as a sports-minded gay Chicagoan, it was, at the time, one of the few sites returned when you Googled both names.
    But that burst was nothing compared to what happened when Hilton’s night-vision sex tape with Rick Solomon turned up.
    Did this mean that Americans suddenly gave a damn about the spoiled New York socialite scene? Nope, just that there was a video about which everyone was talking but no one was actually showing. They wanted to see it for themselves. Increases in site traffic to blogs mentioning “Nick Berg video” doesn’t mean people are more interested in that than the prison scandal or any other topic; it just means they’re looking for the porn.

  • Dang, Mike McNamara. You nailed it!

  • David

    I agree with Jeff on this one. Most Americans are far more concerned about Nick Berg than the prisoner abuses, which have been “front page news” for quite a few days now. The media has become tone-deaf about which issues are most important to the American people. This is just the latest example. The blog revolution rolls on.

  • Zip

    I wish they would also report the fact that the man who killed berg was targeted for death 2 times in 2002 but the whitehouse struck down both actions because it would have hurt the case to go to iraq. Wonder why they won’t report that….

  • Zip

    Don’t forget that the Prison scandal is still developing. The Nick Berg story has been done any nothing more will come out of it.

  • Zip

    To be blunt the Iraqi Abuse is far more important and shocking than the beheading of Berg. Not that its not a terrible crime but its just not as newsworthy and shocking as what happened in Iraq. I would be lying if I said I was shocked what the terrorists did. They have done it hundreds of times before and they will probably do it again.

  • Mork

    I think the fact that the search request that was previously at number 1 was for Paris Hilton tells you something of the nature of this interest.
    I wonder if Jeff or Glenn Reynolds would argue that the fact that so many Americans had a voyeuristic interest in seeing her porn video means that mainstream newspapers should have published stills of the good bits, for so long as the interest lasted.

  • Mike

    Zip please if you are going to post something so outrageous and ridiculous, how about including a source.

  • O’McSomething

    Give me a break! The ghouls are out on the Internet looking for a beheading and you interpreting google-hits as “people are more concerned about this story than the other nasty story”? The other nasty story pictures were the hot things last week, kiddies. Now, if we could just get the video of lil’Lynddie English having sex with the all the other steam-blowing soldiers (Damn that Senate for not sneaking in tiny camaras in their tie-tacks!) we could have it go neck’n’neck {opps!} with the beheading for a real indicator of what’s top-o’the-pops online. Fercrissakes. That’s just sick and stupid. Get some exercise and take a cold shower. Stay away from the computer and stop associating yourselves with snuff-porn pervs.

  • You know, O, you haven’t contributed anything important to this topic, but you have let us know a lot more about you than I suspect we cared to know. Especially this lovely sentence:
    “Now, if we could just get the video of lil’Lynddie English having sex with the all the other steam-blowing soldiers (Damn that Senate for not sneaking in tiny camaras in their tie-tacks!) we could have it go neck’n’neck {opps!} with the beheading for a real indicator of what’s top-o’the-pops online.”

  • Homer Simpson

    In case you didn’t realize, I was being sarcastic.

  • Jeff,
    You might be as appalled as I was to see that Culture Warrior Robert Knight has blamed Berg’s death on “cultural currents that have come to a deadly nexus in Iraq.” These currents Knight lists as:
    — Women in the military,
    — homosexuality,
    — pornography, and
    (last but not least)
    — Howard Stern.
    I posted about it here.
    The Knight piece can be read here.
    Talk about giving al Qaida the moral high ground!

  • O’

    Thanks for reading my mind, Homer. Ummmh…sarcasmmmmm! Andrea, charmed by your witty contributions, as always. Finger on the pulse of things, that’s you. But, please, don’t spend too much time tryin’ to get in my head. You don’t wanna go there. Just warnin’ ya. I’m a riddle-wrapped enigma.
    Speaking of witty, sarcastic mind-readers. This guy always gets it.

  • Jeff,
    Like most bloggers I saw traffic triple in the past 48 hours.
    Why? Because of Yahoo and Google searches for the video.
    Thousands of people came by my blog looking (in vain) for the video.
    They aren’t looking for opinions or alternative news coverage – they want to watch a snuff video.
    I’ve got plenty of criticisms of ‘big media’ but lets keep a sense of perspective about this.

  • Hey Mike, here’s the link you were asking for.
    But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

    In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.
    The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.
    Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam. [emphasis mine]
    The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late — Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone. “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq,” Cressey added.
    And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today.
    That was a Jim Miklaszewski report from March 2.
    This topic is an example of bloggers interpreting something in a very self-serving way. Mike McNamara and Harry are absolutely right, people just want to watch a snuff video. It’s like the Paris Hilton tape, not an indication of a yearning for different emphasis in mainstream media.
    The American prison abuse story rightfully has legs because there’s the question of whether it is US policy to commit such abuses. That affects a lot more people (some of the prisoners were killed) and seems to call into question the conduct of the whole US mission. That’s a lot more shocking to me than hearing that some extremists captured and killed an American over in Iraq. The investigation is ongoing, more photos might come out, a court martial starts in a few days, etc.–it’s not like they’re simply milking a few photos from two weeks ago.

  • In April 2002, in a tremendous show of moral seriousness, the American people demanded Lisa Lopes autopsy photos. Why did the anti-Bush media hold them back? The answer, I suspect, is obvious.

  • The “people” don’t have news judgment. It’s a meaningless concept. The “people” are just a bunch of individuals paying attention to what’s important to them.
    At established media outlets, news judgment means simply that somebody has to decide what goes into the paper or on the air. Those decisions should be informed by the editor/producer’s perception of what most people think is important, but they can’t be driven solely by that. If you waited for the “people” to make these decisions, or for history to decide, the work would never get done. News selection can’t be by focus group.
    In the blogosphere, everybody can be his own editor. Some days, that’s kind of nice. If all I want to read about are beheadings and Paris Hilton, I can do that all day long. But when I’m in a hurry (which is most of the time) I go to an editor whose judgment I respect to find out what’s important today. Usually, that’s still big media. Nobody I’ve found in the blogosphere does the job nearly as well.