Call it Journalism

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Exiled New York Times editor Howell Raines has issued a final pre-election message to his 12 followers. Some excerpts:

* If George Bush wins the presidential election, Americans can mark it down as a triumph of thug politics.

* [T]he United States is in the throes of one of its periodic religious "awakenings."

* Also, the GOP has shown that it knows how to trump economic self-interest and socioeconomic class as prime determinants of party affiliation.

* Facts may not be entirely dead as shaping forces in American public life, but the vital signs are not good.

* The most dangerous trait of the Internet is not merely its speed, but its creation of demand and credulity for unverified information. Perhaps for the first time since invention of the printing press, a new information technology has become more efficient at spreading disinformation than knowledge.

* THE BUSHES: My generation of political reporters bear some responsibility for this ethically bankrupt dynasty.

Link via Romenesko.

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  1. Perhaps the NY Times could do its part by caring a bit more about the facts?

    I find few things more oddly enjoyable than listening to the keening of journalists who feel marginalized by a faster medium. Wait. Perhaps it isn’t keening, but the shrill sound of air leaking out of pompous, egocentric newspaper editors. Whatever the noise, I am confident no group deserves this fate more than the stuffed shirts at the (solemn pause) NY Times. And what is this rubbish about disinformation. I prefer a wild and free Interent where biases are most often worn like medals to the fake objectivity of the Times.

  2. “In its most triumphant period, the American press invented the postwar model of journalism that sought to be both fair and analytical and that was admired globally throughout the last half of the 20th century.” H.R.

    And then along came Fox? And Fox huffed and puffed and blew the house down? Oooooo…..

  3. Jose Ortega y Gasset,

    Raines wrote the piece for the SP-Times, not the NYT.

  4. Howell Raines probably doesn’t know ANYONE who voted for Bush.

    Paul

  5. I too rue the day when the moronic proles got ahold of the printing press and disseminated their intemperate rantings.

  6. First, I consider anyone who ever worked the editorial desk for the NY Times forever tarred by the brush. Second, while probably the worst of the stuffed shirts, the NY Times hardly has a monopoly on journalistic arrogance. The simple fact is that the Internet (including Reason Online) has made the print press increasingly marginal. Does anyone but the most wonkish even care about editorial endorsements? And while Raines cries about disinformation, who can question the depth of information available on the Internet? In the antiquity of my undergraduate education, one had to trundle to the research library and read journal articles. The free and open public internet is the best thing to happen for freedom of speech and information since the printing press.

  7. Jose Ortega y Gasset,

    First, I consider anyone who ever worked the editorial desk for the NY Times forever tarred by the brush.

    This has nothing to do with your original commentary.

  8. I think Raines has a point about the speed of disinformation. Information is just like anything else: The more there is of it, the less it’s worth.

    I feel overwhelmed by the flood of information about this election, from TV commericals to blogs to mainstream media reports to fringe nonsense. My reaction has been to narrow my filters, to shut myself off more and more from TV, radio, newspapers, even this forum, because I find it overwhelming. It’s like being thirsty, wanting a glass of water, and getting hit with a firehose.

    I’m pretty sure this information flood is here to stay. I’ll be interested to see how society adapts to it. Some people will want to swim in it. But I just want to close all the hatches. Not anyone else’s hatches. Just my own.

  9. Strongest reason to hope for a Bush victory? To see people like Raines squeal and squirm, bitch and moan. I’ll grant that’s no basis for a system of government wherein supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, but I’ll takes what I can get.

  10. Karl, amen. For me, tomorrow is less about wanting a Bush victory than wanting a Michael Moore/Hollywood/CBS/New York Times defeat.

    There seem to be a lot of Kerry supporters on this board, which is kind of shocking to me. Bush may be no libertarian, but it’s beyond me why anyone who IS would want to empower the Michael Moore left, which is exactly what a Kerry vote does. Giving that crowd its first injection of momentum since the 1960s would be a major setback for those of us in the freedom crowd.

  11. Actually I think that electing a government based on instituting the result that maximizes the unhappiness of statists is a great way to go about it.

  12. “The most dangerous trait of the Printing Press [Internet] is not merely its speed, but its creation of demand and credulity for unverified information [Gutenberg Bible]. Perhaps for the first time since invention of Paper [the printing press], a new information technology has become more efficient at spreading Religion [disinformation] than knowledge.”

    Newspaper journalists are just the modern version of buggy whip makers.

  13. If the NYT reported a deadly meteorite shower was hitting your town…

    And a web site said it wasn’t…

    Would you walk outside?

  14. ” THE BUSHES: My generation of political reporters bear some responsibility for this ethically bankrupt dynasty.”

    The same could be said replacing the word “BUSHES” for “KENNEDYS”

  15. “If the NYT reported a deadly meteorite shower was hitting your town…

    And a web site said it wasn’t…

    Would you walk outside?”

    Of course, since it’s not possible for the NYT to know such a thing is happening far enough ahead of time to do the story, layout, printing and distribution of a newspaper to where it’s happening before the event happens.

    So if I saw such a story in the NYT, I’d know there’s no way it could be true.

  16. Hey joe – If the meteor shower had a politcal dimension upon which the fortune of the Democrat party depended, then it all depends on whether the Dems benefit from having a shower or not!

  17. Gil, way too cute. 🙂

    Karl, I know you trouble with this concept, but the truth or falsehood of a statement is independent from who prints it, and who it benefits politically.

  18. joe – I know you have trouble with this concept, seeing the world through your, ah, special little glasses, but the very point I was making was that I DON’T TRUST THE NYT ON QUESTIONS OF ‘FACT’, if said ‘fact’ has a political dimension to it (note the quotes around fact). The concept here (I’ll use small words so that the chances of it going right over you pin-head are diminished) is that I don’t believe what I see printed in the NYT is honest-to-goodness fact. The truth of a factual statement does not depend on who reports it, as you so wisely pointed out – thank you for your brilliant insight; However, both your first statement and your condescending followup presuppose that the NYT is reporting a fact. If a meteor shower would benefit a Democrat, the NYT would have no problem printing that one was occuring WHETHER IT WERE OR NOT. You see joe, one has to accept your premise that the meteor shower is a fact. On the say so of the NYT, I would withhold judgement. Is that clear enough for you? Did I remove all subtlety so that you have no room to be a condescending twit?

  19. Karl, I know you trouble with this concept, but the truth or falsehood of a statement is independent from who prints it, and who it benefits politically.

    So then, there’s no way to answer your original question.

  20. If Karl is right that the NYT was truly determined to make Democrats look good at all costs, then they’d’ve been more skeptical of the administration during the buildup to the Iraq war.

  21. “Would you walk outside?”

    yes, knowing the NYTimes, yeah. these are the same folk who just discovered that shuffle + music collection = odd juxtaposition.

  22. joe,

    I might as well, since I don’t think my house would provide much protection from supersonic meteorites. (Have you never seen The Simpsons?)

  23. “My generation of political reporters bear some responsibility for this ethically bankrupt dynasty.”

    Howell Raines lecturing anybody about ethics? Bwahahahahahahahahaha.

  24. So the evil internet is destroying the virtuous newspapers. Boo hoo! Mr. Raines, the reason some people stopped believing in the press was because the pose of objectivity was becoming less and less congruent with observable reality.

    Anyone with a little bit of skepticism can read between the lines, whether they are on (in ?) a cathode ray tube or printed on paper.

    The credulous will believe anything, whatever the source, based on whatever prejudices they have. GOP, “Bush rocks!” Dems, “Bush blows!”

    My prejudice is slight paranoia so I always wonder, “What’s in it for the author or publisher?”

    My other prejudice is if it comes from the mouth of a presidential candidate it’s either over-simplified, misleading or an out and out lie.

    Does the “either/or” construction run into the same problem as “alternative”? I don’t care.

  25. Jennifer Harper of THE WASHINGTON TIMES in an article entitled: “Study finds press pro-Kerry” says:
    “Sen. John Kerry has gotten the white-glove treatment from the press, garnering more praise from journalists than any other presidential candidate in the last quarter-century, according to a new analysis of almost 500 news stories released today by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Unprecedented, untrammeled accolades for Mr. Kerry were more than debate-related bounce, however. Since Labor Day, he also had a total of 58 percent positive stories, with just 36 percent for Mr. Bush. …A separate study of more than 800 news stories released by the District-based Project for Excellence in Journalism last week found that Mr. Bush has been “battered” by the press this October, with 59 percent of his evaluations ‘clearly negative in nature.'”
    This is a needed article, but it entirely misses the point. The damage done by a biased press is not in choosing to run articles that are “clearly negative in nature”. The damage is done in articles that they do not run at all (see Swiftvets for Truth) and the worst of all: spin that they add to stories that otherwise do not support the point. H. Raines was the master.

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