Daily Show Beat Meet The Press To The Punch On Jon Krakauer

Here's an excellent observation from Mediaite's Rachel Sklar, who reminds us that while the "big news to come out of Meet The Press this week has been author Jon Krakauer's assertion that General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was implicated in the cover-up about the death of Pat Tillman," that big news had already been more or less broken by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show:

Krakauer was on [The Daily Show] over a month ago. It's surprising that this one flew under the radar, given how many sharp-eyed journalists, bloggers and media-watchers tune into the Daily Show, and regularly report on the news it makes. But it can and does happen, and happened here. What this says about Krakauer, McChrystal and his book is no different than what was picked up from Meet The Press. But what this says about so-called 'fake' news is, keep your eye on it. People with important things to say make a point of trying to say them on the Daily Show. So don't fall asleep before the interview.

All of that is absolutely right, and it's worth pointing out that Stewart conducted his interview with a greater awareness of where the "news" is in an interview with Jon Krakauer. That meant that Daily Show viewers got an interview that began with the Pat Tillman story and went on for six probing minutes. Meanwhile, at Meet The Press, Krakauer sat on the set like window dressing, and the subject of Pat Tillman wasn't broached until the show's final sequence of questions. Why have him on then?

GREGORY: Jon Krakauer, I want to get to a key element of your book, "Where Men Win Glory," about Pat Tillman and how it relates to this current conversation about Afghanistan. Because it does involve General Stanley McChrystal, who was obviously critical on the stage now and was critical in the Tillman story of well. As a reminder, if you look at pictures of Pat Tillman, the NFL star with the Arizona Cardinals, decides to enlist in the Army, serves in the Rangers after 9/11. This was certainly a big story when he enlisted. And at the time, General McChrystal was actually head of Special Operations command. So Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident and ultimately won the Silver Star, and that's what you focus on in the book and in a subsequent piece that you wrote for The Daily Beast. And here's what you wrote: "An October 5 Newsweek article [said, about General McChrystal] that `he has great political skills; he couldn't have risen to his current position without them. But he definitely does not see himself as the sort of military man who would compromise his principles to do the politically convenient thing.' In the week after Tillman was killed, however, this is precisely what McChrystal appears to have done when he administered a fraudulent medical" -- excuse me -- "a fraudulent medal recommendation" -- we're talking about the Silver Star -- "and submitted it to the secretary of the Army, thereby concealing the cause of Tillman's death." Briefly explain what happened.

MR. KRAKAUER: The--after Tillman died, the most important thing to know is that within--instantly, within 24 hours certainly, everybody on the ground, everyone intimately involved knew it was friendly fire. There's never any doubt it was friendly fire. McChrystal was told within 24 hours it was friendly fire. Also, immediately they started this paperwork to give Tillman a Silver Star. And the Silver Star ended up being at the center of the cover-up. So McChrystal -- Tillman faced this devastating fire from his own guys, and he tried to protect a young private by exposing himself to this, this fire. That's why he was killed and the private wasn't. Without friendly fire there's no valor, there's no Silver Star. There was no enemy fire, yet McChrystal authored, he closely supervised over a number of days this fraudulent medal recommendation that talked about devastating enemy fire.

GREGORY: And that's the important piece of it. And, and he actually testified earlier this year before the Senate, and this is what he said about it.

(Videotape, June 2, 2009)

LT. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: Now, what happens, in retrospect, is--and I would do this differently if I had the chance again--in retrospect they look contradictory, because we sent a Silver Star that was not well-written. And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture--or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire.

GREGORY: Even those who were critical of him and the Army say they don't think he willfully deceived anyone.

MR. KRAKAUER: That's correct. He, he just said now he didn't read this hugely important document about the most famous soldier in the military. He didn't read it carefully enough to notice that it talked about enemy fire instead of friendly fire? That's preposterous. That, that's not believable.

GREGORY: All right, part of this debate. Thank you all very much.

All part of the debate! But not a part deemed important enough to televise.

Krakauer did get to respond to other matters on Meet The Press and, in one instance uttered a line that was pure Beltway anathema when he suggested that the answer to the War in Afghanistan wasn't an immediate, Kagan-style troop surge:

GREGORY: And, Jon, the fear that you hear among critics of the president, or even if they're not critics, they're just skeptical of the policy, is that he'll ultimately choose a half measure, which they believe would be deadly in the circumstance.

MR. KRAKAUER: I don't, I don't agree with that. I mean, there's a, there's a huge range of options between pulling out and bringing in 40,000 or 85,000 troops. I mean, 40,000 isn't going to be enough to make much of a difference. Most--I think most people would agree to that. There's a whole, there's a whole range, and, and so I think you have to be careful of that black or white, either/or, all or nothing thing.

Tillman-McChrystal Controversy? Jon Stewart Had It First [Mediaite]


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Altruik Raises $4.7 Million For SEO Tools


SEO firm Altruik has raised $4.7 million in a first round of funding led by Greenhill SAVP. DFJ Gotham, First Round Capital, Javelin Partners, and Zelkova Ventures all participated in the funding.  The company’s platform is used by marketers to automatically optimize websites for search engine traffic. (Lots of specific details about how it works in this fact sheet here). The three-year-old startup is led by CEO Eric Gertler, a media veteran who has been president of US News and World Report, Fast Company and Atlantic Monthly. Release.

TheDigitel.com Brings Human Context to Local News Aggregation

Many news websites are working to refocus on local news, and often this means turning to automated aggregation. One hyper-local startup in Charleston, S.C., is blending links, community and visuals to try and redefine aggregation by giving it a human context.

TheDigitel.com was launched by Ken Hawkins in June 2008, and recently received its first round of venture capital funding from Palmetto Investments & Exchange Group.

Hawkins and his team are now deciding where to expand next. In keeping with its community philosophy, TheDigitel has even asked readers to vote for its next destination.

Hawkins spoke about the concept of "context aggregation," using wikis to engage readers, and other topics shortly after the funding was announced in October 2009. Here's an edited version of my interview with him.

Can you say how much funding you received?

Hawkins: It's not huge, but it does give us the momentum to 'break out' of the test market in Charleston and start expanding.

Talk about the process of finding your investors. How much control will they have?

Hawkins: The investors were pointed our way through a mutual contact at another
local company, BeliefNetworks. I still retain more than a 'super majority' of [TheDigitel]. However the investors bring not only cash but more of a business background, something journalists are often lacking.

Are you hoping to generate revenue from normal online ads or contextual ads? Can you or will you take donations?

Hawkins: Well, the business model at its heart is very familiar: display ads. Obviously that's a tough market, and we do want to pursue sponsors. It allows us to have a real relationship with the area's best businesses. Done well, it could help the businesses, the readers, and us. Done poorly, and it would just be bad.

Ultimately I really want this to be a non-profit. We're not in this to get rich. We want folks to find the best in coverage, be it a local photographer or the local media giant.

Are you an aggregator, or are you a news organization?

Hawkins: All media outlets are aggregators either in whole or in part, depending on how broadly you define aggregation.

Our site engages in a mix of primary reporting about simpler things -- 'Band X is playing at Venue Y' or breaking crime and traffic news -- and a blend of aggregation that I'll call 'context aggregation.' That means we both go digging for media sources used by other media and wire services, and [we are] offering a sort of 'reporter's notebook' about who's talking about what, and what this means in the broader scheme of things. Those are things our younger audience often doesn't yet know.

One of the things folks seem to appreciate is that we don't assume that you've read the prior story, so we stitch in relevant back links. In essence, we report on the multitude of reporting. At first, this would seem to add to information overload, but it actually helps by giving the reader more perspective.

So our aim is to connect, and not to re-report the news. Sometimes, this context aggregation is simple, and sometimes it's much more involved. For example, we just recently did a complicated election roundup with lots of links.


What kind of traffic do you generate?

Hawkins: This month, we served up 57,242 page views, which is about on par with our usual 60,000 a month, and 21,351 visits. Only 11 percent of the traffic comes from Google. Forty percent is direct traffic, 9 percent comes from Twitter, 8 percent from Facebook, and so on.

We've developed a highly local market that comes to us directly instead of a Google in-and-out market. Seventy-two percent of visitors are in South Carolina and 53 percent are in the metro area.

You have no Google ads. How do you manage that?

Hawkins: One thing that separates us from most new media ventures is actually being in the community. This not only helps us with community coverage, but also gives life to more standard advertising opportunities and frees us from the low CPM rates of Google.
Ultimately, we also want to develop local ad networks that allow good local bloggers to make some real cash off page views. We have the ad tools.

When did you initially launch, and how long did it take you to prepare?

Hawkins: We spent months planning the launch on paper (I'll say four months of casual conversation, and two of real planning). And then we spent about two months to build the Drupal-based site, which has been an ever-evolving design.

How large is your staff, and how many community contributors do you have?

Hawkins: We're a group of three staffers writing, with about 20 occasional community contributors.

Tell us a little bit about your staffers. Does anyone ever take a vacation?

Hawkins: I'll focus on the two that are in it for the long haul. Amanda Click was a marketing intern who stayed with us. We aim her mainly towards the soft news that is often so important to communities. She's been with us nearly a year, and carries the food, entertainment and features beats. She's 22.

I have more of the traditional news background, having been in papers for eight years, most recently at The Post and Courier in Charleston. I came from an infographics background and consider myself an information designer. It's something that drove me to create the site. I'm 29.

No vacations yet. But we hope someday.

Talk about your strategy of asking Twitter users and online readers to vote on your next city. What kind of response have you had? Which cities are you considering?

Hawkins: We had about 100 responses through just two plugs on our Twitter account. We're hoping that this will be somewhat viral, with passionate [people in different] cities getting behind the idea. We'll eventually plug the campaign from our site and talk directly to other bloggers, but it will be a process. Right now, Charlotte has taken a dominating lead of nearly 5-to-1.

Do you have any plans to increase capacity for traditional journalism, with deeper stories and paid reporters and editors?

Hawkins: To do more 'traditional local journalism' is not our end goal. It's our belief that there's plenty of it out there, from traditional and non-traditional sources, but that folks have a hard time finding and understanding it. That said, if a reporting doomsday does come, we're laying the foundation to be able to do traditional reporting tasks.


Your photo credits link to sources on Flickr. How much time does photo-mining take? Do you consult with Flickr users first? What kind of responses have you had from the photographers?

Hawkins: We feel it best to link to Flickr photo pages to get the photographer more exposure. We also feel this is most fair to the reader, who would probably want to see more photos.

It's a fairly non-painful process to mine, taking about five minutes on average. We normally don't pre-consult. But thus far we've received nothing but thanks for our usage of photos, particularly in the local circle.

Your open community feature allows almost a wiki-like interface. Can all your content be edited by anyone who signs up? Has that ever created problems?

Hawkins: It basically is a wiki with a gatekeeper. An editor reviews changes before they go live, and it's only been a good thing. We get all types of contributors, from typo fixers to writers of full stories.

A big inspiration for the workflow and cost-saving necessity of this was a piece by Information Architects.

What kind of challenges have you faced?

Hawkins: Our most interesting challenge has been demonstrating how we are not a pure aggregator. For so long, the online field has been [filled with] just three types of players: blogs, traditional media, and aggregators. So it seems the natural assumption is for folks to think: 'Which of the three are they?' As I said, we're a blend, which gives context. In six months to a year, I think it will be all the rage.

Andria Krewson is a freelance journalist and consultant from Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at newspapers for 27 years, focusing on design and editing of community niche publications. She blogs for her neighborhood at Under Oak, writes occasionally as a Tar Heel mom at The Daily Tar Heel and covers changing culture at Crossroads Charlotte. Twitter: underoak.

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Why Digital Agencies Aren’t Ready to Lead

Any conversation about digital marketing these days includes at least one mention that traditional agencies just "don't get it." While this may be correct, what's equally true is that digital agencies are not ready to take the lead.

Andrew Shebanow’s Retort Regarding Open Government and PDF

Andrew Shebanow:

The issue at hand is not whether governments should pick HTML or PDF. The issue at hand is whether governments are capable of publishing information at all. Show me an HTML creation tool that creates high quality, standards conformant markup from a Word document or any of the zillions of editing tools that government employees use.

Good point, and I regret having lumped PDF in with Flash in my criticism yesterday. It’s the idea that Flash should have any role whatsoever in a serious debate on open publishing formats that I have a problem with.

A Year Of Barack Obama: Top Ten Highs And Lows Of His First Twelve Months In Office

USA-ELECTION/A year ago tomorrow the nation went to polls and elected Barack Hussein Obama the 44th President of the United States. It was a joyful occasion, celebrated the world over, and variously compared to New Years Eve, the Yankees winning the World Series, the opposite of 9/11, and the proper beginning of the 21st Century.

The national political mood of Election Day 2009 would likely not be recognizable to the Obama-happy nation of 12 months ago. What a difference, etc. And yet, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 12 months! And a mere nine-and-a-half months of actual presidency. And truly it is only a slight exaggeration to say that in the interim it’s been all Obama, all the time. With that in mind let’s take a look back at the Barack Obama highlights (and some lowlights) of the last year.

>>>NEXT: Election Night November 4, 2008

Meeting the Bushes

The Inauguration

Barack Obama Saves Print Media

They Kill Flies, Don’t They?

The Beer Summit of 2009

Of Tea Parties And Town Halls

You Lie!


The War Against Fox News

Hulu Timidly Inches Toward Online TV Listings

Hulu this week launched a “Coming Soon” section to inform fans when new episodes are due to appear on the site. It’s a useful feature, and according to Hulu one of its most-requested, but the guide is way less informative than it could be.

HuluComingSoonFirst, the good parts: Hulu has created a nice thumbnail-illustrated list of shows that are set to appear on the site the next day. Users can sign up for email alerts when the actual video arrives on the site, and bloggers can get a dummy embed code that Hulu will fill with the video when it’s available.

OK, but here are the downsides: This is only for scripted shows that are currently airing on ABC, Fox and NBC. We all know there is a lot more to watch than that! It’s not like reality and talk shows aren’t regularly scheduled.

Further, there are no actual times indicated for when a show is supposed to arrive on Hulu after it airs. For 100 percent of the current listings, the only information offered is that the shows are posted to Hulu on the day after they air on TV. Great. We already knew that. A few programs have a more complicated online release schedule, for instance House appears on Hulu eight days after airing. We hate to say it, but this schedule seems to forebode more of these wonky windows.

However, this simple chronological list of a few shows from Hulu’s joint owners’ was already big project, Hulu product manager Betina Chan-Martin explained in a blog post, saying the page was the result of “a lot of work with our content providers, our product and design team, and our content team.” Yikes. We’re glad we didn’t have to sit in on those meetings.