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April 19, 2005



Howard Kurtz writes, When Blogs Bite Back, which mainly seems to be a tale of reporters not understanding that being competent at their job and acting ethically is the minimum expectation and one they are failing at. They are excel at making themselves into brand names, getting TV time and obtaining ever larger offices and homes.

Being paid for product mentions, opening up PR firms, opening up their columns to the administration all seem to fall into the second category at the expense of the first.


I guess I read a different column by Kurtz (not one of my favorite writers on the press).

It struck me that what those journalists were objecting to was being screamed at, cursed, and called lying scum, usually by people incapable of doing those journalists' job. Check the blase comments of the dude from Powerline about being wrong:

John Hinderaker, the conservative Powerline blogger who hammered away at the reporting on the memo, said it was clear "that we were guessing or drawing an inference or expressing an opinion. I questioned whether there was a single Republican staffer dumb enough to have written that memo. Turns out there was. So I was wrong."

If someone from the working press gave a lame excuse like that, the Powerline dudes would be eviscerating him.

Bob Clary

This is nothing new. I remember way back when the web was young when NBC News and Tom Brokaw ran a tease during the evening news about a new breakthrough regarding some supplement in vitamins.

Immediately after the segment aired, a commercial from Centrum was shown which touted how their vitamin contained the new magic ingrediant.

I wrote to Mr. Brokaw explaining the function of a free press and said hawking products disguised as news did not qualify as "educating and informing the public so that they may govern themselves wisely".

Over the years, I have come to believe that all of the needed protections in the First Amendment are covered under "freedom of speech" and that "or of the press;" can be removed from the Constitution.


I think you misunderstood my comment.

Hinderaker was the only non-journalist interviewed. Hinderaker in his quote (and in his original post) wasn't talking about journalists (then), he was talking about his error in claiming Democrats wrote the talking points memo. And he was badly mistaken about that, and he handled it badly.

The journalists in the article weren't referrring to Hinderaker's treatment of them at all. Hinderaker's quote isn't about those journalists at all. (The article didn't quote Dan Rather....) So it's sort of apples and oranges. Nagourney pissed off a reader, who wrote a seemingly private letter to Nagourney, who had his name printed in the New York Times for retaliation. Nagourney goes on to claim upset at the name calling.

See Atrios for just a sampling of what is wrong with Kurtz's column:

a, b, c, d.


Oh, jerry, I'm with you on the shamefulness of journalists acting as shills. It's just that I'm also with the journalists who aren't shills, the ones quoted in the Kurtz piece, who don't like being screamed at for doing their job.

You're right that none of the journalists interviewed were directly commenting on Hinderaker, but that wasn't my point. My point was that Hinderaker, a blogger, was not, in my opinion, obeying the standards to which he'd like to hold the press.

Steve O'Keefe

Buzz Merritt, former editor of Knight Ridder's Wichita Eagle, has a new book out called "Knightfall" documenting the rise of corporate journalism at papers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Detroit Free Press, The Charlotte Observer, and the San Jose Mercury News. There's an excerpt online at Poynter.


Hinderaker is a jerk with many many double standards. And he smears others, and lies. And for that Time made him blog of the year.

But that's the rest of the blogosphere's complaint about reporters. To pick Powerline as the blog of the year is really a lazy, shabby, shallow job.

So when again and again Nagourney and Bumiller and Greenfield and Kurtz do lazy shabby shallow jobs, and they are rewarded with media time and tv time and continuously fail to acknowledge their own general crappiness (see denials of Kristof and Okrent), they should expect everyone to be screaming at them. Instead they look at their Lexus as a sign they are doing a good job, and they fall back on the fallacy that if they are making everyone angry, they must be balanced.


It does get back to who we annoint with the title of "journalist". If it's anybody who can match subject with a minimum number of nouns, verbs and adjectives, then we're fretting about the wrong things. If it's people who write about current events for a living (to take out novelists and other professional writers, and probably also some bloggers) it would be a different kettle of fish. But even then it's a tough call. Was it wrong for TV journalists to appear in advertisements for their networks? Or for print professionals to flog their own books in their columns?

What seems to make some sense it to narrow our criticism to those whose opinion is for sale, not just who ostentatiously drink Coke on set, or hire out for clear commercial testimonials. Since I don't think intentionally take vows of poverty, it may not be a violation of professional ethics, unlike the prostitutes hired by politicians to fertilize planted stories.

Usher Lieberman

I think the only way to preserve integrity in journalism is full disclosure. Personally, I don't care what motivations people have (even if it is simply truth seeking, which ideally is the goal of journalism, right?) so long as those motivations are made clear.


The WSJ article was quite interesting, but I found it strange that Walt Mossberg was not mentioned or at least asked to comment. Not that Walt takes any favors for his excellent reviews, but it's commonly known (see Wired about 6mos ago) that Walt is an industry in itself for the WSJ. That's why his salary is about $700K. He brings in huge revenues in advertising and conferences where many of the CEOs of the companies who's products he reviews pays homage to Walt by attending his annual conference. Attendees pay $4000 to mingle with Walt and these famous CEOs. Does anyone see a conflict of interest here?


"I think the only way to preserve integrity in journalism is full disclosure."

Absolutely - sunlight is the best of disinfectants.

We're shocked! shocked! at the payola pundits that keep crawling out of the shadows, providing a never-ending supply of grist for our outrage. But we might do well to recall this definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

The payola pundit parade will continue as long as there's darkness in which they can breed.

How do we eliminate their breeding grounds?

One answer: We need a press for the press - i.e., we need someone(s) with the press's clout to get the press (both the institutions and the people) to go on record with their disclosures, disclosure policies, and disclosure-policy-violation sanctions.

(Scott Rosenberg: "...The value journalists continue to to continue to ask public figures the uncomfortable questions that they won't choose to answer on their own.")

Speaking from experience, a cloutless blogger can find it very difficult to extract this information.

So, Dan and Dan's readers, any ideas on where we can find or assemble the requisite clout, to get the press to provide this info? It might be time to move on from recurrent outrage to constructive action.

Usher Lieberman

"any ideas on where we can find or assemble the requisite clout, to get the press to provide this info? It might be time to move on from recurrent outrage to constructive action."

Why not us? Keep doing what you do and stay transparent and the community will build on itself. "The press for the press" are us.


"Why not us? Keep doing what you do..."

see definition of insanity above.

Ok, not insanity exactly; eventually it will bring transparency. But if we might be able to "work smarter not harder" (thus making "eventually" come sooner) we should be looking at how. If this is happening, the looking and discussing is occurring someplace I don't know about. (or don't remember, due to brain rot)

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