Monday, September 17, 2007

"Note From The Castle"

If you have the patience for a rather meandering discussion Jay Rosen has an insightful discussion with a White House Press Corps reporter. The reporter prefers to remain un-named, reasonably so in the context so: "I don't generally run things like that. But this is straight from the briefing room to correct PressThink on a few items. So I found a way." I'll take Jay's reputation on this one. I'm going to pull one exchange out and hope it piques your interest:

(Jay in italics)
That’s basically correct. Your rephrasing and your conclusion are basically sound. We’re back, in effect, to the superiority of McClatchy’s news judgment (or complaints from the WashPost’s national security team that their stories ran on A16). And you’re right about the potential spin factor (actually, not-so-potential), though at least in theory we’re supposed to be able to push past that.

Well, if you are not in the direct accountability business after all, and cannot yourselves “hold their feet to the fire,” as the newsroom saying goes, then I would suggest that your newsroom make a big announcement to that effect and maybe having a presser. There would be a lot of interest in that

Can it be that you genuinely don’t understand how central “holding their feet to the fire” is to getting that relevant information out?

“What did the president know and when did he know it?” is an effort to get information to news consumers. Fact-checking presidential statements is the same. McClatchy’s superb pre-war coverage was the same. “For Bush, Facts Are Malleable” in the Washington Post was the same. NSA wiretapping story in the NYTimes? Dana Priest’s “secret prison network” stories? The same.

I guess I just think that final “accountability” rests in institutions other than the press. The Congress, the Courts, and elections. If I underplayed the role we have to play, that was my mistake.
OK, I want to weigh in here; if the electorate and public servants get junk in the place of information they cannot be expected to make decisions that are something other than stupid. I ran for US Rep and built my policy stances on the best information I could find and a whacking lot of that was from journalists - and if I'd made it?? In Congress you certainly have more access to information, but journalists are still a basic part of it, and the constituents who call, mail, and visit rely on it. The Courts come from where? Some place outside the reach of journalism?

I write an opinion and advocacy blog, I'm not a journalist, I count on them. Sure I research as much as I can, but they're still my sources and if it's crappola then I'm hung out. I credit my primary sources, they did the work and deserve the credit, and if it's no more than hits on a counter, I still did my part. I sure don't get paid a nickle to do this.

These folks stand on the First Amendment, they hold their place with Speech and Religion out as a sacred trust, that being the case they'd sure better make sure what they do lives up to it. Much of the press has a tendency to kick the Second Amendment around on the basis of the irresponsibility and unlawfulness of some, that might be a cautionary tale for themselves.

I run a business and I'm responsible for the mistakes of my employees, I sure couldn't afford the mistakes of the magnitude of journalists over the past few years, in fact I don't see how their employers can, unless there is a good reason for it. Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) got the run up to the Iraq war mostly right, their competitors failed - seriously. I do not see the profession taking it as seriously as meaning their careers or even their profession to have failed so miserably. There is, of course, the question of how much filtering happened at the employer...and what their relationship is to power.

Take some patience and go check the article at PressThink and the comments - Jay's participation does not stop at the article.

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