Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Some really good writing

Stunning (in both senses of the word, respectively) pair of essays, first Kim du Toit on The, uh, feminization, Of The Western Male (which I could swear I saw reported approvingly by right-wing blogging superstar Glenn Reynolds a day or so ago although now it doesn't look that way...could be my memory though), with rejoinder (via crooked timber) by Winston Smith, the Philosoraptor (all-time best blogname). Great writing - true, WS engages in a little more of the (more-typically-rightwing-blogger) shrillness than I'd like but hey i'm a wimp. And the substance is GREAT.

and via PressThink, an also stunning article in Columbia Journalism Review by Matthew Miller, on faults and potential of the press to play an active and constructive role in a democracy. Go read the whole thing, it is a treasure. i know i shouldn't quote this much, but it is sooo good! besides for all i know the CJR sticks stuff behind a firewall after a while, or moves everything to make linkrot, or otherwise allows me to rationalize this misbehavior....sorry. (Tell you what, go buy the book)
The media end up in cahoots with politicians in creating this illusion of meaningful action, both because 1) media norms don't allow reporters to say "this is a charade" even when they know it is (reporters are supposed to be "objective"), or 2) because it cuts too close to the bone for reporters to admit they are often tacit conspirators in such hoaxes.
"News" is largely defined as what public officials say and do. The poles of debate on major issues are thus set by the mainstream Republican position (today the Bush administration) and the mainstream Democratic position. The national press faithfully reflects these two poles, and the fifty-yard line in American politics is between them.
...[this] brings a clear downside: in times when neither party is serious about addressing major problems,...assures that public debate remains impoverished.
if candidates do put forward ambitious ideas, the top news outlets generally aren't equipped or inclined to assess them.
So it's Bush says "X," Gore says "Y." You decide. But people don't have any capacity to decide . . . . They [the media] either said "they're both full of it" or they say "we're not going to decide who's full of it," but they never come down hard one way or the other when one guy's numbers are based on sand and the other guy's may be fudged a little bit but make more sense.
...what's new isn't the same as what's important. We obviously need our top news outlets to give us the latest. But it would transform public life if they could also keep us focused on the big things that matter.
Wasn't there some way that the most important daily bulletin boards in our public life could institutionalize regular attention for things that are important - even though there isn't "news" on them? ...[and thus] perform a public service by mitigating the gap left when officials prefer not to address important issues?
Meanwhile, at The Sacramento Bee, editors are considering a Still True-like feature for the editorial page.
Despite its political ring, a feature like Still True does not represent a call for a return to the partisan newspaper wars of the early nineteenth century, when each political party had outlets that purely parroted its party line. Indeed, the idea is inspired by the fact that neither party is addressing these issues seriously, so the task of at least raising their dimensions has to fall to someone independent, with the power to bring them up.

Last but not least, Theresa Nielsen Hayden on today's NRA Woman..."If I were the editor responsible, I’d want to avoid walking along backlit ridgelines for a while...."

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