The New Journalism

Sometimes tectonic shifts are underfoot and society fails to recognize the acts and effects. Such is the case with journalism and its daily outlets, newspapers and television. Newspapers are dying left and right, those that are not are struggling to stay alive and relevant. The most recent glaring example is the Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe has been published for over 137 years and, over that period, became one of the grand ladies of the news press. You would think that the purchase of, and partnership with, the Globe in 1993 by the New York Times would place the Globe in a position of strength in even these perilous times. Not so. From Eugene Robinson in today’s Washington Post:

Despite the whole Red Sox vs. Yankees thing, employees of the Boston Globe were mostly relieved in 1993 when the paper was bought by the New York Times Co. for an astounding $1.1 billion. If the era of local family ownership had to end, nestling beneath the wing of one of the world’s great newspapers seemed the best alternative. And if the Times was willing to pay so much, it must have been serious about putting quality ahead of the bottom line.

That was then. Now, after several rounds of painful cutbacks and layoffs at the Globe, the Times is squeezing a further $20 million in savings from the Boston newspaper’s unions — and threatening to shut down the paper if the demand is not fully met. The economics of our industry are cruel and remorseless, but still it’s alarming to witness what looks like an act of cannibalism.

To be fair, the Globe is reportedly on pace to lose about $85 million this year. The New York Times Co. is hardly in a position to swallow a loss of that magnitude, given that the company’s flagship newspaper is waging its own fight against a rising tide of red ink.

So that is the background for the discussion I want to have. My proposition is that it is not just the financial status of the major newspapers in decline, it is also, and even more significantly, the quality of content. Quite frankly, the traditional press has become deficient in both content and quality. I am not sure that it has ever been so apparent as in the last two to three weeks on the issue of the complicity of the United States government in a demented torture regime.

We started this discussion in earnest a little over two weeks ago when Marcy Wheeler scooped the world by revealing that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month and Abu-Zubaydah 83 times. Marcy didn’t get handed the information by a governmental press flack and she didn’t print it as a result of a leak from some coddled and conflicted secret source with an agenda. Nope, she did it the old fashioned way, she earned it by doing the tedious grunt work of reading the memos and documents. The very work the traditional press shirked. Perhaps they couldn’t fit it in between their martinis and cocktail weenies.

Marcy’s scoop out in front of the rest of the media world was not isolated; she did it again yesterday in relation to John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, along with Jerry Nadler, Howard Berman and Bill Delahunt writing to the National Archives to demand Zelikow’s dissenting memoranda and related material. In fact, the only two news sources even close to Emptywheel on the story were Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent and Zach Roth at TPM Muckraker, two other internet based sources. And Emptywheel not only reported the letter and contents, she was spot on with the legal analysis of what it really meant:

That’s because if the memo isn’t there, then not only is it suggestive of criminal intent, but it also violates the Presidential Records Act.

That is precisely right, and precisely what wasn’t reported by our old friends the traditional press, who were late on the story and lame on the analysis. The first main paper to hit the story, the Washington Post, finally got something up on their website last night and datelined for today, May 5. The Post came in long after Ms. Wheeler had posted, and published an article containing no cogent analysis and rehashed from months ago tidbits that the coming OPR report may make discipinary referrals for Yoo and Bybee. Thanks for nothing WaPo, we already knew that. This is the same sugar coated type of nothing I commented on in relation to the secret source love poem Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane wrote Sunday to assist the Condi Rice/Porter Goss rehabilitation tour:

I am a little disturbed by the sanitary descriptions and deference Mazzetti gives it even now. The stories of “the dispute and concern” in the Bush administration are left standing as some kind of reasonable discourse. It wasn’t. It was the discussion of a group of children that murdered the neighbor’s dog for kicks and didn’t want to admit it. It should be treated as what it is, not sugar coated and given the patina of reasonable discourse.

The reporters have become the village they were designed to report on. Self puffed on their own importance and place. The working press is a critical part of society and a necessary hedge on government. The fourth estate is important; they better wake up and get their butt in gear, because right now they are just getting it kicked.

So the new paradigm involves dedicated and dogged blogger journalists competing head to head with the biggest, best and brightest of the traditional press. It is not an unusual occurrence when a blogger like Marcy Wheeler takes the old newsers to the cleaners, it is now such an everyday event that we no longer even notice. Pretty soon they will even be winning the Pulitzers and other lofty prizes of journalism, and rightly so.

All of the foregoing having been said, I want to remind people of the effort we have underway to gear up the work, effectiveness and exposure of Marcy Wheeler. Two weeks ago, Jane Hamsher started the Organic Blogging Project to do just that. The folks that read here have been nothing short of remarkable in their response, having raised in excess of $64,000 to date. But I want to renew the call to action at this point and make sure that everybody knows this is not just another standard (even if laudable) "pledge week" effort to help pitch in for a blogger. This effort has as its goal to create a new working investigative dynamic to pick up where the normal pros have dropped off.

Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel and Firedoglake are The New Journalism. Support the future and start something new. This is an opportunity to invest in the startup and be a part of something transformational. As Muhammed Ali would say, shock the world!

Get in on the action here.

86 replies
  1. Waccamaw says:

    bmaz –

    Perfect time to ask a question that just wouldn’t shoe horn its way into any post in the last week or so….

    How is that fundraiser thermometer calibrated wrt people who have pledged on a monthly basis and those (like me) who’ve sent in lump sums? IOW, are y’all counting the 12-month pledges in total or just a single month’s amount? Hope that makes sense.

  2. brel1 says:

    Wondering if the Newspapers have approached bloggers for articles or to get their scoops. Not that I would read anything that wasn’t online, but where’s their thirst for information?

  3. scribe says:

    Two quick comments:

    1. Any idea what the comparison of daily/weekly readership is between the circulation figures at, say, the Boston Globe and, say, FDL?

    I’m gonna bet that FDL is, at a minimum, comptetitive.

    2. The newspapers would not be in the pickle they are in, if they were putting out better product.

    I am not one to blame that exclusively on the reporters – they are in the business of keeping their jobs and keeping their jobs usually means satisfying their editors, the publishers, and the owners (in that order). If the editors tell the writers to put out crap, or the editors turn a good report into crap to please the publisher, or the publisher requires crap to satisfy the owner, well, that isn’t necessarily the reporter’s sole fault.

    But I don’t have to pay to read crap when they put it out. And that, not competition from Craigslist, is the core of their problem. The European newspapers are doing worlds better than the US papers, and that’s a function of not putting out crap.

    • bmaz says:

      According to Wiki, the Globe figures are:

      In 2008 the Globe’s average weekday circulation fell to 350,605, down from 382,503, or 8.3%. Sunday circulation fell 6.5% to 525,959.

      I am not the greatest at reading Sitemeter stats, and they undercount a little, but they can be found at the bottom of all FDL pages by clicking the Sitemeter logo. Any way you look at it, we are still below the Globe at this point I think; but we are catching up. I do know this, most political and news blogs are down markedly since the election and inauguration wrapped up, but we have held a lot stronger than most all of them. My own guess is that the real shift to net news is coming but not here yet. I just cannot see it not accelerating though for exactly the reason you cite: quality of content. You can get the basic facts from the major dailies and whatnot, but how often do you really find cogent and hard hitting analysis there? Pretty darn rarely any more. Newspapers have become the new bubble headed bleach blondes that come on at five. Sound bites in print. That said, they need to be restored, not scuttled in my opinion. Maybe some kind of symbiosis, I dunno. In the long run, I think the journalism will come through one way or another; the time it takes to get it sorted out, as we are seeing now, can be rather dangerous though.

      • NelsonAlgren says:

        Most places are down at least just a little from the election. To be expected I think. I know Digg is being a bunch of asses, but does anyone know how much they helped in generating traffic before the latest kerfuffle?

        • bmaz says:

          Every once in a while, Digg drives decent traffic, but not often. And even that was undermined recently, which to my understanding, with the way they shifted their tactics. Honestly, I didn’t really follow the kerfuffle, but I know Jane would not diss anything that was driving traffic to us, that is how we, too, stay afloat.

        • BooRadley says:


          I thought Digg could bring new readers to FDL, so I opened a lot of Diggs. My guess is that I got around two thousand “fan” notices from people who were registered with Digg, because they liked my recommendations. I rarely recommended anything that wasn’t authored by FDL, so those notices were a strong endorsement of FDL’s content.

          Were those people actually becoming a part of the FDL community? I don’t know. I don’t see newbies in the comments saying, “hey what a kewl spot, I found FDL via Digg.”

          More compelling, I didn’t see anyone take issue with Jane’s post about Digg.

          I think Jane and Marcy form a really great team. Marcy gets down in the weeds and Jane makes sure stuff is accessible.

  4. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Given the depths of corruption, reporting is a huge task.
    I don’t want to dump more shit on newspaper reporters, particularly those in smaller towns who walk around with years of invaluable history between their earlobes that they can call upon to figure out the motives and backdoor relationships.

    And newspapers have higher fixed costs, which makes them more expensive to produce than your average blog.

    But in terms of quality of information, there’s clearly a been a big, gaping hole in the U.S. or the blogs would not have flourished. Particularly during the Plame outing, which was just **weird**.

    If one single media source (other than David Shuster, who was pretty much limited to straight news + raised eyebrows at key moments), no one was saying that it was bizarre beyond credibility that a US president wasn’t firing any staff for outing a CIA agent.

    And in terms of this ‘torture’ debate, the MSM operates under guidelines that have some utility, but are ‘played’ by the Cheneys and Bushes. For instance, on one level, torture is dreadful on its face — it risks creating bad info.

    But then, when you take a step back and think, “And it was done by the same people who lied about WMD…” it gets even creepier.

    And then another step back, “And torture policies — as government policies! — were implemented by a Pres who’d gone AWOL during VietNam, and a VP who’d never served in uniform and had 5 deferrments to avoid military service in his personal life.”

    And then another step back, “And these people who implemented torture as a policy are the same people who made sure the SEC was a compliant, lazy, blind operation; they cut no-bid contracts with Halliburton and other corporations…”

    All those ‘layers of meaning’ really put the torture issue in a horrendous social-political-economic context.

    The blogs have been able to bring more context.
    Therefore, more meaning.

    When the papers can do a better job of tracking things over time (which some are doing better than, say 5 years ago), and when they can do a better job of identifying the context of issues like torture, then their quality will improve.

    To me, reporting is the core. But it CREATES context, and therefore meaning.
    Which is badly, desperately needed for those of us who are sick to death of corruption at all levels.

  5. BayStateLibrul says:

    Joe Nocera, a business writer for the Times, has a great post today
    about John Wilke. Wilke, an investigative reporter, formerly of the Globe, died recently.

    He says that
    “The modern newspaper business model might not sustain them anymore, but American democracy can’t survive without them.”

    FDL is filling the void. Marcy with her energy and work ethic, lowers her
    head and exposes the powerful… a wonder to behold…


    • behindthefall says:

      He says that
      “The modern newspaper business model might not sustain them anymore, but American democracy can’t survive without them.”

      And then _where_ the h*** has he been the last 8 years!

      • 4jkb4ia says:

        Nocera is a business reporter and is trusted by ROTL at least to cover the financial crisis.

  6. rapt says:

    “Quite frankly, the traditional press has become deficient in both content and quality.”

    My first thought was that newspapers are an essential part of the problem. Problem: military/corporate/media self-sustaining worldview that can’t stand interference by independent thinkers. Everybody Knows. (That song is so right-on.) Think of the fear among media types, owned by corporate types, that somebody is gonna pull the plug soon and none of them know what to do about it other than stick together as best they can, stone-wall until the very end.

    We (and they too) may as well face it, this “ethic” of exchanging money for power is just about over. Don’t take my word for it, just look directly at the evidence. Perhaps Cheney and gang will indeed escape without direct govt-imposed penalties on their crimes – many opinions declare this is so, but that won’t make it OK. I tend to see any and all individuals, people and institutions, which contribute to the coverup, if only by ignoring the crimes out of fear or whatever, as complicit.

    We’re at the point where “ignoring the crimes” (newspapers, teevee, most public media of any kind) doesn’t work any more and you just have to face the ugly truth. Or not, and face the peril of willful ignorance. Oh and anyone who expects to someday get back to the “good-old-days” is a fool too.

  7. BooRadley says:

    I thought 3,000 people each kicking in $50/year was very doable. Right now the average donation is around $60, but we’re still less than halfway to 3,000 donors.

    Free advice is usually what you pay for it.

    Maybe with the donor base where it is now, Jane or Marcy could go back to some of the deep pockets and ask them to match the thousand who have already stepped up. I don’t know if Joe and Valerie Wilson count as deep pockets, but they know some of them.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Globe makes money, but not from journalism. Looked at narrowly (and as corporate tax departments used to be regarded), journalism is a cost center, not a profit center. But it’s the reason newspaper ads have any value. It’s what differentiates them from Fox Noise and the glossy, all-ad junk mail the post office delivers for a song and which promptly gets thrown away unread.

    Journalism is the engine behind the fat tires, the pressed metal and glossy paint that salesmen pitch. None of it moves down the road without a working engine. But predatory capitalists and neocon family’s that find they still own America’s most liberal big city paper don’t look at it that way.

    Bmaz and others are correct. It is journalism that earned its special First Amendment rights, not “newspapers” or “the press”. It’s been a long time since the two were the same thing. The future of journalism is with EW and the rest of Jane’s team at FDL, and others like them. Newspapers, like the Nightly News, have become infotainment.

    The good news is that whatever it costs Jane, she can run her shop for a lot less than the Globe. But like distributed computer networking, her work requires lots of informed people doing the same thing for the net effect to be an informed public.

    If you can, please donate to Marcy’s Fund. I’d hate to see her with no choice but to go to the Washington Independent or or a NYT’s version of Slate. She’s part of the community Jane helped build and we’d like to keep her here for a while longer. Thanks.

  9. Leen says:

    Gave a while back will do it again. Thanks Bmaz

    We know what caused the major shift from MSM newspapers and television. The pathetic coverage of the run up to the invasion of Iraq. When you turned on the MSM in the run up you heard Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, endlessly repeating the lies, no hard questions were asked…no challenges Judy “I was fucking right” Miller sunk the reputation of the NYT along with her editors who did not do their jobs by making sure she had verifiable evidence and sources to back up her claims.

    Hundreds of thousands are dead, injured and millions are refugees partially due to this false reporting and the lies that were told. Not that many Americans would notice or care at this point.

    Those in control of these empires brought the decline on themselves. The most extreme example I have of the MSM not reporting fairly or accurately is during the Terri Schaivo fiasco. I was not able to attend a rally in Fayetteville North Carolina where close to 15,ooo members of military families who had family members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan protested. So I watched the MSM close to 8 hours off an on that day. I flipped the channels to see if there would be any coverage of U.S. military families against the war in Iraq in Fayetteville. Not a minute, not a whisper. But during those 8 hours they showed the Terri Schaivo clip of her looking at some balloons in her room 81 times…no bull shit I counted 81 times on all of the stations that I flipped through. This is our television news….this is what we get
    Thank the heavens for FDL , Washington Note, Juan Cole, Information Clearing House, Amy Goodman, Real News etc

    • bmaz says:

      You know, that is exactly the point that I lost the last thin reed of respect. In a small bit of fairness, the print media was slightly better than the craven teevee news on the runup to Iraq. But not by much. Both were still pathetically depressing.

      • Leen says:

        obviously I am a news junkie. Try to read from the right left center. But in the run up to the invasion I really felt horrible for those who had 8-5 jobs (I am self employed so I set my own hours) If you were coming home an turning on the news and watched for two hours. You would hear the same endless “pack of lies” Mushroom clouds, WMDS WMDs WMDs,
        The lies

        But if you had the option to access the Diane Rehm show, BBC, Amy Goodman, scour the internet, the UN website, Iaea, you could hear Scott ritter, El Baradei (early March 2003), former CIA analyst, Jimmy Carter, Bryszinski all questioning the validity of the intelligence. But if you were relying on the MSM you were being royally fucked and confused.

        I kept spending time in the small towns around Athens audiotaping Vets sitting in VFW’s, Moose Lodges …these mostly older codgers were confused by the news. They often had serious questions about what the Bush administration was claiming and they knew first hand the reality of war…but they were really confused. It is from these towns that grow soldiers quick to join because of lack of access to higher education and they often believe what their government is saying to them.

        People are dead…DEAD because of the horrible reporting in the run up to that invasion. DEAD

        There are very good reasons why one should not trust the MSM.. hundreds of thousands of reasons

          • Leen says:

            I agree but she did have a boat load of folks who were questioning the validity of the pre war intelligence. Actually so did Talk of the nation.

            At least on the Rehm show you can hear opposing views and more indepth analysis. Diane may have been the only MSMer giving the hundreds of thousands of people who marched against that war before the Bush administration invaded. Millions marched millions 30 million world wide before those fucking killers ever illegally invaded.

            The MSM never showed the world who was at those marches before the invasion. Teachers, Doctors,families pushing babies in stroller and grandparents in wheelchairs plumbers, truck drivers, Vietnam, Korean, WWII vets. Hell I marched with Vets in New York who were WWII Vets in their friggin 90’s yes in there 90’s. My two dear friends Bev and John Titus who lost their daughter(airline stewardess) in one of the planes that the thugs flew into the World Trade Centers. Bev and John led the march in New York with other 9/11 family members against the invasion of Iraq. Here is a site dedicated to their dear daughter who lost her life in 9/11. They led that march. Did the MSM interview them for the folks at home to hear why they were against an illegal invasion of Iraq? Did the MSM interview those dear 90 year old WWII Vets marching against the invasion?

            Where was the fucking MSM? Did they show the rest of the folks at home who was on those streets marching against and illegal and immoral invasion. Hell the fuck no. If they showed anything they would show a clip they took of the 20 people there with black hoods over their heads and show it over and over again on the evening news. They did not show the nation that their neighbors were at those marches against that bloody fucking war That is what they showed to the folks at home who had questions about that fucking invasion. The MSM failed in every way every way in that run up to the invasion. THEY FUCKING FAILED THE PUBLIC THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO INFORM EDUCATE SHED THE LIGHT ON PROVIDE ACCURATE INFORMATION TO SO THAT THE PUBLIC CAN MAKE MORE INFORMED DECISIONS. THE MAJORITY OF THE MSM FAILED MISERABLy. As a direct consequence we know what happenned..It is just so sick so irresponsible so pathetic

            Here are just a few of the shows that Diane did before the illegal invasion. She tried to bring us information and a diversity of views

            anti war movement
            Oct 2002

            U.N. Resolution on Iraq
            10:00Iraq Update
            10:00Pre-emption Doctrine

            10:00Anti-War Movement (this was several weeks before hundreds of thousands millions across the nation marched in New York, San Francisco

            Weapons Inspections Update

            Sorry folks I just lost it. Fuck the MSM. Thank goodness for FDL, Marcy , Jane and the rest of those in the blogosphere trying hard to bring us accurate in-depth news and information.

              • Leen says:

                sure have
                but not when it would come to a life or death matter. Can you imagine being a parent of a kid who joined the military based on what the Bush administration had said about Iraq and then you lost your kid based on that “pack of lies”

                I’m tellin you I would be far more outraged that Cindy Sheehan. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz etc would have to look over their shoulders far more than they must have to do now

                  • Leen says:

                    I have never served in the military but have plenty of family and friends who have. It was amazing to me how many WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm Vets there were at the anti invasion of Iraq marches (I literally audiotaped hundreds of them over four marches).

                    Lots of Vietnam Vets in southeastern Ohio have heard many stories. You put your ass on the line for lies and liars. You must have been pissed.

                    • stryder says:

                      I think an accurate word would be RAGE.
                      Most of the people I knew are either dead,in prison,drug addicts,alcoholics,nuts or cops

                    • foxman says:

                      I’ve also known many Vietnam vets (including my oldest brother) whose lives were screwed up by that fucking war.
                      It seems that the Bush-Cheney group were able to avoid the shit because of inside influence (Bush) or infinite deferments (Cheney.)
                      Those people didn’t learn from experience.
                      I’m really curious what you have to share; lessons learned or not learned from the Vietnam era plague us still.

                    • stryder says:

                      “Those people didn’t learn from experience”
                      They do have a learning curve.And they believe in what they’re doing
                      Don’t ever underestimate them
                      Look at Iran Contra.
                      The concept of outsourcing is almost brilliant in so many ways.
                      The whole BAE thing that Edmonds tried to expose
                      Like Bmaz said when you get these people down you have to put your foot on their neck and kick em back under the rock they crawled out from under.I’m still astonished at the length they’ve gone to to pull this one off and even more astonished that anyone would believe a word that comes out of their mouths.

                    • stryder says:

                      “I’ve also known many Vietnam vets (including my oldest brother) whose lives were screwed up by that fucking war.”

                      Randy Newman had a song called “Song For the dead”

                      Deep in the field a lone soldier stands
                      With mud on his boots and blood on his hands
                      They left him behind to bury the dead
                      And to say a few words on behalf of the leadership

                      Pardon me boys if I slip off my pack and sit for a while with you
                      But I’d like to explain why you fine young men
                      had to be blown apart to defend this mudhole

                      Now our country,though it’s quite far away found itself jeopardized,
                      Endangered dear
                      By these very gooks who lie here beside you
                      Forever near forever near
                      I’d like to express my deep admiration for your courage under fire And your willingness to die for your country
                      We won’t forget
                      We won’t forget

                  • foxman says:

                    I get the sense from your comments that you have some disagreement with the original post or the following comments.
                    Can you express your point of view in a way that is open to discussion?

                    • stryder says:

                      Leen is right on target here.
                      These people in marketing sure know how to sell a war.
                      Wars are big business and it’s the media’s job to sell it.They can sell snow balls to an Eskimo.
                      Thank God for the people here that tear apart the lies and try to keep things in perspective

              • Loo Hoo. says:

                Well, seems to me she has been lied to plenty, as we all have. She’s had more than enough and with good reason.

                Thanks, leen.

      • Leen says:

        I agree. Newspapers were better during that period but not by much. Clearly remember when IAEA director El Baradei announced the Niger Documents were forgeries in early March 2003. I thought that would be all over the front pages of all of the major newspapers. Head of Iaea announced NIGER DOCUMENTS ARE FORGERIES….FORGERIES.

        Not The New York Times had something on page 9 or something. Hell we have yet to witness anyone held accountable for the Niger Documents. Ever see any of the Major newspapers pick up that issue again?

      • BAmer says:

        I clearly remember reading in the Times, not close to the front page, however, that experts were convinced that the aluminum tubes Condi was spouting as parts of a nuclear reactor could not have been used for that. This was in late 2002 or early 2003. But on the front page that day were more lies about WMD in Iraq. It’s like the newspapers, along with the TV media, were really afraid of saying anything negative about the war-selling. Or at least in a prominent way.

  10. 4jkb4ia says:

    I am very struck by how much the Rocky and the Globe were local institutions. National blogs can drive traffic and attention for national issues, but both state and local coverage and foreign policy coverage don’t seem to be getting the kind of attention that newspapers can drive.

  11. 4jkb4ia says:

    One more, and then I will try desperately to catch up. If you had any common sense whatsoever, you knew that there was no reason to go to war in Iraq except that Team Bush wanted to be seen defeating the bad guys. My husband and I went to a standstill over whether Saddam Hussein was a bad enough guy that we should go to war for that reason alone.

  12. Leen says:

    Bev and John Titus lost their daughter (a stewardess on one of the flights that was used as a weapon on 9/11). They marched at the head of the Feb 2003 March against the invasion of Iraq with other 9/11 family members against the invasion. Some of my Vietnam Vet friends marched with them

    did anyone see the MSM interview these people and the other hundreds of thousands of middle class folks marching against that invasion?

  13. Leen says:

    o.k. now I’m hyped up! Here is another MSM story. I had the good fortune to attend some of the Libby trial.

    During a court room break Chris Matthews was talking really loud on his phone..really loud. So I thought I would take the opportunity and ask him a few questions. I regurgitated some of his own words to him. In that first week just after the Katrina disaster Matthews had said “Katrina had ripped the scab off of racism and poverty in our country”. I mentioned to Matthews that I had not seen any coverage of the recovery program along the coast since those first few weeks.

    How much coverage has that recovery had?

    I also asked Chris Matthews about the lack of coverage on the Israeli Palestinian issue (all ready knowing why there is no coverage) thought I would ask anyway.

    Matthews answered “I do not control the programming at MSNBC” Now how true that is or is not that is what he said. I also have to tell you Chris Matthews was really accessible, pleasant and actually seemed to enjoy some challenging questions. Asked him some questions out at the Democratic convention also when he came out and mixed it up with the peasants. Far more accessible than Olbermann or Maddow who did not mix it up with the peasants in front of the MSNBC stage near Union Station in Denver.

  14. MadDog says:

    Not totally OT, a must read – From the NYT:

    Inspector at Pentagon Says Report Was Flawed

    In a highly unusual reversal, the Defense Department’s inspector general’s office has withdrawn a report it issued in January exonerating a Pentagon public relations program that made extensive use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks.

    Donald M. Horstman, the Pentagon’s deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, said in a memorandum released on Tuesday that the report was so riddled with flaws and inaccuracies that none of its conclusions could be relied upon. In addition to repudiating its own report, the inspector general’s office took the additional step of removing the report from its Web site…

    I’m betting we’ll hear from Glennzilla about this in the morning!

    • MadDog says:

      And here’s the DoD IG’s withdrawal memo (PDF).

      A couple of the money quotes:

      …It found that the methodology used to examine RMA relationships with Defense contractors (searches of public websites) would not reasonably yield evidence needed to address the issue of whether the outreach program conveyed some financial advantage to RMAs who participated…

      (My Bold)

      Well, duh!

      …Our judgmental sample of RMAs interviewed was too small (7 out of 70 RMAs) to allow that testimonial evidence to be used to support conclusions. As a result, no conclusion can be reached in the affirmative or negative regarding the relationship of the Retired Military Analysts and potential competitive advantage.

      (My Bold)

      Well, duh again!

        • SparklestheIguana says:

          Maybe the RMAs just wouldn’t talk to them, like the Pentagon officials:

          The review found that the former senior Pentagon officials who devised and managed the program refused to speak with the inspector general’s investigators.

  15. DeadLast says:

    So a newspaper sells for $1.1 billion, and we are surprised when the debt can’t be repaid profitably. I bet it was purchased with loans (now at risk) from our 401Ks and retirement accounts. Long live free market finance.

  16. Leen says:

    Sibel Edmonds asking why the MSM and many blogs have stopped digging into the Harman “waddle”
    May 05, 2009 “Brad Blog” — -I have been known to quote long-dead men in my past writings. Whether eloquently expressed thoughts by our founding fathers, or those artfully expressed by ancient Greek thinkers, these quotes have always done a better job starting or ending my thoughts – that tend to be expressed in long winding sentences. For this piece I am going to break with tradition and start with an appropriate quote from a living current senator, John Kerry: “It’s a sad day when you have members of Congress who are literally criminals go undisciplined by their colleagues. No wonder people look at Washington and know this city is broken.”

    • pdaly says:

      Seems Sibel Edmonds has been silenced both by people pursuing corrupt ends and by people pursuing those people. Wish the FBI would file charges on the corrupt Congressmen and women already so that the racket would begin its unraveling.

      Thanks for the link. Noticed at the Information Clearing House Homepage that the current estimated cost of the US-Iraq war and occupation is a devilish $666 billion.

    • rkilowatt says:

      …Sibel Edmonds asking why the MSM and many blogs have stopped digging into the Harman “waddle”…

      Because that would open Pandora’s Box via disclosure of AIPAC’ Marc Grossman et al exposure of BrewsterJennings/Plame to Turkish principals, etc?

      MSM does what suits its own agenda,using its control of the flows of information. The agenda can be roughly inferred by assuming it does not make mistakes. “Who/What benefits?” beats the constraining “follow the money”, the latter being about catfights over money and so irrelevant to ThePowersThatBe.

  17. JohnLopresti says:

    Trying to avoid too much futurism, I would venture nevertheless, some of the smart folks who used to buy newspapers, now instead have flexible hours for work and access over the internet, or intranet, to their prime remunerative activities; so, they make fewer trips outside the home, and have less frequent need to fill an idle moment with reading the paper. I have appreciated NYTimes for its independence standing firm against the then administration’s political hype in issues like the exposure of the wiretap scandal. NYT followed ew pretty closely, too, pretrial of ILL, and JudyJudyJudy’s frivolous reportage became too transparent for NYT to publish, especially after the book appeared and the trial bore out what the blog research had revealed. WaPo did a favor by posting the Cheney energy taskforce roster and schedule, alone among news organizations to do that. I have a time budget, so usually Google’s paragraph per topic news is first, then ew. Clasically, ew is days ahead of the diluted version mainstreamMedia publishes. I think it is the celerity of the blogs’ best writers, and the thread contributors’ wide range of expertise, which have been important assets that consistently outperform newspapers. One of the things I enjoy about newspapers is their randomness compared to blogs. Often I know much of the individual blog’s predilections, but newspapers tend to provide a salad of articles that can be more solid than blogs and more diverse, though rarely as nuanced or thorough, or specialized. One of the greatest assets of the blog format is searchability, although newspapers searchengines sometimes are helpful in that regard, however, usually are biased and unhelpful. I find that search engines usually miss most blog content, or are too sensitive in their fuzzy logic algorithms. However, Google, findlaw, and a variety of specialized searchengines occasionally are sufficiently strong that they help the researcher compose a history quickly. Then there is the environmental side of the print media. Reading blogs saves recycling.

    • Rayne says:

      I like your analogy of a news salad, but newspapers are not as random as you may think. Their content can be very predictable, and in the age of the internet, quite stale.

      Readers have gotten more sophisticated and demanding, and they want a more highly customized or personalized sald, one made to order. Online news outlets can offer something closer, and aggregation tools even more so. Witness Bloglines or Google Reader; even Google News becomes somewhat personalized as it pulls content in a fashion you’ve partially tailored by reading experience.

      The internet also allows us to view news in different ways than ever before. Here’s one of my favorite examples; Marumushi Newsmap allows me to see at a glance what’s most popular in news around the world, but in a way which also gives some feel for the period of time over which interest is sustained, and whether there is “wave action” from a key story over other outlets. There’s no way for brick-and-mortar news to compete with this.

      As for search engines: you may be using the wrong tool for the job if you are looking for news. There’s differentiation in no small part because of the money involved; if a search engine makes money on one kind of search and less on another, there may be partitions in place to segregate content. Search engines may also deliberately separate that which deliberately identities itself as news from that which may have no identification at all. Look at the difference in content between content found by versus as one example.

      There will continue to be a place for newspapers — or the content producers we’ve known up until now as newspapers — but there will be less and less print. Kindle and other readers along with smartphones are the new news delivery system; the problem is the business model by which this new system supports the reporting to be sold via WiFi-enabled readers.

      The real problem few people are talking about is the new under-served news consumer who is not likely to migrate to computer/reader; the oldest consumers are least likely to move to online news instead of papers, and are most likely to increase their TV news consumption instead. A real tragedy in the making if these people are also the most likely to vote consistently.

  18. bobschacht says:

    I’ve got a few thoughts on this thread.

    1. Newspapers are dying because they’re on a daily cycle in what is becoming a 24/7 world. By the time a newspaper is put to bed, printed, distributed, and thrown on your doorstep by your local delivery person, its news is already at least 5 hours old and maybe much more. TV is killing the newspapers even more than the Internet. Also, ever since Ted Turner created CNN with the help of a satellite, instantaneous communication around the world has accelerated the news cycle. News ripens really fast now, and newspapers have lost the technology battle.

    2. The MSM have become establishment. They are no longer an independent 4th estate. But how much was that ever true? I’d like to see a study of the independent press today, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and 200 years ago. I suspect that what we’d find is that the newspapers with the largest circulation were always somewhat compromised. But global communications have also squelched local publication. A newspaper that serves a city of 200,000 people cannot field a staff large enough for “independent” analysis of World and National news. At best, they can cover local news, especially local sports and entertainment. In other words, you can no longer be “independent” just because you’re outside the Beltway.

    3. Newspapers are a victim of merger mania. There’s been way too much consolidation, which serves to squelch independent voices. Newspapers have largely ceased to be “grassroots” any more. They’re all astroturf. Except maybe for the Onion, and who listens to them?

    4. The Internet is wide open: fast, grassroots, connected, independent, and sassy. Watch for a big battle over control of the Internet in the next decade. We’ve already seen preliminary skirmishes. We had better fight to keep the Internet the way it is, because if the Rupert Murdochs of the world get control of the intertoobz its all over. I don’t see any way that newspapers can be competitive in that environment, except to do what newspapers do best: cover local sports, entertainment, and local news.

    Bob in HI

  19. wavpeac says:

    I just think the bottom line is that the newspapers cannot “produce” information as quickly as blogs and/or television. As a result, the news is stale. This naturally lends itself to becoming a tool of propaganda. Propaganda is not as quick because it has an agenda, it’s articles need to be well planned the way a public relations blitz or advertising campaign is planned. It is well suited for the “purpose”. Timeliness is important, but not nearly as important as the “agenda”.

    I also think it was no mistake that bushco changed the laws regarding big company ownership of the media. This was more important to him that protecting us from a terror attack. Seemed innocuous to many, but it was the thing that sent me to the internet searching for some “higher” truth. If having big corporations buy up the news networks was so important to him, I figured nefarious intent. (the immunization and control of the 4th estate, before 9/11 ever hit).

    But the glass is half full perspective is that truth is like water…it finds its way through the cracks to the lowest point. Truth finds it’s way to the people. It happened here. I cannot imagine what the last few years of my life would have been like without this blog, without knowing that there were others like me who were not satisfied with the story being told. Marcy will someday see her place in history…not trying to be dramatic here, but truth finds it’s way and she has been our Paul Revere. (The fascists are coming…The fascists are coming). Once the lies of this administration have finally been lifted, one the claws of tyranny of been released, the truth will come out fully and Marcy will likely be in the history books.

    There was a need, a void, and sites like this one filled it…as naturally as a baby cries. What you focus on grows. When I focus on this truth, my faith in humanity is restored.

    I give what I can…and this cause is more important to me, than who is president…because this cause is truth.

    Just my thoughts.

  20. katiejacob says:

    Here’s the headline of today’s front page article about the OPR report in NYT:


    Question is, how do they know?
    Does the fact that the OPR report does not recommend prosecutions (which is what they should have indicated) mean that there will not be any? The Times admits that Holder has not yet signed off on the report and, how about any recommendations that Congress may make after holding hearings on the subject?
    It look Johnson and Shane are trying to promote the idea that there will be no prosecutions, by making it their headline.

  21. tanbark says:

    With you on this, BMaz. At the risk of a bit of oversimplification, the MSM is rapidly running itself out of business, because of their lust to protect the status quo by knowing which questions not to ask.

    Or, to ask UNENDING questions about the kind of tabloid subjects that have increasingly permeated our media with the mind-numbing drivel that makes people turn down their cognitive functions to about the level of a clever Irish Setter.

  22. oldtree says:

    It looks like we will be left to getting all our news online. And the government controls the net. Pretty easy way to eliminate free speech when required, hmm?

  23. jayt says:

    has anyone ever come forward to confirm that they had actually *seen* the Zelikow memo?

    color me both skeptical and cynical w/regard to this CYA story of Zelikow’s.

    ‘course, it’s always possible that I’ve missed seeing some corroboration that’s out there.

  24. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Senate testimony on the future of journalism

    Later today Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search Product and User Experience, will take to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet about the ways innovation can help preserve journalism and its vital function in our society. …

    May be relevant to eWheelies…?

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks for that, could be very interesting testimony. Especially when AP and other outlets chronically whine Google is poaching their content.

      (I want to say to them, Um, no, morons, Google is marketing your content for you at a very reasonable price, accessing the market you’d otherwise lose altogether…)

  25. eCAHNomics says:

    Someone would have to do a time series study of MSM to convince me that it’s gotten worse. Color me unconvinced.

    What has changed is that there is much more robust competition from the internet, which reveals the MSM weakness that has always existed.

    What’s funny about this very predictable, observable, irreversable development, is that the powers-that-be seem largely unaware of its importance, and denigrate it when asked.

    • ratfood says:

      Pointless anecdotal evidence, I think the kid that delivers my paper probably has about 40 subscribers. 20 years ago there were 120 or more on that route.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        That newspaper circulation has declined is irrefutable.

        I was trying to distinguish between 2 possible causes: (1) decline in quality or (2) increase in competition from the internet.

        Both may contribute, but it’s my working hypothesis that it’s much more 2 than 1. The more I read about the history I’ve lived through, the more I realize how biased the MSM coverage was. For example, I’m listening to House of War by James Carroll, which is a fabulous book about the Pentagon, with heavy emphasis on the development of the bomb and how that enhanced the power of the military ever after. Everything I can remember hearing from the news while this was happening was all the war mongering propaganda of the pols and the military. Very little coverage and reasonable analysis about the Soviet “threat.” Not vastly different from the propaganda of today.

        • bowtiejack says:

          When I moved to New York 14 years ago, one of the things I looked forward to was going by my local newsstand and picking up the NY Times every day. After Judy Miller, I simply stopped buying the Times. Propaganda indeed.

        • Hugh says:

          I think the impetus for the development of the blogosphere was precisely the fact that newspapers and the rest of the media weren’t putting out news but propaganda. Who wants to pay to be spun? Again it is difficult to tell pre-internet if this was always the case, but with the internet, the news media as propagandist and infotainment just wasn’t a viable business model.

          But it isn’t just content but presentation where the MSM fail. The Huffington Post has been successful although it’s kind of light weight and glitzy. Dailykos has been successful too although it is often limited by traditional partisan affiliations. But quite obviously both of these give readers something that they want. They are addressing the wants of an audience. When was the last time you ever heard the MSM talk about its audience? Not numbers but who it is they are trying to reach? That I think is the point. The media no longer know who they want to reach or how to reach them. As a result, that audience is looking for alternatives and it is increasingly finding them on the internet.

          It doesn’t hurt that many of these sell themselves as free, even if this really isn’t the case. If you look at the cost of computers, network connections, portals, etc., the internet is not free. In fact, it can be fairly expensive. But the difference is that now it is not the NYT or Boston Globe that is telling you what you need to know and doing a very poor job of it, it is you who are calling the shots, and maybe you like glitz or the Democratic line or something else but those are your choices, good or bad. The MSM thought they had a captive audience. They were wrong. The evidence is that they have yet to internalize that lesson.

  26. tjbs says:

    The world’s been shocked by bush. The ladies of the lake are just fleshing it out , in pretty colors, for the world to see. Nice flashlight you have there.

  27. Mauimom says:

    Now, after several rounds of painful cutbacks and layoffs at the Globe, the Times is squeezing a further $20 million in savings from the Boston newspaper’s unions — and threatening to shut down the paper if the demand is not fully met.

    Where are those folks [including the 11 Democratic Senators]who cried about the possibility of cramdown legislation “altering existing contracts”?

    Oh, the same place they were when auto workers’ “existing contracts” were altered.

    Nowhere to be found.

  28. klynn says:

    Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel and Firedoglake are The New Journalism. Support the future and start something new. This is an opportunity to invest in the startup and be a part of something transformational. As Muhammed Ali would say, shock the world!

    Well said bmaz. Thank you.

  29. RoyalOak says:

    Excellent article! During most of the previous 8 years, there was a deafening silence from most journalists in newspaper and TV when it came to their watchdog responsibilities. “Most journalists” – Kwame Kilpatrick would probably still be mayor of Detroit if it wasn’t for the Detroit Free Press investigation reporting. But in this economy, all media is suffering because no one is buying advertising. The news gatherers and the reporters are all extremely short-staffed now and each one is doing the jobs of 5 people. I love FDL and Marcy Wheeler but we have to remember that not everyone can afford a laptop or even a computer or have the skills to find these new news sites. These people can afford a newspaper, though, and they can take it to work and read it during break. So we need to keep the pressure on the papers and TV to be watchdogs for us. I also think we need to make absolutely sure that newspapers continue to exist, no matter what.

  30. ratfood says:

    reply to eCAHNomics @ 75

    You’re right, the MSM has always been pro-establishment. You might recall that for a long time the coverage of the Civil Rights Movement was from the perspective of law enforcement. People were going out and being disruptive and when trouble found them they were getting what they deserved. It wasn’t until the Birmingham church bombings in ‘63 that the narrative (slowly) began to change.

  31. RIRedinPA says:

    The paper should just stop printing and save 1/3 of their cost (which includes delivery) and lock all subscribers into a 3 year deal, $300 per year, monthly fee. Fat penalty for canceling early, like with cable or your phone service.

    With that you get a new Kindle DX. (Retail $489, probably work a deal with Bezos sub $400 per) but no paper delivery.

    Then work a deal with Amazon that every purchase made through a NYT subscriber, 1% is given to the Times.

  32. cathy says:

    The dying newspaper trend is like which came first, the chicken or the egg.
    I stopped reading the paper when it started sounding like the Bush admin garbage. I noticed that it was garbage when I started reading news on the internet. Would I have gravitated toward the internet anyway? All I know is that the more fed up with the paper I became, the more solace I found on the internet.

  33. decotodd says:

    I think most of the points I would make have been made. However, a couple of things:

    1. It is true that 24 cable news and the internet have made much of what newspapers cover stale. However, that should have been a wake up call years ago for the papers to devote more reporting on stories that no one else is doing. Some stories require timely/newsbreaking coverage (e.g. a bombing) that is best served by tv but there are plenty of stories that either do not require that kind of immediate time frame(e.g. Harman’s wiretapping story) or mainstream stories that warrant in-depth analysis (Marcy’s footnote discovery by doing real reporting; how many talking heads had actually read any of the memos or reports they covered?). Too many tv news stories are the equivalent of hit-and-run: sound bite today, forgotten tomorrow.

    Speaking of hit-and-run stories, what’s going on with Meirs/Rove/Card testimony?

    2. I think one of the posters above was on to something. I think the MSM has always been a bit ‘establishment’. I was reading a book over the summer about the WPA theater program, and there was plenty of anti-FDR bias in the main stream news accounts.

    I know there are many who long wistfully for the days of Cronkite/Mudd/Reasoner, but I wonder if they aren’t just being nostalgic for something that was never as substantive as they imagine. I’d like to watch some old telecasts of nightly news to see how early Watergate or Vietname was covered.

    • RoyalOak says:

      Viet Nam was covered from the government’s perspective (with one or two exceptions – Cronkite was one as I recall) until more and more of us protested. That protesting turned the MSM into reporting more than propagandizing. They merely followed the turning tide. I remember how angry I would get at the news back then – but the protests got larger and larger and they had to cover them.

  34. Clovis says:

    Do you think there might be some advantage to brakes in evolution? The grocer in Kansas City who invented the roller cart was surprised nobody took advantage of it. So he had to range about his store pushing one so the practice would catch on. And in drag racing, they had these huge fire-belching constant explosions blocking the view of the driver in those rail jobs, and one driver mused when finally a sensible design came out; “I understand what placed the driver where he was [convention]; what I don’t know is what keeps him there.” And in my hot muggy part of the world while growing up, there was a quick food franchise which offered the very first open-air dining in our town, and in the spring it was cool and bug-free of an evening, and the tables sat vacant. Because everyone had always dined inside.

    And now folks still insist their news be in the form of ink spread on dead trees. After all, it’s always been like that.

  35. radiofreewill says:

    I’m late to the party, but We need 2,000 more donations of $50 to make it to the Goal of $150,000 to support Marcy Wheeler and Our Own homegrown, organic News, Analysis and Blogging!

    I’ve given once, but I’ll give again – by matching anyone who hasn’t yet donated – up to $50!

    Just high-five me in the comments and I’ll back my little red wagon full of coins up to the Emptywheel Blogging Syndicate receiving dock…

    We can do this!

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