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« The 'Yahoo Problem' and a Solution | Main | Open Thread »

January 12, 2005


Richard Koman

To my mind the 60 minutes case is an argument for open source journalism. Basically since the blogosphere can "fact check your ass," MSM can take advantage of this network power rather than dismissing it. I think though that what Rather was reacting to was that people who were fact-checking his ass were out for blood, more than for accuracy.

I wrote an essay here arguing that using the blogosphere could have vetted these docs before CBS broadcast them to the world.

Wouldn't that mean giving up the scoop, though? I think they would have still had the TV scoop, until their broadcaster peers get him to the blogos, but essentially, it's time to give up the scoop and work on letting the network get it right.

I wrote: "What's interesting about this story is not so much that there are "citizen journalists" out there, doing the job that "real" journalists are not doing. In fact, there was no reporting or investigation to the original post -- just a bit of reasoning and reasonable suspicion. It was the flood of posts from readers that created a virtuous circle of other people's ideas, documentary evidence, and widespread dissemination. It is this ecology of facts, opinions and linking that is best described by the term"blogosphere."

But of course real journalists -- producers, editors, reporters -- are supposesd to be doing this job. It's a massive failure of journalism for this big a story to be based on a hoax, and for CBS to have backed up the story for so long. But it's hardly the only fiasco facing Big Journalism these days. The bitter taste of Jason Blair must still be fresh in press executives' mouths."

Daniel Conover

How would this discussion be different if the documents in question had been posted on the Drudge Report instead of broadcast by CBS News?


Campaign Reform? / I Call It Fraud!

Campaign finance reform is about insuring only the "right" people get to participate in opinion making. It usurps the right of the people to participate in their process and flies in the face of the 1st Amendment. Freedom of the press is and individual right. The Bill of Rights was not written to guarantee rights to corporations .. news or otherwise.

Until the "corporate press" exemption is addressed, the ombudsman at the newspaper office acts as the gatekeeper of free political speech. If the newspaper prints your political comments about an issue or candidate, your advocacy may reach a circulation of hundreds of thousands and you enjoy the same exemption from campaign finance spending limits and reporting requirements as the Lexington Herald Leader or Louisville's Courier-Journal.

If the newspaper rejects your article and you decide to deliver your message door to door via handbills, you need to visit the Federal Election Commission and familiarize yourself with terms like: political action committee (PAC), independent Vs in-Kind donations, issue Vs express advocacy, spending limits, reporting intervals and coordination with a candidates campaign. If that isn't daunting enough to discourage you from participating, remember failure to comply with Campaign Finance Laws is punishable as a felony. My Comment

Below are excerpts from letters that may be found at: and citizen editorials from:

Section 431(9)(B)(i) makes a distinction where there is no real difference: the media is extremely powerful by any measure, a "special interest" by any definition, and heavily engaged in the "issue advocacy" and "independent expenditure" realms of political persuasion that most editorial boards find so objectionable when anyone other than a media outlet engages in it. To illustrate the absurdity of this special exemption the media enjoys, I frequently cite as an example the fact that if the RNC bought NBC from GE the FEC would regulate the evening news and, under the McCain-Feingold "reform" bill, Tom Brokaw could not mention a candidate 60 days before an election. This is patently absurd.

Had the Senate debate on the McCain-Feingold bill advanced to the point of amendments, among the first I offered would have been one to delete section 431(9)(B)(i). Whenever the opportunity presents itself in the future, I look forward to doing just that. I believe it would be an enlightening discussion. Indeed, the issue was frequently raised during the floor debates in 1997 and 1998 and helped to crystallize for Senators and the C-SPAN viewing audience that the campaign finance debate is, indeed, a discussion of core constitutional freedom." Excerpt from Mitch McConnell's July 8, 1998 letter to his constituent

"The First Amendment of the Constitution, enacted over two hundred years ago, is America's premier political reform:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That is a powerful statement and should be the touchstone of all campaign finance reform efforts. The First Amendment ensures that, among other things, citizens can participate in politics through publicly disclosed contributions to the campaigns of their choice. It also allows citizens to spend their own money, independent of any candidate, to influence election outcomes via letters-to-the-editor, pamphlets and even expensive television advertisements. And the First Amendment gives billionaires the freedom to spend as much of their money as they want to in support of their own candidacy -- whether you or I happen to like it or not. This is simply not my opinion, it has long been the position of the Supreme Court. Political speech enjoys more constitutional protection than commercial speech." Excerpt from October 18, 1996 letter from Mitch McConnell to his constituent

"Regarding print media, I understand your concern about foreign ownership. Of the seven largest newspaper companies, two -- Thomson Newspapers (circulation 1.33 million, 65 dailies) and Hollinger International (circualtion 1.28 million, 105 dailies) -- are Canadian. However, several questions arise as to how to implement any type of restriction. While broadcasters are regulated by the FCC, newspapers do not have any type of regulating agency. Further, requiring any type of regulation of the print media would draw serious constitutional problems.
However, I agree with you that media plays in incredibly important and powerful role in our society. As we discussed on the radio the other night, campaign finance reform proposals that limit the ability of candidates to get their message out merely empower the control of the editorial boards. I agree with you that foreign ownership of newspapers could be very dangerous. One wonders what the effect would be if China bought most of the major newspapers in this country." From Ann Northup's letter to her constituent

"The fact is Congress can no more dictate how a group of citizens can participate in our democracy than we can limit newspapers, television or radio stations or magazines. By limiting what other groups can say about us as candidates, we are encroaching on their freedoms and increasing the overall impact the press can have on elections. One need only look at the editorial page of the newspaper in my own district to see the complete lack of objectivity one editor can have. Considering the circulation of one newspaper, the broadcast capability of one radio station, the ability of the media to convey a message and impact an election is enormous. Limiting the First Amendment rights of a portion of the population while protecting those of the media is dangerous.
In Congress, we have an obligation to protect our democracy. This is not about headlines and winning the public relations war. It's about the system of government we will leave our children.

Oppose legislation that assaults the Constitution. Oppose Hutchison. Oppose Shays-Meehan." Content of June 25. 1998 letter from Congresswoman Northup to her colleagues


By Nad Blather

The media and politicians have pounded the public with news and commentary about special interest and excess money spent in our federal elections. But the media has never focused public attention on where that excess special interest money is spent!

Most of the money donated to political candidates and political parties is spent buying airtime from radio and television broadcasters!

Broadcast "Ratings" reflect a broadcast stations "influence" in a community and a stations "influence" ultimately determines what a broadcast station can charge for its airtime!

When Individual Citizens and grassroots organizations run effective inexpensive handbill campaigns promoting issues or candidates or both they diminish the "influence" that broadcasters and commercial newspapers have on public opinion.

Coordination Is Illegal Unless........

By Ben Double Crossed

Coordinating political endorsements with the needs of a candidates election committee is illegal unless you own a commercial newspaper or a broadcast station !

Our nations largest and most powerful newspaper chains used Richard Nixon's "character flaws" to their advantage:

Some of our nations largest newspapers found themselves in federal court loosing antitrust suits which accused them of purchasing financially troubled newspapers and then pretending to compete with them while rigging prices.

Richard Nixon and his, Attorney General, were on record as strongly opposed to the passage of the Newspaper Preservation Act. The Newspaper Preservation Act was working its way through congress and was designed to grant antitrust relief to the affected newspapers.

A newspaper executive wrote a letter to President Nixon as his re-election approached. The letter reminded President Nixon that the nations largest Newspaper chains published in those states that had the largest number of electoral votes. The carefully worded letter reminded President Nixon that it could be difficult to be re-elected without their editorial support.

President Nixon reversed his position and used his political skills to convince congress to pass the newspaper preservation act.

Newspapers in the parlance of our existing Federal election laws "had coordinated their endorsements" with the needs of president Nixon's Re-election committee in return for his support for "their Newspaper Preservation Act".

[ see pgs.95-99 ] The Media Monopoly 5th edition paperback by professor Ben H. Bagdikian.

Newspapers are exempt from election laws, that restrict handbill distribution by individuals and grassroots political organizations."

Campaign finance laws restrict grassroots influence and that protects the political interest of approximately 4% of our U.S. population, who finance federal election campaigns. [ the 4% figure is from a government study ]

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