Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's not about the Washington Post Comments

In a misguided attempt to be relevant, I created a blog for Washington post comments. As I'm just a 5th tier blogger I got 2 comments. Oh well, people really wanted a place to talk where they knew that the Post was listening, that wasn't it. But it looks like the Post at least decided to open up the discussion a bit more with a Washington Post hosted forum. It was interesting, especially Jane's comments from firedoglake.

Jane also talks about how it was set up behind the scenes, lots of methods to direct the conversation where the Post wanted to. That's fine, it's their party, but I found it interesting nonetheless as a window into their need to control -- in both crude and subtle ways-- their interactions with their critics. What I would like to know is how often are there fake firestorms of criticism from the RIGHT? For 40 years the right have been hammering "the refs" in the form of AstroTurf letters and paid pundits who harangue the editors from their ivory cubicals. They scream, "You are LIBERAL!" at the press for so long that the press develop an INTERNAL self censorship dialog. Peter Daou wrote about this yesterday in Salon (subscription or painless ad watching required). It goes something like this, "I know that if I don't include this lame untruthful quote from the right I'll get heat, so I'll just let them have their say and them I'm "balanced. And some of them are scared of the backlash from official and unofficial sources. Here is what one editors who cover the White House for the New York Times had to said about the presidential press conferences:
BUMILLER: I think we were very deferential because…it’s live, it’s very intense,
it’s frightening to stand up there (link)

They don't really feel it is their job to get at the truth as much as it is to present 'both sides' of the story (even if the story really has only one side or many sides, not all of equal value.) They are in effect saying, "It's not MY job to discern the truth. I'm just here to gather "he said she said" quotes. "

Even though the Post controlled the debate DURING the online panel session process, Jane held her own (with the help of several 1st Tier bloggers). Lots of interesting stuff there about interactivity and the media as well as an attitude in the press that defers to the narrative of the people in powere that is so deep that they don't see it when it is happening. I recommend reading the whole thing and then Jane's comments about the session at her sight.

From the WaPo forum I really found this post from Jay Rosen interesting:

Jay Rosen: This is one where there's a real lack of communication between the Post and readers who were angry about Howell's errors. Jim Brady's attitude is instead of waiting to reply in her column, she spoke on Thursday at the, three days before her "scheduled" time. He has also said (in a Q and A with me) that he doesn't think an earlier response would have made any difference.

I disagree with Jim. The Post can say it "only" took four days for Howell to acknowledge something amiss, but it only takes four minutes to realize that she was wrong in what she stated as fact about Abramoff and the Democrats. Moreover, she was wrong in a way that "tracked" with Republican spin, which makes it different from a garden-variety miscue. And on top of that her first statement was begrudging in tone. This created the storm conditions that "stunned" Howell, and lit up the comment board.

From Sunday afternoon to Thursday, then, the Post and Howell were speaking loudly by doing nothing, sending the message "there's nothing amiss," or "we don't hear you," or "just the usual partisan griping." And since these signals from the Post were themselves wrong (there


something amiss, and Brady did hear...) they had the effect of compounding the original error, turning it into an insult felt by many thousands of people, who, as everyone knows, stand on the blue side of the red-blue divide in American politics. That is no disqualification for criticizing the Post.

I don't think you can understand the insults that flew at Howell--and she will never understand them--unless you start with the institutional insult I just described. There's news value for outraged readers in a big non-response. The news for them is: you don't count, even when you have a point. Not answering the criticisms of her Jack Ambramoff column was escalating behavior, and the Post began it immediately.

And so I don't think Jim Brady has punctuated this event correctly.


CmdrSue said...

There are tiers? Why didn't anyone tell me about the tiers? Does that make blogging like a wedding cake?

Yeah, I'm a bit off topic but I just wanted to at least say hi while I was here. :)

8:25 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home