RIP, James Bellows

The Los Angeles Times runs a long obit today on James Bellows (as does the New York Times), who was the newspaper equivalent of the patron saint of lost causes, since his job was taking over the also-ran newspapers in big cities and giving them one last burst of life before they finally folded. This might give you the impression he was a perennial loser, but no one in newspapers believes it; his mode was “if we’re going down, let’s give them hell until we hit the bottom!” There is an irony in that he did have one unqualified success, but it was in television, and it was Entertainment Tonight, whose web site at the moment has nothing on Bellows, but lots about Julia Roberts explaining what it’s like to kiss Clive  Owen. But before you mock him for that, it’s worth noting that when he ran the New York Herald Tribune, he ran Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” on the paper’s front page. The man earned his bones, is what I’m telling you.

One never wishes to call a death timely, but Bellow’s passing could be seen also as a metaphor for the passing of a certain sort of newspaperman who it seems unlikely we’ll see again. Today’s newspapers are staggering and falling all over the place, and quite a few of them aren’t likely to survive the next couple of years. From the outside looking in, the reaction to this from the newspapers does not seem to be a Bellowsesque “if we go down, let’s go down fighting” but “Let’s just keep pushing people off the boat until the thing finally sinks.” Newspapers are in trouble for a whole lot of reasons, but one big reason is that so many of them are simply boring; there are many reasons for that, too, but one big reason is a decades-long choice to play it safe, because why shouldn’t they have? Profit margins are at stake. Playing it safe had a predictable outcome; doing risky stuff, is, well, risky.

Well, now playing it safe isn’t working anymore. The question is whether there is anyone like Bellows still around to help newspapers renew their mission, possibly to resurrect the things, or if the people like Bellows have already largely left the field, leaving only a class of barely-adequate middle managers for editors, who will shuffle staff until they’re the only ones left to turn out the lights. I’m a huge believer in the need for newspapers, and of course as a former newspaperman, I have a sentimental attachment to them as well. I want newspapers (with or without the actual paper). But I’m not sure if newspapers generally know what they’re about anymore, or if those in charge of them are willing to rouse themselves to rage against their own dying of the light. Maybe those remaining should look back at Bellows, and see how he did it.

41 thoughts on “RIP, James Bellows

  1. Thanks John. I’d never heard of Bellows because I live in Australia I guess. But the issues with newspapers are the same. My favourite newspaper has always been The Sydney Morning Herald because of the news and quality of the reporting both on-line and in the paper. Now though if you look at it’s web page (http://www.smh.com.au) you’d think it was a tabloid. We need more fellows like Bellows.

  2. In a lot of ways, I think the newspaper business just got too big. The NY Times company (for example) is really really vast. They had tons of capital, they own a really really large building right outside the ugliest building in NYC (AKA, The 42 street Port Authority) and they’ve got huge online holdings as well.

    Which means they corner poorly, and can do some remarkably risky things. And they have. And so have tons of other media companies.

    And print ad sales are withering. I don’t think print ad sales are suffering because the newspapers are boring, I think it’s because there’s all of a sudden a much more interesting and useful way to spend money – online ads, which you can track, budget, sell, resell, etc…

    And of course, people are *distracted*. They’re not bored by print news, they’re given multiple options, and all of a sudden, print news from one source is less interesting. You can watch TV on your laptop, on your ipod, read the news on your PDA/iPhone/Googlephone, or whatever. So there’s more out there for people to consume, and newspapers were already running on tight margins (because in large part, meganewscompanies made them do that to maximize shareholder value).

    I agree that we’re seeing the end of an era here, because James Bellows aside, building a seriously skilled reporting team takes time, money, and smarts. I’m watching Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo do exactly that. He started with some really good political reporting, and trained people to follow his lead. Right now, he’s moving into financial reporting, and he’s new a it, as is his news team.

    He will probably not have the manpower or money that even a mid sized local newspaper had back in the 1980’s to 1990’s for a long time. He’s getting there, but in the meantime, papers that had actual good reporting, good archives, networks of contacts all over, sources, professional photographers, etc… are dying.

    Even if we didn’t have an impending economic depression, we’d eventually see that happen, but we’d probably have had the chance to see groups like TPM take over.

    Anyhow, anyone who’s interested in what a newspaper’s demise looks like can read about the death of the Rocky Mountain News over at Columbia Journalism Review, which is a great site for media watchers.

  3. Josh Jasper:

    “I don’t think print ad sales are suffering because the newspapers are boring”

    Well, but they are. If people don’t see themselves as having a reason to pick up your product, you lose eyeballs. You lose eyeballs, you lose advertisers. As noted in the article itself, there are all sorts of reasons newspapers are in trouble. Being boring is only one of them, but it is one of them, and it does have an effect.

  4. You’re right. I should have said it’s not *mainly* because newspapers are boring in order to make my point clearly. You may still disagree , but that’s an opinion, not something I think either of us seem to have numbers to back up one way or the other.

    But honestly, ad budgets are shrinking no matter how many eyeballs you have, which means demand is decreasing, so price is going to shrink to match, or ad units just won’t get sold. Either way, being more exciting isn’t going to fix things all the way. It might slow the rate of decline some, but that also has to do with who is reading, and how much an ad buying company is willing to spend to reach them.

    These days, it’s going down no matter how exciting you are.

  5. One of my greatest pleasures in life is the Friday edition of The New York Times (don’t ask me why-I just started a weird tradition of setting aside a coupla hours on Fridays for coffee and The Paper.).

    Although I agree that they are a shadow of their former selves, newspapers are still capable of doing great things. Even conservapundit Tucker Carlson pointed out that the NYT is at the core a professional news-gathering organization.

    I don’t want set off a “liberal media” thing here, and the point about the work going at at TPM and elsewhere is well-taken.

    But….the Times is special, and I hope they can find some business model to keep the print edition going. As you say, I think they should be more bold-what do they have to lose?

  6. From the LAT obit: “Believing that a newspaper’s main job was to ‘print the news and raise hell,’ Bellows zeroed in on local news and delighted in stories that challenged establishment views. He attracted talent and let it bloom…”

    All easier said than done, of course, but that’s the core of the business.

  7. As a reporter, I strongly disagree that we are playing it safe. I work for a hard-hitting investigative newspaper that won the RFK award last year for uncovering 53 cases of state child-welfare malfeasance that caused the deaths of children. If you think that made us popular among the government types, you’d be slightly in error. We do watchdog journalism and we don’t shrink back from important topics. We were also one of the few papers that had increased circulation for ten years in a row.

    Boring? Only if you find actual news boring. We write about what’s going on around the corner and across the globe. Newspapers are written in a more vibrant, reader-friendly style and a wider variety of topics now than ever before in history. But the average reader now cares more about what happened on THE BACHELOR than the stimulus package. Should we follow the trend and dumb the paper down to a gossip sheet?

    But we can’t fight the whole damn economy. The money has never come from subscriptions; it comes from ads. When small businesses get in trouble, they cut advertising. When chains go under, they stop putting out circulars in the Sunday edition. Meanwhile, the cost of newsprint has gone up 40 percent in the last two years, primarily because of the marvelous gas prices we endured – but did the cost of paper go down when gas prices dropped like a stone? Ha.

    Newspapers aren’t dying. They’re evolving. The smart ones have found a good synergy with online and print, and are hunkered down to survive until businesses can buy ads again. Will we end up with most newspapers solely online, maybe with a Sunday edition? I think it’s quite possible. But in the end, it’s really up to readers. They vote with their clicks; they get the news they want. And if they don’t want it… well, I hope they really enjoyed THE BACHELOR.

  8. It’s always a shame when a good one passes, especially one who’s a fighter. As to newspapers, their problems and even their relvance… I can’t get past the mental image of John with a pork-pie hat with PRESS card shoved in the band. I blame that image of him in a bowler a while back.

  9. The obit mentions cause of death was Alzheimer’s disease which seems a strange ending for someone who spent his career trying to make the world a little saner.

  10. I agree that newspapers have become increasingly boring, but the reason they’re in such dire straits is that they are facing numerous challenges. The technological angle is obvious, but another important element was the decision of too many editors and journalists in the post-Watergate era to become what was in effect the propaganda branch of the Democratic Party. How would an anti-establishment figure like Bellows fight the establishment now that former anti-establishmentarians are the new establishment?

    Regardless what one thinks of its product – and I don’t watch it myself – the huge success of Fox News has derived primarily from the fact that ABCNNBCBS and PBS were all devoted to serving the same left-leaning half of the country, leaving the other half with talk radio. In Minnesota, it was always amusing to read the political endorsements of the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, both of which inevitably endorsed Democratic Farmer-Labor candidates except when the Independent Republican candidate was a certain winner. My family subscribed to the “Star and Sickle” for many years until my parents just couldn’t stand it anymore, switched to the Pioneer Press for a while, and finally gave up newspapers altogether.

    Another element is the mass homogenization of what worked best as a local product. Did anyone seriously expect a bunch of Minnesota Lutherans or Hispanic Catholics to pay to read a New York City Jew’s opinion on Likud vs Labor? Until I understood what the AP was, I couldn’t figure out why a Minneapolis paper published more editorials about the mayor of New York than its own mayor.

    I’m certainly not saying that serving the broad spectrum of the populace would have been enough to save any newspapers from the other challenges facing them, but you know something was fundamentally wrong with the business model when many intelligent, educated, high-income individuals, the very sort of people newspapers needed as customers if they were going to survive, are openly celebrating their demise.

  11. I find it interesting that, when David Zurawik reviewed
    a REALLY good PBS financial documentary in his
    Baltimore Sun blog (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/zontv/), people _came out of the woodwork_ to complain in the blog comments. Apparently, the local affiliate had pre-empted the documentary for pledge programming.

    The sad thing is – the Sun would never have known this if the readers had NOT complained.

    It’s nice to see the dialog happening between reader and journalist – and maybe that’s where the field is headed – but it shows a lack of effort (or perhaps resources) on the part of the investigator.

    I have nothing against Zurawik – he does good work – but I thought either himself or his bosses should have caught this.

  12. VD @11: Do you think the answer is for all newspapers to become essentially community papers, perhaps weeklies? Many dailies have already put more resources into local coverage (or at least alleged that they were doing so), including the Star Tribune – in the year before it declared bankruptcy. Nonetheless maybe this is what will have to occur, and perhaps it’s AP itself that will go belly-up, given that nowadays anyone, anywhere, anytime can read Israelis’ own opinions of Israeli domestic politics, no intermediary New Yorkers needed.

    (Do you care to identify the “New York City Jew” who so annoyingly sticks in your memory? Some people might rightly regard such a free-floating phrase as close to derogatory, so come on, name him or her.)

  13. Do you think the answer is for all newspapers to become essentially community papers, perhaps weeklies?

    I think most of the papers that survive are going to move in that direction. It’s also possible that they might become specialty publications that focus on a particular area like the Wall Street Journal, only more tightly focused.

    Do you care to identify the “New York City Jew” who so annoyingly sticks in your memory? Some people might rightly regard such a free-floating phrase as close to derogatory, so come on, name him or her.

    Some people would be silly to do so. The columnist was Abe Rosenthal, if I recall correctly. It doesn’t require virulent Judenhassen to observe the fact that the NYT’s editorial page has been vastly overpopulated by Jews for decades. Which is fine with me, I see no reason why the NYT shouldn’t hire whoever they like, (except, of course, for their own opining against other businesses being permitted to do so), but it just doesn’t make sense to expect a significant percentage of Americans to share the NYT columnists’ obsessions with Israel or care about issues that are unique to New York City.

  14. I’m a reporter at a twice-weekly suburban paper in western Canada, circulation around 40,000, population size about 125,000. Because this is Canada, we were doing great financially until two months ago, when our economy followed the American one and crashed and burned. Now our parent company can’t afford to pay off the interest on its debt. We’re about to get thinner.

    Still, Americans don’t know how good they had it with the quality of their papers. Our big papers have been subject to almost 20 years of buyouts that left almost all of them in the hands of two chains (one of them formerly owned by Conrad Black, he of the jail term). I don’t really remember what papers were like before the mad dash to convergence, but I know they’re smaller now. Black’s hatchet man, David Radler, used to go into newsrooms and count the desks and demand that one third of the editorial staff be fired the day after they bought a paper. There’s basically no serious investigative reporting, nothing that would take longer than a week or two, anyway. The average American midwestern paper, from a mid-sized city, is better quality than the average Canadian paper from a city twice the size. There are good reporters and good columnists, but they’re fewer now.

    I’ve been doing this 10 years, and I’m 30. I’m probably going to live longer than my industry.

  15. I stopped using newspapers for actual news and analysis more than a decade ago when I began to understand that a journalism degree is usually one of the marks of an unintelligent and unreflective person. Most stories of local news that I have had any knowledge of has at least one major error or omission in it. The majority of commentaries and analyses have major errors of fact or logic or omission. When the former local editor-in-chief wrote an editorial I could be certain that it would be self-rigteous, condescending, and wrong. The local featured commentary writer is a young man without even rudimentary skills at research or analysis. He relies on others to do his thinking for him. All he can do well is emote.

    The only reason I still get the paper is sports, Sunday ads, local events, and the funnies (which are going downhill fast. Does anyone think “Get Fuzzy” is funny?) When it comes time to renew our subscription we will probably drop down to Sunday-only. The paper doesn’t deliver anything I can’t get more of, at better quality, and cheaper somewhere else.

  16. I disagree… the Washington Post (my local paper) consistently has world-class journalism, with insightful articles written about relevant issues, and their circulation is declining like everyone else’s.

    IMO the problem has more to do with the way the modern working world takes up every last minute of your time that it can get, and then demands more. The pace of life is simply too fast for newspapers anymore.

  17. Well, now playing it safe isn’t working anymore. The question is whether there is anyone like Bellows still around to help newspapers renew their mission.

    I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to the New Haven Independent, New Haven’s hyperlocal, nonprofit, virtual newspaper that routinely scoops our ailing Journal Register paper of record, the New Haven Register, and does it with a much smaller staff and budget. It has revitalized journalism in the New Haven area in a big way. How do they do it? Best to just read it from them:

    http://www.newhavenindependent.org/about_us.php

    It’s not a perfect model—as the good people at NHI will be the first to admit—but it’s a good start.

  18. Perhaps if the papers tried to be more objective in their reporting, more people would read? Having spoken to numerous former paper subscribers in the last few years, not just of few of them sited “slant” as their primary complaint. They felt the papers (really, the people writing the papers) always had an angle and they were annoyed with so many stories being run as narrative rather than just neutral fact-finding.

    The Seattle P-I is notorious for this kind of thing, and I think the P-I lost a lot of readers during the last 10 years because the editorial board injected its own views so much into the content of the publication, it put off a lot of otherwise long-time subscribers. To the point that they did in fact cancel.

    IMHO news should be about facts. Period. Our news organizations don’t seem as interested in that anymore, and now everything is “packaged” for us because newspaper people don’t see themselves as deliverer of facts as much as they see themselves as “enlighteners” come to edumacate the unwashed.

    Annoying, no matter who you are.

  19. Sub-Odeon:

    “Perhaps if the papers tried to be more objective in their reporting, more people would read?”

    Outside of the conservative event horizon, this particular meme does not play especially well (although the fringiest of the lefties kvetch about it from time to time, ironically enough). And to be honest about it, I find breast-beating on the subject of the “lack of objectivity” in media is generally an excellent indicator of whether someone defines “objectivity” as “conforming to my personal subjective views.”

  20. I don’t read the local newspaper (the Christchurch Press) because … well, for several reasons;

    a) It’s hideously boring while being b) hideously sensationalist and c) hideously parochial while d) covering anything outside the city limits in extremely sketchy detail if at all and e) anything inside the city limits in a great breadth of verbiage but f) with little actual depth.

  21. ‘And to be honest about it, I find breast-beating on the subject of the “lack of objectivity” in media is generally an excellent indicator of whether someone defines “objectivity” as “conforming to my personal subjective views.”’

    Which is why, as pointed out repeatedly by Slactivist, who still seems to be employed in a newsroom, if you want to know which drug is likely to cause problems for those using it, you need to read the business section. Because in the business section, such objective information about a drug’s dangerous side-effects can cause important shifts in stock prices which that newspaper’s truly valued readers need to be informed about.

    As for the people taking the drug? Objectively, who the hell at the newspaper cares, especially a newspaper which is just part of a corporate group.

    Talking about objectivity in the American media landscape is already a lost cause – as looking at the owners of the major media outlets rapidly demonstrates. They aren’t objective, they are profit driven. And yet, Americans still have this charming belief that their media somehow is charged with the duty of providing reliable information to the citizens of a functioning democratic republic.

    Why these illusions persist can probably be explained by the fact that they are sustained by the media, whose objectivity is considered a given by those consumers whose exposure to the media’s various messages is essential in keeping the bars of the cage invisible.

  22. And to be honest about it, I find breast-beating on the subject of the “lack of objectivity” in media is generally an excellent indicator of whether someone defines “objectivity” as “conforming to my personal subjective views.”

    That’s most likely because you tend to lean a bit left yourself, John, and your views are much more in sync with that of the average journalist than are the views of half the country. But the problem is real and easily confirmable; if it didn’t exist, Fox News wouldn’t be prison-raping the other cable news networks in the ratings. You don’t seriously consider Fox objective, do you?

    Anyhow, for confirmation just read the newspaper coverage of any single state where a concealed-carry law is being contemplated by the legislature. In the two states where I followed the coverage, Texas and Minnesota, the newspapers immediately began publishing “news” article after “news” article predicting firefights in bars and bloodbaths in the streets, along with plenty of editorials opposing the laws. They did this despite the fact that this had NEVER happened in any state where a concealed-carry law had been passed, in fact, violent crime rates almost invariably dropped. There was absolutely nothing objective about the coverage in either case… and the Minnesota coverage paid no attention to the successful Texas law enacted a few years before.

    Needless to say, there have been no more problems with Minnesota conceal-carry than there were in the previous 30 states to pass such a law, the media histrionics notwithstanding.

  23. Perhaps if the papers tried to be more objective in their reporting, more people would read?

    Papers have *never* been objective, even when they were doing really really well. The false-meme that they’ve become *less* objective recently is just that: false.

  24. VD:

    That Rupert Murdoch took advantage of decades of conservative political indoctrination on the topic of “media bias” to create a news channel catering to people who prefer bias proves nothing other than that Rupert Murdoch saw an opportunity and likes to make money.

    Also, cherry-picking an example near and dear to your interests does not prove overall bias. Liberals these days can be heard kvetching about how easily the conservatives have gotten their talking points on taxes and the economy into the newspapers, which obviously points out the conservative bias of the news organizations, especially within the beltway, and so on.

    I will grant that for some absolutely inexplicable reason, several journalistic ideals relating to newsgathering and reporting are seen as liberal values rather than conservative ones (up to and including reporting on news regardless of whether it makes one’s party of inclination look bad), but they’re not actually so nor does it have to be that way, especially when there’s a robust wall between commentary and news-gathering — see the WSJ an example (ironically, lately a Murdoch joint).

  25. It’s perfectly possible to read a paper that has a built in bias you disagree with, especially if it’s good enough. I read the Economist regularly. I’m pretty far to the left of its intended audience, but it’s well written. Most of the blather coming out of the right wing segment of the media is just that: blather. (Ditto for a lot of the left-wing stuff too, of course.)

    I like reading editorial copy with which I disagree, as long as the arguments are coherent and the writing good. It keeps my own opinions sharp, and sometimes changes them.

  26. I’ve recently been rereading Jack Smith, the LA TImes columnist. He was able to keep writing just about to the end- the proper way for a journalist to go out.

  27. JS, so are you basically saying that bias in the media is a right-wing myth? That it does not exist?

  28. Thanks for this! When I worked a medium market newspaper in Texas, I well remember having it drilled in me immediately following 9-11 that we should be the ‘watchdogs’ and keep a close eye on our state government and any laws roaming through the judicial system. But then my stories would get edited to make sure that people were able to weasel out of some of their not-so-politically correct quotes that would have inflamed the community and/or the advertisers. More often than not the concern was to the advertisers.

  29. HAH! Funny, JS.

    We discussed this as a group at drill this weekend, in regards to how the media always (and even you must admit this, JS) blows things out of proportion if ever a story breaks that just happens to involve a member of the military. It was during our yearly roundtable briefing on ethics and values in an Army setting.

    Consider the “Ranger Robbers” from 2006.

    I don’t know if this went national, but up in the Northwest it was big stuff for many days, hitting print and television and radio.

    The headlines and soundbites were always the same: UNITED STATES ARMY RANGERS ROB BANK!!!!

    Now, why in the world does the profession of these men warrant a blaring headline?

    When other people rob banks, it’s NEVER in the headline. It’s always, “Three armed men in masks take local bank.” You never hear if they’re plumbers, clerks, truck drivers, or anything else like that. No. But if they’re military, even if they’re ex-military, this ‘fact’ will conveniently be floated to the top.

    Why? Is it because the media holds the military in such high regard they are simply aghast and in disbelief when soldiers do something stupid or wrong?

    No. It’s because the media, by and large, ***LOVES*** piling on the military whenever an individual in the military fucks up. It’s guilt by association. Doesn’t matter if the perp was off duty when he did the crime or whatever else he was not supposed to be doing. The press will run it as follows:

    MILITARY PERSONNEL FUCK UP BADLY, FILM AT ELEVEN!

    We know the press will tag us every time they have even a small excuse to do so. You don’t see this with other professions, other than perhaps the police department. They get it up the ass from the press too. Just let an off-duty copy do something stupid, and it’s front page news. Can’t say the same for plumbers or truck drivers or motel clerks.

    Yes, one might argue that any news event involving the military — or cops — is going to get front-page news because these topics are exciting and sensational and they potentially attract readers and viewers, which means $$$ revenue for the advertising.

    But the giant, critical eye forever aimed at the military has been open and staring for so long now, the bias is taken as a given. It’s part of our training as military members, when we discuss keeping our asses wiped and our noses clean. We know the media will hound us out and blanket-blame all of us any time one of us does something wrong, or simply does something dumb.

    This is also part of what I like to call the Emphasis Warp that occurs all the time in the media too.

    On any given day in a big city — like Seattle, or the greater Seattle-Tacoma area — there are countless crimes and events that are potentially newsworthy. Only a very few of them will be plucked and pushed to the front pages. Who is making these decisions, and why? Why do some stories get massive coverage that lasts for days or weeks or months or years? While others — often of equal or more note — get buried or ignored?

    Naturally this weekend’s roundtable got around to Abu Ghraib, which has becomee the My Lai of my generation. Most of us agreed it was a miserable example of soldiers doing stupid shit. Though unlike My Lai, no Iraqis were killed. Simply humiliated on film. But that doesn’t matter because when the media got wind of this, the giant shit tornado that ensued was colossal and beyond all proportion with the events on the ground. It was used widely to inflame anti-war and anti-military sentiment. I personally had someone walk up to me on the street in Seattle after this happened and make some rude comments to me about me being in the Army. Nevermind that I was not involved, and if I’d been at Abu Ghraib would have submitted the perps for UCMJ action the second I got wind of it.

    Yes, we can blame the public for being so brainless as to blanket-blame organizations and groups when it’s individuals who are at fault.

    But the media is a too-happy accomplice in this too-typical sort of thing. They shove stories to the top, blow shit beyond proportion, enjoy smearing and slamming cops, troops, politicians, and other people they feel deserves Endless Critical Attention No Matter What.

    I’m not asking the media to go back to the WWII days when they were basically on Our Side and were trumpet-blasters for the Righteous U.S. Military Cause. It would be nice, but I’m not asking for that. I am asking that the media re-prioritize and take into consideration the wider ramifications of their slant.

    Doubtless, this will not happen. And doubtless, circulation will continue to fall. Not because the internet and TV suck the brains out of potential readers, though this is a big factor. But because many people, having discovered alternative sources of information, via mailing lists and feeds and blogs and whatnot, just don’t feel like paying for the same old slanted shit at the daily fishwrap anymore. Why fund reporting that is annoying and Emphasis Warped when you can get half a dozen other sources — for free — and contrast and compare and make up your own mind?

    Because that’s what I know I would like if I could make the media “objective:” let the facts be known, without Emphasis Warp, give the various views and angles equal time, and let the public decide what they think. Especially about news items that are politically charged. And the media damned well knows which items these are, because they always get thrust righ to the top and are kept there long after their shelf dates have expired.

    OK, soap box over. Here’s your blog back. Sorry about the donut crumbs I got all over it.

  30. Though unlike My Lai, no Iraqis were killed. Simply humiliated on film.

    Er, except at least one was. Graner and Harman (two of the convicted torture-porn photographers) ended up posing with his corpse. Those were the photos of the guy in the body bad stuffed with ice who had the broken skull.

    For the most part, though, I agree with you. I’d love to see more positive representation of the armed forces in the media, but like cops, you’re the violent force side of the government, so you get extra scrutiny.

    We used to not scrutinize our police and armed forces, and that was a worse state of affairs, because you (police, armed forces, military) could literally murder or torture someone with government sanction and get away with it. It’s going to include some negative reporting, and some over-hyping to get past that. But on the positive side, these days stories like the bad conditions at Walter Reed get out and get publicized really quickly these days.

    As for releasing “the facts be known, without Emphasis Warp”, that’s a naive fantasy of your own infalibility – if we let you decide what “facts” got released and what counted as “facts” we’d have a very different media than if I did.

  31. Josh, did I say **I** wanted to be in charge of what the media releases, and how?

    No. I don’t want to be the filter.

    I said I’d like the media to let me make up my own mind instead of trying to spoon-feed a viewpoint and a perspective to me.

    Basically, less filtering. Less emphasis warp. Less emotional content. More dispassion.

  32. *Someone* decides what stories to report, what words are used to describe them, what context the go in, what relate facts are given to the consumer to make sense of it all.

    If you don’t personally want to be a mythical impartial judge, you want someone else to do it who’ll make you personally happy with the results.

  33. How else would you write that bank robbery story? It’s kind of relevant that the bank robbery was pulled off using military training and equipment provided by the government.

  34. [[another important element was the decision of too many editors and journalists in the post-Watergate era to become what was in effect the propaganda branch of the Democratic Party.]]

    Oh, spare me. I spent 25 years in the newspaper bidness, the last 22 at the same paper — in what was until very recently a deeply red state. As a manager I was privy to a lot of research. And when we asked people why they dropped their subscriptions, “liberal bias” was never in the top 5 and frequently not even in the top 10. And in recent years, we started getting more complaints about both conservative bias and bias in favor of the city’s business establishment. All the while, the reporting strove to be accurate and fair — not “objective.” True objectivity is rarer than true love. If you’re being fair and accurate — factually accurate; contextually accurate — you’ve done your job.

    One other thing about contextual accuracy: a lot of conservatives consider THAT the bias. That ain’t bias. That’s the whole picture.

  35. Jim Bellows is a true ledgen both as an editor and Journalist. He was one of the few who was far and balance. The problem with newspapers today is that they are too far to the left on their polictical views newspapers such as the New York Times AKA New York Crimes the Los Angles Times AKA Los Angles Slimes
    and the Washington Post AKA Washington Con Post.

    In California where I live about 85 % of the big media newspapers are on the far liberal left. Which is the reason why I do not read any of the California newspaers expect for the following The Oragen Country Regeister, The Long Beach Press Telegram, and Thd Los Angles Daily News which center right but all and fair.

    I just stick to reading the Wall Street Journal because other then the three California newspapers I read, the Wall Street Journal gives you real news and not
    B.S like the other liberal papers do.

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