Froomkin and Rosen on Accountability Journalism

Personal Democracy Forum ended up being perfectly timed to get the newly de-WaPoed Dan Froomkin together with Jay Rosen to talk about accountability journalism. And since we’ve been harping this story, I thought I’d do a real liveblog. With David Corn in the room and Froomkin around, it feels like old times!!

Jay: Why we’re here, then some questions for 25 minutes. Froomkin was WH Watch for WP.com. Circumstances of departure subject of controversy in blogosphere and newsosphere. The Old Guard won at the WaPo. The print guys. The people from the WaPo newspaper, Political reporters on national staff. When Dan came on WaPo.com, run by Brady. Post lived by divided sovereignty. People worked for website, people worked for newspaper.  In my view, served Post well, bc Brady didn’t need permission to put comments on stories, put feature on post on who was blogging story. Now, different era.

Jay: Why no longer under contract.

Froomkin: Some of you represent some of the people who responded with outpouring at my departure. Jay mostly right. Specifics are least interesting part of the story. What is interesting is it has elements of morality play. They told me not working any more. Traffic down. Down compared to what? During last year or two, column most popular feature on website. It was down from that, but still pretty good. Switch from column format to blog format, readers were furious. Bush Obama, different presence, different themes. Some disagreements about format and content. Not exciting with possible exception of pressure to stop doing media criticism. I’ve always felt media criticism integral part of what I was doing. For me to not talk about coverage of White House. Money issue. As a contractor I was a particularly easy line item to scratch out.

Dan: None would have happened or mattered if WaPo thought it had value. What explains delta between readers who thought it was valuable and WaPo who thought it didn’t. I was contractor. Little contact with Post institutionally. When Debbie HOwell thing happened, I only found out an hour and half before deadline. Tensions Jay and I have been writing about. 

Jay: Last column, wrote, when I look back, I think of the lies. But lies not a theme of coverage of Bush years. Hard to get reporters in WH press corps to talk about lies. Why so hard to register lies?

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Hayden Throwing Mudd at Bloggers

Jeff Stein chronicles former CIA columnist Stephen Lee’s woes with the CIA’s pre-publication process.

Stephen Lee, a former CIA operations manager who blogs for The Washington Examiner, suspects the spy agency’s censors are trying to sabotage his new career.

Lee recently launched the critical "Examiner Spy" column for the Examiner newspaper chain, which has a D.C. daily edition.  He also pens a biting cartoon for his own Web site, NationalSecurityDrone.com, under the name Frank Naif."

I believe I am being subjected to a campaign of low-level harrassment," Lee said Wednesday.

Most interesting, though, Stein describes the problems Lee had getting a piece blaming Michael Hayden–rather than the bloggers that Hayden himself blamed–for the withdrawal of Phil Mudd’s nomination to the top DHS intelligence post.

The first was a critical piece on former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, acidly headlined, "CIA ex-chief Hayden blames bloggers for damage caused by his policies."

Lee says he submitted the piece for clearance on Friday, June 19. The weekend passed. Finally, at mid-morning on Tuesday, June 23, he learned the PRB had "lost" it.

He resubmitted the piece, and around 4 p.m. Tuesday, he got an answer: It was cleared.

 Here’s some of what the CIA tried to "lose."

Ex CIA chief Michael Hayden’s opinion piece in the Washington Post on Friday, 19 June 2009, decried how “today’s atmosphere” of mistrust in Washington caused former senior CIA analyst Phil Mudd to withdraw his nomination as Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence. 

Predictably, Hayden did not take responsibility for his own role in “today’s atmosphere”—in particular Hayden’s own policies of excessive secrecy and shirking command responsibility for specific programs and policy on his watch. 

Hayden nonetheless excoriated “the blogosphere” and chicken-hearted congressional aides for hyping up Mudd’s association with discredited torture and detention practices. 

[snip] 

I count myself as one of those intelligence officers who has reason for pause about future service inside US intelligence. But it’s not cheeto-eating bloggers or opportunistic congressional staffers that I fear.  

[snip] 

Mudd was a CIA analyst, and probably was aware of the torture and detention programs.  But he was almost certainly not instrumentally involved in managing or participating in actual torture or extra-judicial detentions. Unfortunately, journalists, bloggers, congressional staffers, and ordinary Americans (all belittled as “internal threats” by Hayden in his Post essay) are not able to precisely discern Mudd’s involvement, if any, with that secret black box of terrorist detention and torture. Even though Americans are entitled to have a say in what CIA is doing in the Republic’s name, Hayden and other CIA directors’ disdain for transparency kept Mudd’s record out of view.

Gosh, are you telling me the former top spook is hiding beind attacks on us cheeto-eating Yirgacheffe-sipping bloggers? Read more

They Planted a Gay Whore in His News Conferences!!!

picture-111.pngI’m going to get to what it means that the AP–purportedly the most neutral source of "news" out there–is harping on the Nico Pitney question. But first, check out what this "news" entity claims in paragraph nine of their story–presumably to meet the AP’s requirement for false equivalency.

Grumblings about favored reporters are not unique to the Obama White House. There were suspicions — never proved — that President George W. Bush’s press operations often planted friendly questions in his news conferences.

Never proved?!?!

They not only planted friendly questions in their news conferences, they brought in their very own gay prostitute to ask those questions. Not to mention paying people like Armstrong Williams to push their policies and flying their favorite Generals around so they’d pitch the Administration line on teevee.

But in the false equivalency moral universe of the AP, allowing a reporter who has announced he’s going to solicit questions from Iranians directly to pose one of those questions is the big scandal.

White House officials phoned a blogger from a popular left-leaning Web site on Monday evening to tell him that President Barack Obama had been impressed with his online reporting about Iran. Could the writer pass along a question from an Iranian during the president’s news conference on Tuesday?

Of course. The next day, The Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney got a prime location in the White House Briefing Room and was the second reporter Obama picked for a question.

And so the supposedly hyper-neutral arbiter of what is news joins the pout-rage that the journalist doing the best work on a story gets to pose a question on that topic.

It’s bad enough that Fox and Politico are–predictably–bitching about this. For the AP to consider this "news" at all just shows how far gone the press is in protecting their privilege over embracing the spirit of journalism. Once again, the White House took this question because:

  1. Nico’s reporting and the role of Twitter in the Iranian crisis are signature moments showing how technology can foster democracy (which is pretty much Obama’s schtick, anyway)
  2. That same technology offered average people on the other side of the world–the people actually involved in this historic event–a way to pose the President of the United States a question about their actions

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Politico: “Oh Noes! The Best Reporter on a Subject Got Called on!!!”

Michael Calderone is way out of line with his article bitching that Nico Pitney got called on at Obama’s press conference today.

In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran.

“Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

Pitney, as if ignoring what Obama had just said, said: “I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.”

[snip]

According to POLITICO’s Carol Lee, The Huffington Post reporter was brought out of lower press by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest and placed just inside the barricade for reporters a few minutes before the start of the press conference.

When I heard, before the presser, that Nico was hoping to pose a question from an Iranian, I knew some beltway idiot would bitch if the HuffPo got a question. I just thought the bitching would come from someone with a more consistent record of being a complete idiot than Calderone.

As to Calderone’s bitching, it’s out of line for several reasons. First, if I knew that Nico was hoping to ask a question from an Iranian, then chances are the people paid to know these things at the White House knew. What better tribute to democracy and free speech could the White House make than to allow this question to be posed to the President?

And, after all, one primary focus of the presser was Iran. There are few who would argue but that Nico’s reporting–his tireless compilation of news coming in from both traditional and citizen media–has been far and away the best minute-to-minute news on the Iranian crisis (to take nothing away from the people offering superb commentary and expertise, which I consider something different). Maybe the Politico’s media reporter has missed it, but Nico’s doing something pretty historic with his reporting on Iran. So even assuming the White House isn’t as up-to-speed as I am, how hard do you think it would have been for them to guess that Nico, who has been living and breathing the Iranian crisis since it started, would ask a question Read more

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 Read more

RIP Tanta

Tanta was an example of what is best about the blogosphere: someone with real expertise–expertise (on mortgage finance) that at one point seemed obscure, until it became utterly critical to all of our lives–who contributed pseudonymously and humorously to the great enlightening conversation we conduct in the blogosphere.

Tanta passed away this morning of ovarian cancer.

Calculated Risk has a long post reflecting on her contributions. Here’s my favorite paragraph:

Tanta liked to ferret out the details. She was inquisitive and had a passion for getting the story right. Sometimes she wouldn’t post for a few days, not because she wasn’t feeling well, but because she was reading through volumes of court rulings, or industry data, to get the facts correct. She respected her readers, and people noticed.

I never met Tanta in person, though I remember the joy I had one day when I mentioned her in a post and she emailed me and I discovered she was reading me and I was reading her. It so happens that that exchange came about because she was kicking the NYT’s ass on their inadequate coverage of the mortgage crisis. 

Today, the NYT honored her with an obituary.

My condolences to her family and loved ones. I am thankful that she shared her expertise at a time when we were all so frantically trying to learn about it.

The YouTube Nielsens

When I discovered that CBS had put out an embeddable clip of the exchange they used for the teaser advertising yesterday’s installment of the Couric-Palin comedy hour (effectively pre-empting their own broadcast), I wrote this in an email:

I actually wonder if they haven’t gotten as much traffic as they expected.

AFAIK, they treated today’s clip differently than they did the last ones–they made the clip available for embed at the same time as they released the teaser of that clip (which is the one I put up on a post).

In other words, I suspect that they didn’t get the traffic they wanted, because people were watching the fun bits on YouTube the next day. So they pre-empted those YouTubes and have the embed up with two ads.

I guess the proper word is "viewership"–meaning I suspected that CBS’s ratings for their Couric-Palin interviews weren’t all that great.

Turns out I was right.

Katie Couric’s newsmaking interviews with the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, last week had only a slight impact on the ratings for her CBS newscast. But if the network could have added up all the other viewers the interviews (and its spoof) racked up, on places like CNN, YouTube and “Saturday Night Live,” Ms. Couric would surely have been more seen and talked about than in any week since she began her tenure as anchor.

Ms. Couric received a rush of attention for the two interviews, in which Ms. Palin, governor of Alaska, spoke haltingly on, among other topics, her state’s “narrow maritime border” with Russia. Clips turned up across the spectrum of television and Web sites.

The first interview last Wednesday, for example, has been viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube, while the parody of the interview on “SNL” was streamed more than 4 million times on NBC.com, viewed in full more than 600,000 times on YouTube and in shorter clips many more hundreds of thousands of times.

Still, the “CBS Evening News” gained only about 10 percent in audience from the previous week — and it was actually down from the same week the year before. The newscast averaged just under 6 million viewers for the week, up from 5.44 million the previous week. A year ago Ms. Couric’s program drew about 6.2 million viewers. (CBS was also a distant third last week behind ABC, which won with 8.07 million viewers, and NBC, with 7.98 million.)

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Let The Sun Shine In

Today Tomorrow (per CHS) is a big day in the life of Firedoglake, the debut of the new, powerful and reader driven Oxdown Gazette. Oxdown will be run by Ari Rabin-Havt, formerly of Harry Reid’s office, an immensely talented and committed progressive voice. But the real power behind Oxdown will be you, and all the other readers, who heed the call and step forward to lend their voice to the work ahead. You are the future; the time is now.

Fittingly, one of the first substantive contributors anteing up at Oxdown is none other than our own longtime Emptywheel and FDL regular, masaccio. Following the lead started by Marcy in her The FISA Loss: Recommendations for the Future post, masaccio has taken the next step in formulating a progressive based action plan. He has done an excellent job identifying several key goals and discussing modalities for obtaining them, and the thoughts and suggestions previously made by many of you here at EW and FDL are an integral part of his discussion. Go read What Should Obama Do For Us? and make your own further suggestions as to what we can accomplish through, and obtain from, Barack Obama in return for our support and votes. Here is my suggestion.

I would like a full and definitive pledge to open and transparent government. When the Democratic leadership were campaigning to claim a majority in 2006, and after they seized that mandate in the election, there was a promise made to change the ways of Washington, specifically in Congress, and stop the secretion of legislation being proposed, stop secret manipulation in back rooms, and to insure that bills are available to the individual members of Congress and the public sufficiently ahead of time to allow intelligent analysis and informed review before voting on the floor.

But when it came to seminal landmark legislation fundamentally weakening and eroding the rights of, and guarantees made to, every citizen that are embedded in the Fourth Amendment, they reneged. When it came to the literal, and arguably unconstitutional, taking of vested monetary claims, by mass numbers of US citizens, being actively and affirmatively pursued in courts of law against co-conspirator telephone companies, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives reneged. Instead of living up to their promises, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, and a cast of cronies saw fit to do an about face and operate covertly and clandestinely out of sight, in the shadows, concealing Read more

Networks or Newspapers; Dewey or Lippmann?

I’m grateful for Eric Alterman’s long meditation on the future of newspapers, if only because he correctly balances a discussion of Walter Lippmann–who has rather bizarrely been adopted as the patron saint of American journalism–with John Dewey–who would in that formulation be the patron saint of blogging.

Lippmann likened the average American—or “outsider,” as he tellingly named him—to a “deaf spectator in the back row” at a sporting event: “He does not know what is happening, why it is happening, what ought to happen,” and “he lives in a world which he cannot see, does not understand and is unable to direct.” In a description that may strike a familiar chord with anyone who watches cable news or listens to talk radio today, Lippmann assumed a public that “is slow to be aroused and quickly diverted . . . and is interested only when events have been melodramatized as a conflict.” A committed élitist, Lippmann did not see why anyone should find these conclusions shocking. Average citizens are hardly expected to master particle physics or post-structuralism. Why should we expect them to understand the politics of Congress, much less that of the Middle East?

Lippmann’s preferred solution was, in essence, to junk democracy entirely. He justified this by arguing that the results were what mattered. Even “if there were a prospect” that people could become sufficiently well-informed to govern themselves wisely, he wrote, “it is extremely doubtful whether many of us would wish to be bothered.” In his first attempt to consider the issue, in “Liberty and the News” (1920), Lippmann suggested addressing the problem by raising the status of journalism to that of more respected professions. Two years later, in “Public Opinion,” he concluded that journalism could never solve the problem merely by “acting upon everybody for thirty minutes in twenty-four hours.” Instead, in one of the oddest formulations of his long career, Lippmann proposed the creation of “intelligence bureaus,” which would be given access to all the information they needed to judge the government’s actions without concerning themselves much with democratic preferences or public debate. Just what, if any, role the public would play in this process Lippmann never explained.

John Dewey termed “Public Opinion” “perhaps the most effective indictment of democracy as currently conceived ever penned,” and he spent much of the next five years countering it. Read more

What To Get Teh Woman Who Knows Everything

I am probably going to get in deep doo doo for this, but, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm". I have thought about doing this since Marcy took off for vacation, but have been hesitating because I wasn’t sure about letting the cat out of the bag as to her birthday. But, what da ya know, Looseheadprop has freed that kitty in her latest post at FDL (very nice post and timeline she did I might add, so take a gander at it).

At any rate, Friday is our intrepid leader Marcy’s birthday. I am here to tell you, keeping this here car known as the Emptywheel blog well maintained, full of fuel and on the road is more work than it looks like. Marcy not only does that consistently day in and day out, she does it with a style, grace, competence and consistency that is unmatched in the blogosphere. The effort she leads here is not only informational and enjoyable reading, it is of demonstrated importance in the effort to expose and repair all of that which is currently broken in our government. Quite frankly, I think you all know this better than I can put into words anyway.

So, in light of the foregoing, I am going to suggest that we have a little fundraising effort for the one that makes all of this possible here. I feel a little goofy doing this, but, you know, I can’t think of any more valuable or worthwhile endeavors. So, if you have a couple of extra Euros, please contribute to keeping this the finest forum in the toobz. You folks are the greatest readers and participants anywhere. Thank you.

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