Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

FACTS ON THE GROUND....In a paean to old-fashioned gumshoe reporting and "the patient sifting of fact," Michael Skube writes today:

The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.

And to think most bloggers are doing all this on the side. "No man but a blockhead," the stubbornly sensible Samuel Johnson said, "ever wrote but for money." Yet here are people, whole brigades of them, happy to write for free. And not just write. Many of the most active bloggers — Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post — are insistent partisans in political debate.

Look, we all make mistakes. But of these four examples, the first three are all professional writers and the fourth is a venture-funded site with a paid staff. If you're going to extol "thorough fact-checking and verification" over the blogosphere's "potpourri of opinion," you really ought to fact-check your assertions first. Otherwise you're just making things too easy for us.

Skube's larger point, by the way, is that the really important stories — "what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart" — are the result of the kind of shoe-leather reporting that unpaid bloggers generally can't do. And that's true enough. But why make it out to be a competition? Blogs don't crowd out important reporting, after all. More often, in fact, they amplify it, making it available to a larger, more engaged audience than in the past. There's plenty of room in the world for both.

BY THE WAY: There's a serious point here too. The professionalization of the blogosphere (especially the lefty blogosphere) is a big, underappreciated story, and the characterization of bloggers as a bunch of loons ranting for free is not only silly, but woefully out of date. More reporting, please.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall emailed with Skube about his piece this afternoon and learned something interesting about how he came to make this mistake. It doesn't make either Skube or the LA Times look especially good, though.

Kevin Drum 1:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (73)

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are the result of the kind of shoe-leather reporting that unpaid bloggers generally can't do

That's what flickr and youtube are for.

Posted by: jerry on August 19, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on August 19, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

what blogs do is
1. hold the "reporting" to some kind of standard higher than court stenographer.
2. ask questions that regular "reporters" seem not to want to ask, because there's nothing worse than being shrill
3. make me laugh. Sometimes even on purpose.

Posted by: craigie on August 19, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Today Jefferson would admonish us to believe 1% of what you read and none of what you hear.

Posted by: Luther on August 19, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Skube is apparently ignorant of the vast respect that solid gumshoe reporters receive on the blogosphere, at least in the progressive blogosphere.

An enterprising reporter along the lines of Seymour Hersh is practically worshipped for bringing stories, facts, and realities to the surface that otherwise would not have been, and from which the bloggers then riff off and improvise.

Indeed, that respect can very pointedly be contrasted to the disdain for propagandistic reporting, the stuff that could and often does come basically from press releases and prepared media feeds, that has been gaining in traction with the mass media.

Posted by: Jimm on August 19, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Not only will they write for free, they'll be significantly better writers than this whiny sumbitch.

Every day, even. Publish 2, 3 columns a week? Billmon used to spit out 10 some weeks, all of them stratospherically better than the efforts of this chump.

Not only better, but blazing speed too. Our life paths took us to different results, but the internet let us show off our writing again and I'm sorry you suck, dude. Better luck next life.

Posted by: paradox on August 19, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

(This is not OT, bear with me.) I was reading Clark Hoyt's (the Times' public editor) column this morning about Michael Gordon's Iranian EFP's reporting, and while Hoyt made some cogent criticisms, the piece was inevitably constrained by Hoyt's obvious feeling that he can't be too harsh on his employer. For example, he acknowledges that Gordon was involved in the pre-Iraq War fiasco that was the Times' WMD reporting, but can't quite bring himself to place any blame on Gordon or, more importantly, to ask the perfectly sensible question of whether, given the fact that Gordon was accused of being too willing to propagate the Administration's casus belli for Iraq, he shouldn't even be reporting on the Adminisration's casus belli for Iran.

Anyway, and here's the point, I thought, gee, what we really need is a Public Editor who doesn't work for the paper he's criticizing. And then I thought, oh yeah, that's what bloggers are for. I think that's what the best ones do -- not replace the actual reporting, but serve as public ombudsman to ask the questions and make the criticisms that insiders are inevitably restrained from doing fully.

Posted by: Glenn on August 19, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK


Just because the right-wing blogosphere makes assertions it can't prove and tells stories that are largely lies doesn't mean that everybody does it. (Sounds like my mom saying, "Just because Johnny Smith did it doesn't mean you are doing it!"

Why is it these mainstream media types are so hysterically WANTING the blogosphere to look bad? Is it because they're falling down on the job and don't want anybody to notice? (Lookie over there, a shiny thing!!"

Posted by: dejah on August 19, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: "Skube is apparently ignorant of the vast respect that solid gumshoe reporters receive on the blogosphere, at least in the progressive blogosphere."

Amen. Witness the solid reporting done by Josh Marshall & his staff wrt the US Attorney scandal. Solid reporting, I might add, that Skube & his colleagues weren't doing on that subject. Apparently, though, this doesn't count, since it was being reported on -- gasp -- a blog.

Interesting to note that the only bloggers Skube takes to task in his column happen to be on the left.

Posted by: junebug on August 19, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

A significant percentage of the writers at Watching Those We Chose are professional journalists in their day jobs. They are forever reminding the rest of us about journalistic standards. They insist we get our facts straight. We try, but sometimes we fail. I have enormous respect for a gumshoe journalist relentlessly pursuing a story.

My bitch is with the members of the right wing media machine, many of whom are paid professional journalists, whose job seems to be to move the right wing agenda without any regard for the facts.

Yesterday we at Watching Those We Chose introduced the Wurlizter Prize of the Week to recognize professional journalists and right wing opinion makers for particularly dishonest efforts to influence the national conversation.

Posted by: corpus juris on August 19, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

mhr: ""You ought to fact check your assertions" If liberals followed that advice there would many fewer liberal assertions."

If neocons followed that advice, we never would have gone to Iraq in 2003.

Posted by: junebug on August 19, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin pointed to the "professionalization of the blogosphere (especially the lefty blogosphere)" I believe we are seeing professionalization in two senses of the word: expert and done for money.

I guess Kevin's idea that the lefty bloggers ares more professional than the righties probably means that the lefty bloggers are more expert and that there's more financial support for the lefty bloggers. It's an interesting question as to why the righty bloggers, who supposedly represent the rich, have less financial support than the lefties, who are on the side of the poor.

Posted by: ex-liberal on August 19, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's an interesting question as to why the righty bloggers, who supposedly represent the rich, have less financial support than the lefties, who are on the side of the poor.

Assuming what you write is true about righty bloggers having less financial support, I would say that's the free market in action and a measurement of the value add of the specific bloggers.

Why do conservatives (like ex-liberal) hate the free market?

Posted by: jerry on August 19, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

* "Interesting to note that the only bloggers Skube takes to task in his column happen to be on the left."

This, of course, is wrong. Sullivan is stridently anti-Bush, but certainly not on the left.

Posted by: junebug on August 19, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed, there are diminishing numbers of classical-style amateur liberal bloggers.

More's the pity.

Posted by: Demosthenes on August 19, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I would truly and honestly like to see some examples of this great skeptical shoe-leather reporting that are produced on any substantial scale or go on for any significant length of time. Pointing to the occasional NYT or Knight-Ridder story isn't enough; I want to be shown where it is happening on a /continuous/ basis.

Because after today's Public Editor column in the NYT, in which both he and the NYT's executive editors dismissed out of hand even the very idea that the NYT was being played as part of the runup to war with Iran, I have a hard time accepting that there is very much of this skeptical shoeleather work going on in reality.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on August 19, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I saw a flaw already--the article mentions that blogging does not make one a journalist.
Markos Moulitsas is mentioned as a representative blogger, YET:

Moulitsas earned two bachelor degrees at Northern Illinois University (1992-96), with majors in Philosophy, Journalism, and Political Science and a minor in German. He subsequently earned a J.D. at Boston University School of Law (1996-99) before deciding that it would be a cold day in hell before he ever worked as a lawyer.


Posted by: consider wisely always on August 19, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

God, I miss Otis Chandler.

From the list it looks like Skube only wants to fact-check the left side of the blogs. Ever read the Times' own political blog? Consistantly left-bashing. Ever compare headlines of stories in the print and online editions? More inflamitory towards the left online.

Please don't lecture me about unsupported opinion in the blogs when you throw Jonah, Max Boot and Niall Ferguson in my driveway.

Posted by: Jim 7 on August 19, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, if you want to nominate someone for the weekly Wulitzer prize just send an email to proctoring.congress@gmail.com.

Posted by: corpus juris on August 19, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

HEre I have been extolling your blogging of late and I must say your pieces lately have been incredibly weak. This is another one.

Skube's piece is total shit. But you act as if he has a point.

What's going on with you?

Posted by: Armando on August 19, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting that this comes up on the weekend that the Research Channel (cable) is rebroadcasting a panel discussion from March 2006 at USC w/Kevin & his fellow panel members discussing these very issues.

The TradMedia is really worried that the blogosphere is gonna change their game & make them actually do some hard work.

Tough !

"The age of the mass media is just that -- an age. It doesn't have to last forever." - Jay Rosen

Posted by: daCascadian on August 19, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I liked the lefty blogosphere better when they weren't "professional." See, e.g., billmon's LA Times editorial. Or I should say more aptly, they went over to "group blogs."

One of the few places that hasn't declined in quality with the increase of professionalization is this site. (And I would say the same thing for Greenwald's move to Salon, but that's been fairly recent.)

Posted by: Me2d on August 19, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Me2d, what is wrong with group blogs?

Posted by: corpus juris on August 19, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I sometimes wonder if political bloggers, like Kevin, realize just how far out of the mainstream they really are. The internet has allowed a very low budget operation like a blog to reach an audience throughout the country, or anybody who reads English around the globe, for that matter. This audience, while representing a tiny proportion of the public, is numerous enough due to global reach of the blog format to give an illusion of wide agreement. Which in turns leads to an overestimation of the importance of political blogging. I thought that the recent Democratic pandering to bloggers and their audiences at YearlyKos is very similar to how Republicans treat their Christian fundamentalist leaders - important to keep on your side, but perfectly ok to ignore when deciding actual policy.

Posted by: old skeptic on August 19, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I talk to people on the street all the time and lots of what you hear isn't so far removed from the content of this blog. People are sick of being lied to and all the BS. Sure the actual progressive blogosphere is relatively small potatoes, or is it considering the vast amount of money raised from small donors over the past few years since the progressive blogosphere and associated linked sites burst onto the scene?

This movement is still growing.

Posted by: Jimm on August 19, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal,

the left gravitated to the internet early — for one thing it costs next to nothing to start a blog. advertiser dollars will always find the kind of audience (size) that a josh marshall can attract, just like they found rush limbaugh et al on a.m. radio.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on August 19, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

While what old skeptic says must be remembered lest we all get big heads, what Jimm is saying has merit too. Progressive bloggers are generally well educated, in the prime of life and make good money. They make contributions to their favorite candidates. That is why the Democrats are courting them so actively.

I used to be active in local Democratic politics. Sometime during the late 1990s I became disenchanted with the way my state party was being run. People seemed more interested in being selected to go to national conventions than in actually organizing. Local party activities were ignored in favor of raising bundles of money to buy air time. I also had the feeling that many of the local regulars didn't stand for much.

Blogging has given me a chance to discover that there are lots and lots of people just like me--people itching for a chance to advance the causes of social and economic justice who were burnt out by small minded party regulars.

Posted by: corpus juris on August 19, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Skube's main point is totally wrong. When the NYT does shoeleather reporting and sends actual reporters to Utah to record the grandstanding of the mine owner, they are not illustrating what happened, they are concealing it with memorable images and heart-throb story-telling.

When bloggers persistently and aggressively document the facts- a mine safety administration headed by a recess appointment who was a former employee of the mine owner, a mine owner with hundreds of safety violations on his record, proof he was employing a type of mining so dangerous that he now tries to deny it, and the host of other facts that paint a true picture of how and why this happened- that is reporting.

Without the bloggers most of us would have no way of knowing what actually happened in Utah- and how inevitable it was, considering what had gone before. Old-timers who have sifted the BS for decades could smell a rat from the AP reporting, but the AP was careful not to do any extra digging- as was the NYT.

Having apparently taken a double dose of LSD, or possibly seeing pink elephants as a result of an ill-advised attempt to quit drinking, Skube is imagining a world in which dead-tree journalists intrepidly track down the facts.

In reality, most of the dead-tree press is a practiced cover-up machine. Did you wonder about the markets Thursday? Try to track the crash in your local paper's website? If so, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

During the first three years of Hempfest's existence in Seattle, both of the dailies tried to pretend it wasn't happening and offered other "news" as a substitute. Today, with people coming from all over the world and attendance estimated at 150,000, the local papers are proud of our town and are interviewing Hempfest speakers and organizers.

At the bottom line, the press faces the same obligation as a doctor- ensuring that they do more good than harm.

Posted by: serial catowner on August 19, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK
…...…righty bloggers, who supposedly represent the rich, have less financial support than the lefties, who are on the side of the poor ex-lax at 2:15 PM
Instead of channeling moronichypocriterepublican, you could check ad revenues and rates: eyeballs count, dumbass.

Don't just complain, tell Skube
E-mail: mskube@elon.edu
Phone #: 336-278-5779
Office: McEwen Communications 010-D
Address: 2850 Campus Box, Elon, NC 27244
And readersrep@latimes.com

Posted by: Mike on August 19, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

"More often, in fact, they amplify it, making it available to a larger, more engaged audience than in the past."

No shit. There are a lot of good reporters and a lot of good reporting out there. It gets passed over, though, for infotainment bullshit that could care less about. I can't rely on Brian Williams and Katie Couric to point to these stories.

The right has Fox, talk radio, and think tanks to put emphasis on their agenda for mainstream consumption. The left only has the blogosphere. It's better than nothing, which is exactly where we were about 4 years ago.

Posted by: CKT on August 19, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

What the blogosphere (at least the portion I, and I'm sure most of us, read) does so well is what mainstream journalism is supposed to do well, but is all too often failing at-- giving us the facts, reporting well, fact-checking. It just happens to have some opinion thrown in as well. I would definitely be much worse informed if I relied on TV news instead of the small amount of blog article I read. Michael Skube's excerpt is really deceptive in light of this. I think the bloggers he specifically mentions are fairly representative of what I am talking about.

As far as opinions, I write mine because they are awesome. One opinion can be better than another if it is well-founded on reasons and sounds reasoning (rather than shrill cackling). If there are barriers to entry to print-journalism-opinion writing, and these keep people who form better opinions from writing there, then the blogosphere is the better place to look for smart opinion. You just may have to sift through a lot of crap from other commenters to get to it.

Posted by: Swan on August 19, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

In fairness to the press, and to answer Cranky's question, the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I regularly do real in-depth investigating and reporting, producing important series of articles on selected topics. The Detroit Free Press also does this, the Miami Herald, and in all probability the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. These are the kinds of stories that couldn't be done by bloggers, or even groups of bloggers.

But the only way most of us could ever access these stories, or even know they existed, would be on the internet, and, most likely, by a link provided by a blogger.

Like it or lump it, we are part of the ecosystem.

Posted by: serial catowner on August 19, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I had just read Skube's article in the Times before getting online. It made me wonder why every article that I've read in a newspaper about blogs gets it wrong. And when they can't get it right writing about blogs it only gives more credibility to the blogs, whose major criticism of the media is that they often miss the point.

Skube had to go back 40 years for an example of the praiseworthy work done by newpaper reporters. Isn't that tellling?

Posted by: JJF on August 19, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

"The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters." Agreed, as if patient fact-finding reporting coud be found. But webblogs are an excellent replacement for the hard-line opinions in papers like the the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune. I read the Chicago Tribune, which provides the opinions of Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hanson, and Jonah Goldberg. Not a patient fact finder in the bunch. Somehow they haven't been able to find a replacement for Molly Ivins.

Michael Skube, improve or good luck in your next career. Even the article referred to here was poorly researched. Go back and actually read those blogs. You will learn something.

Posted by: Degg2 on August 19, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

I remember Skube from the Atlanta newspapers: he hated teh Internets even then, but mostly out of ignorance. Reporters of a certain age (and seniority) get the hives when they realize those kids that they just hired to fill in the bottom of the ladder can get their stories out and read by a wider audience than the local fishwrap can hope for.

The better online journalists and print reporters will both survive whatever structural changes the news industry is going through. The folks who have been holding down a desk to fill the pages in the local section may find their future a little less rosy than they planned.

And the old adage that "freedom of the press belongs to whoever owns one" comes to mind as well. The foulmouthed, DFH-sympathizing bloggers can draw and hold an audience as a result of their voices, not in spite of them. I think a lot of these whiners are as upset with themselves that they didn't move online when they should have or that they never built up name recognition enough to be part of it.

Be assured the print and broadcast media know all about the blogosphere, as TPM can attest: they've scooped their peers more than once and had their stories "borrowed" wholesale as payback.

Posted by: paul on August 19, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

I have been following this thread while thinking about what the blogosphere does best. I think Serial Catowner is on to something.

Everyday we bloggers scan and link to a lot of different on-line news sources. The folks who follow the blogs find themselves exposed to a far broader experience than would be possible without the internet and other bloggers. If you want to follow the Iraq war you better be reading the Guardian, the Army Times as well as both the Washington Post and the New York Times. If you want to follow congress you really need to read about a dozen or so resources aimed directly at congress as well as the Hill and RawStory. If you want to know what you need to know about the economy, you might start with the Wall Street Journal, but you better read lots of local papers across the country. You want to follow the justice department scandal, you absolutely have to read McClatchy's Washington Bureau and the Washington Post, as well as TPM. Your local McClatchy paper is free to run or edit the national stories. In my town they edit or don't run any national story that will adversely affect the local Republican party. The Kansas City Star calls that local news judgment.

Remember the Justice Department firings started with some folks who were reading local Arkansas newspapers, thought it was fishy that one of Karl Rove's assistants had been named USA in Little Rock. They tipped Marshall and the rest is history.

Rachel Paulose was a big national story. I found it easy to stay on top of the story by reading the local Minneapolis papers and the local bloggers.

Maybe bringing lots of sources together is the real power of the blogs. Being a blogger sure more fun than watching Hollywood Squares.

Posted by: corpus juris on August 19, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

I find this discussion interesting and important. Thanks, Kevin.

Regarding Jefferson and the media, I think I remember him being behind some pretty sleazy media operations aimed to weaken the Washington presidency. The first American Noise Machine. No wonder he claims to be so distrustful of the press.

Posted by: gq on August 19, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Look, we all make mistakes.

Not a mistake. this is intentional in an attempt to expand a cloud of discredidation of over left (and to a lesser extent the right) political blog opinion.

Posted by: Simp on August 19, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

This is the same LA Times that, two days ago, published an editorial about how Google sucks because it plans to allow the subjects of new stories to respond to the news stories on Google's news site? You see, according to the LA Times, the essence of journalism is asking the right questions, and Google News does not ask questions, so apparently it is not engaged in journalism, or something.

Left unanswered was the issue of exactly why the LA Times and it's journalists never actually think to ask the question "But is it actually true" when reporting some speech or GOP PR, when discussing the run up to Iraq, when discussing the Iranian monster hiding in the closet, etc etc.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on August 19, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

> In fairness to the press, and to answer
> Cranky's question, the Seattle Times and the
> Seattle P-I regularly do real in-depth
> investigating and reporting,

Although I do read both the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I **when they are linked by aerospace bloggers**, and thus add my eyeballs and clicks to their revenue stream, I am sad to say that neither is a player in national politics or foreign policy. Heck, even the Chicago Tribune isn't really much of a national player anymore.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on August 19, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing funnier or more hypocritical than criticisms on jounralistic integrity and professional from the info-tainment industry, especially when that criticism so resembles the rant of a third-rate blogger.

Skube's criticism of the 'blogosphere' is a nice paradigm of what is wrong with much of the MSM itself: it is generally cherry-picked opinion that exploits (and panders to) the ignorance of its under-informed audience, lacks balance, lacks self-reflection, lacks all but the most casual investigation, and is motivated first and foremost by the self-serving purpose of justifying their own paychecks, credentials, and access to power at the expense of all else, including the now meaningless phrases 'journalistic integrity' and 'the public good'.

He may be correct that a blogger's success doesn't necessarily make him a journalist, but conspicuously misses the reverse point: simply having a journalist's credentials doesn't magically confer merit on an article or opinion. There is no shortage of examples of 'journalists' who are nothing more than lazy news models.

Certainly the MSM feels threatened by the blogosphere, but it is their own failings in professionalism, integrity, objectivity, zeal, and morality that are contributing most significantly to their increasing irrelevance.

In the last two years alone, television news has dedicated more hours to a handful of white women than it has the entire Iraq war. Last night the local news ran a story on dogs on surfboards. These people are in no position to lecture anyone on journalistic standards, yet alone the public good.

To be fair, much of the print media like the LA Times has not sunk as low as TV news, but the amount of resources they now dedicate to true investigative journalism is but a fraction of what it was in previous decades. If they are going to criticize others on journalistic integrity, they should start with the most respected and powerful outlets that are failing the public, not attack the upstarts that are helping to pick up the slack on the much neglected public good.

Attacks on the blogosphere such as these are simply a transparent and self-serving attempt to undermine the credibility of an emerging competitor. The LA Times could dedicate an entire daily section to criticizing and correcting television news such as Fox and CNN, but they don't largely because the lines of competition between television and print are more settled than those between the print media and the blogosphere.

If the LA Times wants people to take their criticisms of journalistic integrity seriously, they should perhaps start with a more established and elevated competitor - the Wall Street Journal editorial pages. It is among the craziest, laziest, most utterly contemptible sections in the print but retains the veneer of respectability because of its front page.

Posted by: Augustus on August 19, 2007 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Oh good lawd, who let Armando in?

Posted by: Disputo on August 19, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Skube's comments about bloggers, old fashioned digging for facts, and the like would have a little more credibility if not for several things he overlooks.

1) It's ironic his words appear in the LA Times which has been cutting back staff and floundering a bit while it tries to figure out its identity. This parallels a larger industry trend that has reduced staffing, consolidated, closed overseas bureaus and cut back on investigative reporting.

2) The NY Times is supposed to be the epitome of journalism - yet repeatedly they've had to confess to not doing their basic job: fact checking the Administration, overseeing their own reporters, and just displaying some professional skepticism. Ditto for the Washington Post.

3) Fox (Faux) News - not merely the way they outright propagandize for the right wing agenda, time and time again their supposed journalists are moonlighting for Republicans and failing to disclose the relationship. Let's not even go into how interviews, 'experts', talk show guests, etc. on all the commercial TV networks seem be a very selective group of people within a certain range of opinion.

4) If digging for facts is something real reporters do, why is it so often the most basic effort - looking at the record - seems to go by the boards? How is it Pollack and Hanlon were repeatedly allowed to portray themselves as war critics when their own words show them to be anything but? How is it a mine owner with a long record of safety violations and a fanatical antipathy for safety regulations and oversight was allowed to posture in front of the cameras and control the narrative?

5) Mr. Skube seems to be repelled by the passion of some of the blogging community over facts and issues. He might be just as concerned why some of his colleagues seem to show so little passion over anything so long as it doesn't upset their understanding of the world. Blogging would not have taken off as it has without a serious vacuum in the traditional media; the space was waiting to be filled.

It's not the blogosphere that killed reporting; it was suicide by profitability, apathy, and assimilation by the establishment it was supposed to report on.

Posted by: xaxnar on August 19, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

George Bush has called the 250,000 man elite army of Iran a "terrorist organization". Sounds like he is challenging them to come and fight our troops in Iraq.

Maybe President Bush should be asked to leave office early.

What do you think?

Or maybe we should just continue an academic discussion about what bloggers do.

Posted by: deejaayss on August 19, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK


If Skube and other MSM writers can't get it right about the blogosphere (and fail to do their homework), then you can just about bet that their other stories are questionable, too. And, it used to be that when a journalist lost credibility, it was the kiss of death. These days it's a free pass into the RepublicanParty.

Posted by: dejah on August 19, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Blogs don't crowd out important reporting, after all ...

Kevin: They certainly don't! To the contrary, a good many of them are ESSENTIAL in bringing to the public's attention news that's been inexplicably "overlooked" (i.e., deliberately ignored or censored) by the US mainstream media. Directly and through user-supplied comments and links, blogs -- most notably the "lefty blogs", as you rightly state -- actually BROADEN the scope of public awareness by, for example, introducing foreign press coverage of events that otherwise would NEVER make it into "circulation" here.

While I'll admit that Blogdom OCCASIONALLY sinks to the level of shock-jock talk radio, it overwhelmingly provides an invaluable service -- something to which partisan back-biters like the aptly named "Rush" Limbaugh can lay NO claim! Skube is playing the role of MSM "holier than thou" spokesperson. And it shows!

However, there IS a key point insinuated that you might well want to consider. And that is, the extent to which you yourself dedicate precious time and effort to "debunking" such implausible claims by commentators -- it happens here quite frequently -- is ALSO the extent to which you are robbed of the opportunity to COVER that substantial, hard-core, "gumshoe" reporting. (Just a word to the wise. That "problem of competing interests" often manifests at The Washington Monthly, resulting inevitably in the exclusion of key insights from breaking news )

Posted by: Poilu on August 19, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I find it interesting that when there is an intellectual discussion which requires some thought both Al and Egbert are strangely silent!

Posted by: Sebastian Monologue on August 19, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Netroots or Lou Dobbs: Who's the blockhead. Easy call for me. I'll take my news, information and debate over the internet everytime. The last thing I need is a xenophobic blowhard on a failing network to tell me what to think. I prefer my news facutal and I'll go from there. I'm twice as smart as Lou Dobbs and can reach a rational conclusion in half the time, which, I supposed makes me four times as smart as Mr. Blowhard.

Posted by: Wiliam Jensen on August 19, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, that dogs on surfboards story sounds pretty interesting.

Posted by: Jimm on August 19, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "[T]he characterization of bloggers as a bunch of loons ranting for free is not only silly, but woefully out of date."

You're right. The GOP pays its loons quite handsomely for their nonsense.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 19, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

My bitch is with the members of the right wing media machine, many of whom are paid professional journalists, whose job seems to be to move the right wing agenda without any regard for the facts.

corpus juris: Based on recent news revelations regarding GAO's investigations into the Bush Regime's "media" spending, it seems a GOOD many of those "paid professional journalists" on the right you mention may ALSO be paid professional propagandists! (That would explain a few things, now wouldn't it?) As I recall, GAO discovered that the Bush Reich spent $1.6 BILLION in taxpayers' money, during just a 2-YEAR period, for domestic propaganda efforts and so-called "packaged news" releases that were never properly attributed to their Executive Branch source.

If Armstrong Williams got $180,000 to serve as a shill for the NeoConNazis, surely other Righties out there are also being lucratively reimbursed for their erstwhile "loyalty". And then, of course, there's always the possibility of covert involvement in the media, a la the CIA's "Operation Mockingbird."

Posted by: Poilu on August 19, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Poilu

Got a cite to get me started. I am not sure I need one, but it is always best to ask.

Posted by: Corpus Juris on August 19, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP pays its loons quite handsomely for their nonsense.

Donald: "Great minds ..."? ;-)

Posted by: Poilu on August 19, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Now would be a good time for Al to tell us how much he gets paid to remasticate Turd Blossom's tiredest, well, turd blossoms. Interesting, though, that we've hardly heard from him since Rove's tearful farewell.

Posted by: Kenji on August 19, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Corpus Juris: Below is the particular article I had referenced myself. And if you do a search at the site (Truthout.org) using "GAO" and "propaganda", several more show up

I don't have any direct links on "Operation Mockingbird". But if you Google the phrase, several good references should show up. Especially enlightening is a Carl Bernstein expose' written during the 1970's which extensively covered that subterfuge and named many of the recognized CIA "assets" in the media.

Prepackaged News
[The Washington Post]

Posted by: Poilu on August 19, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

The second George W. Bush administration will forever be known for causing people to enter the phrase "on the ground" into common parlance.

I saw it first when people talked about the number of "boots on the ground" when assessing the need for more troops early in the war. Then it morphed into "troops on the ground" (as opposed to "in the air???), as in "I just got back from Baghdad where I met with troops on the ground. And they told me . . ."

Of course, no one wants to let the GOP monopolize the appearance of credibility, so the damned phrase went into syndication, like re-runs of Seinfeld.

Whatever happened to the words "credible," or "verifiable" or phrases like "well-grounded," or "well founded," or "soundly based?"

Facts "in pieces on the ground," sounds poetic, almost James Taylor-like. But "facts on the ground" -- puhlease, Kevin, you sound like a GOP presidential huckster talking about his latest 3-day prance around the Green Zone.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on August 19, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's blog is good, but he occasionally expesses that the thought that normal folks are as interested in stories about journalists as he is -- this time, that the professionalism of the blogosphere is a "big underappreciated story." No, I don't think it is a very big story to very many people. Most ordinary folks are only interested in stories about journalists when their objectivity or honesty is called into question. I also don't know why he thinks the lefty blogosphere is more professional than the right; they seem in the same ballpark to me. Maybe he thinks the left has a worse reputation, which probably is true.

I agree that one of the best services of the blogosphere is to take underreported facts (regardless of who found them) and publicize them widely. It is a defense against the selectivity and bias of the MSM and the blogs perform that function very well, with more reputable bloggers policing one another and trying hard to get things right.

Posted by: brian on August 19, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Facts "in pieces on the ground," sounds poetic, almost James Taylor-like. But "facts on the ground" -- puhlease, Kevin, you sound like a GOP presidential huckster talking about his latest 3-day prance around the Green Zone.

I think this is nonsense.

* * *

Serial Catowner, you may have a point, but the MSM jpurnalists do us a dis-service by presenting only one facet of a story when getting that one facet alone maybe misleading. Good lefty bloggers fill in the gaps by factcheckin and reporting in multiple articles covering a story, not just one. This is how the better version of a story-- the one with all the details-- gets around the blogosphere, but isn't on your nightly news. And then a blogger throws in a little opinion, which is often of a "so what" quantity. Kevin, to take one example, is often very modest about putting his opinon to things, and just writes a snarky sentence or makes a merely implicit point, a suggestion-- instead of comnig right out and saying it. It's far from being browbeating or misleading. Granted, in my experience, some bloggers are more misleading than others, and may once in a while read too much into a news story and then report on it in terms that don't adequately describe the story, or jump the gun and jump to conlcusions about someone when waiting a little longer for a little more detail would have showed that there wasn't much to the story. But this is infrequent and on balance, the blogs are making people a lot more informed.

Posted by: Swan on August 19, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Brian wrote:

I also don't know why he thinks the lefty blogosphere is more professional than the right; they seem in the same ballpark to me.

That's a load of hooey.

Posted by: Swan on August 19, 2007 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

I'm curious...

Is Skube an investigative journalist? A (very) quick check suggested that he is an op-ed writer and a critic.

Blogs don't compete with investigative journalism. They compete with op-eds and criticism.

Blogs aren't a replacement for investigative journalism. They analyze and filter -- they are the second-order neurons of the media.

Blogs don't have Seymour Hersh looking over his shoulder. They have Joe Klein looking over his shoulder.

Posted by: Adam on August 19, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

I have this vision:
the iTunes News Store.
for a micropayment (.02 or .03), papers like the Toledo Blade or the MN-St.P Star-Ledger, as well as the Guardian and the Times, as well as the Greg Palasts of the world, can mount their stories for sale. That way the reporters of Coingate can earn superstar salaries (with the Blade profiting as well) and Sid Blumenthal can afford that summer home.
Smaller papers would find an incentive to do reporting of national import--a nice revenue stream independent of local advertisers and people mainly interested in sports scores and restaurant reviews.
And all sorts of freelancers and collectives and disgusted veteran newsmen could make a go of it.

I like the idea, not just becausr it would be good, but because it's precisely this vision that makes hiigh muckety-mucks lose sleep at night--and write screeds like Skube's.

Posted by: pbg on August 19, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kinda late to the party, buy can someone explain the meaning of mhr's persistent "*'s".

Thanks

Posted by: Model 62 on August 19, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Was it not TalkingPointsMemo that kick-started the story about the 8 fired US Attorneys? Where were the journalists then? Faithfully transcribing Tony Snow's every word, I bet. So much for "shoe leather".

Posted by: grapeshot on August 19, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

UPDATE

Josh contacted Skube, and it turns out Skube never read TPM, and TPM was added to the piece by an editor at LA Dog Trainer

yep, Skube never wrote the words....

go see Josh's note for yourself - we do need an ethics panel

Posted by: fatbear on August 19, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I was just going to write check out Kevin's update and the Josh M. piece he links to, but the last commenter beat me to it.

I'll add, though, Skube supposedly, allegedly never wrote TPM into the piece. Who knows, from this guy?

Posted by: Swan on August 19, 2007 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus H. Christ ib a crutch -- that addendum about Elon's star journalism professor letting an editor add stuff to his article without having checked the sources is just ridiculous. If any of Berube's students did shoddy work like that, you'd think he'd flunk 'em... but as usual, anything's okay if you're a conservative wanker who can't be bothered to check facts.

What a dork. Makes me ashamed to admit that *I* have a jschool degree-but then again,none of my profs were dickless pundits; they had actually worked as journalists and knew how to get (and fact-check) a story.

Again, what a dork. Does this piece of academic flotsam have tenure? If so, why?


Posted by: dejah on August 19, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

That should be "Christ ON a crutch"... typing too fast and posting too fast.

Posted by: dejah on August 19, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

It read to me like Skube was completely blaming the editor without coming out and saying so; he doesn't explicitly claim to have approved the edit. "Added late" could go either way.

Posted by: DonBoy on August 19, 2007 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Considering the topic Josh's report is a truly stunning development. The best you can say is that Skube's Op-Ed was fact free and the editor felt it necessary to add some facts. Charitably the editor is just as ignorant of the blogosphere Skube. He picked Josh Marshall and the others as examples.

Did anybody else notice that Skube admits that he never read Josh's site? "I didn't put your name into the piece and haven't spent any time on your site. So to that extent I'm happy to give you benefit of the doubt ..."

How in the name of God does any journalism professor in America not know about Josh Marshall. He is the very model of a cutting edge Internet journalist. His site trades in facts just as much or more as it does in opinion and, near as I can tell, and I watch them closely, Josh and his staff are very careful about fact checking and meeting all of the traditional journalistic standards.

It would appear that Skube is a fact free opinionated ignoramus who has been given an opportunity to write an op-ed calling his betters fact free opinionated ignoramuses.

What a waste of ink. I hope his Dean calls him in for a chat tomorrow.

Posted by: corpus juris on August 19, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

skube's right, the really important work comes from real reporting, like, discovering the depth of the firings of the federal attorneys...oh, wait, that josh marshall and his blog...well, like outing the fact that jeff gannon was a male prostitute allowed access to the white house...no, wait, that was e plurbis media...well, like the intense investigation into the plame fiasco...no, that was emptywheel at fdl.

well, like, deep throat and nixon! yeah! like that! real reporting!

Posted by: skippybkroo@aol.com on August 20, 2007 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Well, we need all bloggers to disclose if they have taken or are taking money from any campaign. It is ok if Kevin or Josh or any blogger want to support a candidate of their choice but if they are voicing their support b/c candidates are paying them, they should disclose the relationship.

I am very certain that Matthew Yglesias is paid by the Obama campaign to defend him on the blogosphere.

Posted by: bob on August 20, 2007 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, have you seen this? BIG LOL!

Jay Rosen

'And when you’re done lecturing us on “the patient fact-finding of reporters,” tell the godforsaken LA Times they’re going to have to run a correction. The Post hasn’t won a Pulitzer for its reporting on Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Jeez.'

Posted by: Clem Yeobright on August 20, 2007 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

I am very certain that Matthew Yglesias is paid by the Obama campaign to defend him on the blogosphere.

Then I'm sure you won't have any trouble producing evidence of that assertion.

Posted by: Gregory on August 21, 2007 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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