Clinton Coverage & Media “Anecdrama”

by matttbastard

(photo by NYCArthur, used under a Creative Commons license)

Great post @ Foreign Policy’s FP Passport Blog from Annie Lowrey:

Seven months ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton — the powerful New York Senator, former First Lady, and runner-up in the brutally long Democratic primary competition — became U.S. President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. Since then, she’s chastened North Korea, advocated on behalf of Burma, and rallied against Israeli settlement building. She’s logged nearly 100,000 air miles. She’s tirelessly pursued Obama’s diplomatic agenda around the world.

And she’s done it while fostering or demonstrating little friction with the White House she once hoped to occupy. Being secretary of state doesn’t just require being a diplomat abroad. It requires being a diplomat in Washington. For, foreign policy is not and has never been the purview of State alone — Clinton overlaps and dovetails and supports and creates policy with Obama, a spate of diplomatic envoys, the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, the national security advisers, Vice President Joe Biden, et cetera. By all accounts, she’s done well at that as well.

Not that you’d know it reading the paper. Too often, coverage of Clinton neglects the fact that the secretary of state has never been the sole creator of U.S. foreign policy. It also, far too often, focuses hyper-intently on the perceived narrative of how Clinton feels about her relationship with the White House — rather than the actual relationship between Clinton and Obama or how she’s doing her job.

As they say, read the whole damn thing — Lowrey goes on to name ‘em and shame ‘em.  It (still) ain’t pretty.

Sigh.

h/t The Kicker

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Backlash to the Future

by matttbastard

In which right-wing propaganda merchants double down on the ZOMG POTUS = SCARY NEGRO!!!1 strategy:

Yep, as far as the wingnuts are concerned, it’s 1968 to infinity, kids — the permanent campaign perverted in a manner designed to shatter post-racial dreams that would make Tricky Dick proud.

Let’s just hope the consequences of this cynical ploy don’t prove deadly.

h/t Campus Progress, video courtesy Media Matters for America

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Curley in Amber (Or, Reason # 54,765 Why AP is DOOMED.)

by matttbastard

Speaking of media dinosaurs, it would appear the Associated Press is once again eager to hasten its own extinction:

I’ve tried to avoid speaking out regarding reports about the Associated Press’ plans for the future. I’ve done so because AP executives and board members have a habit of saying lots of things that are later “corrected” after they stick their fingers in the air and discover the wind is blowing another direction. So I assume everything I hear that’s attributed to “someone at AP” is merely a trial balloon.

However, the article in the New York Times today about AP (or, if you prefer, “the” AP) “cracking down on unpaid use of articles on the web,” attributes the insanity it reports to the CEO of the AP — by name. As he was going on record with the New York Times, I have to assume that he means what he’s saying.

In other words, I feel fairly confident now that it’s okay for me to start calling a nut a nut.

Here’s a quote from the NYTimes.com story:

“Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.”

In other words, what I just did — quote the New York Times and point to the article — would be considered a copyright violation by AP if the point was to an AP story. To quote and link to that story would require me to have a licensing agreement with AP. That policy, of course, is nuts.

And I’m not even saying it’s nuts from a legal “fair use” standpoint or nuts because AP reporters quote and link to bloggers all day everyday. And I won’t even explain why it’s nuts because of the traffic-driving dynamics and economics of advertising revenue that results when I point to an AP story on, say, my hometown newspaper’s website.

I’m just saying “it’s nuts.” And it’s nuts that Tom Curley doesn’t understand why it is nuts.

BTW, remember this little teapot tempest from the stiff-spined TECHNICAL GENIUSES @ AP?UNAUTHORIZED!!!1

Yep — still embeddable.

Golf. Claps.

Methinks some jaunty grave-dancing music is in order:

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Dinosaurs and Mammals

by matttbastard

Apropos, especially in light of the recent public tussle between the straight-from-the-Jurassic editorial staff of the Toronto Star and a certain far-sighted columnist/blogger:

Undeniably, there is money to be made in digital publishing with free reader access, but whether that revenue leads to profits depends upon the scale and scope of the organization. The potential revenue does not appear to be of the magnitude that will support the massive operations of existing news organizations. What works in today’s web landscape are lean and mean organizations with little or no management bureaucracy — operations where nearly every employee is working on producing actual content. I’m an extreme example — a literal one-man show. A better example is Josh Marshall’s TPM Media, which is hiring political and news reporters. TPM is growing, not shrinking. But my understanding is that nearly everyone who works at TPM is working on editorial content.

Old-school news companies aren’t like that — the editorial staff makes up only a fraction of the total head count at major newspaper and magazine companies. The question these companies should be asking is, “How do we keep reporting and publishing good content?” Instead, though, they’re asking “How do we keep making enough money to support our existing management and advertising divisions?” It’s dinosaurs and mammals.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Joe Trippi

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NBC Sports Blog Lifts Steel Curtain on ESPN’s Roethlisberger Rape Embargo

by matttbastard

If only the GENERAL mainstream media establishment would go after each other with this kind of righteous gusto when warranted — as is DEFINITELY the case here:

“We really don’t want our coverage of the civil lawsuit filed against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to become an exercise in the bashing of ESPN.  We’ve got some friends who work there (maybe not as many after today), and we don’t generally believe that the network is evil or corrupt or otherwise nasty.

“However, we do believe that the network is way too large for its own good, and that unless and until a true competitor emerges, it’s up to everyone else to point out those occasions when the emperor is riding both bareback and bareassed.

“The handling of the Roethlisberger case makes us wonder whether there’s a complete firewall between the business functions of ESPN and its journalistic activities.  We say this because we’re convinced that the Roethlisberger story initially was ignored due to concerns that ESPN would be jeopardizing its access to the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, who also happens to play for the team with the most loyal and rabid fan base in America.

The entire post is a must-read, take-no-prisoners smackdown that shows ESPN to indeed “be riding both barebacked and bareassed” (first uncovered by NBC Sports here). And it would seem that the spanking has made an impact, as ProFootballTalk reports in an update:

Technically, ESPN is now acknowledging the report, albeit unwittingly.  As of this posting, the “Top Stories From ABC News” box on ESPN.com’s various pages includes the headline, “Woman:  Super Bowl QB Raped Me.”

Again, if only…

h/t WAM! co-founder & Yes Means Yes co-editor Jaclyn Friedman

(Her take on the Roethlisberger rape suit and ESPN’s initial refusal to cover the story here)

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Antonia Zerbisias, Kathy English, and #TorStarFAIL: Great Expectations

by matttbastard

One thing about keeping your expectations low: more often than not, they’ll be met.  This was certainly the case this past Saturday, as our old friend Kathy English, public editor for the venerable Toronto Star, offered a tepid, passive-aggressive non-apology to Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias. Zerb, as you may recall, had been sandbagged in a column written by English (in concert with Star publisher and scourge to uppity female opinion scribes, John Cruickshank) after Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) head Bernie Farber decided to concern-troll the Star editorial board — and succeeded.

After a vocal outcry, both online and in numerous letters to the editor (two of which were quietly published this past Wednesday, a far-lower circulation day than the prominent Saturday edition where the original column appeared), English revisited the matter this weekend — by whinging about snark and incivility:

It is the opinion of some blogger in Abu Dhabi [aka former Star employee, Jen Gerson, who responds to English's incivil swipe here], upon reading my column of last week, that I am a “disconnected crony.”

Other bloggers labelled me “priggish,” overly “earnest” and expressed the view that my column is evidence that “old media are still painfully unaware of how blogs operate.”

An online commenter said I should have known that a comment posted by Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias on her blog, which I consider inappropriate for publication by this news organization, was simply the “snark – irony, sarcasm,” of the blogosphere.

I learned much about “snark” and nasty blogosphere invective this week from some bloggers who disagree with my take on what Zerbisias wrote. Mean-spirited personal attack, inaccurate facts, innuendo and even speculation about the identity of my spouse was lobbed my way, much of it anonymously.

Most of what I read simply reinforced my view that blogs produced by professional journalists working under the brand banner of a “mainstream” news organization such as the Star must aspire to far higher standards than what’s emerging elsewhere in the blogosphere.

A good start would be, oh, I dunno, aspiring to make sure you have the whole story before drawing a conclusion:

Here’s the fuller context that explains why she wrote this: Zerbisias had seen Farber marching in the Pride parade wearing a T-shirt that said, “Nobody knows I’m gay.” She didn’t include that information in her blog so readers didn’t know that context. Nor did she tell me that when I showed her my column before publication.

In complaining to the Star, neither did Farber think to tell me that he, along with dozens of others who marched with the Kulanu group, had worn a T-shirt that made its own ironic quip. That’s context I sure wish I had known.

This makes it clear to me that Zerbisias’s comment was intended as sarcastic irony, stock in trade for this columnist and blogger. But I think her attempt at irony failed here; the quip – as published without that context – was ambiguous and could be misunderstood.

And yet the only person who seemed to misunderstand the quip was you and Cruickshank (shit, I bet even ol’ Bernie is a Seinfeld fan). Just because your reading comprehension is substandard is no reason to assume that others share your deficiency, Kathy.

Anyway, moving on:

To be fair to Zerbisias, it should be made clear, though, that she did not “make things up,” as Farber interpreted it. “I don’t `make things up’ – ever,” she said, adding that there “is a lot of space between publishing falsehoods and spouting irony.”

The principle of my column last week remains. Toronto Star journalists simply can’t engage in this hurly-burly tone of the blogosphere if it confuses readers or doesn’t meet the Star‘s journalistic standards. As publisher John Cruickshank told several readers this week: “It creates confusion about how committed we are to the truth and gets imbued with too much seriousness because we are the Star.

Shorter: “Bloggers are MEAN, the DOG ate my homework, and, goddammit, I’m STILL RIGHT!!1one”

Sigh.

Cover your ears, kids–that sonic boom you heard was from the F-16-like point swooping over English’s head.

Dawg, who, late last week, modestly proposed that English’s original column was in fact a Machiavellian plot to make Farber and Cruickshank look like dunces, reassesses his previous bestowal of the benefit of the doubt to English:

Blogs are indeed different from common-or-garden reportage: “hurly-burly” sums it up quite nicely. But editors and publishers are loath to relinquish control, which means that in-house bloggers are forced to look over their shoulders while we in the blogosphere proper are not.

The chilling effect here is palpable: recall that we aren’t even talking about a post, but a comment thread. Ethics and professionalism, both of which Zerb wears on her sleeve, by the way, are not what this is about at all. Rather, it’s precisely what an observer quoted by English says: “old media are still painfully unaware of how blogs operate.”Different languages: different ways of engaging in print; different styles.

But the same ethical and professional standards, pace English, at least for those of us who take the craft seriously. On that point, when she dug around a little more, assisted by hordes of outraged commentators, bloggers and Star correspondents, she discovered that Zerb hadn’t transgressed any ethical or professional codes whatsoever, and had to be content with complaining about her alleged ambiguity. That’s fair comment, I suppose, but a far cry from her original assertions. So why is she even raising the question of standards, leaving the impression, despite her earlier disclaimer, that Zerb had violated them?

Worse, readers are condescended to: none of that hurly-burly stuff for us if it “confuses” us. I submit that no one in this wildly overblown affair was remotely confused. That’s a dodge, plain and simple.

Dave further articulates the bottom line that English has apparently allowed her easily-bruised ego to obscure:

I could fire back with two words, which English would dismiss as evidence supporting her current view. So, I’ll say this: We are your readers, Ms. English.

The “new media” and the bloggers English decided to castigate are the same people that used to sit around the kitchen table bitching about things read in newspapers and whose only recourse was to submit a letter to the very organ and editor with whom they took issue.

It was a one-sided arrangement that left communicative readers at the mercy of “edited for brevity” or without a voice at all. What English doesn’t like is that we like this process a whole lot better. Further, because of the “new media” we are able to communicate directly with the principle subjects of stories and columns – and do. I’m sure that sends chills down the spines of newspaper editors because their worst nightmare has come true: continuous and unrelenting scrutiny, and continuous and unrelenting criticism – some of it accompanied by the language spoken around the kitchen table.

Here’s the thing, Kathy: you fucked up.

You fucked up big.

You guys got played by an experienced player with an agenda who used your forum as Public Editor as a platform to launch a heated proxy missive against a respected Star columnist.  Contrary to your defensive posturing, this is not really about the online rabble, new media vs. old, or the ‘ethics’ of snark; this is about your responsibility as a journalist to gather all the facts before accusing one of your colleagues of making shit up — a charge that, if substantiated, is, I would wager, a fireable offense at any newspaper and thus very serious.

By not gathering the relevant information beforehand (namely, Farber’s highly public–and self-promoted–appearance at Toronto Pride 2009 wearing a t-shirt glibly pronouncing his apparently facetious life on the down-low), you subjugated that responsibility and gravely damaged Zerbisias’ reputation. Saying that neither Farber nor Zerbisias were immediately forthcoming with said information is a cheap cop-out; a five-minute Google search (much like the one likely conducted by SOME BLOGGER IN TORONTO) would have helped unearth the buried info that you now acknowledge exonerates Zerbisias (though you still claim that your original charges are somehow still valid. Logic is apparently an unprofessional blogger conceit).

One can imagine the chill mentioned by Dawg is quite palpable right now in the Star newsroom, as reporters and columnists must be asking themselves: Can the public editor, editor-in-chief and publisher be trusted to protect their staff against spurious charges lodged by special interests trying to muzzle the press?

Many of them, I would wager, feel their trust has been betrayed.

By allowing a lobbyist to dictate the editorial response to an off-hand, ironic remark, your ability to sift between legitimate and manufactured grievance is now in question, Kathy. And by not addressing your dereliction of duty in an open, transparent manner, you aren’t exactly making us brim over with confidence that you do in fact recognize the gravity of your failure.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

So, until that moment of epiphany occurs, be advised, Kathy, that your readers — the hurly-burly, rambunctious, unprofessional online rabble that you scorn — will be watching. This isn’t personal; the dissemination of accurate information is imperative for any democracy to properly function. It is in the public interest to have a press corps free of self-censorship, unencumbered by the fear that the ideology of special interests will dictate their output to the detriment of a vibrant, free press.

As Corvin Russell notes, you owed Antonia Zerbisias an apology for defaming her professional reputation as a journalist and for not protecting her from a bad-faith political attack. But, like Dave said, you also owe us, the Star readership, an apology: for not providing us with all the relevant information; for allowing a lobby group to influence your editorial mandate; and for doing a piss-poor job of representing our interest. Y’know, what they pay you the big bucks for.

It is going to take time to restore confidence in your ability, for both your staff and readers; this time, the expectations are monumentally greater.

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Louis CK: “If you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great you’re an *SSHOLE!”

by matttbastard

A must-watch for Uncle Pat and the rest of the fauxgrieved “WHITE FOLKS UNDER SIEGE!!11″ brigade.

(Buchanan pwnage h/t Hubbit)

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QOTD: Sonia Sotomayor and the Unbearable Whiteness of Being a Republican

by matttbastard

[Ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama] pre-emptively declared that he would not vote for a judge who uses the “empathy standard” in deciding cases—a reference to the sensitivity toward average people that President Obama said he looked for in nominees, and which has been transformed by the political right into code for favoring blacks or other ethnic minorities over whites. Sessions seemed to predict nothing short of the collapse of American law as we know it if Sotomayor is confirmed: “Down one path is the traditional American legal system, so admired around the world, where judges impartially apply the law to the facts without regard to their own personal views,” Sessions declared. “This is the compassionate system because it is the fair system.”

Undeterred by his gross historical error—had every court in American history applied the law in this manner, schools would still be legally segregated, a woman’s right to earn a living and obtain credit would still be denied, and so on—Sessions went on to attack even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In an unusual broadside against a sitting justice, he accused Ginsburg of being “one of the most activist judges in history” even though a glancing look at her record shows she has been part of an almost powerless, left-of-center bloc on the court that included three men, two of them appointed by Republican presidents.

Ginsburg’s affliction, then, is apparently the same as Sotomayor’s: She sees the world differently than does Sessions. This is the key to understanding the unhinged argument about “empathy.”

It presumes that the white male experience is the only authentically American experience, and therefore the only one that could possibly be unbiased. Whatever predispositions or inclinations these men bring to the law are the valid ones. After all, they are not hampered by some silly notions they may have picked up along the way had they lived their lives as women or as members of minority groups.

- Marie Cocco, Closet Racism in the Age of Obama

h/t EileenLeft

Related: Cory Doctorow points to an extensive Flickr gallery commemorating Sessions’ longstanding tenure as a dumbasstastic racist fuckateer. On a more serious note, U.S. News runs down ‘Sonia Sotomayor’s 13 Most Notable Decisions’.

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Antonia Zerbisias: Under Their Wheels

by matttbastard

Anyone following my Twitter stream this weekend would have noticed that yours truly was a little bit dissatisfied with several pieces recently published by The Toronto Star. We’ll deal with the egregious diversity fail over what constitutes the most ‘important’ works of art/literature over the past 10 years another time (as per the white male columnists commissioned by the Star to map the contours of contemporary Canadian culture, women need not apply). For now, I want to address Saturday’s cowardly hit piece on Star columnist/blogger (and good friend of the Logic) Antonia Zerbisias by Star Public Editor Kathy English.

The 800-word public flogging was apparently commissioned by Star publisher John Cruickshank, after a complaint was lodged by Bernie Farber, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). Farber, no stranger to public grandstanding, raised a stink after Zerbisias left an obviously tongue-in-cheek comment (on an otherwise unrelated post) ironically speculating on Farber’s sexual orientation following his curious participation in the Toronto Pride celebration. Of course, it’s kinda hard to earnestly claim ‘defamation’ on the part of Zerb when there are pictures of Farber in the parade wearing a t-shirt that reads “Nobody knows I’m gay.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with (apparently) bearing false witness to further a political agenda, of course.

A tone of thinly-disguised contempt towards new media applications (note how English repeatedly points out the marginal online audience Zerbisias’ Star-hosted blog, Broadsides, receives in comparison to her ‘real’ column–ZOMG ‘only’ 900 daily hits!) is apparent throughout English’s embarrassingly ignorant column, making one skeptical that she and Cruickshank can be trusted to craft a knowledgeable, nuanced social media policy for Star reporters/columnists, one that takes into full account the conventions and standards of the online landscape (to say nothing of basic respect for digital fora in general.)

Former Star intern Jen Gerson (currently based in Abu Dhabi) does the heavy lifting addressing (and utterly decimating) English’s thinly-sourced and imprecise charges (memo to Ms. English: a blog comment is not the same thing as a blog post, much like an editorial is not a horoscope, even though both are typically part of a broadsheet. Are you following so far? Good.)

Gerson:

Given the context of the comment, nobody but the most wide-eyed naif would assume Zerbisias was outing Mr Farber. She was calling a public lobbyist to account for his hypocrisy. You know, doing that “journalism” thing we all so love to talk about. Albeit, in the snippy tone of a blogger, rather than the staid voice of print.

The obligatory response by Mr Farber, and the ensuing blog banter are all standard fare. I only started to feel my hackles raise upon reading this one: ‘Gay’ blog post was just not fair’ by the Toronto Star’s public editor, Kathy English, who spent the next 870-odd words, knees bent, begging for Farber’s forgiveness while offering her columnist’s head on a sacrificial plate.

She writes: “blogs by Star journalists ‘may not put the Star in a negative light.’”

Yes, because God Forbid we express a Controversial Opinion that may or may not be perceived to be negative with people who we may or may not be trying to kowtow to.

The only journalist who has put the Star in a negative light is Kathy English.
As a columnist, Zerbisias represents herself. Her readership knows her views and biases and pick up the star to read and/or rail about them.

However, as the public editor, English is perceived to represent the wider paper. So that column made the entire publication look like it’s run by humourless, uncomprehending fools who are quick to throw their own people over the edge of the ship at the behest of a well represented and powerful lobby.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this chilling, over the top attack on journalistic autonomy and free expression is the fact that Zerbisias has been spanked–publicly–for violating an as-yet unwritten policy. Vague exhortations regarding ‘civility’ come across as fawning overcompensation; English is simply trying too damn hard to be seen as doing something, and, as noted by Gerson, ends up looking foolish in the process–especially when one considers Farber’s provocative reputation and contentious history with Zerbisias (another memo for English: if you can’t separate legitimate reader concerns from blatant concern trolling you have no business being a public editor).

Exactly why English–and Cruickshank–were so quick to jump on Zerbisias over something that, if inaccuracy is the primary complaint, could be addressed with a simple ‘regret the error’ mea culpa, remains unclear, though this certainly isn’t the first time that Cruickshank has zealously targeted an uppity, left-leaning woman columnist in response to manufactured outrage.

Dr. Dawg wonders if there’s something other than editorial prudence driving the TorStar bus that English and Cruickshank have tossed Zerbisias under:

Why, if there is nothing wrong with being gay, is Farber “forced” to state publicly that he is not? Why all the Sturm und Drang? What does it matter, one way or the other?

And then a Star editor and the publisher go into full damage-control mode–except that I can’t, as noted, discern any damage. Not, in any case, unless Farber, despite his protestations, thinks that the “gay” label is a stigma, and the Star brass agrees with him. Blogs by Star journalists, says English, “may not put the Star in a negative light.” An ironic comment about someone being gay does that?

Tempest. Teapot. And possibly a wee bit of homophobia disguised as hand-wringing concerns about fairness and accuracy? You decide.

Ultimately, however, this controversy isn’t about ‘gay panic,’ or defamation, or even ‘accuracy'; it’s about the gatekeepers of Old Media desperately and opportunistically attempting to assert top-down editorial control over a still-uncertain contemporary media environment where their presence is largely unnecessary and unwanted. Unless Cruickshank, English, and the industry in general learn how to craft an online identity for newspapers and newspaper employees acknowledging the rollicking, informal, interactive atmosphere that defines the blogosphere without sacrificing traditional journalistic ethics, their already fleeting relevance will continue to evaporate.

We still need the invaluable contribution to the public good that is provided by quality journalism; but we must also take into account the industry-wide online evolution that has taken place completely below the radar of certain oblivious publishers and oversensitive public editors.

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