All the News That’s Fit to Wiki? NYT to Open Source C.I.A. Report Research

Picture 1Yesterday the Justice Department released a 2004 memo detailing abuses that took place inside the CIA’s overseas prisons “showing how interrogators choked a prisoner repeatedly and threatened to kill another detainee’s children.” Shortly thereafter the New York Times took the unusual step of posting the entire report in a document reader on its website and invited “readers to help us annotate and make sense of the new details revealed in the report and other supplementary materials we will also post as they are released.”

It’s an unusual move for the Times insofar as the paper still enjoys a certain voice of God position in the media landscape in its ability to determine the national tone of conversation via its reporting, though even that is diminishing. It’s not unusual in the sense that Talking Points Memo has been doing documents dumps for quite a while now, beginning in March 2007 when they combed through the DOJ documents during the whole U.S. Attorney firings debacle.

It’s a not only a smart, time-saving, idea — combing through hundreds of pages of documents in a timely fashion is no easy feat, marshaling the intelligence of Times readers would alleviate that significantly — but it’s a pretty significant nod on the Times‘ part to the power of citizen journalism, the Internet hive mind, and the increasing important role social media plays in how we get our news today. Also, something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. It’s interesting that at the same time Wikipedia is taking measures to operate more like a newspaper, the NYT gets one step closer to Wikipedia.

MSM’s Scary Impotence When Faced With Death Panels

abc_this_week_panel_090215_mn A week or so ago I suggested that the health care debate was a great opportunity for the beleaguered mainstream media — newspapers, network news — to prove “in a slow and deliberate way” it was still relevant.

There is so much disinformation flying around at the moment wouldn’t it be great to have someone in the media who had at their disposal the time and resources, step in and separate fact from fiction. And we mean really separate it in a slow and deliberate way.

Have they managed to do so in the interim? If they have there’s certainly no evidence of it. Howie Kurtz hits the nail on the head with this line from today’s column:

In many ways, news organizations have risen to the occasion; in others they have become agents of distortion. But even when they report the facts, they have had trouble influencing public opinion…Perhaps journalists are no more trusted than politicians these days, or many folks never saw the knockdown stories. But this was a stunning illustration of the traditional media’s impotence.

Emphasis mine. What’s especially scary about this “stunning illustration” is that Kurtz isn’t suggesting the MSM didn’t give Death Panel coverage its best shot; he highlights a slew of occasions where both news anchors and reporters attempted to get the facts out. But to little avail. The death panel phrase is still raging. Details of what the health care bill actually says have yet to permeate the masses. (Could you explain it if you were asked to?) Was it merely too complicated a story to cover properly? Is that even an acceptable excuse? The answer is no.

As noted, Kurtz suggests that many outlets did try to dive in and debunk the rumors. The fact of the matter is that they have clearly failed. The only thing worse than the MSM not devoting the time and space that it should to this story, is the MSM devoting the time and space and not having any influence on the public’s understanding of the issue at hand. If we can’t rely on news institutions to rationally explain the complicated (and extremely important) issues of the day in a way that will reach people, than why do we need them at all? Plummeting ad sales and paid content may be at the core of debate over whether traditional media will survive, but it’s becoming ever more apparent that the death panels are just the latest example of whether traditional media deserves to survive, and it raises the question: if the MSM were to disappear would anyone notice?

Hillary Clinton Knows Where Her Bread is Buttered, Takes Op-Ed To People

hillary-clintonPresident Barack Obama may prefer the op-ed pages of the New York Times to impart his views to the world, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has decided to go directly to the people, through People.com. The website has posted an exclusive op-ed from Clinton about her recent 11 day trip through Africa, much of which was overshadowed by her ‘I’m the boss’ response to a Congolese student.

Strange choice of venue? Brilliant might be the better word. People.com is one of the most heavily-trafficked sites on the Web, and arguably reaches an audience that doesn’t necessary follow the NYT op-ed pages with as close an eye as some media types might. It’s also a site that, according to its Quantcast description, “appeals to a more affluent, slightly female slanted, skewing older audience.” This could also be a fairly accurate description of Hillary Clinton’s base. Suffice it to say, Mrs. Clinton knows where her bread is buttered. It’s a move the President might consider making as he continues to struggle to reclaim the health care debate. In the meantime here’s a look at some of what Mrs. Clinton saw on her trip:

Women and girls in particular have been victimized on an unimaginable scale, as sexual and gender-based violence has become a tactic of war and has reached epidemic proportions. Some 1,100 rapes are reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.

I visited a hospital run by the organization Heal Africa and met a woman who told me that she was eight months’ pregnant when she was attacked. She was at home when a group of men broke in. They took her husband and two of their children and shot them in the front yard, before returning into the house to shoot her other two children. Then they beat and gang-raped her and left her for dead. But she wasn’t dead. She fought for life and her neighbors managed to get her to the hospital – 85 kilometers away.

I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity.

Related: Hillary Clinton Pledges to ‘Banish Sexual Violence’ (People.com)

Who Exactly Was Cash For Clunkers “Popular” With?

monstruck The New York Times reports today that the government is ending the $3 billion Cash For Clunkers program, which allowed consumers to get a cash voucher of up to $4500 when they traded in low-mileage cars for higher mileage cars. According to the Times article, “Although the program has brought on a welcome surge in demand for cars after months of dismal sales, some dealers will be glad to put it behind them because it has been plagued by confusion and processing delays.”

The Times, like many other outlets covering Cash for Clunkers, leads off by referring to the program as “popular.” The LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer (”wildly popular,” in the Inquirer’s case), Forbes, and PC Magazine (”ultra-popular”) have all done the same. If it was so “popular,” then why did more than half of the country oppose it from the start? Continue reading "Who Exactly Was Cash For Clunkers “Popular” With?"

Godfather Rupert Murdoch Wants Everyone On Board His Paid Content Train

murdoch Ever since Rupert Murdoch announced that he was going to institute a pay-for-content policy on everything he publishes the media world has been much-a-chatter over whether Rupe publishes anything other than the Wall St. Journal that people would actually be willing to pay for. Solution? Make everyone get on board your paid content train…someone must have something that’s worth shelling out for! This from today’sL.A.Times:

Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Miller has positioned News Corp. as a logical leader in the effort to start collecting fees from online readers because of its success with the Wall Street Journal Online, which boasts more than 1 million paying subscribers. He is believed to have met with major news publishers including New York Times Co., Washington Post Co., Hearst Corp. and Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

Sound familiar? Steve Brill is attempting to do something along similar lines with his Journalism Online initiative, which announced the other day that 506 publications had signed letters of intent to become affiliates. However the fact that News Corp has apparently been in touch with both Hearst and the Washington Post Co. suggests they may also be interested in bringing magazines on board. The fact they have been meeting with the New York Times Co., well that just sounds like the media version of a Vito Corleone calling for a meeting of the Five Families to put an end to the violence (in this case, the freebies). You know: “It’s not like the Old Days, when we can do anything we want.”

Journos’ Jailing In North Korea Best Thing Ever For U.S. Intelligence

19korea.x448For all the fuss that was made about former President Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea being a private one, whose sole intention was to rescue journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, it has certainly provided the U.S. government with a lot of information that, up until now, has been nearly impossible to come by. Says the Times:

For all the billions of dollars a year that the United States spends on intelligence gathering about mysterious and unpredictable countries like North Korea, it took just 20 hours on the ground in Pyongyang by a former president to give the Obama administration its first detailed look into a nuclear-armed regime that looms as one of its greatest foreign threats.

Short version: Sending President Clinton to rescue the imprisoned journalists was maybe also a smart budgetary measure!

Clinton visited the White House yesterday to share his impressions of North Korea with President Obama. The Times has subsequently gotten most of the back story and trip details in an article, which sounds like the premise of a John LeCarre novel. It’s a fascinating piece and and well worth your time; it’s hard to imagine that this won’t eventually find it’s way to the silver screen — is Brad Pitt old enough to play the President yet? Matt Damon could probably swing Joseph R. DeTrani the “high-level American intelligence officer who spent much of his career trying to unlock the mysteries of North Korea,” who was mostly responsible for organizing the trip.

The article also mostly succeeds in putting to rest the idea that Clinton’s trip was merely about rescuing Ling and Lee (whose presence there still has yet to be explained). In fact, it becomes increasingly clear as more details emerge that the timing of the whole debacle could not have been more advantageous for all parties, most of the all the U.S. government who now finds itself on the receiving end of a bonanza of information they were otherwise only able to guess at. Needless to say, it wasn’t too bad for Bill Clinton’s image either.

NYT’s Krugman Gets In (Felix) Cat Fight!

Picture 13Blog fights are not just for the Tumblrs, even Nobel prize winning economists/columnists are susceptible! Behold NYT’s Paul Krugman, who reacted with shock and surprise (as did mostly everyone) to Niall Ferguson’s lede in a FT article last week, which said President Obama was like Felix the Cat: “Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky.”

Upon reading this a non-plussed Krugman wanted to know where the FT editors had disappeared to. Then, after Ferguson posted a response to the debacle on HuffPo — he was shocked, shocked! at the public’s response — Krugman called him a whiner. Ha! Continue reading "NYT’s Krugman Gets In (Felix) Cat Fight!"