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« That 'Liberal' Mainstream Media (TV News Edition) | Main | Promoting the California Housing Bubble »

January 23, 2005


Johnnie Moore

Dan: That's a good spot, and I so agree with you.

Incidentally, I find that when people open a spiel with status ("As Grand Morph of the Galatic Imperium") it's a bad sign of what is to follow.

(In contrast to people who give information about their status by way of disclosure of interest. Which is what this guy has not done properly.)

Joe Grossberg

Excellent catch.

"You can't have it both ways" -- if that was the case, press releases wouldn't exist.

Sounds to me like small-town journalists have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to Wal-Mart. Who'da thunk?

P.S. Your link, "recent newspaper ad campaign", doesn't work for me; I get a page that is blank, save for some JavaScript that does nothing useful.

Daniel Conover

precisely. bang on.

wal-mart hates newspapers and newspaper publishers just can't quite figure out what to do with wal-mart. this is like watching a fight between alien and predator.

Dan Gillmor

Joe, I'll see if I can find a better link. Typical that Wal-Mart would make it hard to find...

Dan Gillmor

Joe, Wal-Mart's site seems to require a new session ID for every viewer of the release, making a permalink impossible. I posted instructions on how to find it. If anyone can show a way to get a permalink to the release, let me know.


Nicely put, Dan. You've hit the proverbial nail on the head from both perspectives.

The gaping hole in the middle of Mr. Buffington's argument lies in the fact that none of what Wal-Mart is doing qualifies as news.

While sitting at the news desk, editors will be literally bombarded by attempts by PR lackeys to get their respective brands some free coverage. What Mr. Buffington fails to mention is he, as editor, is perfectly free to toss any and all of those PR releases into the recycling bin.

When a press release arrives that points to a newsworthy happening, he can cover it. Until then, he can send his reporters to things that matter to citizens. Somehow, I'm not sure a monopolistic retailer that defines cheapness has anything newsworthy to say.

Ed Holzinger

Woulda been nice if maybe you'd contacted Buffington at the time of your original rant and asked for a little clarification, you know, done some reporting.

While his connecting stories to ads, however coincidental, makes me queasy, he sure makes some interesting points I would have like to have seen at the time you blew him a new 'do.

In my view, this is one of the weaknesses of blogs-as-grassroots-journalism, that there is no incentive to actually do any reporting on issues. In a way, the ease of emptying one's spleen practically instantaneously into a web page also makes it too easy to ignore context and perspective, probably the two most important aspects of journalism.

The culture of the blog puts all responsibility for context or clarification on the subject of the posting. If he or she doesn't see the item or fails to respond in a timely fashion or just doesn't have time to sit down and compose a cogent response, the posting hangs there, linked to by dozens of like-minded bloggers, eventually becoming the accepted version of the facts.

While I think you're on to something with your grassroots journalism project, this sort of problem is one of the more troubling aspects of it. I agree that Big Media (one of which I work for but not as a journalist) has lost touch and is in danger of completely losing its way, but the notion of reporting, talking to both sides before writing, is still at the core of what most "professional" journalists do (though *how* that gets written and played is a whole other debate).

It'll be interesting to see where this goes as things evolve.

Shel Holtz

The fact that Wal*Mart historically has remained insulated and silent on these issues but now suddenly has decided to go public and mount a campaign is news, whether one agrees with what they're saying or not. While there is no obligation to give coverage to the rather lame messages coming out of the company, ignoring the fact that it has undertaken this 180-degree shift in its policy should be covered; it qualifies as news. Ignoring it is a biased decision.


At least one recipient of Wal-Mart's largesse has qualms about it:

There is no question that the Wal-Mart underwriting changes how NPR is perceived for many listeners. NPR's protestations that the underwriting changes nothing essential sound a little nervous to me."

A few months seem to have softened Dvorkin's attitude a hair, but then, it was fairly soft to begin with:

The second issue is whether NPR's firewall is really effective. If NPR were to reject underwriting because the source of the funding is questionable or controversial to some listeners, is that a tacit admission that the firewall is easily breached? Some inside NPR feel that Wal-Mart remains an underwriter like any other -- that it has no influence on how stories are reported. As such, Wal-Mart's money can be used to strengthen the programs on NPR -- just like the hundreds of other companies that support NPR by their underwriting support. But others inside the public radio system tell me that not all underwriters should be considered neutral. Some support does come with more baggage than others.

Paul Roub

This link, stripped of session info, still seems to work for the Wal-Mart press release.

Still huge and ungainly, and I had to hack it up manually to get there, but hey...

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