Saturday, January 15, 2005


Ever since the January 7th breaking news story of Armstrong Williams' contract with the U.S. Department of Education, the Internet has been buzzing with questions on the where the lines of journalism are drawn.

Both right and left wing bloggers had a variety of opinions on Williams this week, however the topic became secondary in blogoshpere soon after CBS released its independent Memogate report. Right-wing bloggers, who originally brought Memogate to light, were doing most of the talking, with some claiming a small victory over mainstream media bias. Others felt the 234-page report left a lot to be desired in specifically reporting whether or not the investigated 60 Minutes airing had a "political agenda".

By Friday left-wing bloggers had their own conversion on journalistic principles. The debate began when the Wall Street Journal reported that the former Howard Dean Campaign worker Zephyr Teachout told the newspaper that in 2003 Dean's presidential campaign paid two bloggers, Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, "as consultants so that they would say positive things about the former governor's campaign in their online journals." Although both bloggers did publicly disclosed their working for the Dean campaign, neither have ever claimed to be journalist and questioned why the others felt they needed to adhere to journalistic principles. Moulitsas also questioned why the Journal did not mention the instance of two leading South Dakota blogs, who never disclosed they worked as paid advisers to John Thune's Senate campaign.

Complete CBS Report

Columnists' Group Agrees: Armstrong Williams Not A Journalist

Howard Dean Paid Cash for Positive Airtime

Pro-Thune Bloggers Paid By Campaign

Mainstream Media Whitewash

1 comment:

Piltdown Man said...

Over the past thirty years, news coverage in the United States has devolved to an incredibly low state. Over that time, the TV networks "discovered" news as a profit center, where once it had been a prestige loss-leader. Run by ever more bottom-line oriented conglomerates, the real blood and guts coverage was abandoned. Bureaus around the world, with correspondents who understood local issues from a hand's-on perspective, were abandoned.

Then came so-called "infotainment" programming and a gush of newsy shows that didn't stricktly adhere to standard tenants of news coverage. They relied on re-creations and emotionally charged remenicences. This began to water down what viewers understood as news.

The networks next began to follow the lead of the pathetic local news stations, who long ago gave up an pretense of doing solid news, in favor of stories about cock-fighting, dead puppies and restaurant cleanliness...along with endless weather-related fear mongering.

At the same time, universities began to pour forth a frothy troupe of pseudo news clones, who understood that their main job was to look pretty. The women, too. Kids loved the major, because it was cake...and because of the financial payoff and the magnetic draw of celebrity.

While all this was swirling around, the impact of daily newspapers was slipping. Most ended up with only one paper. What had once been the training ground for journalists was now the backwater. And all those (mostly) men who had come up through the ranks of big city newspapers were retiring, or being forced out of the networks. They may have known their turf, but they weren't real "telegenic."

Then there are the cable news networks. With 24 hours to fill, they began to assume that everything was news. They no longer filtered much, they just shoveled it out there. And, without the constraints that broadcasters faced via their licences, the cable guys could pretty much do and say what they pleased.

And then there is talk radio and it's takeover of radio news....and then there was the deregulation of broadcasting...and then...

It's a long, sad descent. It didn't happen overnight....and it's not the fault of one person or one group. But, it has been mostly fueled by greed...and by demanding that news make a buck.