Monday, September 19, 2005
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Think tanks and the media
A week ago I posted some (half-formed) thoughts on think tanks. There have been a few responses.
Virginia Postrel has been all over this -- triggering responses from Fabio Rojas, Tim Kane, and Will Wilkinson. All three observe that think tanks are a more diverse ecosphere than perhaps Postrel or I observed (see the Rojas post in particular).
See Arnold Kling's defense as well.
Well.... scholars still need operate within the mediasphere to get attention, and the constraints on that sphere remain formidable. It's far from clear to me whether an academic with a politically unclassifiable idea -- like, say, this suggestion for how to better assist the disabled and the elderly -- could get the necessary oxygen. Consider this missive from economist Bruce Bartlett:
I am more skeptical than Bartlett. I've had the same experience with bookers that he has had. Worse, there is only one show that I remember appearing on in which I was allowed to voice all the nuances of my position -- Gretchen Helfrech's Odyssey on Chicago Public Radio.
Naturally, Odyssey has been cancelled.posted by Dan on 09.19.05 at 05:06 PM
I don't have time to read all the comments on your original post, but my take on this is that the think tanks are in the position of public intellectuals, writ large. This means that I can recycle my views on the need for the thoroughly modern public intellectual to be versatile in propagating ideas, with a website, a blog, a print outlet (or outlets) and a presence of some kind on radio and TV. The full set will only work for people who are hyperactive and don't need to sleep, but of course a think tank will have the numbers to cover all the bases to a greater or lesser extent. Then it is a matter of balance and positioning, how much to put into competing with the universities and how much to competing with the political PR industry. Then at the stage of disseminating ideas and maintaining a profile in current debates, the question of balance comes up again, with the mix of op eds, larger columns, press releases and media briefings, and last but (possibly not least) blogs. Presumbly there will soon be some research to suggest how blogs are doing in terms of readership and influence.
posted by: Rafe Champion on 09.19.05 at 05:06 PM [permalink]
And good riddance. "Oddyssey" was pompous crap. The sound of Gretchen Helfrich's voice, to me, is like nails on a blackboard. Not to say that TV shows are any good; just couldn't let that praise go unrefuted.posted by: Kevin O'Reilly on 09.19.05 at 05:06 PM [permalink]
Why do people call these double-interview TV shows "debates." They're not. Neither side is given time to address a pre-arranged question. Neither side is given a chance to cross examine. A real debate would be really useful, allow for nuance, and require the participants to actually have knowledge.
The "That's a good point, Jim. What do you say to that, Frank?" moderator has got to go. S/he only stifles the arguments by interruption and (seemingly) random turn-taking.posted by: brent on 09.19.05 at 05:06 PM [permalink]
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