Saturday, September 3, 2016

Losing the News

_Losing the News:  The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy_ by Alex S. Jones
NY:  Oxford University Press, 2009
ISBN 978-0-19-518123-4

(14)  My best guess is that the amount of serious reporting on important topics would average around 15 percent...

(38)  Reverend Jerry Falwell came to Miami to support [Anita] Bryant, and not long after founded the Moral Majority...
NB:  The culture war is the war against gays and was founded first and foremost in that battle

(43)  According to [Robert] Entman, the media can be divided into four categories:  traditional journalism, tabloid journalism, advocacy journalism, and entertainment.

The first way to distinguish each from the other is on the basis of its commitment to five key journalism standards.  The first four are accuracy, balance, holding government accountable, and separation of news from editorial and advertising.  The fifth standard is the degree to which there is a determination to maximize profit.  Bear in mind that all these forms of media are intended to make a profit, but one of Entman's key insights is that they are different in the _degree_ to which maximizing profit is a motivation.

(48) Until the recent downturn, a local television station that was showing less than a 60 percent profit margin was performing below the industry standard. This is three times the profit margin of most local newspapers.

(59)  Lost in the mists of history is the fact that three states did not ratify the Bill of Rights until 1939, in anticipation of its sesquicentennial:  Georgia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

(77)  Libby, who was a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, had systematically leaked information to reporters on a confidential basis that was intended to discredit a C.I.A. report that was judged harmful to the administration's case that Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons.
NB:  No mention of Valerie Plame

(81)  What _makes_ journalism good?  Everyone would agree on accuracy.  For most consumers of news, the next requirement would be lack of bias:  journalism should be fair and balanced.
NB:  No mention of context

(87)  As Kovach and Rosenstiel point out, "In the original concept, in other words, the _method_ is objective, not the _journalist_."

His example of a failure of objectivity in the press is the debate over "partial birth abortion," in which most sources took the word of the pro-life faction that few of these late term abortions were done and that they were done because of health issues, something that didn't hold up under investigation.  Seems to me that this is less a failure of objectivity than a failure of fact-checking.

"If your mother tells you she loves you, kid, check it out" or, as BB King put it, "Nobody loves me but my mother and she could be jiving too"

(90)  "news consumer" "truth"
NB:  not informed citizenry, facts

(92)  Ruth Padawer of Bergen County Record and David Post of Washington Post reported on the facts of "partial birth abortions" or late term abortions

(106)  A slightly different way of framing journalism's ethical demands was distilled in _The Elements of Journalism_....
1.  Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
2.  Its first loyalty is to citizens.
3.  Its essence is a discipline of verification.

(107)  The first _obligation_ is to truth.  Finding truth is a universal journalistic responsibility.  It is not a goal, but a duty. [?!]

(109)  ...a promise of confidentiality may have to be breached as the lesser evil

This dilemma of conflicting claims on honor lies at the heart of the worst ethical problems in journalism.
NB:  Honor?!

(123)  When the investigative series appeared, the meat and potatoes consisted of material unearthed by hard-nosed, shoe-leather reporting.  But the most sensational and titillating bits were verbatim quotes from company officials that could have come only from voice mails.  The truth quickly came out, and under pressure from Chiquita, the Gannett Company, owner of the _[Cincinnati] Enquirer_, renounced the entire series, removing it from the paper's Web site.  They also paid a multimillion-dollar settlement and issued an abject apology.  The reporter was charged with a crime, and his career was over.  He had, in a sense, integrity.  He told himself that he had done it to expose what he thought was an abusive company. 
NB:  Integrity?

(129)  With this ploy, he [Gutenberg] won the contract for printing indulgences....

(137)  In an institutional sense, newspapers took on a fatherly role for their readers.  They assumed a position of superior knowledge and gave direction as to what one should think. 

(161)  The problem at this moment for the papers whose stock is publicly traded isn't just one of making a profit.  The problem is making enough profit to satisfy Wall Street and also to pay off the huge debt that many newspaper companies carry from their purchase of more newspapers.

(175)  And as for news, his [Dean Singleton] formula was - to my ear - both realistic and chilling.  Newspapers can survive "if we print what our readers - not what we - want;  if we discard our arrogance and old ideas;  if we let our readers participate."

(191)  One of the most innovative efforts to marry participatory journalism with traditional reporting is under way at Public Insight Journalism, the brain child of Michael Skoler...

(192)  "You listen to people who listen to you," [Michael] Skoler told an audience of traditional journalists in October 2008, "and journalists have not listened to the public for ages."

NB:  Clay Shirkey:  Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for.
Cluetrain:  A market is a conversation
Talk is cheap and silence is fatal.

(201)  The newspaper industry that emerges will be leaner and, when the economy turns and some of the lost advertising returns, the new revenue will have an outsized reviving power like food to a starving man.
NB:  Really?

(208)  Perhaps the Web will facilitate a restoration of close ties, but I believe that it will more likely come from something that is based not so much on the Web's interaction as on demonstrating commitment to a community, presenting a distinctive personality, and reflecting a genuine affection for the people it serves.  Perhaps it is counterintuitive given the open forum of the Web, but these things - to my mind - show themselves more persuasively in print than online.
NB:  No listening here.  Never read _Virtual Community_ I guess

(221)  My nightmare scenario is one of bankrupt newspapers, news by press release that is thinly disguised advocacy, scattered and ineffectual bands of former journalists and sincere amateurs whose work is left in obscurity, and a small cadre of high-priced newsletters that serve as an intelligence service for the rich and powerful.
NB:  That's not today?

NB:  George Seldes was dedicated to the facts, to truth, and to history. He ends his memoirs with a conversation he once had with William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette of Kansas:

"As his final word, Mr White said: 'The facts, fairly and honestly presented,' and I added, more in the nature of a question than a statement, the words: 'and truth will take care of itself?'
"White leaped at these words. 'That's it,' he said, 'that is our formula: "The facts fairly and honestly presented; truth will take care of itself."'

"I have thought of these words for more than forty years. I know of no better rule for all newspapers of the world."

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