The Citizens Agenda in Campaign Coverage

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?"

15 Aug 2010 10:45 am Comments Off on The Citizens Agenda in Campaign Coverage

I’m in Australia this week, where the country is in the midst of an election campaign that seems thoroughly uninspiring to almost everyone I’ve talked to. Several times I’ve been asked how campaign coverage might be improved. (See this television appearance on the ABC program Lateline.) I responded with the following sketch.

The Citizen’s Agenda in Campaign Coverage: Ten Steps to a Better Narrative (more…)

 

The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World’s First Stateless News Organization

"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."

26 Jul 2010 1:31 am Comments Off on The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World’s First Stateless News Organization

Wikileaks.org: Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010

Der Spiegel: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It

New York Times: The War Logs

The Guardian: The Afghanistan War Logs

From my internal notebook and Twitter feed, a few notes on this development:

1. Ask yourself: Why didn’t Wikileaks just publish the Afghanistan war logs and let journalists ‘round the world have at them? Why hand them over to The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel first? Because as Julien Assange, founder of Wikileaks, explained last October, if a big story is available to everyone equally, journalists will pass on it.

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Objectivity as a Form of Persuasion: A Few Notes for Marcus Brauchli

"Reporting can be trusted if it is cured of opinion. Reporting can be trusted if it is dusted with opinion. Or even completely interwoven with opinion. It can lead to conclusions. Or the conclusions can be left to others."

7 Jul 2010 2:14 pm Comments Off on Objectivity as a Form of Persuasion: A Few Notes for Marcus Brauchli

Wanted: Political blogger covering the conservative movement. Must be provocative and write with a strong point of view although not in a way that would reveal bias or offend any of your potential subjects. Social media a plus until it’s not. Must be completely transparent, unless that proves embarrassing to the newspaper. Send sanitized résumé, innocuous clips and nonpartisan references to The Washington Post.

— David Carr, New York Times, Outspoken Is Great, Till It’s Not

Sometimes we can only reach clarity by separating two things that have become tangled up with one another. Authoritative reporting and objectivity in journalism need to be disentangled, or the situation David Carr was satirizing will persist. These notes were written for Marcus Brauchli, the editor of the Washington Post, but anyone can read them. He’s the one who needs them.

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The Politico Opens the Kimono. And then Pretends it Never Happened.

"Think about what the Politico is saying: an experienced beat reporter would probably not want to 'burn bridges' with key sources by telling the world what happens when those sources let their guard down."

24 Jun 2010 1:48 am Comments Off on The Politico Opens the Kimono. And then Pretends it Never Happened.

As everyone who pays attention to the news knows by now, an article appeared in Rolling Stone this week by freelance reporter Michael Hastings that wound up forcing the resignation of General Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of American troops in Afghanistan. Invited to hang out with McChrystal and his staff, Hastings was witness to their contempt for the civilian side of the war effort, which he then reported on. It was a shock to everyone in Washington that McChrystal would make such a blunder, and the press began immediately to dissect it.

The Politico was so hopped up about the story that it took the extraordinary step of posting on its site a PDF of Rolling Stone’s article because Rolling Stone had not put it online fast enough. In one of the many articles The Politico ran about the episode the following observation was made by reporters Gordon Lubold and Carol E. Lee:

McChrystal, an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, has long been thought to be uniquely qualified to lead in Afghanistan. But he is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department. And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.

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Fixing The Ideology Problem in Our Political Press: A Reply to The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder

"If your job is to make the case, win the negotiations, decide what the community should do, or maintain morale, that is one kind of work. If your job is to tell people what's going on, and equip them to participate without illusions, that is a very different kind of work."

22 Jun 2010 1:02 am Comments Off on Fixing The Ideology Problem in Our Political Press: A Reply to The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder

After I published my last post, Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: On the Actual Ideology of the American Press, the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, a political journalist who consults for CBS News in addition to his reporting and writing for the Atlantic, said my piece was provocative and worth reading but it left some important questions unanswered:

If the ideologies he identifies — the pathologies, actually — are the sum total of the media, what would Jay Rosen, if he were running the world, have us do? Is there a distinction between journalism and ideological argument? Is it methodological? Are there times when, given the difficulty of discovering a truth, journalists can and should adopt a disinterested or disembodied stance? His criticism applies largely to political journalism, and so I anticipate his answer.

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Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: On the Actual Ideology of the American Press

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.

14 Jun 2010 6:26 pm Comments Off on Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: On the Actual Ideology of the American Press

What is the actual ideology of our political press? There are two camps on this question: one is huge and includes almost everyone who has declared a position. The other is tiny; it includes almost no one. I’m in the tiny camp, not completely alone but— well, there aren’t too many of us. (And if you’re one, raise a hand in the comments.)

The big camp includes everyone who thinks it’s easy to describe the ideology of the political press in the United States. Most on the progressive left, most on the conservative right, and almost all of the people in the press itself think this way. Of course, they would describe that ideology very differently, but that it can be done in a sentence or two… about this they have little doubt.

(Now I’m generalizing here, okay? This means I’m aware that there are exceptions and that I am overlooking certain nuances that divide observers within camps.)

The left says: Look, it’s very simple. The political press ultimately serves the interests of the people who own it— the corporate capitalists, the ones with money and power and “access” to politicians, the people who run things and always have. Those who are unwilling to make peace with this fact don’t make it very far in political journalism.

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