James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘Newsweek’

‘Newsweak’: Plug pulled on comatose print magazine

Posted by James McPherson on October 19, 2012

Tina Brown has something else to swear about. Finally, mercifully, the once-proud print version of Newsweek will be allowed to die just short of its 80th birthday.

The magazine’s demise is no surprise. After all, the entire hemorrhaging operation sold two years ago for less than the cost of a single issue (one dollar), and then folks began refusing even free subscriptions because of an odd combination of controversialoutdated, lazy and juvenile editorial choices made by Brown and other editors in an apparent attempt to avoid the collapse.

So Brown will have another failure; sadder, more journalists will be out of work. Not that Brown didn’t try, apparently–like almost everyone else, she just happens to be clueless about how to make old-line media survive in a new media world. As noted by the New York Times, “Despite her best efforts to take a flagging product and rejuvenate it, much of what she tried fell flat, and her attempts to create buzz with cover articles that discussed sex addiction and called President Obama ‘the first gay president’ resulted mostly in puzzlement and, sometimes, ridicule.”

I remember having the same puzzled reaction to the first issue of another short-lived Brown project, Talk magazine. Launched with huge fanfare, the magazine was a disappointment from the start. That first issue (shown above, and I have a copy in my office) carried interviews of First Lady Hillary Clinton and presidential candidate George W. Bush, but highlighted glossy photos of Gwyneth Paltrow crawling across the floor in what appears to be black underwear.

Print magazines are not dead, as any visit to a bookstore or supermarket will show. But old “news” doesn’t sell in an internet age, and people interested in longer more literate analysis have a host of better magazines from which to choose.

Though I’m not sure it matters, perhaps the online version of Newsweek will hang around for a while, as U.S. News & World Report has since going entirely online (except for occasional special editions) at the end of last year. And with less competition, perhaps Time will have less reason to run stupid covers.

Posted in History, Journalism, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Now I’m part of ‘profanity police’

Posted by James McPherson on February 14, 2012

At the bottom of my most recent post, I noted a couple of days ago that New York Times media writer Elizabeth Jensen cited that post in an article. Her embedded link brought more than 3,300 readers to this blog yesterday–more than double the previous record (from a few years ago when a link to a post appeared at the bottom of a CNN story. That’s also more readers than I get most months, since I gave up blogging almost daily in April 2009.

Not surprisingly, among the new readers were some folks who found fault–including one who apparently didn’t read my post very closely, let alone anything else I’ve written, since in a comment he referred to my comments as “right wing.” That made some of my conservative friends chuckle. And now the Atlantic Wire blog  and the liberal blog Con Games, among others, are apparently lumping Jensen and me in together with the “profanity police.”

“McPherson may be shocked to discover that movie stars ‘come across as a group of hormonal middle school students’ as the foul-mouthed bunch did in the magazine’s Oscar Roundtable, that may just be because he hasn’t spent enough time on set,” offers Con Games. And that’s certainly true, if by “not enough” one means “none.”

But of course I’m not terribly surprised by the juvenile behavior–just that Newsweek writer David Ansen seemed to be so enthralled by that behavior. Maybe Ansen hasn’t spent enough time on sets if he is so fascinated by such juvenile pap. I’ll repeat my previous quote: “I have no doubt that the stars used that language. I do doubt that it’s representative of how most of them behave most of the time. If so, let’s hope they stick to acting–they’re just not very interesting, if this is a realistic depiction.”

In fact, previous editions of Newsweek’s “Oscar Roundtable” can easily be found online. And while I won’t take the time to check right now, I’d be willing to bet that none of them–despite the fact that they, too, involve “movie stars”–include the amount of profanity found in the most recent version. In fact, the “new” Newsweek is the problem. And perhaps, according to the blogs, it’s a Tina Brown problem. Both blogs contain this profanity-landen quote (I don’t know which is the original source):

“Tina Brown watchers with long memories might recall a similar complaint dogging the editor after she took over The New Yorker in 1992. On the occasion of her one year anniversary at the helm of that magazine, Spy Magazine ran an item headlined ‘Fuck Yes, The New Yorker,’ that compared some of the words that appeared in The New Yorker before and after Brown took over. Among the words used under Robert Gottlieb, the magazine’s previous editor: ‘Intransigent,’ ‘avuncular,’ ‘ballyhooed,’ and ‘panoply.’ Among the words used under Brown: ‘fuck,’ ‘masturbatory soft porn,’ ‘warm piss,’ ‘fart,’ and ‘bitch.’”

I can’t say that I’ve ever been as big a fan of Brown as many other media watchers, and a previous much-ballyhooed Brown effort, Talk, was awful and blessedly short-lived. I do appreciate her occasional book reviews on NPR’s “Morning Edition”–which, perhaps ironically, I listen to on the same radio station that provided my “free” subscription to Newsweek.

Same-day follow-up: The “others” who have commented on this issue, with links to this blog, now include a New York magazine blog, the conservative Accuracy in Media, a blog titled “Caffeinated Politics,” and another seemingly liberal media blog from Bemidji, Minn.

Feb. 16: Mediabistro, an American University blog about public media, and many in the Twitterverse also have commented on the issue. Perhaps my favorite from the latter: One that quotes Sarah Palin to seemingly compare me to GOP contraception goofballs.

Posted in Media literacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Newsweek opts for immature profanity over depth

Posted by James McPherson on January 27, 2012

Through a weird circumstance involving donations to public radio, I get two copies of Newsweek each week. This week’s issue demonstrated why that’s typically two more than I need. The time would be much better spent on Mother Jones, The Nation, or even National Review.

While this week’s issue of Newsweek does have an interesting and worthwhile story about International Monetary Fund chairwoman Christine Lagarde, much of the magazine seems to have been turned over to college sophomores–the kind of sophomores who love writing for university newspapers because they’ve found that they can get away with profanity.

Warning: If you’re offended by reading profanity, even in context, please stop reading now.

I don’t swear much, myself. I did so much more when I played college football and when I worked in a sawmill, but like most of those sophomores I refer to above, I outgrew it. That doesn’t mean I’m a prude about it: Despite the fact that I teach at a Christian university, I’ll even use it in class when it seems appropriate. After all, just as biology students should look at pictures that might seem sexually graphic or gory in another context, students of media should consider even the less pleasant parts of the language.

So the “f word” pops up a couple of times in my media history class. The first is when I’m quoting President Lyndon Johnson asking the president of CBS, “Frank, are you trying to fuck me?” The second comes during a discussion of protest music from various period, when I play the video for “Cop Killer.” I spend a bit of time talking about how profanity was used by young people as a way to get attention — and then, unfortunately in my view, it became much more prevalent throughout society.

That’s a trend I find objectionable, because it’s rude, lazy and generally a reflection of immaturity and/or stupidity. I have been known to ask (usually politely) people in public settings to clean up their language–even though in my journalism classes I have pointed out the goofiness of what I refer to as the “Wheel-of-Fortune” quotes often used in magazines in newspapers and magazines: for example, something along the lines of “Frank, are you trying to f___ me?”

But Newsweek, probably as a result over being taken over by the upstart Daily Beast, doesn’t take the silly “Wheel-of-Fortune” route. No, it goes out of its way to slap readers upside their heads with coarse language, even when that language serves no meaningful purpose. Maybe it’s a Country Joe and the Fish or N.W.A. flashback, but this week’s issue alone offers the following:

  • A story about “the Black Hollywood vote,” quotes Samuel L. Jackson saying, “The president got about a week of moderate applause for capturing the most-wanted man in the world. You ask me, he should have put that motherfucker on ice and defrosted his ass Nov. 1.”
  • Rick Perry and Paul Begala both are quoted using the abbreviated version of that same word: “mofo.”
  • In a piece called “Capitalism Gone Wild” (get it), novelist Robert Harris “sums up his attitude about Blair by quoting Harold Pinter: ‘We all believed in New Labour, and what a fucking shithouse that turned out to be.’”
  • Singer Ingrid Michaelson has decided to drop being “cute,” and so is quoted (via a sock puppet) as saying: “I’ve got some serious dark shit in me. Everyone is like, ‘She’s so cute, she’s so cute.’ You know what? Fuck that!
  • Perhaps worst is the annual “Oscar roundtable,” in which half a dozen Hollywood stars come across as a group of hormonal middle school students. Words from the “conversation” that were deemed magazine-worthy include “tits,” “shit,” “bullshit” and “cock” (not a rooster). I have no doubt that the stars used that language. I do doubt that it’s representative of how most of them behave most of the time. If so, let’s hope they stick to acting–they’re just not very interesting, if this is a realistic depiction.

All of those examples come from the print version of the magazine. Online you can find even more, particularly with a story about former porn actress Traci Lords. Weirdly, perhaps, one online story that doesn’t include any profanity is the  one titled, “The Sex Diaries Project,” about the sex lives of 1,500 people.

Apparently author Jessica Bennett has figured that someone who writes well doesn’t need to rely on adolescent language, even when talking about immature people and sex. Perhaps Newsweek editors should pay closer attention to her work, assuming readers stay around to see it. I certainly won’t be renewing my free subscription–either of them, for that matter.

FEB. 12 FOLLOW-UP: This post has been linked in an online story of today’s New York Times, which will apparently appear on p. B7 of tomorrow’s New York edition (I don’t know about out here in the West). The story notes that some public television donors had complained (like me, they apparently get Newsweek because they support PBS).

Writer Elizabeth Jensen quotes an email response from Stephen Colvin, chief executive of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company (essentially saying, “Hey, we’re selling more copies, so screw off”), and Newsweek executive editor Justine Rosenthal, stating, ““We do not use profanity unless within a quote or in the context of a story and care is taken to ensure it is never used gratuitously.” Of course, the examples I noted were in quotes. Perhaps Newsweek writers just used to be better at getting more intellectual responses than they are now.

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy | Tagged: , , , , | 37 Comments »

Watergate’s Bernstein shaky on media history

Posted by James McPherson on July 17, 2011

  

The most recent issue of Newsweek has drawn attention mostly because of yet another overhyped article about Sarah Palin. In the article, Palin says that if she runs for the presidency, “I Can Win.”

Well, duh. One would think that every candidate who runs for president thinks she or he can win. What would you expect them to say, “Well, I expect to get my butt kicked, but I really dislike my family and so wanted to put them through the wringer”?

The question is why Newsweek feels obligated to keep doing cover stories on a failed vice-presidential candidate and half-term governor who hasn’t declared any intention of running for office again. Oh, yeah–it’s because those stories, about America’s political Lindsay Lohan, draw more readers than would more intellectual (and more useful) fare.

A prediction, for what it’s worth: I think Palin will follow the Hillary Clinton route and run for the Arizona Senate seat that Jon Kyl will vacate. No state outside of her (and my) birth state of Idaho is more suited for the inflammatory know-nothing rhetoric that a Palin candidacy is likely to bring, and she recently bought a house there. If she wins a Senate seat, she could then run for president in 2016 when a Republican probably will have a better chance of winning.

For me, the most interesting thing in this issue of Newsweek was a couple of quotes that demonstrated some historical ignorance–quote that came not from Sarah Palin, as might be expected, but from famous Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein and one of his sources.

In an article about the scandal swirling around media mogul Rupert Murdoch (a scandal that has now touched even Scotland  Yard), Bernstein writes, “[The New York Post's] Page Six, emblematic in its carelessness about accuracy or truth or context–but oh-so-readable–became the model for the gossipization of an American Press previously resistent to even considering publishing its like.”

Really? Murdoch bought the Post in 1976, and one of the founders of the Page Six column was James Brady–who came to the Post from a supermarket tabloid, the National Star, which had been founded two years earlier to compete with the National Enquirer. The Enquirer, of course, had already been famous for that kind of sensationalism for decades.

OK, so maybe Bernstein meant the mainstream press, not supermarket tabloids. But if so, he’s still overlooking one of the most important (and infamous) periods in American media history, the Yellow Journalism period of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The next time Bernstein is tempted to tune into a showing of “All the President’s Men,” perhaps a viewing of “Citizen Kane” would be in order, instead.

The Yellow Journalism period also is ignored with a quote from an anonymous source. Part of that quote is pulled for display type (the fault of a historically challenged editor rather than of Bernstein, though he should have known better than to use the original quote). The display type reads, “Murdoch invented a newsroom culture where you do whatever it takes to get the story.”

Reinvented it, perhaps, though I’d question even that. But we should not have famous journalists–perhaps especially those who have contributed  significantly to media history–carelessly reinventing other parts of that history.

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

‘Political porn’: Too-sexy Sarah and Michelle as a monkey

Posted by James McPherson on November 26, 2009

  

In what one critic calls “political pornography,” Newsweek has managed to again aid Sarah Palin’s ongoing campaign for … well, who knows what? The GOP candidate for the Mrs. America Pageant, perhaps? (After all, she’s not likely to face competition from fellow pageant princess Carrie Prejean for a title that requires a spouse, assuming Prejean continues to keep to herself, so to speak).

Newsweek is captivated by Palin, with its Web site now offering a “Palin book club quiz,” a slideshow with almost two dozen photos and at least three articles about her. One of the best is this piece by Julia Baird about “the ‘Palinization’ of Palin.” There’s also a link to this Palin-related blog post, which points out a fact long obvious to many, that mainstream political reporting in general is largely worthless.

David Bozeman, the conservative writer linked above, writes about the Palin cover: “The political junkie in me thought it a great piece of memorabilia. The regular guy in me thinks she looks awesome, and I can’t stop looking at it.” And that’s the problem, isn’t it? People just can’t stop looking at the ongoing train wreck of Palin.

I also thought the cover was silly–mostly because Newsweek (unlike most Americans) considered Palin to even be cover-worthy–though frankly I initially viewed it in a less sexist vein than did many. For one thing, I understood what I assumed to be an allusion to Palin’s “running,” even if she claims not to be campaigning. (She told Oprah that a presidential campaign was not “on my radar,” perhaps odd for someone who can see Russia from her house.)

I was surprised by Palin’s treatment of the American flag, which she seems to be leaning on. That’s no better than her usual method of wrapping herself in it, though perhaps better than a more appropriate GOP symbol–a flag draped over a casket.

Besides, unlike Hillary Clinton (who has been treated even worse, and for much longer), Palin has traded heavily on her looks, a fact recognized at some level even by conservatives such as the one quoted above. That willingness to capitalize on her appearance while acting aggrieved is a common trait for conservative women, of course, especially right-wing babblers such as Ann Coulter (the photo below is from her own Web site, unlike the sexist photo of Clinton), Michelle Malkin, and almost any blonde on Fox News, home of the daily “Pop Tarts.”

Just last week I saw another of those pieces–from a conservative, naturally–arguing that conservative women are “hotter” than liberals. My equally over-generalized and unfair thought, whenever I see that claim: liberal women are more likely to have brains and beauty; conservative women are more likely to have makeup and plastic surgery.

[michelle-obama.jpg]   In the meantime, speaking of brains and beauty, Google has apologized because searches for “Michelle Obama” produced an image (at left) in which the first lady’s picture had been altered to look like a monkey. While the image is reprehensible, I’m a bit concerned about how quickly Google reacted to take it down (though the company claimed it did so because of virus concerns).

After all, the image is hardly surprising considering the level of racist hatred that has been spewed by far-right nimrods during the past couple of years, and I want to know what the idiots are up to. Making the stupidity just a little harder to find doesn’t make it go away. More importantly, I don’t want Google–or any corporation–deciding what’s politically appropriate to view.

I just wish that more Americans, and the media they depend upon, would focus more on issues of substance. But the odds of that remain slim, despite a Pew study that the general population is smarter than the media on this issue.

Happy Thanksgiving. One of the things we can be most thankful for is that Palin isn’t a heartbeat away from the presidency–even if, as I suggested yesterday, I’m less impressed with the current Commander in Chief than I am with his wife.

      

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

George W. Bush: We don’t need no stinking Constitution; GOP rushes to public trough

Posted by James McPherson on March 3, 2009

As Republicans try to figure out whether they fear Rush Limbaugh more than they dislike him, and as the media fall all over themselves to cover the largely irrelevant GOP circus, we keep learning new depths of disturbing information about the Bush administration, information that makes some of us hope that circus never comes back to town.

We’ve known for years that George W. Bush was a liar, a criminal, a fool and an egomaniac, a combination that made him probably the most dangerous president in our history (Richard Nixon may have been as bad, but that was during a time when Republicans still elected members of Congress who put country over party).

Thanks to documents that Barack Obama has ordered released and the efforts of some good reporters, we’re learning more about just how dangerous Bush was. Now Newsweek reports that the Bush administration even considered trying to overturn the First Amendment. The idea came via a memo co-written by the scariest lawyer in America, John Yoo (scarier than Alberto Gonzales only because he’s a lot smarter).

Newsweek’s Michael Isakoff writes: “The Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. ‘First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,’ Yoo wrote in the memo entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States.”

Somebody in the administration (maybe a leftover “limited government” conservative who somehow snuck in) apparently questioned the memo (or realized that most of the media had pretty much ignored their First Amendment rights to question the government, anyway, so it would be silly to stir them out of their slumber). Finally the idea apparently was considered “so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked–but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration. (emphasis added)

I have many mixed emotions about Barack Obama, but at least there’s no such problem with George W. Bush–unless a combination of disgust, revulsion and curiosity about why that war criminal isn’t facing charges would be considered “mixed emotions.”

Fortunately, Bush and most of his ilk have moved on, even if they don’t know where they’re headed. Anyplace they can get us to pay for the trip, perhaps–maybe you noticed who benefits most from the new stimulus bill that virtually all Republicans voted against. Yep, red states.

Conservatives do love their earmarks (just as they also apparently subscribe to the most online pornography). And as the Huffington Post reports, the new stimulus bill, like the tax system in general, rewards red state porkers the most. As I’ve noted previously, one way to fix the economy might be to enforce a sort of Golden Rule by just treating Republicans as they would treat others: Cut off the tap, and let the piggies fend for themselves.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Clift note keeping hope alive: Dr. Dean gaining steam for HHS?

Posted by James McPherson on February 7, 2009

Writing for Newsweek, Eleanor Clift notes that the obvious choice to replace Tom Daschle as the nominee to head Health and Human Services is none other than Howard Dean. Clift, perhaps better known as the token liberal of “The McLaughlin Group” on the supposedly liberal PBS network, joins The Nation and a number of bloggers in recommending Dean, as I did back on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3.

Unfortunately Clift also notes, in more detailed terms than I used previously, that the doctor is unlikely to make a White House call:

Dean’s nomination probably won’t happen because he crossed swords with Rahm Emanuel over the allocation of resources during the lead-up to the congressional elections of ’06. Dean was the Democratic Party chairman and focused on implementing his brainchild, a 50-state strategy for a party that had narrowed its electoral base to 16 states. Emanuel was leading the Democratic effort in the House to regain the majority. He wanted money targeted to districts where Democrats had a real chance to win while Dean, despite being the brunt of several shouting matches, stuck to his script of spreading money and staff around even into states Democrats wouldn’t win in the short term.

The fact that Dean’s 50-state strategy proved to be the best one–and, I argue, is one of the reasons Barack Obama later was elected president–probably won’t matter, especially since Dean has a habit of appealing to the common man while insulting the monied interests that run American politics. Still Clift leaves room for hope: “Obama prides himself on how magnanimous he is, so you can’t rule out that he might reward someone who like him was an early and consistent opponent of the Iraq War, who helped lead the party out of the wilderness and who many Democrats think has been badly treated.”

Speaking of ‘hope,’ you may also have noticed that Obama’s nominees aren’t the only ones having legal problems: Shepard Fairey, the artist who produced perhaps the most popular image of the new president, has been arrested as a vandal. He also will have to cough up some dough to the Associated Press for basing his painting–which appeared as a Time magazine cover–on an AP photo. You can see both versions below:

obama-hope

Posted in History, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

With Jessica Alba too fat, Keira Knightly too flat, Faith Hill too plain & Sarah Palin too real, how should mags portray Michelle Obama?

Posted by James McPherson on December 11, 2008

Since one of the most glamorous women we’ll be seeing on magazine covers for the next few years will be Michelle Obama, and despite one magazine editor’s call (in a different context) to “let Michelle Obama’s real self shine,” one wonders how far editors and art directors might go to make the First Lady look better–or worse–than she appears in reality. Though Hillary Clinton and sometimes Nancy Reagan (neither of whom always acted as dutiful stand-by-their-man Bush ladies) were obvious exceptions, the media usually treat First Ladies nicely, and articles and TV pieces have already focused more on Obama’s style than on her substance.

Remember, Newsweek drew criticism for letting Sarah Palin look “too real” (despite Joe the Plumber/Author now calling Sarah Palin “the real deal” even as he disses John McCain, the man most responsible for what we can only hope will be fleeting fame for Joe). And while a good fake Barack Obama may be hard to find, as Time reports, much of the reason for the Palin uproar is that we aren’t used to reality with our magazine images. Virtually any image that appears on a magazine cover or in a calendar has been airbrushed or otherwise altered, especially if the image is that of a woman. A quick Google search shows you can even find “excellent body enhancement tutorials” online, to “improve” the people in your own photos.

News organizations might use Photoshop or airbrushing to fix flaws in a photo, but popular mags, movie posters and calendars use technical tricks to fix the “flaws” in a model. For a recent example, see Calipari’s treatment of Jessica Alba, as reported by the Daily Mail. (See the before and after photos below). Keira Knightly and Faith Hill (in Redbook, yet) are among the women who have also had parts of their bodies “enhanced”; see examples of others here.

At least we can probably be sure that Michelle Obama won’t be appearing in a future version of the latest Fox News slideshow.

alba-1alba-2

Posted in History, Media literacy, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Klein sweep: No room for lying ‘Joe the Columnist’ on campaign plane

Posted by James McPherson on October 21, 2008

Time magazine’s Joe Klein has apparently been banned from the John McCain’s campaign plane, a ban that apparently bugs the liberal bloggers at the Huffington Post, Politico and Think Progress more than it does Klein himself.

The McCain camp’s reasoning seems obvious: Klein has regularly criticized the campaign, for example noting that the candidate had a “fabulously loony weekend, flipping out charges like a mud tornado” while criticizing Obama for supporting ideas that McCain himself has supported. Still, others argue that in some cases, if any bias exists, it’s because Klein has been too kind to McCain.

Regardless, in this case perhaps the blame in the campaign plane isn’t mainly on McCain, so to speak. Frankly, if I were a candidate I wouldn’t let Klein on my plane (or, given a choice, in my bus, my car, my office, my gym, or even on the same elevator), either–but not because he’s hypercritical (as opposed to hypocritical). Usually he’s not, and even if he were, there’s something be be said for the old adage about keeping your enemies close.

I also wouldn’t ban Klein because he has been criticized for not being friendly enough toward Israel (too big a concern for many modern politicians, in my view), or because of the quality of his writing, which often is more interesting and wittier than that of many of his cohorts–even if, in overly broad but telling words of John Cook in Radar magazine, “Klein’s body of work amounts to little more than a festival of projection and poorly disguised vanity.” (And who am I, or almost any blogger, to criticize that?)

No, none of those reasons would keep Klein (with whom I often agree, by the way) as far away from me as possible. I’d keep him at a distance because I know him to be is a sneak and a liar, if not insane (though maybe no crazier than journalism as a whole). I’m guessing that literary forensics expert and Vassar College professor Don Foster feels same way, and not because of how Klein and Time butchered their coverage of FISA wiretapping rules last year. That coverage favored conservatives, incidentally, one more reason McCain might want “Joe the Columnist” on his plane.

Sixteen years ago, Klein covered Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Four years later, during Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, a fictionalized version of that campaign became a bestseller during Clinton’s  at least in part because its author–listed only as “Anonymous”–provided an obvious inside look at Clinton’s life and politics. Parts of Primary Colors (which then became a popular film) the book were fictionalized, but no one knew exactly which parts, and “Guess the Author” became a favorite Washington game.

New York magazine hired Foster to crack the case, and CBS (which also employed Klein at the time) then interviewed Foster about his conclusion that Klein wrote the book (a conclusion previously reached by former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet in the Baltimore Sun). Klein adamently denied authorship until a handwriting analysis proved that he had lied even to his bosses at CBS and Newsweek.

Klein was forced to resign from CBS, but Newsweek merely made him apologize to readers whose trust he had betrayed. Even afterward, Klein showed no meaningful remorse and had no trouble finding subsequent media gigs–no surprise, since even after Oliver North lied under oath to Congress and the American people he became a network program host, even if it was on Fox News.

So there you have it, why I as a candidate would keep Klein off of my plane–along with the likes of fellow dissemblers George Will (read my book for a further discussion of Will’s lies), Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Of course I also have this fantasy that if I were a candidate I’d actually talk to real reporters.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Literary journalism follow-up

Posted by James McPherson on August 17, 2008

In response to my posts of Thursday and Friday, I received an e-mail from Norman Sims–who may know more about literary journalism than anyone else alive, saying I got it “pretty right” with my discussion (thanks, Norm).

Sims did note, however: “The only thing I would add is that books and magazines have the ability to pay literary journalists for the months and years of reporting that they put into a project.  Blogs and the Web so far do not have the financial power to reward the writers.”

He’s right, of course. That’s why I think that existing magazines (such as Time or Newsweek) have the best chance of engaging in the kind of literary journalism I recommended, spreading a lengthy in-depth story over several sections or chapters for a period of several days or weeks. One problem potential problem is that too many news organizations still treat their Web operations like abused stepchildren, separate and inferior to the printed product, and allocate resources accordingly.

Readers do the same, to some degree, which is part of the reason that books (even those written by the likes of Jerome Corsi) have more credibility than other media for many folks. The fact that anyone can create a blog, and because so many Internet sources are blatantly false and/or partisan, adds to the problem.

But it seems to me that a news organization with established credibility–and with enough money to back the experiment–might use a new literary journalism format to further enhance its own journalistic reputation and the reputation of Web journalism, while providing a great service to readers in terms of both style and substance.

Posted in Journalism, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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