10/31/2008 1:52:04 PM
Unlike most of the electorate, some political reporters are not eager to wake up on November 5 with the longest campaign in history a good night’s sleep behind them. “It's kind of like, this is who I am now,” Andrew Romano, a Newsweek blogger, tells the New Republic. “[S]o the idea of the campaign being over and not doing a politics blog is a little bit like, who am I after this election?”
Politico’s Ben Smith shares Romano’s sentiments. “It's so built into my system, that it's going to be hard to stop,” he tells TNR. “It's really pathological.”
But the tight psychological grip campaigns hold on reporters won’t be missed by all those covering the political beat. After the last presidential campaign, CNN correspondent Candy Crowley tells TNR it took her “a good month to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a panic that I've missed something.” Matt Bai of the New York Times notes that some reporters have been on the trail for nearly a year: “There are guys who went out to the primaries in November, December, and thought they'd be done in February or March, and they just never came home.”
Reporter weariness recently caught the critical eye of the Columbia Journalism Review, who took the New York Times to task for what they deemed an instance of lazy campaign coverage. Questioning the relevance of a Times cover story, CJR warns reporters not to “take out their election fatigue on voters.” Just pen a few more good stories, guys, then you can come home and sleep. . .or just keep blogging.
10/30/2008 11:13:38 AM
The field of institutions and public figures endorsing Barack Obama is getting really crowded, and it’s a motley assortment. Some fairly unlikely personalities are in the tank, including Christopher Buckley, Christopher Hitchens and Colin Powell, as well as conservative publications like the Record.
Spend a few minutes perusing the Wikipedia page listing Obama’s endorsements, and you might visualize a rowdy cocktail party whose guest list includes editors from nearly every major U.S. newspaper (including the Chicago Tribune, marking its first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in its 161-year history); hundreds of current and former governors, mayors, and legislators; CEOs, actors, rock stars, and authors; and even the plumbers’ union (presumably Joe the Plumber was not consulted since, well, he’s not a plumber).
The New Yorker provided a characteristically thorough endorsement of Obama. The New York Times argues for the relevance of newspaper endorsements. And there’s a nifty map illustrating the distribution of this year’s newspaper endorsements and comparing it with 2004’s.
Several cast members of HBO's The Wire are stumping for Obama. (Gbenga Akinnagbe, if he’s half as terrifying as the drug lieutenant he played on the series, will make a very compelling canvasser). An absolutely fabulous coterie of fashion designers has pledged allegiance. And ostensibly apolitical publications have weighed in, most recently the science magazine Seed.
Leading the ironic-endorsement pack is onetime McCain campaign advisor Charles Fried, whose decision to back Obama is partially due to McCain’s “choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis” (via Talking Points Memo).
All of which begs the question: Who’s in poor old John McCain’s corner? The list of newspapers endorsing him is considerably shorter than Obama’s. There’s Steve Forbes, of course. And then there’s the small faction of Hollywood conservatives (say it ain’t so, Gary Sinise!).
Image courtesy of Philip (Flip) Kromer, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/24/2008 9:59:37 AM
The always-thorough folks at FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) have compiled the “Top Troubling Tropes of Campaign ’08,” a handy (if alarming) roundup of eleven misleading, factually bankrupt themes that have dominated election coverage.
Not only do journalists organize the election story around the question—not terribly helpful to voters—of who's up and who's down, they largely base their evaluation of the race on shallow image-based narratives that the media construct themselves: Barack Obama is an "elitist" who might not "get the way we live" (
, 8/08), while John McCain is a straight-talking "maverick" (
The FAIR report goes well beyond deconstructing the “maverick” and “elitist” labels (Troubling Tropes #1 and 2), using extensively sourced analysis to rebut the claim that the so-called liberal media has “smeared” vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (#3) and contesting the media’s treatment of John McCain as a “national security pro” (#4).
Then there’s “false balance” (#8), in which the media’s fact-checking is doled out “equally”—you know, debunk an Obama claim, then one of McCain's, then back to Obama, and so on.
In recent elections, media "fact-check" reporting often bends over backwards to choose an equal number of falsehoods or distortions from each side—which can give voters a misleading impression of the prevalence of political lying when one side is obviously more guilt of exaggerations.
In this election, it is beyond question that that the McCain/Palin campaign has been more aggressively lying in its campaign ads and rhetoric than the Obama/Biden camp. Nonetheless, the overriding media tendency is to blunt that disparity and see the campaign as a series of back-and-forth attacks. . . .
Read the full report at FAIR’s website.
10/24/2008 8:56:48 AM
Native communities currently broadcast on 33 U.S. radio stations, a number that may double within the next couple of years, reports Mike Janssen for In These Times. Tribal communities applied for 51 radio stations last year, and 12 FCC approvals have trickled in thus far. These soon-to-be stations aren’t on the air yet—they’re still in the fundraising and planning stages—but they could play a significant role in strengthening Native communities. Janssen writes:
Many noncommercial stations around the country focus on community issues. This is especially true of Native stations, which cover topics such as health, education and the environment; feature locally programmed music; and broadcast in Native languages that in some places are spoken by very few people.
Several applicants are still waiting to hear back from the FCC. In the meantime, the nonprofit Native Public Media has a short list of Native stations that stream online and a directory of the stations currently broadcasting.
10/22/2008 9:34:42 AM
Government agencies are hopping on the Twitter bandwagon, with mostly good results, reports Silicon Alley Insider. Followers of the State Department receive updated travel alerts and country information, the FDA tweets about food safety news, and the U.S. Geological Survey posts a surprising amount of useful links, about rocks (naturally) but also about topics like alternative energy, natural resources, and the environment.
Of course, not all of the newly Twittering agencies are making the most of microblogging. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, tends to post—and infrequently, at that—about the country’s much-mocked color-coded threat level. The intentions are good, perhaps, but the information is hardly crucial to most people.
On the whole, it’s great to see the government going with the instant-information flow by using this service. Most people can appreciate getting condensed versions of pertinent news without having to navigate the overcrowded, out-of-date messes that are many government websites.
(Thanks, World Hum)
Image courtesy of trekkyandy, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/17/2008 12:42:45 PM
Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank continues to supply noteworthy information from the campaign trail about Sarah Palin’s evolving relationship with the press. This troubling bit of news comes from a live chat Milbank hosted with readers:
…I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they've started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty—protecting the protectee—and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it's unfounded because the reporters can't get close enough to identify the person.
At Political Animal, Steve Benen asks the natural follow-up question: “Why on earth would an independent journalist play along with these ridiculous rules?”
Image by alex-s, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/15/2008 9:19:20 AM
When Christopher Buckley endorsed Barack Obama in a column for The Daily Beast last week, news traveled fast. As he accurately predicted, “the headline will be: ‘William F. Buckley’s Son Says He is Pro-Obama.’” It reads a bit more anti-McCain than it does pro-Obama, but it is an interesting piece from a longtime McCain friend and supporter.
This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once–first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
Buckley opted not to air his opinions in his back-page column for the National Review, the conservative magazine his father founded in 1955; he took them to The Daily Beast instead, hoping to avoid the deluge of “foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails” that his fellow National Review columnist Kathleen Parker received when she criticized Sarah Palin (including one that, according to Buckley, "suggested that Kathleen's mother should have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster").
It didn’t save his job, though. Just four days after the Obama endorsement, he was back at The Daily Beast to report that, in response to his own deluge of hate-email from National Review readers, he’d offered his resignation. “This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler.” (Lowry claims that the National Review only received about 100 emails regarding Buckley’s endorsement—“a tiny amount compared to our usual volume.”)
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
10/14/2008 2:08:53 PM
Imagine if your TV could see you sitting on your couch knitting, or doing a crossword puzzle, or drinking heavily, and tailor its commercials specifically to those activities, in real time.
That’s pretty much what MySpace is helping its advertisers accomplish with increasing precision, ReadWriteWeb reports. By employing “hypertargeting”—the meticulous manipulation of advertising based on individual users’ stated interests—online advertisers make old models of demographic targeting seem haphazard and inefficient.
Because MySpace users can edit their profiles in extremely granular ways—specifying everything from their age to their weight, level of education, and whether they want children—advertisers can fine-tune their messages accordingly. What’s most ingenious about this tactic (or alarming, depending on your point of view) is that MySpace allows users to list activities like “drinking” and “partying” as favorites, giving notoriously effective liquor advertisements a direct conduit into their hypertargeted audience.
10/13/2008 5:04:22 PM
Film critics are grumbling about Disney’s decision to use blogger comments—rather than official reviews—in ads for its latest film, the UK release The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The studio lifted online plaudits like "Simply stunning" from IMDb.com, reports Telegraph, in a move that some professional critics view as a preemptive strike by the studio's marketing department, which may have feared negative reviews and decided to use existing blogger praise for blurbs instead. Then there's the question of accountability: Who’s to say that the quoted praise, which is all but anonymous when submitted by Theedge-4 or Pete63, wasn’t written by a producer or actor from the film?
Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine ridicules the controversy: “How dare a movie studio quote the people who actually buy the tickets and watch the movies? How dare they give respect to the audience?” It’s difficult to say how much influence these blurbs have over potential moviegoers, but those who oppose Disney's decision have common sense on their side. The average person is probably more inclined to believe a full review from an established voice like the New York Times’ A.O. Scott than a sound-bite accolade from an unknown entity like the Disney-quoted blogger Mjavfc1.
Image by casalingarevival, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/10/2008 12:46:06 PM
Some nasty sound bites have emerged from McCain-Palin rallies recently. Rally-goers have called Barack Obama a “terrorist,” and one even shouted “Kill him!” But Obama hasn’t been the only object of their fury. The media, too, is taking extreme heat from GOP party faithful. A dispatch from a Palin rally in Florida by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank tells a disturbing story:
. . . Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”
It seems the McCain-Palin media wars have reached a new climax, with the ticket's supporters somehow convinced that scrutiny of the candidates is something to get angry about. After all the name-calling, Milbank found a creative way to make himself feel better: He stood outside a rally wearing a sign around his neck reading “mainstream media,” and holding another in his hand saying “I need a hug.” He did get a few hugs, but was also told, “You put your hands on me, you’ll spit your teeth out,” and, “You’ll get a hug if you report accurately, which you don’t.”
While not focused on the scorn being directed at the media, the overall ugly turn of McCain-Palin rallies has become a big story in the news, and one the Democrats are pushing, according to Politico. But Jane Kim, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, says the rally story is being told at the expense of issue-based news—namely, John McCain's new mortgage proposal:
While the increasingly dirty language evident at these rallies should certainly be covered in stride, and while Bill Ayers deserves independent inquiry, any report from the trail should remember that McCain did present a new idea that is supposed to help troubled homeowners, and assess his speeches with that in mind. If he’s talking about the plan in between the “Who is Senator Obama?” lines, it deserves mention. If he’s not, that deserves mention as well.
Image by Matthew Reichbach, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/9/2008 10:49:59 AM
Utne’s own Julie Hanus recently reported on some promising and ingenious ways in which the fair use doctrine is thriving, but technicalities are still tripping up artists who should be protected by fair use.
Producers of the intelligent-design documentary Expelled have been exonerated in court after Yoko Ono and EMI Records sued the filmmakers for including a 15-second clip of John Lennon’s “Imagine”—but not without some difficulty. The film was released on DVD without the clip while the case was pending, which, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira at the Industry Standard argues, is an unfortunate side effect of what should have been an open-and-shut case. What’s more, she points out, fair use might not be enough to protect those who can’t afford to defend themselves in court: “If a film with Hollywood producers has trouble using media clips, what hope does an average citizen have of using something without worrying about huge legal expenses that could result?”
But Anthony Falzone, blogging for Stanford Law’s Center for Internet and Society, hails the case as a victory for fair use, in part due to the efforts of Media/Professional Insurance to cover the legal expenses of Expelled’s producers and others sued in fair use cases.
At Slashdot, Ian Lamont reaches the same conclusion I did: It’s a bit ironic that the song sparking the lawsuit is Lennon’s utopian manifesto “Imagine.”
Image by orsorama, licensed under Creative Commons.
10/3/2008 3:20:20 PM
When Sarah Palin was asked what magazines or newspapers she read before she was John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, she said, “all of them.” (Video below.) Clearly, then, she reads Utne Reader. She went on to say, “I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.” I thought I saw her skulking around our library of 1,500 publications. Using her logic, I dug into our library and put together a list of other sources that Sarah Palin must read:
: This English-language bimonthly must be a valuable resource for understanding Russian-American relations, if “Putin ever rears his head.”
: As one of the best-known feminist publications, Ms. likely helps Gov. Palin keep track of the latest in feminist thought.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
: In the debates last night, Palin said of Joe Biden’s wife, who works as a teacher, “God bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right?” This magazine, which profiles people working to get teachers some reward in this life, is probably on her reading list, too.
$pread: One of the only magazines for sex workers, this magazine gives a voice to people not often heard in most other media. The latest issue has a “Sex Worker Voter Guide” that says, “ No major presidential candidate in American politics today can be said to embrace a genuinely pro-sex worker agenda,” but the fact that Sarah Palin reads the magazine must be a start. Right?
What else do you think Sarah Palin might read?
Image adapted from original by
, licensed under
Watch a video of Palin talking about her reading habits below:
10/3/2008 1:45:02 PM
Much as we wish it weren't true, brainwashing exists far beyond the realm of sci-fi movies or cult worship. Cracked.com has broken down the six brainwashing techniques presented to us nearly every day by thousands of political ads and biased media sources. With both presidential parties scrambling to reel in voters by November, it's fascinating (albeit somewhat horrifying) to see the ways in which the American public is being suckered or bullied into thinking what They want you to think. (Note: slightly NSFW due to some mind-controlling cleavage.)
After reading, spend a minute or two perusing news and political websites and see how easy it is to find examples of these techniques. It’s a bit like a scavenger hunt, only instead of candy, the prize at the end is a frustrating awareness of how pervasive mind-control efforts really are.
Here's an excellent example of #5: Does Obama Support the Killing of Infants?
And an instance of #1: McCain the Patriot: "Country First or Obama First"
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10/1/2008 9:27:41 AM
The press finally found something more compelling to cover than Sarah Palin: “It's the economy, stupid,” according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Each week in its news index, PEJ breaks down the storylines that are filling the nation's news holes, and the results can be quite telling. The week of September 15–21 marked the first time since the Democratic National Convention that campaign coverage had been dominated by a story without Palin as its central character. According to PEJ, the economy sprinted to the top of the pack that week, accounting for 43.3 percent of campaign coverage.
But, “the focus on the economy practically came out of the blue,” despite the fact that our financial woes had been brewing for some time, says PEJ. Take a look at campaign coverage for the week of September 8 – 14:
NPR aired a story this week that may offer some explanation. Media consultant Jeff Jarvis tells David Folkenflik that even the media are overwhelmed by the nature of the news these days. “It’s just too big and too complicated, and it requires both too much background and fundamental understanding about economics,” Jarvis said. Folkenflik writes that the media is struggling to keep up with such huge national developments in the midst of a presidential campaign. “The breakneck pace of developments means a lot of news worth knowing receives the briefest burst of attention before being dropped for something hotter.”
Charts courtesy of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a project of the Pew Research Center. "Top Campaign Storylines of the Week, September 15-21," published September 22. "Top Campaign Storylines of the Week, September 8-14," published September 15.
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