There is so much stupidity contained in this piece by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei that it drools. The primary stupidity is that ordinary people care about the travails of how hard the White House press corps has it in covering the president at all. Given that the people who do so largely make six-figure salaries from the large media corporations, sympathy is low, even from one’s fellow journalists.
The second problem is that these tirades and hissy fits come in the wake of the WH press corps being shut out of a photo op of President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods. Of all the things to complain about transparency and access after, this ain’t it, and I don’t care how much you protest — a la Ed Henry of Fox News — that it’s about more than a golf game.
Third, and probably most salient, problem with this piece: the complaint by the press corps seems little more to me than the whining of an entitled class in the era of the Internet and easy to use media technology. Yes, the White House has increased its outreach through Twitter, Facebook, and other in-house methods of spreading its message rather than sitting down with journos. But every administration engages in this type of avoidance, only sitting down to softball interviews. Be a journalist. If you don’t get the access you want on an important story, then say so and find the information elsewhere. On covering subjects that actually matter, that means going to various departments and maybe greasing a squeaky wheel — like all those contacts and sources you’ve spent your time building up over your career.
Fourth and finally, it’s laughable to read complaints about the president not doing hard-hitting interviews with press organs such as the NYT, WashPost, etc. and including Politico in that list when Gawker editor John Cook reminds us of the last time Mike Allen got to sit down with a president by posting all the softballs Allen tossed to G.W. Bush on his Twitter feed.
Stop complaining about your lack of photo ops and go do your actual job.
Via Hullabaloo, we learn David Frum said something amazing on Morning Joe and neither Scarborough nor Chuck Todd nor David Gregory dared acknowledge it. It comes about four minutes in:
Since the loss of the election, we have heard an enormous amount of discussion from Republicans on television and newspaper columns about immigration as an issue…but all of us who are allowed to participate in this conversation, we all have health insurance. And the fact that millions of Americans don’t have health insurance, they don’t get to be on television. And it is maybe a symptom of a broader problem, not just the Republican problem, that the economic anxieties of so many Americans are just not part of the national discussion at all. I mean, we have not yet emerged from the greatest national catastrophe, the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. And what are we talking about? The deficit and the debt. And these are important problems, but they’re a lot easier to worry about if you are wealthier than you were in 2008, which most of the people on television now are again, if you are securely employed, which most of the people on television now are. But that’s not true for 80% of America. And the Republican Party, the opposition party, needed to find some way to give voice to real urgent economic concerns held by middle class Americans. Latinos, yes, but Americans of all ethnicities.
The debt is a real problem for the country, but right now, it’s secondary. We adopt the Charlie Pierce approach to the American economy: Eff The Debt. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.
Of course, had Romney won, we’d probably be right back in “deficits don’t matter” territory. But it’s telling that everyone ignored what David Frum said about it. A Canadian conservative and former GW Bush speechwriter — the one who coined “axis of evil” — is calling out the cupidity and narrow parameters of the national political press, and they don’t dare acknowledge it.
Conservatives get worked up about media bias — supposedly “liberal” media bias. Well, part of this is true — there is a media bias, but it’s a class bias. The political media in America, in terms of income and status, is much closer to the people it covers than the people it is supposed to inform, and this frames what the acceptable discourse on the multitude of political chatfests is.
Thus, we are hearing about the debt, deficit, and fiscal cliff as if it is Apocalypse Now for the U.S. and it means we have to cut social services for people who are already suffering — because everyone must suffer more.
The badness has nothing to do with financial viability. It’s clear that the Web has made receiving summaries of the news that was a week later an absurd luxury and Newsweek’s subscription and circulation numbers have reflected that — no matter how many stupid cover stunts Tina Brown came up with.
But the decision is bad for the overall media marketplace because all this talk of going digital presumes that we are all wired to the web in the same way. Yes, access to the mobile web is expanding through the availability of lower-cost smartphones, pre-paid data plans, etc. — but there’s still a digital divide to observe if one is lower middle-class or poor. If journalistic work is going to be hidden behind a monthly pay wall instead of available at the news stand for a few bucks, who gets access to journalism and who becomes the target market for said journalism?
What I’m trying to imply here is that the rushing of traditional print publications into reduced print schedules or the abandoning of print schedules is likely to result in journalism swinging harder to appeal to the people who can afford to access it — meaning fewer articles asking about poverty, the safety net for those who really need it, less on labor and its declining worth, more geared toward the owners of businesses or those aspiring to own or manage. This is what we fear with newspapers potentially reducing their schedules (or actually doing so, in the case of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.)
In short: this is journalism heading for a path where it reassures the comfortable and either ignores or “others” the afflicted.
Santorum means this as a put-down. He’s trying to use “smart” as an insult combined with elite. But combined with his prior remarks about President Obama being a snob because he wants people to be able to go to college, he’s revealed a whole lot about himself and certain aspects of the conservative movement.
Not that smart people are immune from doing stupid things and good governance isn’t all about where you went to college — but intelligence as a perceived negative ought to have no place in an advanced society. You can celebrate intelligence and education without pissing on people who don’t have a B.A.
There are many ways to be smart.
(The real topper here is that Santorum actually is kind of on to something, but in the wrong way: there is an elite in the media that does relate more to the people they cover in D.C. and other state capitals than the people they are ostensibly supposed to be reporting for. The problem is that for many politicians — on both sides, but mostly GOPers — this “elite” is conflated with “liberal” or, in recent years the “RINO” phenomenon. Thus “elite” = “smart” = THEM, and intelligence becomes a pejorative.)
I’m not sure how I missed this last night but it’s the best thing I’ve seen all week.
It’s good. If you’re not aware, @mysecondempire is Esquire writer and ESPN back page columnist Chris Jones and Tommy Craggs is the editor-in-chief of Deadspin. It did seem rather one-sided; all Jones gave Scocca in response was a snarky “+1”
Writer beef is such petty ante shit but it’s amusing.
A week later, post-Paul Ryan, Oak Creek has largely receded from public consciousness, along with the important policy issues it raises. There will be little debate about claims that the Department of Homeland Security has understaffed its analysis of domestic counterrorism in response to political pressure. There will also be little attention to the accusation that the military has repeatedly been willing to accept white supremacists in its ranks. Representative Peter King will continue to hold hearings about the threat posed to America by Islamic extremism while refusing to investigate domestic right-wing groups, even though right-wing groups are more worrisome by any systematic measure. In the end, the events of Oak Creek are tragic on at least two levels. There is the tragedy inherent in the brutal murders, the heroic sacrifices, the anguished waiting, and the grief of relatives whose lives will never be the same. But there is also the larger one of our inability to understand this attack as an assault upon the American dream and therefore a threat to us all. The cost of this second tragedy is one that the entire nation will bear.
Naunihal Singh, writing in The New Yorker, on how quickly Oak Creek, Wisconsin has faded from the public consciousness and how awful that truly is.
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik takes down both Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism and the lame excuses David Frum puts forth for him — Frum implied it’s not a regular practice to cite where you got a quote from if you didn’t get it yourself, when the opposite is true and should be heeded at all times.
EDIT: Here’s one of the few times comments are valuable, as it turns out Zurawik’s “ethics” may be selective. He apparently pilloried public radio host Lisa Simeone, who was fired from her opera show when NPR (who merely distributed and did not employ Simeone) fired her for attending an Occupy rally.
Here’s Simeone’s comment:
Lisa Simeone at 6:28 AM August 13, 2012
David Zurawik makes much of his integrity and “ethics.” Yet he doesn’t seem to see a conflict of interest in the fact that journalists take payola from the corporations they report on.
He sided with NPR while they blacklisted me last year over my political activities, even though I wasn’t an NPR employee, wasn’t paid by NPR, and didn’t even cover politics.
Yet he uttered not a peep about the fact that NPR’s Scott Simon writes pro-war op-eds and then goes on to “report” on those wars; that Cokie Roberts (and other NPR reporters) accept enormous speaking fees from corporations, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a pop; that Mara Liasson flaks for Fox News while still “reporting” for NPR. And now we learn that Adam Davidson of NPR’s Planet Money is also apparently taking payola from the corporations he purports to cover.
(Oh, and never mind that Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, and Garrison Keillor, all on major public radio shows, openly advocate for political candidates.)
Yet is Mr. Zurawik bothered about any of these conflicts of interest?
The O is owned by Advance Publications, which if you’ve been paying attention, is the same owner that’s decided to turn the New Orleans Times-Picayune into a three-day a week paper come this fall.
I am not bent out of shape about newspapers going to three days a week so much as I am corporate cutting newsroom jobs as part of it. You cannot cut reporting experience and staff and expect to have the same quality in an online product. Also, Advance’s web templates are horrible. OregonLive went from overcrowded but okay to clumsy and blocky — good luck finding breaking news on its front page.
Unrelated: LOL at the chair of the MultCo Republican Party in the comments crying about media bias. The problem with print and TV media is not that they don’t have a countervailing viewpoint — it’s that they bend over backward to be the Viewpoint from Nowhere. The answer to bias is not to add different political viewpoints as a quota; it’s to hire people who can show their work, develop conclusions, find the truth, and tell the readers/viewers who is lying/spinning and why with the proof laid out for all to see. Whether your views are liberal or conservative ought to be irrelevant to that process. In fact, being stringent and stubborn about said political views in that light would actually be a hindrance. Good practices of journalism and writing ought to make the writer and editor think as much as it does the reader, if not more.
If you have not watched the first episode of Aaron Sorkin’s new series and did not know about it being free to view on YouTube, go ahead and do so. There’s a good chance you’ll disagree with me, and I wanted to disagree with me because of all that bad reviews I’ve read of the show so far. I wanted to brush them off as media people slagging someone who’s basically skewering their entire approach to journalism, but the problem is that if Emily Nussbaum and Richard Lawson are sharing a similar tone about it with Jake Tapper, then there might be an issue. (Although it is funny to read Howard Kurtz savage it without a hint of irony.)
Unfortunately, the best part of the series premiere is the diatribe Jeff Daniels, playing ostensibly bland anchorman Will McAvoy, unleashes while on a panel at a Northwestern U seminar, which is what we all saw in the trailer, and aside from the glorious TV force that is Sam Waterston (playing a booze-soaked former Marine who is in charge of ACN’s news division) and a riveting final sequence once the actual news-gathering and show events get going, one is overwhelmed by the Sorkinese speeches and affectations that mar the minutes in between McAvoy’s YouTube moment and the coverage of Deepwater Horizon.
Sorkin’s problem is that the overarching idea here is a false nostalgia of sorts. I would call it naivete but that would be unfair to dismiss the obvious gripes Sorkin has with the current state of televised journalism, which is more than understandable. He’s chosen the wrong vessels to deliver it, though. While it’s nice to see Emily Mortimer again, her MacKenzie McHale seems like less of a character than a conscience for McAvoy. Hired by Waterston’s Charlie Skinner to be Will’s new exec producer, Mac is also Will’s ex. (This is the first of a couple annoying tropes.) Mac, after Will gives back $1 million a year in salary to fuck with her contract so he has power over her, appeals to Will’s vanity and nostalgia (as well as ours) by talking about taking back the responsibilities of the Fourth Estate, delivering a sermon in his office.
This as a subplot with Mac’s senior producer and comrade Jim develops, including Will’s departing EP (Don, positioned as status quo douchebag) and personal assistant or associate producer Maggie (whom Don has apparently been dating for four months and they’re haggling over meeting her parents.) Then the oil rig explodes, and the place feels alive and clicking, a newscast takes place with fun, snappy stuff (and a voice cameo by Jesse Eisenberg, because that’s how Sorkin and director Greg Mottola, who directed the actor in Adventureland, roll) as NewsNight gets out in front on the environmental disaster end before anyone else because of Jim’s sources.
Part of the show’s problem is that Sorkin decided to work with real things that happened rather than create some of his own. This makes it easier for him to expound upon how the coverage SHOULD have been instead of explain or satirize how journalistic coverage is shaped. It’s real, real easy to Monday morning quarterback TV news coverage two years after the fact; the difficulty for this series will be convincingly explaining why coverage is the way it is. Sorkin already has his answer. In his eagerness to club us with his big ideas, he’s forgotten a few things:
You have to show and tell. Sorkin is presuming we agree with him and dispensing with earning our rhetorical trust.
Conversely, while it may be fun to write such speeches about the Obligations, Death, and Revival of True Journalism — it’s really fucking dull to watch. Especially because the people most likely to watch this show already get the points Sorkin wants to make!
He’s in thrall to nostalgia of a shared understanding and American consensus. Considering the numerous people who were very much disenfranchised during this earlier “consensus,” it calls into question just how much, really, we put stock into the avuncular presences of Cronkite and Murrow. But the title credits will give a very good sense that Sorkin is wedded to that idea as credible.
Considering Sorkin wrote a movie about Facebook, it seems very, very odd that he would not realize that social media is a huge part of how people (ESPECIALLY PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS!) consume news! Waterston’s character is rambling at a web person in the newsroom to Tweet something about how wonderful off-the-cuff news programming is but his spiel doesn’t fit 140 characters. The only acknowledgement the new world of media gets is Dev Patel’s Neal, who writes the show’s blog but no one can remember his name, so they go for stereotypes. The reason why the “Great Man” is dead is because there are too many news sources to place all your trust in just one of them.
Seriously, no one in an actual newsroom speaks in that alternating flowing-yet-clipped way that Sorkin has many of them speak in, not normally or without a script.
Mac’s behavior with Will where she taunts him before the show is entirely and completely unprofessional. “From eight to nine, I own you” sounds nice, but that would get someone disciplined quickly.
I hope it gets better next week but all the reviews from people who got to watch four episodes say otherwise. Sorkin seems to have misjudged a series about a newsroom for a sermon about news rather than the stories of the people producing the news.
(And on a personal note, this really does not help one iota in explaining what people do in a newsroom to outsiders, but that’s really beside the point.)
Hamilton Nolan reminds us every year why this event is loathsome. Stephen Colbert’s performance a few years back exposed the dinner perfectly for what it was and it’s good for writers to remind us why this is the antithesis of everything a free press should stand for.
Dear Media, please stop dumbingout about this. It’s been common knowledge for years. It is not a new story. For instance:
I’ve heard plenty of rumors about the origins of naming the town Springfield in “The Simpsons,” but I recently learned that you were actually born in Springfield, Oregon.
Springfield, of course, was my inspiration. For not a particularly great reason: Because that was the name of the town where “Father Knows Best” took place and I thought they were talking about Springfield, Oregon. I was so excited. So that’s where it originated.
That’s from an MSN interview in March 2009. Or how about this, from the New York Daily News in 1999 (!):
Groening set “The Simpsons” in a city called Springfield because Springfield was the setting for “Father Knows Best.”
“I grew up in a small town in Oregon,” he says. “The next town over was called Springfield. I thought, ‘Wow! That’s where Robert Young lives!’”
One step we would suggest is for ESPN to demand that its writers and on-air talent find richer language and fresher turns of phrase. We’d be happy never to read or hear “chink in the armor” again on ESPN. That has nothing to do with political correctness or the possibility of an innocent phrase being misconstrued. Rather, it’s that the descriptive power of that phrase was leached away by overuse decades ago, and it’s now just clichéd noise — and a sign of someone on cruise control.
One of my big things about Poynter is that their folks seem to have spent so much time teaching journalism and media ethics that it’s been too long since they practiced it — and this bit in its latest column for ESPN.com on the Jeremy Lin headline incident proves it.
Never mind that ESPN traffics in cliché in general — please see all those anchor catchphrases we knew and loved from Patrick, Olbermann, Levy, Steiner, Mayne, Kilborn, Eisen among others (and in Berman’s case, loathed) — but obviously the Poynter folks have not sat in on a television news consultant meeting or a writers’ workshop (one usually led by management) in a long, long time.
The first thing consultants and many managers will drill out of a writer is interesting vocabulary because we are writing for people who are not our peers and thus do not traffic in our vocabulary and/or references. This is actually useful advice: it helps the writer to write like someone would speak, but the flip side is that new and interesting turns of phrase are actively discouraged while cliché is disdained at the same time. (I have received a list of suggested “phrases to avoid” or outright banned terms at every place I’ve worked at, and at past stations, I’ve even been told I’m writing for children.)
This leads to mordant jokes about trying to work in words with more the four syllables. (One of my co-workers and I had one of them yesterday: I joked about using “audacious” while he wanted to use “cavalcade.”) In essence, you go back on tired phrases and writing two sentences when one is perfectly fine because you don’t want to lose the viewer. So on a deadline when time is tight, you’re going to churn out the first phrase you can — and the temptation is even worse on the graveyard shift. (This is not to defend Anthony Federico or Max Bretos: that alarm bell about “chink” ought to ring loudly, though Bretos’ case seems very harsh because there are good odds he’s ad-libbing.)
N.B. I really, really wish the Poynter contributors listed on the right would assign bylines for the individual column or blog. It really seems even more distant and institutional for a royal “we” without any idea of who’s really talking here and why he or she has come to the conclusions he or she has.