They … Contacted Us!

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Amusing New York Times article today about the pain of high-profile campaign reporters having to deal with, as Tom Brokaw puts it, "people just lying in the Internet bushes, waiting to strike." Snippet:

Journalists covering the campaign believe the intent is often to bully them into caving to a particular point of view. They insist the efforts have not swayed them in any significant way, though others worry the criticism could eventually have a chilling effect. […]

Many sites urge visitors to personally call reporters and news organizations and send e-mail messages, which can number in the hundreds daily. […]

Bob Somerby, a comedian who runs a Web site called The Daily Howler that often accuses the news media of being shallow, lazy, bullied by Republicans and unfairly critical of Democrats, said a more genteel approach would not be effective. (He has referred to this reporter on his Web site as "dumb" and in "over his head" for being blind or turning a blind eye to Republican spin.)

Somerby responds here; my April take on hordes vs. gatekeepers is here.

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  1. It’s pretty hard to find rather non-bi-partisan media, which is why I have come to appreciate sites like Reason.

    On the other hand, I’ve been looking around at the US media for a report on this BBC story: 58,000 Absentee Ballots go missing in Florida without much success. Is that due to the liberal media bias or due to their ‘bullying’ by Republicans? 🙂

  2. For whatever it’s worth, that story was carried by my local morning news program in Denver, a Fox affiliate.

  3. I really don’t understand the on-going gloating by Reason writers about public pressure on media outlets. While I agree that it can sometimes help keep reporters and editors honest, my perception is that it is also leading to more and more “neutral” rather than “objective” stories in which parties that are just abysmally wrong on a facutal basis are given equal space, as well as more “happy-talk” stories because nobody doesn’t like cute animals and heroic kids. (Not to mention the progressive disappearance of international coverage.)

  4. “on a factual basis” Got to start using the preview function…

  5. SR — I would less describe it as “gloating,” and more describe it as “teasing.” Something to do with heat and kitchens. If reporters are changing their work for fear of being yelled at by strangers, then that’s just spineless.

    It’s true: overwhelming feedback, especially when it’s largely negative and occasionally cruel, can be less than fun to deal with. But I’d argue four things: 1) It’s the price of influence and power, for which these people are being amply compensated (in money and prestige). 2) Journalists should have thick skins. 3) There are often kernels of truth in the mounds of poo flung in reporters’ direction, and since their job is to find facts & correct errors, it is in their own self-interest to process that stuff. 4) Exposure to even hostile feedback is likely to put you in contact with people from outside your usual social sphere, which I think is a very good thing.

  6. Media people who want to be above criticism are useless dweebs. Lawrence O’Donnell is a fine example of someone who needs all the “contact” the public can provide. I despise cowardice of that sort.

  7. “Signal:noise ratio”
    “Separate the wheat from the chaff”

    I gotta use Matt’s!
    “kernels of truth in the mounds of poo flung”

    (tries to get the image out of head of corn kernels in a small steaming pile of monkey poo)

  8. Do you think this may be the reason behind the fact that there are more “None of the Above” endorsements from papers? Did the Detroit, among others, paper endorse none of the above because the editorial board feels that way or because they fear the backlash in subscriptions if a R leaning paper endorses a D (same goes for D leaning papers doing the same)?

  9. “…Web site called The Daily Howler that often accuses the news media of being shallow, lazy, bullied by Republicans and unfairly critical of Democrats…”

    That really *is* a howler.

  10. Perhaps some papers are doing that, Mo, but what’s the public supposed to do about it?

  11. Matt,
    I’d add another item to your list.
    5) All reporters are insufferable jerkoffs and no amount of vitriol could ever equal what justice demands.

  12. Well I have written a piece on this very issue! Let me point you to it

    By the way, I print stuff written by others – so feel free to submit.

    John

  13. TV in South Florida had the story:

    http://www.local10.com/politics/3854230/detail.html

    NYT says that 15,000 ballots are being resent.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/29/politics/campaign/29broward.html

    As for journals like Reason, watchdog groups like MRC or Media Matters, or individuals in pajamas, I say to the reporters and editors of the legacy media: “Poor sweet baby!” This is dishing it out without being able to take it. If Sen. Sludgepump gets a free cup of coffee from someone interested in how he may vote on an issue, the ink-stained wretches and broadcast kenandbarbies raise a hellacious ruckus, as their prejudices about the group or individual that allow. But say a harsh word about them?

    Let’s not even get started on “strategic partnerships” between publications or broadcasters and those they cover, advertorials, stories that hit the spike when they would cause trouble for an advertiser or a political favorite, etc., etc.

    Kevin

  14. Yeah, “Poor sweet baby!” about says it all, Kevin. Thanks! Ooooo, they have an owee!

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