Why we, the people, need a strong media

My wife and I are reversing our previous decision to cancel the New York Times Sunday edition because of an article this morning. After reading it, I had the profound realization that we, the people, need a strong, independent counter to mis-information, spin or positioning that any Administration might push on the American people…

…and bloggers aren’t it.

The gist of the article is that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon were architects of a coordinated, orchestrated campaign to position retired military leaders as spokes-puppets for the Administration, going on network news as “military analysts” with either veiled or overt obfuscation of their ties and that they’d been spoon-fed “messaging” about Iraq to carry forward.

According to this article, many of these “analysts” have close ties and affiliations with the defense industry so their livelihoods and incentives are directly aligned with the military industrial complex and the trillions of expenditures on defense and the ‘war’ on Iraq and nebulous terror.

One paragraph leapt out at me and at that moment realized there isn’t a snowballs-chance-in-Hades bloggers could or would perform this type of investigative journalism…or even afford to do what the Times can do, take the time necessary to investigate and then write a report like this article, or even have the power to stand up to coordinated message manipulation by the government (my bolding):

Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

I’ve not yet seen any shift in media power from ‘old’ to ‘new’ media that could rival the pulpit a major news daily wields, mainly because of the fracturing of information distribution (and the attention we pay to any given source) today’s Internet is driving. Are you? If so, point out to me the trusted, non-opinion but fact-based investigative blogs or blog networks — ones that are ‘new’ media vs. extensions of ‘old’, traditional media like a New York Times blog — and I’ll take it into consideration though I’ll wager there aren’t any.

If the downtrending of news business models continues to deteriorate and more of us get our news from comedy shows like The Daily Show or Colbert Report — or from lightweight, opinion-driven news sites like Huffington Post or Slate — true investigative journalism is what suffers as does our ability to learn counterpoints and balanced or alternative viewpoints (though ironically, one of my favorite “News 2.0” articles is here from Huffington Post but is still opinion).

What do you think?

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6 Comments

  1. PXLated on April 20, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Ya. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to subscribe to a dead trees edition.
    We need them but they’re going to have to figure out how to do it online.



  2. John Blackburn on April 20, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    It’s politically left, but Talking Points Memo at http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/ is already gaining recognition for strong investigative online journalism. Their persistence on the attorneys-general purge won an award recently.



  3. Stephen Downes on April 20, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    One thing – the Bush strategy was *successful* even though we have big newspapers like the NY Times. And we continue to learn about the read news from Stewart and Colbert even when we have CNN and Fox (or evem, *because* we have CNN and Fox).

    The fact is, despite the occasional victory such as this, large traditional news outlets have been *terrible* and holding the powerful to account, and mostly act as an arm of the governing elite.

    Blogs may not be the solution to this. But the NY Times most certainly isn’t.



  4. Tom Kieffer on April 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm


  5. amy lenzo on April 21, 2008 at 10:56 am

    It seems as if you are framing the issue as an either/or competition between investigative reporting and blogging. Perhaps that’s a false dichotomy, since today’s healthy information flow requires access to both types of “news”.

    Even though I am a total bibliophile and not at all ready to give up the physicality & beauty of books, I agree with PXLated above about the need to go beyond paper-based newspapers, at least at the scale they are produced today.

    Recycled newsprint could be an answer, depending on how polluting the recycling process would be, but is there a reason investigative reporting is married to newsprint and can’t migrate over to a web-based format?



  6. bex on April 21, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I disagree in part…

    The New York Times was the *problem* during the run-up to the war in Iraq. Their brand has suffered a lot, even before they brought Bill Kristol on board.

    The best reporting either came from the major syndication networks (Associated Press, Reuters), the trade or business journals (Businessweek, The Economist, sometimes the Wall Street Journal), monthly news magazines (Atlantic) and the liberal blogs. As soon as a Democrat is president, the conservative blogs might be worthwhile as well.

    For daily news, papers and TV news are mostly useless. You’re better off with liberal blogs and Comedy Central.

    Want thoughtful analysis? I recommend The Week and The Atlantic Monthly for starters…



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