Friday, May 16, 2008

Are market forces emerging for pundits?

I presented my paper on public intellectuals and the blogosphere earlier today, and received some very useful feedback.

One particularly interesting point in response to my paper is that while my paper focused on bloggers as public intellectuals, it might be the case that bloggers serve an even greater good by engaging in quality control of other public intellectuals. In Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Richard Posner argued that one reason for the decline was that increased demand for pontificators was not matched by any market discipline for poor quality. Even if public intellectuals and pundit royally screw up, the public is sufficiently disinterested and disengaged for it not to matter.

To some extent, blogs and YouTube are changing this. Consider the following as a test case. Here's a YouTube clip currently making the rounds of conservative radio host Kevin James on Hardball:

Now if James had been that stupid and only those watching MSNBC live had caught it, I'm not sure it would have mattered all that much. Given the proliferation of this clip on the blogs, however, it can have two effects.

First, that many more people see James acting like an ill-informed boob. Which means that the odds of him getting booked on prestige shows shrinks.

Second, as much as Hardball's producers like the proliferation of the clip, I'm not sure how many of these they want to see cropping up. As Josh Patashnik points out on The Plank:

[I]t's not like this reflects very well on Chris Matthews, either. Why is he inviting such an obnoxious moron onto his show? There are plenty of people who could represent the conservative position here with some intelligence and class. Why not try to schedule them?
See Michael Brendan Dougherty for a kindred argument.

Of course, if James is asked back onto Hardball or other similar venues after this episode, then I'm wrong.

posted by Dan at 01:45 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Glenn Greenwald's rage against the machine

Remember when I said earlier this week that, "Glenn Greenwald might be a good blogger/collumnist, but he's not that great at social science"?

I apologize -- I was clearly in error. Replace "good" with "simplistic and Jacobin" and replace "not that great at social science" with "not aware of the concept of social science." Then that sentence hits closer to the mark.

Here's how Greenwald resonds to responded to my prior post. He first tries to rebut points I made about his methodology... but let's get to the good stuff:

I want to leave their specific claims behind and focus on what is actually important here. What really underlies the mentality of people like McArdle and Drezner are two pervasive though toxic afflictions -- a drooling, self-loving American exceptionalism, along with a self-interested refusal to acknowledge that there is anything truly wrong with our political and media establishment because they both support and are part of that establishment....

And then there is the self-absorbed motivation to defend the establishment which they support. Both of them supported the Bush administration and advocated for the invasion of Iraq. Hence, the absolute last thing they want to face -- just as is true for most of our political and media establishment -- is that the things they cheered on have spawned grave atrocities and vast destruction.

It can never be the case that there is anything profoundly wrong -- fundamentally wrong -- with the American political establishment. Why not? Because the McArdles and Drezners both support it and are part of it, and they are Good and thus can't possibly be responsible for things like "war crimes" or "torture regimes" or illegal wars of aggression. That's why the political establishment is so desperate to stay in Iraq until we "win" and to convince everyone that the public supports them again. They are desperate to wash their hands of that which they enabled so they can pretend they never did.

Wow, where to begin. Well, let's start with the obvious -- if I dispute someone's empirical support regarding hypothesis A, that does not mean I necessarily think hypothesis A is wrong. It just means that I'm unpersuaded by the evidence as presented. It is actually possible to dispute positive analysis of a topic without adopting a normative position on the same topic. This fact appears to escape Greenwald's grasp.

Second, I haven't shied away from self-criticism regarding Iraq or questions about the torture issue. I certainly have not discussed them at the same length as Greenwald, but I think that's a rather high bar for anyone to meet -- Greenwald's writing style seems to be, "why write ten words when writing a hundred words makes the point in a redundant manner?"

Third, and most important, Greenwald's rhetorical style in his column boils down to,"if you dispute anything I say, then you are objectively pro-torture." This bears more than a passing resemblance to the position rabid pro-war advocates adopted in late 2002 -- that opposition to war with Iraq rendered one objectively pro-Saddam. It was a disgusting tactic then, and it's no less disgusting that Greenwald is using it now. It makes him no better than the ideological adversaries he so despises.

I've defended Greenwald as of late, and I actually enjoyed my prior blog exchanges with him. After his latest column, however, I don't see the point of engaging with him anymore. If Greenwald is incapable of distinguishing between different streams of thought, if he is incapable of distinguishing positive analysis from normative advocacy, if he is incapable of doing anything other than indicting the "establishment" as an undifferentiated mass of lickspittle imperialists, then there's no point in debating him. As Megan put it, "Mr Greenwald's anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure:"

posted by Dan at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, April 7, 2008

You can't blame the media for everything

Glenn Greenwald is getting a lot of play with this post, in which he says the following:

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to "domestic military operations" within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102

"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73

"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16

"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043

"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607

"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079

It's pretty clear what Greenwald thinks this indicates -- it's an indictment of "our nation's coddled, insulated journalist class."

To me, this indicates the following:

1) Comparing NEXIS searches of events where the media cycle has yet to play out with events where the media cycle has played out is a really disingenuous way of making one's point;

2) There are more press mentions of an event when the target of the media inquiry actually responds to the press. To my knowledge, John Yoo has said nothing since the terror memo was leaked published, and the Bush administration has clammed up as well. Barack Obama, on the other hand, clearly did respond to the Jeremiah Wright business, leading to multiple news cycles about that issue;

3) Shockingly, the press appears to be more interested in events that determine the future (i.e., who will be the next president?) than in events that look back at the past. [Isn't that a slanted way of contrasting these events?-ed. Compared to Greenwald's slant? No, not really.];

4) Glenn Greenwald might be a good blogger/collumnist, but he's not that great at social science.

posted by Dan at 11:43 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Note to self: do not bring short-shorts to Paris

Elaine Sciolino bids a fond farewell to one of the best sinecures in journalism -- the Paris desk of the New York Times. Sciolino is a fine reporter/observer, and is not afraid to reveal the following embarrassing anecdote:

Don’t Wear Jogging Clothes to Buy a Pound of Butter

Rules govern even the smallest activities. I was making chocolate chip cookies one Saturday afternoon and ran out of butter. Dusted with flour, still in my morning jogging clothes, I dashed out to the convenience store up the street. The problem was that it is not just any street. It’s the Rue du Bac, one of the most chic places to see and be seen on Saturdays. I heard my name called and turned to face a senior Foreign Ministry official, dressed in pressed jeans and a soft-as-butter leather jacket, wearing an amused look, and carrying a small Nespresso shopping bag.

We went to a corner cafe for a drink. The Swedish ambassador and his wife stopped as they were riding by on their bikes. Both were in tailored tweed blazers, slim pants and loafers. Then Robert M. Kimmitt, the deputy treasury secretary, walked by.

He and my foreign ministry friend joked that my style didn’t match the setting. I made the point that it was my neighborhood and I could dress however I wanted. But as my French women friends told me afterward, jogging clothes (shoes included) are to be removed as soon as one’s exercise is over.

[Memo from the staff: don't wear short-shorts, period!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The New York Times op-ed page mimics the blogosphere

As a blogger, I've been bemused by the exchanges between Paul Krugman, David Brooks, and Bob Herbert on the meaning of Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

They're exactly like a typical blog exchange, in that the debate quickly devolves from Big Questions to minutiae.

Unlike a typical blog exchange, none of the participants have linked/mentioned the others by name. Also, instead of taking a few days to play out, this will take two months.

In that spirit, the hard-working staff here at urges its readers to participate in its first ever Mimic the New York Times Op-ed Columnist Contest!!

To enter, just submit, via a comment to this post, the opening paragraph of either Maureen Dowd or Thomas Friedman's op-ed contributions on this subject. Winners will be lifted from comments and promoted to the hilt by this mighty blog.

I just can't write Dowd, but here's my sample Friedman entry:

RIYADH, KSA: If you want to smoke at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, you have to brave the 120 degree outdoor heat. I wanted to continue my conversation with Prince Bandar, however, so I took my ice water from the first class lounge and followed him outside. He tapped his cigar ash on the round and said, "What the Middle East needs right now is its own sunny optimist -- it's own Ronald Reagan." I sipped my Evian and told him how the cradle of Reagan's political successes could be found in Philadelphia. Not the one in Pennsylvania, but the one in Mississippi. Let's call it the Philadelphia Story.....

posted by Dan at 08:44 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And the Joe Bob Briggs award goes to...

Fifteen years ago Joe Bob Briggs wrote a scathing essay on the phenomenon of Sunday morning talk shows -- which, mysteriously, does not appear to be online anywhere (the one line I will never forget: "[Robert] Novak is the only human being in history who, on his IRS 1080 form, fills out, "Occupation: Obnoxious").

Since cable news has become a 24/7 version of these talk shows on every subject imaginable, there's a crying need for a new version of Briggs' kind of satire. So click below and enjoy.

My favorite part -- the fake moustaches.

posted by Dan at 01:48 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lou Dobbs is a big fat liar

New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt does a public service and fact-checks Lou Dobbs. The results are not pretty (a fact that will not surprise longtime readers of

His conclusion:

The most common complaint about him, at least from other journalists, is that his program combines factual reporting with editorializing. But I think this misses the point. Americans, as a rule, are smart enough to handle a program that mixes opinion and facts. The problem with Mr. Dobbs is that he mixes opinion and untruths. He is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as a weapon against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans.

There is no denying that this country’s immigration system is broken. But it defies belief — and a whole lot of economic research — to suggest that the problems of the middle class stem from illegal immigrants. Those immigrants, remember, are largely non-English speakers without a high school diploma. They have probably hurt the wages of native-born high school dropouts and made everyone else better off.

More to the point, if Mr. Dobbs’s arguments were really so good, don’t you think he would be able to stick to the facts? And if CNN were serious about being “the most trusted name in news,” as it claims to be, don’t you think it would be big enough to issue an actual correction?

[What if Dobbs relied on political science research instead?--ed.] He would find even less empirical support.

The farm lobby is cracking up, the New York Times is beating up on Lou Dobbs.... oh, I'm going to enjoy this summer.

UPDATE: Dobbs responds to Leonhardt here. As near as I can interpret it, Dobbs concedes the facts but claims Leonhardt is exaggerating their portent. Then there's this puzzler:

[T]he columnist writes that I suggested that new immigration reform bill would be the first step to a North American union. Nope. What I did say is that the proposed legislation, favored by President Bush and Senator Kennedy and others who are misguided, contains language in Section 413 that, if approved by Congress, would endorse and legitimize the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which is the foundation of this administration's efforts to create a North American union, and which would further threaten, in my opinion, our national sovereignty.
I checked out the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America's website. The front page has yet to update the fact that Vicente Fox is no longer president of Mexico. A good rule of thumb: organizations with outdated web sites aren't threats to national sovereignty.

Here's a link to the SPP "myths vs. facts" page. If Dobbs is scared by this initiative, then he should really just go and buy his shack in Montana right now -- because there are dozens of other arrangements already on the books where the U.S. has ceded more sovereignty.

I hereby triple-dog-dare Lou Dobbs and his supporters -- name me one provision of the SPP that truly compromises American sovereignty.

David Weigel also has some fun at Dobbs' expense.

posted by Dan at 11:09 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Jonathan Rauch interview

Let me join Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel in linking to this Reason interview with National Jounal columnist Jonathan Rauch. Uneknownst to him, Rauch is partly responsible for the creation of this blog.

Two parts of the interview that stand out. The first reflects Rauch's spot-on take on government:

[R]ight-sizing government, if you mean imposing some preconceived size that you or I or someone else might have, is impossible. Impossible, probably inconceivable and simply not going to happen ever.

When you get right down to it, there doesn't seem to be really much of a constituency in this country for reducing the size of government in painful or unpleasant ways. Even Barry Goldwater, when he ran for president, announced that he wouldn't cut any farm subsidies, for example.

Government is an enormous ecosystem. It is, in its way, as decentralized and unmanageable as the ecosystem out there in nature. You can change the input and you'll get some change in the output, but if I've learned one thing in 25 years in Washington, it's that there far too many interests and actors for any politician to do more than work the margins. But working the margins is very, very important.

In fact, it can be the difference between having a static and enfeebling government--like the government of Japan was until comparatively recently, until the Koizumi period--and a government that gets out of the way enough so that you have room for new technology, new ideas, and some reform.

The second reflects Rauch's wariness of blog triumphalism:
I'm not a fan of the idea that the journalist and the journalist's attitude should be front and center. I think that a good journalist's duty is to get out of the way. The hardest thing about journalism--the hardest thing, a much higher art than being clever--is just to get out of the way, to show the leader of the world as the reader would see it if the reader were there. Just to be eyes and ears. Calvin Trillin, another writer I greatly admired who steered me towards journalism, once said that getting himself out of his stories was like taking off a very tight shirt in a very small phone booth. He's right.

I think Maureen Dowd is very good at what she does. But the problem is that lots of people who aren't any good at it think this is journalism. It's what we should all be doing, showing off our attitude. I think that sets a bad example. The blogosphere tends to further the [notion] that journalism is about opinion and not about fact. I think that's wrong.

Most people think they know truth and think that what they know is right. They're usually wrong. Journalists are among the few people in society who are actually paid to try go out and learn things. Checking is the core of what we do. David Broder once said that the old slogan in journalism is, "If your mother says she loves you, check it."

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 03:20 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Most bizarre man in the street interview ever?

Is it just me, or does this C.W. Nevius story in the San Francisco Chronicle -- about the public reaction to Mayor Gavin Newsom's admission of cuckolding one of his principal staff people -- contain the wierdest man-in-the-street reaction ever to appear in a major newspaper?

Although almost everyone we spoke to admitted to some disappointment, Newsom's firm and unqualified apology played to raves....

That seemed to be the buzz on the streets of San Francisco, too. Tarri Chandler, who said she was homeless and was carrying a cardboard cup that read "Cold, very hungry, please help,'' said she didn't think it was much of a story.

"What? That he was sleeping with somebody?'' said Chandler, who was wearing at least three jackets to hold off the cold. "I thought that's why he got divorced in the first place. And let's be honest, if you are a woman and you want to move up in the office, what better way than sex?''

posted by Dan at 08:40 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mickey Kaus' dream article

Ken Auletta's New Yorker story on CNN and Lou Dobbs has a Mickey Kaus two-fer -- potshots at CNN president Jonathan Klein and a discussion of how a hard line on illegal immigration has boosted Lou Dobb's ratings!!

Here are the parts of the article I enjoyed the most:

In many ways, Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, who in 2003 wrote a book entitled “Who’s Looking Out for You?,” are kindred spirits. Dobbs, who lives on a three-hundred-acre farm in a prosperous part of New Jersey, admires his own capacity for compassion and self-effacement....

Unlike Fox, whose identity among its core viewers is often described as a celebration of conservatives, CNN seems to have adopted a “We’re on your side” stance as a way to boost ratings. It was encouraged by Dobbs, but also by Cooper, who expressed his outrage at the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, and by Jack Cafferty, in cranky commentaries on Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room.” For nine nights in October, CNN ran a series called “Broken Government,” as well as two hour-long Dobbs town-hall meetings—the first on the “forgotten middle class,” the second on illegal immigration. CNN’s ratings improved dramatically, particularly among the most desirable demographic, twenty-five- to fifty-four-year-olds....

For some years, CNN has billed itself as “The most trusted name in news.” (A recent Pew poll, however, suggested that there is little difference in credibility among the cable news networks; the poll also noted that the number of Americans who said they believed “all or most” of what CNN reported has fallen from forty-two per cent to twenty-eight per cent since 1998.)....

Five correspondents work for Dobbs, and during the second half hour they usually report on a story that Dobbs treats as a scandal, and that he invariably describes as “outrageous,” “alarming,” “idiotic,” “disgusting,” or “sickening.” On the air, Dobbs’s reporters appear deferential. On August 16th, Christine Romans filed a report describing how the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, “decided to fight illegal immigration itself” by fining landlords a thousand dollars a day for knowingly renting to illegal aliens and by denying business permits to companies that hire them. In an interview with an A.C.L.U. official who opposed the law, she allowed him a single on-camera sentence; the mayor, who supported the measure, had seven lines and the last word. In a colloquy with Romans in the studio, Dobbs was told that the A.C.L.U. said that if voters were unhappy with federal laws they could always vote for new members of Congress. “Why doesn’t that apply, then, to the local community,” Dobbs asked, “and why are they interfering there, I wonder?”

“That’s a very good point, Lou,” Romans said.....

Dobbs believes that the middle class, which he has described as being composed of two hundred and fifty million Americans, is taken for granted, an argument that could be challenged by those who point to the growth of middle-class entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, or to the unwillingness of elected officials to offend this constituency by curbing entitlements....

In conversation, he does not harbor much doubt. One day, in his fifth-floor office at CNN’s Columbus Circle headquarters, I mentioned that Henry Kissinger has said that many of the decisions he made as Secretary of State were sixty-forty choices, meaning that the opposing argument could claim forty per cent of the truth. Did the “rock hard” truths that Dobbs once told me he believed in exclude the possibility that the other side could claim twenty per cent, or even forty per cent, of the truth?

“In free trade?” he said. “In illegal immigration? In education? No. Everything I believe, I believe unequivocally.”....

One of Jon Klein’s stated aims has been to persuade the producers of CNN’s various programs to widen their vision (he speaks of them climbing out of their “silos”)—to make sure that, say, when Anderson Cooper travelled to Africa other CNN programs, from “The Situation Room” to Paula Zahn’s broadcast, would welcome his reports. Yet the dispatches filed by Dobbs’s correspondents are rarely welcomed. The senior CNN employee says that “other shows are not comfortable with them,” because too many of these reports are on Dobbs’s pet subjects and the reporters are widely perceived to be Dobbs’s acolytes, feeding him the alarming news that he wants.

“I think he’s the most influential political reporter of the time, certainly over the last year,” Klein told me. “He’s someone politicians ignore at their peril.” Klein cited Dobbs’s response to the Dubai ports deal: for fifteen evenings, Dobbs spoke about “the outrage” of allowing a Middle Eastern country “with ties to the September 11 terrorists” to operate six American ports. Dobbs certainly was not the only person to raise questions, but the resulting furor eventually prompted Dubai to abandon the plan. Slate recently wrote that Dobbs’s brand of economic nationalism had been reinforced by the results of the midterm elections, in which many Democrats expressed Dobbsian viewpoints. As for the “illegal immigration” story, Dobbs provided a nightly stage for like-minded members of Congress to express their opinions, an exposure that he believes helped to shift Congress’s agenda....

Some journalists at CNN worry that Dobbs harms the network’s credibility. John King says that he likes Dobbs and admires his talent, but adds, “Lou clearly has strongly held beliefs, and he’s decided to share these beliefs. In doing that, does it sometimes cause concern in the company? Yes.” Klein admits that he wants to “increase the audience’s intensity,” but not in the way he believes that Fox has. “They have a clear brand identity,” he says of Fox, “which does not afford them as many places to go when their viewership dips. They have a definite right-of-center view of the world. Most of their hard-core viewers are older; sixty-five-plus is their median age”—CNN’s median age is about sixty-one. “When you define yourself that way, it’s very hard to move to the center without alienating the core audience. I’d rather be playing our hand now. By focussing on news, there is much more we can do.” In response to Klein’s remarks, a senior Fox executive called him hypocritical for saying that he was pushing serious news, when, according to the executive, he was still running soft news and taking CNN “on a hard tack to the left.” The executive said of Dobbs, “He has tapped into strong opinion. He’d be good on Fox.”

posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Just a little of the old media bias

What does this distribution of cover stories imply about how Americans get their information about the world?

Hat tip: Passport's Carolyn O'Hara
posted by Dan at 10:29 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, August 28, 2006


From Mickey Kaus:

If you haven't been called by a booker to appear on TV all year, and you are not called to appear this weekend--even by a cable channel, even by FOX, even on Saturday--it's fair to say that you will never be called.
But, but, but..... I just got a new suit!!

[Don't worry, like Mickey you don't need them--ed.]

posted by Dan at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Howard Cosell of international news

I am happy to cross the partisan divide and state for the record that I am in 100% agreement with Matthew Yglesias:

I'm not sure if you guys know who Richard Quest is, but suffice it to say that based on my rather small level of watching CNN International while traveling he's far and away the most annoying television news personality on the planet.
Naturally, Quest got his own monthly interview show, ‘Quest’, in July.

And if I was the head of CNN, I'd do the same thing -- Quest's voice, mannerisms, and teeth are so.... grating that the overall effect is hypnotic. Whenever I catch him in my travels, it requires a concerted effort to change the channel.

posted by Dan at 05:54 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The New York Times, they like to kid

From James McKinley Jr.'s front-page story in the New York Times, "Castro Is ‘Stable,’ but His Illness Presents Puzzle":

News that Mr. Castro had relinquished power for the first time in his 47-year rule prompted expressions of concern from leftist leaders in Latin America and set off immediate celebration among Cuban exiles in Miami.

The transfer also set off intense speculation about Cuba’s future. Raúl Castro, who has acted as defense minister for decades, made no public appearances. He is 75 years old and seems to lack the charisma, political skill and rhetorical brilliance of his brother. (emphasis added)

I'll concede that Fidel Castro must possess some charisma and ample amounts of political skill -- he's the longest-serving leader in the world, after all.

Since when, however, does the capacity to give six-hour speeches imply "rhetorical brilliance"?

There are many words that can be used to describe Castro's rhetorical style -- and "brilliance" is nowhere close to the top of that list.

posted by Dan at 08:13 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Blegging for research help

Blogging has been light because I'm putting the finishing touches on a research paper... and there's one small question that's nagging at me. Are any readers aware of surveys done in the past decade of the attitudes of American journalists towards American foreign policy?

The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations has a great quadrennial series of polls about American elites, but the reports do not break out responses for journalists.

I'm also aware of the surveys and research into reporters' domestic ideological affiliation, and the volumnious literature on media bias, but that's no good to me -- attitudes towards domestic policies don't translate well into international relations.

I need to see polling numbers of journalists' opinions about foreign policy priorities, the use of force, and/or foreign economic policy. I vaguely recall reading about a few of these, but my numerous searches have produced zilch so far. So, I hereby delegate this to knowledgeable readers.

[What do they get if they find something useful?--ed. A big, big thank you in the acknowledgments.]

posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Nobody give me a column!!

Note to self: if someone is ever so foolish as to offer me a weekly column, re-read this Jack Shafer paragraph:

Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a newspaper columnist. Most columnists start off with a bag full of ideas and endless energy. But the job begins to weigh on even the most talented journalist. He starts writing columns about columns he's written, about his kids, or about the deaths of relatives. He composes columns as open letters to world leaders—or writes from inside their heads. He quotes cab drivers. His columns become more assertion than argument. Finally, he starts picking silly, protracted fights with other media machers.
[Yeah, we're not worried about this possibility--ed.]

posted by Dan at 02:38 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Oxymoronic headline of the week

"U.N. braces for slow, drawn-out action on Iran"

I don't know whether the Malaysian Star or Reuters is to blame.

posted by Dan at 02:21 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tom Friedman faux pas watch!

David Rothkopf is blogging about the Davos Economic Forum for Foreign Policy's web site. I bring this up because Rothkopf caught the ultimate moderator faux pas earlier this week:

Late this afternoon, there was a packed session chaired by Tom Friedman that included Queen Rania of Jordan, Pakistan’s President Musharraf, Afghanistan’s President Karzai, and Hajim Alhasani, President of the Iraqi National Assembly. The topic was Muslim societies in the modern world, but the discussion was wide ranging. There was a uniformly negative reaction to Iran getting nuclear weapons—highlighted by the awkward moment when, after arguing that no nations in the region should have nuclear weapons, Friedman realized that sitting four feet away from him was Musharraf, who does.
UPDATE: Turns out Foreign Policy was in error, and it was Karzai and not Friedman who made the faux pas. See here for more.

posted by Dan at 05:41 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, December 12, 2005

What's the difference between Time and Newsweek?

So I see that Time and Newsweek have dueling cover stories about George W. Bush, his recent political misfortunes, and his plans for the future. Both of them focus on Bush's insularity, his unwillingness to change course, and his general disdain for critics.

This leads to the age-old question that is the title of this post. Is there any difference between Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe's Newsweek essay and the Time story by Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen?

As near as I can discern it, there are four differences:

1) Tumulty and Allen seem to have slightly better sources within Bush's inner circle;

2) Perhaps because of #1, Time's story seems to have better information.

3) Again perhaps because of #1, Time's story has a more Bush-friendly spin. Here's the opening paragraph:

The Yuletide decorations at the White House are simpler this year. The gaudy tinsel and the 155,000 lights of 2004 have given way to a more natural look of Christmas trees decorated with white lilies and pink roses that are replaced as they wilt. Guests at the holiday parties are noticing a different tone to George Bush too. He has never liked the 26 receptions, the thousands of punishing or limp handshakes, the graceless requests for souvenir cuff links with the presidential seal. But at some of the smaller gatherings this year, Bush has freed himself from the photo line to circulate with an intensity his friends haven't seen before. An adviser who encountered Bush on one of these reconnaissance missions through the Red Room last week tells TIME, "He's listening a little more because he's looking for something new. He's looking for ideas. He wants to hear what people are saying, because something might strike him as worth following up on."
The man is actually talking to people invited to his White House parties? Wow, that is stepping out.

4) Time refrains from awful historical analogies like this one in the Newsweek story:

Bush is not Lyndon Johnson. Johnson liked to keep three TVs blaring in his office, and he would call reporters at home to browbeat them. Bush has said he does not read the newspapers (actually, he does). "I'm not LBJ," Bush told a recent gathering of lawmakers. "I'm not going to sit around some map room and micromanage the war." Bush was slightly confusing his wars and presidents. It was Franklin Roosevelt who ran World War II from the Map Room; LBJ descended into the Situation Room in the basement to pick bombing targets. It is true that LBJ was nearly driven mad by his obsession with Vietnam and his insecurities about the "Harvards," whom he blamed for sucking him into the war. But forced to listen to his critics—the so-called Wise Men who gathered at the White House in March 1968 to tell him that the war was unwinnable—LBJ was able to reverse course and begin the drawdown of troops from Vietnam.
The idea that a Johnson strength as president was how he responded to criticism on Vietnam is certainly an.... interesting interpretation of the historical record.
Readers are encouraged to read both stories and post their thoughts.

posted by Dan at 09:51 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Note to self: avoid Seth Mnookin

Seth Mnookin has a long Vanity Fair story about the Judith Miller saga at the New York Times. Few people at the Times look good, and Arthur Sulzberger Jr.comes off looking like an insecure, incompetent ass. That said, I still think that Mnookin does the biggest number on Miller. The devastating part is below:

Miller, it soon became clear, was not going to be an easy source to deal with. She initially refused to speak with [Times reporter Adam] Liptak because, she said, his story about her release from jail implied that she hadn't gotten a better deal from the prosecutor than the one that was available to her before she was imprisoned. She refused to speak with [Times reporter Janny] Scott because, she told friends, Scott had not bothered to write to her when she was in jail. (She also told people that she knew Scott was "judging" her.) At various points she wouldn't speak with [Times reporter Don] Van Natta either. On Tuesday afternoon, Van Natta approached Miller in the Times's newsroom. Miller immediately gave Van Natta a hug. "I'm so glad you're involved in this," Miller said. "Well, I'd really like to talk to you, now, if you have time," Van Natta replied. "I can't do it now," Miller answered. "I'm running off to go meet with Barbara Walters."

"That was pretty amazing to me. I'm a colleague of hers, I'm trying to get an interview, and she doesn't have time for that, but she has time for Barbara Walters. And that night she did another one with Lou Dobbs." The next day, Van Natta ran into Miller again, in Bennett's Washington office; at that point, Miller told Van Natta she couldn't speak with him because Libby had given her permission to talk only to the grand jury. That's odd, Van Natta told her. On Monday in the newsroom, she had told the whole world Libby was her source....

The pressure only increased over the next week. Miller kept avoiding having on-the-record conversations with Van Natta; at one point, she complained to [Times executive editor Bill] Keller about Van Natta's line of questioning, and Van Natta felt she was trying to have him removed from the story. (Miller did something similar in my case. After I approached her for this story, she complained to the editor of this magazine and raised questions about my allegiances. She also wrote to me in an e-mail, "Seth, I read what you wrote about me in your book. You never bothered to check any of your alleged facts about me. I have absolutely no intention of talking to you." Three weeks later, after the story had been written and edited, she sent another e-mail that read, "When you are finished with your research, and want my input before you write, send me a list of questions." I sent Miller questions on two occasions, to which she never replied. Outside of noting that Miller's pre-war W.M.D. reporting was faulty—which Miller herself now acknowledges—there are barely any mentions of Miller in Hard News, my book about Howell Raines and the Times. What's more, while writing it, I tried to reach her numerous times for comment. She never responded.)

Note to self: if Seth Mnookin calls me about anything, answer in full.

Miller now has a quasi-blog -- I'll be curious to see if she responds to this piece. [Actually, Mnookin characerizes as a website, "contain[ing] self-justifying posts and cherry-picked, laudatory articles"--ed. The man is clearly unfamiliar with blogs.]

posted by Dan at 09:24 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, September 23, 2002

Dullest article ever

Michael Kinsley once wrote that the most boring headline ever would be "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." Here's my suggestion: "Proposed U.N. Reform."

posted by Dan at 11:44 AM | Trackbacks (0)