Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

New Gore Book Insult to Reason

As far as the news media goes, the new Gore book IS an Assault on Reason. It slams "right-wing" commentary, bypasses similar strategies by the left, and is silent on the failings of reporters and editors. He is right, however, to attack television as ruining the national debate. but what else is new? The "vast wasteland" knock goes back a long time.
Not a word about the virtual vanishing of United Press International, which gave AP a near monopoly on news gathering and distribution during the 1980s and 1990s. Those who talk about media concentration usually ignore this factor. Can you blame them? They probably never thought about it because it wasn't part of the news agenda, just what "Philip's Code" is about. Gore and Phil Davis apparently agree on one thing, though: The Internet can change the news landscape a great deal. No longer can reporters and editors get away with keeping facts from readers, who can now check for themselves. I doubt that today Clinton would be able to get away with his goofs about history. Bloggers would be on reporters' backs, ranting about how Dan Quayle was fired in the potato incident.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Did Al Gore Read "Philip's Code"?

Can't wait to read Al Gore's "The Assault on Reason," praised by E. J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post Writer's Group. According to Dionne, the book is about how strange public discourse becomes when "mediated through television." Gore, he said, thinks the Internet may revive the art of reasoned argument. Gore must have read "Philip's Code." The Kansas City milkman lives!!! The last chapter zeros in on just that - seeing the Internet as "the watchdog's watchdog," which lets go with a howl when it smells bias, unfairness or ignorance. Maybe all of the above.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Knoxville Slayings Not in Zebra Class

Interesting piece by AP's Duncan Mansfield outta (there's Phillip's code for you. Note two l's.) Knoxville about bloggers jumping on reverse racism in coverage of slaying of two white people. Sounds similar to the Zebra killings in San Francisco in the 1970s when black "Angels of Death" killed at least 14 whites. Media tried to rewrite history on that one. It's in "Philip's Code: No News is Good News - to a Killer." There's a big difference, however. In the Zebra killings, there was no doubt race was the motive. But you wouldn't know that if you relied on the news media for collective memories. In 1999 Stephanie Salter of the San Francisco Examiner wrote a column about a white gunman named Benjamin Smith who killed a black man and an Asian and wounded nine other non-whites before killing himself.
Smith, wrote Salter, was another in a long line of "disaffected, disturbed, hate-filled white males" who "went on a violent rampage." Salter wondered what the reaction would have been if Smith's targets had been "innocent bystanders who looked Anglo?' In San Francisco, a good bet would be very little.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Questons Are more Important than Answers

The latest Guild Reporter, the publication of the Newspaper Guild, has a review of a new book, "No Questions Asked," which deals with news coverage since 9-11. Among other things, the book by Lisa Finnegan deals with the "failure to question governmental over-reaching." (Reviews are important because few of us have the disposable time or money to buy and read all we'd like.) During preparation for the invasion, "relatively rare skeptical reporting was buried deep within the few newspapers that carried it," the piece states. What about "skeptical reporting" now? The same "lemming reporting" marches on. Doesn't anyone in the press remember that the invasion was called "Operation Iraqi Freedom," not "find those GD WMDs"? Or that the eve of battle statement issued to US troops hardly mentioned WMDs.
Was the mainstream press so lacking in reporters with military experience that they bought line about "the world's greatest military"? It was obvious that since Vietnam we could no longer put enough troops in the field to do the job. '01 wasn't '41. Has anyone the courage to ask if civil war in Iraq would be in our interest? Before 9-11, most coverage of the military centered on gays or women in the service, not readiness. "Don't ask, don't tell" is the right term. Frankly, reporters seldom aked tough questions about a lot of issues. That's why "Philip's Code" is dedicated to reporters who still regard the pen as mightier than the mouse.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Abu Ghraib a scandal all right - of reporting

Military writer Bing West, author of The Village, No True Glory and many other outstanding works, is back from Iraq with observations that include the impact of the Abu Ghraib scandal - the one about the jail, not the reporting scandal. Reporting scandal? Yes. Saddam killed thousands in the same jail, murders that went virtually unreported because news people kept quiet in order to get access elsewhere in Iraq. It's all in "Embedded." A CNN big shot stepped down soon after the book was published. Same old story: the press credits itself with exposing something - in this case the jail brutality - and then becomes a PR agency for itself. Again, fact conquers truth.