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 and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘bloggers’

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 »

Lies left and right: Kos, Drudge and Little Green Footballs

Posted by James McPherson on September 1, 2008

While I try to give people a variety of perspectives through my links at right, the Drudge Report and Little Green Footballs–two of the most popular conservative sites–have never been among them. That’s because I consider those two sites, while sometimes insightful, to be overly hateful and to have too little regard for truth. In short, they have carried blatant lies, either through intent or through a reckless disregard for fact. Both have unveiled big stories, but if you’re willing to print anything you’re more likely to occasionally stumble on a titillating bit of truth.

As of today, the Daily Kos–perhaps the most popular liberal blog on the Web–is gone for the same reason. A Kos writer with the name ArcXIX (another gutless wonder of the kind common to cyberspace, hiding behind a fake name) claimed that Sarah Palin’s youngest child is, in fact, her grandson, and the child of her daughter. The original link and yesterday’s followup from the same writer seem to be disappearing from many places (perhaps indicating how faulty the claims were), but the writer states unequivocally: “I’ve known liars in my life. … Well, Sarah, I’m calling you a liar. And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.” [bold type in original]

The writer goes on to offer a combination of highly questionable logic and photographic “evidence” that is obviously faulty to almost reasonable person who has had either a teenage daughter or a pregnant wife, or anyone who has worked in or around politicians (I once was a political reporter, and had two teenage daughters). Even granting the remote chance that the writer’s claim is true, there is absolutely no strong (let alone conclusive) evidence to support it.

As a result, even though I’ve never met ArxXIX or Palin (despite the fact that she and I were born less than a hundred miles apart), I have no trouble saying this: “I’ve known liars in my life. Well, ArcXIX, I’m calling you a liar. Or an idiot. Or probably both, since you’re not even a good liar. Based on the best “evidence” you’ve offered, you do not ‘know’ that Palin is a liar. You may suspect it, and you certainly hope so, but you don’t ‘know.’ The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.”

That hasn’t kept the rumor from whirling around the world, of course, picked up by other liberal bloggers too stupid to realize that such garbage–like the rumors that claim Barack Obama is a Muslim–harm the credibility of those who spread it, while detracting from the multitude of meaningful reasons that a progressive should vote against McCain/Palin.

Unfortunately, the fact that the girl is now pregnant may add even more fuel to the rumor. But I would still argue that the girl’s unfortunate pregancy, despite what her status as an unwed mother-to-be might say about conservatives and birth control, is largely irrelevant to her mother’s somewhat limited qualifications to be vice president. And totally irrelevant to the Kos report.

I do not blame bloggers for heated rhetoric, literary exaggeration, or unintentionally getting things wrong on occasion. I certainly have made mistakes (and tried to correct them as soon as they were pointed out). Nor do I blame bloggers for the assortment of nutcases both liberal and conservative who contribute comments in response to posts. But operations with the scope and reputation of the three mentioned above should be able to do better than most with their posts, rather than seemingly seeking ways to be worse.

There are other sites that I read from time to time but avoid linking to because I am turned off by their constant whining or exaggeration. And of course I have deleted other sites in the past. Some bloggers stop writing after a while. Others just become monotonous. For example, one site that started out with the expressed interest of bringing people together, and which once offered meaningful commentary on a variety of political issues, became a tedious and often irrational all-PUMA-all-the-time site.

Worse, that site and some others engage in the practice of commonly deleting comments from those who disagree with them, regardless of how politely or logically those comments are offered. One bragged yesterday: “The Confluence is a refuge and a haven. And any comment that threatens our identity will be modified or deleted.” As I’ve noted repeatedly, I’m a believer in open discussion, not in paranoid conspiracy theories.

None of the sites mentioned here will miss having me offer direct connections to them; all have far larger readerships than this blog, in large part because they have chosen to appeal so strongly to their perceived political bases. Still, I will continue to add or delete links as they seem to meet the primary goal of this blog–to serve the needs of my students. And I hope you enjoy the variety.

Afternoon note: Today Kos himself starts out a post about the pregnancy with the words, “I don’t think the evidence is there to claim Trig is Bristol’s son, as some have speculated…” So I’d ask why, Kos, has your site done more than any other to promote the claim? After all, the most quoted of the “some” you refer to is in your own stable of writers.

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

Hillary’s convention speech and her “supporters”

Posted by James McPherson on August 27, 2008

As expected, Hillary Clinton came out in full support of Barack Obama in her Democratic Convention speech last night. As I also predicted, Fox News wasted no time in questioning whether Bill Clinton would do the same tonight.

Hillary gave an excellent speech, and after she finished speaking I spent a couple of hours flipping back and forth among the various network talking heads for their reactions. Even Chris Wallace of Fox News praised Clinton’s performance, after the other three Fox commentators had taken turns bashing her for giving a speech that was “all about her.” Most condescendingly dismissive, as might be expected, were Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol. Can anyone really watch those two preening clowns and still call liberals the “elitists”?

At least scared Foxes have some bitter company among the most diehard PUMAs, who have sought and achieved enough attention to be the focus of a segment ridiculing them on last night’s “The Daily Show.” Some PUMAs now are thrashing Hillary on the Web, and saying they will not follow where she has chosen to lead (so maybe she’s not as effective a leader as they maintain?).

Read the comment sections of a blog or two to see how much some of them are willing to twist their previous logic. (The latter of those two declares that Clinton’s message to PUMAs was to “keep running.”). Here are quotes from one PUMA who was live-blogging during Clinton’s speech:

WOW! She is really pushing Obama! Sorry, Hill. I own my vote! …

OH MY GOD! She used the Politics of FEAR! She did follow up with Universal Health Care. WOmen’s rights, civil rights, and GAY rights. Hell yeah!

Oh, no she di-in’t! Michelle can suck it!

FUCK. This is SO disheartneing! PUMAs are weeping all over the place!

She just lied about John McCain.

But at least she moved on to Seneca Falls.

Okay, that was nice. “MY mother was born before women could vote. My daughter got to vote FOR her mother.”

Nope. Not gonna do it. NOBAMA for me. No deal. Not even for you, lady.

On the other hand, many of the comments on blog posts suggested that many PUMAs will come around and vote in their best interests (again, assuming they weren’t conservatives to begin with). Another PUMA site offers this:

If anyone can make me for him, it’s her and only her. Fanboys, assholes, fauxgressives—if your asshole wins, you can thank Hills. She’s magnificent, magnanimous, and thrilling. She even manages to be kind to McCain. “Four more years of the last eight years.” …

I see her and I’m proud to be a liberal. You’re goddamned right I’m a liberal. I’m a liberal because I believe in moments like this: a woman standing on the podium at the DNC, surely thinking ahead to her next—and victorious!—run for President.

Hillary’s my President and one day I’ll see her take the oath of office. But, damn, what she stands for means enough to me to abide by her gracious wishes. She’s got more courage and class than I’ve ever had or will have, and hope never to need. …

God, I feel hope again. I feel like things can change. It’s not fear of the Them that I’m feeling; it’s the knowledge that as an American I’m part of something that’s meant to be bigger and better and nobler than what we have now.

I love the “bigger and nobler” line, which captures the essence of Clinton’s speech. And I am again reminded that seeing people strongly disagree–often with considerable justification–but still manage to come together for the greater good when the chips are on the line is one of the things that makes me most proud to be an American.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

McCain camp desperate, silly and sad

Posted by James McPherson on August 24, 2008

Affirming my observations of recent weeks that the John McCain campaign steadily becomes increasingly silly, increasingly desperate, and–despite recent polls–decreasingly likely to win the upcoming presidential election, the campaign is doing what it feels it must to have a prayer of victory.

Previously noted by many is how McCain now panders to the Religious Right figures whom he once termed “agents of intolerance.” At the same time that he engages in increasingly unchristian behavior, even to the point of adding to his own lies by refusing to criticize obvious lies from a man who has been one of McCain’s harshest critics. Nonetheless, his most recent ad must make “straight talk express” fans cringe when they hear the candidate intone, “I’m John McCain and I approved this message.”

This ad (the first clip below) asks why Hillary Clinton isn’t Barack Obama’s choice as running mate, and states that she was kept off the ticket “for telling the truth.” While that message might work with a few PUMAs, it seems likely that even many of them might be turned off by such blatantly pandering on the part of a man who consistently has done little on behalf of women–even if they believe that anyone in the McCain campaign knows the inner workings of their opponent’s operation.

McCain himself, it seems, once would have been embarrassed by such a commercial. Doesn’t he have some other means of attack other than to put his own face and voice in an ad that not only doesn’t say anything about himself or his candidacy but which actually promotes a losing candidate from the opposition party? Of course he obviously likes those folks, since he pals around with two-time loser Joe Lieberman. But isn’t McCain’s new language more befitting of Jon Stewart or bloggers than of a candidate for president? And does his new ad suggest that McCain like to replace sidekick Joe Lieberman with Clinton (a good idea if she’d go for it, but she’s far too smart for that).

One problem, I suppose, is that McCain has relatively few positive options because his own campaign message to voters might be boiled down to: “I was tortured before most of you were born (though if we do the same things now to scary Muslims I would no longer call it torture), I hate war but think we ought to engage in a lot more of it, I’m old, I’m cranky, and I disagree with almost everything else I said a year ago, back when I was still voting in the Senate–so elect me president before I die or before my rich wife leaves me for one of my lobbyist friends.”

Another somewhat silly McCain ad came out on the same day that Barack Obama announced what most followers had considered inevitable for days if not weeks, that Joe Biden would be the Democratic nominee for vice president. That commercial (the second clip below) shows Biden criticizing Obama and complimenting McCain. The only problem with the ad is that it merely reflects the kind of rhetoric that happens in political races all the time–in fact, the third clip below is a version that might be used against McCain if he chooses Mitt Romney to be his running mate. Biden’s rhetoric also reflects the give-and-take nature of the Senate, reflecting why I was somewhat surprised when two Senators won their party’s nominations.

Obviously a current senator will become our next president, while another will go back to serving with Clinton in the Senate. Perhaps that’s why McCain is being so complimentary to her now–he figures she can remind him where things are in the Capitol once he gets back there. 

Posted in Politics, Video, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Literary journalism & the Web: the newest “new journalism”? (Part I)

Posted by James McPherson on August 14, 2008

The print version of a recent Columbia Journalism Review article is subtitled, “A new kind of journalism takes root in a struggling Detroit neighborhood.” An interesting aside is the fact that the online version is titled “Crossing Lines” while the print version uses “Drawing Lines,” but the key point remains: that a Detroit News blog is going beyond tradition journalism to improve an impoverished Detroit neighborhood. In the words of CJR’s writer: They “aren’t just reporting the neighborhood’s story. They’re affecting the story. In some ways, they are the story.” (emphasis in original)

The activism draws criticism from even among others at the News, who worry that it compromises the newspaper’s credibility. The concern is worth consideration, complicated by the proliferation of blogs coming from news organizations throughout the country. But the fact is, for most of those organizations, credibility in a traditional sense is pretty much a lost cause for a couple of reasons. First, if “credibility” is code for “objectivity,” there’s no such thing as an objective reporter (or historian, or teacher). Second, Americans like the news media in general just a bit more than they like George W. Bush or Congress.

Journalism is changing, as it always has. The term “New Journalism” has been used most prominently with the journalism of the 1880s and 1890s and then again with the literary journalism of the 1960s and 1970s, but has also been applied to the Penny Press of the 1830s and the civic journalism movement of the late 20th century. “New” just keeps happening.

Besides, campaigns by newspapers are far from new. Newspapers have always advocated for issues they saw as being for the civic good (even if far too often their biases corresponded with the desires of the Chamber of Commerce). My own local daily, the Spokesman-Review, recently devoted an entire month of front-page attention to the issue of child abuse, and its own annual Christmas fund is front-page news every day from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas.

We know that bloggers are changing news, even if–as recently reported by a Poynter Institute columnist and others–the most popular blogs tend to look and act much like mainstream news organizations. That shift worries people on both sides, though a careful reader could be much better informed about issues by relying only on blogs than on a local newspaper or–God forbid–television news.

One of the most interesting things I got out of last week’s Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication convention was a discussion that–combined with the CJR article (which I read on the train on the way home from AEJMC) and some other tidbits of information–prompted the idea that blogging might actually “save” the 1960s-style literary journalism, which has faded significantly from the types of magazines that most Americans actually read. More on that in an upcoming post.

Posted in History, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The benefits of Chinese Rolexes, moving pyramids and expandable breasts

Posted by James McPherson on August 12, 2008

Politicians lie, and as long as the falsehoods come from the ones we like, we accept them gladly. If it’s our own candidate spinning the yarn, we adhere to the Fleetwood Mac strategy: “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.”

Iran recently used Photoshop to lie about a missile launch. China now admits faking its Olympics fireworks display, which seems a bit odd considering that fireworks would seem to be the last thing China would have to fake. What’s next–we find out the Giant Pandas are really Disney-style animatrons, or that the 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir is bulking up its performances with extra taped voices?

Still, even the fireworks deception is not a huge surprise. For one thing, China has long been known as a great place for fakes: Rolexes, designer clothing, DVDs, etc. For another thing, especially when it comes to the media, real just isn’t real enough.

While we overlook political falsehoods, we are more upset (and should be) because we all know the media lie (the problem is, we typically don’t know when). They may be lying now, in a sense, to make the presidential race appear closer than it is. Magazines airbrush every model, deleting acne and often enlarging breasts. National Geographic moved a pyramid, and CBS digitally dovered up an NBC logo with its own. (See a great range of such lies, with photo examples, here and here.) Smut peddlers use the same techniques to create fake pornographic images of movie stars and–more troubling from both ethical and legal perspectives–children.

But with the exception of the last example, one might ask, “so what?” After all, we are a nation of liars. We can’t seem to help ourselves. The biggest problem isn’t that people lie to us, in my view. A more serious problem is that we cannot recognize lying when we encounter it.

An excellent Columbia Journalism Review book review of Farhad Manjoo’s latest book, True Enough: How to Live in a Post-Fact Society, summarizes how Manjoo discovers and points out that thanks to “selective perception” we are largely incapable of distingishing truth from fiction. We all have our own “facts,” and we’re sticking to them.

That inability to discern truth from falsehood is perhaps the best reason for a liberal arts education, or at least a few classes in logic and media literacy. Since most Americans will get none of those, however, perhaps we should be thankful for the obvious prevalence of lying. As we increasingly encounter falsehood, recognizing that it comes from all angles, perhaps health skepticism will increase.

Trusting nothing is a start, better than trusting everything or better than trusting a select few media sources. Learning what to trust, and why, is a goal worth striving toward. No lie.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Video, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The last word on vice presidential choices–for now

Posted by James McPherson on August 4, 2008

Blogger Bil Browning predicts Barack Obama will name Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh as his running mate on Wednesday, while John McCain’s staffers apparently are saying that McCain will wait to name his own pick until after hearing Obama’s choice (and no doubt until the GOP smear machine gets fired up against whomever the Democratic choice may be).

I don’t think Bayh is a terrible choice, though I’d favor someone else. I also thought Obama should have named his pick a few weeks ago, as I wrote some time back. McCain also seems unlikely to pick the woman I thought would be his best choice, though I did suggest that he should wait to name her until Aug. 24, the day before the Democratic Convention begins. I now think McCain will name his running mate within about a week of whenever Obama makes his choice.

If neither candidate names his choice within the next couple of days, I predict they’ll wait a couple more weeks until the Olympics are over–though I disagree with many pundits and think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to name a running mate during the Olympics. After all, the VP choice isn’t supposed to overshadow the nominee, anyway, though I suspect that will be more of a potential problem for the apparently stuck-in-the-mud McCain campaign than for Obama.

My kind of town, Chicago is–this week, anyway

I’m spending much of this week in Chicago for the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication–the largest organization to which I belong, and the one with the bulkiest title. After the convention and a bit of vacation, I’ll be back in about a week. In the meantime, especially if you’re new to the site, you might want to check out some of my previous posts. Here in no particular order are a “top 20” of my favorites:

Burn a flag for the Fourth

Begging to differ

The Democrats’ best VP choice–and when Obama should name him

McCain’s best VP choice–and when he should name her

Have you ever heard of the “world’s most famous journalist”?

 PUMAs stalk political relevance–and irony

Ignorance and the electorate

The New Yorker’s Obama cover

“Act now”: a new way for candidates to reach the electorate

WOW! Young people access news differently than grandparents

Family values

Speaking for the poor

Rush Limbaugh and Operation Chaos

Curiosity and journalism

Pogo’s enemy, revisited

Democratic self-mutilation

Howard Dean and convention bloggers

Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, Mos Def, Zalmay Khalilzad & Keith Ellison: Which doesn’t belong?

Utah Phillips and other dead patriots

Why Obama’s success is no surprise, and why McCain may be in trouble

Have a great week!

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Media literacy, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blog “power”: exercises in self-delusion

Posted by James McPherson on August 3, 2008

There are all sorts of good reasons to blog, such as blowing off steam, exploring ideas, checking assumptions, sharing cool videos, correcting the mainstream media, communicating with a small group of like-minded individuals, and providing a bit of context on issues about which the blogger happens to be knowledgeable.

One apparent problem, however, is that too many bloggers believe that other people actually much care what they think. Political bloggers seem to be especially susceptible to such delusions of grandeur. The fact is, in most cases, we bloggers just don’t matter very much (and anonymous respondents to blogs matter even less).

A few blogs have become significant (inspiring hope among many others) but the vast majority of blogs and Web pages have limited appeal, limited range, and, most importantly, a very limited audience. Look closely (if you can stand to do so) at the comments of even blog posts with hundreds of responses and you’ll tend to see three to six people using the forum to talk to–are argue with–each other. The same three to six people, some of whom choose to stay happily misinformed about most issues, will be the ones most likely to comment on the next day’s post at the same site.

Mainstream media sometimes pay a bit of attention to a topic or organization that seems odd or out of the mainstream, occasionally giving issues or groups more credibility than they’re probably due, before skipping blithely on to something else. Pro-Hillary Clinton PUMAs are a recent example. Unfortunately, some of the PUMAs seem to be buying their own hype, regularly pointing out that there are more than 230 pro-PUMA sites.

I don’t dispute that number, but I also don’t find it particularly impressive. Consider this: If each of 240 sites has a hundred unique fans (that is, counting only folks not counted on similar like-thinking sites)–and based on my perusal of several such sites, I doubt there are that many unique visitors–that makes for a total of 24,000 total PUMAs committed enough to the cause to regularly participate in the process. For context, that’s a couple thousand fewer than live in Marshalltown, Iowa, or about the same as the number of people who work in the Pentagon.

Even if I’m way off, and each of those 240 sites has a thousand unique and committed fans, that adds up to 240,000 PUMAs. That number is probably lower than the number of people who this year will cast ballots for John McCain in and around three or four counties surrounding Spokane, Washington, the city in which I happen to live–and to the chagrin of many on the east side of this state, those McCain voters here won’t keep all of the state’s electoral votes from going for Obama.

I’m glad the PUMAs and various political sites are out there, providing the opportunity for those of us who care to learn some new things and giving the bloggers and their respondents an outlet for expression. But let’s not get carried away with thinking that more than a handful of bloggers–if any–will even remotely influence how most of us vote or live our lives.

Posted in Education, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

“Knowing” what isn’t true: Networks bash Obama more than McCain

Posted by James McPherson on July 29, 2008

We all know the mainstream media, especially the big three networks, love Barack Obama. John McCain’s campaign has complained about it at length, and I’ve recently written about it myself, here and here. A recent blog report of differing amounts of coverage devoted to the two fueled claims of bias.

The only problem? What we know apparently isn’t so, according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Public Affairs. Some anti-Obama bias has been clear, and no reasonable person expects anything resembling objectivity from the likes of Fox New, MSNBC, talk radio or bloggers. It also is true that Obama has received far more coverage–understandably so, because he is new, different, has been targeted by more negative bloggers, and has been doing far more interesting (that is, newsworthy) things than his Republican opponent. But contrary to the old public relations axiom that “any publicity is good publicity,” in fact Obama has drawn far more negative commentary (in both amount and percentage of coverage) than long-time media love object McCain.

The Los Angeles Times reports: “During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.”

The coverage is an apparent shift from primary coverage, when Obama received mostly positive coverage and Hillary Clinton was the target of the most media bashing.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Howard Dean and convention bloggers

Posted by James McPherson on May 15, 2008

The Democratic National Committee has announced 55 bloggers who will cover this year’s Democratic Convention, in what DNC chair Howard Dean calls the party’s “commitment to engaging a broad spectrum of audiences … using new technology and other creative means.” The announcement notes that Dean notified the bloggers of their selection via an online video message.

The 55 blogs represent each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia,  Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and “Democrats abroad.” With names ranging from Hummingbirdminds to HorsesAss (with, not surprisingly lots of “blue”), they were chosen from more than 400 applicants. The announcement also notes: “Some of the blogs selected for the State Corps are full-time, professional endeavors while others are the work of individuals, who through their own efforts have become recognized authorities on state and local politics.  Bloggers had to submit daily audience information and provide examples of posts that made their blogs stand out as an effective online organizing tool or agent of change, a demonstration of both the reach and impact blogs have had and will continue to have on the 2008 election.  The program recognizes the growth of more localized blogs and is in line with Governor Dean’s 50-state strategy.”

It remains to be seen what effect, if any, the addition of the bloggers will have on the convention and its coverage, and unless the Obama-Clinton battle unexpectedly continues through the convention, the happenings in Denver will provide little news. But the inclusive move provides a reminder of two things the often-criticized Dean has done to permanently change the face of Democratic and national politics.

The first of those was the 50-state strategy mentioned above. Against the wishes of the Clintons and other party regulars, Dean scrapped the tradional Democratic approach of focusing on supposed key states to try to build up the party in every state. The resulting structure (which as I’ve noted elsewhere mirrored some of the early party-building activities that brought Republicans to power in the 1990s) is a primary reason that Democrats did so well in the 2006 Congressional elections, surprising virtually everyone by winning a majority in both houses.

Dean’s other significant contribution was in showing Barack Obama how to run a successful campaign. Dean had used an unprecedented Internet campaign to gain the support of young voters, labor unions and others for his own presidential bid. Yet because Dean’s campaign dramatically flamed out, and because the 2004 elections ended up being pretty much decided by the same traditional blocks of voters as in previous elections, most 2008 candidates–and most notably Hillary Clinton’s campaign–overlooked or ignored the promise of Dean’s methods. But Obama’s campaign has used and refined those methods to generate mind-boggling amounts of money and to fire up the voters who would turn out for state caucuses. Perhaps the new voters will fade as the election gets closer and the campaign becomes inevitably nastier, and Obama may lose to McCain in the general election. Still, you can bet that the leading candidates from both sides in 2012 will be using Obama’s–and Dean’s–methods.

The Democratic use of the Internet also recalls how conservatives effectively use alternative media, especially direct mail, in building their own coalition. As I point out in my most recent book, “Particularly important from a media standpoint, direct mail gave sponsoring organizations a means to get out their message in an unfiltered, emotional, one-sided way–without drawing the attention of the mainstream media or political opponents.”

I have to admit that I’ve never heard of, let alone read, most of the 55 blogs selected, but will make it a point to sample them all during the next couple of weeks. In case you’d like to do so, the complete list is as follows:

ALASKA – Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis – http://divasblueoasis.blogspot.com

ALABAMA- Doc’s Political Parlor – http://www.politicalparlor.net

ARKANSAS- Under The Dome.com – http://www.underthedome.com

ARIZONA – Ted Prezelski – Rum, Romanism and Rebellion – http://www.rumromanismrebellion.net

CALIFORNIA – Calitics- http://Calitics.com

COLORADO -SquareState.net – http://squarestate.net

CONNECTICUT -My Left Nutmeg – http://myleftnutmeg.com

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA- DCist.com – http://dcist.com

DELAWARE – TommyWonk – http://tommywonk.blogspot.com/

DEMOCRATS Abroad – Democrats Abroad Argentina – http://www.yanquimike.com.ar

FLORIDA – Florida Progressive Coalition – http://flaprogressives.org

GEORGIA- Tondee’s Tavern – http://www.tondeestavern.com

GUAM – No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro – http://minagahet.blogspot.com

HAWAII – iLind.net: Ian Lind Online – http://www.ilind.net

IOWA – The Iowa Independent – http://iowaindependent.com

IDAHO – 43rdStateBlues.com – http://www.43rdstateblues.com

ILLINOIS- Prairie State Blue – http://www.PrairieStateBlue.com

INDIANA- Blue Indiana – http://www.blueindiana.net

KANSAS – EverydayCitizen.com – http://everydaycitizen.com

KENTUCKY – BlueGrassRoots – http://www.bluegrassroots.org

LOUISIANA – Daily Kingfish – http://www.dailykingfish.com

MASSACHUSETTS – Blue Mass. Group – http://www.bluemassgroup.com

MARYLAND – The Center for Emerging Media – http://www.centerforemergingmedia.com

MAINE – Turn Maine Blue – http://www.turnmaineblue.com

MICHIGAN – Blogging For Michigan – http://bloggingformichigan.com

MINNESOTA – Minnesota Monitor – http://minnesotamonitor.com

MISSISSIPPI – The Natchez Blog – http://natchezms.blogspot.com

MISSOURI – Fired Up! LLC – http://www.firedupmissouri.com

MONTANA – Left in the West – http://www.leftinthewest.com

NORTH CAROLINA – BlueNC.com – http://bluenc.com

NORTH DAKOTA – NorthDecoder.com – http://www.northdecoder.com

NEBRASKA – New Nebraska Network – http://www.NewNebraska.net

NEW HAMPSHIRE – Blue Hampshire – http://www.bluehampshire.com

NEW JERSEY – PolitickerNJ.com – http://www.politickernj.com

NEW MEXICO – Democracy for New Mexico – http://www.DemocracyForNewMexico.com

NEVADA – Las Vegas Gleaner – http://www.lasvegasgleaner.com

NEW YORK – Room 8 – http://www.r8ny.com

OHIO – Ohio Daily Blog – http://www.ohiodailyblog.com

OKLAHOMA – DemoOkie – http://www.DemoOkie.com

OREGON – BlueOregon (blog) – http://www.blueoregon.com

PENNSYLVANIA – Keystone Politics – http://www.keystonepolitics.com

PUERTO RICO – Jusiper – http://jusiper.blogspot.com

RHODE ISLAND – Rhode Island’s Future – http://www.rifuture.org

SOUTH CAROLINA – CracktheBell.com – http://www.crackthebell.com

SOUTH DAKOTA – Badlands Blue – http://www.badlandsblue.com

TENNESSEE – KnoxViews/TennViews – http://www.knoxviews.com

TEXAS – Burnt Orange Report – http://www.BurntOrangeReport.com

UTAH – The Utah Amicus – http://utahamicus.com

VIRGINIA – Raising Kaine – http://www.raisingkaine.com

VIRGIN ISLANDS – Democratic Party of the US Virgin Islands – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/democratvi

VERMONT – Green Mountain Daily – http://greenmountaindaily.com

WASHINGTON – HorsesAss.org – http://www.horsesass.org

WISCONSIN – Uppity Wisconsin – http://www.uppitywis.org

WEST VIRGINIA – West Virginia Blue – http://www.wvablue.com

WYOMING – Hummingbirdminds blog – http://hummingbirdminds.blogspot.com

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