- W.H. Auden, A Certain World
Mollie Z. Hemingway offers great advice on how to excel in journalism in today's world.
"Don’t Sweat the Details. Is there a difference between an Evangelical and an evangelist? Who cares?"
"Don't question authority. ... if a politician suggests that the reports of scandal surrounding his administration are overblown, leave him alone already. Would he lie?"
A journalist's job is to advance his ideological narrative. "CNBC’s John Harwood said recently, 'Those of us in political-media world should just shut up about "narratives" and focus on what’s true.' Spoken like a real nobody."
She's got a good piece. I recommend it too all non-fiction writers. Of course, all of it could be summarized by quoting Henry Kissinger, who said, "Allow me to be the first to say that what we have done here is not a good thing. It's definitely not a good thing. But it was, given the circumstances, the smart play."
Matthew Ingram argues that media companies, particularly content creators like Reuters, should allow their readers to comment on articles. If they don't, they are shutting out potential fan support.
Reuters recently removed its comment section, saying self-policing social networks were already handling lively discussion well so they didn't need to duplicate the effort. Ingram says by doing this, Reuters is handing a large slice of market value to Facebook and Twitter (among other networks) as well as move any arguments over an article onto other venues where Reuters' writers will have to decide how to respond on their own. He explains:
Is moderation a pain, and an expensive proposition? Sure it is. Lots of things that matter to your business are expensive. And if you have an engaged community, they can become your moderators, as successful online communities like Slashdot and Metafilter have shown — which in turn helps strengthen your community. Ending comments means removing any chance that this will ever happen.A news service probably needs all the love it can get. Does Reuters really want their writers to tweet their defense of contentious reports or take the debate to Medium?
Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson could not pursue her line of questioning on many interesting stories because her sources in The White House or her own bosses at CBS were interested in advocating their side, not revealing the truth. Attkisson says this and more in her new book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington.
The New York Post gives us many details:
“Many in the media,” Attkisson writes, “are wrestling with their own souls: They know that ObamaCare is in serious trouble, but they’re conflicted about reporting that. Some worry that the news coverage will hurt a cause that they personally believe in. They’re all too eager to dismiss damaging documentary evidence while embracing, sometimes unquestioningly, the Obama administration’s ever-evolving and unproven explanations.”She says she asked by Katie Couric about a possible interview with Attorney General Eric Holder on the Fast and Furious scandal. Attkisson, who had done many reports on that subject, said it should be a relevant interview, but after that weekend (without a Couric interview on air) the network began cancelling her stories, saying she had reported everything already. Attkisson wonders if Holder ordered CBS to stop talking about it.
One of her bosses had a rule that conservative analysts must always be labeled conservatives, but liberal analysts were simply “analysts.” “And if a conservative analyst’s opinion really rubbed the supervisor the wrong way,” says Attkisson, “she might rewrite the script to label him a ‘right-wing’ analyst.”
She also believes the Obama administration had someone hack her laptop to listen to her and plant classified documents on her hard drive, possibly intending to use them to prosecute her as needed.
Columnist Chris Hedges, who wrote such pieces as "We All Must Become Zapatistas" "Thomas Paine, Our Contemporary," has been accused of plagiarism by Harper's and others. The New Republic spells it out:
The plagiarism at Harper’s was not an isolated incident. Hedges has a history of lifting material from other writers that goes back at least to his first book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, published in 2002. He has echoed language from Nation author Naomi Klein. He has lifted lines from radical social critic Neil Postman. He has even purloined lines from Ernest Hemingway.Editors at Harper's were surprised. "A leading moralist of the left, however, had now been caught plagiarizing at one of the oldest magazines of the left," Christopher Ketcham explains. "These examples suggest not inadvertent plagiarism," Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute tells him, "but carefully thought out plagiarism meant to skirt the most liberal definition of plagiarism."
Professor D.G. Myers comments on Twitter, "The case of Chris Hedges teaches a basic truth about literature: every fraud will be unmasked eventually."
This is where we are in the world today. We self-publish our own books. We can solicit our own funds for movies. We can circumvent the nightly news, if it still exists.
Here's a trio, who have made award-winning documentaries in the past, wanting to blow the lid off the media silence on the man they call the most prolific serial killer in America.
There are at least two angles on the media silence on this case. The biggest one is that Gosnell is an abortionist operating within the scope allowed by those who have argued they want abortions in our country to be safe and rare. This man's clinic was nowhere near safe, so the political agenda doesn't support exposing him at the risk of undermining the most scared battleground for the political left.
The second angle is not as politically defined as the first. It's what Ann McElhinney describes in the video below. The women who were murdered were poor, unseemly, and minority--the kind that gets killed everyday in some cities, so what's the news? You might think those who cry loudly about the rights of woman and minorities would cry out about this too, but perhaps their classism gets in the way. Maybe it just doesn't trump the first angle. Abortionists are priests in the Church of Ne're Do Ill. The blood on their hands is only red fruit punch.
If you have the funds to contribute to this, I encourage you to consider it.
Our friend Anthony Sacramone sends a link to a snarky column at Intercollegiate Review: "How to Be a Really Lousy Journalist for Fun and Profit":
Start with the assumption that your own views are moderate. Within your newsroom, they probably are, even if last night at a colleague’s dinner party you argued for single-payer health care and mandatory re-education camps for homeschoolers. Then, instead of describing the views of people outside your newsroom, just label them “right-wing,” “anti-abortion,” or “extremely conservative.” You might be wondering if, finding rational argument too burdensome, you can just resort to calling the people you disagree with bigots and dismiss them. Turns out you can!
If you need to beef up your word count, throw in a few stereotypes and clichés about backwoods believers. Be careful even here, though, as you don’t want to showcase views that might catch on.
Read the whole thing here.
Joe Carter asks whether our daily news is making us dumb. For instance, Dan Rather "spent roughly 75,000 hours reporting, researching, or reading about current events," so why isn't he considered to be one of the wisest or most knowledgable men in America?
Clearly, daily news will not make us wise, but can be very useful. A report I caught by chance (if chance means anything) the other day warned of frost that night, so my wife and I covered up our newly planted herbs, spinach, okra, and tomatoes. Had I not had that news, I would have been very frustrated. I haven't had much success with our backyard garden over the years, and it's not supposed to frost after April 15 in the contented pastures neighboring the Chattanooga valley. The news of anticipated frost did not make me wise, and it won't be revalent to any other day in my entire life, but it was revalent to me on that day.
Of course, how much of what is sold as news is relavent even in this way? Carter closes his piece with this from Muggeridge: "Events that are truly important are rarely those captured on the front page of a daily paper. As Malcolm Muggeridge, himself a journalist, admitted, 'I've often thought that if I'd been a journalist in the Holy Land at the time of our Lord's ministry, I should have spent my time looking into what was happening in Herod's court. I'd be wanting to sign Salome for her exclusive memoirs, and finding out what Pilate was up to, and—I would have missed completely the most important event there ever was.'
I haven't been taking in much news lately, and I can't see the reason I need to return to it. I'm fairly fed up with my life at the moment. I don't think the news will help me with that at all.
Trevin Wax has eight reasons to explain media editors' decision to ignore Kermit "the Ripper" Gosnell's trial over the past several days.
1. The Gosnell case involves an abortionist.Keep reading. One reason Trevin doesn't give is that a 15-year-old girl helped kill babies too.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the abortionist must be portrayed as a victim of hate and intolerance, not a perpetrator of violence. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortionist” separate from testimony about dead women and children.
2. The Gosnell case involves an unregulated abortion clinic.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the clinic must be portrayed as a “refuge” for women in distress, not a “house of horrors” where women are taken advantage of. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortion clinic” away from negative connotations.
3. The Gosnell case involves protestors who, for years, stood outside 3801 Lancaster and prayed, warning people about what was taking place inside.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the protestors must be portrayed as agitators and extremists, not peaceful people who urge mothers to treasure the miracle inside them. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps the abortion protestors from looking like heroes.
A reader told me today that a bookseller had told her that the TV series Vikings was based on my novel West Oversea.
I hadn't heard about this, but if I've got money coming, I hereby retract all my hard words and declare that Vikings is the greatest depiction of the Viking Age ever depicted. (I think the episode where the de-Pict Scotland is yet to be aired.)
Today my essay on Christian Fantasy, entitled The Christian Fantasy, appears at The Intercollegiate Review's web page. Thanks to Anthony Sacramone for the invitation.
I think that gives you enough to read this evening.
In the upcoming update to The Associated Press' online stylebook, the suffix "-phobia" "should not be used 'in political or social contexts,' including 'homophobia' and 'Islamophobia.'
AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn explains the move:If current argumentative trends apply here, this move will be described as homophobic.
“Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”
“We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing,” he said.
Marvin Olasky describes how last night's presidential election (and many others) began to be lost about 50 years ago. Here's one strong point:
Twenty years ago, as the advent of talk radio left many conservatives thinking they had a weapon adequate to overcome the influences of liberal newspapers and news magazines. That proved untrue, because those print publications still do the original reporting and storytelling that frames national debates.That's what we see in the current reporting on what happened in Benghazi and everything related to Muslims in the news. That's what we see in the established process for candidate debates ("Mr. Ryan, should women be afraid of your election?"). That's what we see in the reporting on government spending, budget modifications, fiscal cliff, etc.
I stopped listening to NPR over the summer when they used the news on Pixar's Brave to deride the idea of princesses and ask a homosexual entertainer, who I think goes by the name Princess, to expand on being a princess means. I turned it on the other day to hear them pass lightly over a colonel's criticism of the grossly irresponsible handling of our Libyan embassy's defenses to focus on what he believed was miscommunication from the Marines on the ground.
We live in an infoworld today. Our kings or kingmakers are the information keepers.
Oh bother. Another scandal among evangelicals (although the principal figure here is actually a Catholic, I believe). It involves Dinesh D’Souza, bestselling author and current president of The King’s College in New York City, which is owned by Campus Crusade for Christ. World Magazine reports:
About 2,000 people gathered on Sept. 28 at First Baptist North in Spartanburg, S.C., to hear high-profile Christians speak on defending the faith and applying a Christian worldview to their lives. Among the speakers: Eric Metaxas, Josh McDowell, and—keynote speaker for the evening—best-selling author, filmmaker, and Christian college president Dinesh D’Souza.
D’Souza’s speech earned him a standing ovation and a long line at the book-signing table immediately afterward. Although D’Souza has been married for 20 years to his wife, Dixie, in South Carolina he was with a young woman, Denise Odie Joseph II, and introduced her to at least three people as his fiancée.
When event organizer Tony Beam confronted D’Souza about sharing a hotel room with Joseph, he learned that D’Souza had filed for divorce (that very day, as it turned out), and that he felt he’d done nothing wrong.
I first read this story at Anthony Sacramone’s Strange Herring blog, where Sacramone asked the reasonable question, “What was he thinking?”
But the question that occurs to me is a different one. It seems to me we see this sort of thing more and more, not only among “Christian celebrities,” but among ordinary Christian leaders in local churches. And I get the impression that, for a lot of younger Christians, it’s just not a big deal anymore. The world’s attitude toward sex seems to be taking over. “Everybody does it. No big deal. As long as we’re in love.” It’s no surprise many Christian youth from good churches have no problem with the issue of gay marriage. They don’t even see the point of waiting until marriage.
I’m old, and I know I’m the more bitter sort of puritan. But still I see this as a sign of spiritual death. In my mind, I'm seeing what Revelation describes as “the lampstand being taken away.”
Glenn Greenwald writes:
In fact, one could reasonably make the case that those whose thinking is shaped by unexamined, unacknowledged assumptions are more biased than those who have consciously examined and knowingly embraced their assumptions, because the refusal or inability to recognize one's own assumptions creates the self-delusion of unbiased objectivity, placing those assumptions beyond the realm of what can be challenged and thus leading one to lay claim to an unearned authority steeped in nonexistent neutrality.Greenwald discusses objectivity in light of the vice-presidential debate.
I forgot to mention that I have a new article up at The American Spectator Online today. Political Non-Science.
What is truth outside of the facts? If someone writes a memoir describing his remarkable experiences, drawing from these profound truths about the world, do people not treat this differently than a novel? If it is learned that his experiences were completely fabricated, do we not see the book in a completely different light? And if an author writes fiction but claims it is fact, is he not appealing to the evidence of reality which he can't do in a novel? He is, and yet some will still argue that his intentions outweigh his lies.
Mike Daisey has a one-man show called, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Mike D'Virgilio writes, "Daisey conveys his experiences on a visit to China of seeing the allegedly deplorable working conditions in Apple’s production facilities. It turns out much of what he speaks about in his theatrical monologue and on the 'This American Life' episode about it, never happened." That liberals will defend this non-factual account which purports to get at the truth is typical of them, D'Virgilio argues.
Kudos to Ira Glass for rejecting lies presented as truth.
This is funny, but I have to wonder if it shows more the problems of our cultural multiversity, each of us flailing around for a bit of real ground to stand on, than it does the whole news story as the advertisement suggests.
My latest column for The American Spectator Online, "Back to Nature in Europe," is published here today.
I’ll come clean. I have to admit it. I am a Lutheran.
And that, at least according to Joshua Green at The Atlantic, would seem to be pretty fringey stuff. Definitely outside the realm of respectable opinion in today’s world. (Which must be a surprise to all those Garrison Keillor fans.)
Or… maybe I’m not a Lutheran at all, really. Read the rest of this entry . . .
James Fallows calls this weekly world edition of the UK Telegraph the greatest front page ever. I've seen this kind of thing before. It's the absence of cognitive dissonance, a blindness to irony. It's doing what you're told without thinking about it or maybe not proofing. Or maybe they thought it was funny.
Three year old non-profit news organization ProPublica has won it's second Pulitzer. That may be a sign of sunny days ahead for liberal journalism.
From The Washington Post in a few venues: “Post columnist Dana Milbank has pledged not to write anything about Sarah Palin for one month. Would you pledge not read or watch coverage of Palin for one month?” Yes: 70%; I’ll try: 10%; No: 20% at the time Big Journalism covered the story Saturday morning.
You know, it's one thing for editors to decide Mrs. Palin is not news-worthy in general; it's another to declare a pledge and encourage viewers to avoid all news coverage on her, which wouldn't work anyway and could back-fire in an embarrassing way. This looks more like fear or anger than what they say it is, which is reader interaction.
The craze continues as partisans parse and dart.
Glenn Reynolds talks about the words flying around from those wanting to accuse Gov. Palin and the Tea Part Movement of inciting the violence of a young man who has reportedly been obsessed with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for the last three years.
To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?Ed Morrissey quotes diverse sources on this topic, noting how many people want to restrict freedom of speech to their own ideological supporters. (via Books, Inq)
Slate's War Room has a list of thirty opinion makers and commentators they're calling their Hack 30. "We're listing the worst columnists and cable news commentators America has to offer. Think of this as our all-star team -- of the most predictable, dishonest and just plain stupid pundits in the media." I plan to read through it, unsure how irritated I'll feel by the end, not that I want to carry the water for anyone, but a list like this could easily be the work of one cynical curmudgeon against many.
Related to this, Patrol Magazine has a list of "Ten Worst Christian Media Hacks," which appears to have angered the Internet gods because their site has been down ever since they put the second part of the article on it.
"The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) announced on Oct. 21 that it will be ending carbon trading — the only purpose for which it was founded — this year," reports Steve Milloy. So cap-and-trade is over, though carbon offsets persist. Have you heard or seen this in the news? (via Roy Jacobsen the Beneficent)
"My Fox News Sunday colleague Juan Williams has been fired by NPR for telling an inconvenient truth," writes Bill Kristol on The Weekly Standard's blog this morning. Apparently, NPR's high and mighty can't allow their people to express certain emotions or honest fears. Perhaps certain entire topics cannot be touched on.
Here, Mr. Williams describes what he thought and how he was fired for it over the phone.
Update: For a liberal take on this story, see Gawker. Max Read writes: "'I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot,' he told O'Reilly, and you knew it was going to be good, because who says that unless they are about to say something racist." Help us.
The Washington Post canned its book reviews from the printed paper last year. Other papers have been cutting book coverage for a long time. But behold, the Wall Street Journal say it will expand its Saturday edition and add to that expansion a portion of book reviews. The people rejoiced, and there was peace in those days.
Here's a curious collection of TV news people making gaffes or showing their true colors. It begins with Katie Couric insulting the Palin family, and get much worse. Some of these clips are offensive (the second and third particularly), and there's a good one in the middle of Rush Limbaugh's comments about NFL Quarterback Donovan McNabb, which is not a gaffe at all, but the context around his comment which got him removed from that sport's show. Watch the whole thing and you'll hear what he's saying and that at least of his co-hosts believes he is making a good point.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air describes more of the coverage of the JournoList revelation, talking about the few reporters who stood up for honesty on occasion:
James Surowiecki offered a longer exposition on the same theme after Journolisters started debating whether the media should report on Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan’s ties to radical Islamist terrorists. When Luke Mitchell of Harper’s argued that reporting on the ties would lead to something “alarmingly dangerous, such as the idea that there is a large conspiracy of Islamists at work in the United States,” Surowiecki reminded Mitchell and others of the entire purpose of journalism, emphasis mine:“I find it bizarre that anyone would argue that an accurate description of what happened is somehow pointless,” Surowiecki said. “That is, that it’s not useful to offer up an accurate picture of Hasan’s actions because nothing obvious follows from it. We want, as much as possible, to have a clear picture of what’s actually going on in the world. Describing Hasan as a violent Islamist terrorist is much closer to the truth than describing him as a disturbed individual.”One has to wonder why a journalist from Harper’s — and other publications — would need that reminder, especially about terrorism.
If you were in the presence of a man having a heart attack, how would you respond? As he clutched his chest in desperation and pain, would you call 911? Would you try to save him from dying? Of course you would.Read more on The Daily Caller.
But if that man was Rush Limbaugh, and you were Sarah Spitz, a producer for National Public Radio, that isn’t what you’d do at all.
In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would “Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.
In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. “I never knew I had this much hate in me,” she wrote. “But he deserves it.”
Spitz’s hatred for Limbaugh seems intemperate, even imbalanced. On Journolist, where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it barely raised an eyebrow.
Politico.com did a story on this list last year, giving it a much less radical appearance. Perhaps the comments at the time were much less radical. The senior editor of The New Republic described the conversations on this exclusive email list.
“There is probably general agreement on the stupidity of today’s GOP,” he said. “But beyond that, I would say there is wide disagreement on trade, Israel, how exactly we got into this recession/depression and how to get out of it, the brilliance of various punk bands that I have never heard of, and on whether, at any given moment, the Obama administration is doing the right thing.”
The story this week is that JournoList members assume the worst of conservatives, and perhaps each other occasionally, pioneering new interior ground on the quest to learn how much hate they truly have. Maybe they should read Chesterton. Then they'll get an idea of who is at fault for the world's ills, and it isn't Bush.
Our friend Dale Nelson sent me a link to this New York Times column by Ross Douthat, all about why many “literary” authors are turning to writing historical novels, rather than setting their stories in contemporary settings. His interesting conclusion is that modern culture just doesn't present the kind of conflicts that made the family sagas of old work so well:
You can write an interesting contemporary novel based on the “Anna Karenina” template in which the heroine gets a divorce, marries her modern-day Vronsky, and they both discover that they’re unhappy with the choices they’ve made — but the last act just isn’t going to be quite as gripping as Tolstoy’s original. You can turn the Jane Austen template to entertaining modern purposes, as Hollywood did in “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” but the social and economic stakes are never going to be as high for a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet as they were for the Regency-era version.
I think he's got something there. If you want to write a novel about, say, an unwed mother, you can suggest that your plucky heroine's Neanderthal, Bible-thumping parents don't want her to have an abortion, but there's really nothing they can do to stop her. The only other problem her romantic passions are likely to get her into is that of sexually transmitted diseases. In that case, she either takes medication to get better, or she's stuck with the problem for life. There's little scope for her to heroically defy convention and shame the small minds; there is no convention to defy.
P. G. Wodehouse wrote stories about couples being kept apart by unsympathetic fathers and guardians, well past the point in history when such parental figures had “sunk to the level of a third rate power” (to quote “Uncle Fred Flits By”). He was able to get away with it because his stories were light confections, not intended to reflect real life in any serious way. If he'd been forced to be realistic, the fun would drained out like water from a lion-footed bathtub.
Is it an indictment of modern society to say that it doesn't offer scope to certain forms of fiction? Probably not.
But I often think of the popularity of Amish stories in the Romance genre, as I've mentioned here before. I don't think it's unrelated to highbrow authors writing historical novels. I think there's a hunger out there to be able to live in a society where people care enough about you to tell you when they think you're messing up your life.
The autonomous life, in the end, is a pretty lonely one.