Sunday, November 02, 2003

press quotes

Links I've been collecting for some time - i.e. a few of them might be stale already in which case I apologize.

OLD. found at Poynter a couple years back, no permalink -
... no matter how many "neighbors" sections big city papers fill with feel-good news and school lunch menus, it is the enterprising little weeklies -- the ones that care enough about their small communities to get their hands dirty and report the hell out of stories -- that often make the difference.

From Doc Searls, touring the offices of his local newspaper, the Santa Barbara News-Press:
Our tour guide, the photo editor of the paper, talked about how hard it is to get new subscribers when so many readers were getting their news elsewhere, or just seemed to give too small a shit. Yet he remained no less motivated, for the simple reason that daily papers remain highly civilizing forces for the regions they serve, and he felt privileged to be part of one.

from metafilter, the difference a small paper can make:
It was a huge scoop. Yet the newspaper that uncovered the atrocity was not the venerable New York Times or the Washington Post, still resting on its Watergate laurels. Nor was it the New Yorker, famed for its in-depth journalism. It was The Blade, a daily newspaper with a circulation of just 150,000 that serves the Ohio city of Toledo, by Lake Erie.

Excellent article by David Greenberg on Calling a Lie a Lie - The dicey dynamics of exposing untruths:'s worth asking why the press sometimes seizes on a lie while at other times passes it by...
In discussing which party's policies are preferable,...evenhandedness makes sense. But in reporting which party's claims are true, sometimes there's one right answer. Often, however, that truth isn't apparent to the lay person or the average reporter but only to experts - scientists, doctors, economists, or scholars. Reporters must themselves work through the numbers or diligently mine the experts' research to ferret out the truth - or, more likely, they fall back on presenting both sides' claims equally. Bound by professional strictures, news reporters can wind up giving a lie the same weight as the truth...
Loyalty has come to mean not just voting with your party leader but mouthing the line on TV, to reporters, or in press releases... Thus, when a president lies about policy, so does a chorus of members of Congress, columnists, and commentators - and try calling every Republican or Democrat in Washington a liar...'s dismaying that the conventions of news reporting have combined with the mechanisms of Washington media politics to erect such high barriers to freethinking journalism. The current rules end up encouraging media hysteria about personal lies of scant importance and deterring inquiry into topics that matter incalculably more.

Eric Umansky article:
As legendary WP editor Ben Bradlee once noted, "Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face." One sentence he says you'll never see on Page One, "'That is a lie.'"

Chris Mooney on "Mission Accomplished" and the media:
This apparent falsehood about the "Mission Accomplished" sign strikes me as being precisely the kind of thing that the major media will probably pick up on. That's because Bush's statement is a) obviously wrong and b) doesn't matter very much. But when it comes to debunking serious, consequential lies and deceptions -- about stem cell research or the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, for example -- our leading journalists tend to get cold feet.

via isthatlegal, Ed Cone asking Is objective news coverage a worthwhile objective? a while back:
There are greater threats to the quality of news than a rogue reporter or an out-of-touch editor at the New York Times. The increasing concentration of media power in corporate a big one. The assault on the ideal of objective journalism is another.

Jay Rosen on Fox News:
The Fox News slogan, Fair and Balanced, has always been ironic because it is meant to say: "Ha! We're the conservative alternative and yet more fair, more balanced than ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSBNC, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the holy New York Times, where-in a delusion that's had its day-they claim to have no ideology at all! So we'll claim to have no ideology at all, too. That will drive them nuts."
from followup discussion:
When I first started in Journalism, as a copy kid, I met the old hack who covered my high school football team. I told him, "you know, we always thought you were biased against us." And he said, "you know what, everybody from every other team tells me the same thing, which tells me that I'm doing my job right."

Because I was a kid, I assumed he must've been right. Later, after I got training in journalism and revisited the guy's work, I realized there was an another alternative: maybe he was just doing a bad job of covering all the other teams too.
The [newly] famous "neither fair nor balanced" Fox memo, which is all over the net.

via pressthink, words from Roger Ailes:
I've had a broad life experience that doesn't translate into going to the Columbia journalism school. That makes me a lot better journalist than some guys who had to listen to some pathetic professor who has been on the public dole all his life and really doesn't like this country much and hates the government and hates everybody and is angry because he's not making enough money.
interesting, the anger/hatred thing. Could there be some projection going on here...

Just before the Iraq war, [well-known British TV news anchor and interviewer] David Dimbleby came to Washington to interview Donald Rumsfeld. They talked for half an hour. As you would expect, the questioning was persistent, forensic. Americans who heard the interview were shocked. The world's most powerful nation does not have the world's most powerful press. Specifically, it has no daily forum for the close questioning of politicians...

american media vs bbc:
Watch BBC World for a couple of hours, then switch on MSNBC. The sensory experience is not dissimilar to leaving a university lecture and then jumping on a roller coaster.

Readers: Why We Don't Alert Media To Mistakes, Reflections on credibility:
The Pew Research Center for The People and the Press reported last year that two-thirds of Americans believe news organizations are unwilling to acknowledge their errors, while just 23 percent say the organizations admit their mistakes. The research center also reported that the number of people who believe news organizations are politically biased stood at 59 percent.

Bill Moyers:
Journalists feel squeezed -- those who simply believe we are here to practice our craft as if society needs what we do and expects us to do it as honorably as possible. There's another study around here somewhere done by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and The Columbia Journalism Review. More than a quarter of journalists polled said they had avoided pursuing some important stories that might conflict with the financial interests of their news organizations or advertisers.

from Talking Points Memo:
...In fact, they have the ironic and in many ways dubious distinction of having seen the story advanced far more on their OpEd page than in their news pages...

more from same Eric Umansky article on responsibilities of the press:
Headline writers-typically copy editors-have an obligation to give readers the most accurate sense possible of an article's conclusions, regardless of how poorly those conclusions reflect on our nation's leaders. They're frequently failing.

Suggestion that journalists take advantage of teachable moments and put the hay out:
When a racial comment becomes news - say, Rush Limbaugh suggesting that the media gave favorable coverage to a black quarterback because of journalism's "social agenda" - the cows are hungry.
That's the time to ask a couple of questions:
· "What would people like to know right now?"
· "What could people learn right now?"
It wouldn't be the only story you'd do, but it would be the one story not likely to look like all the others, filled as they are with outrage and rebuttal, but precious little insight. It would be the sort of story former reporter Ruth Seymour says comes from the "inner sanctum," a story that takes you beyond the public face of a people and listens in while they talk to one another. Groups hold those stories tightly to the vest, says Seymour, now on the journalism faculty at Wayne State University. The journalist's job is to wedge in there and tell them.

Poynter online
It’s not an editor’s job to trust a reporter. It’s an editor’s job to challenge, to probe, to prosecute a story, to be the ally not of his or her colleague but of the reader who deserves a factual account.

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