Wednesday, November 16, 2005

No Longer Ready For His Closeup

Could there be a more striking, ironic and almost surreal microcosm of the deterioration of journalism over the past few years than this? One would have been hard-pressed to even make this one up. It's almost Shakespearean. I've often wondered why Woodward so adamantly and so strangely dismissed the importance of Plamegate, and now we know. Honest question: does someone like Woodward realize what he's become? Or is he like Norma Desmond, surrounded by yellowing three decades-old press clippings of Watergate and convinced he's still got game? Maybe that's a question about journalism in general; do caricatures, water-carriers, shills and sell-outs (of which there is no shortage these days, as we've seen recently) realize what they are, or have they managed to deceive themselves? If it's the former, it must be horrible to put on the mask of intellectual dishonesty every day just to pay the mortgage, tuition, and kids' orthodontist bills. I realize many people do that---not just journalists. But when journalists do it, it happens in plain sight. And when journalists who once redefined their profession do it, it's tragic.

You can put this story in the "reasons why newspapers are seeing dramatic declines in circulation" file. Jayson Blair, Judy Miller, Bob Woodward---the hits keep coming. Just when I think I can't get any more outraged about how a chummy media clique in Georgetown and on the Upper West Side passed around the Plame story like some secret plaything before the hapless public finally got clued in, we get another revelation and another instance of how media insiders showed utter disdain for their readers/viewers and unwarranted and inappropriate respect for their "sources."

A few nights ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine who used to be a reporter at a big city daily and has since moved on to another line of work. He said he recently visited his former colleagues at the paper and that it was like returning to the salt mines: malaise and despair was the mood there, with everyone looking for a way out. On one hand, I say screw 'em---in large measure, they've done it to themselves by putting the reader at the bottom of the totem pole (one reason why, beyond Gretchen Morgenson, I rarely read the New York Times now after doing so daily and obsessively for many years). But I also think the deterioration in both journalistic standards and the industry's financial viability is incredibly dangerous. Now more than ever, we desperately need the type of reporter Bob Woodward was thirty years ago when---instead of becoming venture capitalists or investment bankers---the smartest and most ambitious students wanted to be journalists. We seem to be in a "tweener" period for the news media; the old guard has gone insider and abdicated for the veneer of personal and professional stability provided by corporate ownership, but nothing has quite stepped up to fill the role that is absolutely crucial to any democracy. Are blogs part of the answer?

56 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

unlikely. Still too niche.

pick up "Bad News" by Tom Fenton or "Backstory" (Ken Auletta) if you haven't read them already.

11/16/2005 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a former reader who "left" the corporate media as a news source almost 3 years ago and I'm more informed now on a number of fronts than I ever have been.
There are alternatives ... the web gives you that.

11/16/2005 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were it not for Will Shortz, I would have stopped the Times a long time ago myself.

11/16/2005 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where would America be without self-deception?

11/16/2005 9:58 PM  
Blogger tregen said...

possibly a result of to little competition and media consolidation?

11/16/2005 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in NY and was a religious Times reader. After Blair, I refused to pay for the paper, but would still read online from time to time. After Plame, I refuse to even read it online.

You know you're fucked when your previous loyal customers won't even read your free content. I hope the WP doesn't drive me to the same decision.

11/17/2005 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another blogger on the media meltdown

I think independent quality journalism is mostly gone in the mainstream. There are a few gems still out there. But the journalists don't cover with intellectual honesty the news that impacts our lives and runs our democracy. Al Gore spoke about the declining marketplace of ideas. What gets me about these things today, especially in politics, is that they aren't interested in presenting ideas and coming together to form the best ideas, they just want total dominance and you are either with them or against them as they see it. The actions of Karl Rove has brought us all down to a terrible level. I think magazines and papers have failed their audience and thus people aren't buying them.

Why is it so hard to tell the truth; that has to be a sign of something in our society...

Blogging has its good points. But there are bad apples there too. Did you ever watch like a Katie Couric or Ted Koepple not follow-up or not challenge what someone has said on their programs. That is the good thing so far about blogging is that lies are challenged and questioned. In the one-way media that seems to be apathetic at best, finally someone is asking the questions that so many of us what answered.

11/17/2005 1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To propose that journalist where anything other than hacks is preposterous. To posit some prior "Golden Age" or to imagine that Woodward is (or was) anything other than a mediocre opportunist is at best naive.

I would suggest you read some of the "journalism" of the 19th century, particularly the output of the New York papers during the Civil War

The current crop are just the outgrowth of the New Deal, and like their counterparts in the legal profession, the game was to support the corrupt social manipulations of the Democrat party and wait for some goodies to come their way.

The only thing that is odd about this group - as opposed to their coreligionists on the Bar - is that heretofore they have not made better inroads into elective office themselves.

The "Best and the Brightest?" Hah!

Perhaps so, but only if we were to use the lefts hideous definiton of the concept.

The media has not "decayed" they have just been exposed for what the where all along.

And it is particularly asinine to somehow blame Karl Rove for the current "state" of the media.

Rove has merry gone to the Amrican people and built a grass roots organization filled with those who are both silenced anad appalled by the Democrat Party and allof its works - He has just given operational structure to those that were moved by Ronald Reagan. This is mostly a managerial achievement - it requires no great insightother than just seeing what is in front of one'nose. It is just about execution, and Roveisdoing nothing thatthe Demcrats have not done, except his workers are not on Union pay, but rather true volunteers.

So this grousing about Rove is just pure hogwashfrom those who would undohis work to suit their own political agendas.

11/17/2005 6:51 AM  
Blogger The Ignorant Investor said...

It's all about maintaining access. In D.C., you have to have people take your calls, and that depends on whether you play ball.

That playing this game places the control over the flow of information in the hands of politicians rather than in the reporter's, where it belongs, seems to bother guys like Woodward not at all. He gets his book deals, appearences on public affairs shows to push said books, and lots and lots o' money. All from playing this game.

Can it suprise anyone that he's turned into just another fat, insincere D.C. pig?

11/17/2005 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Deep Throat's identity was revealed, the Post ran tons of self-congratulatory, nostalgic pieces about Watergate. The contrast between the tenacious reporting and courage of the editors and publishers of 30 years ago, and the credulous, stenographic newspaper of today could not have been greater yet there appeared to be no self-awareness at all.

11/17/2005 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rove = character assination, self agrandizement and POWER. For him, it's not about the money and for sure there's no "idealism"; it's being the puppetier.

11/17/2005 12:37 PM  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

Blogs have already stepped in. Just in time.

11/17/2005 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> Are blogs part of the answer?

Very much so. In fact I argue newspapers are obsolete because they are not interactive.

Take a look at the "letters from the editor" section. A few letters cherry-picked by ideological editors. Completely worthless.

The only way newspapers could recover any credibility would be to allow rebuttals to their articles to be published alongside the articles themselves, for almost every controversial article. This could be done via web technology.

11/17/2005 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Anonymous said...

Rove = character assination, self agrandizement and POWER. For him, it's not about the money and for sure there's no "idealism"; it's being the puppetier.

Please check your anti semitism at the door. Thank you, Mr. Anonymous Jew Hater. Why can't you admit that's why you hate Rove? He's a smart, accomplished Jew. Envy is an ugly emotion.

In fact, the whole Bush Derangement Syndrome is just antisemitism against his many Jewish advisors, displaced onto him. Bush is the American Capt. Dreyfus. J'Accuse!

(Of course, most LLL Kool Aiders won't know who I'm referring to.)

11/17/2005 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Just because someone dislikes Karl Rove does not make them an anti-semite. Using the writers logic, disliking rap music would make one a racist.

2. Karl Christian Rove is his full name. So unless he converted or had odd parents, he is not likely Jewish.

3. Bush has not been falsely convicted of anything.

11/18/2005 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Rove = character assination

You left out an ass. That's "assassination". Sort of appropriate for the likes of Karl Rove.

Is Karl Rove Jewish? Of course not. He's Afro-American. None of this "black" stuff for him. Insulting Karl Rove is racist, not anti-semetic. If he's not Afro-American, then he's probably something else.

As for the troll above, yes, I read "What Would Phoebe Do"?, so I know who Capt Dreyfus was. I also know how Emile Zola was. When novels were novel, he wrote the original pot boiler. He also got Capt. Dreyfus out of the 19th century French version of Gitmo. If he were alive today, he'd be a blogger and no friend of George W. Bush.

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