LIFE AS A SELF-PUBLISHING FAILURE. Getting rid of the gatekeepers just opens the gate. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get through.
BOOK PUBLISHERS, ARE YOU LISTENING: Newsweek Took Its Audience for Granted.
“It’s rather a case of institutions thinking that their gatekeeper status was a commercial asset to be exploited rather than something that had to be earned day by day.”
YOU CAN’T FIGHT A CULTURE WAR IF YOU AIN’T GOT NO CULTURE: Is what L. Neil Smith used to say. In the interest of disintermediating the culture gatekeepers and destabilizing the cultural-industrial complex — which makes giving my readers and friends a leg up sound so culturally relevant! — every week I put up a post with links to my commenters’ books and other work. Here is this week’s post.
THE SECRET SAUCE FOR LAW REVIEW PLACEMENT: The Secret Sauce for Law Review Placement: Letterhead, Citations, and Liberal.
Lots of people are bashing law reviews over this latest incident, but let me offer a few thoughts of my own. First, though Tennessee letterhead is no more than respectable, and though I’m not especially liberal, my stuff has generally placed pretty well: Columbia, Virginia, Penn, USC, Northwestern, etc. Would I have done better if I were at Yale and liberal? Probably, but by no means certainly, as a look at some Yale profs’ publication lists will show. You can’t know much about why you’re rejected, except when stuff like this leaks out, but I can’t say that my stuff does better when it seems leftier.
Second, the good thing about law reviews is that there are a lot of them, and they’re diverse. Just because you got rejected at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Law Journal doesn’t mean you won’t get published somewhere else, and quite possibly better. (I had never even heard of this journal, and I’ve always had a weak spot for obscure law reviews.) There are no gatekeepers in law review publishing like there are in other disciplines where there are only a few top peer-reviewed journals, often peer-reviewed by a small clique that overlaps.
Third, it matters less than ever now that more people probably read law review articles on SSRN than in law reviews anyway. It’s gotten to where I feel that an article is really published when it’s posted on SSRN, with the law review acceptance being mostly for archival purposes. I still advise junior faculty to pursue “better” placements because that still matters to many older law professors, but I think it will matter less and less. And many schools look at SSRN download rank as much as they look at placement now, which is probably better for people who are less traditionally academic-liberal-theoretical in orientation.
I’m not saying that there’s nothing to see here — it’s certainly wrong that a law review might reject an author just because of his/her political history — but the impact of this sort of political misfeasance is much less than it used to be.
My thoughts, anyway.
RAND SIMBERG: Romney Was Right About That Cairo Press Release. “Funny how some people who claim to be Republicans were so quick to attack him for it, though.” Plus, thoughts on hurt feelings and religious hypocrisy. “These aren’t the words of a serious person. They’re the words of a bi-polar kindergarten teacher. And sadly, that seems to be representative of much of the federal government, including those at the Justice Department and in the military who still refuse to admit that the guy who shot up all the soldiers at Fort Hood did it in the name of Allah. We all know that there’s only one religion that can’t be criticized, and we all know why. It is because we are cowards, unwilling to stand up for the principles on which this nation was founded. And because that is a religion which is almost uniquely anti-western, and that also explains a lot about why the Left is in sympathy toward it, and its ‘feelings.’”
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? Jim Treacher, that’s who! “It’s just more proof that we don’t need these guys anymore. They’re not our gatekeepers. They’ve proven it over and over: ACORN. Rielle Hunter. Van Jones. Anthony Weiner. They keep trying and failing to cover up stories that don’t suit their agenda. They keep pretending they control the flow of information. They’re determined to prove their own obsolescence. And they’ve got the ratings and circulation numbers to prove it.”
FRANKLY, THE RECORD OF “EXPERT GATEKEEPERS” HASN’T BEEN SO GREAT LATELY: Yet Another Annoying Call For Genetic Expert Gatekeepers.
Related: White House Snub Makes Boston Herald Gleeful. “Talk about handing your opponents a club to beat you with. . . . How foolish of the White House to play that game — and how dumb of the White House to get beaten at it.”
As I have pointed out repeatedly, Obama doesn’t act presidential. Presidents act presidential not because they’re stuffy or out-of-touch, but because experience shows that when you don’t act presidential, it often winds up handing opponents a club to beat you with. Obama might know this if he had had significant experience in national politics before running for President, but he didn’t. His staff, alas, is taking its cues from him, instead of remedying his deficiencies.
PLUMMETING DOWN THE ECONOMIC LADDER: A reader sends this depressing tale:
You occasionally post links to articles about the state of the job market, especially for new college graduates, but perhaps what I’m seeing as I look for work, may be interesting.
I’m in my 50s, with no degree, but have been working in the software industry ( support, software development, program management) since the mid 1980s. I’m working only about 20 hours/week for a mom-and-pop company on the west coast at essentially fry-cook wages.
My employer just cut my hours from 40/week to 20 in January. No benefits, no insurance, no vacation accrual, no sick leave.
I’ve been applying for work in my field and for warehouse work, customer service work, janitorial work, clerical work and mechanical assembly work since September 2010. I’ve had one interview with a contracting firm that went nowhere. I even got a food-handler’s permit this month so I could work in a hamburger joint — more on that, below.
Here’s what I see as I look for employment:
- In my industry, HR departments are the gatekeepers. They feed resumes into HR software that categorizes applicants based on keywords for software applications and experience. If your resume doesn’t contain the magic set of keywords and years of experience, it clearly goes into the bit-bucket. In the past, if I could talk to the manager, I could often show him what I’ve done, offer to work at a reduced rate until I proved myself. But with the HR firewall, there’s no way to do that. And I won’t salt my resume with fictional skills.
- I tried applying for some kind of work at the grocery store where I shop, but all applications are taken online and once again, my resume, rich with IT-type work, clearly doesn’t match some profile.
- I applied in-person at a couple of nationally-known fast-food restaurants close-by. The counter help at one barely spoke English and called the manager to the front to speak with me when I asked about a job. With a heavy Spanish accent, she told me to appy online.
- I applied online to 4 or 5 famous fast-food restaurant chains. I’ve heard nothing, other than the automated response from one that simply indicated “No Openings”
The distortions in our job market come from a few different directions, I think. For one thing, landscaping work, restaurant cooks and wait-staff, construction labor all were frequently done by college students on summer vacation or working their way through school. Now, these are often done by illegal immigrants, putting severe pressure on the low-end of the market.
At the high end, for IT at least, the huge influx of H1B visa workers squeezes folks like me out of the IT/computer market pretty handily. I see IT jobs like QA Tech ( “software tester” ) and telephone support jobs that now require computer science degrees. Unless you’re testing NASA man-rated space software or something for the Large Hadron Collider, this is serious overkill.
As for me, I’m staying afloat by selling the stuff I own that has some kind of value.
When that’s gone, I’ll be looking for the highway overpass that has the best view, I guess.
P.S. Don’t use my name if you choose to post/excerpt this. That’d wreck what microscopic chances I might have. Thanks.
So I don’t know what advice to give this guy. Any thoughts from InstaPundit readers? Maybe I should set up an InstaPundit Help-Wanted page or something. . . .
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: For Lila Rose, Planned Parenthood video ‘sting’ is about revolution. “The ultimate goal of this new generation of right-wing muckrakers is the overthrow of the perceived liberal-leaning mainstream media narrative on touchstone political issues such as guns, racism, and abortion. Rose casts her work in light of the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, and her videos are the tinder for peaceful social insurrection.”
The videos are “possibly unfair coverage,” but no more unfair than the preponderance of news coverage directed at, for example, the Natonal Rifle Association in the past, says Mr. Patrick, who has studied how media organizations present conservative viewpoints.
“The classic NRA story from The New York Times or The Washington Post was a reporter would go to an NRA convention of 80,000 people and find some dummy in the parking lot with a coonskin hat and interview him,” he says. In the case of the Live Action videos, Patrick adds, “they might have found the dummy with the coon skin hat” at Planned Parenthood.
UPDATE: Prof. Stephen Clark emails:
Here is an example of a type of action cheered by liberals and the left in the past confident that their oxen would never be gored; perhaps with good reason given the limited numbers of news outlets in the past and the control that a handful of gatekeepers exercised. None of them imagined the open source paradigm for news and commentary, and what that might mean for politics. All I can say to the Planned Parenthoods of the world and their supporters is, “get used to it”. Not even the Journolistas of the world can cover for them now. We’ve moved to an age where the consequences of belief and policy will be documented, publicized, and politicized.
And, of course, inevitably I have to say: They told me if I voted Republican, women would be getting abortions from unlicensed quacks in sleazy back-alley clinics without state oversight. And they were right!
JAMES TARANTO: Leave Kate Zernike Alone: She is a good reporter. The New York Times is a corrupt institution. “How corrupt? So corrupt that the Hulse-Zernike piece was, by the standards of the Times last week, a relatively minor case of journalistic malpractice. Even the editors who assigned it at least have the excuse of having been under deadline pressure at a time when the facts were not yet in about the suspect’s motives. The same cannot be said for the Times editorial board and Paul Krugman, who on Jan. 10, as we noted last Tuesday, were still linking the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to ‘uncivil rhetoric’ from the right, even after the facts had disproved any connection. The Times has made no acknowledgment yet of this gross journalistic wrong.”
Plus this: “The moral degeneration of the New York Times is a study in the corrupting effects of power. Over the years, the men who run the paper came to view the preservation of their authority as agenda-setter or gatekeeper or ‘mediator’ as their primary mission. On Jan. 10, 2011, they made it clear that they are willing to go so far in the pursuit of that goal as to contravene the real purpose of journalism, which is to tell the truth.”
UPDATE: Reader Stephen Clark writes: “Taranto’s justification for calling the Times a corrupt institution could be applied more broadly to include a disagreeably large portion of Codevilla’s Ruling Class. An intuitive recognition of this as fact has no doubt motivated many, if not all, in the Tea Party movement.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Eric Pobirs emails: “What moral degeneration? This is the paper that gave us the Walter Duranty view of the Soviet Union. They arguably have an ocean of blood on their hands but point the finger at conservatives?”
HIGHER EDUCATION: For-Profits Break the Monopoly on What a College Can Be. “The deep value of for-profit education is that it breaks the practical monopoly on what a college can be. The behavior of some of the big for-profits remains a scandal and needs to be corrected. They may be the robber barons of higher education. But the robber barons of times past bequeathed us a national railway system, a functioning oil industry, and the basis for a century of national prosperity. I’d gladly forgive the depredations of the for-profit colleges on the national treasury if their real legacy were to help the United States transition to a genuinely diverse and flexible form of higher education.” And the traditional institutions need competition.
But the empire strikes back where it can: “I recently learned of a case in which a start-up for-profit university offering only narrowly focused masters’ degrees in a highly technical field was advised by the regional accreditor to which it had applied that it really ought to add a provost to its administration in addition to the university president and dean of faculty. Given the importance of accreditation as the gatekeeper for student loans, the for-profit university is complying without a murmur. But on the face of it, this is an increase in administrative overhead mandated not by the practical need of the university but by the accreditor’s sense of how things should be done.”
CHANGE: Book publishers see their role as gatekeepers shrink. Somebody should write a book on this kind of thing. But Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear are following in the footsteps of C.J. Burch. Here’s Burch’s blog report on the process.
PLEASE DON’T FOLLOW THIS ADVICE: “All you need to read is . . . Instapundit, pretty much.”
It’s a nice thing to say, but I make no effort to be comprehensive. As I’ve said more than once, InstaPundit is not a news service. It’s just a collection of things that I find interesting, or under-covered, or otherwise worthy of attention. But even that’s often a reaction against the priorities of big-media gatekeepers, which means that I kinda assume you’re being flooded with their stuff in my process of deciding what to write (or not write) about.
WELL, THAT’S ALL RIGHT THEN: Dean Chris Edley (now of Berkeley, formerly of Harvard) explains why we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about a Harvard-Yale lock on the Supreme Court. You see, any worries about elitism and a narrow vision of American values have been solved, by affirmative action:
The gatekeeper power of such institutions is why it was so important to desegregate them (using affirmative action, among other tools) and why virtually all leaders of great universities talk about diversity and access.
For about 40 years now, all the top law schools have tried to pick students who are not just brilliant but who have the potential to be outstanding leaders from and for all of America’s communities. Today, “elite” doesn’t carry the old-boy, classist, midcentury sense.
He’s right; it definitely carries more of a new-boy, classist, end-of-century sense of elitism. Which must be why Dean Edley doesn’t even notice it.
I’VE OFTEN ARGUED that the relationship between blogs and Big Media should be thought of as symbiotic rather than competitive, and here’s some more evidence. Jack Lail, managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel, emails that InstaPundit sent them nearly a million pageviews last year, and holds two spots (for pjmedia.com/instapundit and pjmedia.com/instapundit) on their list of top 20 referrers. Smart news people — like Lail — are more interested in getting bloggers to deliver traffic than in complaining about blogger competition. And smart news organizations will take advantage of new technology to facilitate their hard-news reporting ability via the “Army of Davids” approach, rather than complaining that people who post breaking-news reports on blogs or Twitter don’t have journalism degrees.
It’s interesting to me that we see far more anger from Old Media folks aimed at bloggers, etc., than at Craigslist, even though Craigslist has done far more economic harm to the newspaper industry than bloggers, who probably add eyeballs rather than (as Craigslist does) subtracting them. My suspicion is that the Old Media folks care more about prestige and position than money, and bloggers have hurt them in the prestige and position department. Of course, caring more about prestige and position than money isn’t a formula for a flourishing business . . . .
Meanwhile, here’s more on how bloggers and Big Media can work together in covering an issue.
UPDATE: Steven Den Beste emails: “Craigslist is stealing revenue, but most reporters and editors don’t worry about revenue. Bloggers are challenging the MSM’s function as gatekeepers of the news, and in particular the MSM’s ability to suppress stories. That DOES directly affect reporters and editors.” Indeed. And that’s not lost on readers.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Thoughts on Craigslist from Ron Coleman.
BYPASSING THE GATEKEEPERS in Congress:
When Congress adjourns, so do C-Spanâ€™s live broadcasts because the sole cameras that record the sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives are controlled by the members of Congress. On Friday, when several dozen Republicans decided to stay on the House floor and discuss energy legislation after the House adjourned for a five-week summer recess, the cameras and microphones were turned off. So the first source of video was a congressman who streamed live pictures to the Internet using his cellphone camera.
Representative John Culberson, a Texas Republican and an avid user of the messaging site Twitter, acted as a citizen journalist covering the proceedings, albeit one with clear partisan intentions.
â€œPelosi just turned out the lights,â€ Mr. Culberson wrote on Twitter, referring to the decision by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to adjourn the House. As Republican members came to the floor to make speeches, Mr. Culberson, who called the event a â€œpep rally,â€ and Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, posted frequent updates on Twitter.
Mr. Culberson took it a step further, using his Nokia 95 cellphone to film fellow members speaking about the event.
Can’t stop the signal.
SHIELD LAW: “The Free Flow of Information Act, then, really is an effort to shift control of information from the government to journalists, enhancing the latter’s gatekeeper role at the expense of the former’s.”
THE SUCCESSFUL WAR MOVIE HOLLYWOOD DIDN’T MAKE: Reader Don Wolff emails:
Did you know that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for the video market has moved 3 million copies -
That as Amazon shows it runs about $50 a copy – that’ s a ‘box office’ of 150 million.
And it’s about the current war against terror.
:”Armed with an arsenal of advanced and powerful modern-day firepower, players are transported to treacherous hotspots around the globe to take on a rogue enemy group threatening the world. As both a U.S. Marine and British S.A.S. soldier fighting through an unfolding story full of twists and turns, players use sophisticated technology, superior firepower, and coordinated land and air strikes on a battlefield where speed, accuracy, and communication are essential to victory.”
So, if as Hollywood whines that the public doesn’ t want Iraqi War movies, why is this selling so well, top of the rental lists, and ever so popular? At this rate it’ll be the successful game companies, that gives the pubic what they want, who’ll buy out the studios for their IP and name. Hollywood appears to have missed the impact of the technological shift as badly as MSM has. The public is getting the entertainment they crave, just not in the form that the old gatekeepers dispense.
I think that’s right.
UPDATE: My cousin-in-law Stewart Rubenstein emails that Old Media are smart enough to buy in, anyway: “Vivendi has owned Blizzard (Diablo, World of Warcraft, etc) for quite a while, and they just acquired 52% of the new ‘Activision Blizzard’.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ian Watson emails:
I think your emailer, while correctly pointing out good video game sales, is missing the subject matter point. The problem with comparing the subject matter of CoD4 with these horrid Hollywood movies is that no one goes to Hollywood movies for multiplayer. A vast (I would say nearly everyone) bought CoD4 for the multiplayer aspect of it, in which there are two teams people play onâ€¦ Marines/SAS v. RandomTerrorists. Even beyond this point, it is the gameplay that sells this series far more than the story line. It is a first person shooter, that means a tactical twitch game. The entertaining and excellent singleplayer was given such high regards because of its challenging AI, excellent level design, and technical perfection. While Iâ€™m sure that the game would have suffered if we were terrorists blasting Marines the whole time, it is the technical perfection and the excellent multiplayer that sold this game.
Looking at specific game sales really doesnâ€™t tell you anything, because games rise and fall dependant on a TON of factors other than storyline. Now, if one was to look at the storylines in general for some of the relevant top games, there IS a trend there.
Halo 3 (marine saves humanityâ€¦ watch the live action shorts they were using to advertise it, lefties were complaining about them being too fascist like)
Splinter Cell series (4 games) â€¦ American spy saves the world, constantly.
Call of Duty series (TONS of games, well over 4 counting expansions)â€¦ go America all the way
Medal of Honor gamesâ€¦
I could go on, Iâ€™ll spare youâ€¦
â€¦ Iâ€™m trying to think of ones that go the other way and are successfulâ€¦ and I canâ€™t.
Yeah, the distinctive feature seems to be the notion of good vs. evil, and without the Hollywood assumption that America is the evil.
OUCH: “Almost immediately after the launch of Fred Thompson’s long anticipated presidential candidacy, important neutral Republicans decreed privately that it had crashed and burned on takeoff. Many of these critics had wanted to board the Thompson campaign but were repelled by his ‘gatekeepers.’ That helps explain their attitude now, and not merely because of bruised feelings caused by their exclusion.” I don’t think he’s crashed and burned, but I agree that the campaign has sometimes seemed curiously isolated.
Ann Althouse, however, isn’t so sure about these criticisms: “It’s possible that he knows what he is doing.”
Meanwhile, Wired says: “It’s official: Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson’s media strategy for his campaign launch was a success. Thompson’s web site Fred08.com was the most visited presidential candidate web site last week, according to Hitwise, a Web site traffic and search trends analysis firm.”
HOLDING DOWN THE NUMBER OF BLACK LAWYERS IN CALIFORNIA? Gail Heriot notes some questions that the California Bar Examiners don’t seem to want to answer.
UPDATE: More thoughts here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Indeed: “Isn’t it time the ABA just gave up, and acknowledged that as a body completely captured by the perceived interests of the profession it’s supposed to be regulating, is in no position to serve as a neutral gatekeeper for law school accreditation?” Though in truth I’m not sure the ABA is that good at protecting the profession’s interests, either. Maybe the ABA staff’s perception of those interests . . . . Maybe.
TARNISHED INDUSTRY SPIKES COLUMN recommending improvements: “Imagine the outrage if this were RJ Reynolds or General Motors getting a column killed on the state of its industry, instead of the L.A. Times.”
As Mickey Kaus observes: “They’re in the business of killing stories these days, not publishing them, apparently.” Good luck with that.
Whole story here.
UPDATE: Steven den Beste emails:
“They’re in the business of killing stories these days, not publishing them.”
That has always been the most important power of gatekeepers. Not in deciding when to open the gate, but in when to close it.
And that’s the reason that the gatekeepers are so upset by the rise of blogs and other alternative media. They still have the ability to open the gate for stories they like, and to try to focus attention on those stories, but they no longer have the ability to close the gate because thousands of bloggers have dug tunnels under the fence.
ANOTHER BAD REVIEW FOR PELOSI, in Lebanon’s Daily Star:
We can thank the US speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for having informed Syrian President Bashar Assad, from Beirut, that “the road to solving Lebanon’s problems passes through Damascus.” Now, of course, all we need to do is remind Pelosi that the spirit and letter of successive United Nations Security Council resolutions, as well as Saudi and Egyptian efforts in recent weeks, have been destined to ensure precisely the opposite: that Syria end its meddling in Lebanese affairs.
Pelosi embarked on a fool’s errand to Damascus this week, and among the issues she said she would raise with Assad – when she wasn’t on the Lady Hester Stanhope tour in the capital of imprisoned dissidents Aref Dalila, Michel Kilo, and Anwar Bunni – is “the role of Syria in supporting Hamas and Hizbullah.” What the speaker doesn’t seem to have realized is that if Syria is made an obligatory passage in American efforts to address the Lebanese crisis, then Hizbullah will only gain. Once Assad is re-anointed gatekeeper in Lebanon, he will have no incentive to concede anything, least of all to dilettantes like Pelosi, on an organization that would be Syria’s enforcer in Beirut if it could re-impose its hegemony over its smaller neighbor.
Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Robert F. Turner thinks that Pelosi’s trip may have been illegal. Turner comments: “The administration isn’t going to want to touch this political hot potato, nor should it become a partisan issue. Maybe special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whose aggressive prosecution of Lewis Libby establishes his independence from White House influence, should be called back.”
ARS TECHNICA says that some people think that DRM is dying, but that Apple may be DRM’s best friend:
Apple stands to benefit greatly by keeping the FairPlay DRM system up and running. The lock-in afforded by FairPlay creates an Apple ecosystem that essentially ties the iPod to iTunes and to Apple, at least for commercial transactions. Someone has even launched an antitrust suit against Apple over this, though the suit’s specific claims are rather broad.
The symbiotic relationship between iTunes and the iPod has been so profitable for Apple that Microsoft has blatantly ripped it off for its new Zune music player. Apple has managed to create an ecosystem populated with high-margin devices; the company’s overall gross margins are nearly 30 percent, and so even if iTunes were used solely to drive sales of iPods, it would be worth it for Apple to run the store.
Apple has, in an important sense, become a digital gatekeeper for media companies; iTunes is the best way to reach consumers with music, movies, podcasts, and television. Content companies have paid close attention to the success of iTunes; they’ve seen how it saved The Office, pushed billions of dollars in revenue to Disney, and established itself as such a de facto standard on college campuses that students would rather use iTunes than free alternatives. The content companies now need Jobs & Co. as much as Apple needs them.
That’s good for Jobs, but I’m not sure I like it.
CAMPAIGNING ON THE BLOGS: The real story, of course, is another diminution of Old Media’s gatekeeper power.
TIM WU WRITES IN SLATE on why you should care about Net Neutrality:
The Internet is largely meritocratic in its design. If people like pjmedia.com/instapundit better than cnn.com, that’s where they’ll go. If they like the search engine A9 better than Google, they vote with their clicks. Is it a problem, then, if the gatekeepers of the Internet (in most places, a duopoly of the local phone and cable companies) discriminate between favored and disfavored uses of the Internet? To take a strong example, would it be a problem if AT&T makes it slower and harder to reach Gmail and quicker and easier to reach Yahoo! mail?
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: A contrary view here.
MORE ON THE NEW YORK TIMES STORY ON BLOGS AND PR: The folks at CNN send this highlight from the Reliable Sources transcript:
JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: I think “The Times” story was a sucker punch against a few bloggers who didn’t understand how to finesse this stuff. The story it really brought out is the relationship of the press to P.R..
Now, I advise bloggers in my blog that they should always reveal when a story comes from a P.R. agent, that they should reveal information that comes from P.R., and they should reveal any relationship, including lunches, that come from P.R. How many reporters do that? We don’t.
How many stories — we did an audit of a day’s TV news, locally or here on CNN, or your paper or any other paper, and see how many stories actually started with P.R., how much information came from P.R. So what “The Times” was asking the bloggers to do, the press doesn’t do. And that’s a double standard.
And in this age of transparency, I think the real lesson is that the bloggers know how to be transparent, they’ll push. A few didn’t know. OK. Now we’ll teach them how to do it better, and the press has to get better about transparency and its relationship with spin.
On “The New York Times” trying to hold bloggers to a higher standard
EDELMAN: Public relations has always been about telling the side of its client, but we only benefit when we’re telling the truth…”The New York Times” I think did in this story have a double standard.
On the “death of the gatekeepers”
JARVIS: All is fair in love and press…We’re seeing the death of the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers used to be those in power, then it was those in the press, and then — yes, now it’s P.R., who are gatekeepers to the powerful and the rich and the famous.
I did get the sense that the guy doing this story had a couple of axes to grind, involving Wal-Mart and the blogosphere. But the story itself didn’t really seem unfair; it was more the sense that he had somehow gotten hold of a big scoop when, well, he hadn’t.
UPDATE: The full Reliable Sources transcript has now been posted. Don’t miss the bits with John Hinderaker and Dave Barry, either.
STEPHEN SPRUIELL at the National Review Media blog wonders if Bill Roggio’s mistreatment by the Washington Post wasn’t part of a trend:
The theme here, if you haven’t already picked up on it, is that two major papers have used recent news reports about U.S. military information operations to try to discredit a pro-U.S. analyst and a pro-U.S. blogger. Both Rubin and Roggio write from a standpoint that is generally supportive of the U.S. mission in Iraq, and the NY Times and the Washington Post have attempted to portray their writings as untrustworthy and potentially motivated by financial considerations.
I think this has something to do with the fear and contempt some newspaper reporters feel towards online analysts and bloggers who don’t buy into the objective model of journalism and are nevertheless taking a growing share of the news and analysis market. Writers like Rubin and Roggio, who have both traveled to Iraq and used the Internet to report their findings, are challenging the traditional gatekeeper role of papers like the Times and the Post, and some at those institutions don’t like it. As true believers in the old school of objective reporting, they’re seeking to discredit this new school of journalism — which has a clear point of view about its subject matter — as nothing but pro-U.S. propaganda.
But accuracy, fairness and honesty should count for a lot more than “objectivity,” to the extent that the latter is even possible.
I’m glad that the folks at the Times and the Post are “true believers” in objective reporting.
Now if they’d just become true practitioners thereof. . . . But the shabby misrepresentations we’ve seen suggest that they’re not even up to the “accuracy, fairness and honesty” part. Which is why, of course, they’re losing readers to people like Roggio.
UPDATE: Michael Yon is calling for volunteers to do something about this problem:
One year ago, the gap between the ground reports from Iraq from military friends prompted my travel to Iraq to see for myself just what was happening. The dispatches posted to these pages over the ensuing months were an attempt to bridge that gap. Now that I’m back in the United States for a time, trying wring every bit of information of the war out of the news, only to come up dry most days, it’s become clear that in just under a year, the media gap has morphed into a chasm. Before this thing becomes a black hole, it’s time for a few good men and women to put their military experience and expertise to use in an operation that can create an alternative channel that will allow frontline information to break through and be heard.
Read the whole thing.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Pentagon isn’t helping, something I’ve noted here before. Here’s an email from a Colonel recently back from Iraq — he’d probably rather I not use his name:
The Department of Defense and the services are not keeping abreast of changing times and are therefore failing the strategic communications mission. By failing to engage “blogs” they are not reaching an outlet that itself has millions of “hits” a year. As you are well aware Blogs have had a tremendous impact on the media mainly due to the unfettered ability to reach out and touch just about everyone. Blogs are quickly gaining more and more credibility and will soon be the source of information, and analysis for millions of Americans and others around the world.
The MSM does not support the war and their reporting is slanted and one sided. Basically 3 TV stations and several newspapers decide what the American people should listen to and read. Why does the White House and DoD continually go back to the same outlets that twist stories to meet their ideological goals.
I think DoD and the services should include bloggers as part of their distribution lists and include them in the regular press conferences and press releases. If this requires issuing credentials then do it. The Bush administration has said that the support of the American people is a strategic center of gravity in winning the war. and I believe the best method today is the use of blogs to meet that end. DoD need to use the best means possible to reach the American people and blogs are it.
I advocated this idea while serving in Iraq, but the people who were in charge of the Strategic Communications did not understand the impact that bloggers have. Or they immediately said we cannot do that, but could not explain why. I agree that the Army does not understand the impact of blogs and they are “blowing it with bloggers,” and they need to analyze the issue further and think forwardly.
It’s a big mistake, and I hope the Pentagon will rethink it.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt, on a different subject, makes a point that’s relevant here: “We are now in the second of five stages of old media death. First there was denial, and now there is anger.”
WHO NEEDS HOLLYWOOD DISTRIBUTORS? Kamal Aboukhater released his movie Blowing Smoke directly to the Internet on a blog. Check out the trailer at the link and, if it looks interesting, why not order a copy? Help him and other independent filmmakers stick it to Hollywood’s tired gatekeepers by proving we do not need them.
IS THE BLOGOSPHERE ELEVATING THE POLITICAL DEBATE? I just had an interesting conversation with a journalist who’s writing on that question, and who pretty clearly seems to feel that the answer is “no.”
If “elevating the debate” means a sort of good-government, League-of-Women-Voters focus on where candidates stand on health care, etc., that’s mostly true, I suppose. But I think it misconceives what blogs are about. There certainly are bloggers posting on healthcare and other issues — see, for example, Jeff Jarvis’s Issues 2004 posts and this post by Ann Althouse on medical malpractice — but the political blogosphere is to a large degree about media criticism. If the Big Media were talking more about issues, and less — to pick RatherGate as the example which I think inspired this conversation — about Bush’s National Guard service, probably bloggers would be talking about issues more, too.
Of course, what’s striking about RatherGate is the absolutely incredible degree of ineptitude, arrogance, and outright political manipulativeness that it has revealed. In light of that, I can understand why members of the media would rather talk about other things.
But, all blogger triumphalism aside, the media criticism matters. And it matters because Big Media are still the main way that our society learns about what’s happening, and talks about it. A serious breakdown there, which seems undeniably present today, is very important. In many ways, as I’ve said before, it’s more important than how the election turns out.
Meanwhile, I don’t recall much tut-tutting about bloggers focusing on Trent Lott’s racial remarks, instead of his position on national health insurance. Were we elevating the tone then, but not now?
UPDATE: Ann Althouse, on the other hand, points to someone who isn’t elevating the tone. As you might expect, she manages to deflate him, without using improper language. Plus, she comes up with a cool new blog name. [LATER: My linking of Althouse has apparently turned her into one of my "minions." Minions? It sounds so very Ming the Merciless. "Minions! Sieze him! We'll see if Professor Leiter can maintain his trademark self-regard after a few months of grading exams in the bluebook mines of Kessel!" Okay, we're in Frank J. territory, now. . . .]
ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting Gallup data on public attitudes toward the media in the wake of RatherGate. Apparently, it’s not just bloggers who care.
MORE: Reader Tucker Goodrich has these thoughts on “the issues:”
The issues the blogs have been addressing are issues the press and the Democrats would rather not address, because (in my opinion, and I guess, by their omission, on theirs) they’d lose.
We’re in a war. The character and suitability of the commander-in-chief is a valid issue. A partisan media trying to throw the election by releasing forged documents to throw the character and suitability of the CinC in doubt is an issue. Whether or not the new CinC would prefer to win or lose the war is an ISSUE!
But the Democrats and the press are trying to win the debate by framing those as not “issues”, but as partisan carping. Nice try, but sorry. They are issues, and are every bit as important as healthcare or the economy, if not more so.
They’d simply like to frame a debate where they, the press, define the issues in such a way that they’ll win. The real impact of blogs in this election is that the press can no longer frame the debate to their liking. And this is a huge win for people who don’t agree with how the press tries to frame the debate. And competition in framing the debate can only be good for our democracy and our republic, even if it’s bad for the Democrats and the Republicans.
And the press. As reader Bill Gullette emails: “Where did Rathergate originate? And most certainly even in the most favorable terms, the story was hardly an above the belt effort in terms of what CBS or Rather/Mapes intended the story to achieve.”
Reader Merv Benson adds: “Blogs are the letter to the editor that the editor does not want to print.”
STILL MORE: A positive spin:
All the MSM really needs to do is be the professionals they have falsely claimed to be all these years. A real news organization which was devoted body and soul to getting the truth out, chips fall where they may, would embrace the new world that is growing up around it. . . .
The real story is a happy one. The MSM is on the verge of a new golden age. If it would just learn to do its job, take advantage of these new developments, quit trying to be “gatekeepers” and drop the ideological and partisan shilling, good things would start to happen sooner rather than later.
MORE STILL: Hmm. Compared with Lewis Lapham, who’s charging Bush with “treason,” maybe bloggers are elevating the tone!
FINAL UPDATE: This article on the contributions of blogs is worth reading, too.
OKAY, REALLY FINAL UPDATE THIS TIME: Virginia Postrel has more thoughts, and says that the real issue is that reporters aren’t interested when blogs elevate the debate:
Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.
That’s no doubt true. Virginia also thinks I sound “defensive” in this post. Maybe, though I’d say “reactive” — the interview, with a guy who warned me up front that I wasn’t likely to like his story, seemed driven as much by unhappiness over RatherGate as anything else.
MICKEY KAUS on the non-Internet-ready Kerry campaign:
Let’s assume that a certain amount of hype is standard procedure in military write-ups, especially when medals are involved. The problem is that Kerry is running for president on this official hype of a more-than-honorable record (one reason he’s constantly referring reporters to his official medal citations). He’s not only running on the hype but pushing it to the limit, milking it for all it’s worth. That’s dangerous in, yes, the Internet era! Obsessive fact-checkers can smoke out the exaggerations and get them past the ex-gatekeepers.** Unfortunately, it’s more or less all Kerry’s got. It wouldn’t be so important if Kerry had a) a discernable ideology; b) a political message; c) a record of achievement; or d) an appealing personality!
As Ann Althouse notes, below, somebody should have thought this through. I wonder how many of the problems in this timeline of woe stemmed from not taking the Internet seriously? It’s not too late to hire Joe Trippi!
UPDATE: ANOTHER BACK-PEDAL? “Kerry’s campaign has said it is possible his first Purple Heart was awarded for an unintentionally self-inflicted wound.” It’s that dang Internet striking again!
IN THE MAIL: Two interesting books. One (nicely inscribed) is Joe Trippi’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, The Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything, and the other, coincidentally, is L. Brent Bozell’s Weapons of Mass Distortion : The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media. Though there are differences (they come from — obviously — different political directions) in a way they’re talking about the same thing, which is how information gatekeepers are losing their hold, and how that’s good for democracy.
I think they’re right, and I think that trying to force the changes brought by the communications revolution into an old-fashioned left/right mode, though understandable in an election year, makes little sense. To quote from BT (who thinks the revolution will be televised):
The revolution will be fought in all forms of media
The revolution will be fought on phone lines and cable modems and cellphones
The revolution will be a war of attrition, against the great dumbing down of our people.
Attrition, indeed. I suspect that Bozell and Trippi agree on that, and — based on a quick look at the books — a lot of other things. (I can’t find this song online, but it’s on this collection that I was just listening to in the car the other day). Left/Right, Democrat/Republican — that stuff’s important (sometimes) in the short run, but the overall changes are much bigger than that.
This Internet may be dying. At the behest of powerful interests, the FCC is buying into a warped vision that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that the FCC should excuse broadband providers from longstanding non-discrimination requirements. . . .
The FCC is rushing toward breathtaking change in regulatory policy. Whether it’s the giant media companies or telecom’s gatekeepers, we are closing networks, undermining competition, stifling entrepreneurship and threatening consumer choice. At this rate, it won’t be long until we look back, shake our heads and wonder whatever happened to that open and dynamic high speed Internet that might have been.
Well, that will suit some people just fine.
THE BBC IS IN TROUBLE, according to this in The Times:
For this affair has left the BBC dangerously exposed. It has served as a catalyst, allowing diverse complaints about its news coverage to resurface simultaneously. The Beeb has been accused of, among other matters, fanatical suspicion of the motives of those in power and unrelenting hostility towards the Conservative Party. It has been attacked for a wholesale scepticism about capitalism, combined with a weakness for quack environmentalism and health-scare speculation over hard science.
Reporting the Middle East, it sometimes seems so remorselessly anti-Israeli that Mr Dyke might as well be open about it and allow his reporters to appear speaking Arabic, riding a camel, stopping occasionally to suck from a long pipe in a crowded souk.
Put bluntly, the BBC, a public sector bureaucracy funded by a poll tax, with a privileged status that looks starkly anomalous in an age of hundreds of television channels and thousands of radio stations, needs more friends. It is already detested by other broadcasters, derided by the print press for squandering its vast resources and damned by publishing houses for its increasingly aggressive marketing activities in their domain.
If the BBC wants to retain its privileged position when its charter is due for renewal in 2006, then it must construct a coalition of supporters broader than the Liberal Democrats, Friends of the Earth, Friends of Yassir Arafat, the sort of people who believe that taking an aspirin will inevitably result in limbs falling off and its own staff. It requires mainstream allies as well. . . .
The old consensus that Auntie should be preserved and protected is fraying; the contention that “something must be done” about the corporation is acquiring serious credibility.
Simon Jenkins wrote about the BBC on this page recently, teasingly comparing its excesses to Cardinal Wolsey’s but vigorously defending its “right to be wrong”. This was once the stance of virtually all reasonable and respectable people (plus Simon); it is no longer. The “right to be wrong” is not the same as the liberty to be a law unto oneself.
Indeed. And where will it find those mainstream allies? Nowhere, if its narrow bias continues. This piece in The Telegraph agrees:
Whatever the outcome of the present battle between the BBC and the Government, it does serve to throw attention on the state of the BBC. The BBC has been a bad joke in its news and public affairs broadcasting for several decades, but, in the way of the world, no one notices until his own ox is gored. . . .
The BBC mandate is to be independent of the government of the day and to be objective in its reporting. For a long time, the BBC has been captured by one end of the political spectrum and, with negligible exceptions, all the people who work for it.
They have handled the corporation, especially in news and current affairs, as if it were the party organ of Labour’s Left wing or, at best, the Fabians. This would be acceptable in French public television under a Socialist government, but it is a breach of trust in Britain.
Instead of fuming about it, as Blair and Campbell are doing, or sending dossiers to Greg Dyke, as the Conservatives have, it would be more useful to work out what can be done with an organisation that has lost all even-handedness. Objectivity can’t be maintained by inviting a few Right-wingers to be guests on the many BBC programmes putting America on trial.
How about ending the public subsidy and letting the private sector take over? The likelihood that a major, state-subsidized entity with considerable political clout can actually be objective and fair over the long term is so small that it would seem better to drop the pretense, and to quit subsidizing the political views of the New Class under a threadbare cloak of public service that no longer fools anyone but the gullible.
UPDATE: Susanna Cornett comments:
It’s a classic case of how bias develops in the media, and how those who are at the center of it can’t see it – they perceive themselves as edgy and unaffected by ideology. The reality couldn’t be more different.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Shanti Mangala writes: “Pretty damning for such a prestigious news agency, I should say!”
Click below for more, from a British reader who has followed this closely:
For this affair has left the BBC dangerously…’ »