December 31, 2003

See you next year!…

I’m taking a short break from blogging. I need to relax a little bit before the new semester begins. I won’t be doing any work of any kind for the next few days. I’ll return on Monday, 5 January. See you then. And have a Happy New Year!

December 30, 2003

The year in political blogging…

Yadda, yadda, yadda. USA Today discovers that political blogs have some clout. Round up the usual suspects.

December 30, 2003

The year in rhetoric…

No, not really. I dislike year-end lists. And I would especially dislike one that attempted to wrap up the meanings of particular rhetorical strategies or performances by journalists and politicians. Such performances are always open to reinterpretation as events and contexts change.

But, if you need a good list fix, I suppose the top-ten word lists from yourDictionary.com are as good as any.

December 29, 2003

Non-media message mediation…

Political Wire links to many articles and comments about the birth of the political weblog–a tool of grassroots communication between politician and voter.

While I think the use of weblogs as tools of political communication is generally a good thing, just because the news media isn’t mediating the communication does not mean that such weblogs are unmediated.

December 29, 2003

Whose context?…

David Shaw doesn’t like reading newspapers on the internet. He misses the feel of print. I have to agree with him there. But I find this next assertion interesting and troubling:

Most of all, I miss the context

December 29, 2003

The citizen’s job? Shut up and watch…

What is the job of a political reporter? For the obvious answer, read today’s campaign analysis by Dan Balz.

I cannot find a single sentence in this long article that is politically useful for voters, i.e. any statement that helps voters make a political choice based on civic concerns. This article represents what political coverage has become: entertainment. The job, then, of a political reporter is to chronicle the inside action of a campaign for the entertainment of readers who watch politics as a sport.

For example, Balz writes:

The questions surrounding Dean’s candidacy include his experience and temperament, whether he has political appeal beyond the core of party activists, whether he can win votes in the South, his ability to handle tough scrutiny and whether he can bring together Democrats after what is turning into a tough battle with his rivals.

If we’re talking political coverage as entertainment, this outlines the central narrative of the Dean campaign as political insiders see it, or as political insiders want the public to see it. But notice that with the exception of questions about Dean’s experience, none of these insider questions are politically useful. What does Dean’s ability to win votes in the South have to do with the cost of health care, problems in education, security at home and abroad, or the environment?

Exactly what information are voters using to make up their minds?

Lester: Well, Edna, who ya gonna vote fer in the primary?
Edna: Well, I ‘spect I’ll be votin’ fer Howard Dean.
Lester: How come?
Edna: ‘Cuz the newspaper sez he appeals to core party activists.
Lester: Uh-huh.

I’m sure Lester and Edna find it difficult to participate in politics when it is portrayed as so far removed from their lives. The rhetoric of political journalism tells them that their role is spectator, not participant.

What if it were the job of a reporter to report on political experience, past performance (i.e. governance), issues of character, and (especially!) specifics of proposed policies? What if it were the job of a political reporter to be aware of voters’ concerns and put such questions to candidates so that these concerns are addressed? (via Political Wire)

December 27, 2003

Holiday schedule for Rhetorica…

In the spirit of spending more time with my family and less time with my computer this holiday season, here’s a (slightly edited) repeat of some information from last week:

1) Posting will be lighter than usual for the next two weeks. I will take a short break between New Years and 6 January.

2) I’m very busy with two new class preparations: Liberal Studies 301 Contemporary Issues and Humanities 211 Introduction to the Humanities (online). You can check out the details on my faculty site. I’d be happy to hear any suggestions you may have, especially for the book list for LS301.

Check back on Monday!

December 25, 2003

Happy Holidays!…

Wishing you all the best this holiday season.
Thanks for reading Rhetorica.

December 23, 2003

What I want for Christmas…

Dear Santa:

I’ve been a good boy this year. I have tried very hard to do all of my chores the best that I can. I try to work and play well with others. I know I’ve made a few mistakes this year. And there were times when I forgot the Golden Rule. But I think you can see that I’ve tried to be very good and work very hard.

Here’s a list of what I want for Christmas this year:

1) I’d like journalists to start asking the presidential candidates questions that spring from the concerns of real voters and not just what the reporters and campaign professionals think is important. In addition, I’d like them to ask tough follow-up questions when the candidates attempt to dodge.

2) I’d like the talking-head TV pundits to shut up. America can’t hear itself think.

3) I’d like at least 5 Democrats to pull out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.

4) I’d like at least one journalist to take seriously my contentions about the press-politics of primary campaigns based on the Mayer predictive model.

5) I’d like the chattering classes to realize that, unlike most pundits, average Americans do not routinely polarize and demonize their friends and neighbors of opposite political opinion.

6) I’d like American higher education to stop exploiting academic labor.

7) I’d like world peace and international brotherhood, or the closest approximation of same that is humanly possible given our seemingly insurmountable cultural differences and our miserable ability to recognize our common humanity.

Thanks, Santa. I know you can do it. I believe in you!

December 22, 2003

This Bud’s for you…

David Shaw rounds up 10 low points in journalism for 2003. It is an instructive list and worth your time to read. But…

We could also construct a list of positives. And perhaps we should because each day the average American journalist does far more good for the American republic than bad.

The bad stuff of journalism, like all bad stuff, simply gets more press (there’s irony for you). But the good job so many individual reporters do–usually working with too little time and too few resources and too little recognition–gets lost in the coverage of high-profile shenanigans.

I am a former journalist. I am now an academic and a media critic. And while I take many shots at my former profession on this weblog, let me say this: I have enormous respect for reporters and the institution of journalism in America. It is a terribly complex profession practiced for the most part by men and women who go to work every day with the best intentions for their communities.

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