Posts from September 20, 2004

Words fail

Words fail

: I really don’t know how to continue to find ways to express outrage appropriate to the latest attrocities by the terrorists in Iraq. American civilians beheaded. Iraqi civilians bombed. Horrid murderers.

: Meanwhile, in Canada, Reuters makes CanWest remove its byline from stories because the papers up there — bless them — came up with a policy replacing Reuters’ quisling euphemisms with the word “terrorist.” Not to call them terrorists is not journalism; it’s lying; it’s the worst of hidden agendas. Good for you, Can-West. Curses on you, Reuters.



: A Slashdotter says something nice about this here blog. I now await the fall of the other shoe.

: It’s about the Issues2004 posts below. I’ll write the next as soon as I get a chance; was going to do it tonight, but spending the evening in Manhattan to do the TV thing took away that time.

It’s bigger than Dan Rather

It’s bigger than Dan Rather

: It’s bigger than Dan Rather. It’s bigger than CBS. It’s about journalism and Big Media and their relationship with the citizenry and democracy. It’s about sharing authority with the people.

My fear is that CBS will create a commission — just as The New York Times had its commission and 9/11 had its commission — and out of that, some people will be fired [please, tonight, let us not make references to heads rolling] and new rules will be instituted and the network will think its problem is solved… while the network’s detractors will insist nothing will change.

But it’s bigger than that.

Tonight on Deborah Norville’s show, there was too much talk for my taste about CBS as the Tiffany network and the gold-standard of TV journalism. That’s not only a terribly outdated perception of CBS — which is just another news company — but the attempt to harken back to those alleged golden days also continues to separate journalism from the people. It tries to keep journalism behind stone walls, cathedral or palace, priesthood or monarchy.

As the Rather affair shows, journalists are nothing if not human, and nothing if not fallible.

The time has come for journalists to admit that. The time has come for them to take Dan Gillmor’s words to heart and realize that the audience knows more than they do.

The time has come to reshape journalism — and not just CBS or (if it were possible) Dan Rather’s brain.

You could argue that CBS is the last body to do that. Or you could argue it is the best to do it: Humbled, chastised, bruised, bloodied… What if CBS tried to imagine new relationships between news and the people? They certainly can’t do it singlehandedly. But they could make a start.

That commission could include not just news priests but also bloggers and news sources and news subjects (including those who’ve been wronged) and competitors … just plain viewers aka consumers aka citizens (the people who should matter most).

They could dig into what CBS did wrong — but that’s already pretty obvious. They should produce an object lesson for journalistic hotshots everywhere. And that has value.

But how much better if they started imagining a new view of news that involves the wisdom of the people. They should examine not just what CBS did wrong but what CBS could have done right.

That’s what journalism needs now.

: Jay Rosen speculates on the CBS commission here. (And I’m terribly flattered at the link to this blog.)

: Richard Bennett’s perfect line:

Dan Rather has plead guilty to Gross Stupidity in order to avoid a conviction for Extreme Bias in the court of public opinion.

Off the air

Off the air

: Just got home after taping Deborah Norville’s show; it’s on the air now. I have to say that she does a good job; she runs a sane show; she was well-researched; she involved everybody; and she was tough on CBS — Norville was downright shocked that this happened from the No. 1 guy on a big story about the President only 50 days before an election.

I was impressed with Hugh Downs, who said that anchors used to do commentaries; the last was John Chancellor. I like that idea; it’s a way for an anchor to reveal his viewpoint and separate it from reporting the news — while allowing us to know his perspective and judge his delivery of the news based on that.

As for me… I talk too damned fast, I know. So shoot me. More above.

: I also made the point tonight that when I didn’t cover the Rather story, the commenters here complained and I apologized and then you actually thanked me. I said that Rather could have done likewise.

: Now I’m watching Michael Wolff of Vanity Fair and he’s making no sense. He’s telling CBS that if they believe the story they should keep on it. Then he says that this is a “take down” by those who wanted to discredit the story of Bush. No, no, no. The story is now that Rather based his story on obvious forgeries from a sleazy source and went with it even after ignoring warnings. It’s a media story, Mr. Media Critic. But he chooses to ignore that.

: In the green room before the taping, I watched Tom Shales of the Washington Post practicing similar flagrant cognitive dissonance, or worse. He said that Dan Rather didn’t lie but George Bush does lie.

: On the show, they kept referring to me as a media critic. I kept insisting I just wanted to be called a blogger. It’s not a good night for media critics.

: Later, watching Letterman: “Tonight on the CBS Evening News, we report nine real stories and one fake one. Can you guess which one?”

Just got out of the Deborah Norville taping with Hugh Downs, Tom Jarriel, Robert Greenwald, David Blum. On MSNBC at 9pm ET. Will blog from home…..

Just got out of the Deborah Norville taping with Hugh Downs, Tom Jarriel, Robert Greenwald, David Blum. On MSNBC at 9pm ET. Will blog from home…..