Pot calls kettle hot

Pot calls kettle hot

: NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin writes a most befuddling column today calling blogs “amoral.”

His excuse: An NPR reporter put up the redacted report on the shooting of the car carrying an Italian communist journalist/hostage in Iraq and bloggers discovered when they downloaded it that they could read and reported the redacted pieces, including some that affect security. Thus, Dvorkin concludes:

…the blogosphere has proven once again to be an amoral place with few rules. The consequences for misbehavior are still vague. The possibility of civic responsibility remains remote. It is a place where the philosophy of “who posts first, wins” predominates.

Somebody put a leash on that dinosaur.

Because a blogger does something you say is wrong, Mr. Dvorkin, all bloggers are now amoral? By that logic, then, when someone at NPR says something liberal, then all of NPR is liberal. (Hmmm.) And if a reporter lies then all reporters lie?

NPR screwed up but when that’s discovered it’s the bloggers who are amoral?

Few rules? Actually, there are many rules — but they’re not necessarily your rules, they are the rules of the public you serve. They sometimes have different rules and often, sir, you and your network and our profession fail their rules. Who made Dan Rather honest? Journalists or bloggers?

You dismiss bloggers and their rules and thus your audience and the public in one broad slap. You separate yourself from the public you want to serve.

And you do so with attitude: “Once again,” you say without links or citations, “once again” blogs prove to be amoral. Give us your evidence, please.

Civic responsibility? I’d say that blogs are a living expression of civic responsibility — they are the citizens holding the powerful responsible. What could be a better expression?

As for the attitude that he who posts first wins: Well, isn’t that how all news media — yes, even NPR — act? Do you really want to be 10th with the big story?

Now get aloada this NPR hubris:

At the same time, readership for newspapers and viewers of network television news continue to fall.

Public radio — for the moment — seems exempt from that trend. Public radio’s listenership continues to rise. But NPR needs to know what it is doing right to attract these new listeners. Is there a downside to this growth?

I honestly don’t understand his point? Is popular success cooties for an NPR hand?

He goes on to say that media is edging close to bloggers — even on NPR:

Even one of NPR’s newest programs, Day To Day is collaborating with Slate.com, the online magazine. On NPR, these online journalists contribute their editorial perspectives and edgy insights — with gasps of dismay from some listeners and occasionally from the ombudsman too.

It’s not just blogs he finds distasteful. It’s the internet.

He continues:

The appeal of the blogs? Humor seems to be the biggest attraction. Ironic detachment from the news, an ability to deflate egos and refreshing, undisguised opinion are also valued. All are antithetical to most news organizations.

Deflating the powerful and self-important used to be a hallmark of journalism, until it became powerful and self-important itself.

Humor? Hey, we’re human. When you don’t laugh at the absurd in the news — and there’s plenty that absurd and funny — you once again separate yourself from the public. You snot up the news. You make the news dull and pompous. And you wonder why people turn elsewhere?

“Undisguised opinion”? Beats the hell out of disguised opinion, which is what too much of the public sees in too much journalism.

American newspapers traditionally and scrupulously segregate fact-based reporting from opinion by designating pages for each. Radio and television try to ensure that opinion remains secondary to reporting. Conclusions should be drawn warily. Bloggers tend not to care if they, and their readers conflate opinion and fact. It’s part of the appeal of the blogosphere.

As news organizations fight to regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences, the blogs and the number of people who read them continue to grow. The blogs entertain, they provoke, and they are not constrained by journalistic standards of truth telling.

Well, many would argue with your first assertion. But even so, if new organizations do such a good job of this, as you say, then why must they now “fight ot regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences”?

In an attempt to find allies — fellow dinosaurs huddling against the cold of their ice age — Dvorkin quotes the outgoing ombudsman of the Washington Post:

The ombudsman at The Washington Post, Michael Getler, has made similar complaints about his e-mail being clogged by the blogs.

In other words, if Dvorkin is quoting him correctly, he is complaining about readers clogging the email of the person charged with listening to readers. You call it a “clog,” I call it a conversation.

And actually, Mr. Ombudsman, I think it would be wrong to reveal information from that report that could compromise security. I’ll bet even some of the people who did it would think it is wrong if they realized what they were doing. And so perhaps the better thing in your role would be to try to educate them and teach them the values of journalism to improve the public discourse. Instead, you sneer at it.

Or should I say you roar at it?

  • Josh

    Do liberals fly to heaven?
    Just, liberals. BAH

  • the blogosphere has proven once again to be an amoral place with few rules
    Clearly horribly amoral. Before you know it they’ll be releasing the names of CIA agents to the public.

  • (What I commented on The Blog Herald post on this.)
    I like his inane bit about NPR complaints about receiving form-letter complaints. Itís inane for at least two reasons:
    (1) I bet NPR, like many other news outlets, when reporting on citizens contacting their elected officials, donít bother to usually specify or separate out the form-letters. But now, because itís the media getting such things, they need to call attention to it?
    (2) On the substance of what those form-letters addressed, they give a rather stupid response which demonstrates either a lack of comprehension as to what words communicate, a defensive posture against any criticism of their priesthood, or both.
    More dinosaurs. Theyíre everywhere.

  • Jeff, you know I love to argue with you. But when you’re right, you are really right. Great post.

  • byrd

    So let me see if I have this syllogism right:
    A: NPR posted and allowed the public access to sensitive documents including information that was supposed to be secret.
    B: The public accessed those sensitive documents.
    C: Bloggers are irresponsible.
    Makes sense.

  • rms

    what’s most interesting about npr’s treatment of this is that their story on the air on may 2 did not at all indicate that they (npr) had helped in the dissemination of a classified document by putting it up on their website. their reporter simply said the pentagon had posted the file on saturday in a pdf file that had black cross marks as a redacting tool. she then said that anyone with a bit of computer knowledge could undo the black cross marks. she didn’t indicate that npr had posted the report. as far as you are aware, did any other news organizations post this story? or was npr the only one?

  • One by one, MSMers are getting a big firehose of cold water in the face when they do something stupid. How sorry I don’t feel when their audience starts to have a significant voice.
    “But this was not one of those instances. NPR was right to remove the documents from its Web site once it became clear that the full version could be accessed.”
    But where’s the part that says NPR was wrong to post something containing sensitive information, even if it can’t be obtained via trivial means.

  • Ged of Earthsea

    If all you read was the left-blogsophere, you might draw similar conclusions.
    The MSM/academic dinosaurs operate with the significant impairment of being unable to distinguish between actual living, breathing reactionaries (at this point in our history, thankfully few in number) and the much broader libertarianish middle. So they dismiss anything from the latter as a product of the former, and thus safely ignored, thereby missing the lion’s share of the productive dialogue taking place in the blogosphere.

  • As to the releasing of information better not unreleased, is the public really better served thinking that this information was secure when it obviously wasn’t — and only because of the actions that NPR took in posting it?
    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  • pamela5313

    AND NPR doesn’t follow their own charter for fair and balanced reporting which helps them acquire federal funding (I’d like to kill that one quick!) The good news is that the majority of NPR listeners abort the future liberal voters of America. God bless them everyone (the children AKA “fetuses”).

  • I think Dvorkin in this case got stuck in a neighborhood he didn’t like and drew conclusions about the city from it. This may be inherent in the blogosphere, according to what Rebecca Blood once wrote at my weblog:

    it’s like entering a room in which the walls are entirely covered with doors. you open some of the doors, enter new rooms, all of which are covered with doors. you walk through them, and eventually you find that many of them lead you to the same rooms over and over again. still, there are more doors and more rooms than you would ever have time to explore.
    what you don’t know–what you can’t know–is that there are other sections of the building, unconnected to this one. the section you are in is so vast that it seems it must represent the majority of the space. additionally, since so many of the doors lead to the same places, it is easy to assume that these must be the most important rooms in the building.
    people in other sections of the building, unconnected to yours, are drawing the same conclusion about a different set of rooms.

    That’s maybe what happened to NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin. It’s the illusion of having surveyed something when you haven’t.

  • vnjagvet

    I read Mr. Dvorkin’s column yesterday and was underwhelmed. It occurred to me that he has risen to the level of his incompetance.
    I agree with Jeff that blaming the blogosphere for NPR’s mishandling of classified material does not give one confidence that Dvorkin is looking out for the interests of the “public” instead of solely the interests of National Public Radio.
    Unfortunately it has been my experience that it is the rare “ombudsperson” who, unlike Dvorkin, actually fulfills the ambitiously trumpeted objectives of his/her position.

  • dorf

    Remember that no matter what they say (NPR….) we must still listen/read/view what then pontificate about so that we may know our ENEMIES

  • Old Grouch

    I agree with Charles Austin: Once the file was made public, the damage was done. Better to know that things had been compromised. “Journalistic standards” have nothing to do with it.

    The Pentagon screwed up by releasing the file without thoroughly sanitizing it. (I’m assuming it was released, and not “leaked.”) NPR propagated it without realizing what they actually had. (And, by the way, this isn’t the first time some file has been accidentally released with “extra data” in it: Didn’t anyone at NPR know enough (or have enough curiosity) to look? If I was reporting, I certainly would have!) Anyway, the blogs caught what NPR missed, and now Dworkin is mortified. Oops, caught again! Bad bloggers!

    And finally, there’s this:

    “NPR’s political editor Ken Rudin has a column… It is, as he readily admits, a blog… just as this column is also a blog.” [Emphasis mine.]

    If Dvorkin’s column is a blog, where does he hide the comments and trackbacks? ;-)

  • bicubic

    NPR/MSM to Public:
    “We don’t disguise our opinion.”
    “I’m not pissing on your leg. It’s raining.”
    “Bloggers are amoral.”
    “Up is down.”
    “Black is white.”

  • Ted

    NPR continually beats the drum that the
    Bush Administration is spending too much
    NPR was given hundreds of millions
    of dollars by the widow of McDonald’s
    founder Ray Kroc.
    Why won’t NPR do it’s bit to reduce the
    deficit by doing the MORAL thing and
    refusing Federal monies?
    Is it because NPR management team is
    composed of whores? Taking money from
    a government deep in deficit is an
    immoral act! But the NPR pimps pay
    themselves hugely inflated salaries.
    Where is the outrage?

  • Tim

    Where’s the outrage? If asked, NPR probably would say the outrage is the feds don’t give them enough money, so they’ve got to beggar their listeners/viewers with more Riverdance and other such pledge “specials”…

  • Jeremy

    I’m confused: When the FCC (including several democrat appointed poeple) decided to crack down on broadcast indecency, the Republicans were all evil.
    Yet when NPR smears all bloggers what some what some did, it’s wrong?

  • Derek

    Great post, Jeff. Best line (and that’s a tough call): ‘Deflating the powerful and self-important used to be a hallmark of journalism, until it became powerful and self-important itself.’

  • Jeff, I’m glad you read this crap so I don’t have to. Where do they find these assholes?
    It’s amazing NPR has good programs despite the whining humorless anti-humans like this dude.
    (Then again, most of the good public radio shows these days are done by NPR’s competition, like Minnesota Public Radio and PRI.)

  • Jeff, your claims appear incoherent. NPR didn’t screw up. The person who did the redacting before releasing the PDF — presumably someone at the Pentagon — screwed up. NPR then took that PDF and placed it on its web site. When they realized that the person it originated with had not properly redacted it, they removed the report…but too late. Bloggers were already republishing the redacted parts.
    Dvorkin seems to have a partially valid point. The MSM would not run the redacted parts. There were posts on lefty blogs giving the names, e-mail, addresses and phone numbers of soldiers who were involved in the shooting of the car carrying the Italian journalist. You think this was responsible? And the “you’re sliming us all” line is just nonsense — its no more offensive than using a tag like MSM to a disparate set of media outlets as if they were one monolithic group.
    Where Dvorkin is wrong is failing to realize that once the PDF got on the Internet it was all over. Pre-Internet, this might have been contained, but this information was going to spread regardless of whether NPR or bloggers or some Internet trolls did it. Regardless of whether or not the material was classified, once the improperly redacted report made it to the Internet, its silly to pretend its classified anymore. In fact Bloggers probably did a good thing by publicizing this which should send a signal to the Pentagon that anything that was truly secret in the doc has been compromised and they might want to re-evaluate such materials.

  • YetAnotherRick

    I know this is off topic, but Jay, the comment about doors is a perfect description of the current conspiracy theorizing about the extent of the threat from dominionists and theocrats. Folks like David Niewert and Karen Yurica exemplify this phenomenon.

  • Waffle King

    I think wherever he is, George Orwell may be smiling. Hey, Big Brother! Your little brothers are watching. And they’ve got you surrounded.

  • I just googled “You snot up the news”.
    Congratulations, Jeff.

  • If I understand them correctly they are saying that bloggers are not readers. But of course we are. We’re some of your most loyal readers, and we pass your stuff on to a greater audience.
    Heh. Journalists are not logicians would be more on target.
    If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen ombudsmen.

  • Angelos

    Brian, you are correct about the PDF – for that we should blame the government, as usual. More general incompetence.
    But your attempt to blame “lefty blogs” is so patently partisan that it’s laughable.
    This story was all over the European media, especially, as you can imagine, in Italy. Everyone seems to know about it, except the US media.
    The blame for this is all over your friendly neighborhood gang of retards in the Bush administration. Don’t forget that.

  • Wil The Coyote

    Angelos, I’m in agreement with you. This was a major story in the European press. An Italian newspaper did the same thing that NPR did; post the PDF file released by our government. Another blog I read washingtonmontly.com got slammed just because Kevin Drum (the author) posted a link to the Italian newspaper site.
    I have not seen a single comment in the lefty blogs that are attacking any of the soldiers involved in the incident. Rather, most comments seem related to the more general details redacted.

  • old maltese

    ‘Who made Dan Rather honest?’ Nobody yet, so far as I’ve heard.

  • Frank Drebbin

    I trust NPR will soon issue a tardy but now called for condemnation of the New York Times and Daniel Elslberg for irresponsibly leaking and publishing the Pentagon Papers.

  • Great post, you really fisked him.

  • Angelos

    That’s the state of our news, I guess, and of the chill this government is putting on truth.
    The whole world knows something. But if an American says it, it’s unpatriotic.

  • pjc

    Possible clue to whether NPR listenership is dropping: I stopped contributing to NPR after they began broadcasting the horribly slanted BBC during the IRAQ offensive. Just this month I get a snail-mail “confirming” my commitment during a recent pledge drive, one I never gave. Wonder if they’re inflating their pledge reports to keep up appearances?