Archive for ‘media’

July 29, 2009

PJTV: Ed Driscoll on Walter Cronkite

The Most Trusted Man in New Media has an excellent video examination of Uncle Walter’s legacy, with contributions from Noel Sheppard and Austin Bay.

Frankly, I’m becoming worried. Ed hasn’t been linking quite so much lately and . . . Well, if I’ve lost Ed Driscoll, I’ve lost the blogosphere.

May 18, 2009

‘The Fourth Branch of Government . . ‘

“The kind of journalism that inhabits the New York Times, the Washington Post, the major broadcast-news organizations and CNN will not disappear. The government needs it too much, because national news is how the government does its PR. As the media business embarks on a bruising process of transformation, professional journalists will become a fourth branch of government in reality as well as in their own minds. Somehow, but inevitably, today’s mainstream news organizations will become government-sponsored entities funded with taxpayer dollars.”

May 18, 2009

Newsweek: ‘Counterintuitive’Is the New Stupid

The Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz reports on the new “strategery” at sister publication Newsweek:

Jon Meacham admits it is hard to explain, even to his own people, why chopping Newsweek’s circulation in half is a good thing.
“It’s hugely counterintuitive,” the magazine’s editor says. “The staff doesn’t understand it.” . . .
Newsweek, owned by The Washington Post Co. . . . is bleeding red ink, losing nearly $20 million in the first quarter. Newsweek, whose circulation was as high as 3.1 million in recent years, plans to cut that to 1.5 million by the beginning of 2010, in part by discouraging renewals. The magazine will begin charging the average subscriber about 90 cents an issue, nearly double the current rate.
“If we can’t convince a million and a half people we’re worth less than a dollar a week, the market will have spoken,” Meacham says. The newsstand price will also jump from $4.95 to $5.95, a buck more than Time.

(Hat-tip: Hot Air Headlines.) Raise the price and discourage subscriptions? Brilliant! And check out their “innovative” idea for revamping content:

Meacham, an admirer of the Economist, is fashioning a serious magazine for what he calls his base, with a heavy emphasis on politics and public policy.

Right. You’re going to turn a mass-circulation news magazine into some sort of highbrow policy journal . . . weekly! And then watch the money roll in! If this isn’t the stupidest business strategy in the history of journalism — that’s a pretty tough competition — it’s certainly in the Top Five.

Notice that Meacham’s idea is to publish a magazine resembling a magazine that he likes to read. Call it the Narcissus Reflecting Pool Theory of journalism: If the top editor admires a certain publication, then trying to imitate that publication must be a good business strategy. What you are doing, therefore, is producing a publication for your own editors, rather than for the readers.

This is all very good if the editor is a visionary with a sense of what the reading public wants. But if your editor is a clueless dingbat like Jon Meacham, you’re screwed.

My advice to Newsweek staffers: Update your resumes.

UPDATE: Welcome, fellow AOSHQ Morons! You might also enjoy my take on MoDoGate, and my most recent American Spectator column, “The Republicans Who Really Matter.”

UPDATE II: Allahpundit loves me again!

It smells like they’re trying to remake themselves into a lefty rag like the American Prospect albeit with a bit more populist appeal and investigative journalism. Not quite as highbrow as TNR, not quite as lowbrow as MSNBC, but extra “serious” and willing to charge a bit more for their new supposed prestige.

Now if I can just get him to front-page my Green Room post about the cowardice of the elite . . .

UPDATE III: Welcome NRO readers! Perhaps you’d like to sample some delicious lesbian cookies?

May 10, 2009

‘Sleazy tabloid accusations . . .’

. . . have a predictable way of proving true:

When a person’s image is a commodity — as was the case with John Edwards, the millionaire of humble origins whose family life supposedly kept him grounded — the ideas of privacy and good taste become part of the marketing effort. The tabloids, rude and prying, are able to break through such images to the truth behind them in ways the conventional media cannot. . . .
“False, absolute nonsense,” an Edwards spokesperson told the Enquirer at the beginning of the Edwards-affair affair in October 2007, while the candidate was still working the heartland on his way to a second-place finish, ahead of Hillary Clinton, in the Iowa caucuses. Against that blanket denial, the paper cited “a source close to the woman” and “one bombshell e-mail message” to support what it called a “shocking allegation — if proven true.”

As previously noted, newspapers were generally more successful when they were more tabloid-ish, and before they gave op-ed space to dishonest twits like Frank Rich.

May 10, 2009

DijonGate: What have we learned?

“I’m going to have a basic cheddar cheese burger, medium well, with mustard. . . . You got a spicy mustard or something like that, or a Dijon mustard, something like that?”
Barack Obama, May 5, 2009

“The reaction proved one thing I already knew: The cult of personality surrounding Obama is real. And many of the cultists are demented, dangerous or both.”
William Jacobson, May 8, 2009

Congratulations to Professor Jacobson. Traffic at his Legal Insurrection blog, which was about 37,000 visits in February, surged to more than 107,000 in just two days Thursday and Friday, because he dared to point out how dishonest news coverage has become.

The point was not that Obama likes Dijon mustard — I do, too, as does the man who named it “DijonGate” — but rather that MSNBC and other major media are no longer in the news business. They’re doing public relations for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

What was the purpose of Obama and Joe Biden going to Ray’s Hell-Burger in Arlington, Va.? It was a photo-op, to show O and Joe bein’ Regular Guys, standin’ in line, eatin’ some burgers.

Obviously, reporters didn’t think “Dijon mustard” fit the narrative the White House wanted, and so they fudged the quote — and NBC even edited its own video — to omit the offensive French phrase. Jacobson pointed this out, and it was like showing a Rorshach inkblot to Charles Manson.

Obama Mustard Attack Becomes Full-Blown Right-Wing Talking Point
Huffington Post

Ivy League Professor Wingnut Pens Masterpiece About Dijon Mustard
Wonkette

Dijon Derangement Syndrome: Conservative media attack Obama for burger order
Media Matters

Why was the reaction so hideously overblown? Gateway Pundit, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and others were just doing the same thing they did with John Kerry’s ill-fated wind-surfing vacation or any number of other incidents in which prominent Democrats act in ways that conflict with their populist rhetoric.

A burger at Ray’s Hell-Burger costs $6.95, so lunch at the Arlington restaurant isn’t exactly the value menu at Mickey D’s. If the White House believed they could show Obama as a Regular Guy by having him eat at a place where the burgers are seven bucks, maybe they need to work on their definition of populism.

Jacobson’s posts, however, pointed out how news organizations were actively involved in the image-shaping function of the Obama P.R. machine. It would be like learning that Fox News provided the “Mission Accomplished” banner at Bush’s famous 2003 aircraft-carrier event.

Exposure of the media role in the Obama phenomenon is what the Left fears most because, at some level, they understand that if the press were ever to report honestly on what the Democrats are doing, the game would change. So the Obama cultists, accustomed to only fawning coverage of their Leader, react with fury when the fawning coverage is demonstrated to be dishonest.

Obama’s high level of public support is largely a product of his positive image the media have crafted. “DijonGate” exposed how this image-making role is played. And therefore William Jacobson is denounced as a “wing-nut” pushing “right-wing talking points.”

Of course, there are no “left-wing talking points,” and if you dare suggest that Media Matters and Huffington Post are participating in an orchestrated propaganda effort — perhaps organized by Astroturf king David Axelrod — this only proves you are a “wing nut.”

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! My second ‘Lanche this weekend. I suspect Professor Reynolds was watching what I was watching — Ross Douthat doing “Q&A” on C-SPAN — and thought to himself, “If I don’t hit him now, there’ll be another raving manic e-mail at 4 a.m.”

Damned callow pretentious Harvard boy prattling on about Chesterton and Christopher Lasch and skinny-dipping with Buckley . . . well, never mind all that now. The raven’s calling your name, Douthat!

UPDATE II: Paco quotes . . . Lionel Trilling? What the hell? Has everybody gone all Douthat on me? “As Jeanne Kirkpatrick once said to Daniel Patrick Moynihan . . . .”

Barack Obama dildo. And what would Jeanne Kirkpatrick have to say about that, huh?

UPDATE III: Hey, remember when John Edwards was the liberal media’s idol?

UPDATE IV: The Left won’t let it go, will they?

May 9, 2009

Who killed Kwanzaa Diggs?

  • In June 2008, Washington, D.C., Judge Zoe Bush committed Kwanzaa Diggs to juvenile detention after Diggs was convicted of robbery.
  • By April 24, 2009, Diggs was back on the streets. Specifically, he was in the 900 block of Barnaby Street, SE. He had been shot multiple times, and two other teenage victims were also shot.
  • Kwanzaa Diggs died at age 17.

Colbert I. King has an excellent column today in The Washington Post about the Diggs shooting, part of a series of columns King has done about the failures of the D.C. juvenile justice system.

This is not only a failure of the D.C. city government, but also a failure of the media to ask the kinds of questions, and tell the kinds of stories, that King is asking and telling.

The shooting death of Kwanzaa Diggs merited a mere two sentences in a Washington Post crime round-up column. Meanwhile, the Washington Post devoted front-page treatment to the colonoscopy of a panda at the Washington Zoo.

Dear God, what has happened to journalism in America? Is it any wonder that people hate “the media” so much? Here you’ve got the case of a 17-year-old shot dead, two others wounded, a crime that indicates a systemic failure of local government, and the local paper is too busy covering pandas at the zoo?

John Kerry can’t fix this problem. Some editors need to be fired, and some reporters need to be reminded that their job is to cover the freaking news. When somebody gets shot to death, that’s news.

Am I the only journalist on the planet who’s ever seen Teacher’s Pet? Clark Gable plays a tough, cynical newspaper editor, and Doris Day plays a journalism professor. The Gable character disdains the professor’s lofty pretensions about the “civic duty” of a newspaper. The turning point of the story is where Gable takes a stabbing death and turns it into a really great human-interest story.

Murder is news. Rape, robbery and drug busts are also news. And guess what? Crime coverage, if done right, sells papers. If the Washington Post can’t be bothered to cover a shooting that leaves one teenager dead and two others wounded, what the hell is the point of publishing a newspaper?

Good cops-and-courts reporting used to be a staple of American journalism. Was such coverage sometimes lurid and sensationalist? Sure. But it sells newspapers. The problem is that too many people in our newsrooms for the past several decades have failed to understand that they’re in a business, the object of which is to sell the product and make a profit.

The pretentious Doris Day professor types have triumphed over the cynical Clark Gable types. We’ve got plenty of pundits to lecture us about “fine-grained local coverage,” but good luck getting a Harvard magna cum laude to go out and cover the freaking news.

The newspaper industry is dying, and Kwanzaa Diggs is still dead.

UPDATE: The Associated Press can’t be bothered with Kwanzaa Diggs and the collapse of the juvenile justice system in our nation’s capital. But the five-year anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts? 2,700 words!

UPDATE II: Moe Lane at Red State:

Honestly, I think that everybody involved would be happier if we just established once and for all that the Watergate scandal was a disaster for the newspaper industry; it encouraged an entire generation of reporters to go out there and try to change American society, instead of simply documenting it.

Nail on the head, Moe. All The President’s Men solidified this idea of journalism that “makes a difference” in the heads of a generation of journalists. It not only encouraged a lot of what is called “Pulitzer bait” — the five-part series — but it generally attracted to the business a lot of liberal do-gooders who thought of themselves as superior to their readers.

Last year, there was a certain news story that caused Ace of Spades to erupt in fury: “Stop telling me what to think!” (I wish I could find that post, because it was good.) Nobody wants to do the straight-ahead Joe Friday “just-the-facts-ma’am” news story, because there is no prestige in that kind of basic reporting.

It is no surprise, really, that the great scandals of American journalism — Stephen Glass in 1998 and Jayson Blair in 2003 — occurred about 30 years after Watergate, by which time the starry-eyed liberal do-gooders who entered the business in the 1970s had become editors and journalism professors.

UPDATE II: Welcome, Ed Driscoll readers!

May 6, 2009

Chris Matthews sucks bad

Turned on the TV in my home office, hoping to watch Michelle Malkin on the Glenn Beck show, but the old portable TV my kids hooked up doesn’t get Fox News.

So I switched over to MSNBC just to try to get an update on the non-Carrie Prejean nude news — just in time for “Hardball” with Chris Matthews.

He completely sucks, doesn’t he? I remember for years how the liberal bloggers were always ranting about the wretched awfulness of “Tweetie” Matthews. I didn’t get it, because I never watched his show. (I’m not a big TV watcher, period.)

I’d occasionally be switching channels, catch small doses of Matthews and not really think about it But . . . OMG!

To try to sit in a room where the TV is tuned to “Hardball” for a full freaking hour! Now I get what the liberal bloggers were complaining about. The man seems congenitally incapable of framing any argument except in the most superficially stereotypical terms.

Chris Matthews is to coherent discourse what Johnny Rotten is to fine jazz — which is to say, he’s never even attempted it. What is so annoying about Matthews is his utter lack of curiosity. He doesn’t ask questions in search of information, and he routinely mischaracterizes the scope of any controversy.

Matthews begins an interview with an antagonist — a guest who represents the “other side” — by expressing the most ludicrously pejorative caricature of the antagonist’s position. So, before the guest can begin to engage, he must first clear away this misleading distortion. Then, predictably, while the guest is attempting to clarify his own position, Matthews interrupts with some sarcastic idiocy.

He’s a much worse TV interviewer than either Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly, and I’m not a great admirer of either of those guys. The whole point of having a guest do a TV interview is to hear what the guest has to say, but Matthews is infinitely more interested in hearing his own voice than in letting the audience hear his guests.

At least when Hannity starts the bully-boy routine on a liberal guest — hectoring and interrupting — it’s entertaining in a pro-wrestling sort of way. O’Reilly has his own trademark brand of obnoxiousness, but it is arguably entertaining obnoxious.

What’s the difference? Hannity comes out of a talk-radio background, and O’Reilly has been doing TV all his life. Both of them are professional broadcasters, who have some basic concept that they are on TV to attract and engage an audience.

Matthews, by contrast, is a lifelong Democratic Party hack, who got hired for TV as a “political analyst” and parlayed that (via the DC schmooze circuit) into his anchor role. But because he was hired for his politics, he didn’t have to be any good at the audience-attraction part of the job, and never bothered to learn it.

Before anyone can yell “hypocrite” at me, I am well aware of my own bad rhetorical habits. But I do this in writing. The written word and broadcasting are very different media. You can skim through the written word and turn the page any time you want, so an article you disagree with doesn’t have the intrusive feeling that you get being stuck in a room with Chris Matthews on your TV. (This old 13-inch portable TV doesn’t have a remote.)

With TV, however, you can’t “skim.” There is a temporal linearity to the TV-viewing experience, from which the viewer can only escape by changing the channel. And the ability of Chris Matthews to inspire viewers to change the channel is the most obvious explanation for MSNBC’s persistently low ratings over the years.

It’s not about Matthews’ politics. Ed Schultz comes on right after “Hardball,” and Ed rivals Keith Olbermann for obnoxious liberalism. But Ed is entertaining. He’s a good interviewer who brings on the guest, asks questions, and lets the guest answer.

Matthews has been on MSNBC forever and has never attracted an audience. There is no evidence that he even has the capacity to learn how to be good on TV. If the executives at MSNBC cared anything about building an audience, they’d cancel “Hardball” immediately and negotiate a buyout of Matthews’ contract.

Somewhere out there in America is a good TV newsman — liberal in his politics, but skilled at his craft — who is being deprived of a career opportunity because the stupid suits at MSNBC can’t see what anyone with two eyes and a brain can see: Chris Matthews sucks beyond hope of redemption, and he’s clogging up a perfectly good hour of cable TV time.
May 4, 2009

Attention Boston Globe employees

The New York Times Co. is planning to close your newspaper and put you out of work. However, David Brooks still earns $300,000 a year as a columnist for the Times. And they’ve just hired Harvard-educated boy genius Ross Douthat, too.

Just thought that news might cheer you up.

April 24, 2009

Thanks for nothing, John Kerry

John Kerry, friend of the newspaper industry?

Troubled by the possible shuttering of his hometown paper, Sen. John Kerry reached out to the Boston Globe on Tuesday, then called for Senate hearings to address the woes of the nation’s print media. . . .
“America’s newspapers are struggling to survive, and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount,” Mr. Kerry said.

Please allow me to point out that no politician ever said the first damned thing about the vital importance of saving the newspaper industry as long as I was working at a newspaper.

And if Lance Burri thinks I’m going to give him any of my blogobucks, he’s crazier than I am. You’re not fooling me, Burri: I see through your shady little scheme!

April 11, 2009

James Wolcott: Cthulhu of Vanity Fair? (Plus: Gisele Bundchen Nude!)

James Wolcott’s Vanity Fair blog throws less traffic than Protein Wisdom, but — alas! — Jeff Goldstein, Dan Collins & Co. don’t have a high-end Conde Nast magazine to pay them a full-time salary to write unfunny “humor” posts:

For a Master of Disguise such as myself . . . majoring in latex masks and the slurring vowels of obscure dialects, infiltrating the Tea Parties will be a piece of pie. It will require little more than a series of message t-shirts tastefully spattered with barbecue sauce, baggy jeans, sneakers that double as orthopedic shoes, and a protest sign with at least one word defiantly misspelled, as if to say to the media, “Fuck you, MSM, only pussies adhere to that ‘i’ before ‘e’ bullshit.” Please forgive the obscenities and vulgarities–it’s all part of “getting into character” and feeling the role.

As much as some may be tempted to compare him to Cthulhu, Wolcott is not really interesting enough to be evil. He might be more usefully compared to Frank Rich, who became bored with writing theater criticism and decided instead to try his hand at political commentary. This seems to have inspired the imitative Wolcott, who had muddled around for decades as a media/pop-culture critic, to decide that this politics scene was the place to be.

How incestuously convenient that he’s married to a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and so the fact that Wolcott’s political writing is both ill-informed and unenlightening matters not a whit. As I wrote nearly a year ago:

If James Wolcott is being paid by the word, his 3,700-word screed in the June issue of Vanity Fair is the Crime of the Century.The article is presented as describing the “vicious Clinton-versus-Obama rupture at Daily Kos” and thus an analysis of “a party-wide split” among Democrats, but it’s really nothing of the kind. In fact, it’s nothing at all. There is no reporting and very little that could be called research. Just massive paragraph after paragraph of florid prose.

Observant readers, contemplating the fact that Wolcott’s fictitious “party-wide split” failed to prevent the Democrats from carrying 53% of the popular vote in November, cannot help but conclude that Wolcott doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And yet he continues to collect a paycheck from Graydon Carter.

True to his belle-lettrist roots, Wolcott apparently can’t be bothered to pick up a phone and call an actual source, much less trundle his corpulent ass somewhere and do any on-the-scene reporting. He expects to be admired on the basis of his self-imagined eloquence and wit, which explains why he goes to such lengths with his stereotypical portrayal of conservatives as troglodyte hicks who can’t spell.

Like his marriage to Laura Jacobs, Wolcott’s liberalism is incestuously convenient. Vanity Fair is basically a fashion/celebrity magazine, and the inclusion of ignorant political commentary is therefore not necessary to the magazine’s stock-in-trade. Yet New York being New York, and the magazine business being the magazine business, if Vanity Fair is going to feature ignorant political commentary, you can bet that it will be ignorant liberal political commentary.

So they sell a magazine by putting supermodel Giselle Bundchen naked on the cover — with a multi-page pictorial display inside — and use part of the resulting revenue to pay Wolcott to provide uninformative (and largely unread) filler between the ads for jewelry, cosmetics and brand-name clothing.

My search for wealthy investors to fund a magazine combining nude supermodels and conservative commentary has been unssuccessful so far. Oh, there are plenty of guys in the blogosphere who’d be happy to write conservative commentary for 20 cents a word, but nude supermodels? They would require the supervision of a trained professional journalist.

UPDATE: Dan Collins is overjoyed to be named by good ol’ Wolly. Just don’t try to elbow me out of that gig as Editorial Director for Nude Supermodels at the new magazine, Dan.