Maegan Carberry: How Bing and Twitter Can Save Journalism

This commentary was originally posted at CauseCast.org.

If you Google the "demise of journalism," some 718,000 results will appear detailing the transition of consumers to the Internet, the decline of advertising revenue, the hacking of newsroom editorial staffs, the artificial knowledge of crowd-sourced information, and the collective threat to intellectualism and civic responsibility. Usually fingers are pointed at culprits from spineless newspaper publishers to free community classifieds on Craigslist to aggregator sites like The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post. What doesn't get enough attention in these conversations, however, is the component that will have the greatest impact on whether the imperative concept of "news judgment" survives the New Media Revolution: search engine optimization.

Last Wednesday marked a major milestone in the future of journalism when two critical events shook up the status quo in the world of search. First, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced a partnership deal that will make the former's new search engine, Bing, the official search function for all Yahoo! sites. Second, and more subtly, Twitter launched a redesign of its home page (be logged out to view) that prominently features search functionality, encouraging users to "share and discover what's happening right now, anywhere in the world" in its new tag line. The emergence of Bing and Twitter mark the first formidable competitors to Google, which until now has monopolized the market on search, and thus the diversity of thought in journalism's Internet era.

If thoughtful citizens used to seek out essential news prioritized for them by experienced editors on the front page of a paper or the home page of a web site or the lead segment of a broadcast, that process has now become more haphazard. The Internet's artificial intelligence does that for us, with and without our input. As personally-compiled RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, selective link surfing and search queries have replaced the traditional entry points to consuming news, the onus of deciding what's important now falls on the individual himself, or in many cases is thrown to the wisdom of the crowd on Digg and Google trends. This means we've all become reliant on Google's algorithm that pulls up search results and determines a story's popularity, and if our favorite, most reliable news outlets aren't up to snuff on 2009's hottest SEO tactics we're likely not going to encounter their important work. It will be lost, buried on the 50th page of search results behind whatever messages an expert in metadata (the keyword language the algorithm speaks) has designed for us.

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Mother Finds Her Seven-Month-Old Son For Sale On Craigslist (VIDEO)

You can find just about anything for sale on Craigslist, even, as one Massachusetts family discovered to their horror, your own baby. After receiving a tip that her son was being presented as a "cute baby boy" in the ad, the child's mother did some detective work and uncovered what appears to be an international adoption scam. KCRA.com has the details:

Brennan decided to play detective and sent an e-mail to the address listed. She quickly received a picture in her inbox.


"The picture he sends you is a picture of Jake," Brennan said. "It was horrifying. I never would have thought in a million years that I would have the emotional reaction that I did."

The e-mail claimed her son is Canadian born and living at an orphanage in Cameroon and said that for $300 she could begin the adoption process.

Watch a video report on the incident:


Jane Hamsher: How Come CBS Journalists Can’t Recognize Paid Lobbyists When They See Them?

If you got your information from Wyatt Andrews on CBS News last night, you would believe that "angry protesters" are cropping up "everywhere Democrats are trying to defend health care reform."  You would think that "conservative websites" like Freedomworks are organizing these ordinary Americans, based on "real fear over the increased taxes" and "government control" of the health care system.  

Max Pappas from Freedomworks shows up to speak on their behalf.

Freedomworks isn't some "organic grassroots" outfit.  It's run by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey --  corporate lobbyist, global warming denier and ladies' man.   The President and CEO of Freedomworks is Matt Kibbe, who was trained by Lee Atwater.  Kibbe was behind the attempt to get Ralph Nader put on the ballot in Oregon in 2004, prompting a complaint to the FEC of illegal collusion with the GOP.

Steve Forbes is on the FreedomWorks board. As Paul Krugman noted, their money comes from the Koch, Scaife, Bradley, Olin nexus, as well as other reliable funders of right wing infrastructure including Exxon Mobil

Freedomworks has a long history of skunk works. In 2004, a woman who identified herself as a "single mother" in Iowa, Sandra Jacques, appeared at a George Bush town hall and gushed about his plan to privatize Social Security. She left out the part about being an employee of Freedomworks, who were lobbying on the issue at the time.

David Koch is also Chairman of the other major outfit heavily involved in these "organic" uprisings, Americans for Prosperity, whose members lynched Democrat Frank Kratovil in effigy.  Koch is  the 19th richest man in the world.  They recently renamed the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center the David H. Koch Theater.

These aren't just some organizations that these guys gave money to.  They run them.  

This extreme violent behavior is being organized and funded by those at the highest levels of the conservative infrastructure.  It's not some sideline, some quirky hobby.  It is the function and purpose of these organizations to threaten and intimidate elected officials in order to subvert the will of the electorate to a corporate agenda. 

As DDay says, "This is not about policy. It's about incitement to violence."

The country overwhelmingly does not trust the private insurance industry.  Even internal GOP polls show that 58% of Republicans support "creating a government run health insurance agency that will compete with private insurance companies," as do 76% of the American public

According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, there are 52 million Americans currently without health insurance.  We are a country in crisis.  If the government cannot respond by delivering a public plan with a President who campaigned on creating one, a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate,  a Speaker of the House who has committed to doing so and majority support in both parties among the public, then we do not live in a representative democracy any more.  The country is ungovernable.

And that is in large part because organizations like CBS and the New York Times do not report the news when it is right in front of them. They pass off these transparent lobbyist funded thuggery as a grassroots effort.  They do not say who is organizing these violent uprisings, or what the objective is of those who are funding them -- which has nothing to with the public's "fear" of "government control" over the health care system.  These media outlets are playing a critical role by telling the country that its people believe something that they don't.  When David M. Herszenhorn and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times refer to them simply as "loose-knit coalition of conservative voters and advocacy groups," they are helping to pass off blatant propaganda as news.

It is to "journalism" what David H. Koch is to "grassroots."

Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com


Tauzin’s Pharma Lobbying Efforts “Blessed” By White House

In today’s Los Angeles Times Tom Hamburger reports on the extent to which former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin has managed to integrate himself, and the interests of the lobbying group he heads — the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) — into the health care debate. The Times piece practices a studied neutrality, but I can’t see how any proponent of meaningful health care reform can possibly read this piece and not conclude that President Barack Obama has essentially given away the store:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama lambasted drug companies and the influence they wielded in Washington. He even ran a television ad targeting the industry’s chief lobbyist, former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin, and the role Tauzin played in preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices.

Since the election, Tauzin has morphed into the president’s partner. He has been invited to the White House half a dozen times in recent months. There, he says, he eventually secured an agreement that the administration wouldn’t try to overturn the very Medicare drug policy that Obama had criticized on the campaign trail.

“The White House blessed it,” Tauzin said.

Yikes! What’s been blessed? Something that reeks with the acrid aroma of a Faustian bargain. The pharamaceutical industry “has pledged $80 billion in cost savings over 10 years to help pay for it.” What did Tauzin get in return?

For his part, Tauzin said he had not only received the White House pledge to forswear Medicare drug price bargaining, but also a separate promise not to pursue another proposal Obama supported during the campaign: importing cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe. Both proposals could cost the industry billions, undermine its ability to develop new cures and, in the case of imports, possibly compromise safety, industry officials contend.

Of course, Medicare drug price bargaining is precisely the sort of thing that would benefit actual health care customers. In essence, this reads as a deal by which corporate interests help to hurdle the political obstacle of deficit cost control without creating an effective bill. The White House can claim credit for “reform,” while alleviating the actual health care impact on families gets kicked down the road, once again.

PhRMA has spent huge sums of money lobbying Congress for a health care bill that will ensure their profitability. In the first quarter of this year, Tauzin’s outfit spent $6,910,000 in pursuit of the bill they wanted. They matched that amount in the second quarter with another $6,150,000. The efforts seem to be paying off!

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Divining The Motives Of The Blue Dogs, Part Two

Yesterday, we began our four part attempt to wildly speculate on what's been driving the Blue Dog Democrats in their mysterious mission to throw a monkey wrench in the health care reform works. We began by pondering whether or not the Blue Dogs were motivated by authentic principles. I think we can all agree that it was a pretty hilarious thing to consider!

Now we get more serious. The Blue Dog Democrats are, first and foremost, elected representatives and public servants, and if they share one thing in common with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle, is that every day, they all wake up and go to work attempting to achieve the same thing: getting themselves re-elected.

Anyone passingly familiar with the mythology of Blue Dog Democrats knows that their path to re-election is supposedly fraught with obstacles, chief among them being an electoral base that tilts center-right. Because of this, the Blue Dogs often find themselves having to straddle political lines out of pure survival.

Or do they? Let's examine whether the Blue Dogs have been slow-rolling health care reform because...

The Blue Dogs are always facing the wrath of voters.

So, the typical Blue Dog story goes like this. They represent "swing districts," whose constituents, while amenable to electing a Democrat, aren't amenable to electing...say, Dennis Kucinich. And while Blue Dogs can, of course, make use of all the structural advantages that incumbents rely upon to get re-elected, they know that their primary vulnerability is any demonstration of...let's say, Kucinichiness. And since reform opponents in the health care debate are so quick to raise the specter of TEH SOCIALISM and TEH DEFICITS, it puts the Blue Dogs in a bit of a tough spot.

So, these guys always need to be provided with political cover from their fellows, so that they can avoid being painted as leftist. In return, the Blue Dogs swell the ranks of the Democratic caucus, providing larger majorities. That's the bargain. A lost seat is a blow to the majority, and so the Blue Dogs can hold the rest of their caucus hostage by forcing them to sympathize with all of the electoral risks they are taking.

But are these Blue Dogs really that vulnerable? The Guardian's Michael Tomasky recently undertook the complicated task of scrutinizing the Blue Dogs' electoral reality, and it yielded some intriguing results.

I used this extremely handy CQ website breaking presidential results down by House district. Here's my methodology:

1. I made a list of the 49 red-district House Democrats.

2. I recorded their margins of victory.

3. I recorded John McCain's margin in all 49 districts.

4. I matched result 2 against result 3 to get something I call the MVM -- the Margin Versus McCain. For example, if Democrat Ms. Byron beat Republican Mr. Shelley by 10 points, and McCain won that district by 20 points, Ms. Byron's MVM is -10. If Democrat Mr. Jagger beat Republican Mr. Richards by 25 points, and McCain won that district by 10 points, Mr. Jagger's MVM is +15.

This MVM is an important number because it matches the Democrat's personal vote-getting strength (his or her victory margin) against the intensity of the general Republican inclination of the district (McCain's margin over Obama).

Tomasky says, "That is a key number. I guarantee you it's how politicians think. Every one of these 49 Democrats knows precisely how Republican his or her district is." And that, Tomasky adds, "dictates voting behavior." And on health care reform specifically, Tomasky says, "I'd be a lot more afraid, say, to support a public option if I had a low or negative MVM.

But here are, for example, the seven Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the "MVM" rating that Tomasky assigns to each:

Mike Ross (Ark.), +67
Baron Hill (Ind.), +18
Charlie Melancon (La.), +76
Jim Matheson (Utah), +10
John Barrow (Ga.), +41 (*not included on Tomasky's list)
Bart Gordon (Tenn.), +49
Zach Space (Ohio), +12

As you can see, it's a mixed bag. Some Blue Dogs have an arguable claim to vulnerability. But many do not. If you look at Tomasky's entire list, you'll see that the mortal terror that these representatives supposedly live in -- never knowing if the voters are going to abandon them -- is substantially exaggerated. Tomasky takes it further:

You'll notice, if you're familiar with the current debates and with some of these people, the interesting fact that some of the more vocal Blue Dogs are among those with the most comfortable margins. As I noted in a post the other day, Mike Ross of Arkansas is a leading healthcare Blue Dog. His MVM is a gaudy +67. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who helped weaken the cap and trade bill, has an MVM of +41.


[...]

Yes, some Democrats have to be very careful and not be seen as casting a liberal vote. But they're a comparatively small number. A very clear majority of these people have won by large enough margins that it sure seems to me they could survive one controversial vote if they some backbone into it.

Tomasky's bottom-line is that the real story here is that the Blue Dogs have succeeded in "sell[ing] this story line to Washington reporters who've never been to these exurban and rural districts and can be made to believe the worst caricatures...People need to start challenging them on this."

Consider it challenged! But then, if true, raw, animal fear of not getting re-elected isn't what's driving the Blue Dogs to muck up the health care reform debate, what is? Potentially, there's an obvious answer to that. So, in our next installment, we'll examine the extent to which cash rules the Blue Dogs's world.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]

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Comedians Take On Dana Milbank And Chris Cillizza For ‘Mouthpiece Theater’ Videos

Josh Funk and Andy Cobb, of the Public Service Administration, are no fans of the "Washington Post"'s adventures with webcams, noting that the two men who go on them are "widely criticized for having all the charm, wit and insight of a frathouse open mic night."

Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza first came under fire for these pieces, that Cobb notes are "so unfunny [they] might be performance art," after criticizing our own Nico Pitney for having the audacity to break into the coddled world that is the White House press corps. Of course that's not okay, but dressing in smoking jackets and making asses out of yourselves while lecturing on journalistic integrity is fine.

Milbank again came under fire for these videos after suggesting that Hillary Clinton drink "mad bitch beer." It's hard to be a comedian when you're deeply unfunny. The "Washington Post" was forced to pull the video, but Media Matters archived it for safe viewing.

It wasn't merely the hypocrisy or inappropriateness that bothered the folks at the Public Service Administration though, it was the lack of "writing, delivery, production values, insights, comic point-of-view, characters, locations, guests, jokes, or segments" that really got to them. As a result they decided to lampoon the pair and the paper they work for.


WATCH:


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