Re: Partisanship and Profits, Past and Present

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I propose that the truth is better served by two strongly partisan newspapers with opposing views than by one paper striving to be neutral.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 5:51 AM
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I'm with GB. The problem with Fox is that they lie, not that they're biased. They could lie while pretending to be 'fair and balanced', and in fact do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:02 AM
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But that's why we need two opposing news sources: so when one lies (and all news sources lie at least occasionally), the other one can call bullshit.

Meanwhile, this is sweet.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:16 AM
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Agreed. But everywhere else in the world, that's what you've got (at least in the prints, not so much on TV).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:18 AM
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I'll reiterate what I've said before. Ideological newspapes areproblematic at best, and ideological newscasts is a terrible idea. Ideological weeklies or documentaries are fine. Partisan anything, as opposed to ideological, is no good.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:46 AM
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Rationally, I think 1-3 are correct, with some caveats.

"Strongly partisan" should be replaced with "With a strongly held, openly disclosed point of view". One of the reasons Fox News infuriates is that it is truly partisan, in the sense of being a propaganda arm of the GOP. If it were merely ideologically conservative, the level of intellectual honesty would probably go up. While The Economist has ideological blind spots that frequently lead it to ludicrous positions, it does not fall in line with the "Oceana has always been at war with Eurasia" about-faces that the GOP party line inflicts on Fox.

The model to aspire to seems to be something like the crusading liberal newspaper editors of the pre-Civil Rights South (Like the Atlanta Constitution and the Nashville Tennessean): Devoted to the communities they serve, broadly sympathetic to the Democratic party platform, but suffused with a non-partisan passion for justice.

Secondly, even as I recognize the creeping obsolescence of the the NYT model of reporting, I will mourn its passing (or, more accurately, its retrenchment into a barely relevant niche).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:47 AM
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Eh, it seems to me that the only thing we need to meet Frum's goal is to add some major media that report from a liberal perspective.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:51 AM
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Fox News was created as America's first self-consciously partisan television network.

It's nice to see a conservative finally admit this, instead of continuing to repeat all the old lies about fairness and balance.

I don't think that there's A) a profitable future in partisanship-disguised-as-news or B) that it's a formula for a better informed public, but I'm pretty sure that David Frum is no more capable of distinguishing between "news" and "PR," than, say, James Carville. Turn the media over to the likes of Frum, Fleischer, Carville, and Penn and we may as well turn the rest of the country over to the phone-sanitizers.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:56 AM
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7: That too.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 6:57 AM
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An openly partisan US media and an objective and informative US media are both pipe dreams, so why not pick the appealing pipedream?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:01 AM
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And if you deny that you can be objective and truthful, why on earth would you want an ideologically diverse media, rather than having all media having a liberal bias? (Or conservative, if you're conservative.) That doesn't make any sense at all.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:08 AM
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Secondly, even as I recognize the creeping obsolescence of the the NYT model of reporting, I will mourn its passing

Hmm. I think you're broadly right in your description of what newspapers should do--pick a community and serve it--but I think you've been snowed if you think the NYT was doing something else.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:11 AM
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2: The problem with Fox is that they lie, not that they're biased

Well, it's kind of both. 1) They lie about stuff in general to support their view, and 2) They lie about being partisan—the "fair and balanced" mantra. Frum is a sleazy little git, but I was glad to see him at least admit that Fox News was created as America's first self-consciously partisan television network, something most "conservatives" won't admit. They become slightly less toxic if they are universally admitted as partisan (even by the VP, for instance) and they have acknowledged opposition outlets. It is this last that I see as problematic in the current political climate in the US, "liberal" outlets attracting enough cash to ever really get big enough to play in the mass market.

[Multiply pwned on preview. <Insert comment-justifying unique insight here.>]


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:11 AM
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For an example of a news organization that is profitable, partisan, and still generates good news, what jumps to mind for me first is the TPM empire.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:14 AM
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"so why not pick the appealing pipedream?"

But that's how US liberals always think. Forget thinking big, they can't even think medium-sized.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:14 AM
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"For an example of a news organization that is profitable, partisan, and still generates good news, what jumps to mind for me first is the TPM empire."

Which is not a TV channel or a newspaper.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:15 AM
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why on earth would you want an ideologically diverse media, rather than having all media having a liberal bias? (Or conservative, if you're conservative.) That doesn't make any sense at all

Because I am not always right. I am probably one of the few conservatives, not Republican they can go to hell and burn, here. However I know my biases blinker me to certain things which is why I read progressive/liberal blogs. I would also probably watch liberal news more than conservative news.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:16 AM
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16: Not yet, but I agree that IF this ever happens, it will probably be something like TPM or Huffington Post growing into it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:17 AM
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And speaking of Huffington Post and our fucked up media, apparently Tim Russert is throwing his weight around to keep Arianna from pushing her new book on any NBC shows.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:22 AM
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17: If you're a political junkie, you don't depend on the mainstream media anyway. If not, you're not gonna watch more than one newscast or read more than one newspaper (you're probably not gonna read any newspapers).


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:26 AM
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I'll just report my CT response to David W., slightly edited:

The NYT's readership is presumably somewhat leftleaning, so pandering to them would be better for business than pandering to rightwingers.

Presumably. But the advertisers are a newspaper's main market, and a lot of NYT ads are institutional ads selling no particular product. Furthermore, almost all media are owned by diversified groups with multiple financial interests, and the family owned publications, which are probably the least diversified, have an enormous interest in the estate tax.

Readership is certainly a factor affecting a newspaper's profitability, but newspaper readership isn't necessarily the most important target .

One poster at DeLong suggested that the new Murdoch ESJ is going head-to-head with the Times in a death match competition for the ultra-right super-rich readership, and that the generic middle class isn't critical for them.

Without a new and better publication, of course, the death of the Times or the Post, though just, would not be something to celebrate. If one of the non-right-wing big money people, someone like Soros, were to buy McClatchie and use it as the core of a completely new operation, they could transform the U.S. political scene, but none of them seem to have that level of imagination and commitment.

That would be a very large, very risky venture, but it would not be a sure money loser. Certainly it would be a better, much more meaningful legacy than another goddamn endowment to another goddamn university.

ADDENDUM:

There are various factors here: breadth, depth, seriousness, and accuracy of coverage; range of opinions presented on the opinion pages; and general slant of the newspaper (right, left, center, etc.) Partisanship and neutrality are a red herring. I think that we'd be better off with a range of partisan national newspapers than we would be with two fake-neutral papers (which cringe and obey whenever the right wing raises an eyebrow) and one frankly rightwing paper (the WSJ).

The WSJ's news pages are generally respected even though the editorial pages are nutso. But this will change under Murdoch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:29 AM
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This is not investment advice (because apart from anything, Fox News is not a particularly important division of News Corp, but Frum strikes me as one of the great top-tickers of our time, a lock and load, lead pipe cinch of a fade. Anyone starting from the premise that he is right is going to get roughly the conclusion that they deserve. I think it would be more predictive to have a discussion starting from the oppoosite premis - if Fox News's star were to fade, what opportunities would that create in American media?


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:36 AM
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Frum strikes me as one of the great top-tickers of our time, a lock and load, lead pipe cinch of a fade.

I love the rhythym of this, but I don't understand any of it.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:39 AM
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I'd prefer just to call him a cunt. Though I wouldn't mind if public radio were to become the avowedly liberal news source conservatives think it is, and it could take a step in that direction by eliminating the odious, dishonest commentary of David Frum.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:46 AM
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Fox News is not a particularly important division of News Corp

That's the financial analyst in you speaking, d-sq. FNC is enormously important to Murdoch because it makes his business holdings all but immune to "political risk" emanating from the United States of America. Fox could lose a few score million a year in perpetuity and still be a net contributor to the equity value of Murdoch's portfolio.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:47 AM
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I think John underplays the significance of reader preference, as regards the NYT and others like it.

Conservative nutjobs are not numerous among NYT readers, but they are intense, and they are willing to cancel subscriptions and raise hell in other media, whereas the liberals have had a tendency to say, as John does here, "Without a new and better publication, of course, the death of the Times or the Post, though just, would not be something to celebrate."

Fuck the Times. That's the message the Times needs to be getting from its liberal readership. There are plenty of viable alternatives to the Times, and as liberals ponder ways to limit the dysfunctionality of the Times, the credible threat of abandonment - and attempts to damage its public reputation - are going to be valuable tools. (Good for Arianna for picking a public fight with NBC.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:48 AM
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Frum strikes me as one of the great top-tickers of our time, a lock and load, lead pipe cinch of a fade.

Guessing: he tends to favor stock picks at the very height of their value, and anything he recommends is guaranteed to fall?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:51 AM
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The WSJ's news pages are generally respected even though the editorial pages are nutso. But this will change under Murdoch.

Indeed it will.

The ouster of The Wall Street Journal's top editor last week did not live up to conditions that the News Corporation had agreed to when it bought Dow Jones & Company in December, a special oversight committee for the newspaper said Tuesday.
Well, surprise, surprise.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:58 AM
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KR's point is a good one. People have to start asking to what extent media units are mouthpieces for large financial groups. None of them are run deliberately at a loss (except the Washington Times), but I think that many or most of them are milling to satisfice their profits at a lower level in order to get the right message out (and in order to ignore the wrong message).

This is the Tucker Carlson problem: Carlson has never been popular, but he's ideologically safe. There are many liberals and centrist Democrats who could match or surpass Carlson's performance, but you're not going to see them. (And yes, he finally did get canned, but he had a much longer run than he should have. It was clear long ago that his ratings were never going to go anywhere).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:59 AM
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PF, I abandoned the Times decades ago, and I haven't seen them whimpering.

there are not a lot of alternatives to the Times. There are papers with a better editorial slant, but for comprehensive coverage you have the Times, the Post, and the WSJ. (People used to list the LA Times and the CS Monitor, but not anymore I don't think). A lot of people at DeLong have switched to the Financial Times from Britain, but as I understand they have much more limited coverage. (And they're neoliberal too, which is OK with the DeLong crowd.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:03 AM
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re: 27

Looking, it seems 'fade' is investment slang for someone doing the opposite of the market or someone consistently making the wrong calls.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:03 AM
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My fear about the Times is that their financial straits are bad enough that all they're looking for is financial rescue, and unless the liberal readership is able to save them, they'll be ignore. In other words, they're dealing with a more serious threat than a liberal boycott, and if they responded to a liberal boycott they'd still have the original threat to deal with. So they're committed to a center-right path and are just going to take their chances with liberals.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:07 AM
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top-ticker: one who puts his money into a stock at the "top tick", just as it has gone as far as it is going to go and a reversal is imminent. The last person to find out a piece of information, whose participation in a trend means that the trend is over.

a fade: someone whose views are a reliable contrary indicator

lock and load, lead-pipe cinch: expressions of greater and greater degrees of certainty (in this case, certainty that Frum is a fade).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:08 AM
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A lot of people at DeLong have switched to the Financial Times from Britain, but as I understand they have much more limited coverage.

The Financial Times increasingly strikes me as a better business paper than the WSJ, and you get much better coverage of issues in Europe. The interesting thing is that the news slant in the WSJ hasn't changed since Murdoch bought it, but it's now devoting a much higher percentage of its coverage to things like national politics, which it doesn't do any better than the Times or the Post. I'm guessing that this is an attempt by Murdoch to turn the WSJ into a real competitor with the Times as the national paper of record, but I think it's doomed to fail.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:09 AM
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Dsquared is probably right about Frum, but I'm responding to Becks.

Frum and Shrum are two different people, incidentally, but for me they're just generic despicable nulls. Sometimes it's important not to make overfine distinctions. If it was Shrum who wrote the piece Becks cited, everything would be exactly the same. The Frum-Shrum distinction is one of those functionless fifth wheels that Wittgenstein talked about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:14 AM
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PF, I abandoned the Times decades ago, and I haven't seen them whimpering.

And I still read the Times all the time. How's that for walking the walk ?

I gather there were picketers outside ABC after the last debate, and that's something we need to see more of. The idea that the Times is somehow a "liberal" publication needs to be ridiculed every time it comes up. The foundational conservative media lie is that the media are not, in fact, conservative.

There are all kinds of positive signs on this front, and you can see the real impact of people demanding better media. Look at the Times story on how the TV news was disseminating propaganda through allegedly neutral generals. That's a story that was easily available several years ago - but it wasn't going to be done until today, in part because public pressure favored suppressing that sort of thing until recently.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:16 AM
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A lot of people at DeLong have switched to the Financial Times from Britain, but as I understand they have much more limited coverage.

I started reading the FT when I lived in Europe, and found it hands down better than the WSJ Europe for the news that interested me. After I moved to the US, I started subscribing to the US edition, and found that it fell short of the WSJ for the news that interested me. Whereupon I made the should-have-been obvious realization that the FT is much better at covering Europe and the WSJ is much better at covering the U.S. (I have heard it said that the WSJ is better on Asia, too, but I'm not qualified to judge that.)

The FT does have the advantage for me that I don't run the risk an aortic rupture like I do if I accidentally open the editorial section of the WSJ, but that's not enough to compensate for the quality of the news coverage in North America. Also, the FT's version of fluff (e.g. Lucy Kellaway) I find pretty tiresome, whereas the WSJ fluff (e.g. Catalog Critic) can be occasionally useful.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:22 AM
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That's a story that was easily available several years ago - but it wasn't going to be done until today, in part because public pressure favored suppressing that sort of thing until recently.

And it died without a whimper. I don't particularly care for Atrios, but this is spot on -- if there is a liberal countermedia other than Josh Marshall and Ariana Huffington, they certainly haven't cracked the code yet of how to keep things spinning from fact trickle to Sunday gabfest to fact trickle to breaking newspaper story forever and ever until it becomes part of the background radiation of American thought. The Republicans are past masters at this, even (especially?) when there isn't a story -- not just nonsense like Whitewater, but do you remember John Solomon's crusade against Harry Reid for doing things like (legally) accepting visitor credentials to attend a fight in Vegas while the issue of boxing regulation was before the Senate (and then voting in favor of increased regulation)? It was nonsense, but someone was putting it in Solomon's hands in an attempt to create a narrative.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:23 AM
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30: there's whatever Knight-Ridder has become (the name escapes me).

Shorter 31, 33: you're right, Sifu Heebie!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:24 AM
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Look at the Times story on how the TV news was disseminating propaganda through allegedly neutral generals. That's a story that was easily available several years ago - but it wasn't going to be done until today, in part because public pressure favored suppressing that sort of thing until recently.

What? I don't see that at all. Incidentally, none of the TV networks has picked up that story, which strikes me as not at all positive.

On preview, pwned by snarkoo.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:25 AM
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McClatchie. Right when people were talking about how superior KR's Iraq coverage was, they went into a financial tailspin. McClatchie bought them out, and IIRC it wasn't a good investment. The money people do not reward good reporting, and none of the deep-pockets liberal bothered to care. Deep-pockets liberals really are the most worthless people in the world. They're willing to pour half a billion dollars down the drain every four years (most of it going to enemy media organizations), but they won't invest anything in anything substantial and ongoing. There are two theories about this: the stingy moron theory, and the not-really-liberal theory.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:29 AM
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||

Happy May Day, everyone! And I ain't talkin' maypoles.

|>


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:31 AM
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In other words, they're dealing with a more serious threat than a liberal boycott, and if they responded to a liberal boycott they'd still have the original threat to deal with.

To be clear, I'm not talking about anything as formal as a boycott, though I wouldn't oppose a boycott.

Look at the Times' coverage of, say, evolution. No advertiser has a particular interest in this, and even a nitwit like Sulzberger can be assumed to endorse the best 19th-century thinking on this subject.

But a lot of conservatives are very motivated. They pick up phones. They cancel subscriptions. They bitch to their friends. They create alternative media.

And the Times largely dropped honest coverage of creationism.

It's precisely because the Times faces so many economic challenges that they are vulnerable to the nut-Right. Liberals need to get more pissed off about this stuff (and they are). And if it kills off the Times, well, I won't cry about it. If the liberals can't find a way to support a national media voice, then they're fucked. It's that simple. (But I'm actually quite optimistic on this score.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:31 AM
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Nobody agrees when I say this, but as far as I can tell all the media people are all active bad guys. Sulzberger is a little wishy-washy, as if he wants to be a bad guy but still be friends with the good guys, but all the others are active bad guys. And as far as I know, everyone in their monied world thinks that the media bad guys are perfectly wonderful people.

The names we see are lackeys: O'Reilly, Dowd, David Brooks, and so one.

And none of the bad guys is going to improve.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:34 AM
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38, 40: I'm just talking about the direction of change here, not the adequacy of the current situation. The world where the NYT runs this story is better than the world in which it doesn't, is all I'm saying. It's incremental, but it's progress.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:35 AM
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45: I don't see progress. What makes you think "it wasn't going to be done until today", or "public pressure favored suppressing that sort of thing until recently"?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:39 AM
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risk an aortic rupture like I do if I accidentally open the editorial section of the WSJ

The editorial page of the WSJ has improved significantly post-Murdoch. True story.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:40 AM
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Since Marketwatch is a radio show, this seems like the right thread to post a link to The Osgood File I heard on the radio on Tuesday. It's about topics near and dear to this blog's heart, swimming records, the LZR swimsuit, and Portland, Oregon. And it's partially modeled after "Trouble" from The Music Man.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:42 AM
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transforming it so that it's unrecognizable and no longer serves the interest of the reader

Hasn't the ship already sailed on this? (Sorry, haven't read comments -- probably pwned.)


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:46 AM
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46: I see no alternative explanation. Fact is, little of the significant information in that story was new, and the Times nonetheless invested a huge amount of space on it, and played it up big.

The "public pressure" thing is just my ex recto opinion, but it seems pretty obvious to me. Liberals like top-down explanations - and they have a lot of merit - but it seems to me that big elements of the public really did get pretty excited about reporting that contradicted their pro-war prejudices.

Why do you think this story wasn't done in, say, 2003 or 2004? What do you suppose kept it off the front page back then?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:46 AM
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Well, I agree with you.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:47 AM
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With John.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:48 AM
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Nobody agrees when I say this, but as far as I can tell all the media people are all active bad guys.

I think you're on to something, but yeah, we're probably in the minority.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:49 AM
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Happy May Day, everyone! And I ain't talkin' maypoles.

Can you please keep the racket down, Kraab? I'm trying sleep off my hangover from the Valborgsmässoafton festivities.

when people were talking about how superior KR's Iraq coverage was

Uh, gee...thanks!


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:50 AM
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PF, I think public pressure would help, and does help the right, but that you overestimate its significance. No reason not to do it, of course.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:51 AM
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Did someone say May Day? And I thought it was Law Day in the US of A...


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:56 AM
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Lots of drunken teens yesterday. And scouts.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:56 AM
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The fuck Law Day? Our government is trolling itself.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:58 AM
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I think you're on to something, but yeah, we're probably in the minority.

John and I have argued about this at least twice, in particular regards to Pinch Sulzberger, who strikes me as not too bright and malleable to the point of comedy (there are reports that he steered the Times to endorse HRC at least in part because he's gym buddies with former reporter and current Democratic rainmaker Steve Rattner, who is a Clinton backer) but not intentionally malevolent. And I don't think the idea is dispositive, in any case -- I think the Block family is pretty right wing, but the Toledo Blade nearly singlehandedly brought down the Republican party in Ohio.

I will say that publishers seem pretty universally anti-union.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:59 AM
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"I'll reiterate what I've said before. Ideological newspapes areproblematic at best, and ideological newscasts is a terrible idea. Ideological weeklies or documentaries are fine. Partisan anything, as opposed to ideological, is no good."

I think this is key. If you look at markets with ideological news outlets, they work best when there is also non-ideological media. To take the UK as an example, the press is fiercely ideological, but the TV news is about as "objective" as the mainstream press in the US (with all the obvious caveats and flaws). This works really well, in that it broadens the acceptable discourse and ensures that a particular line of spin doesn't go unchallenged, while preventing the discourse (for the most part) from degenerating into a slanging match. Most people (in the UK) read a newspaper and watch a TV news show on a reasonably regular basis, so they get the benefit of both approaches.

I've written at length about this subject on Brad DeLong's, Matt Yglesias's, and Ezra's comments, if you care to dig through the archives.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:03 AM
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Way back before I'd had coffee, politicalfootball posted this in 7:

Eh, it seems to me that the only thing we need to meet Frum's goal is to add some major media that report from a liberal perspective.

I had a job interview at a startup a few years ago. The technological brief was so up my alley I couldn't quite believe it, and the technology portion of the interview went swimmingly. And then, because he was in the office, I got to meet the boss. The company was Media Matters, the boss was David Brock.

The biggest problem with all of this was at this point (before launch, mind you) they were claiming to be non-partisan, but every example they used was from conservative media. I have a big mouth and I'm no party-line anything so I managed to eliminate any chance I had of getting hired there with two questions in my interview with Brock:

1. Why you?
2. What's with the claim of non-partisanship? Clearly this is all about going after conservative media, so why not just be up front about it?

I think the guy who did the technical interview was genuinely disappointed he had to call to say they weren't hiring me, but I was neither surprised nor disappointed to have lost out on the job (Brock clearly wouldn't want an employee like me, and I wouldn't want a boss like him). And by the time they launched they had indeed dropped any veneer of non-partisanship, to their credit.


Posted by: fedward | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:03 AM
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Most people (in the UK) read a newspaper and watch a TV news show on a reasonably regular basis, so they get the benefit of both approaches

This is a peculiarity of the UK media market though which might not translate; we buy one hell of a lot of newspapers per capita. This is probably because we have the best newspapers in the world and it's not impossible that US newspaper reading habits would change if someone started a paper that wasn't so fucking *dull*, but maybe not. (seriously, by the way, unhappy the land where the New York Post is considered wild and crazee).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:07 AM
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where the New York Post is considered wild and crazee

They don't even have Page 3 girls!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:07 AM
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Sulzberger is only a partial exception. He'd really have to be incredibly stupid not to notice what's happening around him. At the very least, he's been willing to publish dishonest journalism in the service of a militarist political agenda.

I don't think that I claimed perfect conformity to my theory all the way down to the Toledo level -- another exception. The KR owners were actually pretty conservative too, but not actively evil in the Republican Zombie Slave way.

The evil is gross unprofessionalism and submissiveness to the Republicans, not conservative ideas.

It isn't even partisanship that I'm talkign about, alas, because at least a third of the Democrats are enthusiastic militarists. Lieberman stands out, but plenty of them are very hawkish. It's not just cowardice or opportunism, a lot of them really believe it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:09 AM
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This is a peculiarity of the UK media market though which might not translate; we buy one hell of a lot of newspapers per capita. This is probably because we have the best newspapers in the worlds with titties.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:10 AM
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56: Law Day is a real thing?! I thought it was just a promotional gimmick the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin invented as an excuse to hand out free papers and solicit subscriptions...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:11 AM
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Why do you think this story wasn't done in, say, 2003 or 2004? What do you suppose kept it off the front page back then?

Who knows when they even picked up on the story? They had to sue the DoD to get the documents mentioned in it, some of which were apparently from last year, so it was only recently that they'd done the reporting. I just don't see any evidence that public pressure played any role in their running it. As far as progress goes, I have yet to see anything on the level of the Times' publishing the Pentagon Papers or the Washington Post's Watergate coverage.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:11 AM
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Law Day has been real for decades (way back when my mom was involved in the National Lawyers Wives, before they became the American Lawyers Auxiliary, I was drafted into helping with Law Day stuff).


Posted by: fedward | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:14 AM
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60: It works OK, but I think Sweden, where IMHO, the newspapers are reasonably unbiased, works better, though perhaps mostly because they're more responsible and a bit more focused on policy.

Ideological newspapers isn't the end of the world, though.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:16 AM
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I will say that publishers seem pretty universally anti-union.

I may have mentioned this before, but part of the orientation routine at Hometown Daily involved watching a video in which Publisher said words to the effect that "this is a non-union paper, and it's going to stay that way" (the wording may not be exact, but the message was that clear).


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:17 AM
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The evil is gross unprofessionalism and submissiveness to the Republicans, not conservative ideas.

I'm certainly willing to sign on to this sort of weak-Emersonian claim. Comity!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:18 AM
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I think that somewhere around 1980 the Grahams decided that there would be no more Watergates. It was in 1979 that they hired George Will, a hard right Republican operative previously with Jesse Helms and the National Review. Somewhere in the early 80s they decided to take a "balanced, thoughtful" view of Ronald Reagan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:21 AM
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What's really crazy and infuriating to me is the disconnect between the personal political views of media professionals and the messages that actually get conveyed by the MSM.

I have a fair number of acquaintances who pursued careers in journalism, several of whom have fairly prestigious positions in MSM media outlets. My rough estimate of the frequency distribution is 60% liberal to left-liberal, 35% establishment centrist, and 15% identifiably conservative. The actual frequency with which these viewpoints are represented in the media is something approaching the reverse.



Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:23 AM
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I think that the estate tax is a major factor n the politics of the remaining family owned papers. The publisher of the Seattle Times said as much not too long ago.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:23 AM
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"The evil is gross unprofessionalism and submissiveness to the Republicans, not conservative ideas."

I don't buy that. I think that both both management, owners, editors and most star political journalists are well to the right of the population when it comes to economic policy, and somewhat to the right when it comes to foreign policy.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:24 AM
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In other words, I'm saying John Emerson's perspective is unsufficiently leftist, and unsufficiently pessimistic.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:28 AM
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"Not so much conservative politics". Comity.

Sulzberger is worse than the Knight-Ridder owners, even though he's less conservative.

It's true that even Sulzberger the liberal is only centrist or senter-right at best. Given media domination and the winner take all system, it's hard to remember that at a third to half of the American population is to the left of Hillary Clinton either on military issues, gay and women's issues, or economics and labor issues, and probably a quarter are to her left on all three.

I think that the idea that Hillary is a closet liberal should be dropped. She and Bill have been bitterly fighting the Democrats to their left for decades now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:34 AM
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Hillary's stated domestic policy positions are somewhat to the left of Obama's stated positions.

On military / foreign policy stuff, she has indeed been bitterly disappointing, in an area where the public was crying out for leadership. Obama is pretty cautious here, but seems to be somewhat to her left from what one can tell.

probably a quarter are to her left on all three.

I think 25% is a reasonable estimate of the fraction of the American public who would be acceptably left-wing by Unfogged standards.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:39 AM
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Hillary's stated domestic policy positions are somewhat to the left of Obama's stated positions.

Like when she takes McCain's side on the irresponsible gas-tax suspension?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:44 AM
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Like when she takes McCain's side on the irresponsible gas-tax suspension?

This is often distorted on left wing blogs. The argument against the gas tax suspension is that most of the gas tax falls on oil company profits, therefore suspending it is a subsidy to oil companies.

However, Hillary has called for suspending the gas tax only if the suspension is paid for through a windfall profits tax on oil company profits. This can only be a win for consumers. As you can imagine, it is a very substantial difference from McCain's proposal.

Truthfully, it is very hard to tell the difference between Clinton and Obama's policy positions, since they often imitate each other. But if you follow closely -- including the order in which proposals are introduced -- you can see that Hillary is both a somewhat better wonk and is less impressed by mainstream economics. E.g. she was out front on calling for stronger government interference to prevent foreclosures.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:54 AM
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but as I said, they are quite close. Obama is a very cautious guy, also newer in DC, still learning and seems to be more advisor-dependent on details. He has some pretty conventional econ advisors too. That makes him follow Hillary's lead more often. But he's a quick learner.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:56 AM
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But he's a quick learner.

And articulate!


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 9:58 AM
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From Jesus' link in 28:

The committee, created to protect the editorial integrity of The Journal, has the power to block the firing or hiring of the newspaper's managing editor. But the editor, Marcus W. Brauchli, was not fired; he resigned on April 22, albeit under pressure, and accepted a role as a consultant to the News Corporation.
The committee members were informed the day before that the company and Mr. Brauchli had agreed that he would leave.
"Although our charter does not directly envision a process for dealing with a resignation..."

Who sets up a committee like that and doesn't have a process for how to handle resignations?!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:00 AM
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I think that Obama is significantly better than Clinton on military and foreign policy questions, and probably fairly close otherwise. I've never thought that he was anything but a centrist.

He seems to have made major advances in campaign finance, however, and unlike Hillary he wants to have a ground game. The anti-populism of the DLC precluded any but the most cautious and hidebound popular outreach.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:01 AM
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Fuck a bunch of gas tax holiday. The whole thing is dumb, dumb, dumb.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:05 AM
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John, why is it that there ideologically left-wing papers in the UK? Those must be owned by plutocrats like all the rest, right? Is the existence of a left-wing readership really enough to make it worth publishing a paper for those people, given that doing so would be anti-plutocrat?


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:07 AM
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unlike Hillary he wants to have a ground game.

right, he could be a real game-changer in the political organization area. Which is most of what will determine what actually happens.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:07 AM
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The editorial page of the WSJ has improved significantly post-Murdoch.

As this appears to be Talk Like Reminiscences of a Stock Operator Day, I'll call that a dead cat bounce, or at best a sucker rally from a very low base.

It's true that British newspapers are fun, but there is a hell of a lot of shit in there. What is really depressing is that there is no worthwhile news magazine; I've started reading Der Spiegel.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:13 AM
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I'm trying sleep off my hangover from the Valborgsmässoafton festivities.

Ate too many eggs again, huh?

Do let me help your headache. Imagine me singing in your ear, fist in the air, of course:

Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye wretched of the earth
For justice thunders condemnation
A better world's in birth
No more tradition's chains shall bind us
Arise ye slaves no more in thrall
The world will rise on new foundations
We have been naught we shall be all
'Tis the final conflict
Let each stand in her/his* place
The international working class
Shall free* the human race

*Revisions I learned in DSA. People would sing a mixture of "her place" and "his place." Originally "free" was "be," but we're democratic socialists, so we let the capitalists live.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:13 AM
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88: Thomas Frank has a column in the WSJ now. I'm as shocked as the rest of you.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:14 AM
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I don't buy it, PGD, but I don't want to hijack the thread about it.

I used to fight with John about this, but there really is a systematic rottenness, especially in the political coverage; it helps to think of the real reporters a sideshow that's allowed to continue because of tradition & prestige but basically in a different business from the rest of the media--they are to Nedra Pickler, Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd. what those "more you know" ads on NBC are to regular programming. Slight exaggeration, but....We really need a liberal daily or tv station & rich liberals really ought to make that a priority. I don't mean a partisan Democratic outlet equivalent to Fox, more a U.S. Guardian if you want to pick an analogy--I'm most interested in hard news/investigative reporting that is simply going to write the story's it's going to write without giving a damn if anyone accuses it of liberal bias. And Washington coverage that isn't obsessed with vacuous horse race stories. It's expensive & hard to start a newspaper, but it's a far better use of money than 30 second political ads; I'd subscribe.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:14 AM
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That Law Day proclamation is hilarious. The unintentional irony in W purporting to care about following the rue of law is surreal.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:18 AM
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Another moderate hijack: Is the Guardian's reputation for being wrong all the time part of a right-wing campaign to discredit it? Because I keep hearing very similar stuff about the New York Times, in what is quite obviously a right-wing campaign to discredit it.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:20 AM
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why is it that there ideologically left-wing papers in the UK?

Well, the Guardian is actually a weird kind of hybrid entity. The long-time editor C.P. Scott persuaded the founding family to put a controlling stake in the holding company, Guardian Newspapers Ltd, in a trust (the Scott Trust) whose members are elected by the editorial staff, under a charter that commits them to guaranteeing the paper's editorial independence. (There's also a rather complicated setup under which they also own various other outlets which are partly Scott-protected.)

The Daily Mirror is owned by a fairly faceless media company (Trinity Mirror plc), but at least one that's publicly-traded and not controlled by a Lord Gnome figure. The Independent was set up as a commercial venture that was also supposed to make a damn good newspaper, and is now owned by an Irish plutocrat (Tony O'Reilly).

The rightwing papers are without exception owned by Lord Gnome, except for the Murdoch ones.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:20 AM
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Until Dsquared shows up, who actually would know the answer, I'll point out that the Guardian is a co-op, and that the ideological left is more significant, more self-aware, and better organized in Britain than here.

Guessing wildly, it might be that some of the British papers are more competent because of family and institutional traditions. (The kind of thing that no longer works at the Times and the Post). I think that the financialization of the media has been a disaster from the point of view of the polity and citizenship.

Incidentally, if you read interviews with the big visible medi people, a lot of them think of some of their worst traits -- zombie neutrality, the blank he-said-she-said approach, and the recycling of administration press releases -- as sophisticated forms of professionalism. Laymen like us just are a Luddite peasants who fail to understand Mark Halperin's austere ethical code and rigorous professional discipline.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:20 AM
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The Times of London went downhill after Murdoch bought it. There are some okay columnists, but the new coverage is fluffy and sensationalist for a broadsheet.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:23 AM
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Laymen and laywomen. (Across my big brass bed.)

We regret the error.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:23 AM
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The Guardian, IIRC, is supported by a foundation and does not have shareholders nor big-time advertisers to appease. I am not aware of any US newspaper on that model (the CS Monitor is supported by the church, but not entirely, and the Washington Times is in its own universe). Although if ProPublica takes off it might be vaguely similar:

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that will produce investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work will focus exclusively on truly important stories, stories with "moral force." We will do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
[Why?] Investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations have increasingly come to see it as a luxury. Today's investigative reporters lack resources: Time and budget constraints are curbing the ability of journalists not specifically designated "investigative" to do this kind of reporting in addition to their regular beats. This is therefore a moment when new models are necessary to carry forward some of the great work of journalism in the public interest that is such an integral part of self-government, and thus an important bulwark of our democracy.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:23 AM
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Is the Guardian's reputation for being wrong all the time part of a right-wing campaign to discredit it?

I wasn't aware it had a reputation for being wrong all the time, as opposed to making a lot of spelling mistakes. Perhaps if you read right-wing discredit campaign blogs you might get a different impression.

The spelling thing goes back to when it was still based in Manchester, not London, and the first southern editions had to catch a particular mail train. The timetable prevented that particular edition from going through final proof reading, hence the Grauniad meme. It's also because for many years they were the only newspaper that published regular corrections.

However, I think you can still find an article of theirs on the Web that refers to Ronald Barthes.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:25 AM
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Some Florida newpaper was recently turned over to an foundation. There's been some pundit chatter about that being the longterm future of newspapers, after they become too unprofitable.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:27 AM
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||

Looks like I'm going to be in Philly Sun., March 18. Anyone up for a meet-up? I don't know who's there other than Witt.

|>


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:28 AM
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Is the Guardian's reputation for being wrong all the time part of a right-wing campaign to discredit it?

The Guardian doesn't have any such reputation.

I'm also amused at how notoriously 'left' the Guardian is presented as in US blogs. It's basically a moderate liberal/centrist paper.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:30 AM
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I don't want to hijack the thread about it.

I do!

can only be a win for consumers.

Could be neutral for consumers as far as direct price, though this is unlikely. But climate change is a cost to consumers (and everyone else), policies designed to increase carbon emissions and maybe or maybe not help consumers aren't a win for consumers.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:31 AM
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Sir Kraab, you're planning a meetup for 2009?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:32 AM
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Following up on Sir Kraab's 89, this might help if you don't know the tune. Throw open your windows and sing out!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:32 AM
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is that Billy Bragg? I like it better in French.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:33 AM
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I'm also amused at how notoriously 'left' the Guardian is presented as in US blogs. It's basically a moderate liberal/centrist paper.

I wouldn't put left in quotes there. One reason being that it's far more left-wing than any of the thousand or so US daily papers.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:35 AM
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Communist.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:35 AM
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108 to 106. Curse you, Ardent reader.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:36 AM
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also, the 2006 Law Day Proclamation is still the trolliest.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:39 AM
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Who knows when they even picked up on the story?

Greenwald knows. The answer is: 2003.

There was some new stuff in the current story, but the nut of the story was old news.

I just don't see any evidence that public pressure played any role in their running it.

That's not what I meant. My theory is that public pressure - or the perception of it - played a role in their not playing it up big when they first realized it was going on, and not pursuing it further. When the pressure eases up, the big cheeses feel more comfortable giving the green light to stories like this, and are more willing to give them the prominence they deserve.

As far as progress goes, I have yet to see anything on the level of the Times' publishing the Pentagon Papers or the Washington Post's Watergate coverage.

We certainly agree.

Purely ex recto, I see the Downing Street memo (for example) getting different play if it had been revealed today. But I realize that I'm begging the question here, and I'm just conveying a feeling that I have about this.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:40 AM
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100: St. Petersburg Times, owned by the Poynter Foundation.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:40 AM
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But if you follow closely -- including the order in which proposals are introduced -- you can see that Hillary is both a somewhat better wonk and is less impressed by mainstream economics.

I'm not sure that's true--I haven't made a timeline of such events--but, accepting it as true, I would think that the obvious alternate explanation is that she's behind and expected to lose. She needs to headhunt more. IIRC, Edwards and Richardson were both more forthright in certain areas than either HRC or Obama. Both trailed from the outset. I don't think the two facts are unrelated.

Not meant as a thread jack. I think Emerson's wrong about the media. I think it responds pretty directly to consumers. Various media outlets just misjudged their consumers--witness TNR--and are now cautiously trying to rectify the problems this created.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:40 AM
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104: Oops. May 18. Why are there so many confusing "M" months?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:41 AM
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Why are there so many confusing "M" months?

It's Manuary that always throws me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:44 AM
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115: Manuary is my favorite month. It's raining men, hallelujah, indeed.


Posted by: SomeCalMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:46 AM
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The hell with Law Day, I only learned recently that May 1 is also "Loyalty Day". It became an official "holiday" in 1958, but has been around since 1921 when it started as Americanization Day, to explicitly counter Labor Day and May Day.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:46 AM
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So Tim, in what mainstream daily or TV station can I find Washington coverage that doesn't make me want to bash my head against the wall? You can argue I'm idiosyncratic, except I know a very large # of people who have precisely the same complaints as I do & have made them loudly & repeatedly to no effect.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:47 AM
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is that Billy Bragg? I like it better in French.

No, that's one of the British versions. Bragg's is:

Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Dont cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all
Chorus:
So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The internationale
Unites the world in song
So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Other verses.

I love Bragg and I like a lot about this version, but "Unites the world in song"? Comrade, please.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:47 AM
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It's Manuary that always throws me.

Not to mention Manmember.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:49 AM
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but "Unites the world in song"? Comrade, please.

What do you have against singing? Fascist. Next thing, you'll be confiscating my giant puppets.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:51 AM
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TNR shouldn't be in the data pool. They've always been a money-loser, and they're not major media.

When the Post or the Times responds to pressure, what's the pressure they're responding to? It's not the number of messages or the number of individuals protesting, because the big media are much less responsive to social conservatives than they are to hawks and anti-tax leaders. I think that "public pressure" is dominated by big time people advertisers and finance people using back channels.

At least today no one is saying any more that the problem is a bunch of silly, shallow Heather types who just happened to be hired to do political reporting, and who for some mysterious reason can't be fired.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 10:54 AM
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As mentioned upthread, no TV stations have followed up on the NY Times' Generals story. But then you would not expect them to would you? What could they say? The story cuts right to the heart of their ethically compromised mode of operation, you can't really do these "We are total douchebags" stories unless you committ that you will change. But this does serve to illustrate why there needs to be some kind of "opposition" media outlet (ideological, partisan whatever). Some TV outlet that was the equivalent of Knight-Ridder during the run-up, that did not use propaganda generals, that pointed out the utter BS would be all over this (and more to the point all over it in 2003), and they would be all over it not just for ideological reasons, but because it would make commercial sense. I mean today these guys hardly even "compete" with each other on those grounds, Olbermann is a minor breath of fresh air, because he at least gets that it works to attack the credibility of your competitors. Most in the media just get each other's back, Arianna will be lucky to not get blacklisted totally, as the TV stations show solidarity for the awesomeness of Tim Russert being nothing more than a talking point tool of the administration and the right.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:01 AM
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The problem with Fox is that they lie, not that they're biased.

The problem isn't even particularly that they are biased. The problem is that they really are not a news organization, but they are pretty successful at pretending they are.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:02 AM
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Could be neutral for consumers as far as direct price, though this is unlikely.

Huh? Realistically, cutting a tax can only reduce prices or keep them the same, it cannot increase them. Personally, I think it will be a near-wash, certainly less than a ten cent per gallon price cut for consumers.

But climate change is a cost to consumers (and everyone else), policies designed to increase carbon emissions and maybe or maybe not help consumers aren't a win for consumers.

Agreed. But gas tax cut or no, gas prices this summer will already be between two and a half and three times what they were five years ago. That is more than enough to trigger massive long-run conservation measures. A temporary couple of cents lower is going to have effectively no impact.

The whole thing is political. Temporarily replacing the gas tax with a tax on oil company profits takes the issue off the table for McCain, makes the oil companies and not government the villain, and creates no loss in government revenues.

I'm not saying its a better move than doing the "irresponsible" thing head-on, just that I get it and as a temporary thing it's fine. A permanent replacement of the gas tax with oil profits tax (as opposed to a temporary suspension) would be bad, since it would cut off a potential funding source for green tech investment. If you think this might open the door to that, you should oppose it.

Last I'll say of it, just defending Hillary as usual. Actually, both Obama's and Hillary's positions here make sense politically within their frame -- she's the defender of the regular guy in his pickup truck, he's the responsible, honest, arbiter of the new politics, etc. The actual issue is quite minor, as most of their stated policy differences are.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:02 AM
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plus, magazines do have recognized ideological views & are less likely to invoke Mark Halperin's Code of Journalistic Ethics that requires him to act like a moron in response to reader complaints.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:02 AM
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daily or TV station

I don't think there is a market for an intelligent daily or for intelligent TV coverage. Intelligent monthlies exist; as dailies collapse, maybe a decent new weekly will appear, or an existing specialist weekly will generalize.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:02 AM
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You can argue I'm idiosyncratic, except I know a very large # of people who have precisely the same complaints as I do & have made them loudly & repeatedly to no effect.

Liberals think they are being loud when they write polite letters to the editor. Conservatives pick up the phone and make hapless editors spend an hour justifying their behavior. Then they organize boycotts that actually work. Then they use their institutional media to apply further pressure.

They do this persistently, over a period of decades - all the while being publicly ridiculed by the journalists themselves. But the conservatives get what they ask for - and when they get it, they say they haven't gotten anything at all, and they demand more.

As I say, though, this is changing. Emerson's dead-on summary of Halperin in 95.3 is actually a sign of progress - Halperin is finally taking the liberals seriously enough to condescend to them. That's more of a hearing than liberals (at least the younger ones) are accustomed to.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:02 AM
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You can argue I'm idiosyncratic, except I know a very large # of people who have precisely the same complaints as I do & have made them loudly & repeatedly to no effect.

I'm not sure of your specific complaints, but I suspect the explanation is a combination of your idiosyncratic perspective, bureaucracy and what amounts to tenure at these places, and that the large # of people, etc., remain a small percentage of the readership. One of the reasons I like the TNR example is that its readership is small enough and narrow enough that you can see the dramatic effects of readership misjudgment play out in dramatic fashion.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:03 AM
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The problem with that defense is that the gas tax "holiday" might actually pass & the "windfall profits" thing certainly won't. Well, that, and Clinton's consistently low opinion of the electorate that leads to crucial bad votes as well as relatively minor ones.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:05 AM
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110: also, the 2006 Law Day Proclamation is still the trolliest.

Sweet Jebus. I wonder if the staffer who snuck that through was summarily executed when somebody finally read the press release.


Posted by: fedward | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:05 AM
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Could be neutral for consumers as far as direct price, though this is unlikely.

Huh? Realistically, cutting a tax can only reduce prices or keep them the same, it cannot increase them. Personally, I think it will be a near-wash, certainly less than a ten cent per gallon price cut for consumers.

These two statements are the same, excepting your introductory interrogative.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:06 AM
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I think that "public pressure" is dominated by big time people advertisers and finance people using back channels.

I think that there's a certain truth to that, though I think it's less conspiratorial than (I think) you make it sound. People trust other people that they've learned to trust. In the absence of big, dramatic events to account for--losing a quarter of readership while competitors prosper--people get guided by friends.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:07 AM
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There is some good news out there. The Fox News market share continues to erode.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:07 AM
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"This is a peculiarity of the UK media market though which might not translate; we buy one hell of a lot of newspapers per capita. This is probably because we have the best newspapers in the world and it's not impossible that US newspaper reading habits would change if someone started a paper that wasn't so fucking *dull*, but maybe not. "

Absolutely. I'm not suggesting that the US press can or should become a replica of the UK version. The simple fact that lots of people in the UK commute to work on public transport makes them very different markets, but there are big cultural differences in media consumption as well. The most obvious one is that in the UK Saturday editions of papers are huge and well read, whereas in the US Friday is infamously the day to bury bad news. My point is more that the great fear of ideological newspapers is bizarrely misplaced if you look at how things work internationally, but that there are also definite problems that would need to be addressed. Clearly nobody wants the US press to look like the British tabloids, although I'd argue that even the Mail isn't as bad as Fox.

"The Times of London went downhill after Murdoch bought it."

Aargh. There is no such thing as the "Times of London". There's the Times. Or if you insist on differentiating it from the NYT, call it the UK's Times. it's a national newspaper, not a local.

"John, why is it that there ideologically left-wing papers in the UK? Those must be owned by plutocrats like all the rest, right? Is the existence of a left-wing readership really enough to make it worth publishing a paper for those people, given that doing so would be anti-plutocrat?"

There aren't really any seriously left wing newspapers, outside the Morning Star (the British communist party's house paper). The Grauniad is fairly lefty, but only in a wishy washy liberal way (especially under Rusbridger). It was nominally in favour of the Iraq war before the invasion, although it did better than most in covering evidence and arguments against it. As pointed out above, the Graun doesn't have shareholders, and is subsidised by the Guardian Media Group's other interests (they sold a big chunk of Auto Trader recently, and they own lots of radio stations).

The Mirror used to be and still is to a certain extent a house organ for the Labour party, so when Labour went right, so did the Mirror. It did however oppose the war. Thanks to the antics of former editor Piers Morgan and cost cutting by owners Trinity Mirror, it's a shadow of its former self.

The Indy is the most conventionally lefty paper, and it's struggling badly (it's the least read of the major papers other than the specialist Financial Times) and is probably seen as a vanity/influence project by O'Reilly.

On the reputation for mistakes, Alex at 99 is right. The former reader's editor, Ian Mayes, put the ombudsmen of the NYT and the WaPo to shame. Indeed, he used to be president of the Organisation of News Ombudsmen.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:11 AM
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The conservatives got a response because they created competing media outlets & people dropped their subscriptions. It's hard to organize a boycott that works when you don't have a better alternative--and we don't, yet; there's very little reporting on blogs & liberals consider actual reporting more of a priority than conservatives seem to. To be an effective alternative, we need a daily that does actual reporting.

A lot of these outlets that are supposedly giving the readers what they want in fact don't make money & have lousy ratings. The main financial problem isn't that there's such insatiable demand for current political reporting; it's that funding real reporting is more expensive.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:13 AM
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I would just like to say that none of this commentary is in the spirit of Loyalty Day, and Loyalty Day is the Law (Public Law 85-529).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:14 AM
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Tim, drop the TNR. TNR is a vanity publication. The only reason they're responding to the circulation drop at all is that superstud Peretz went through most of his wife's great grandfather's cash.

You really are inveterate. You're out of school, right? Regardless of what the answer was in the final for your Media class way back then, you can change your mind about it. They're not going to come back and flunk you and take away your degree. What they taught you was wrong.

If you guys (Tim and PF) actually want to got out and organize boycotts and phone-ins, go ahead. But after about five years of pretty active work of this kind by Media Matters, Atrios, Kos, and others, there's been very little response and insignificant improvement in the big media. There's something else going on.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:15 AM
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On the gas tax, what Katherine said in 130. Also look at the NYT editorial and Krugman's opinion. HRC's proposal is pandering, and it's bullshit.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:16 AM
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136: I think that's right. And maybe the thing to expect is better reporting in longer form weekly or monthly forums.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:17 AM
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I agree that creating a newspaper and TV network would be the best use of left investment. The big financial investment on the part of the left has been beefing up the thinktank end by creating the Center for American Progress:

www.americanprogress.org

They do good work, but I don't know how much press penetration they've made. A big problem on the left has been that the left does not show uniform message discipline like the right does. As one can see on left blogs all the time, liberalism has some tendency to attract anti-authoritarian personalities who like to disagree. Full of splitters, etc.

The question is making the new media outlet work -- Air America was not too encouraging. I wonder if there's somebody out there (Soros?) who could buy an existing network, start with that as a platform, and take it gradually left. It would actually be great to buy something like USA Today and make it liberal populist.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:20 AM
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Why, Tim? We have pretty good weeklies & monthlies already. We have dailies & TV networks that by and large give us zero decent Washington coverage, have generally poor news judgment, bury the most important news stories out of fear of liberal bias, are creduluous & militaristic, etc. etc. etc. To improve, they need competition. The New Yorker & the National aren't in direct competition with the dailies or the TV news. I would pay to subscribe to a daily that provided this & there are some very rich liberals whose political priorities it would serve better than some of their current projects.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:22 AM
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The Nation, that is.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:26 AM
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But Katherine, The number of people who would, and/or do, subscribe to a daily of any sort is cratering fast. Most people like you would rather leave physical newspapers altogether and subscribe to a website. Possibly one that used to be a newspaper. Or owned by a magazine. Or both.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:29 AM
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The problem with that defense is that the gas tax "holiday" might actually pass & the "windfall profits" thing certainly won't.

No. This will not happen. Unlikely that either will pass, actually, but the profits tax has if anything more support. Hill already said she would not support one without the other.

of course the gas tax is pandering. Much of politics is pandering, all politicians do it and all "responsible" media outlets huff about it. Linking the gas tax cut to the oil company tax rise neatly makes the pander cost-free.

Krugman agrees with me completely on the substance, BTW, except finds himself "disappointed" at the end:

The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it's pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

Add: Just to be clear: I don't regard this as a major issue. It's a one-time thing, not a matter of principle, especially because everyone knows the gas-tax holiday isn't actually going to happen.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:30 AM
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Another interesting comparison between the UK and the US is that political magazines in the US are far better and more varied than in the UK. My pet theory is that this is a direct result of the relative quality and diversity of political reporting in the newspapers, but I could be wrong. The UK basically has Propsect, the New Statesman, the Spectator and the London Review of Books. The Speccy and the NS are rubbish, while the political writing in the LRB is a) predictable, and b) nowhere near as good as the NYRB. Prospect is OK, but it's certainly not a must read. There's nothing equivalent to Harper's or the New Yorker publishing in-depth investigative reporting on a regular basis. I find the tone of the New Yorker a bit obnoxious and parochial, but there's always at least one feature that's essential. And Harper's is just a brilliant read.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:32 AM
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There's something else going on.

The most compelling explanation I've seen is Jay Rosen's extended explanation of how important it is to newspeople's self-image that they be "fair." If you are socially liberal to start with, you're going to bend over backwards to be fair -- and react very powerfully to accusations that you are not.

Witness all of the articles about that creation museum in Kentucky.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:34 AM
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the political writing in the LRB is a) predictable, and b) nowhere near as good as the NYRB.

See, I would reverse "LRB" and "NYRB" in this sentence. Maybe we just detect predictability more in what we are more familiar with.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:34 AM
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I would pay to subscribe to a daily that provided this

I'm not sure that many other people would, though. The Nation appears to have a little under 1/5 the circulation of the NYT (or, if counting number of times an eyeball sees the print per week, maybe 1/35). It seems believable to me that 1/5 (or 1/35) is a pretty reasonable (and maybe an upper bound) of people with your specific concerns. I'm not sure how much DC coverage matters to most people (even though, apparently, 1/2 the NYT readers are outside of NYC).


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:34 AM
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And last night Hillary went for a cozy chat with Bill O'Reilly.

It's even worse for Clinton. The number one priority for O'Reilly is to applaud his own magnificence. The boundaries of his ego are approaching a state that is becoming an imminent danger to Earth's orbit. The number two priority for O'Reilly is to bash Democrats. In pursuit of that he will have an ally in Sen. Clinton. She is likely to use this opportunity to assail Obama on tangents like Rev. Wright. And if she doesn't volunteer to do so, O'Reilly will provide her with the opening. O'Reilly's obsession with Wright is a near fetish. He has featured the ex-pastor in 19 of his 26 Talking Points Memos since the story broke last month.

Clinton's friendliness with right-wing media is nothing new, of course. She attended a fundraiser thrown for her by Rupert Murdoch, then was endorsed by his New York Post. She sat down with Richard Mellon Scaife, who had accused her of murder when she was still First Lady, then was endorsed by his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Her campaign's General Chairman, Terry McAuliffe, appears in Fox News promos lauding their fairness and balance. And now she will sit across the table from the 21st century's Father Coughlin.

And did they talk about Jeremiah Wright? Well of course they did.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:35 AM
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Fair enough about the Times, Ginger Yellow. I really loathe Piers Morgan. I used to see him on Question Time. Now he's a judge on the absolutely horrendous show, America's Got Talent.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:37 AM
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I love the idea of the Groan as this flaming radical rag. By and large they're generally pro-Brown, and when they deviate from this it's to cuddle up to the explicitly centrist Liberals. True, the editor of their opinion pages is an ex-Party member, but he's an idiot, and their opinion pages are generally regarded as an embarrassment. Plus they print stuff by right wingers all the time.


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:37 AM
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I'm not anti-pandering in principle, but almost all of the ways Hillary has tried to set herself off from Obama have been obnoxious, and many have been flatly Republican. She's damaging both Obama and herself.

The Obama endorsement by Joe Andrew, who switched from Clinton, looks like the beginning of the end. Andrew isn't famous and won't swing votes, even though he's from Indiana, but he's an insider who was supposed to be in Clinton's pocket. I think that he was trying to give her a message that she can't win and that she shouldn't hurt herself any worse than she has already. McCaskill said the other day that the Obama superdelegate situation is very, very good now, though she could be bluffing.

And Andrew switched after the worst of the Wright business.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:37 AM
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150: Samantha Power was right.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:39 AM
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The Guardian is, however, a home for a lot of very leftwing people indeed (as in, communists and Trotskyists). On the other hand, its sister the Observer is a home for former Trots who have become rather rightwing. And it was the Observer that supported the war.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:40 AM
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Katherine, this might be the closest you will get (McClatchy Washington Bureau homepage, JRoth had posted it here a while back as well.). KR already watered down a bit after the purchase, but it still is a bit better than others, but as John pointed out above, the financials have not been good. Could McClatchy start up an east coast corridor daily that would work? Don't really think so, given the toughness of the overall market.

It is very frustrating when you see the mainstreaming of utterly batshit insane things like the WSJ Editorials (especially during "Watergate", the 9-11 truthers have nothing on the WSJ) and the Moonie Times (how does Broder et al explain that one away, oh they don't have to because no one who matters them ever asks).

Whine harder Unfoggedetarians! Use bigger words!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:41 AM
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Samantha Power was right.

Yes, she was. Hillary Clinton is a blight on the Party, with all the team spirit of Joe Lieberman.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:41 AM
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You standing for anything today, Alex?


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:42 AM
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The financial won't be good as far as "profitable newspaper"; they might be good as far as "bang for your buck if you're funding liberal causes."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:44 AM
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148: Witt, I think that that explanation is wrong because it credits the visible flunkies with policy-making based on their own thoughts. A small factor at best. Counterintuitivism is a form of submission and is not fairness-oriented -- they weren't fair to Gore, for example.

What I meant be "more than that" meant "something behind the scenes and higher up the ladder".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:44 AM
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The financial won't be good as far as "profitable newspaper"; they might be good as far as "bang for your buck if you're funding liberal causes."

Depends how expensive a pet project it is, I think. Didn't Air America start out with similar motivations?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:47 AM
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Loyalty Day?

Turn it into a parking lot dogpark.
(My nod to global warming)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:48 AM
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159: Agree, For instance the Wash Times bleeds money, but Moon sems to look at the bigger picture. The actual sources of his money are pretty goddamn dubious, another question that hardly gets asked, Where does Moon get his money? Folks like Robert Parry are all over it, but have something of a credibility problem. But when you compare level of scrutiny of Soros vs. Moon finances in the mainstream media ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:51 AM
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Look at how much money's gone to the primaries. However much it costs, it's better than paying market rates for tv ads about specific candidates.

Establishing the Nation as an upper bound is arbitrary nonsense. I don't subscribe to the Nation or the Times; I've never listened to Air America because most liberals don't like talk radio at all; I'd pay for this. And the circulation #s wouldn't be the whole story re: influence--news coverage is determined mainly by what other news outlets are covering; actual reporting in one news outlet gets picked up in others. Fox influences coverage for the worst even if you never ever watch it; a liberal outlet would do the same.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:52 AM
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except, influence for the better instead of for worse, obviously.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:53 AM
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but "Unites the world in song"? Comrade, please.

i find the Russian version really bold and inspiring, no wonder that it happened there then
"Eto est' nash poslednii i reshitel'nui boi
S Internatsionalom vospryanet rod lyudskoi"
'This is our last and deciding fight
With International humankind will rise' (tr. mine)
May day! it used to be a holiday and it's my sister's birthday


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:54 AM
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Yeah, councillor for Egham Hythe. Only had effectively 2 weeks' notice, no literature, bugger all help. But knocked on 150 doors of 394. Runningmate did another 80-90, so we visited a majority of the ward in four days.

Doomed, naturally, but you've got to try.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:55 AM
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Um, I'd guess that would be true blue, and not in the Mrs Crewe sense, am I right?


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:58 AM
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Establishing the Nation as an upper bound is arbitrary nonsense.

I'm not sure what measure of willing-to-pay readers that you're proposing that isn't more arbitrary.

And the circulation #s wouldn't be the whole story re: influence--news coverage is determined mainly by what other news outlets are covering;

This, it seems to me, is an argument for the importance of TNR or Tapped or TPM. Maybe it's already happening, just more slowly than you'd like


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:58 AM
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I hate this. Air America was a partial success. The thing about these media projects isn't that they're easy to do or that they will make money. It's that without them we're fighting a terrible uphill battle.

People, Bush's approval ratings are 20-30%, but we're running a real risk of electing Bush IV. The media has a lot to do with that. Obama is getting the Gore treatment, and McCain is getting the Bush treatment.

If Air America wasn't successful, the lessons are 1.) we're fucked and 2.) we have to make it work. Not "Haha, Air America losers! You thought that would work, and it didn't! Certainly no one will be as stupid as you were in the future!"

In short, getting better media isn't an optional activity to ponder and critique and contemplate and be tough-minded about. It's a desperate need. We've been talking about the high end media so far, but people who depend on free media get about 70-90% rightwing input, and a big chunk of that is hard right Glenn Beck Michael Savage stuff.

It's a pity AA didn't get more support. I'm glad they've done as well as they have.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:59 AM
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"See, I would reverse "LRB" and "NYRB" in this sentence. Maybe we just detect predictability more in what we are more familiar with."

Really? The only regular LRB political writers I find worth the effort are Timothy Garton Ash (who is excellent, but is also in the NYRB a lot) and Ian Buruma (less good and also in the NYRB). I like the LRB's coverage of literature, but the NYRB is far better for politics and non-fiction. And I have to say I'm probably more familiar with the intricacies of US politics than UK politics, being a blog junkie.

The Observer has been unreadable for a long time. Hiring and promoting David Aaronovitch was the last straw, but it's not just the politics. Alton took the paper down a hideous celebrity/human interest route and stripped it of real news. The fiasco over that unpublished MMR-autism study really made it clear how far their standards have fallen. To be honest, though, the Sunday papers are all rubbish.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:05 PM
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141: Air America was not too encouraging.

161: Didn't Air America start out with similar motivations?

What's the beef with Air America? I listen to them all the time. They're pretty good.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:07 PM
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The magazines just don't do all that much reporting & it's on a different timeline with limited influence on the news cycle. The really big investigative pieces sometimes break through, but that's it. Outfits that run daily pay more attention to other outfits that run daily. "the 24 hour news cycle" & all that. You're very forceful at arguing for the suck-ass soul-killing status quo for no apparent reason though.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:09 PM
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I like Democracy Now. Is that AA?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:10 PM
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163: And nw I'm pissed at myself, for feeling the need to give the credibility caveat in association with Robert Parry, sure he overreaches at times, but he certainly suffers no overall truth deficit compared to his counterparts in the mainstream press. We really are all bozos on this bus (or at least I am).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:12 PM
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You're very forceful at arguing for the suck-ass soul-killing status quo for no apparent reason though.

I'm not really sure what to do with that, as I've tried to be pretty un-forceful. I think big things--large daily newspapers with large staffs and long cultures--are really hard to change dramatically in some sort of motivated way. But if all we have to do is just believe, let's go for it. Gawd knows it has worked out well for the Administration in Iraq.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:19 PM
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Democracy Now is older. It's an independent show that gets picked up by various stations; it's not a network.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:19 PM
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"But if all we have to do is just believe, let's go for it. Gawd knows it has worked out well for the Administration in Iraq."

That's fucking pathetic. Well, I have to go now anyway.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:21 PM
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Folks like Robert Parry are all over it, but have something of a credibility problem

Because of what?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:21 PM
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179: See my retraction in 175.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:24 PM
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¦¦
Rotate this!
¦>


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:24 PM
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That's fucking pathetic.

No, it's tit-for-tat rude. The explanation--pathetic or not, your call--is in sentence before it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:24 PM
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"I think big things--large daily newspapers with large staffs and long cultures--are really hard to change dramatically in some sort of motivated way"

Yes, they are, so it's really not very helpful to have people explain why a perfectly reasonable attempt to try cannot possibly work & advocating for it is comparable to supporting the Iraq invasion. Jesus F. Christ.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:28 PM
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But after about five years of pretty active work of this kind by Media Matters, Atrios, Kos, and others, there's been very little response and insignificant improvement in the big media.

You're right that this is just the sort of thing that I'm talking about. I respectfully disagree that they've been ineffectual, and I can think of lots of middlin' significant things they (meaning liberal complainers) have accomplished.

To pick an example: The US coverage of the Downing Street Memo was disgraceful, but the fact that such coverage existed at all was a function of liberal pressure.

But really, five years just isn't very long for this sort of project to matter. Opponents of good journalism spent decades working against it, and there's a reasonable case to be made that they peaked (nadir-ed?) in about 2005.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:37 PM
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Come on people. Comity is ours.

C'est la lutte finale:
Groupons-nous, et demain,
L'Internationale
Sera le genre humain.
C'est la lutte finale:
Groupons-nous, et demain,
L'Internationale
Sera le genre humain!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:37 PM
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Awesome, OFE.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:43 PM
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not very helpful to have people explain why a perfectly reasonable attempt to try cannot possibly work

Because I don't think it will work for a variety of reasons. As I said above, I tried to stay away from the "cannot possibly" tone.

advocating for it is comparable to supporting the Iraq invasion

It's not. As I said above, I was being rude.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:43 PM
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Um, I'd guess that would be true blue, and not in the Mrs Crewe sense, am I right?

No, more in a sort of working class blonde ambition sense. It has BNP parasites rather than UKIP ones. So there's hope.

Of course, Roger Alton was also the guy who delivered the Observer as the leading cheerleader for war.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:48 PM
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It's not. As I said above, I was being rude.

Huh. On re-reading, I see that this is true, but I first reading I totally missed the irony in this:

Gawd knows it has worked out well for the Administration in Iraq.

I think the administration's Iraq policy was stunningly effective for years in accomplishing their goals. The first meaningful Iraq defeat suffered by Bush & Co. was in the 2006 Congressional elections - and that was such a severe defeat that it led to an Iraq policy of ... escalation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:55 PM
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Well, good luck.


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:55 PM
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re: 167

Which party? Out of curiosity?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:56 PM
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I think big things--large daily newspapers with large staffs and long cultures--are really hard to change dramatically in some sort of motivated way.

Not if you're the boss in the private sector. Any boss of any media outlet could change the operation in about two weeks if he wanted to. Announce a shakeup, fire 10% of the staff, hire 10% new people, give warnings to a bunch of people, and make the reasons for the shakeup reasonably but not totally clear. It would be better to stretch things out over several months, of course.

The hard thing to change is the boss's mind. Generally, present management likes things the way they are. That's why things are the way they are.That's been my point.

And because I understand the bosses that way, I am not proposing attempts at pressure and reform, but new media. And yes, I know it's a long shot. We're probably doomed, but I'm telling people what I think we need.

Tim, you sound like a monk chanting scripture he can't understand. Government 404 ruined you for life, apparently.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:57 PM
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176, 178: Tim, you are the Doug Feith of the Unfoggetariat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 12:59 PM
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181: OFE, that's just marvellous - and it really highlights a cultural difference with the U.S.

Faced with this situation, there is no way a U.S. spokesperson would say this:

it is not inappropriate to an organisation that's looking to have a firm grip on Government spend."

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:00 PM
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For whatever it's worth, the liberal European newspapers I like (one French, one Czech) have aristocrats with inherited wealth as plurality or majority owners.

The point that having a good left-leaning daily would be helpful is a good one; does comedy count? Between the Onion, Colbert, and the Daily Show, there's a lot of coverage. Subsidising seed stories for these existing distribution channels would be cheaper than trying to get more listeners for Amy Goodman. (I like her a lot when she can do a story about how something really works, eg Saudi embassy or lobbyist money).


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:00 PM
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191: National Front, of course.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:01 PM
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re: 195

Which Czech paper is the liberal one? My Czech newspaper reading has been limited to scanning the front page of DNES and failing to understand anything much.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:04 PM
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As I've said here and there before, we're presently in Czarist censorship mode. The truth is out there, but it's either written in code or published in small-circulation magazines, Pacifica radio, etc. The cultural elite knows what's going on, but the people running the show control the mass media and they can afford ignore the elite. (In our present discourse, knowing what's going on is privilege and snobbery.

Think about that next time you read the loathsome, depicable David Brooks. "Latte-sipping, tassel-loafered elitists who read little niche luxury magazines that arrogantly tell people what's actually happening -- things that real Americans are not allowed to know!"

In the Czarist world writers learned to use "Aesopian" language. The truth is told in code, so that the elect knows what's happening but the commoners only get a version of the official story. Journalists will actually defend themselves that way -- "I can't actually come out and say that what Bush is saying is false, but I can give people enough information to conclude it he is. "


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:10 PM
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198: Amen.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:16 PM
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||

DC Madam dead from 'suicide'.

|>


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:16 PM
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I thought Hillary did a good job on O'Reilly. Obama also did a good job in his Chris Wallace interview on Fox last weekend. Wallace is just a more polite and less obviously prickish (therefore more dangerous) version of O'Reilly.

Fortunately both of them are smart enough to try to appeal to the voters who are going to elect them, even voters on the right. 70 percent of the American people hate George Bush. The generic Democratic vote is up toward 60 percent. There are a whole lot of traditional Republican voters out there to be convinced.

I guarantee you that we'll see the Democratic nominee -- whether it's Obama or Hillary -- doing interviews on Fox News again.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:31 PM
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"The point that having a good left-leaning daily would be helpful is a good one; does comedy count? Between the Onion, Colbert, and the Daily Show, there's a lot of coverage. "

True, but they have much less influence on the mainstream media discourse than, say, the Drudge Report. They probably have less influence than Talking Points Memo.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:34 PM
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Hillary did a good job on O'Reilly

If the goal was to collude with Bill O'Reilly in spreading barely disguised racist memes in an attempt to stem her losses, then yes, she did a smash-up job.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:37 PM
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Respekt, comes out weekly, it got glossy covers about a year ago. Access to PDF archives costs a buck for weeklong access. Some stories get English translations. Majority owner is Schwarzenberg.
iDNES is OK for basic news when there is any, but never does background.

I agree that we're in censorship mode (only fools can speak the truth), but I do not think that it comes from advertisers for coverage of most stories. If there was a market for honest news (which would be depressing and require attentive reading), alternatives to the current crop of disappointing owners would appear. This has happened in weeklies but not in dailies or TV, comedy excepted. If the censorship were top-down, Utne Reader's editorial offices would be getting regular safety inspections, advertisers would be limited to Dr Bronner's soap, and topical comedy would be discouraged. I doubt that saying this again will do much to convince JE, so I'll leave him the last word without animus.

One way to move forward would be for liberals to find a simple narrative different from "the rich hate you and are treating you badly," which only a bitter loser could love, regardless of its truth value.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:37 PM
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It wasn't a good idea for Obama to go on Fox. It's a very limited audience, not nearly beneficial enough to offset the chance of a gotcha going viral. Hilarious when Hilliary told Orally that she would take on OPEC, though.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:40 PM
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The Czarist censorship regime is management-organized, so it isn't really a censorship regime at all. But the consequence is similar.

As far as market goes, it can explain the fluffiness and thinness of infotainment. But I really doubt that the Times's pre-Iraq coverage was inaccurate and slanted because the public demanded inaccuracy and slant. Keith Olberman has shown that liberal / Democratic fluff news is possible and has a market.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:44 PM
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One way to move forward would be for liberals to find a simple narrative different from "the rich hate you and are treating you badly,"

How about "the rich are delicious wrapped in bacon and lightly sautéed"?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:50 PM
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Having a prime-time lineup that tilts ever more demonstrably to the left could be risky for General Electric, MSNBC's parent company, which is subject to legislation and regulation far afield of the cable landscape. Officials at MSNBC emphasize that they never set out to create a liberal version of Fox News.

"It happened naturally," Phil Griffin, a senior vice president of NBC News who is the executive in charge of MSNBC, said Friday, referring specifically to the channel's passion and point of view from 7 to 10 p.m. "There isn't a dogma we're putting through. There is a 'Go for it.'"

Note that GE is very hesitant about a successful lineup that doesn't even really tilt left, except for Olbermann (Carlson is right wing, and Matthews and Abrams are nonpartisan centrists -- Matthews in an enormous Hillary-hater).

CNN, by contrast, is very happy with the new winger lineup they recruited, which includes Glenn Beck (who has very poor ratings but is an extremely offensive rightwinger.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:51 PM
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re: 204

Ah, my wife used to read Respekt. That was her paper of choice.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:54 PM
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You are thinking of asparagus. Long pig is nasty, ask a samoan.

Maybe there's an aspirational Oprah-style, "this could be a better country together, with fewer calories, iff no republicans in power" possibility. If given the chance, I'd love to try my hand at writing personality quizzes with this slant. When Soros buys an outlet and is looking for a quiz writer, give me a heads-up.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 1:56 PM
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Why Donahue's show was cancelled from MSNBC even though it was the most popular show on the network:

The study went on to claim that Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war......He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 2:00 PM
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No, more in a sort of working class blonde ambition sense. It has BNP parasites rather than UKIP ones. So there's hope.

Why do you say that, Alex? The BNP always seemed more offensive, because it's openly racist, than UKIP.

I know a staunch Labour person who was considering voting either Conservative or UKIP in the European Parliament elections, because she was so fed up with the EU. (She was in her 80's at the time--98/99 fwiw.)


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 2:00 PM
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possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

Yeah, god forbid a news network hand over one hour out of 24 to a viewpoint held by half the country.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 2:05 PM
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211, 213: Yes, the Donahue incident was one of the most telling moments that illustrated the underlying rot.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 2:21 PM
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Just looking back at #208, the Times story matter-of-factly assumes that the owners of a left-of-center network might reasonably fear federal retaliation. But no one suggests that Fox or any of the right of center stations have anything to worry about, or did when Clinton was in office.

They just take that possibility as given, but if Olberman ever speculated about possible retaliation, he would be treated as a hysterical conspiracy theorist.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 2:24 PM
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212. Yes it is more racist (although UKIP is in fact more racist than is generally understood), but the BNP aims at the working class vote and disguises its fascism in pseudo-socialist rhetoric, whereas UKIP is straight up middle class little Englander. If you want to appeal to working class people who have had enough of NuLab, people who are not hard core racists but susceptible to BNP propaganda are a better bet.


Posted by: OneFatEngishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 2:37 PM
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I voted UKIP once, because in my constituency the Conservative was returned with a majority of 12,000 in the Blair landslide of 1997. So if I wanted to fuck the conservative party up, the best way was to reinforce their belief that they were in danger from their right.

As for the British newspapers: I've worked for the Indie or the Guardian for most of the last twenty years, and written at least one leader for the times and the telegraph as well. Right at the moment, I think the best left wing paper in Britain is the FT. You might call it decent conservative, but it is reliably anti-torture, worried about inequality, and serious about the environment. The Indie is a joke these days. The Guardian is really two quite different papers sold as one: a thoughtful, centrist-to-left broadsheet and a silly consumerist tabloid striking attitudes to the left.

The Telegraph is committing suicide and the Times, outside its opinion pages, is quite worthless.

The great advantage of the FT is that its readership has to make decisions so it values reliable information. Once you are delivering advertising to a readership whose decisions don't matter, as most mass market papers must be, there's no market pressure to keep to the truth.

What is going to be really interesting int he British newspaper market over the next ten years or so is the competition, on the web, for American readers.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 3:17 PM
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The great advantage of the FT is that its readership has to make decisions so it values reliable information.

The same thing has been said about the WSJ, and it's one of the reasons that its business reporting has always been very good.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 3:43 PM
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The Guardian is really two quite different papers sold as one: a thoughtful, centrist-to-left broadsheet and a silly consumerist tabloid striking attitudes to the left.

Yeah, G2 can be pretty silly at times. Some of the Observer monthly 'specials' can be pretty silly, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 3:49 PM
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The same thing has been said about the WSJ, and it's one of the reasons that its business reporting has always been very good.

And that's why I'll be very interested in how people react to the changes since Murdoch took the WSJ over. I already subscribe to the FT instead of the WSJ, but I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of the other analysts making the switch as they realize these changes are happening.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 3:54 PM
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What Nworb said, with the qualification that in my specialist field, the FT often makes bad mistakes. It's still far better in that field than any other broadsheet, though (the Graun has been terrible).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 4:06 PM
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221: Would you mind saying what field? I should probably know if there's any of the stuff I take with a larger than usual grain of salt.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 4:08 PM
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I wonder if that probably holds for most specialist fields and most non-specialist publications.

Or, at least, in more pessimistic moments it seems that way.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 4:35 PM
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But I really doubt that the Times's pre-Iraq coverage was inaccurate and slanted because the public demanded inaccuracy and slant.

I think the NYT was manipulated very effectively in ways that presidents traditionally manipulate the media, but certainly this was possible because the public wasn't demanding something different.

I take 211 to be responsive to your larger point about the media and perceived public pressure - that is to say, I think MSNBC really was motivated primarily by the fear of putting itself in a position of being loathed by a significant portion of the public. Furthermore, I think that fear was accurate and justified (though, obviously, I don't think acting on that fear was justified).

This sort of fear works in an insidious way. It wasn't just newspapers and other media that were sucked in by groupthink, and the primary solution, if there is one, is going to come bottom-up, rather than top-down.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 4:37 PM
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Speaking of publications [total tangent], I've just discovered that octogenarian photographer Sam Haskins has a blog. Which is quite cool for an old bloke.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 4:41 PM
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222: European structured finance


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 4:53 PM
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I think MSNBC really was motivated primarily by the fear of putting itself in a position of being loathed by a significant portion of the public.

But why isn't Fox afraid?

I don't think that it's simply because conservatives are louder and more aggressive, or that there are more of them. For some reason Glenn Beck is safe and Olbermann isn't.

There's really nothing bold or paranoid about saying that the people who control the media are pretty conservative and that it shows up in the way the the media is run and in the product. This is just the commonplace idea that managers of private sector organizations get pretty much what they want.

People talk about the intractability of large organizations and make comparisons with GM's failure to respond to challenges, but I can't see the comparison with The Times. In the first place, Welch's management of ABC and Murdoch's management of Fox were successful, not unsuccessful. Second, I'm absolutely sure that if I owned 51% of the Times stock I could improve the political coverage in a month, and I seriously doubt that the market would destroy the Times after that.

A newspaper is not a large organization the way GM is. (More than two orders of magnitude difference, hundreds of millions vs hundreds of billions.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 5:06 PM
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Fox isn't afraid because they were on the "right" side of these issues. Had they hired Donahue, they would have fired him, too.

But I do absolutely agree that Murdoch is a prime example of your top-down model of media malfeasance. We'll see what happens if Fox comes under the kind of pressure that MSNBC was under, but Murdoch being Murdoch, I agree that he'll be more resistant. He still won't be immune. You'll see changes as Fox ratings drop.

This is really where we disagree:

I don't think that it's simply because conservatives are louder and more aggressive, or that there are more of them.

Well, I don't think it's simply that, but I think that's a very important piece of the puzzle. Graham and Sulzberger changed. They and their families didn't always run the disreputable organizations that they do now. Given your top-down model, what accounts for this change (or do you disagree that a change took place) ?

I'm not particularly enamored of the "large organization" argument - but I may be taking a longer view than both you and Tim. Media culture has changed a lot, in my opinion, over the last 30 years, which I don't consider to be a particularly long time.

But you're missing what's being compared to GM - not "a newspaper" - of which there are still honorable ones - but a media industry that includes print, television, and even a bunch of internet.

And things are changing. It's not a foregone conclusion how this Rev. Wright thing is going to turn out, for instance. As recently as four years ago, there would be no question. (It occurs to me that your dire predictions about the Wright outcome and your belief that little has changed lately in the media are connected beliefs.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 7:45 PM
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At the moment you mentioned the Wright national press club speech had just happened but Obama hadn't responded, I was worried. I hadn't been alarmist before then, and I didn't make any dire predictions -- I said that it might be very serious. I was arguing mostly with Stras, who was saying that he didn't think there was any real problem, because after all Wright was right about everything.

The large organization explanation has been specifically used to explain the Times.

There's been a neocon capture of large areas of the opinion-making elite since I don't know when, but no later than the Clinton administration. (There was a significant change somewhere around 1982-1986, when people figured that Reagan was going to stay).

I don't know why that happened, but the media owners are from about the same social set as the conservative finance people, and in the case of Murdoch and Welch and several others they're exactly the same people. In the media world the Times and the Post are ahead of the rest, but in the finance world they're chickenshit mom n pops. All you'd really need would be for Graham and Sulzberger to flock with their financial peers (and superiors).

I think that Graham is a neocon and Sulzberger is most of the way there. The anti-tax doctrine has become popular with them, too, I think. But in the social areas where you have the loudest claques (abortion, gay marriage) they have been quite a lot less responsive.

I think that war, free trade, deregulation, anti-unionism, and low taxes are the only issues the controlling Republicans take really seriously. I think that Graham and Sulzberger are mostly on board. I guess I'm willing to grant now that Sulzberger still thinks he can play both sides.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 8:07 PM
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It would be interesting to hear dsquared on newspaper management: changing their culture is not as easy as it looks, though god knows it happens often enough.

As for ttaM's problems with specialist subjects -- everyone's problem with newspaper coverage of something they know -- I think the only defence is that it is damn hard to be a good specialist and very few succeed. "Damn hard" becomes "impossible" once the metric of success is the number of words in the paper. Because in the time it takes to check out even one story properly, the work experience kid on the next bench can have rewritten six wire service stories and put together a lifestyle feature. When the Indie was dying in the mid nineties we had a saying: "one phone call is a news story; two is a feature and three make an in-depth investigation".

I am always astonished, overwhelmed, dizzied, by the amount of time and space American journalists can get for stories. Craigslist will finish that, not Murdoch or the RNC.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 1-08 11:57 PM
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As for ttaM's problems with specialist subjects -- everyone's problem with newspaper coverage of something they know -- I think the only defence is that it is damn hard to be a good specialist and very few succeed

Yeah, I think so. I have a friend who always gets annoyed with New Scientist's coverage of mathematics which he thinks tends to get too much wrong. But, in defence of the publication, I can't see how writing about advanced mathematical research for 'lay-people' while simultaneously satisfying people with PhDs in some of the more outré areas of mathematics can be anything other than extremely bloody hard.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 1:03 AM
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Changing the culture of a newspaper is easy - you just change the man at the top. Journalists are typically smart cookies and very quick to work out which way the wind is blowing, and they will write things that they think will get printed, empirically. I am always a fan of the aphorism that the function of an editor is to print as many of the proprietor's views as the advertisers will tolerate. I'll also put my counter down as having a sneaking regard for Rupert Murdoch and enough of a libertarian to not really regard it as a particularly bad sin to tell your editor what to put in a newspaper one owns - god knows if I owned a newspaper one can only imagine the crap I would force the editor to print.

True, the editor of their opinion pages is an ex-Party member, but he's an idiot, and their opinion pages are generally regarded as an embarrassment.

I don't agree that Milne is an idiot or that the Guardian opinion section is an embarrassment. I don't agree with Milne on much politically but he is a good writer and often has a decent point to make (I think there's a real leftwing cultural cringe here by the way; there would be nothing particularly controversial about saying "I don't agree with him on much politically but he is a good writer and often has a decent point to make" about someone like PJ O'Rourke, but to say the same thing about Milne makes me feel like some kind of weirdo. I suspect that what's at work is the tendency in left politics to always regard oneself as the single leftmost point of acceptable opinion).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 1:28 AM
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De gustibus non est disputandum.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 2:07 AM
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The Guardian opinion section is at least sufficiently diverse that, come what may, there will be good stuff in there in the end. Milne seems to operate on the principle of printing any damn thing from chuckleheads like Neil Clark across to random Tories via damn-fool decents like Martin Kettle and Oliver Kamm, with a side-order of silly-arse lifestyle greens; putting crap in the paper because you're deliberately trying to capture variance is considerably better than systematically having the same crap-merchants crapping in the pages over and over again.

Regarding specialists, coverage of anything telecoms-related in the nationals is derisory ("Bobbie" Johnson, tech reporter - my arse), and even The Register compensates for a better median article by occasionally printing absolute and total nonsense. (Orlowski, this means you.)

Meanwhile, you'll be pleased to know the Liberal Democratic candidate for Egham Hythe polled some 191 votes, an advance on last time but not by much. Runnymede Runningmate got 193. Tories scooped the two seats with about 600, Labour got 250. UKIP got a couple. The interesting thing is that a total of seven voters confessed to voting Labour on the doorstep; they're getting the "shy Tory" social taboo thing now.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 3:00 AM
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Nice try. I'd wondered whether you might grab second, so is that Lab 250 across both seats?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 3:04 AM
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Milne is absolutely not an idiot. Nor is he running the comment pages any longer.


As for changing the culture of a newspaper, I think it is harder than dsquared does. It's very easy to change the political line: newspapers are indeed despotisms and very responsive to the editor's whims. Editors, too, are eager to please their bosses, and so it goes on. But the culture of a paper is more than its political line. The habit of writing thoughtful vs sensationalist stories is very much harder to break. It's most unusual that the same journalist can do both. Then there are the innumerable small editing decisions made throughout the day: a newspaper's culture is as much about seeing stories as reporting them, and that takes time. It doesn't just involve individual journalists, but subs, news editors, the people in conference, and so on.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 3:34 AM
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Milne is absolutely not an idiot. Nor is he running the comment pages any longer.

All right, if you say so. But he single handedly drove me to stop buying the thing, and I doubt if I'll start again now.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 3:45 AM
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re: 237

Sometimes the content is a bit infuriating but I still buy it because the best writing in it, when it's good, is better than anything I find in the other papers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 3:55 AM
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when it's good, is better than anything I find in the other papers

True, but this is praising with faint damns. You can find better commentary on line without breaking sweat, not least by Alex, Werdna and dsquared.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 4:02 AM
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re: 239

I'm not really thinking of 'commentary' as such, but more feature articles. Where I think there's very much still a place for 'dead tree' media.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 4:04 AM
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Yes. The Grauniad does give a reasonable amount of space to large-scale investigative features (David Leigh and Rob Evans on BAE, Nick Davies on education spring to mind) and that is the format which marks good journalism, as well as being the hardest to replicate from outside the traditional media. Really, to do that you have to be Spencer Ackerman, which is to say that you need the institutional support of some sort of journal...also, this is pretty crucial to getting other journalists to take the story seriously.

I've lost count of the number of Very Serious Journalists I briefed on the Viktor Bout thing who later conspicuously failed to publish anything or who did but didn't bother crediting.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 4:14 AM
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So is the future of print journalism in (weekly?) magazines which allow themselves some expansiveness, while the news pages migrate on line?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 4:20 AM
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Makes sense to me.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:22 AM
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232: I'm not a newspaper insider, but I have very definite ideas about what I'd do to the NYT, and I think they would work.

1. Fire almost all of the opinion people, regardless of politics, and replace them with fewer, sharper, younger people found on the internet. Getting a reasonable range of opinions would be hard, because the young conservatives (Douthat, McArdle, Goldberg) are so weak. Bush has had the effect on conservativism that Stalin had on The Left. (Newspaper opinion writing has been made obsolete by the blogosphere anyway.)

2. Fire the worst of the political reporters, which is most of them, and hire new ones.

3. Some of the anonymous, faceless editors who put the final version of the paper together are apparently neocon trolls. I'd bring in a new person I trusted, with experience working in this area, and make them the boss with hiring and firing powers.

Newspaperpeople respond to incentives, and malefactors do much less harm once removed from their positions.

As for how the market would take this, I wouldn't turn the Times into a Chomskian mouthpiece. I'd just go left-center with reasonable representation of the right-center and the left and no representation of the hard right, including the neocons.

The Times might go bankrupt under my direction, but it might do that anyway. I do not claim to have a solution for the newspaper industry's financial problems.

I don't really have fantasies of replacing Sulzberger. I'm just responding to the idea that changing the Times would be a difficult task.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:33 AM
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244: What would I expect to happen if I did that?

Conservatives would explode, of course, due to the fact of my being a Commmunist Muslim who wanted to destroy western civilization and turn our middle schools into whorehouses. Journalists would stirringly defend their martyred brothers. (Inevitably I would fire a few nice men with lovely children, and at least one person I fired would not have deserved it.) Everyone I hired would be accused of betraying the truth in favor of propaganda. Half the liberals and left would accuse me of not being left enough, and the other half would accuse me of violating the sacred principles of objectivity and neutrality. "We do not want a Fox News of the left!" they would say, and not just once or twice but hundreds of times.

I forgot to mention, I'd also get less stuffy, less trendy people for the cultural sections.

But in my fantasy, I'm the 51% owner.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:44 AM
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239: It's sweet of you to say so, dear boy, but when you read me in the guardian, I actually get paid.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:48 AM
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217, 230, 236: Yay! I was wondering when Nworb would finally show up in this thread.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:50 AM
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245: The amusing thing is that the right is already accusing the Times of being Communist Muslim pimps. It would be interesting to see how they went about making the claim my Times was far, far worse.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:50 AM
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246. And nothing like enough, I'm sure. But my point stands.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:54 AM
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The amusing thing is that the right is already accusing the Times of being Communist Muslim pimps. It would be interesting to see how they went about making the claim my Times was far, far worse.

Trotskyite Salafi nonces.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:55 AM
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The amusing thing is that the right is already accusing the Times of being Communist Muslim pimps

Well, this is an absolutely no-lose proposition for them, isn't it? Any organization with an institutional reputation for probity must be tarred with the brush of left-wing bias (cf. attacks on the GAO, CBO). That way, whenever those organizations are critical of the Dear Leader, the spin becomes "of course they're saying that, they're biased". And to the extent that they fall in line (either out of sincere conviction, or because they've been browbeaten into it), the spin becomes "Even the liberal..."

That's why I no longer get upset about lefty bloggers complaining about pervasive right-wing bias in the MSM, even though I don't believe this to be precisely true. The payoff matrix dictates the strategy.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 5:56 AM
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"Pervasively right-wing bias" isn't quite right, but if you fine-tune it to pro-war, pro-free-trade, anti-labor, anti-tax, and anti-regulation it's pretty accurate, especially when all you claim is just that these views are uncritically overrepresented, and that the opposing views are under- and mis-represented.

The beliefs of the actual right wing are different than the package they put together to present to the electorate. Social issues, little government, and fiscal responsibility are electoral teases. Little-government Republicans are suckers the same way that the Christianists are.

The one social issue the hard right is serious about is the environment, which they really hate since environmentalism stands in the way of their capitalist utopia.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 6:14 AM
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If Alex is still there and it's any consolation, your lot gave won my fair city.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 6:54 AM
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So is the future of print journalism in (weekly?) magazines which allow themselves some expansiveness, while the news pages migrate on line?

nah. Nobody wants to read a magazine that's all worthy investigative pieces and no opinionated fluff. The secret of the Economist is in recognising this. The future of print journalism is simply in being less fucking boring.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 6:54 AM
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When I take over the Times I may put in some fluff! But I would take it out of the political pages. maybe the political reporters could all just be transferred to the puppy / kitty / two-headed calf / transvestite stripper / Natchez County Fair hog rassling / new teenage slang section.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 7:04 AM
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There's no reason a magazine with properly researched articles in it shouldn't have some fluff. As a former winer of an NS literary competition I'm all in favour. But as John says, it shouldn't be on the political pages, or if it is, it should be clearly indicated as such.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 7:16 AM
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So is that St Albans or Hull?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 7:39 AM
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Sheffield


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 7:40 AM
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255: or the two headed transvestite stripper (one head puppy, one kitty) who's been spotted rasslin' hogs at the Natchez County fair, shouting "'Wizard Cocksucker' is so over, Scro!" to all and sundry.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 7:50 AM
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I'd actually keep David Brooks on the staff but post him in Macon or somewhere like that, and assign him exclusively to sausage-eating, tobacco-spitting, and hog-rassling contests.

I'm aware that Brooks doesn't work for the Times.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 7:57 AM
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Nah, there's certainly a place in any decent newspaper for a version of the sort of thing Guido Fawkes prints. Friedman getting hit by a pie or Obama bowling like a twat are intrinsically the sort of thing I (speaking as EveryMan for some reason) want to read about. I will even defend the practice of harping on about them as if they meant something as being a sort fo chewing gum for the brain. What American newspapers need isn't to be more serious, or more objective, or more "reality based" - it's to be less fucking right wing. Which is to explain why they don't do it - they need to sell in America, which is a very right wing country.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 8:25 AM
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Which is to explain why they don't do it - they need to sell in America, which is a very right wing country.

This is the market explanation, and I agree with John that it's insufficient. I believe there's a true market opening for a certain type of somewhat left populism -- not Pacifica left, haranguing the white males, but more Jim Webb left. And it's not being taken because of power considerations.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 9:35 AM
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I think that management and ownership always give the benefit of the doubt rather heavily to the right, primarily because they themselves and the advertisers are on the right. There's a lot more slack in the audience -- the hard-core right wing is about 30%, and even many of them could swing the other direction under certain hard-to-engineer circumstances. (I have seen it happen, yes.)

But the decisive bloc in US politics is the 20%+ bloc of passive, uncommitted. low-information uncommitted which decides elections. They tend conservative, but they're uncommitted, and the fact that free media is 70-90% right wing and 20-30% hard right wing has a lot to do with it.

But in effect and actuality, America is very right wing and American centrists are mostly right wing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 12:11 PM
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What I'm saying that if media people (and advertisers) wanted to be center-left, they could do it without losing audience as long as they continued the entertainment and fluff. Some of the failures of liberal radio-TV have been failures to use the medium. Olbermann is a good TV guy who can fluff with the best, and he's doing well.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 12:14 PM
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The British newspaper thread is almost over and I just remembered what I wanted to say!

Is Johann Hari really as useful and good a writer and public voice as he seems from the excerpts on his website?

What about George Monbiot?

Both seem to be better than anything in, you know, the United States, but for entirely different reasons.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 12:23 PM
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Is Johann Hari really as useful and good a writer and public voice as he seems from the excerpts on his website?

Honestly? No. He barely even registers on my radar. Then again, I don't read the Independent that often.

Monbiot is on the telly a fair bit, as well as in print. About half the people I know seem to find him irritating, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 2-08 12:56 PM
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*I* find Monbiot intensely irritating. Jamie Kenny actually interviewed him, and apparently he's dropped his hair-shirt/FORCE everyone to be a BETTER PERSON! positions, but it doesn't seem to filter into his writing at all.

Hari; he's not at all bad, and is a parallel to Matthew Yglesias in that he was in favour of the Iraq war for idealistic/Decent Left reasons as a rookie journalist, but improved in parallel with his own maturity. Henley's pundit bildungsroman motif. He's still a bit of a decent, but he's sound on most things.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:57 AM
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