Category Archives: Media Criticism

Bloggers Are Good For Journalists

That’s what Ralph Kinney Bennett says. For the good ones, at least:

It’s precisely because good journalism is hard that I love bloggers.

They are always ready to pounce. Whether you’re CBS News or the Daily Bugle, they will not let you get by on the cheap. They teach you by their native wisdom. They teach you by their ignorance.

They can be immensely unfair and incredibly stupid. They open up new vistas for you and force you to consider sometimes cockeyed perspectives that end up giving you more perspective.

They bring the world to a screen right in front of your eyes — in all its uncouth, elegant, raw, funny, revolting, thoughtful, partisan, passionate, tedious, upsetting, amazing, predictable, biased, sordid, elemental, ethereal, exhaustive, cynical, hopeful, delightful, excruciating variety.

And they are providing a venue for some thoughtful, fresh, clever writers who otherwise might have taken a while to find their way into print.

Pompous journalists are disdainful of blogs because they feel threatened by them. They are like members of the Raccoon Lodge and the bloggers just barreled into the ritual room and tore open the curtains and they all look slightly ridiculous in their epaulets and tin pot hats and braided swallowtail coats.

Also, this:

The unmasking of “the li’l Injun that could” set me to thinking. Can you imagine what a job freewheeling bloggers would have done on Adolf Hitler as he was on his “way up?”

Or (not that I’m making any comparisons here) Bill Clinton?

No Free Speech For Reporters

Hiawatha Bray has gotten into trouble with his bosses at the Boston Globe for expressing his political opinions on line:

…Bray posted an item under his own name on a blog hosted by the San Jose Mercury News dismissing Kerry’s strategy of promoting his Vietnam service record as “moronic.”

Bray promoted many of the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry – some of which were proven false. He questioned his own paper’s work, dismissing probes of Bush’s National Guard service as “innuendo.”

And in another Web forum after the election, Bray identified himself as a “Bush supporter” and said he’s “feeling pretty good now.”

Emphasis mine. I’m not aware of any that were “proven false.” That’s the same kind of sophistry–well, lie, actually–that the same folks use when they say that the Independent Council report “proved the Clintons innocent” of everything in Whitewater. As far as I’m aware, the worst that can be said about any of the charges is that they remain in dispute. Few of them can be resolved absent Kerry’s service records, which he continues to refuse to release, despite his statement that he would do so to Tim Russert a few weeks ago.

Anyway, that’s a side issue. According to the article, Bray “had been told in November his postings were ‘inappropriate and in violation of our standards.”’

One can’t help but wonder if they would have been more”appropriate” and in keeping with their “standards” if the criticism had instead been directed at George Bush, rather than the hometown boy.

Missing WMD

Weapons of Mass Distraction, that is. Remember all the stories, led by the New York Times, the week before the election about Al Qaqaa, and the missing munitions, and (of course!) the incompetence of the Bush administration in not guarding them properly? Remember how we haven’t heard anything about it since?

Byron York does:

The obvious question is whether the Times pushed the Al Qaqaa story hard in the days in which it might have an effect on the presidential election, and then let up the moment the election was over. Okrent conceded that that might appear to be the case. “I would say at the very least that the dates they were running stories certainly can leave an impression,” Okrent told NRO. “But I’m not ready to convict, at least not yet.”

No. But then, he never is.

A Previously Unknown Part Of The Spectrum

Why journalists need a broader education, Part 34,567,276:

The European-built Huygens descended through the dense atmosphere and touched down on the largest and most intriguing moon of Saturn on Friday.

On board is a $12 million spectrogram built by scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder that will analyze electroviolet light.

Emphasis mine.

My email correspondent who sent me this informs me that it was a republication of an article by the noted NYT science reporter John Noble Wilford.

Based on a discussion with my friend who is a scientist on the descent imager, Wilford wrote his piece without the idiocy, which was added by a reporter at the Denver Post, who was no doubt trying to provide a


That’s the only way to describe the coverage of the story of the kid who was indicted yesterday for conspiring to assassinate the president as part of an Al Qaeda plot. When I heard about this on the radio in the car, a big part of the story was apparently that he was a valedictorian of a Virginia high school. I guess that this was supposed to indicate some kind of disconnect; how could such a seemingly all-American boy do such a thing?

Well, as Paul Harvey says, here’s the rest of the story. The “high school” was a Saudi-funded madrassa. (Do such institutions even have valedictorians, in the sense that we would recognize them?)

Why wasn’t this part reported? Fear of CAIR?

[Via LGF]

[Update at 9:33 AM EST]

Ed Morrissey has more.

Syria Plays A Dangerous Game

Dan Darling has some disturbing news from the Middle East, that could amount to a casus belli with Baby Assad’s regime:

To bring it down to the bottom line, this means that a Palestinian terrorist group that is trained, harbored, and financed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime is complicit in the deaths of US and Iraqi soldiers. If this can be confirmed, it would seem to indicate that Syrian involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri would be the least of al-Assad’s (or Khaddam, if we want to be more up-front about these things) problems.

What’s more disturbing, as he points out, is that it’s not being covered in the media here.

In some ways, this is like the Eason Jordan affair. This is either true, or not. If true, it’s a huge story that the media should be digging into. If false, then it’s a huge story that they should be debunking. Either way, they remain asleep at the switch.

[Update at 9:20 AM EST]

Jim Robbins says that Assad is a uniter, not a divider. Not that that’s a good thing, in his case. At least not for him…

[Another update, at 10 AM EST]

From this article by David Ignatius in today’s WaPo:

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria’s occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt’s mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus…

…”It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explains Jumblatt. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. “The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

This from a man who has long expressed anti-American sentiments.

[Via Jim Garaghty]

[One more at 3:30 PM]

The Syrian plot continues to thicken:

Iraqi state television aired a video Wednesday showing what the U.S.-funded channel said was the confession of a captured Syrian officer who said he trained Iraqi insurgents to behead people and build car bombs to attack American and Iraqi troops.

The video also showed an Iraqi who said the insurgents practiced beheading animals to train for decapitating hostages.

If true, why is this not a clear act of war against both Iraq and the coalition?


Pat Oliphant has a cartoon that shows angry bloggers, with battle axes and other midieval weapons, storming the castle gates.

So, even the old war horse of a political cartoonist is becoming blog savvy, eh?

Well, not exactly. If he were really familiar with the blogosphere, he’d be aware of this Cox and Forkum cartoon from early last week (which is much better, and heavily linked by bloggers). And rather than being embarrassed by his slow response, hopefully he’d have come up with something more original.

Another Journalist Who Gets It

At Business Week. Steven Baker doesn’t fear The Blog:

…with all their clout and reach, bloggers alone can’t bring down their enemies. In the end, it’s up to society’s traditional powers — the corporate boards, politicians, CEOs — to rule on these matters. Do they fire an executive for uttering one foolish sentence, ax a reporter for a wrongheaded story, exile a university president for offensive remarks? If the bloggers appear to be censorious, it’s only because the rest of society plays along.

In truth, blogging represents an explosion of free speech. While blogs certainly empower lynch mobs, they can also lead to long and open conversations, virtual town meetings. These are the greatest antidote to censorship and secrecy. The Jordan case gave birth to loads of such discussions.

Like many, he does get one thing wrong, though:

He resigned on Feb. 13 after conservative bloggers feasted on a controversial statement he made in late January at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, about the U.S. military. His allegation — that coalition soldiers in Iraq mistook journalists for enemies and killed them — brought down a storm of criticism on him and his network.

No, that wasn’t his allegation, at least not initially, if numerous accounts are correct. His allegation was that journalists were targeted by coalition soldiers (and that word includes identification). He then attempted to walk it back to them being hit by mistake.

But the columnist raises an interesting thesis: that the days of privacy are ending. To whatever degree that’s true, if it means that the powerful will no longer be able to get away with slander and bias, it’s hard to see how that’s a bad thing.

As he notes, Jordan losing his job wasn’t a blow to free speech–it was a victory for it. The First Amendment never meant anything more than that the government can’t censor you, or pass laws against the dissemination of ideas (though the current government doesn’t seem to think that the First Amendment applies to election campaigns any more). It was never meant as a shield against potential consequences of speech.