Newsgathering is newsgathering

![][1]The big topic of conversation around the coffee house on Sunday was [Stephen Colbert's weekend appearance][2] at the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner.You've probably heard about it, too. Colbert and his permanently arched eyebrows roasted President Bush -- who was just a few feet away -- thrilling liberals and angering conservatives."I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq," said Colbert, who is probably best known for his fake news show, ["The Colbert Report,"][3] on Comedy Central.His performance was, depending on your point of view, either Unforgivably Rude or Speaking Truth to Power. At the coffee shop, at least, the latter view prevailed."There's a thesis statement to be written," one friend said, "about how humor is doing a better job at news than the news."Well, no.You hear that kind of statement a lot these days - especially with the advent of Jon Stewart and ["The Daily Show,"][4] which reputedly is the news source of choice for a lot of young Americans. And if it isn't the satirists who are being praised, it's bloggers - such as ["Daily Kos"][5] on the left and ["Power Line"][6] on the right - who supposedly do a better job than the Mainstream Media (MSM) at telling us what's happening in our country.Now, I don't deny the influence of comedians on the one side and political bloggers on the other - and I don't even deny that each has a useful (if often exhaustingly shrill) role to play in our national dialogue. But none of them could do their jobs without the efforts of everyday reporters and editors whose work is so constantly derided.Simply put: Mainstream journalists put out the news that the jokesters mock and the bloggers spin (and, in some cases, amplify).In fact, given the rise of the Internet, I'd say there's probably more quality journalism - and more access to it - than ever before. When I was in college, I could read The New York Times a day or two later. Now, online, I can see news updates in in real time. Same for the Washington Post, L.A. Times and just about every other newspaper and newsmagazine in the English-speaking world. Amazing.What has changed is this: attitudes. I'm not the first person to notice that America is fractious and polarized these days, so divided that we're no longer able to determine a presidential election by midnight on election day. What people want, I suspect, is not news - but news that confirms their world view. They'll complain about bias when they don't get it, then flee to the media that is openly biased and think they're getting the whole truth. This phenomenon is not the exclusive province of liberals or conservatives.But mocking the news is not newsgathering. Having an opinion about the news is not newsgathering. Newsgathering is newsgathering.And that's no joke. [1]: http://homepage.mac.com/hbsherwood/images/colbert1.jpg [2]: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/4/30/1441/59811 [3]: http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml [4]: http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/index.jhtml [5]: http://www.dailykos.com/ [6]: http://www.powerlineblog.com/

Comments

Bamastreet 11 years, 7 months ago

Good column, agree with most of it. However, I think the media deserve more criticism than you dishing out. Most media pander instead of trying to lead, which leaves people with the option of tuning in to safe points of view.

Take me, I'm an arch conservative. I seek out media and information that I find most thoughtful

I hate: - Fox News position on the immigration issue - I hate how they editorialize every issue on their morning show too - I also hate Dan Rather and Katie The Mouth. Lapdog liberals - Al Franken - stupid is as stupid does

I love: - The NY Times - National Review - Jon Stewart - The Cober(t) Repor(t) - William F. Buckley - Lower Taxes - More money for schools

To further clarify - I voted for: - Both Presidents Bush - Boog - Against the gay marriage ban in Kansas - Dennis Moore - Governor Kathleen - Against our State Attorney General - For the school bonds - And the vote I'm most proud of was for Ronald Reagan when I first became eligible to vote.

Life's complicated. Most media coverage is superficial.

11 years, 7 months ago

"Life's complicated. Most media coverage is superficial."

I think one of the reasons the popular blogs (e.g. Powerline, Kos, or LittleGreenFootballs) actually do give better coverage is because they have less breadth and need less. LGF covers the war on terror. That's all it does. Kos covers partisan politics. If they started running stories about whether the Vikings did well in the draft or about who Paris Hilton is running around with, their readership would plummet. Kinda like the MSM.

One reason, of course, is one that Joel mentions, kinda: timeliness. I haven't watched network news, literally, in years. I watch Jon Stewart 2 or 3 times a week (up until his guests come on). Because I get my news from him? Nope, I've already read the news from other sources on my own schedule and know (usually) what I think about it. I watch him because he's funny.

The other reason, I think, is bias. Not so much political bias, though that's often the complaint, but the bias of selection. The NYT can only run so many stories, must lead with some, must bury others. World News Tonight has a half-hour to give you all the news, rationed out into little pictures of men trying to hold unbrellas in a storm or in soundbites from politicians. They don't have time to cover the news. But anyone who understands how to perform a Google news search can be their own editor, not only choosing the kinds of stories they want to lead with and from whom, but what they want to ignore. The internet is, in that sense, like the New York Times pre-edited version except that one doesn't have to buy the whole internet to get the news one wants. The time limitations are set by the reader, not the network, and one can ask for as little or as much depth as one wants.

Blogs aren't newsgathering as much as they are interactive analysis, but news is not simply what happened: it's an exploration of why it happened, something difficult to present with a pre-determined number of lines or 90 seconds until commercial break. Frankly, I'd rather read Kos - where I can skip stories at will or follow links to my heart's content - than listen to Eleanor Clift's shrill partisan hackery, offset by that of someone else's talking points, and as the trends in MSM circulation and viewership illustrate, I'm not the only one.

Terry Bush 11 years, 7 months ago

What people want, I suspect, is not news - but news that confirms their world view.

AMEN to that.

The three persons above are, in my opinion, becoming endangered species. People who truly want to get at all the facts and realize they never will. People who think for themselves, without anger and rancor clouding the ability to be rationale.

Bravo for the few still willing to admit they don't know it all, but are willing (and able) to learn. From whatever source the information comes.

OtherJoel 11 years, 7 months ago

I keep getting distracted by the use of the initials MSM. Having been around STD prevention programs for the last couple of years, I am used to the other meaning -- Men who have Sex with Men.

I just watched Colbert's speech and um, wow. Yeah, I felt both amused an uncomfortable. The video with Steve and Helen Thomas was hilarious though.

Joel 11 years, 7 months ago

Bill: I don't think what we're saying is at odds. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, Kos and LGF and all those types use the newsgathering of the MSM -- and gawd, I hate that abbreviation -- as jumping off points for their analysis ... or spin. They don't do much, if any, original reporting. I'm not saying they should; I just think we should be clear on their roles.

Punditry is not, not, not newsgathering. Eleanor You're Swealanor is no different from the Kos crowd in that respect -- when she's on McLaughlin, she's just throwing out opinions. The actual collecting of facts is still something the MSM does better than anybody else out there.

Sniffer 11 years, 7 months ago

I rarely pay attention to network news, I browse the papers, but I follow blogs intently. But I only pay close attention to blogs that have differing views than mine. I'm crazy, but I like the spin, I like reading liberals rant and rave that the world is collapsing at their feet. It's simply more entertaining. But bottom line frankly I learn more.
Mainstream journalists simply don't do a very good job in my opinion. Journalists are lazy, self centered, are very narrow in opinion and scope. Young journalists if you ask them, why did you go into journalism? "To change the world, most would say" and that frankly is the problem. Most journalists can't even tell you about the world immediately around them much less our nation and the world. Part of my skepticism of the media is personal. As a former "activist" I spent far too much time educating media individuals on "processes" in government, things I would assume journalists would know or understand. I was interviewed by a journalist for a story concerning (a) city council and this individual did not know how many councilman there were, the difference between the city and county commissions, who the members were, government meeting processes, the role of planning and zoning commissions and I always had to explain WHY a story was important and how it affected those involved. There was a local reporter here locally covering a visit by a former prominent U.S. Senator who had never even heard of the guy. I had a friend tell me that while speaking to a news director of a Topeka station back when Senator Biden came to Lawrence to speak last fall, did not even know who he was.
Which brings me to blogs. I love blogs, and although there are a lot of self absorbed know it all types writing for these blogs, it is an education process. Agree or disagree they leave it all out there waving their own banner for what they feel is important. I believe overall they do, do a better job of reporting and writing about what is going on. I don't care about spin, at least when I go to Kos and his cronies I know what I am getting and I accept that. Look at mainstream media now. They are bending over backwards trying to capture the audience with blogs of their own, numerous polls, interactive articles and stories. The reporting and writing have become stale, lacking in depth. Your statement: "but news that confirms their world view", If that is true then people are more screwed up than I thought. I want my news to be smarter. I don't want it to try and sell me on anything or convince me of something. Journalists write and report on too many stories when they KNOW, they don't have all the facts or information. MSM seems perfectly comfortable only reporting "part" of a story. That is my problem.

11 years, 7 months ago

"They don't do much, if any, original reporting. I'm not saying they should; I just think we should be clear on their roles..."

Aw, c'mon, let's argue just a little... No, I don't disagree all that much that without the mainstream media (I'll type that so many times you'll be begging for the abbreviation, OJ notwithstanding) the news blogs wouldn't have much to talk about. But I don't see reporters simply reporting the facts. Like Sniffer, I gave hundreds of interviews in a former life and have seen more than my share of missed facts (though not as much outright bias as I expected, just the bias of some facts that I thought were important but the reporter did not) and inserted opinion.

But rather than argue from my personal experience, I'd rather illustrate how mainstream stories often contain punditry - just like the blogs - even in those areas where one might not expect it: do a Google news search sometime on "investors mulled."

Here are two examples from the WSJ (is that abbreviation ok?) site this week:

By SARAH TURNER. LONDON -- European shares declined for the fourth time in a week on Friday, as investors mulled the acceleration of euro-zone inflation data. (Apr 26)

'NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- US stocks lost ground Monday as investors mulled the impact of a sliding US dollar and a mixed set of earnings reports" (Apr 24)

Now what these reporters have done is taken "investors," rolled them up in a little batch, and explained a fact that they gathered with 'not news' about what those investors did.

The fact is that there are millions of investors, each with his own expectations and knowledge. Some bought stocks for some reasons and those stocks went up, some sold stocks for other reasons and those stocks went down. Some bought because their brother gave them a hot tip; some sold because grandma died and they'd rather buy a boat than own IBM.

Yes, the dollar is sliding, but it has been for 3 years with a brief pause last year. Yes, some doubtless looked at earnings, but earnings reports are always mixed (and yet another report, from Reuters today, says earnings are the reason stocks are going up). But "investors" didn't act together; they simply acted and a fact happened.

So what the reporter has done is taken a fact and tried to explain it with other facts, but no one, especially not the reporter, knows if there is any correlation between those facts. In other words, he's made a story with true facts, but that does not make it a true story.

So when a mainstream reporter takes some facts that he gathered and then comments on them with unsubstantiable (is that a word?) opinion, I don't see how that is too much different than a blog, other than that the reporter looked at the closing ticker and wrote it down, and the blogger, rather than looking at the ticker, looked at what the reporter wrote down and wrote it down again.

11 years, 7 months ago

..."wrote it down again."

And then, of course, the blogger wrote that everyone in the mainstream media is biased in favour of the other party ;)

David Ryan 11 years, 6 months ago

I'd say you were right, Joel, if Colbert's goal was simply to mock the press. But his goal, I think, is more than mocking: it's a serious critique of the press' fulfilling its role in a free society.

"As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side."

"But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew."

"But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!"

Colbert's critique echoes Jay Rosen's theory of "Rollback":

"This White House doesn't settle for managing the news--what used to be called 'feeding the beast'--because there is a larger aim: to roll back the press as a player within the executive branch, to make it less important in running the White House and governing the country."

"Press rollback, the policy for which McClellan signed on, means not feeding but starving the beast, downgrading journalism where possible, and reducing its effectiveness as an interlocutor with the President. This goes for Bush theory, as well as Bush practice. The President and his advisors have declared invalid the "fourth estate" and watchdog press model. (See my earlier posts here and here on it.) They have moved on, and take it for granted that adversaries will not be as bold."

http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/07/16/rll_back.html (see more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-rosen/what-if-bush-changed-the_b_16046.html )

In that sense, Joel, Colbert is providing a necessary critique that the news industry itself seems unable to hear, let alone take to heart-just as serious as Jay Rosen's. And I'd bet money that more people hear it from Colbert than from Rosen.

David Ryan 11 years, 6 months ago

Rosen's piece (above) continues:

"In a Salon interview after the Times article came out, Suskind (whose sources were mostly Republicans) was asked whether the Bush forces were indeed trying to "eliminate a national point of reference on facts."

"[Quoting Suskind:] Absolutely! That's the whole idea, to somehow sweep away the community of honest brokers in America - both Republicans and Democrats and members of the mainstream press - sweep them away so we'll be left with a culture and public dialogue based on assertion rather than authenticity, on claim rather than fact."

David Ryan 11 years, 6 months ago

Lastly (the bleeding character limit): Where Rosen declaims, Colbert enacts:

Here's Rosen writing of how the White House handled the news of Cheney shooting a friend in the face: "My friends, Dick Cheney did not make a mistake when he routed around the press. He followed procedure-- his procedure. As Bill Plante, White House reporter for CBS News said at Public Eye, "No other vice president in the White Houses I've covered has had the ability to write his own rules the way this one has. He operates in his own sphere, with the apparent acceptance of the president."

"Cheney has long held the view that the powers of the presidency were dangerously eroded in the 1970s and 80s. The executive "lost" perogatives it needed to gain back for the global struggle with Islamic terror. "Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam both during the 70's served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," he said in December.

"Some of that space was lost to the news media, and its demand to be informed about all aspects of the presidency, plus its sense of entitlement to the star interlocutor's role. Cheney opposes all that, whereas Fitzwater accepted most of it. That's why Fitz is appalled and Cheney is rather pleased with himself."

"The people yelling questions at Scott McClellan in the briefing room, like the reporters in the Washington bureaus who cover the president, are in Cheney's calculations neither a necessary evil, nor a public good. They are an unnecessary evil and a public bad-- ex-influentials who can be disrespected without penalty."

Colbert enacts the ideal "journalist" in the age of Bush and Cheney. The press itself seems not to really believe, in Rosen's formulation, that the rules of the game have been changed. Colbert, through hyperbole and exageration and parody, is holding a mirror up to the press. And the press, understandably, doesn't like what his mirror shows.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

David:

I refer you to this sentence in my blog.

"Now, I don't deny the influence of comedians on the one side and political bloggers on the other - and I don't even deny that each has a useful (if often exhaustingly shrill) role to play in our national dialogue."

The press is not, and should not be, immune from criticism or self-criticism.

But the idea that "Colbert is providing a necessary critique that the news industry itself seems unable to hear, let alone take to heart" is, well, laughable.

I don't know of another industry that spends as much time as we do beating itself up over shortcomings. Seriously. Go to the Romenesko Web site - http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=45 - and you'll see more stories, letters and analyses about the "death of the newspaper industry," self-flagellating over WMD, etc. etc. than you ever cared about.

Newsgatherers are imperfect, no doubt. But they don't act in a vacuum -- the Rosen piece you quote above isn't really an indictment of the press, but of government officials who hold the press in contempt.

Bill: If I hear you correctly, the function of bloggers is akin to that Snoop Dogg translation page that Will put up in these comments last week -- they don't change the information so much as they put it in a language designed to amuse or comfort the reader?

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

Colbert proved a lot of things during that "speech/bit"

Most notably, he has Balls. Big ones.

i can't think of any other comedian that would be brave enough to say what he said with Bush sitting three feet away. His commentary was biting, at times harsh, but completely true.

HIs satire is so on-point and such an accurate portrayal of "the true believer", the true "bush fan" that he not only makes a fool of Bush, but also of the right-wing pundits that rarely steer off the party line, and the hard-headed 32-35% of Americans that still support this man.

If only the Press had half the courage Colbert showed...

Who cares about PNAC? What's the latest with Natalee Holloway?!

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

OnShakedown's post actually helps me articulate something here...

Where the Left is concerned, I don't think the real critique is that the media isn't providing information ... but that the media isn't actively trying to bring about the downfall of the president.

Otherwise, what's the courage to be shown? What facts aren't widely disseminated that you want disseminated?

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

(Waiting for the steamroller. Or David Ryan.)

David Ryan 11 years, 6 months ago

Joel -- no steamroller, but Rosen's critique is that the press doesn't realize the rules of the game have been changed. Sure, he outlines how the current administration engages in press management in a way even Marlin Fitzwater finds appalling. But his goal is to wake up the press to the environment they're now in.

Were they to realize that the rules of the game have changed, Colbert's parodic ideal newsman, who out-Foxes Fox, wouldn't be necessary.

As I said, it's not surprising that the press doesn't like the view that both Rosen and Colbert show them-Rosen through the normal genre of the essay, and Colbert through the genre of parody. It's not flattering.

And it's not simply trying to take down a president, Joel. It's to be the Fourth Estate-a position enshrined like no other in the Constitution.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

David- Since you're in the media, I'm surprised that you fail to make certain distinctions.

Colbert is not a parodic newsman. He's a parodic pundit. There's a difference.

But I'm mistaken, perhaps, in hoping that the general public will understand the difference between the presentation of facts and the presentation of opinion. (Sigh.) Maybe we've not done enough to clarify the distinction.

You don't answer the question I posed, Dave. If the newsmedia -- the fact-gatherers are falling short -- what information, exactly, have you not been given? I think overall the information that people want to use HAS been put out there ... but no, the record isn't perfect. But it's still good, I'd argue.

I'm going to stick with my previous belief. The Left (and the Right has been guilty of the same, previously) doesn't want news that says "The President did this." They want "The President did this and it's BAD." That's not the function of newsgatherers.To borrow a phrase ... we report, you decide.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

Joel,

I DO NOT think the media should be actively trying to bring the downfall of Presidents. But like DavidRyan wrote, they should be acting as the Fourth Estate, which to me means asking the tough questions, bringing up the important topics, whether they are touchy or not and refusing to accept stonewalling from the Administration.

There are plenty of topics that we have some information about, but the press doesn't stay focused and continue to prod for a resolution.

For example, some people are aware of the following topics: the US use of white phosphorous (essentially napalm) on civilians in Iraq, the secret-prisons in Europe, the illegal rendition flights, the elimination of habeas corpus, the effect PNAC has had on our foreign policy (Iraq > Iran > Syria. It's been layed out since the mid 90's), Bush's signing statements, etc. etc. etc.

I know about these topics, because i read them in the MSM, and read essays and commentary about them in the blogs.

But for the most part, I only learned about them BECAUSE of the blogs. I don't read every newspaper or watch every news show, but the blogs help collect the stories they think matter.

I happen to think the stories I listed above are more important - meaning they have a bigger effect on my life, my safety - than who killed Natalee Holloway or who Michael Jackson is touching.

EVERY news channel has given a sickening amount of coverage to a single missing person case in Aruba. It's sad, but it doesn't matter. It should be a backpage story in every newspaper, because it doesn't matter to The People as a whole. (imo, it's sad and interesting to some people, but in the great big scheme of things, it's a non-story, doesn't matter, shouldn't be on the tv)

The Press needs to focus all of their energy and resources on stories that matter. What matters should be judged by how much the story would influence The People's lives.

Now, if these stories all have one common theme (that covering them would collectively lead to the downfall of a President) then so be it.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

Joel, just read your follow-up to David and i want to clarify one thing.

I don't want or expect real journalists to be snarky and opinionated like Colbert. I just think they should be AS ballsy, meaning, they aren't afraid to call a spade a spade or ask the tough questions.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Shakedown: I apologize if I ascribe motives to you that you don't possess.

But I can't help but notice that The Washington Post two weeks ago won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting about secret prisons in Europe -- reporting you're telling me the MSM doesn't do. The NYT got a Pulitzer for its stories telling the nation about warrantless wiretapping. There've been plenty of stories in the NYT, which have filtered down to papers like the LJW, about how the legal system has changed (for better or worse, depending on your point of view) following 9-11 ... including the habeus concerns you raise.

I can't recall where I first heard about white phosphorous or Bush signing statements, but I know I read about them in the MSM. PNAC I've read about, but in places like The Atlantic, whose readers are more interested, I guess, in the inside-baseball sausage-making stuff.

That said: The "press" that you refer to - CNN and MSNBC and their ilk - do spend a lot of time on relatively frivolous stuff. I said as much back in the fall, when CNN spent the first night of Katrina with discussion of the Aruba case. That's why you should ignore the national tv news, with its wide but shallow coverage, and read newspapers and newspaper Web sites -- or blogs that link to coverage by newspapers and newspaper Web sites.

David Ryan 11 years, 6 months ago

Joel -- good distinction: Colbert is indeed a parodic pundit. Point taken.

Would you suggest it is or is not the press's role to point out-regardless of the source-when information is verifiable, and when its not? Or when it's disinformation?

Or should the press-again, regardless of the source, democrat or republican or independent-simply "report" disinformation and let readers decide?

Is one of the press's charges to sift through what's verifiable and what's not, or simply repeat what people say? And if the latter, what if that information turns out not to be true, correct, or verifiable? What Fourth Estate goal is served then?

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

Joel,

i do tend to lump tv, papers, and news mags all under one umbrella at times, but mainly because with media conglomeration many are owned by the same people.

but we're in agreement that the tv press isn't doing it's job.

And you're right, there are good stories being done by some of the papers. But it's just rare. And the big stories aren't picked up and amplified by the tv, so for the most part, Americans are uninformed.

And there's the adage: if it wasn't on tv, it didn't happen.

I guess i'm just frustrated that i have to look at 30 Web sites to find what i would call a wide-range of views and stories. I'm a news junkie and even i get lazy sometimes. I know that the average joe isn't doing the same amount of digging i'm doing, even though we're both going to be effected by the news.

The difference is I'll see it coming. Average joe will wake up one day and think "what the hell happened?"

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Shakedown: I need to add that I hope differences of opinion on this issue won't chase you away. I'm interested in civil dialogue ... not the shrillness and anger that characterizes so much of our "debate" these days.

David: I think the role of the press is to present information and contradictory information. I think there've been times when we need to do better -- WMDs, obviously, though I should point out that Knight Ridder newspapers were actually ahead of the curve on that one, and they have fairly widespread readership, including right here in Kansas.

Again, I think overall the press does a good job. And I think the messenger sometimes gets his head cut off.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Shakedown: I think any healthy consumer of news -- any healthy citizen -- is going to have to go out and seek information from a variety of sources. I don't only read the LJW, and in fact I'm pretty sure I'd be doing my bosses a disservice if that's the only paper I read.

You're right that a lot of people don't do that digging. But there's a reason that CNN keeps putting Aruba on in primetime -- that's what sells. There's a lot of folks who prefer entertainment and titilation to information -- and yeah, maybe I sound like an elitist snob by saying so, but I think it's true. I know people who've told me -- just in recent days in fact -- that they don't spend much time with the news because they find it "depressing."

So what are we supposed to do?

11 years, 6 months ago

"There's a lot of folks who prefer entertainment and titilation to information -- and yeah, maybe I sound like an elitist snob by saying so, but I think it's true."

So what if it makes you sound like an elitist snob? It is absolutely true. I found the whole 'head in the sand' episode of South Park but amusing and depressing at the same time because it was an illustration, not an exaggeration.

Some think, some think they think, most look for a slogan. The press didn't create that, nor is there the slightest thing they can do about it. Ultimately it is the consumer of news that will shape what the news looks like, and all the lowly reporter can do is his job the best he knows how.

BTW, this has been a great discussion.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

joel: very true about the some news being depressing. It's just sad that profits influence how much or little The Public is informed. Maybe i'm too much of an idealist when it comes to journalism.

and as far as being a healthy consumer of news, i completely agree that it's our responsibility to read and search for the truth. The people that want to know, will have to do the work and find out. We are all very fortunate that we have high-speed internet to find these stories.How many people in Kansas that aren't fortunate enough to have easily accesible internet subscribe to The Post or the Times or the Boston Globe or any paper that isn't in their area? But they still vote, usually without info that would or could drastically change their opinion.

And while i agree it's on the individual to educate themselves, i think to be a good journalist and a healthy news provider, journalists have to provide the stories whether they are depressing or not.

You're either a journalist or you're not. You either cover the stories that matter or you don't. But I don't think you can have it both ways. You can't say, "i'm a journalist, but i can't cover this story because it's depressing." In my view, a journalist would cover the stories no matter what.

To localize this a bit, perhaps you can fill me in on why these stories have yet to be elaborated on by the LJWorld or Congressional Breifing blog:

http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/0425nj1.htm

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Senate_Intelligence_Committee_Chairman_denies_access_0427.html

They certainly are important to Kansans. But how many Kansans do you know that reads The Raw Story or The National Journal? Not many, maybe not even you.

So should Kansans and LJworld readers that happen to come across these stories think that 1) these aren't important otherwise they would have been in the ljworld or 2) these stories ARE important and the ljworld reporters aren't doing their job?

in my idealistic, elitist view, it's either one or the other.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

and btw, i'm not going to be turned off from this discussion, i'm really enjoying being enlightened a bit from every one elses views.

hope my previous message doesn't put you too much on the spot. wasn't meant to be rude. really just curious.

11 years, 6 months ago

"You either cover the stories that matter or you don't."

But here's the rub: who is to decide what stories matter? To give a good example, PQ thought the energy bill mattered a lot, I thought it mattered very little relative to the fall of the dollar, which is even less understood by most news consumers than the energy bill. For some people, neither of them mattered very much; what mattered to them was the Chiefs. I'm not saying all is completely relative, but I am saying that there is no objective measurement for what matters, and since the editor must choose anyway, that act leads to a lot of frustration with the press.

Of course no journalist should miss a story just because it's depressing (and not all depressing stories are depressing to everyone), but a journalist and a paper and a medium can only cover so much, so who decides what is ultimately important? Those trained journalists? Or the people they ostensibly serve?

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

good point, bill.

that's the crux of this whole debate, i guess. i can easily say, the press isn't covering the news that matters, but i (or anyone) can't really say what does matter.

it's easy to spot when it's not happening, but harder to know when you're actually there.

quite a dilemma.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

but i guess also that's why we have different sections of the paper. I mean, the chiefs DO matter.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Shakedown: Well, I'm the guy who usually puts together the Congressional Blog ... and I just haven't had time lately. Bill's right -- there's a LOT of stuff going on, and our resources pull us in a million different directions.

So you can blame me for some of this. ; )

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

But thanks for making me realize Congressional Blog is relevant. I'll find a way to cram it back into my day.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

Here's the last post about Pat Roberts on the Congressional Blog, dated April 4, 2006: ........................... http://www2.ljworld.com/blogs/kansas_congress/2006/apr/05/farmers/

"Put aprons on members of Congress, and you can be certain that their recipes will showcase home-state products. That's true even if the state connection is somewhat obscure, an outright stretch or involves fruit, like Michigan apples this time of year, that is not available. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) explained the relevance of his Kansas Quesadillas this way: First, Hispanics make up 55 percent of the population of Dodge City, his home town. If that's not enough, remember the old "Gunsmoke" TV series, which was set in Dodge City? "Whenever you see them ride out of town," Roberts said, "Miss Kitty would say, 'Matt, where are you going now? You be careful.' He'd have his knapsack full of quesadillas." .......................

"Congressional Briefing" covering a story about quesadillas. Dated 4.4.06. On the front-page of ljworld.com. Wow.

[cut]

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

[cut for length. continued]

Now, bear with me as i lay out my beef with this particular example:

1) the ljworld has a section called Congressional Briefing. 2) readers will see this and assume it is an up-to-date listing of stories related to Brownback and Roberts et al. 3) readers will see this link about freakin' quesadillas and think "this was the only link under Congressional Briefing, so this must be the most important thing going on with Roberts. Good to see he's doing a heck of a job with those quesadillas" 4) since it is the only thing listed, readers will assume that's all the news related to Roberts and will not google Roberts and find out about his stone-walling in relation to Phase II of the pre-war intelligence investigation. Because, if any paper is going to be up-to-date on Roberts, it's gonna be a Kansas paper, right? 5) people will not know about the stories i posted earlier, because they weren't covered here 6) people will vote thinking Roberts is scandal-free and one hell of a chef. 7) corruption will continue, stonewalling will continue, un-ethical behaviour will continue

Like i said, you're either a journalist or you're not.

In my opinion, reporters should think their paper or medium is the only way their viewers get their info. They should think their readers depend on them for the news. Assume people depend on your Congressional Briefing for their Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback news. If it's not listed there, it didn't happen.

Readers of Congressional Briefing may not know anything about Phase II. And they certainly won't, if you don't cover it.

But you know what, most people will agree that knowing whether we were intentionally mis-led into war is more important than this blog (although this discussion today has been very positive and eye-opening).

I'm glad you're wearing a lot of hats, Joel, but you're either a journalist of you're not. Cover the stories that matter. Assume your readers don't know where else to look.

And as far as determining what does and doesn't matter, i tend to think of it in terms of "what will have the most drastic influence on the most people".

(sorry this turned somewhat personal. wasn't meant to be that way. but there's are a lot of lessons to be learned from this discussion and this particular example.)

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

OnShakedown: The day that the Pat Roberts quesadilla link ran, that was literally the only thing about him that appeared in the national press -- that I could determine, at least, from my searches.

And I thought: Why not?

No, it wasn't hard-hitting ... but life isn't all hard-hitting. And for you to imply that all we've put in Congressional Briefing is quesadilla stories ignores the larger context of everything that's been in that blog - you're picking a needle out of the haystack and pretending like it's the haystack. That's just unfair.

There's been a ton of stuff about Phase II, in particular.

Go back and read the blog archives. Show me where I'm wrong.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Pat Roberts and Phase II -- just some links I found in a quick search.

http://www2.ljworld.com/blogs/kansas_congress/2006/mar/15/roberts/ http://www2.ljworld.com/blogs/kansas_congress/2005/nov/14/exports/ http://www2.ljworld.com/blogs/kansas_congress/2005/nov/02/intelligence/

There's more, but you get the idea.

Sometimes, people blame the media for not reporting stuff ... when people simply missed the report.

I am going to have to find time to revive Congressional Briefing, yes. And it will continue to draw from a variety of sources. But if people form the whole of their Pat Roberts opinion from one quesadilla reference -- as you seem to imply -- then people are terrifically, terrifically dumb. We'd all better get on our knees and start praying for the Republic.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

wait, i need to apoligize. i didn't mean to imply it was the only thing you cover. i was trying to make the point that it's May 1st, and the last post was in early april, so it would appear as if nothing important has happened since then.

And the fact that it was a quesadilla story just aided my example of how unimportant stuff gets perceived as news.

So no worries, on posting the quesadilla story, since like you said it was the only thing going that day.

But it is not the only thing that has happened since then. (See the stories from last week i posted earlier). So if you're so busy that it comes down to posting a cup'ojoel or an update about how Roberts is stalling the Phase II investigation, i would expect a journalist to go with the Roberts story.

But that's just me.

Maybe we just disagree on what does and doesn't matter.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Shakedown -- one last comment, then I gotta go because, seriously, I'm reporting this afternoon and won't be around to comment.

I don't think there should have to be a choice between CB and COJ. I think people's lives encompass both the Big Stories and life's harmless little bits of fun. I need to do a better job with CB, but that doesn't mean abandoning COJ. And COJ represents a very small part of my energies and efforts at the LJW ... except for this morning.

FWIW, Congressional Briefing was my idea, and I implemented it. I'm glad it's a resource, but it's something I added on top of all my duties. Small local papers can't afford Washington bureaus ... I was trying my best to make up for that.

I'll try harder.

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

"I'll try harder"

That's a fitting way to end a discussion criticizing The Press. Sorry it got a little hairy in here. Didn't mean to make you defend yourself. But i'm glad we could see where each other were coming from.

Just to bring this full-circle and back to Colbert, The New York Times story on the WH Dinner didn't EVEN MENTION Colbert!

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/New_York_Times_omits_Colbert_0501.html

So did it happen?

Chris Tackett 11 years, 6 months ago

oh, and i hope you never stop COJ. it's a great blog and a must-read. i just know that for hard-hitting news, i can't depend on ljw. but i worry most people don't know there's a difference.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

SD: Back in the office for five minutes, then out to Emporia for the immigration rally.

I hope you mean the LJW doesn't provide national news that you're looking for. We do a ton of stuff at the local level, and we're the best paper in the state for covering the state legislature.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

What? Nobody had anything to say for seven hours?

Marcy McGuffie 11 years, 6 months ago

Stephen Colbert rocks! See, some thoughts are better kept silent...

Michael Austin 11 years, 6 months ago

I am not going to read through all the comments as of yet, no time. But I don't think people trust anyone anymore, so why not watch the satire? You don't have to truly believe it.

And there is too much of news programs trying to shove opinions down our throat, and yet saying they are fair and balanced. That is why I turn to Stweart and Colbert. And yes, I do like watching them more than even reading BBC online. But they tell me straight out what they are trying to do!

clayhill70 11 years, 6 months ago

I'm not a journalist by a long shot. More I suppose like the average joe or jill american that you describe. But even I doubted the link between 9/11 and Iraq. And thought our men and women in uniform would be caught up in a protracted guerilla war like Vietnam. I guess my problem with all elements of the mainstream media was that no one was shouting that the emperor was naked.No one took the administration to the wood shed, but only competed to see who could bang the war drum the loudest. It reminded me alot of the runup of the Spanish-American war. Very sad.

Jill Ensley 11 years, 6 months ago

What with the internets zapping my attention span in my later years, I didn't read all the way to the bottom. I just wanted to thank David Ryan.

I believe it was that Hoyt character who mentioned "the bias of selection". Lovely how most "news" sources ignored Colbert's speech. If that's not bias, what is? Liberal, conservative, you could have spun it kindly either way, but to cut it out completely...give me a break.

Joel, you are deluded if you think everything's hunky dorey in Medialand.

Joel 11 years, 6 months ago

Feh. I don't think things are hunky dory -- how DO you spell dorey? -- but I don't think think the sky has fallen, media-wise, to the extent that some folks would have you believe.

Michael Austin 11 years, 6 months ago

Hey, when one of the most trusted news sources for the majority of Americans is Fox...

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