October 31, 2003

Name dropping…

A supermarket tabloid has named Kobe Bryant’s accuser, and

Howard Kurtz
asks: "What, exactly, does blaring her name around America add
to our understanding of the case?"

This question only makes sense if we’re discussing a news organization, i.e.
one that produces journalism. This does not describe the Globe. Kurtz warns news
outlets about the pernicious practice of "reporting" what appears in supermarket
tabloids as news events. Reporting the name, by reporting that a tabloid
reported the name, makes the legitimate news organization no better than the

October 31, 2003

Big time fun…

October 30, 2003

Today on Radio Rhetorica…

Just in case you missed Radio Rhetorica today, Ben Gardner and I discussed:

1- The Charlie Reina
to Romenesko discussing an alleged memo circulated each morning at
FOX news outlining the day’s spin points.
PoliticalWire is
asking FOX employees to send an example. My take: If true, not surprising. And,
in any case, not particularly interesting because FOX has every right to spin
the news any way its owners and editors please. I prefer that they be a little
more forthcoming about it, but I understand and appreciate the rhetorical
effectiveness of "fair and balanced." Further, nearly every decision FOX editors
make can be explained by the structural
biases of journalism

2. The "Mission Accomplished" banner visible during President Bush’s address
from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. I wrote about this
yesterday. If I
were advising Bush at the time, I would have encouraged the banner’s use. But I
also would have prepped him for questions regarding it’s use. What he should
have said during the press conference: "You bet that was our banner. And we’re
proud of it, just as the fighting men and women of the Lincoln are proud of
completing their mission in service to America. Mission accomplished? Without
question. But more missions lie ahead, something I made clear on the deck that
day." How hard would that have been? But, then, perhaps Bush is correct; perhaps
his media people are not that "ingenious."

3. Howard Kurtz’s quote about what the press finds interesting in political
coverage from my post
earlier today

October 30, 2003

A moment of honesty…

Voters claim they dislike negative campaigning. But voters make choices based
on negative tactics. And, even more interesting, voters react negatively to
candidates who don’t hit back after an attack.

All of that sounds just a little irrational until you consider that it is a
natural reaction to the media environment, as described today by

Howard Kurtz

Sometimes, when the candidates aren’t playing the negativity game,
reporters do it for them. The media crave negativity because it makes for more
exciting stories ("Senator Smith slammed Congressman Jones yesterday, calling
him a boob and a bozo, as their war of words escalated."). So much more
interesting than the details of Wesley Clark’s child health insurance plan.

It is exactly the details of policy that will have very real effects on
citizens’ lives. But the media portrayal of the horse race encourages different
behavior from both voters and politicians. How might voters react to negative
attacks if most campaign reporting dealt with  policy? How might candidates
respond to a media environment in which the details of policy were more
important than the latest spin point?

One would think journalists would be embarrassed by Kurtz’s honest
description. But just the opposite is true.

October 30, 2003

Cry me a river…

Timothy Noah doesn’t want The New York Times to tell him what to feel about the victims of 9/11. He highlights
this conclusion to a
Dan Barry

The city will retain its records on the 40 names dropped from the list,
just in case new evidence develops. But with only three more open cases,
officials think that they are close to determining a final number of trade
center dead–somewhere, it seems, between 2,749 and 2,752.

How should that make us feel? The fewer the better, perhaps; the fewer the

And Noah says:

The "perhaps" seems a last-minute attempt to inject modesty into the
Times‘ instructions about the proper way
to react to the news it has just presented. But the sentence is insulting
nonetheless. Indeed, it makes the reader feel entirely superfluous: If the
Times knows how the reader is supposed to
emote about the facts just laid before him, why bother having readers at all?

I think this is over-writing by a columnist rather than the Times trying to
tell readers what or how to feel, although I agree that Noah’s interpretation is reasonable. This represents one man’s inability to tighten
his own creative reigns. Many reporters and columnists fancy themselves to be
in a sense beyond the mundane, utilitarian denotation of the word. For some, writer is something of a title.

The last line is more about writerly rhythm than content. That "perhaps" is
analogous to a pianist’s flourish of the hand at the end of a measure. As such,
I think it’s more about ethos than
, i.e. "Look at me! I can stick a great ending!"

October 29, 2003

Message control, part 642…

So the “Mission Accomplished” banner was a Navy thing? Perhaps. But it framed the picture of the president by White House approval–guaranteed. There is no such thing as a presidential message, given at an event controlled by the White House, that isn’t scripted down to the color of Bush’s tie. Bush said of the banner:

“I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff–they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.”

October 29, 2003

Letter from Nigeria…

Blogger Rabbit hosts this week’s Carnival of the Vanities, including a humorous Nigerian spam spoof as introduction.

October 29, 2003

Missing in cyberspace…

Jay Rosen
discusses the missing Siegal Report–the account of the internal
investigation into the Jayson Blair affair at The New York Times. The new Times
ombudsman, Daniel Okrent, should urge the paper to re-post the .pdf file. Rosen
offers commentary on nine major points from the report.

UPDATE (6:40 p.m.): The Siegal Report is again available from The New York Times. Thanks to Jay Rosen.

October 29, 2003

The vision thing…

George Lakoff, in
recent interview
, concludes that Democrats have not created an effective
conceptual frame to articulate party values. Indeed this lack of frame–an
effective articulation–is the same as a lack of values:

Right now the Democrat Party is into marketing. They pick a number of
issues like prescription drugs and Social Security and ask which ones sell
best across the spectrum, and they run on those issues. They have no moral
perspective, no general values, no identity. People vote their identity, they
don’t just vote on the issues, and Democrats don’t understand that.

He has written an excellent book on the topic called

Moral Politics
. And he has done landmark work in the study of the human
conceptual system with writing partner Mark Johnson (Metaphors
We Live By

Philosophy in the Flesh
). With the creation of the
Rockridge Institute, Lakoff is
moving his intellectual work into political activism.

His contention: Democrats must reframe public debate to create balance in
civic discourse from a progressive perspective and to create a frame for
the central ideas of progressive thought from a moral perspective.

This is exactly the work that Lakoff argues Republicans have done well over
the past 25 to 30 years. Republicans have "the vision thing."

October 28, 2003

Freedom of the press…

The second World
Press Freedom Ranking
, published by
Reporters Without
, strikes me as a waste of time. I certainly think freedom of the
press is an important world issue, but I do not think this list has much merit.
And my assessment has little to do with the ludicrously low U.S. ranking.

The rankings are based on survey data (opinions), not on policy analysis of
socio-political practice (although opinions of same may be involved in the
survey). The JWB fails to provide us with the names of respondents or a copy of
the survey. Without this information, this list falls into question because
there is no way to judge it. Or, rather, there’s no way to take it seriously
until such information is forthcoming.

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