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August 19, 2007

Your News Media At Work
Posted by Patrick at 11:44 PM * 39 comments

Defending his Los Angeles Times piece attacking blogs for their lack of journalistic standards, journalism professor Michael Skube “freely admits that he allows to appear under his own name claims about a publication he concedes he’s never read.”

Gosh, do you suppose someday us lowly weblogs might aspire to this Olympian standard of probity and integrity?

Alternately, does it seem to you possible that today’s media establishment isn’t just self-interested and corrupt, but in fact downright mentally deficient? This is beyond pathetic and well into bulbous-rubber-nose and floppy-clown-feet territory.

UPDATE: Teresa thinks I muffled the main point. Skube’s piece criticizes blogs for their lack of “old-style gumshoe reporting.” But the blogs he singles out include sites such as Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, which regularly features original reporting of very high quality. Challenged on this point by Marshall, Skube responded that he wasn’t actually familiar with TPM; its mention had been “inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples.” As excuses go, this is right up there with “I didn’t plagiarize my term paper from someone else’s; the roommate who wrote it for me did so.”

Comments on Your News Media At Work:
#1 ::: Michael R. Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 03:42 AM:

Hey, if the newspaper editor did it, it must be ok. </snark>

#2 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:59 AM:

Now, now. Mr. Skube is a Very Serious Person. We know he's a Very Serious Person because his piece was published in the opinion section of the LA Times.

This is also how we know that Jonah Goldberg is a Very Serious Person.

#3 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:21 AM:

Classic example of "It's OK If You Are a Newspaper Journalist" (YOKIYANJ). I predict that nobody from "the serious news companies" (which in a few year will all be "serious News Corporation companies") will pick this up. Caste systems do exist in the western world.

But it's ok, they are the past, they will disappear in less than a generation. If only they wouldn't ruin this world too much, with all their oil wars and fixed popularity contests...

#4 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:46 AM:

Over at Yglesias' blog, Jim Henley posed the intriguing possibility that this was a case of Matt Welch, assistant editorial page editor, playing rope-a-dope with Skube.

It'd be funny if it were true.

#5 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 07:04 AM:

From the TPM piece :

To which I got this response: "I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples ... "

"Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun."

-Tom Lehrer, Wernher Von Braun

#6 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 07:13 AM:

Is anyone else thinking of a really, really unimaginative cop?

#7 ::: FrancisT ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 08:05 AM:

And of course I note that his list of examples is very limited ideologically and geographically speaking, which means he gets to ignore bloggers who do put themselves in harms way to do original reporting.

Off the top of my head (and moving roughly from progressve to conservative) we have had Majikthise in New Orleans, Rodney Balko on noknock drug raids, numerous bloggers doing original reporting in Iraq (Michael Yon, Michael Totten to name but two) and here in Europe the EU Referendum folks have managed to do more with respect to the British Army's procurement cockups from their armchairs than any number of professional journalists (the hacks at the Torygraph and the Wapping Liar frequently copy the EU Referendum blog).

And that ignores all the debunking of sloppy reporting that blogs do all the time.

#8 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 09:30 AM:

One of the great things about blogging is the wide distribution of talent.

Mainstream journalists do not have on tap several pro authors, editors, an EMT, librarians, personnel from several branches of the military, scientists, programmers, etc...

Here in this one blog, you get all that. And more. And expert blogs are fairly popular. I read Science Blog on occasion, Armchair Generalist, Intel Dump, and others. It's great to be able to read and interact with people who actually know what they're talking about, so when someone blathers about chlorine attacks in Iraq, I can wander over to Armchair Generalist and pull up the post where he authoritatively calls bullshit on those cases as being worth worrying about. yeah, they happened, but no, they;re not really like a sarin attack

#9 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 09:45 AM:

#2, Julia:

i are serious journalist
this are serious editorial!

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:01 AM:

I can has credentials?

#11 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:09 AM:

It's nice that the law of grammatical and spelling complaints -- that any post or comment pointing out someone's poor spelling or grammar will contain a spelling or grammar mistake itself -- holds for journalists complaining about the lack of "thorough fact-checking and verification" in blog posts. What's not nice is the ramifications of this kind of mistake.

#12 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:44 AM:

For those who haven't read Jay Rosen in Kos this morning: Skube's done this before.

#13 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 01:14 PM:

from: Editorial
to: Skube
cc: self, production
re: notification on text changes

This Is Just To Cite

I have edited
the words
that were in
the inbox

and which
you were probably
writing
for posterity

Forgive me
it was vague,
so dry
and so un-sourced.

#14 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 01:21 PM:

Can I take it that loljournalists is the next trend?

#15 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 01:25 PM:

"But the blogs he singles out include sites such as Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, which regularly features original reporting of very high quality. "

And two others, Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias, write blogs for the Atlantic right beside James Fallows, in addition to journalistic work for print and web and they even write books - which are only 'new media' if you prefer scrolls.

It's almost like the editor sneakily inserted those specifically to subvert the op/ed. (See above, re: ex-blogger, now LA Times asst. op/ed editor Matt Welch).

The last example, DailyKos, is a square peg because it's massive group site with contributions along the whole spectrum of quality. On the other hand, they have the ability to commit news themselves, through candidate appearances at YearlyKos, and by supporting candidates.

#16 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 01:43 PM:

You two nearly cost me a keyboard with the wording of that last paragraph of "Update". Fortunately only a small amount of coffee went onto it and I seem to have gotten most of it off.

#17 ::: Sammie ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Those of us in the LA area grieve for a once great newspaper. The Tribune group has an awful lot to answer for.

#18 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 02:02 PM:

I read the whole Times piece, and beneath the top layer of lousy journalism it seems to be just a big helping of "you're not a writer unless you write as I do," with "blogosphere" thrown in there and stirred vigorously to give it some contemporary flavor.

Too bad he hasn't bothered to read the labels on any of this stuff. Samuel Johnson always leaves a moldy aftertaste.

#20 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:59 PM:

Julia @15: jornololist, surely?

#21 ::: Dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:59 PM:

Lack of journalistic standards. Sort of like creating a news story out of a sensationalist tidbit that, with little doubt, was handed out as a sneaky character attack?

I almost understand the logic of "well, it will sell more papers" but at some point you'd think someone would realize they're becoming a sock-puppet.

#22 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 05:01 PM:

NelC @20: Julia @19, shirley?

#23 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Nels: not cal me shirley, pls. tx.

#24 ::: marty ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 11:53 PM:

Nels: not cal me shirley, pls. tx.
boom, ting
She's here all night folks :D

#25 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 01:50 AM:

If the newspaper editor did it, is he going to give the writer a chance to print a correction? Prolly not.

#26 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 07:04 AM:

Dolloch @21: It goes without saying that this is probably a case of manufactured news, in that the jornololist called up all manner of scandalous characters, asked them their opinions of Clinton, and published the ones that were most quote-worthy.

#27 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 12:32 PM:

"I is an editor kitteh! Whur my onion rings?"

But nobody heard. They don't when you're actually a moderately simple python script, one of thousands running across the virtualised server banks of Autonews, Ltd, even if you really believe you're a lolreporter..

#28 ::: Dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 03:28 PM:

NelC @ 26

Just imagine if all of that "old-style gumshoe reporting" effort were put into stories of consequence!

#29 ::: pedantic peasant (journey-a-list) ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 03:31 PM:

Of course, with the news that Murdoch now owns the Wall Street Journal, this could also be a case that the corporations and puppetteers who own the papers are appointing editors who

a) are not capable English speakers;
b) are demanding these changes from the writers -- or putting them in over objections -- regardless of accuracy; and
c) believe, as Hearst once said, that since they are editting the news, they are also creating it [i.e. "You supply the pictures, I'll supply the war"]

Either way, "Hooray for the free press! Bartender, an order of petards all around!"

#30 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 08:51 AM:

I do find myself wondering just how much news in the media comes from press releases and sources such as AP and Reuters. The result can be a bit more than mindless copying, but it's one of those shoulders of giants situations.

#31 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 09:24 AM:

30: a lot. For example, anything with a survey result in it comes from a press release - except in the minority of cases where it's, say, an opinion poll carried out by the paper itself. Always read that sort of article asking "who paid for this survey and why?"
Note that "based on a press release" isn't always bad; a lot of financial writing is based on releases, such as annual earnings.

#32 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 10:18 AM:

ScienceDaily always says just whose press release is behind their stories. Of course, the sources don't tend to involve much (if any) politics or PR, so these won't be major revelations.

#33 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 11:14 AM:

#31 ajay:

I gather that a lot of local TV news is also basically done from a press release, albeit one with video footage and scripts to make it really easy for the local news guys to control the length of the story and customize it to look like something they did themselves.

#34 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 07:57 AM:

Trust me; you don't want to know how many press releases go into a typical news. It's like an informational sausage!

#35 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 08:44 AM:

#33: Sometimes DVD releases of old movies--the Criterion release of Spartacus, for example--include old footage of their stars getting interviewed by nobody. Literally. The actors look attentive, as though listening. Then they launch into the answer to a question no one asked.

Studios would send this footage to local TV stations. Local reporters dubbed in the questions, and on the news that evening pretended they'd scored an interview with Peter Ustinov.

It sounds hokey... but, in the days before the internet made video from all over America available for comparison, it probably worked.

#36 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 10:27 AM:

Wesley:
Sometimes DVD releases of old movies--the Criterion release of Spartacus, for example--include old footage of their stars getting interviewed by nobody. Literally. The actors look attentive, as though listening. Then they launch into the answer to a question no one asked.

A friend who still has all her British Beatle Fan Club records tells me that there is a record where the Beatles do something similar--I believe it was made before their second tour of America.

#37 ::: Nathanael Nerode ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2007, 11:51 PM:
As excuses go, this is right up there with “I didn’t plagiarize my term paper from someone else’s; the roommate who wrote it for me did so.”

That is one of the greatest analogies I've ever heard. I'll use it next time something like this comes up. (It reminds me of the Republican who confessed to deliberately buying cocaine, but said he wasn't planning to use it -- as if that made him less culpable. What *was* he planning to do with it?!?)

#38 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 10:46 AM:

Drugspam @ 38!

3:O(>

Cadbury

#39 ::: fidelio snarks the spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 10:57 AM:

CM, you're right, and it's spam written by someone (or somebot) with a feeble grasp of English syntax.

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