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Future of Journalism

A dead certainty, like the speed of light, or the second law of thermodynamics, is that journalists convening over a fine dinner and excellent vintages of wine will gradually and inevitably spiral toward a discussion of their professional obsolescence.

"It's over," my friend from the news magazine said deep into the evening after many a bottle of Pomerol.

"What's over?" I asked.

"What we do -- it's over," he said.

The words hung in the air, a final flare from the last lifeboat.

I'm not sure if he meant that print journalism is finished, or if he was speaking about mainstream journalism more broadly. Or perhaps he meant that journalists of our ilk, who came of age a generation ago, who manage to raise kids and live in decent houses on the largesse of advertisers eager to put themselves between our words and our audience, were no longer economically and culturally plausible figures. Even more than it being over, maybe we were over.

Or perhaps he just meant that it was time to go home. The eating was over.

I wonder if the American people are prepared to live, for the most part, without newspapers, news magazines, foreign coverage by TV news operations, and so on. This isn't the future we're talking about it. It's right now. We're in the maelstrom.

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

"Four dailies that have produced inspiring international coverage in the past -- The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, Newsday, and the Baltimore Sun -- closed their remaining overseas bureaus. In TV, as veteran correspondent Tom Fenton has observed, a quarter century ago CBS News had twenty-four foreign bureaus and stringers in forty-four countries; today, there are six bureaus, none of them in Africa or Latin America. Time Inc., owner of the largest circulation newsweekly magazine, Time, eliminated 650 jobs in early 2006, including those of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, two of the nation's preeminent investigative journalists, in May. The following week, it was reported that Time Inc. had just paid $4 million for exclusive photographs of Shiloh, the newborn baby of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt."

Sometimes I hear Internet opinionators argue that the mainstream media can't die soon enough. Usually this is connected to the sin of being too right-wing, though sometimes it is attributed to the sin of being too left-wing. But perhaps one of our current problems is that many of us still hew, faithfully, to the rules of objective journalism, a mode that may prove ideologically enigmatic for readers who increasingly want to know what side we're on.

My friend Von Drehle has mocked me cruelly for my Support Your Local Newspaper concept, but check out who is doing well these days: National Public Radio. Which blatantly begs for money. The private media should try the NPR approach -- we need to learn how to guilt-trip the audience into giving us more money.

Again, from CJR:

"... no nonprofit -- and no for-profit -- news media organization in the U. S. today can match the audience growth of National Public Radio (NPR), which began in 1970 and now has thirty-six bureaus in the U.S. and worldwide and approximately thirty million weekly listeners, double what it had a decade ago. NPR news reaches audiences around the world through broadcast, satellite, and digital radio, as well as through online, mobile, and on-demand services. Today NPR has seven hundred employees and its programming is heard on more than eight hundred independent public radio stations nationwide; its flagship programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, are the top and fourth most listened-to radio programs in America. Thanks in substantial part to a huge bequest by Joan Kroc, NPR's operating budget is about $144 million today, with total assets exceeding $436 million. It is hard to believe that at the end of 1983, it had only about two million listeners and was $7 million in debt. In the late 1990s and again, especially after September 11, NPR turned some kind of significant corner, becoming a primary news source for millions of Americans."

Could the big papers become non-profits? That's way above my pay grade. But we need to do something -- before it's really over.

--

Make sure to read this excellent story in the Post mag by Caitlin Gibson (famous guest A-blogger).

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 1, 2008; 12:12 PM ET
 
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Comments

This post was brought to you by a generous gift from the weed foundation

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I think "perception" is the key. When one is paid by advertisers, people many infer that one is saying what the paying party wants to be said. I don't know if that makes sense. I think people believe at NPR they're getting the news straight without a lot of entanglements? A lot less bias?

I love the shows on public television. Front Line and Moyer lay it out there, and although we know that with any news there is a certain amount of bias, those programs seem to overcome that perception.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 1, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Joel, Joel, Joel. You've been comparing your 401K against the median cost of a college education again, haven't you?

Must we have that conversation again.

I would assert, as I have before, that as the cacophony of the internet grows, there will become an increasing need for good old-fashioned un-biased journalism. And folks will be willing to pay. It's just that the emphasis will probably switch from information to analysis. That is, folks nowadays are pretty good about learning what's going on. It is the "why" that is so vexing. We want to understand the world, and we need something other than ideological hacks to do this for us.

For example, we all know that there were terrorist attacks in Mumbai. What folks want to know is what it all means.

So I see the future of newspapers as becoming much more like, you know, those "intelligence assessments" I've heard tell of.

But with more funny bits.

And, again, for this service I believe that people will pay.


Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

russianthistle - your handle made me laugh a bit because I am reading about the Dust Bowl.

For those that don't know, russian thistle (The plant, not the boodler) is better known as "tumbleweed."

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

RD, I have heard of them, too. What gives?

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

That's the neat thing about the internet... the entire world is above our pay grade!

That's why we are so feared and, indeed, despised.

He hate me.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I see RD_P's been playing with his Yoda/English translator again... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Of this I have no knowledge, Scottynuke.

Once upon a time I read that you should try to put the most emphatic word in a sentence at the end. You know, leave 'em with the big idea.

Which, in this case, is the prospect of continued financial renumeration.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect, RD, I *don't* want someone else interpreting the world for me. While I believe that there can be unbiased reporting, I can't say the same for analysis. Anyone's interpretation of the facts is going to be skewed. I'd just rather it be my own bias (with which I am intimately familiar). Besides, sometimes there just isn't an answer to Why.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 1, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

So, RD_P, you're saying it's all about the money.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Dynamite the Internet. Make punditry a misdemeanor. Make celebrity news a federal crime. $4 million for a photo of Shiloh: are they out of their minds?

Teach literacy in the school system. A radical idea, I know. But still...

Make everyone wear fedoras.

Stop re-naming cities. It was three days before I realized Mumbai was Bombay. I never got the memo, and I never had a vote. (And I'm still ticked about Constantinople. And Burma. And Sri Lanka. And Beijing.) (Persia not so much.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

No, no, Burma is still Burma, to everyone except the ruling oligarchs.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 1, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

You were there when Constantinople's name was changed, weren't you, Mudge? I'll bet that was an ugly, ugly process. Care to comment?

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I would say that all too often there is an answer to Why. Traditionally, it was shouted by someone holding a pitchfork and/or torch.

So I'm all for good analysis.

Posted by: engelmann | December 1, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

$4 million was cheap.

Posted by: -tao- | December 1, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Tim, that was a close shave!

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Are you referring to the first time around when they changed the name in 1453, slyness? Or the second go-round with that madman Kamal Attaturk, in 1930?

Yes, I was around for both...but was otherwise occupied in distant lands on other matters, otherwise I'd have never let 'em do it. In both cases, it was the stationary, envelope, business card and stamp lobbies and lobbyists who snuck it through the bureaucracy. Made millions of shekels for them, the b@st@rds.

Attaturk probably wouldn't have listened to me, anyway. The Ottomans never did.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

$4M? for a picture of a kid?

I'll take $1M for a pic of Little Bean. It may take that much just to get her to sit still long enough to take it.

Posted by: martooni | December 1, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

'Analyze This' was a good movie. 'Analyze That' not so much

Posted by: omnigood | December 1, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I love Tina Turner's hair: it's like those tall bearskin hats that guards outside Buckingham Palace wear. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2008/11/25/GA2008112500845.html?hpid=multimedia1&hpv=national

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I cast a vote for analysis. A good reporter can collect and synthesize information and analyze it in light of a larger set of information, or historical trends, or whatnot. Sometimes I could do this myself. Often, even if I read the factual reporting, I don't have the knowledge base to tackle it. I could learn, of course, but there is only so much one can take on (I decided the learning curve was too great for me to try and invest my meager disposable income in the stock market, and that decision has worked out surprisingly well). In any event I find it helpful to read an analysis not my own, taking into account the author's probable hidden or overt biases.

Does anyone else find this juxtaposition of words from a NYT op-ed headline amusing: "A breathtaking aspiration"?

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

True, Raysmom. Nobody wants to have a bad interpretation forced upon them or to be told what to think about something. And intelligent people who have the time and motivation to study and appreciate the nuances and historical context of complex issues are quite capable of understanding the world based upon the raw facts alone.

But there are many, I assert, who are not. Individuals who are overwhelmed by events and simply don't understand what's going on. Busy people who just want a little help putting things into perspective. And sometimes this just means a little historical context, or an understanding of who the major players are.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

http://news.sawf.org/Gossip/51764.aspx

$16 million for the Brangelina twins, a $10 million premium over lesser celebrity.

Posted by: -tao- | December 1, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Great hair, yes, Mudge. But it looks more like the Wicked Witch's Winkie guards...

http://members.tripod.com/~NASCARULZ/ozfirebroom.jpg

http://www.laminiaturists.com/images/win1.jpg

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes analysis and interpretation only adds to the confusion. Consider, for example, the bipolar talking heads who recently analyzed a periodic table of the elements of sentient morality, including anxiety, gratitude and shame.

Posted by: -tao- | December 1, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Talk about objectivity tends to shade into a vision of journalism as a kind of priesthood. It is problematic.

First, is objectivity even possible? I think the only way you could appear unbiased in our current environment is to have 50% of articles make Democrats look bad and 50% of articles make Republicans look bad. But obviously that has nothing to do with the truth--it's just manufacturing an artificial appearance of balance between the two major parties.

Second, what we think of as neutrality or objectivity is a fairly recent invention and an American one; European newspapers generally don't pretend to be nonpartisan.

Third, media outlets are businesses that behave in a marketplace as other businesses do. In some ways it would be easier if we recognized that a newspaper is a product like other products, and let market forces sort out how they should behave. A reputation for fairness and accuracy then can become simply a brand attribute that inspires consumers to purchase this one rather than _that_ one.

Posted by: TheMadPuffin | December 1, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

What about newspaper cooperatives? Sounds Marxist doesn't it? But, what if the readers and employees owned the paper and there was no advertising except for periodic begging. Sounds like NPR.

Posted by: pdeblin | December 1, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Newspaper cooperatives have had a dwindling membership.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associated_Press

Posted by: -tao- | December 1, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

OK, sometimes *do* like analysis. This, for example:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2008/12/obama_and_clinton_answering_th.html?hpid=topnews

And Pearlstein's economic analysis--a voice of sanity in the midst of Chicken-Little squawking.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 1, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Some newspapers may hang on, but I suspect that something like the Kindle, where the "paper" is delivered wirelessly to the reader, will be the end of the dead tree versions.

Byte went away years ago, and PC Magazine is going all digital.

Posted by: wiredog | December 1, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, thought so, front page alert.

I'm reallllllly trying to be good here. But there is hardly a single word in MadPuffin's 1:45 that doesn't make me go ballistic.

I'm gonna go eat my lunch. Just be aware, I'm being good today. Really trying hard.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

AP (Associated Press) is a newspaper cooperative. Been around for 162 years.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Let me make one more point. Analysis isn't the same as punditry. Analysis is attempting to assist an individual in making sense out of complex situations. A good analysis doesn't impose a conclusion. Rather a good analysis helps an individual make an informed decision.

Now, I am quite familiar with people who do this for a living, and typically with very short words, so I know it is an art. But it is, I believe, what people crave. And if they don't get an understanding of the world from journalists who don't have a vested interest, they will most assuredly get it from pundits who do.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Faxing some Paxil to Mudge.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 1, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse


If newspapers, news radio, TV news, and traditional journalism dies, it is a suicide. News managers and owners have been scamming the public with trash for years now and they've lost their core audience. Those who continue to pursue valid content, credible work, thoughtful journalism are strong. The Washington Post, NY Times, Des Moines Register, etc. will be here long after we're gone. No suicides there. But TV news crap, weak newspapers and magazines focused on celebrities and phony drama are going away. They did not respect the audience and blew themselves up.

Posted by: lougrant | December 1, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Mr. Grant!

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Does Mr. Grant still feel the same way about spunk that he did back in the early 70's?

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 1, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. M still won't let me do it, but I swear I'm gonna string up one of our plastic blowmold rabbits so it looks like the big Santa in our yard (that keeps falling over no matter what I do) just caught it or pulled it out of his bag, like "Look at me! I just killed two commercialisms with one bullet! One effin' BLAM and God bless the NRA and the GOP too!"

It's a good thing we don't live in a "gated community" or I'd find myself on the wrong side of the gate without a key.

And probably guns pointed at my head.

So it goes.

So it goes...

Posted by: martooni | December 1, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

All media ventures need new standards on identifying pieces and segments as

NEWS
ANALYSIS
OPINION

Should be part of the name, date, city of filing. Really. I need help with knowing when a reporter moves into analysis from reporting, and God forbid, analysis to opining. Writers are mixed up on this too.

A note on analysis bears discussion. Old school journalist were taught to find out WHAT OTHERS THINK about why something is. I want analysis reported to cite and explore thinkers/experts/practitioners. God bless y'll reporters, but I do not nearly want YOUR analysis as often as you offer it.

Pardon me, dear JA, etc.

I study this stuff. Sheesh, Confused often about the goal of a piece. I think broadcast is way, way, WAY mixed up about this, more so than print. But print is fudging the differences somewhat due to new venues. For example, op/pieces in print versions occur at the back of the A section. Online venues makes this placeholder clue to type of writing had to gauge.


Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Maureen Dowd has seen the future of journalism and it is sweat-shop piece work at 3/4 of a cent per word:

http://dowdreport.blogspot.com/2008/11/could-maureen-dowd-live-on-thirteen.html

Something makes me think that not too many NYT pundits can live on $13 a week.

And while I'm logged in, the Dowdster has the backstage scoop on the Fey-Palin encounter in this month's Vanity Fair.

http://dowdreport.blogspot.com/2008/12/dowd-profiles-fey.html

Posted by: Mo_MoDo | December 1, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

You've got spunk.

I hate spunk.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 1, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

The future of in-depth journalism is the book. If your book is an in-depth look at the child-rearing practices of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, you will get an advance big enough to live on.

Posted by: cbustard | December 1, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh, CquaP, you did it again! You explained what I was trying to say, only much, much better! What kind of boots does a word wrangler wear?

Posted by: Raysmom | December 1, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, I was channeling you. Am only the vessel. Thanks for faxing your might insight my way.

Why, I wear kick a$$ boots of Spanish (Raspberry toned) leather, just as YOU do, dear.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I agree that CP stresses the distinction between analysis (which we need) and opinion (which we get way too much of.) The other thing is that while opinion is easy, analysis is hard. Which is why I think there will always be a market for those who can do it well. And I think Joel can do it well.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I was THIS close to having a picture of Suri Cruise this weekend. Could have paid for the whole NY trip.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 1, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I assume this post is some sort of sad joke for those of us who have supported NPR, PBS and CPB since Susan Stamburg was a sweet young thing.

Public news/TV/Radio has been poisoned by Bush appointees who are burrowed into the organization. Their influence can be seen on programing selection and editorial slant. (I never thought I would say 'Thank God' for John McLaughlin who seems to have weathered the last 8 years despite the recently appeared blonde and lady African American conservative party liners who frequent Fox and other pseudo-news outlets)

It will take years to get away from the Military promo programs like Carrier.

I have recently thought that the Public News/TV entity should be allowed to die so its being co-opted by the Bush Administration as another outlet to spread the party line, can become part of its permanent legacy.

I suppose that once a rational administration is in place, that may happen anyway when the Mining interests. military hardware companies and Drug companies pull their sponsorships that have crept into the PBS fabric over the past 8 years.

Posted by: poorrichard | December 1, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I simply cannot believe that out of 30-some comments, nobody has identified the one true potential problem with NPR as a primary news source:

They receive gobs of government money in addition to those solicited donations.

If CBS News, NBC News, CNN, etc. were receiving large payouts from Federal coffers to operate, would they not be verbally pilloried, crucified, and otherwise rejected by the "left" that falls over itself to glorify NPR? Shouldn't the same people who claim that "corporate media" is under the control of advertisers and big "evil capitalist" corporations be quick to condemn the likes of NPR and PBS as "government parrots"? Or do we smell a double standard here?

Personally, I find NPR News too "left-leaning" for my tastes--too eager to interview sources and analysts on the "left" without a balancing or dissenting view on the "right." That sort of analysis would have to be changed fairly quickly if any "Fairness Doctrine" were to be re-implemented.

Posted by: LNER4472 | December 1, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Amen to CqP's 2:13.

I'm inclined to eliminate the "opinion" category altogether. Makes things a lot easier.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I imagine the boots to be swirled with symmetric colors, Raysmom.

I can bring homemade cheddar crab soup to lunch. Too late?

I was talking with an old friend and colleague a few days ago, reminiscing about when we both had sleeping bags under our desks for when we were stuck @ work and too busy or too tired to make the ~5 mile drive home to our respective houses. I'd say our jobs today were an improvement but fear the only improvement has been in remote access reliability.

Colors:
Screen of Death Blue
Antivirus Yellow
Quick Time Turquoise

Library, then sleep. Y'all have a good night!

Posted by: -dbG- | December 1, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

LNER4472

Hey there, tis the reader's job to get news from many sources:

NPR
WSJ
Houston Chronicle
Seattle Times
Great Falls Tribune (Montana)
Toronto Star

BBC, CNN International.....The Economist, etc.

Takes time, but in this digital era we can and should read widely.

NPR is not a problem for me, but I respect your opinion here. So, listen to them and then read others....but, you likely do that.

Welcome.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Pundit rules:

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/7720

Posted by: -tao- | December 1, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

LNER4472,

Just for argument's sake, would it be possible that you don't know where true left is in the US? Just curious if you would find it shocking that there is a whole world out there that is far left of what you may believe left to be?

Is it possible?

Therefore, is it also possible that, in reality--not the reality of mainstream media--but, reality, that our media world is fairly right leaning.

BTW, I think this right and left thing does an injustice to the discussion.

But, for example, let's take what you think is the middle of the road position most people have on universal health care...

Or, abortion rights. Do we actually get a full reflection of where people are on issues?

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Reading widely, per CquaP, should include the liberal and conservative outlets:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Conservative_news_outlets

Posted by: -tao- | December 1, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

CP,

I hope you don't mind me asking, but I am wondering if any studies have been done on what sort of people are willing and able to listen to opinions that are in variance to those positions that are personally held.

The point is that I have, for decades listened and enjoyed listening to folks like WF Buckley. There are some beliefs about America's goals that I might share with so-called conservatives, but, I actually enjoy the mental gymnastics and thought evolution in a proper discussion.

Was it Michael Kinsley who had the matching clipboard? Anyway, I found it a fine exercise. At the same time, I don't have time for bombastic souls of any stripe.

Being a vocal left leaning person who has for decades carried on daily business with conservatives, I find it interesting that, all of a sudden, they are feeling very uncomfortable with folks of the more left leaning stripe.

I am guessing that there is a very strong instinct to just reject "out of hand" their opinions without digesting the content and merits of the discussion. Further, like in a football play, no big plan ever works if, say, 9 out of the 11 players on the team decide that they will participate. Similarly, for a classic conservative governmental plan to work, it pretty much should be conservative all the time and for everybody.

AND, why do we have re-occurring amnesia with topics? On every given Sunday, talking heads will be dropping tired mis-truths as what "should be accepted" facts that are far from that.... examples, anything from Dr. Laffer. How many times will we have to be shown that Laffer wasn't "awake" to many important details before the pundits drop those chestnuts?

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrodog, you might want to check out the Dean koontz chat. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/11/20/DI2008112002317.html?hpid=discussions

Seems he used to have a dog (alas, now deceased) who used to write, much like you.

Tumbleweed, what purpose is served by knowing "where the public are on issues"? What is the relevance of knowing that 43% believe x, 29% believe y, and the rest have no opinion? (Or whatever the numbers and shades or slices of opinion might be.)

In fact, polls usually do tell us (with varying degrees of irrelevant accuracy) where people stand on issues. It just doesn't mean anything. About two-thirds of the public support Roe v. Wade. So what? Knowing such a number hasn't budged people from either side of that issue in decades -- nor should it. How should this number be "reflected"? I have no idea.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

RT is asking about the power of persuasion -- civil, reasoned argumentation -- to change opinion.

I don't have my materials in front of me, but several studies by both cognitive scientists and social scientists suggest that for people who are hard-right or hard-left, their views are rather fixed. What distresses me about both liberal and conservative hard or what we call a-rhetorical or unmovable audiences is this:

when viewing evidence that supports the other side, the a-rhetorical thinker disregards the evidence or believes/asserts that the information is faulty, flawed, or EVEN FALSLY promoted.

Wow. We believe that others who hold opinions that oppose ours are lying. What about this:

reasonable people will see the same information and draw different conclusions about
1) what it means
2) what ought be done.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

It gets even worse, CqP. Remember that piece by Shankar Vedantam a few weeks ago that showed that if you confront someone with a factual error or mistake in their opinion (i.e. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11), you don't change their mind; you instead "harden" that error even further.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm heading to the dbunker with the two chocolate pies left over from this weekend. I'll put on a pot of coffee,and maybe pull out the spirits if anyone is in the mood for Polish coffee.

Posted by: -jack- | December 1, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

LATimes piece on the hardwiring of lib and con stances:http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-politics10sep10,0,5349018.story

Shankar Vedantam, WaPo writer, had several articles about the psychology of voting that touched on this; none pop up without requiring some digging in the archives.


Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

poorrichard said:
I simply cannot believe that out of 30-some comments, nobody has identified the one true potential problem with NPR as a primary news source: They receive gobs of government money in addition to those solicited donations.
-------------
No one identified this as a problem because it's not. NPR only gets maybe 2% of its funding from the government through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Posted by: tfspa | December 1, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Xatcly Mudge.

I have interesting conversations and deflect wild anger at times for being a pro-life feminist. You would not believe what both sides do with that at times.

So, find this all fascinating. However, against the hard-wired theory of brains and lib/con stances, get this:

CPBros3 and 4 are identical twins. They are clones. They were raised together. One is conservative special forces (voted for 'Bama) and the other is a gardener-Ghandi toting peacenick, justice man with longish hair. At times the special forces guy sports long hair but his preference is a close cut which he swipes with butch wax.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Let me plug (again) The Big Sort, by Bill Bishop. It examines how in the last 30 years, Americans have moved to communities that reflect their political biases, so that Republicans have moved to Republican communities, which have become redder, and Democrats have done the same. This phemomenon makes for more extremism and less civil discourse. It's not a recipe for national success.

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Believe it or not I just received an invite to an in house seminar on bias and technical analysis. So the topic is alive and well.

But we must keep the key issue front and center. Yes, unbiased analysis is an essential part of ethical journalism. But how can newspapers make it pay?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

BTW - In addition to Caitlin Gibson's great article on the young woman with dwarfism who surgically lengthened her legs, there is also a very compelling discussion going on well worth a look.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

And SciTim beat me to the spunk joke by seven minutes. I have got to work on improving my response time.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 1, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm somewhat familiar with Bishop's Big Sort Theory, slyness -- I just don't put much stock in it, and I'm not sure his conclusions are correct. And I'm not even sure that if I buy the first part (that red is becoming redder and blue is becoming blue), it necessarily means more extremism and less civil discourse. I think a case could be made for the opposite: that a decreasingly diverse area (a redder red or bluer blue) means MORE civility and LESS extremism, on the grounds that there's no reason to argue or take extreme positions if everybody (seems) to already agree with you.

And how does his theory explain a place like NoVa, which has changed from red to blue (purple)? According to Bishop. NoVa should have gotten redder.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Padouk, the question of finding a way to make unbiased analysis "pay" is pretty much irrelevant. Rightly or wrongly, it makes up such a small percentage of what newspapers do that it isn't worth worrying about to the bean-counters. And anyway, it is just about impossible to break out "analysis" as a cost line item, and start trying to mess around with it. The very LAST thing newspapers need is more accountants and bean-counters trying to figure out how to fix things.

My suggested cost-effective move: fire all the bean-counters.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 1, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Your point is correct, Mudge. I was kinda sorta trying to make a joke. It seems that, like clockwork, Joel comes out with one of these "financial death of the newspaper" kits. So I can only suspect that such mundane topics as his employer making a profit might be of interest.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

In rhetorical theory of public discourse, we are interested in common ground approaches. Cue Mr. Rogers, erh, make that Dr. Rogers.

Carl Rogers is invoked by my heros and colleagues for the notion of Rogerian argument. This humanistic psychologist called it "empathic listening."

In an empathic stance, the writer does not judge the audience’s ideas until
1) he or she listens carefully
2) follows the audience’s reasoning, and
3) acknowledges the validity of the audience’s viewpoint

Step 3 is key. You must acknowledge the reasonableness and innate humanity of the audience. The Rogerian gesture allows (requires) that the writer shows empathy for the audience.

Common ground exploration might -- now -- be possible. Mutual understanding and respect may result. Civic spaces might be opened. Light can shine.

HOWEVER, we will still not agree often. But the bridg's built have value. Rogerian argument doesn’t emphasize an "I win–you lose" outcome as much as classical or legal (Toulmin) arguments do.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I hope you're right, Mudge, but one of Bishop's points is that the more urban an area becomes, the more it moves Democratic. That's certainly the case here. NC went for Obama by .38%, but Obama carried Mecklenburg County (one of the most urban in the state) by 24 percent. And it was the urban counties that gave him the votes to win by 14,000.

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Oh I'm sailin' away my own true love
I'm sailin' away in the morning
Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I'll be landing ?

No, there's nothin' you can send me, my own true love
There's nothin' I wish to be ownin'
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean.

Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona ?

Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that's all I'm wishin' to be ownin'.

That I might be gone a long time
And it's only that I'm askin'
Is there something I can send you to remember me by
To make your time more easy passin' ?

Oh, how can, how can you ask me again
It only brings me sorrow
The same thing I want from you today
I would want again tomorrow.

I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin'
Saying I don't know when I'll be comin' back again
It depends on how I'm a-feelin'.

Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way
I'm sure your mind is roarmin'
I'm sure your thoughts are not with me
But with the country to where you're goin'.

So take heed, take heed of the western wind
Take heed of the stormy weather
And yes, there's something you can send back to me
Spanish boots of Spanish leather.

Bob Dylan


Posted by: rickoshea0 | December 1, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

New Kit . . . on Whales

Aroc

Posted by: CoraCollins | December 1, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

MaggieRickODayShea

You posted that for Raysmom and me; thankee, kind m'am. Am listening to Bob Dylan sing an oddity called
Eileen Aroon or Valley Fair, as tis known.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 1, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The future of journalism will be that of coin operated phones. It will not be missed by me save a few thoughtful journalists here and there; while we are at it would it be great if the chattering class from cabledom are made extinct too. Then we will have some sort of normalcy.

Posted by: ere591 | December 1, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Mudge and CP,

Though I mentioned the concept of mind set in stone, I think that the willingness to listen to competing ideas (and I don't think that there is one right answer ... however, there are thousands of wrong principles that need to be avoided), helps one forge a better idea or process to get something to work.

Finding common ground is the first step in working together or at least co-existing in a plan. I know I am not nearly as clear as the two of you, but maybe an example...

I was in a position to launch into a discussion with a surgeon from a local university hospital system who also was involved in a private practice. He happened to make fun of my socialist leanings. Through good spirit, we took about a 20 minute trip through our founding beliefs and agreed upon facts of the health care system.

Turned out we were in agreement, he just didn't want it coming out of a socialists mouth. Actually, there were some differences, but he and I both agreed that either set of preferred options were much better than the current situation. Both, I as a patient or he as a Doc would be better off with either approach. I think it also helped that I new facts and figures and how the medical community received compensation and I was also aware of the risks... (the best way to kill an idea in Washington is to roll something else into it and creating a poison pill situation.)

So to attempt to summarize, his first gut reaction was to focus on my suspected red underwear, but by the end of the conversation, we managed to find out that we were in agreement on the critical central issues.

Sort of the "What's the Matter with Kansas" factor, here. I would contend that not understanding these odd Eastern Democrats who make easy social targets, the Kansans "seem" to vote against their own best government. However, local Republicans in Kansas have been quietly shifting away from mainstream Republican party alliances and winning elections as "Kansas Democrats."

Is there that much of a difference between John Tester and Barnie Frank? As far as policy and governing goes, probably less than assumed when considering our country's major challenges.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

There are journalism jobs available in Mexico if you are bi-lingual. Just don't offend anyone involved with drugs or you'll be murdered.

There are journalism jobs available in Russia if you are fluent in Russian. Just don't offend Putin or the mafia or you'll be murdered.

Becoming a journalist today is like becoming a blacksmith 100 years ago. There will always be jobs, just 90% fewer of them. Newspaper circulation is dropping every day. In 10 years most newspapers will stop delivering and be completely web based.

Posted by: alance | December 1, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Umm... Excuse me but the reason the MSM is dying is because you have made yourselves IRRELEVANT.

NPR, on the other hand, is HIGHLY relevant. NPR gets into detail. NPR's reporters know something about which they are reporting on. In contrast, the MSM gets into shouting matches and puffery, employs reporters who haven't an original, real-world, or non-collegiate-learned idea in their heads. The MSM replaces such knowledge of facts with 3d graphics of the capital on election night displaying numbers with zero analysis or commentary substance beyond stating- and re-stating the obvious.

I can't wait for the MSM to go away in failure. Because then NPR's successful strategy of true in-depth reporting, "substance-and-fine-detail-first", might be copied by whatever phoenix arises from the ashes of failure.

Posted by: onestring | December 1, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I suggested in a comment a few days ago that if the big three automakers can ask for some sort of financial assistance from the Government in order to try to make themselves more viable during this economic downturn, why wouldn't the print news media?

Oh, yeah.
Congress would want to see a workable plan, and exactly which parts of the government has the news media not cheesed off at some point?

bc

Posted by: -bc- | December 1, 2008 9:43 PM | Report abuse

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