Monday, March 14, 2005

Community Members Weigh in on Bridges To Babylon (Bloggers and Media, not the Rolling Stones CD)

The e-mails came in in response to this morning's post:

Which brings us to Marcia's e-mail about a story in this morning's Times, Jonathan D. Glater's"Liberal Bloggers Reaching Out to Major Media." Marcia notes the CJR article on Bob Somerby ( by Steve Twomey):

In the beginning, he was more polite, Somerby explains, but that went nowhere with your press corps. "And increasingly, I think they just have to be yelled at," Somerby says.

And Marcia wonders whether this "bridge" some left and left-leaning bloggers are attempting to build will result in the usual trade of access for independence? I have no idea. If we're dealing with people who are breaking the news, they certainly have a valid beef that the mainstream press ignores them. In which case, a bridge may be needed. But Marcia points out that mainstream reporters brag about checking out a right wing site every morning (we all know the one she's speaking of) and adds, "I'm not really sure a bridge is going to address that. I think Somerby's attitude is more effective."
(As most members know, Somerby writes The Daily Howler.)
If the "bridge" is an attempt to make sure that stories left and left leaning bloggers are breaking is known, more power to the bridge. But, to quote Marcia again, "if this is just a way to advance yourself and gain 'respectability' which means you temper your criticisms of worthy targets, that's distrubing."
(If this is an issue the community's concerned about and we get e-mails on, there will be a response entry tonight.)

Brad: I have no idea what they're thinking. There was a story I saw over at Poynter today that made a strong point in jest, newspapers are making themselves obsolete. I don't remember learning in broadcast journalism classes that radio had to hold "let's get to know each other" sessions with TV, so I don't get why bloggers feel the need to hold it with the mainstream.

Brad is referring to Antonia Zerbisias' "Newspapers in the digital age" from the Toronto Star:
At the rate newspapers are losing circulation, the last reader is expected to croak in 2040.
In April to be exact.
Philip Meyer, author of The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age made that grim prognostication on Wednesday, during a live webcast about our impending extinction.
Since I myself will be dead or defunct by 2040, it's not really my problem — unless I am still trying to collect my Star denture benefits.
Don't misunderstand: People will still be talking, online or on whatever new forms of communication will arise.
The question is, what will be the quality of the information they receive?
All Whacko Jacko coverage and partisan rants, as we see on TV newscasts?
Or will newspapers turn around the Titanic to continue producing original and credible reportage on events and issues critical to an informed citizenry in a democracy?
These were among the themes discussed during the webcast hosted by The Media Center at The American Press Institute, a non-profit think-tank.


Wally: I don't see the point. I'm a high schooler and I have no use for a newspaper other than a story BuzzFlash links to. I watch Democracy Now on TV and listen to Pacifica on the radio.
I read The Nation, Left Turn and The Progressive. I probably catch about an hour or two of the BBC Radio once a week. So what am I missing? Local TV news? I used to worry about that but when my teachers talk about what was on the local news it's a murder or a traffic accident. Real local news only comes on the radio. When it's time for national news discussions (in one class we do that Monday, Wednesday and Friday), someone can always toss out some celeb on trial or some celeb who got married or divorced or arrested. Today, someone tossed out how many copies 50 Cent's latest CD sold.
There are a few who read the local paper. And they'll toss out something and I'll be saying, "No, no, no, that's not how it happened." I don't know if the paper writes it up bad or if they just don't understand what they're reading. One thing that worries me is that they don't get humor.
If they read someone making a joke in the entertainment section or Entertainment Weekly, they see it as a stinging diss and start saying "Oh so and so is at war with whoever." They take it all on the literal level. I'm not trying to put myself off as the smartest. Other people score better than me on tests. But I do know what's going on and I know that from Democracy Now, Pacifica Radio, BBC Radio, The Nation, The Progressive and Left Turn. Plus whatever gets highlighted here. I read the quotes and pay attention. If I need more I'm clicking. I visit BuzzFlash and I visit The Daily Howler and Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude -- Rebecca makes me laugh. In fact, I know people who will learn about something from her site just because they think she's got a dirty mouth and makes dirty jokes. So I'm looking at my age group and I am not seeing any great thirst for the newspapers or TV journalism. I'm seeing people bored by it or feeling they can only take so many lies. What the newspapers and TV don't seem to get is that you can say "Oops!" all you want. People my age aren't forgetting the cheerleading up to the war or the lies during the early months. That was a hard hit at credibility. And nobody got fired for it and so people just figure "Oh, they like lying." They really damaged their reputations and they've done little to improve it. So people who were trying to follow the news in papers and on TV during the lead up to the war and right after are no longer even trying. We know we were lied to about WMD and we know that Bush may have spoken the lie but every one of the newspapers and TV news programs just broadcast the lie. We don't expect now that they can suddenly start telling the truth. There are 23 people in the class I'm talking about. And there are 5 of us watching or listening to Democracy Now and you can toss in 3 people picking up the local paper more than once a week who read something other than the entertainment section. This class isn't for struggling students and it's not required. All of us are taking it as an elective. And the teacher kept saying in the first weeks that in her day everyone was reading the paper. She gave up on trying to get people to watch network news or read a paper. But it was just the
3 who read a paper bring up an issue in the news and the 5 of us watching Democracy Now talk about that and fill in or raise our own issue and the teacher turns it into a discussion on how does that effect us. So in that way, people in the class were learning and thinking about the world outside our classroom. But the teacher started bringing up blogs and that got people excited.
Now you'll see some people come to class with a print out of a blog. She'll make us say "bleep" when we're reading it to the class if there's cursing and we all laugh when someone brings Rebecca in because it's "bleep" like every 3rd word. And we laugh at her jokes and [Bob] Somerby's jokes and the jokes here. We get really quiet when someone's reading from a blog like Dahr Jamail's or Girl Blogger. You can see how serious everyone takes something like that.
And I wish Dahr would do another entry because we really respect him. We really like it when someone brings in a long entry. Our teacher says that it's the difference between a snack and a meal. Last week someone found Should This Marriage Be Saved and brought it in. We were still discussing and arguing about that after the bell rang. If I put the teacher's name in, please put "the teacher" or "our teacher" there because I don't want someone having a cow and trying to get her fired. None of the parents have a problem with what we study and how but I could see some right wing freak going, "They're reading that nasty Rebecca! I'm going to start a campaign to get that woman fired!"

Kara: When you're making inroads and the mainstream media realizes they aren't the only show in town, I'm not sure it's time to say, "Let's be friends." Part of the reason bloggers are getting attention is because they're speaking their truths. I'd hate to see them co-opted.

Eli: I read my local paper and the New York Times. I grew up when you weren't a good citizen if you weren't reading the paper. But in those days, we would read about legislation coming down the pike. Now days, we usually don't hear about legislation until after it's passed. We're not getting the news we need from the papers. I found two-thirds of the news section of the New York Times completely useless Sunday and more than that in today's New York Times.
This isn't news, this isn't anything like news and I've been reading papers since the forties.
Poker on the front page of today's New York Times? That's news? And let's talk about yellow journalism because I've read my share. What the New York Times is doing with Sinn Fein is shameful. I want to quote a sentence from a story today by a Brian Lavery and it's on page six of the paper. Quote "The usually slick publicity machine for Sinn Fein, the I.R.A.'s political wing, has been unable to damped outrage over the killing of Mr. McCartney, a Catholic man unaffiliated with any paramilitary groups." End of quote. Tell me how usually slick publicity machine got into a news story? Tell me how that's not opininion writing pretending to be news?
I don't know what the paper has against Sinn Fein or why it's hellbound to stir up trouble in Ireland, but that's opinion, not news and it shouldn't have made it into a news story. The I.R.A. isn't a bunch of saints or Girl Scouts and I don't think anyone thinks that they are. But the New York Times is perfectly willinging to toss out all standards of journalism and objectivity to trash Sinn Fein, the I.R.A. and stir up unrest in Ireland. Over a bar brawl as Dominick has pointed out. They can't get enough of this story and after their editorial Saturday it's making them look very unobjective and very nonjournalistic. They're coming off the way people make fun of Bill O'Reilly. They'll do or say anything to push their agenda and that's hurting their image. They're supposed to be reporting events not shaping them. The best thing alternative media including bloggers have done is provide a different voice. I don't know that communicating with established media will hurt bloggers but I sure don't see how it will help them. It didn't today when the guy from went to all the trouble to organize the phone call and to talk to the paper only for the story to end on a note from a right wing blogger that basically mocked the whole thing other than to say "we should have thought of that." I don't think you give up your independence for that kind of treatment and I'm afraid that might happen.

Lori: Mainstream media (and yeah, I read the memo elsewhere that said stop using it, to which I say kiss my ass) and bloggers can not have a bridge. Mainstream media is not about being fair to bloggers. It's about ridiculing them with pajama jokes and clutching the pearls in dismay. If I know some guy gets abusive every time he gets some booze in him, I don't invite him over to my house and if he shows up uninvited I don't serve him alcohol, I just ask him to leave.

Cedric: I can see some good coming out of it if it means that mainstream media will be stop ridiculing the left. But I'm thinking of all the letters and e-mails mainstream media has received and how that hasn't stopped the ridicule. So I guess where I am is wondering why this bridge would make a difference when FAIR and Media Matters are still fighting the good fight, especially FAIR after all this time? If it's something someone wants to follow up on then they should. Maybe it will work. But I really think the whole thing is suspect and potentially troublesome.

Keesha: Break it down time, corporate media's being exposed and it doesn't like being seen with their naughties on. When you're charging the gates, you don't stop to say, "Hey, can't we all get along?"

Lynda: Nothing changes if nothing changes. And read The Third Estate's editorial and you'll see that NYT never changes. It does an apology when it's forced to. That's all. It keeps repeating the same madness and the same cycles. I don't think enabling them by building a bridge is the way to go.

Susan: Bridges to Babylon! Rolling Stones album title that sums up exactly what this step is.

Zach: Okay, say I'm a blogger. I'm BloGGer ZaCh. And I take part in this phone call. And Jeff Gerth spends 10 minutes on the phone with me schmoozing. "Oh, BloGGer ZaCh, I get what you're doing. I understand." Then a few weeks later I'm looking at my copy of The Times and
Gerth has written another piece of hack journalism. Am I going to be able to point that out?
Or am I going to ignore it? Or am I going to say, "Jeff Gerth meant to say?" Or am I going to say, "Gerth tries real hard so everyone back off!" I think the bridge is a stairway to hell and a huge mistake.

Roy: If you're testing the waters on this to find out what we think I can tell you what I think and it's this: Don't do it. If you start taking part in phone chat sleep overs, I don't want to be a member.

We will not be taking part in any bridge building. We do attempt to gain access. No "reporters," other than community members, get replies from this site -- though their comments are read.
I do e-mail bloggers like Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq?) who I consider to be a reporter. As for our community members who are professional journalists, I don't cite their work. If a member brings them up -- and members can bring up anything -- then they're noted. I don't, for instance, e-mail Erika and say, "Oh, we can't link to ____ because they're also known as _____ to the community. They're a member!" That would break the confidentiality rules that apply to every member. Any journalists that I know in real life outside of the community are not pull quoted here unless a member brings them up. And I'll repeat that although any member is welcome to speak to the press, I have no desire to. Having watched slam jobs be pieced together right in front of me, in the writing stage, I have no illusions of fairness operating in the mainstream media. But I will say, I personally prefer the slam jobs to the fluff jobs orchestrated by guidelines set down by p.r. persons.

Liang: As someone who's seen coverage of my the country I was born in shift from year to year depending on the national mood, I don't have a great deal of respect for the corporate media.
If they're wanting to build a bridge, while some may be sincere, the majority are just wanting to try to appease the blog world so they can stop valid criticism.

Anne: Bridges today, tomorrow quiet luncheon's thrown by Cokie Roberts? A little perspetive, please. Independence is too important to risk cozying up to a lazy and ineffective mainstream press.

Gary: It ain't that easy. What you'll find is that those who go along and start writing in that
stilted tone will find access. Real voices will be marginalized and ignored the way the mainstream does to Alexander Cockburn and others.

Trina: Big mistake! Big mistake!

Marci: They want a ceasefire. That's all they want. And bloggers will trade in the very thing that made them worth reading. It's nonsense.

Hank: If this attempt at co-opting doesn't work, expect The New York Times to start trying to purchase sites. They only want control. Anyone walking into the lion's den thinking, "Oh, I'll charm that hungry lion" is fooling themselves.

Francisco: Idiotas! They want to mainstream the bloggers not note them. This is like the history of Mexican politics. When you have someone making too strong of points and being heard, the ruling party always attempts to play nice with them and bring them in under their wing. Then suddenly the person has nothing left of value to say and is exactly like every other politician offering minor reforms and meaningless words.

???: As they say, there's no such thing as a little bit pregnant. So ends the great story of this century, blogs having an impact and making a difference.

Lisa: I'm going to try to stay positive and see the good points like some blogger who's busted his butt getting attention for his work. But I'm not going to kid, I find the whole thing suspicious.

DeShawn: So you've got a winning team and the other side figures out they can't beat them. What happens next? You try to steal a few key players away. You offer signing bonuses.
You offer cars. I think the blogosphere just got a little less noisy and a lot less pure.

Maria: I floated the idea at the school I teach at. The reaction was negative. One student said, "It's trying to fit in with the wrong crowd."

Toni: Once upon a time there was this thing called internet where people spoke their minds freely. Then people from outside came along promising friendship and bonds and bridges. And the internet settled down and became just another lapdog. The end.

Ben: Don't do it C.I.! We can discuss any issue here right now. If you're chatting on the phone with ol' man [Bill] Keller, you're not going to want to point out [Juan] Forero's mistakes or [Elisabeth] Bumiller's. You'll be thinking about writing some more truth about [Daniel Okrent]
Okrot and then remember how Keller told you on the phone that his kid was asking him how he could work for that paper [New York Times] and hold his head high. So you'll think about that or Keller's wife or something else and in the end you'll give Bumiller and Forero and Okrot a pass.

Again, we're not taking part in any bridges here. There were 38 e-mails where the writer didn't wish to be quoted but raised this same issue. This wasn't to test the waters. I only mentioned it because Marcia e-mailed about the story. And a point of clarification, we've dealt with Forero hear twice or three times only. Most days he does get a pass just because I don't feel up to the time required to refute his article and provide sources for it. More often than not, I ignore his writing. The two times I'm remembering that we dealt with him were the result of a member e-mailing asking that we address him.

Tori: A bridge? Can we get any lamer? Maybe the mainstream can provide talking points for all the bloggers who've needed them in the past? I'm sure they'd be happy to do that.

Jobi: Little Red Riding Hood just stepped into Grandma's house and doesn't realize the wolf of corporate journalism is about to swallow her whole.

Drew: There's a line about how you will be known by the company you keep. That should be a cautionary warning to any bloggers wanting to build bridges.

Ava (community member and member of The Third Estate Sunday Review): Okay, here's the deal, I read the e-mail we get [at The Third Estate Sunday Review] and I can tell you journalists are frustrated and angry about being called on the carpet. We did an editorial about one person and his groupies and how they offered us "access" and "visibility" if we'd stop linking to, working with and noting ____ and _____. It was very divide and conquer. Some journalists may truly be interested in building bridges with bloggers but the e-mails I've read at the site are hostile and refer to blogging as a "fad" that will pass. Knowing that, and I'm speaking for everyone [at The Third Estate Sunday Review], we would never attempt to build a bridge. We've had offers already, some nice, and we've said no. You can't be an independent voice if you're also one of the gang. Ty said this morning the whole thing smells of a Trojan horse.

Charlie: Seems to me that if you start your own company and make pies that people are enjoying, you don't enter into talks with Mrs. Paul unless you're wanting to sell your company.

Gore Vidal Is God: And on the seventh day the blogs were co-opted and the bitch goddess of mainstream media pronounced that "Good."