Tom Brokaw: Bridging the Divide

“…We all got in this together and we’re only going to get out of it working together. You can put blame across the board. A lot of the things that happened happened in the first six years of the George W. Bush administration. We went to war in two countries and didn’t ask anything of the American people. We have an unfunded prescription drug benefit in Medicare that’s now up to 1 trillion dollar deficit. And we didn’t create jobs. And the Democrats were pushing the idea of home ownership on people who were clearly not qualified to sign the papers at the end of the day for what they were buying.” –Tom Brokaw on Morning Joe

Brokaw will be hosting a special on USA Network this Friday at 7 PM called “Bridging the Divide.



Living the narrowcast, baby

Fascinating article in today’s Washington Post that hits on the problem The Village Square is trying to solve:

The increasing polarization of cable news is transforming, and in some ways shrinking, the electoral landscape. What has emerged is a form of narrowcasting, allowing candidates a welcoming platform that helps them avoid hostile press questioning and, in some cases, minimize the slog and the slip-ups of retail campaigning.

“There’s no question it’s contributing to the splintering of the political system and the means by which people get information about that system,” said Robert Thompson, who runs the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “If there’s no standard base line of fact and reporting, where can the conversation go?”

Love to hear what people think, both sides of the aisle. Read the whole article HERE.



Katie Couric: “Anonymous atom bombs of animosity”


Watch CBS News Videos Online



Stephen Colbert: “It isn’t a Sunday host’s job to make sure their guests aren’t lying any more than it’s a party host’s job to make sure the food isn’t poison.”

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sunday Morning Fact-Checking – Jake Tapper & Bill Adair
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Apparently David Gregory of Meet the Press passed on the idea of offering fact checks of guests after the shows. Last night on the Colbert Report:

Nation, it’s no secret. I’m a huge fan of the Sunday morning talk shows. They’re like a grownup version of Saturday morning cartoons only the cartoons have more productive debates.

[Bugs Bunny video clip: “Duck season! Wabbit season! Duck season! Wabbit season!”]


Breaking News: NY Times, Washington Post endorse Village Square strategy (ok well not exactly)

… They certainly would endorse our strategy (if only they knew what it was). Our project We the Wiki, currently busily being built as part of our Knight Foundation project, will not allow for anonymous participation. You write it, you own it. We think anonymous commenting is one of the things that has caused our national dialogue to jump the shark and we think it needs to be un-jumped.

Yesterday’s New York Times features a piece on newspapers that are rethinking their anonymous comments policy:

When news organizations, after years of hanging back, embraced the idea of allowing readers to post comments online, the assumption was that anyone could weigh in and remain anonymous. But now, that idea is under attack from several directions. The Washington Post plans to revise its comments policy, and one of the ideas under consideration is to give greater prominence to commenters who use their real names. The New York Times, The Post and many other papers have moved in stages toward requiring
that people register before posting comments, providing some information about themselves that is not shown onscreen.

The Huffington Post soon will announce changes, including ranking commenters based in part on how well other readers and trust their writing. “Anonymity is just the way things are done. It’s an accepted part of the Internet, but there’s no question that people hide behind anonymity to make vile or controversial comments that they might not choose to make in their real names,” said Arianna Huffington, a founder of The Huffington Post.

“I feel that this is almost like an education process. As the rules of the road are changing and the Internet is growing up, the trend is away from anonymity.”

Exactly.



Florence Snyder: Shoeleather in the Age of Twitter

BY FLORENCE SNYDER

The year is 2020, and all that remains of print journalism is the New York Times, USATODAY….and the National Enquirer. Google has been broken up into twelve competing companies. 97.9% of all news websites have installed pay walls. All state and local public records are available on-line…..for a fee. Vice President Marco Rubio has inherited the Oval Office from President Sarah Palin, who resigned to resume her career….as a journalist.

That’s the way it was in a world conceived by Miami First Amendment lawyer Tom Julin for The Florida Bar’s annual Media Law Conference. The Conference dates back to the 1970s when Wall Street was beginning to see journalism as a cash cow, rather than the watchdog the Founding Fathers intended.  In the 1980s, as media companies’ profit margins climbed past 30%,  hundreds of lawyers, judges and journalists crowded into hotel ballrooms to hear media A-listers opine on the future of journalism. Times and travel budgets being what they are, the 2010 Conference was a far less lavish affair.  At times, the speakers outnumbered the paying audience.

One can only wonder how  20th century Conference speakers like Katharine Graham, Abe Rosenthal and Fred Friendly would have responded as Julin prodded veteran reporters, academics and fellow media lawyers to answer questions which have, for decades,  vexed journalism think-tanks….in 140 characters or less. Julin lightened the mood with James Cameron-level audio visual references to narcissistic presidential hopefuls and their tango-dancing soulmates.  Still, it was a sobering picture he painted of a not-too-distant future where the body politic has the attention span of a goldfish.

Some think that day has already arrived, but Conference-goers found reason to be hopeful that real news and well-reasoned commentary will adapt to the new and much leaner environment.

Some of the 21st century’s best explanatory journalism is happening on Comedy Central; Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the Peabody awards to prove it. These modern-day Mark Twains provide a national audience the kind of fact-based, impossible-to-ignore editorial voices that Florida used to take for granted.

Howard Troxler and Carl Hiaasen are, thank God, still with us.  But Florida’s increasingly anemic editorial pages are no match for state government’s standing army of flacks and flunkies who pay lip-service to transparency while actively obstructing reporters in pursuit of stories their bosses don’t want told.

It’s always cause for celebration when front-page news slips past the government’s spinmeisters and makes it to the front page, and Conference-goers were spellbound as Gina Smith of the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. described the combination of luck, instinct and shoeleather involved in her pursuit of Gov. Mark Sanford down the “Appalachian Trail” to the Atlanta airport.

To a roomful of reporters who are expected to do impactful investigations while blogging at 20 minute intervals, it was a cheering reminder that one reporter can change the course of history.

A reminder of another kind was delivered by the Miami Herald’s former general counsel Richard Ovelmen. In a moving tribute to his friend and mentor, legendary First Amendment lawyer Dan Paul, who died this year at age 85, Ovelmen recalled how Paul leveraged his bulging Rolodex in the service of all of Florida’s journalists—not just the ones who worked for Knight Newspapers and the New York Times Company in the decades when they could afford Paul’s eye-popping hourly rates.

Under Paul’s direction, Ovelmen recalled, Florida’s media lawyers took up the cause of reporters in places they could barely pronounce.

If a city clerk in Opa Locka withheld public records, or a judge in Palatka threw a reporter out of a courtroom, publishers of mom-and-pop newspapers could count on Paul to declare a constitutional crisis and dispatch an army of lawyers bearing briefs that argued, “News delayed is news denied.”

With 20th century media on life support, displaced journalists are bringing their craft to cyberspace.  The lonely pamphleteer is on-line at places like Broward Bulldog, Health News Florida, and FloridaThinks, looking for a business model that will support the never-ending mission of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

There’s a lot at stake, and The Florida Bar deserves thanks for reminding us that failure is not an option.

——

Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com.

Parody photo courtesy of Random Pixels. Tom Julin’s “Journalism and Other Financial Disasters” was presented at The Florida Bar’s Media Law Conference, March 26, 2010.



Village Square goes to school: The Hostile Media effect

A tickler both for tonight’s Tallahassee Politics, Partisans & A Pint and tomorrow’s Purple State of Mind post…



Michael Smerconish nails it: The world of “media fiction”

Michael Smerconish, Philadelphia Talk Radio show host, who just made what seems to have been a tormented decision to change his political affiliation from Republican to Independent, talked to Chris Matthews last night on Hardball:

“We live in a world of media fiction. Where talk radio and your business everything gets presented in black/white red state/blue state left/right terms. And I don’t think that’s the way the real world is. It’s not the way I carry about my life as exemplified by people I meet on a day to day basis. It only exists in the world in which you and I work. And I, frankly, have had enough of it. I frankly think that stirring the pot at the ends of the political spectrum as been terrible for the country and I want no more of it.”

“People in the middle need a voice. We’re underrepresented in the world of talk radio and on cable stations because the bookers they only look for those who they can introduce as a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat. That’s not the bulk of America right now. What about the folks in the middle?”

Smerconish wrote about his decision to register as an Independent: “Collegiality is nonexistent today, and any outreach across an aisle is castigated as weakness by the talking heads who constantly stir a pot of discontent.”



Climbing atop the ooze

As the ugliness and emptiness of campaign ads does a final 2008 ramp-up, it’s time to re-run a favorite post:

NPR Weekend Edition’s Scott Simon:

Do you remember when candidates used to appear in their own commercials? Many of them seemed a little stiff wearing a sober suit and white shirt framed by an American flag, a bust of Lincoln and family pictures as they made obvious, irreconcilable and insupportable promises.

“I will improve schools, hire more police, teachers and trash workers and lower taxes, create jobs, and get snow, guns and homeless people off the street by being tough, fair, generous and stingy to all of our citizens , regardless of race, creed or hair color, the number of toes they have or whether they were ever stupid enough to vote for my opponent. I welcome your support.”

I miss those ads. At least they gave you a glimpse of the candidate talking about issues, even in hilarious non sequiturs. These days candidates hire consultants to publicize the names of their opponents just so they can splash mud and slime on them. It’s as if Coca Cola bought ads just to show people taking a swig of Pepsi Cola and spitting it into a gutter.

The candidate used to at least risk rejection by asking, sometimes pleading “vote for me” in his commercials. Now they hide behind hired voices who ask “you aren’t really going to vote for that guy, are you?” Then have the candidate mutter at the end like some nine-year-old being forced to admit that he hit the baseball through the window “I approved this message.”

There’s an old Madison Avenue adage: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Many current campaign commercials don’t even try to sell sizzle, they just hurl sleaze. People who create them are using the expensive power of articulation to produce messages that are just about as mature as kids razzing each other on the playground.

Look, I’m from Chicago, I love covering politics there and still follow it like a contact sport. I know, as the old Chicago columnist Findley Peter Dunn wrote in 1898, “politics ain’t beanbag.” It has always been rough because the stakes are high. I am not one of those people who says “I wish we had a high-minded political system like they have in Canada.”

The sad fact is that candidates and soft money groups run vicious ads because the evidence is, they work. We might be appalled but we often follow through.

When ads become so personal, intense and insulting it’s difficult for the candidate who survives, I won’t even say “wins,” to climb atop the ooze and act like a human being, much less a statesman. And difficult for voters to respect or trust who they’ve elected, in spite of what they’ve been told. These ads may help candidates win the game, but they also risk tearing up the field and burning down the stadium.

By the way, my name is Scott Simon and I approved this message.



“The media”

“The main criticism of the media is that it’s partisan. And if you watch TV and if you watch the post-debate quarterbacking, you would see that that is absolutely true. Depending on where you tuned in, you’d have a completely different assessment of how the debaters did.”

–Brooke Gladstone, NPR’s On The Media on Bill Moyers Journal



Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Hunkering down in ideology

In discussing one deceptive ad from each of our presidential campaigns, Kathleen Hall Jamieson was asked by host Bill Moyers “how is the audience to catch up to the truth of this?” Jamieson:

“The audience has to break out of the partisan media context that reinforces the belief that these ads are accurate… you hope that that partisan audience has enough exposure to places that give you both sides so they’re able to hear the other side and is able to hear credible sources… to indicate when their side is wrong and when the other side is wrong. It’s easy to hear those times when the other side is wrong, it’s much harder to be in places to hear that your side is wrong. First, because increasingly we’re not going to those kinds of places, it’s also difficult – because of the way we hunker down in our own ideology – for us to hear when our own side is actually not telling us the truth.

Paraphrasing, Jameson said “buy Village Square tickets.”