Category Archives: Media Criticism


In an interesting piece about blogging in Business Week, I come across this oddity:

A Google official says the company has lots of bloggers and just expects them to use common sense. For example, if it’s something you wouldn’t e-mail to a long list of strangers, don’t blog it.

That might be common something, but it doesn’t look like common sense to me. If I used that criterion, I can’t think of anything that I’d ever blog, since I would never email anything to a long list of strangers. On my planet, that’s called spamming.

If Google officials don’t understand the difference between a hyperlink that someone comes across, and decides to go investigate it, and having that same person’s mailbox filled with someone’s uninvited ravings, they’re frighteningly clueless about the internet. I wonder if this quote was taken out of context?

End Of Newspapers?

I actually think that newspapers are more likely to be done in by things like Craig’s List (when they start losing their classified ad revenue) than bloggers, Sam. I’d like to know more about that poll.

Young people may be reading blogs, but it’s not obvious from it that that’s where they’re getting their news. There are a lot of blogs that talk about a lot of subjects, but that’s more of a social activity, I suspect, than information gathering.

End of Newspapers

The Economist quotes Rupert Murdoch saying so. I predict a set of better paid part time specialist bloggers taking over for the generalist newspaper journalists. It may happen soon:

Whereas 56% of Americans haven’t heard of blogs, and only 3% read them daily, among the young they are standard fare, with 44% of online Americans aged 18-29 reading them often, according to a poll by CNN/USA Today/Gallup.

Props To Time Mag

In their Ann Coulter edition (and yes, that was an awful cover photo, and I don’t think it’s an accident), they mistook Communists For Kerry and the Protest Warriors for real anti-right-wing groups protesting Ann. Maybe the protesters were a little too “nuanced” for them.

They’ve since fixed it though. Rather than just putting it down the memory hole, they’ve since changed the caption of the picture to reflect reality, and noted their original error. That’s refreshing, and when they do something right, we should encourage them.

It does make you question their savvy, though. Weren’t the jokes obvious, or did they look too much like signs that moonbats would actually carry? I like the “Criminals for Gun Control,” myself.

Did I Miss It?

The sixtieth anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt’s death was last Tuesday. I’m surprised that the MSM didn’t make a big deal of it, considering that he was arguably the last (and perhaps only) great president that the Democrat Party has issued.

Do Journalists Need Editors?

The title of this post doesn’t actually mean what most people would think it means (i.e., the continual criticism about fact checking, and how MSM does it but bloggers don’t). No.

I ran across this post by Michelle Malkin, in which she republishes an email from Nick Kristof:


thanks belatedly for your note about hillary and abortions. i was in zimbabwe, skulking around and pretending to be a tourist, and didn’t have web access. but now i did have a chance to look at your web link, and i’m afraid i disagree.

you’re right that it was stassen’s work that originally pointed me to this issue and that the data cover only 16 states. but stassen has considerable credibility, since he is himself pro-life and trained in statistics, and others in the repro health field have found his work sensible. moreover, while the data are incomplete, the states represented include a range of different geographic areas and seem representative. and among those 16 states, the trend was very clear. Stassen calculates that there are 50,000 more abortions a year than if the previous trend had continued.

I repost it here not because I have any interest whatsoever in the content (which is to say, the message), but rather (as McCluhan might have said) the media that is in this case the message. This is an opinion columnist for the New York Times, who doesn’t seem to know the location of the shift key.

I don’t want to single out Mr. Kristof here, but this just happened to catalyze my thoughts on this subject, that I’ve noticed in the past. Is it an email thing? Or does he submit columns like this, and let his editor clean them up? I’ve noticed the same thing when conversing with actual book authors–the email is often all lower-case. At least in Mr. Kristof’s case, the email is otherwise well-written and grammatical, but I’ve often received emails from so-called journalists for which this wasn’t even the case.

I would never send out an email like the one posted here–I’d be embarrassed for anyone to see my writing in such a form–and if I had no other knowledge of Mr. Kristof’s work, I wouldn’t be very impressed with him as a writer, or even thinker. Maybe this is an irrational prejudice on my part, but it seems to me that if you want to communicate as well as possible, you want people to focus on the message, and not be distracted by a poor presentation of it.

My point is that I suspect that many “professional” writers (which is to say that people, like reporters, who actually get paid to write, however amateurishly they may actually practice their craft, such as it is) also have professional editors, who serve as a backstop for them against grammatical and spelling errors. I can’t help but believe that this tends to make many of them sloppy.

I don’t have that luxury. Whatever I post is seen by no eyes except mine until it’s printed on line, for everyone who chooses to, to see. I know there are some blogs that disdain the use of the shift key, and perhaps if you can get past that, the writing is very good and interesting, but I have trouble getting past it. I figure that few people are going to be turned off by proper capitalization, and surely I’m not unique in that I’m turned off by a lack of it, so why not do it right, in both email and blog posts?

But I think that it points up just one more area in which (amateur) bloggers can (because they have to be) better writers than MSM journalists. It’s not just that we know more about specific subjects, but we also present it better, because we are our own editors, and we know that if we don’t get it right, in both fact and presentation, our hits will drop, or never appear at all. Contrast that to a writer in a one-newpaper town, like Los Angeles, to whom neither facts or grammar are important, because there are editors for that, and their stuff will get published and read regardless, at least until the owners of the newspaper finally decide to stop subsidizing incompetence and ideology.

Not Quite Forgotten

I didn’t mention last night that Brit Hume did cover the Sandy Scissorhands story, both in an interview with Michael Isakoff, and as one of the segments with the “Fox All Stars” panel, so at least someone is tryng to keep it alive. Unusually, the panel was weighed liberal last night, with Bill Sammon vs Jeff Birnbaum and Mara Liasson. Mara said that Berger “…had a distinguished career.” Really?

What distinguished it more than this incident? I can’t think of a single thing that he accomplished. I suspect that she means that he had a long career, and served in the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, there are so many people who meet these criteria that the linguistic currency of the word becomes extremely devalued, even if one ignores that many Clinton appointees and employees distinguished themselves mostly with scandal and prevarication (something that Berger at least managed to avoid until recently).

Bill Sammon was incredulous (though you’d think he’d be used to it by now) at the limitless capacity of his co-panelists to extend the benefit of the doubt to his actions, and their unwillingness to consider the possibility of anything nefarious about it.

But at least Brit attempted to keep the topic alive.

The real problem, of course, is that the Justice Department seems to be brain dead (as, unaccountably, it almost always seems to be when it comes to investigating wrongdoing on the part of its predecessor administration). It’s going to be very difficult to get the media to follow up on this, when the message from the Justice Department itself seems to be “…move along folks, nothing to see here.” Even though the notion that he was just preparing for testimony by destroying documents is laughable, no one in the press is going to challenge it, because it’s just what they want to hear, at least when the beneficiary is a Clinton Dem.

If the blogosphere is to keep this alive and find out what really happened, perhaps that’s where the pressure should be placed–to get Gonzales’ people to be more forthcoming.

[Update a few minutes later]

I should add, in light of the comment below, that I was still confused even after the discussion. The story now seems to be that the Justice Department claims that only “copies” of the documents were taken, and that the originals were untouched. But what does this mean? Do they mean that no information was lost, including handwritten notes in the margins, or do they just mean that the five that Sandy Scissorhands purloined were all copies of a single document, of which the original still exists. If the latter, then as suggested in comments, and other places, what he was clearly destroying was the only copy of unique notes of individuals, and if he did, we now will never know the nature of what he destroyed, or his purpose in doing so, by definition, because he destroyed the evidence (which was obviously the intent, to anyone not in love with Democrats in general, and Clintonistas in particular).

Of course, evidence destruction, from Vince Foster on, was apparently a daily, almost recreational activity with these folks for eight years…

[Update at noon EDT]

The Washington Times thinks it knows the answer:

What was Mr. Berger doing with the documents? And why did he destroy only three? The likeliest answer is that he sought to conceal comments he or other Clinton administration officials wrote on them when they were circulating in January 2000. He couldn’t have been trying to erase the document itself from the record, since copies besides the five exist elsewhere. What’s likelier is that jottings in the margins of the three copies he destroyed bore telling indications of the Clinton administration’s approach to terrorism. Mr. Clarke’s document reportedly criticizes the Clinton administration’s handling of the millennial plots and mostly attributes the apprehension of a would-be bomber headed for Los Angeles International Airport to luck and an alert official.

If that turns out to be the case, Mr. Berger erased part of the historical record on terrorism. The Clinton administration’s cavalier attitude toward terrorism is by now well-established; it’s likely to be evident in the archival records and will crop up in official communications. An after-action report like Mr. Clarke’s, written nearly two years before the September 11 terrorist attacks, is as good a candidate as any for the telling aside in the margin.

Still waiting for an answer that makes more sense, and the “I destroyed the documents so that I could prepare for testimony” line doesn’t qualify. Of course, the biggest mystery remains why the Justice Department is playing dumb here, and they don’t have an answer for that one:

We can only speculate as to why the Department of Justice would agree to such lenient terms for the offense. Perhaps career employees or holdovers with ties to Democrats are responsible. Perhaps the Bush administration went soft. Whatever the reason, we can be reasonably sure it wasn’t done for reasons of national security, justice or truth.

Yup. I wonder what the New York Times thinks?

[crickets chirping]

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that the Pope’s passing has knocked Terri Schiavo out of the news, when otherwise we could have continued to marinate in its aftermath for days. The bad news is that it also knocked everything else out, including Sandy Burglar. I had already predicted that no one would be talking about this tomorrow morning, because there’s no way to talk about it that reflects well on the media’s favorite (recent) administration–that of Bill Clinton. Now, it’s guaranteed–it will be all pontiff, all the time, maybe for a couple weeks until a successor is chosen.

I’m sure that many in the Washington press corps are breathing a sigh of relief to have an excuse to ignore the story. We can’t let them do it indefinitely–there are too many unanswered questions about which they’ve displayed too little curiousity.

Mysteriouser And Mysteriouser

What is the credulity level of a reporter who can write a story like this with no allusion to how little sense it makes?

First, the lead:

The Justice Department said yesterday there was no evidence that former national security adviser Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger was trying to conceal information when he illegally took copies of classified terrorism documents out of the National Archives in 2003…

…Department lawyers concluded that Berger took the documents for personal convenience — to prepare testimony — and not with the intent of destroying evidence or thwarting the Sept. 11 panel’s inquiry as to whether the Clinton administration did enough to confront a rising terrorist threat.

Then, she writes:

In acknowledging the crime to Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, Berger said he knowingly took five copies of different versions of the same classified document — briefings for the Clinton administration on terrorism threats — from the National Archives in the fall of 2003. As part of his plea, Berger also acknowledged that he destroyed three of the copies, and returned the remaining two to archives officials and said he had “misfiled” them.

How does destroying documents help one “prepare testimony”? The story makes it sound like they were accidentally destroyed, but she can’t be bothered to mention that he deliberately shredded them with scissors. There is still no explanation for this, from either her, or at least as she reports, from the Justice Department people.

And what are we to make of this?

Hillman noted that Berger only had copies of the documents — not the originals — and so was not charged with the more serious crime of destroying documents.

But if they were only “copies” (indicating that the information on them was identical) why did he need five of them? And what was the purpose of destroying three of them? Is Hillman an idiot? Why did he get such a light sentence when there are so many seemingly unanswered questions?

And I loved this bit:

Friends of Berger said he hopes the embarrassing episode does not badly tarnish his reputation.

As long as Berger, like all corrupt former Clinton officials, has friends in the press, his reputation will apparently be just fine. And does anyone think that this reporting would have been the same if it were a Bush administration official accused of the same thing? No, I suspect there’s be much more curiousity on the part of this reporter, and others.

[Update on Monday morning]

For those visitors this morning from Instapundit, note that this is a follow up of an earlier post on this subject.

Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the passing of the pontiff, we can’t let this story fall off the radar, no matter how badly the press wishes that it would go away.