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Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Bloggers and the MSM
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:33 am

There is something rather disingenuous about the following NYT piece: Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign.

What I find problematic is that it suggests that the print and broadcast media never, ever use press releases to write their stories and that they always and forevermore release all information regarding the influences that have gone into their work.

This is, of course, absurd.

The real story here, it seems to me, isn’t the disclosure habits of bloggers, but the overall fact that an actor the size of Wal*Mart sees blogging as a legitimate and worthwhile vehicle for information dissemination (and, yes, spin). Indeed, I myself have noted the degree to which members of Congress saw the blogosphere as a place to fight part of the House Majority Leader battle and publishers and filmmakers are increasingly using blogs to get their products seen by the public.

That’s the real story here, not some bloggers, *gasp* linked to some stories in the same order that some Wal*Mart rep e-mailed them to him.

I would agree that clear disclosure makes a great deal of sense, and some of the practices described in the piece are sloppy and not the way I would have handled it.

Still, the NYT seem more interested in trying to use the piece to slap down the amateurish bloggers than to get to the heart of the real story, which is the evolution of blogging, the pending death of which has been highly exaggerated.

On a personal note, I would point out that James Joyner, a blogger who has written on the Wal*Mart situation, and has received information from the sources cited in the NYT piece has long held the views he has espoused on on his blog, and at TCS, on this topic. Having known him well before either us knew what a blog was (and having had ample opportunity to discuss Wal*Mart, as we both lived in a small town at the time), I can attest to the fact that whatever tips he has received has hardly colored his views.

Indeed, like is often the case with interest groups and members of congress, smart lobbyists seek out those already sympathetic to their views, rather than trying to flip someone opposed to them.

Speaking of James, he has a lengthy round of reaction to the NYT piece Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in Its Public Relations Campaign » Outside The Beltway | OTB“>here.

Filed under: Blogging, MSM, The Press | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Bloggers, Flacks, and Media Ethics Redux
Below The Beltway linked with Wal-Mart, Blogging, And Public Relations
Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in Its Public Relations Campaign
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Congressmen Reading Blogs linked with [...] ead by nine members of Congress. Interesting to see, and falls in line with my main point in my Wal*Mart PR post from the other day. Filed under: US Politics, Blogging | [...]
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Fun with Typos
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:37 pm


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Saturday, February 18, 2006
Grains of Salt
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:21 pm

Whenever I read something that really sounds unlikely, especially if it is something that is going to make one side of the aisle jump up and say “a-HA!”—then it usually means taking said info with a grain of salt (if not a shaker). This is especially true when the source isn’t a known quantity, such as The Daily Times of Pakistan. So when I saw this via Memeorandum this morning, I was a bit suspicious: Clinton urges EU to convict publishers of caricatures

Former US president Bill Clinton on Friday condemned the publication of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) caricatures by European newspapers and urged countries concerned to convict the publishers.

The former president is hardly my favorite, but that just didn’t seem to be at all likely for any US president to say. Indeed, when I read the BBC version, and it made no mention of what would be a radical statement, I figured that the Pakistani paper had gotten it wrong, whether on purpose or not, who can say?

Mark in Mexico had the same reaction, and checked numerous stories to find no other references to the alleged comment. McQ at QandO looked at the available video and saw nothing even close to the quote, although notes a possible place for a mistranslation.

Of course, all of this reinforces why I don’t trust WorldNetDaily: WorldNetDaily: Clinton in Pakistan: Convict cartoon publishers. Indeed, WND seems to frequently post too-sensational-to-be-true stories that no one else reports.

Filed under: Global Politics, MSM | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here linked with What's Bill Clinton Running For?
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Noonan, Cheney and Templates
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:12 am

Today in the WSJ Peggy Noonan notes that the Cheney accidental shooting story isn’t really going to wholly go away in the same way that other, in many ways inconsequential stories about other politicians have lingered:

The Dick Cheney shooting incident will, in a way, go away. And, in a way, not-ever. Some things stick. Gerry Ford had physically stumbled only once or twice in public when he became, officially, The Stumbler. Mr. Ford’s stumbles seemed to underscore a certain lack of sure-footedness in his early policies and other decisions. The same with Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit. At the time Mr. Carter told the story of a wild rabbit attacking his boat he had already come to be seen by half the country as weak and unlucky. Even bunnies took him on.

Same with Dick Cheney. He’s been painted as the dark force of the administration, and now there’s a mental picture to go with the reputation.

Neal Gabler, Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center and regular panelist on Fox News Watch, likes (ok, loves) to talk about media “templates” that get applied to stories and analysis in the mass media. He notes that the media tend to be lazy and operate in herd-like fashion. Certainly he has a point, and clearly such templates affect (and are affected by) general public perceptions.

In regards to Cheney, the template has long been that he is mean, secretive, an elitist and is part of an administration that sees itself as above the law.

Without any debate on the merits of the elements of that template, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the duck hunting story fits it perfectly.

When an event so readily converges with the prevailing notions of person, it reinforces existing stereotypes, and no amount of grousing about the fairness of that fact will stop that reinforcement. And the situation is strengthened when there are partisan element to the affair.

Not only are Noonan’s examples of Ford and Carter apt, but think about Gore and Kerry.

Gore acquired the label of a truth-stretcher and Kerry of a flip-flopper. The template in both cases rose to the point that any hint of the expected behaviors were amplified. A key example would be Kerry’s “I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it” quote. Now, that was a huge political gaffe—indeed, a gift-wrapped sound bite for Rove & Co. Still, the resonance of the statement was radically amplified by the fact that Kerry had already been established as a Super Waffler.

Now, pro-Kerry partisans could explain it all away when plausible explanations of the nature of votes in the Senate, or simply not see the damaging nature of the quote in the first place. Nevertheless, the damage was done.

Of course, one could go on and on. How about Dan Quayle? Misspell a few words and you’re doomed (at least if the population already is questioning your intelligence).

While I am not sure that this incident will lead, as Noonan suggests it might, to the replacement of Cheney—although I do agree with her, it is almost certainly a thought that has flitted across the minds of some in the White House.

At any rate, I expect this story to have a lingering effect on Cheney’s (and the White House’s) image.

As such, to treat this story as simply a normal hunitng accident that has not relevance beyond a hyperactive press is to miss the realy signifiance of the event. A mistake, for example, that Thomas Sowell makes in his column on the subject.

Filed under: US Politics, MSM | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, January 16, 2006
Analyzing the Alito Transcripts
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:34 am

WaPo gets out the ol’ “search” function in Word and give us some counts: I, I, Sir: The Alito Hearings, Annotated.

Here’s shocker:

But one thing united lawmakers on both sides: reverence for the first person. Republicans used the “I” word 1,180 times. Democrats used it 1,123 times. Combined, they used it well more than the nominee, who said “I” 1,907 times.

Generically I find much of the commentary on the contents of the hearing to be somewhat vacuous-insofar as everyone seems shocked, shocked!! that Alito was cautious and that the Senators were egotistical.

Given that the purpose of the hearings for the nominee is to say as little as possible and emerge confirmable, and the goal for the Senators is to score political points, can any other outcome be expected?

Basic conditions and the incentive structures that they create shape behavior. How hard is this to understand?

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Thursday, January 12, 2006
A Busy Retirement
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:17 pm

Via the AP: Ted Koppel Joining NPR

He will provide weekly commentary.

This in additional to becoming an occasional contributor for the NYT op/ed page and his new work for Discovery Channel.

Still, he won’t have to stay up as late.

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Friday, January 6, 2006
By Steven L. @ 9:29 am

Patternico and his reaction to the LA Times’ columnist revealing him to be a Stalinist for pointing out errors of the paper.

That, my friends, is what we call a good old-fashioned whippin’.

Michael Hiltzik is a columnist for the LA Times. On his blog, sponsored by the paper, he states the following:

Frey has several qualities in common with many other right-wing bloggers who have set themselves up as watchdogs of what they categorize, self-revealingly, as the “mainstream media.” . . . None of these critics appears to be genuinely interested in correcting factual errors or improving this newspaper’s, or any newspaper’s, performance as a journalistic institution, which are certainly legitimate goals. Their main purpose is to hunt down deviations from a political orthodoxy that they themselves define. Their techniques include a promiscuous use of labels as shorthand slurs (”leftist” and “liberal” being, of course, their most popular denigrations). They no doubt find this technique valuable because once they can hang a label on a newspaper or a journalist, they can dispense with anything so fundamental as discussion or argument.

So “right-wing bloggers” use labels so that they can dispense with anything so fundamental as discussion. Because labeling is wrong — unless you are correctly labeling right-wing bloggers, of course. But couldn’t we find a better label that “right-wing blogger”?

(hmmm. Despite what all the other columnists are saying, “right-wing blogger” might not sound ominous enough . . . .wait — I know)

To back up their assertions, they often quote articles selectively, take out of context what they do quote, and ascribe imaginary motivations to reporters and editors, which they then feel free to decry. As any student of history knows, these are tools and techniques that were used to great effect during the Stalinist show trials of the 40s and 50s.

Stalinist. Yes, perfect. Blogging is exactly like Soviet-era show trials.

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Sunday, January 1, 2006
One of my Pet Peeves
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:41 am

Doris Kearns Goodwin was on MTP this morning, and did that thing that drives me nuts when historians do when they are on TV: and that is reduce analysis of the current era to quotations and anecdotes from presidents past. Today it has been Lincoln and FDR (oddly, not JFK refs of any significance today).

Usually the quotation is followed by a knowing smile about how cleverly the quotation explains how things are/how things should be.

Why is that TV chat shows have presidential historians on, rather than political scientists who specialize in the presidency? Surely the latter would have more useful things to say about the contemporary White House. It isn’t as if the institution really is the same today as it was in the 1860s-or even, for that matter, the 1940s.

Of course, I have griped about this before (here and here).

And while I often pick on DKG, I am sure she is a nice person and would be interesting to have a chat with, but enough with the analysis by historical analogy, already. (Although I have to say, I remain nonplussed over her plagiarism problem-and we all now how I feel about plagiarism).

Filed under: US Politics, Academia, MSM | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Oh, Those Awful Bloggers
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:42 am

Kathleen Parker takes on blogging in her latest column, which includes the following paragraph:

There’s something frankly creepy about the explosion we now call the Blogosphere - the big-bang “electroniverse” where recently wired squatters set up new camps each day. As I write, the number of “blogs” (Web logs) and “bloggers”(those who blog) is estimated in the tens of millions worldwide.

I always find such pronouncements by persons who are entrenched part of the traditional press (in this case, a syndicated columnist) to be self-serving and odd, not to mention usually ill-informed.

I could go on, but James Joyner has already done it for me. So: what he said.

(Ok, I lied-read James, but I couldn’t resist further commentary)

I will say that as a social scientist I also find the kind of gross generalities that she engages in are most annoying. To conflate the entire Blogosphere into millions of roughly co-equal parts is simply silly, as anyone who know anything about blogging knows. Plus, in terms of comparability (and this is a point Joyner makes as well) there have been no bloggers who could be logically compared to Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, Eason Jordan or Judith Miller. If one is going to engage in comparative analysis, one has to figure out whether one has truly comparable data or not.

Along those same lines, she mixes type by comparing reporters to commentators. On balance, blogging is about commentary and analysis, not reporting. As such, direct comparisons between top bloggers and reporters for top newspapers is a malformed comparison.

And if one is going to make generalized conclusions such as follows, then it might be useful to name names, rather than make nebulous charges:

we should beware and resist the rest of the ego-gratifying rabble who contribute only snark, sass and destruction.

We can’t silence them, but for civilization’s sake - and the integrity of information by which we all live or die - we can and should ignore them.

Are there annoying, vicious bloggers? Oh, yes. Of course, in some cases, the venom is in the eye of the partisan. Of course, there are some pretty obnoxious TV pundit and talk radio hosts. Kos says some pretty mean, obnoxious things about his partisan foes, but then again, so do folks like Al Franken and Rush Limbaugh. What’s the difference, aside from the medium in which the the statement are being made?

And from the middle of the piece is this odd statement:

What Golding demonstrated - and what we’re witnessing as the Blogosphere’s offspring multiply - is that people tend to abuse power when it is unearned and will bring down others to enhance themselves.

No blogger has an automatic audience. One has to work to get readership and we all started with zero readers per hour, day or week, unless we had some claim to media fame pre-blogging (e.g., Michelle Malkin as a columnist, Hugh Hewitt as a talk show host). One of the virtues of the Blogosphere is that it as close to a perfect marketplace of ideas as once can create. Everyone can speak and if one has something interesting to say, and one works hard, one will get noticed. As such, the only ones with any “power” have earned it.

Ultimately, this column really doesn’t make much sense. I think we would all agree that there are rude, nasty bloggers-and I, on balance, avoid them. However, since Parker doesn’t name names or give specific examples, I am not rally sure what she is getting at. If she is referring to the fact that there are popular sites, like Daily Kos and LGF that often engage in partisan invective, fine: say so. However, I remain unconvinced that this is the domain solely of blogs. There is plenty of partisan invective via print, TV and radio.

Filed under: Blogging, MSM | Comments (7) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

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A Knight’s Blog » Those Mean Ol’ Bloggers linked with [...] nist Kathleen Parker takes blogs to task. As a result, James Joyner takes Parker to task (as do I). No Comments » No comments yet. RSS [...]
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Time’s People of the Year
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:52 pm

Via CNN: - Time names Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates Persons of Year. Here’s the Time story itself.

As a commenter at Balloon Juice noted, really it would seem that “their Thing of the Year is Charity.”

And, I must confess, that’s not a bad thing.

Still, I must also confess that my response to the choice was not unlike that of Michelle Malkin who termed the choices to be “lame.” (I will say that Malkin is off the mark in her critique of Melinda Gates’ inclusion, as it is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, after all).

Still, it seems to me that the Person/Persons of the Year should represent something significant about the year in question. I don’t recall Bono or the Gates being key players this year, or that their philanthropy was especially noteworthy in 2005.

It seems to me that that voters of Iraq, or Mother Nature, would have been far better choices. Heck, even Zarqawi would have been a possible choice (given that the PoY isn’t always a positive honor).

Although I think that I would have voted for “Mother Nature”-was there a bigger story in 2005 than Katrina? (Not to mention the year started with the immediate aftermath of the tsunamis and there was the Pakistani earthquake and the general preponderance of hurricanes). Indeed, Katrina could have been the Person of the Year.

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You Big Mouth, You! » Time’s Person of the Year linked with [...] s, Stingy List, Original writing, Commentary — Chuck Simmins Poliblog points out this story. Time picks three very rich people as their person[s] of the year. For their giving, of course. I [...]
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
More on the MSNBC Ads
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:26 pm

It appears that this humble blog is one of 800 that MSNBC is using for its ad blitz.

Via the NYT: To Promote a Cable Network, a Plan to Inundate the Internet

Val Nichols, vice president for the creative services group at MSNBC, estimated the campaign would get 114 million viewings in total. Among the 800 blogs that will run the ads are Adrants, Althouse, Curbed, Daily Kos, Gothamist, IndieWire, Largehearted Boy, Talking Points Memo and TV Newser. Buying ads on 800 blogs is a major commitment to that fledgling medium.

And as of a little while ago, the neon chick had been replaced by Elvis pumping gas.

And they wonder why MSNBC is in third.

Maybe they should hire Dan Reeves.

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Inside Online Advertising linked with BlogAds Takes Ad Order For 800 Blogs From MSNBC (Update 2)
Monday, December 12, 2005
The Ad
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:21 am

As some have already noted, the MSNBC blogad that started running two days ago has morphed into a new form, advertising now for an upcoming episode of Rita Cosby’s show on internet porn. I shifted the two ads so one isn’t immediately assaulted by the neon silhouette. Since the program airs on the 14th and the ad runs to the 17th, I shudder to think what it will morph into next!

Filed under: Blogging, MSM, Cable News | Comments (8) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Newmark on Woodward
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:44 pm

Yup, that about sums it up.

In all seriousness, I have been having a hard time mustering the energy to delve deeply into the Woodward/Plame story. However, that which I have read, especially the commentary side of things has really struck me in the sense that it was just a couple of months ago that Woodward was the darling of the media for his courageous ability to have kept Mark Felt’s secret for all these years. Now, because he kept another secret about another source he’s a bum?

Rather remarkable, really. Indeed, it is remarkable regardless of what one thinks about the Plame investigation.

Filed under: Criminal Justice, MSM, The Press | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
When Newspaper Reporters Write in Gross Generalities
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:42 am

David Carr has an odd column in the NYT about Gawker and some crime story I am unaware of: When Bloggers Joke About the Unfunny.

I can’t disagree with the basic criticism of the facts presented-this doesn’t seem like the kind of thing to make jokes about, but gee whiz, it’s Gawker. To generalized in any way about blogs via Gakwer is to generalize about print media from Page Six.

Jeff Jarvis, quoted in the story, has some interesting back story and analysis of the piece itself here.

The degree to which Carr inserts all the basic MSM criticisms of blogs into this column is remarkable.

  • There’s the “but blogs aren’t permanent like print” argument:

    But because blogs can be amended or erased, the people who write them tend not to be held to account.

    First off, I have been reading blogs quite steadily for over two and a half years and have witnessed practically no erasure to avoid embarrassment. Indeed, bloggers tend to be pack-rats when it comes to their words, keeping all them, sometimes perhaps when they shouldn’t have (not to mention Google caches and the fact that other bloggers have a tendency to take screen captures and such if something is especially noteworthy).

    But second, and more importantly, an error made on “permanent” newsprint is usually forgotten by the next day. As I have noted before, bloggers tend to go back and made visible, lasting corrections to their errors-blog errors, especially big ones, are usually published ont he front page. The NYT doesn’t go back and fix the Lexis/Nexis archives of their stuff0they just print correction, if they even do that, in a place in the paper where no one looks.

    Further: make a serious error (or a not so serious one) as a blogger and see how quickly you are corrected.

  • The above quote also contains the: “you don’t have editors” argument.

    Look, I’d love someone to come and double-check my spelling and grammar, and I will confess to the fact that I typically am quick about my blogging. However, as noted above, to state that bloggers, especially ones with any kind of audience at all, aren’t held accountable is ludicrous. It is especially ludicrous coming from an newspaper that employed Jasyon Blair and Judith Miller.

  • And, of course, there’s the “you aren’t real journalists” argument:
    A generation of Web writers - many of them excellent and genuinely hilarious - sees the world and its travails through a hail of nasty e-mail messages, tips and other blogs. That’s a different job than leaving the computer screen to interview the mother of an eight-year-old who has been run over by a car. Ms. Coen of Gawker and some of her fellow bloggers are fond off pointing out that they are not reporters, which explains everything and excuses nothing.

    This strikes me as MSM insecurity coming through. Most bloggers don’t claim to be reporters (and many who do have an inflated view of themselves). Mostly we are commentators (ironically, that is what Carr is doing here: commenting). Also, the Gawker stuff wasn’t sold as first-person reporting. As such, the Gawker thing really appears to have been nothing more than a pretense to slam blogs, even given Carr’s proviso at the end of the sentence.

    Indeed, how is Carr’s column really any different than a blog post? The reporting in the story consists of him reading news stories and a blog and this generates his essay. Sounds pretty bloggy to me…

As a side note: is it just me, or this all a pretty NYC-centric story to begin with?

Filed under: Blogging, Criminal Justice, MSM, The Press | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, November 14, 2005
Sully Goes in-house
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:07 am

The exact details are sketchy, but Andre Sullivan’s blog in about to become more integrated with

I won’t be a Time staffer; I will retain ownership of my URL - This is a lease, not a sale. It’s possible that at some point in the future, the blog could move again (although I certainly hope to stay at Time indefinitely).

Basically he will be Time’s Kausfiles.

Congrats to Sully.

I guess that means no more pledge drives…

Filed under: Blogging, MSM | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Harshly Mellow linked with [...] , 2005 Time Has Come for Sully ~~ Zeuswood at 10:47 am~~ As noted by Steven Taylor and James Joyner, Andrew Sullivan is taking his blog under Time's roof. It soun [...]
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