As a year-end review, I put into one post my best stuff from 2010. (In chronological order.) Naturally I would be grateful for any year-end comments you may have.
1. The Quest for Innocence and the Loss of Reality in Political Journalism (PressThink, Feb. 21, 2010). “The quest for innocence means the desire to be manifestly agenda-less and thus ‘prove’ in the way you describe things that journalism is not an ideological trade. But this can get in the way of describing things! What’s lost is that sense of reality Isaiah Berlin talked about…”
Wherein I finally nail down a key term in my criticism of the political press: its innocence agenda, which interferes with truthtelling.
2. David Gregory: "No, I won't fact check my guests and you guys can't make me…" A Time Line (Public Notebook, April 18, 2010) "David Gregory, the host of NBC's Meet the Press, has painted himself into a strange corner with his assertion that there's no need to fact check what his guests say on the air because viewers can do that 'on their own terms.' His competitor, Jake Tapper of ABC News, disagrees. Tapper has instituted the after-the-show fact check on This Week. I am a participant in the story of how this happened, as you can see from the time line I have constructed."
One of the few instances–maybe the only one–in which an idea I suggested was actually adopted by a journalist in the national press.
3. Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: On the Actual Ideology of the American Press. (PressThink, June 14, 2010) "That it’s easy to describe the ideology of the press is a point on which the left, the right and the profession of journalism converge. I disagree. I think it’s tricky. So tricky, I’ve had to invent my own language for discussing it."
An attempt to bring some clarity to the most confused and contentious of all debates in press criticism: the bias question.
4. The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World’s First Stateless News Organization. (PressThink, July 26, 2010) “In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new.”
I rarely claim that something is new. But I think it was warranted in this case.
5. The Citizens Agenda in Campaign Coverage (PressThink, Aug. 15, 2010) "The idea is to learn from voters what those voters want the campaign to be about, and what they need to hear from the candidates to make a smart decision. So you go out and ask them: what do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes in this year’s election?"
An idea that has not been adopted by our political press because our political press prefers horse race journalism.
6. The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation. (Public Notebook, Sep. 6, 2010) "Typically when people like me—a professor of journalism who is deeply involved in the digital world—advise people like you—students just starting their careers in journalism—we say to you things like: You need to be blogging. You need to understand search engines. You need to know Flash and perhaps HTML5… And all of those things are true. They are all important. But I want to go in a completely different direction today. Ready? You need to understand that the way you imagine the users will determine how useful a journalist you will be."
Certainly the most viral thing I wrote in 2010, with over 200,000 views at my Posterous.
7. Why I am Not a Journalist: A True Story (PressThink, Sep. 28, 2010) "The short answer is: I wanted to be, but I screwed it up, so I couldn’t be. Discovering journalism in college saved me. At the time (1976) I was on a track that would have led to an assistant manager’s job at an Applebees…"
The most autobiographical piece I have written.
8. The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News. (PressThink, Oct. 21, 2010) “It starts with a vision: what if we could cover all of it? When you try to act on that vision, you invariably run into problems. And it’s sweating those problems that leads to innovation, or at least to new knowledge."
It sounds crazy but I think it can work. This post is my response to an era of diminished expectations in journalism.
9. The View from Nowhere: Questions and Answers. (PressThink, Nov. 10, 2010) “American journalism is dumber than most journalists, who often share my sense of absurdity about these practices. A major reason we have a practice less intelligent than its practitioners is the prestige that the View from Nowhere still claims…”
This was the year that my construct, The View from Nowhere, went mainstream.
10. From Judith Miller to Julian Assange (PressThink, Dec. 9. 2010) "Today it is recognized at the Times and in the journalism world that Judy Miller was a bad actor who did a lot of damage and had to go. But it has never been recognized that secrecy was itself a bad actor in the events that led to the collapse, that it did a lot of damage, and parts of it might have to go. Our press has never come to terms with the ways in which it got itself on the wrong side of secrecy as the national security state swelled in size after September 11th."
Easily the biggest press story of the year has been Wikileaks. It continues to challenge us to rethink the world we are in.
Bonus link: Seven questions for Jay Rosen. The Economist did an interview with me about my press thinking. (Aug. 28, 2010)
So those are the highlights of a year in PressThink. The comment bar is open…