It Took 23 Years, But I Finally Got to Give My View of the National Press on National Television

I was a guest on Bill Moyers Journal (PBS, Feb. 6) along with Salon's Glenn Greenwald. We talked about pundits and reporters as an establishment institution, and whether Obama can be a disruptive force.

6 Feb 2009 11:57 am Comments Off on It Took 23 Years, But I Finally Got to Give My View of the National Press on National Television

The segment was 22 minutes: three people at a table puzzling through the week’s events, and trying to set them within larger patterns. Watch here. Transcript is here. My main reason for posting is to open a comment thread for those who watched and might have something to say. So go ahead.

I recalled for Moyers how Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s deputy, later described the people running the Bush White House as radicals. Wilkerson’s piece is reproduced here. That Wilkerson—an insider, a Republican—might have been right was too much for the category mind of the press. His description got consigned to the sphere of deviance.

Was that necessary? I say no.



Write it Yourself: My Advice to Barack Obama

"Obama may have inaugurated a new style in press relations: not the warm embrace, or out in the cold. Neither feed the beast, nor win the week. I will just call it the cool style, and let others more learned in American cool unfold what it means for our president."

20 Jan 2009 5:00 am Comments Off on Write it Yourself: My Advice to Barack Obama

(I was on Bill Moyers Journal Feb. 6 discussing Obama and the establishment press; if you would like to comment, use the comment thread at this post. Watch it here.)

Your Government, my people, has returned to you. — Václav Havel, New Year’s Day Address in Prague, Jan. 1, 1990

I met Barack Obama once. It was in 2004, the day before he launched himself as a national figure with a keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. I was in Boston as one of the 40 or so members of the stand alone commentariat—known then as The Bloggers—who were, for the first time, invited to cover the convention. We were a nice sidebar story, convention color with a trendy glow, so the DNC threw a breakfast for us on Monday of big week. The Bloggers: newest members of the message corps.


Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press

In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized-- connected "up" to Big Media but not across to each other. And now that authority is eroding. I will try to explain why.

12 Jan 2009 12:02 am Comments Off on Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press

It’s easily the most useful diagram I’ve found for understanding the practice of journalism in the United States, and the hidden politics of that practice. You can draw it by hand right now. Take a sheet of paper and make a big circle in the middle. In the center of that circle draw a smaller one to create a doughnut shape. Label the doughnut hole “sphere of consensus.” Call the middle region “sphere of legitimate debate,” and the outer region “sphere of deviance.”

That’s the entire model. Now you have a way to understand why it’s so unproductive to argue with journalists about the deep politics of their work. They don’t know about this freakin’ diagram! Here it is in its original form, from the 1986 book The Uncensored War by press scholar Daniel C. Hallin. Hallin felt he needed something more supple—and truthful—than calcified notions like objectivity and “opinions are confined to the editorial page.” So he came up with this diagram.


Help Me Explain Twitter to Eggheads

I have a nifty assignment from Chronicle of Higher Education to write about why I'm on Twitter. Personal essay, 1200 words, for print and online. Wanna help? If you're on Twitter, tell me what you use it for.

4 Jan 2009 12:50 pm Comments Off on Help Me Explain Twitter to Eggheads

“What it’s like, why you do it,” my editor, Karen Winkler, wrote in her instructions. “Don’t expect me to do this article without talking about it on Twitter,” I wrote back. She said: no problem. So I did some of that, and here we are.

This is my Twitter feed. What I have so far:

A dummy title. Why I Write 400 Words a Day and Put Them on Twitter. Whether that’s the actual title or not, it’s the question my piece must answer.

Known audiences: subscribers to the Chronicle of Higher Education, anyone on the web who’s closely interested in social media, the 5,000+ people in my Twitter feed plus the broader crowd in Twitterland they can potentially reach. Bloggers, journalists, J-schoolers, PressThink users, my colleagues on the journalism faculty at NYU.


Make Something Valuable to Journalism and Give it Away: Stanford Re-Deploys its Journalism Fellows

In which I interview the director, Jim Bettinger, on why one of the most prestigious mid-career fellowship programs in the U.S. has shifted its focus to innovation and entrepreneurship in journalism. "Our epiphany came sometime in the fall of 2005," he says.

30 Dec 2008 12:42 am Comments Off on Make Something Valuable to Journalism and Give it Away: Stanford Re-Deploys its Journalism Fellows

A few weeks ago, I read about some changes in the Knight Fellowships at Stanford University. These had a sign of the times quality to them. The program is one of several mid-career fellowships for talented journalists that have stayed pretty much the same over the decades. The top ones are at Harvard, Stanford and University of Michigan. The model is the academic sabbatical: a year off to learn deeply and re-charge. Freedom of inquiry predominates: fellows study what they choose to study. The “product” is the enriched journalist, refreshed and returned to his or her calling.

At Stanford, that’s now changing. “Beginning with the 2009-10 fellowship year, the program will put a new emphasis on journalistic innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.” (My italics.) For some background, see this post from Bruno Giussani—a former fellow at Stanford—noting the sharp drop in applications. “Many journalists are afraid to take a year off their job if they get accepted in a fellowship program, because they’re not sure that that job will still exist after the year’s over.”

At the Nieman Foundation—Harvard’s fellowship program—similar questions came up, but the decision was different. “Stay the course and preserve the original purpose of a year for fellows to learn and reflect,” writes Bob Giles, the Curator (boss) of the Foundation. In response to the crisis in the news business, Nieman has instead re-tooled its magazine Nieman Reports (which is becoming very valuable) and started the Nieman Journalism Lab blog by Josh Benton, which is promising.


If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue.

"Those in journalism who want to bring ethics to blogging ought to start with why people trust (some) bloggers, not with an ethics template made for a prior platform operating as a closed system in a one-to-many world."

18 Sep 2008 10:22 am Comments Off on If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue.

In January of 2005 I wrote Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over, by which I meant “this debate isn’t going anywhere.” But I’ve since realized that bloggers and journalists are each other’s ideal “other,” and so the flare-ups and controversies will probably continue.

These notes are my attempt to clarify some of the key terms and offer a few ideas to help people caught up in the bloggers vs. journalists conflict, which of course goes on. They were presented to “Whose rules?” a conference at Kent State University, billed as a “no-holds-barred discussion of online ethics.” (In other words, a genuine blogger ethics panel!)

Here’s the video of my presentation, which is called…