The Week Opinion Awards

The Week Opinion Awards

: I’m at The Week‘s second annual opinion awards and a couple of forums cosponsored by the Aspen Institute. Will live-blog as deserved….

: Walter Isaacson says that in the old days, Washington pundits were not independent; post-Watergate, they were “feisty and independent,” and now he asks whether being independent works.

Ana Marie Cox says it’s not necessarily about staking out a position but about being shrill. Her case in point: Coulter. If you’re tall and blonde and shout, you get attention, she says. You also get attention from sodomy jokes, she adds — but that’s about being clever.

She says bloggers pride themselves on their ideological independence.

Arianna Huffington says she goes after both conservatives and liberals — after liberals mainly for being “spineless.”

Peter Beinert of The New Republic: “I actually want to be pigeonholed. The problem is that people on my side don’t want me in their pigeonhole.”

I know the feeling with my pigeons.

He argues that we should not throw out the terms “left” and “right” for that is “to discard history.”

Isaacson says the new media forces this and he issues his mea culpa doing that at CNN, pigeonholing people on the left and right to put out Crossfire.

David Brooks: A straight reporter, he says, is always curious. An opinion journalist wakes up in the morning with an assumption and goes to bed with a conclusions.

Simon Jenkins of The Times of London says that 10 years ago, opinion journalism was almost dead but the audience shows “they want opinion, they want to know what you think.”

Ana Marie says the strength of American journalism is that it is noncredentialed. For years, a J-school degree was a proxy for a credential. But now blogging brings back uncredentialed journalism.

Huffington says the blogosphere takes on a story — like Dan Rather — and sticks to it. Isaacson says that it’s like cable news taking on O.J.

AMC says that bloggers stick on only partisan stories.

Brooks says British journalism is influenced by the tradition of Johnson: conversational. American journalism is influenced by the spirit of Walter Lippman: heavy, earnest, and self-important.

Beinert said the problem with Fox is not that it is a conservative network but that it is a Republican network.

Brooks: “I have never met an elected official who reads a blog… They’re not in the conversation.” He says he reads blogs. But he says that blogs are at a war among themselves and there is a different conversation — the one that matters, is the implication — among elected officials.

I think that’s looking at it the wrong way: Do the people in power care to listen to what the people say?

Beinert argues that the value for speed means that bloggers don’t say things to remember.

AMC says the reason she has a blog is because no one would print her.

Jenkins argues that blogs are just opinion but the “process of editing and mediation” at papers is why people turn to them. Insert standard argument here.

Huffington says big media is about not rocking the boat and the blogosphere is about rocking the boat.

Beinert says there is a real value in people writing about people without having to meet them.

Jenkins says that if the future of our journalism is going to be the web — unmediated and often not truthful, he says — we will miss newspapers.

Beinert says that many of the liberal blogs “are mainly interested in enforcing discipine.” Uh, yeah. “There is a great desire to have people in lockstep.” But he says there has not been a conversation about what it means to be liberal while on the right, that conversation on for years before the lockstep discipline began on that side.

Jenkins says we are “at the virtual collapse of the American newspaper industry.” He says the current debate on the web is very much like the growth of newspapers around 1900 when they were all affiliated with parties and ideologies and over 50 years a standard of professionalism emerged. He predicts the same will happen with the web. He is reminded of the founding of the Guardian when it was said that opinions are free but facts cost money. He says that people will be drawn to sites that offer facts.

Brooks says he is tired of generalizations about the blogosphere and mainstream media. When Arianna champions the blogosphere, he says “that battle is over, the blogosphere is around.”

Brooks says that you have to choose how to use your time and if you have a choice between blogs and books, he’ll take books.

: Then there’s a panel about Iraqi coverage. I’m getting blog fatigue. But I love this line from Salameh Nematt, D.C. bureau chief of Al-Hayat: “Saddam himself was a weapon of mass destruction.”

Then there’s this: Geraldo Rivera is asked whether he was convinced there were WMDs and he replies, “Kind of.” Close enough for Geraldo.

Asked whether he bears some responsibility for the euphoria right after the invasion of Iraq, Geraldo says yes. He says that he and his colleagues were cheerleaders and were patriots. Richard Perle tells him, “there was every reason to cheer.”

Geraldo says that the people in Iraq were all shouting, “Boooosh Boooosh.”

Interesting to see bitchslapping between the D.C. outposts of Al-Hayat and Al Jazeera. Now there’s bitchslapping between Geraldo and Al-Jazeera.