Friday, October 22, 2004

I Got a Comment!

Do you know what that means? I had a reader. A real live reader. And an interested one at that.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've had readers before. Lots of them. But then I forgot about this blog thing. And they forgot about me.

But this new reader. This mystery reader is, well, just that. A mystery. Snorri. Now that's a name! And a name I've heard before. How odd is that? Do you know any Snorri's? Actually, I don't either. It was just a friend's userID. But this isn't them, I'm quite sure of it. hmm.

But to get around to my point and follow up on the last post. To clarify- how should the media go about repeating themselves?

Pete Jennings and ABC should re-run the top of the newscast that Pete Jennings and ABC ran that day a year ago. Ditto- double ditto- for Fox News.

There's a particular shame to this entire idea. It's easy to do. A website could deliver this service to the interested in a jiff. Or they could go the Lexis route. But this fails to achieve everything I want achieved for it only, effectively, is consumed by those who are already on board with the core idea. The vast majority will not experience the lesson.

As an aside, in a sentence: the core idea here is that our media operate on a free float which is troublesome in its own right but caustic when manipulable.

I see two or three classes of students in this project.

First are the politicians. Quite simply, they would be constrained in switching the theme of their utterances. It wasn't about the weapons, it was about the oil for food program... etc. This would be called out as crap. I aspire only to increasing the degree of difficulty, not reforming the political class. Make them earn their graft.

Second are the journalists themselves. They are lazy in an important way. They do try to get the story right but- and I suspect this is getting worse with the accelerated news cycle- understand that they can always get it more right the next time around. In the specific instance of the run-up to the Iraq War, The Washington Post has gone back and critiqued its pre-war coverage. Their determination- the Post's reporting was lacking. Same tale for the New York Times (in May). For too long in between, too many readers were left with a false understanding of reality. If reporters were more regularly faced with their prior shortcomings, the hope is they would learn or be encouraged to get it more right the first time. This is the theory behind such ventures as Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk and the Neiman WatchDog.

Change that and let's see Rather squirm as he reads last year's 'news'.

How do we apply that type of check to television news as well? Their product- video tape- is less likely to be seen after the fact which arguably diminishes the usefulness of a retrospective assessment. I deem the transgressions of TV journalism to be particularly egregious because of the impermanence of their work. The story is broadcast and, except for the die-hard or gaffe hungry, never seen again. To be incendiary- hit and run journalism when it's done without due regard and diligence. Instead they ought be confronted by a mirror. Forced to watch what they reported previously, I suspect they would do a better job in the future. And if not, their viewers would be given further reason to be suspicious of their reporting (to the extent that they are inconsistent).

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