June 30, 2002

Everything is a tactic…

Believe Al Gore when he says he’ll run a different campaign in 2004. Don’t believe that his campaign will eschew campaign “tactics.” Gore says he will “spend more time speaking from the heart on a few occasions each week, addressing the major challenges of the country in-depth, and spend a lot less time going to media events and making tactical moves.” This is a tactic. No politician running for president in the age of television campaigns can or will avoid the tactical maneuvers of staged media events. It is simply impossible to run a campaign otherwise. What Gore means is that he will revamp his campaign tactics to create an impression in the media of a candidate speaking “from the heart.” I am not questioning his sincerity. I am questioning the mediated reality within which he must operate.

June 28, 2002

Editor resigns for telling the truth…

The resignation of Rosemary Armao as managing editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is a perfect illustration of the primacy of structural bias in journalism as opposed to ideological bias. Recall that she responded by e-mail to a reader’s complaint about a profile of Katherine Harris–of Florida re-count fame–who is running for Congress as a Republican. It seems the reader thought the paper should be giving equal attention to Democrats. Howard Kurtz outlines the events in this morning’s column.

Armao’s response to the reader was remarkably honest. Among other things, she justified the coverage because Harris is an “international figure” and is likely to win. She added, ideologically, that she would not vote for Harris and derided “our culture for craving as its public figures, women like Katherine who are very pretty, hard-working and without original ideas that I can find.”

A flap ensued. Rather than be fired, Armao resigned. Too bad. She actually struck a blow for media literacy by temporarily opening the workings of the editorial mind to scrutiny. Readers of the Herald-Tribune are better informed today because of her response. They know more about how editors think and will continue to think. They know more about how the structural biases of journalism affect elections.

June 27, 2002

Do kids understand the Pledge of Allegiance?…

Do Kids Understand the Pledge of Allegiance? – Only the God part. By Timothy

June 27, 2002

Murrow and television entertainment…

Murrow Said It All in 1958 This is an interesting article from the Columbia Journalism Review about Murrow’s famous keynote address to the Radio and Television News Directors

June 27, 2002

Newspaper weblogs…

Board The Weblog Bandwagon Now, Please Steve Outing, writing for Editor & Publisher, suggests that newspapers encourage reporters to write weblogs.

June 27, 2002

The Coulter versus Couric (almost) cat fight…

I avoid watching television programs such as The Today Show for reasons well argued by Neil Postman. So I did not see, nor did I care to see, the snit between host Katie Couric and pundit Ann Coulter yesterday. You’ll recall that Coulter refers to Couric as an “affable Eva Braun” of liberalism in her new book “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right.” The only reason I mention this sad little display of public nonsense is that it further highlights something I find interesting about Coulter’s name-calling: It is an excellent example of the power of emotional connotation.

What possible comparison is there between Eva Braun and Couric? I can think of only two. First, because of her association with Hitler, I think many people assume that she must have been a Nazi witch. So Braun is a periphrasis for shrewish, devious, evil women. Second, Braun apparently was indifferent to politics and spent much of her time alone at Berchtesgaden tending after her looks and yearning for more affection from Hitler. Hmmmm…interesting possibilities here. Is Coulter suggesting that Couric is simply a cute face who pretends to understand politics while merely searching for acceptance, even love, from her audience? No way. Too subtle. Coulter’s credentials and education demonstrate that she is capable of making the latter comparison, but her public displays of political flaming demonstrate the opposite.

June 27, 2002

WorldCom debacle…

Playing the WorldCom Blame Game (washingtonpost.com) Media Notes by Howard Kurtz. In today’s column, Kurtz considers how politicians have already begun to whip their opposition with the WorldCom debacle, as if the Democrats or the Republicans had anything to do with deceptive accounting. The “blame game” is a shallow political tactic that, unfortunately, works when one side wins the battle of definitions. Politics is a language game. Who gets stuck with WorldCom will be determined by the side that spins it best. Never mind that the blame should actually go to corporate greed, something neither Democrats nor Republicans can control.

June 25, 2002

Gallup poll results for Bush Middle East speech…

Gallup Poll Analyses: Americans Likely to Back Bush’s Conditional Plan for Palestinian Statehood. Gallup polled Americans about Bush’s Middle East policy for three days before yesterday’s speech. I find this part interesting:

“Prior to Monday afternoon’s speech, it was not just Democrats saying that Bush’s Middle East policy was unclear. Republicans were evenly divided in their ratings, with only 47% saying the Bush administration had a clear and well thought out policy and 48% disagreeing. Democrats and independents were even more negative — roughly two thirds of each group said Bush’s Middle East policy lacks cohesion.”

Yesterday, I suggested this speech, relying common-sense argument, was aimed at an American audience likely to react well to its cultural appeal. I think the Gallup numbers demonstrate that the sound of common sense will temporarily bolster Bush’s approval rating and the perception of him as an effective leader on the world stage.

June 25, 2002

More on the Bush Middle east proposal…

Bush’s Uphill Climb (washingtonpost.com) Media Notes by Howard Kurtz. Round-up of news and press reaction to Bush’s proposals for peace in the Middle East.

June 24, 2002

The trouble with common sense arguments…

Bush outlined his vision for a Palestinian state today in a well-written, well-delivered speech that deserves admiration for the hope it encourages. Early in the speech, Bush says:

“My vision is two states, living side by side, in peace and security. There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet at this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope.”

This has the ring of good ol’ American common sense and the under tone of a head-slap and an “ah-ha!” Putting aside the past will, in fact, be the single hardest thing for Israel, the Palestinians, and the balance of the Arab world to do. Creating a workable government and economy for Palestine–as difficult as that will be to achieve–will be easy by comparison.

I’m left to wonder, then, who the real audience is for this speech. Bush suggests certain values and institutions to the Palestinians that are held in few cultures in the Middle East. And his words today, as stirring as they are for Americans, are not likely to stir Palestinian hearts. So I am left to suppose that Bush is speaking only to Americans, and our Western allies, and that this speech is mostly show.

This speech demonstrates the problem with common sense arguments. What is common sense for one group is pure folly, or worse, for another. I do not mean to suggest moral equivalence. Rather, even a culture in error or crisis holds its values dear. Americans will buy into the “common sense” of this speech. We should, instead, be questioning the credibility and effectiveness of the President’s vision.

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