Posts from June 14, 2005

Know your rights and responsibilities

Know your rights and responsibilities

: Bravo to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for creating a resource for bloggers on their legal rights and responsibilities. Long needed.

Ghosts of bubbles past

Ghosts of bubbles past

: Vin Crosbie finds the punchline to the bubble: A liquidator is selling 3 million CueCats at 30 cents each.

The one moment in my internet career I should probably be proudest of is convincing my bosses not to do CueCat. That was the single creepiest meeting I attended during the bubble.

A plea: Do not build the International Freedom Center

A plea: Do not build the International Freedom Center

: I’m turning off the blog bluster about the International Freedom Center planned for the World Trade Center and making a simple, sober plea:

Do not build it. Not there.

Moving ahead with the plans for the center will only bring more fighting, more politics, more tortured compromise, and more delay to the World Trade Center.

But worse, it will distract and detract from the memorial and the memory of the heroes and innocents of that tragedy. And that is what I can’t bear.

Last night, I spoke with Debra Burlingame, sister of the pilot of one of the 911 jets, a leader of the families’ movement, and the woman who brought to light some of the disturbing elements of the plans for the Freedom Center in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (following the first hints of the politicization of the project here). I won’t speak for Debra but will say what I advised:

It is fruitless to nitpick the Freedom Center’s committee (add a moderate, add a conservative, find a different historian) and edit the plans (if you’re going to portray freedom’s enemies, will you devote a wing to the Saudis and the Palestinian terrorists or will you fear offense?) and launch a fight to take over the center (more dueling op-eds, more diggging up the controversies around the planners).

The truth is that we do not need this center there and it does not belong there. And so that is the call to action, that is the plea: Do not build it.

If the people behind the center want to raise private money and find another place to build it, then God bless, please go do it. I’ll visit. I’ll agree or disagree with its choices and tone and message. But I won’t find it to be what it is now: an inappropriate and likely offensive politicization of the memorial at the World Trade Center.

I make this earnest plea to Gov. Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Silver, Mayor Guiliani, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Schumer, the LMDC, and the Freedom Center committee itself:

Do not build it.

: Here is Debra Buringame’s Take Back the Memorial blog. My earlier, blog-blustery posts on this are here, here, here, here, here, here. And here is the Freedom Center’s site (which still does not answer the issues raised by Burlingame, me, and others, despite its protests in a myth-v-fact page).

Gov giveth and gov taketh away

Gov giveth and gov taketh away

: Continuing the day at the Annenberg event, Tim Cook, an impressive LSU professor, made a case for government helping media. He was supposed to be provocative and I was predictably provoked. I said I’m not a libertarian but I’d sound like one as I shared the lessons Susan Crawford has taught me, that asking for government help in one cause only invites government interference in another, whether in spam or indecency or freedom of speech and the press. Various ideas were raised by respondents that made my spine shake: taxing ads to support publications with fewer ads, giving postal subsidies only to publications below a circulation threshold, government search engines. Arrrgh. Oh, plenty of ticklish issues are raised — shield laws, spectrum regulation… — but I suggested three principles:

1. Journalists are citizens and citizens are journalists and deserve the same rights under the constitution.

2. The press is supposed to distrust, or at least watch and be skeptical about, the government, and so it must not set itself up in a position to be beholden to government.

3. We should invite no compromise to the protection of the First Amendment Congress shall make no law.

Journalism’s warped mirror

Journalism’s warped mirror

: The Annenberg Foundation, at whose event I’m sitting right now, released a survey of journalists and members of the public, often about the same questions but with very different views. Some highlights:

: “To what extent do journalists who report the news try to do so objectively and fairly, without regard to their own political views?…”

56 percent of journalists said they do to a great extent and 38 percent to a moderate extent, adding up to 94 percent

But only 18 percent of the public say to a great extent and 47 percent to a moderate extent, adding up to 65 percent.

One could argue that 65 percent is still a good majority, but it’s a rather wide gulf.

: Journalists were asked the reason why journalists “unintentionally let bias into their reporting.”

38 percent say they accept information without checking, 29 say they have strong personal views on a subject, 18 percent blame tight deadlines, 7 percent blame writing for editors’ approval.

: On Dan Rather, the two groups were not far apart on three questions: A sizable majority of both groups said that a major or minor reason for running the Bush story included that CBS and Rather “believed the story was accurate” and they were “in too much of a rush” and that they “were lied to by their sources.” A split came on this theory: “CBS News and Dan Rather are liberals who dislike President Bush.” 41 percent of journalists said this was a reason, major or minor, but 69 percent of the public believed this reason.

: Here’s a fun one: Both groups were asked whether people on a list were journalists or not. I’ll list the number from journalists the public’s number for each name with my comments: Peter Jennings 91/88; Mike Wallace 92/80; Brian Williams 80/69; Bob Woodward (question asked before Deep Throat’s PR) 96/64; George Will 64/50; Katie Couric (note the shift) 49/62; Chris Matthews 49/55; Larry King 26/43; Bill O’Reilly 12/55 (now there is a disconnect); Rush Limbaugh 3/32.

: The two groups certainly disagree about whether journalists get the facts straight.

86 percent of journalists think they get the facts straight while only 45 percent of the public agree; 11 percent of journalists say they are “often innacurate” while 48 percent of the public say that is the case.

: They also disagree about whether mistakes are corrected.

74 percent of journalists say they quickly report they have made a mistake vs. 30 percent of the public.

: The public thinks most journlists are liberal but most American aren’t.

Asked to describe the majority of journalists, the public said 42 percent are liberal, 29 moderate, 16 conservative. As to the majority of Americans: 17 percent liberal, 39 moderate, 33 conservative.

: Journalists are asked the same question on many job descriptions. I’ll quote just the liberal number: 54 percent say the majority of newspaper journalists are liberal, 34 percent for TV and radio journalists, 34 for editors and producers, 5 for media owners, and 6 for radio talk show hosts. And the public? Only 1 percent of journalists say the majority of Americans is liberal.

: 30 percent of journalists say news media have been more critical of the Bush administration, 64 percent of journalists say they were more critical of Clinton.

: On the idea of news organizations having “a decidedly political point of view in their coverage of the news,” the two groups split… but I think the question is not properly put. The issue in the minds of many is not whether journalists have a bias but whether they reveal it. In any case, 16 percent of journalists say it’s very or somewhat good to have a decedily political point of view in coverage while 80 percent say it’s very or somewhat bad vs. a split public: 43 percent say it’s very or somewhat good and 53 says it’s very or somewhat bad.

: Asked about watching “shows such as the O’Reilly Factor or Hardball,” I find it interesting that the public argues against the echo-chamber theory: 80 percent say they watch because they “like to listen to people who have a different point of view than me.”

: Asked whom they believe in all or most matters, here’s the public’s ranking: Local TV news ranks first at 72 percent followed by CNN, 65; Jennings and ABC, 64; Williams and NBC, 60; the local daily paper, 59; Fox, Time, and CBS tied at 56; People at 23; Limbaugh at 20. Some are amazed by that local TV news number but I think it makes sense because (a) it’s local and local is what matters in our lives, (b) it’s easy and doesn’t try to, in the words of one participant here, treat news as porridge, (c) it’s human and has a personality, vs. impersonal and institutional newspapers.

: 85 percent of journalists think it’s not easy for the public to distinguish journalists from nonjournalists. (Whatever the hell a journalist is….)

: On blogs, 45 percent of journalists say they have a very or somewhat positive effect on the quality of news; 38 percent sasy very or somewhat negative.

: As for eading blogs, 20 percent of journalists do it every day, 17 percent a few times a week, 15 percent a few times a month, 5 percent once a month, 18 percent less than monthly, 24 percent never.