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Factual Errors in your Column
July 11, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

The journalistic practices of the Washington Post and Walter Pincus.
What the Snowden Affair Reveals About US Journalism. The Snowden Effect: definition and examples.
It's as if Corporate Media is at War on Independent Journalism.
Back in June as the story broke it was noted that If Edward Snowden Is in Trouble, So Is Journalism,
and from zdnet The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism.
So what does the Snowden Affair Reveal About US Journalism.
It should definitely force media self-examination.
posted by adamvasco (46 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
It kills me to hear, read or watch news about NSA and Snowden, because it invariably focuses the "who" and ignores the "what" and "why." The major personal privacy story has been respun as a human interest story.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:44 AM on July 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


"The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism"

No it really isn't.
posted by misterG at 7:53 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


The gap between giving people what they want and giving people what they need will never go away.
posted by DigDoug at 7:56 AM on July 11, 2013


Sadly, this seems more appropriate in this than ever: "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."
posted by petrilli at 7:57 AM on July 11, 2013 [33 favorites]


Every single little bit of shit you sowed in foreign land, you will reap at home.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:03 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Double
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:04 AM on July 11, 2013


The major personal privacy story has been respun as a human interest story.

James Fallows gets linked here occasionally. His book Breaking The News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy goes into how the press report on conflicts of personality, as opposed to discussing ideas. It's easier to shape the narrative in such a way as to divert attention away from anything substantial. For instance, where Snowden went to high school is more "important" for the NYTimes and FOX News to report, than the criminal behavior he has uncovered. In this way, it is easier for the media to maintain its cozy relationship with the government, helping maintain control over the public. Anyway, good post, and a good book worth reading.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:04 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


The collapse of media is a sideshow to the NSA scandal in the same way that the geek biting the heads of chickens is a sideshow to the horrifying trapeze accident.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:26 AM on July 11, 2013


On Fallows, this longform piece from 1996 (!) (which probably fed into the book Blazecock Pileon linked) is both prescient and depressing for being one of those things that illustrates how far back in the past this future was forecast.
posted by Kosh at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism"

No it really isn't.


Well I am not sure I agree with you misterG. To my mind the real story is that the american people are not demanding this program be shut down. For that to happen some of the press and the politicians in this country would need to be harping on the story for weeks and months, arguing the program is both against our long term interests and our moral code. As Charlie Pierce wrote:
that there were reporters pushing the same this-story-is-out-of-juice line as regards Iran-Contra in 1987, and, indeed, as regards Watergate in 1973 -- and that, indeed, one could say that "the American people" seemed content to live with a president who sold weapons to terrorists and a president who organized a criminal gang in the Oval Office, I would point out to him that it is a piss-poor excuse for journalism to give up on its job just because there happen to be an unusual number of shiny objects elsewhere.
posted by shothotbot at 8:39 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It should definitely force media self-examination.

Oh dear God, please, no; that'll be the fourth or fifth media self-examination this year...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:00 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well I am not sure I agree with you misterG. To my mind the real story is that the american people are not demanding this program be shut down. For that to happen some of the press and the politicians in this country would need to be harping on the story for weeks and months, arguing the program is both against our long term interests and our moral code.

I'm not disagreeing that this is a massive problem. But isn't the REAL story that the US government has secretly built the infrastructure to establish a future totalitarian state?
posted by misterG at 9:01 AM on July 11, 2013


Gee, it's too bad there can only be one REAL story.
posted by odinsdream at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's can be distressing when the public at large doesn't share one's outrage. But it's not always because they are not well-informed.
posted by nightwood at 9:29 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the "self-examination" link:

At issue is the question of whether some of the country’s top journalists have become part of a chummy club that supports government power rather than challenging it.

Journalism supports government power because it needs and wants "access" to that power.

You're a reporter and you call city hall to get the Mayor on the phone. You then write a story on the basis of your conversation. If the story is "friendly," i.e. portrays the mayor or his/her initiatives in a positive light, the next time you call - the mayor again takes your call. The mayor may even begin to tell you little things, things he doesn't tell other reporters - because he likes you. He can tell you're a sharp one. And so you publish those "things," those nuggets of information which invariably either reflect positively on the mayor or the city itself, or his initiatives, or casts doubt on his political foes and THEIR initiatives, etc.

You have "access." You have a steady stream of stories, which your editors like, because they're always desperate to fill the news hole and you've usually got something strong for them.

Now, consider the other tack you might take, the adversarial approach.

You call the mayor that first time, but what you write is unflattering, maybe even critical of him or his initiatives. Next time you call - well, the mayor isn't available. Maybe he'll call you back by deadline, maybe he won't.

Those little tidbits of information that other, more accommodating reporter turned into stories - you don't get them. You're aced out. You can go to the press conferences like anyone else, you can get those stories, but in terms of getting other city hall stories on a more regular basis - well, it's that other reporter with the "access" you lack who gets those stories.

And your editors say - look, you really need to produce more, we've got this hole to fill.

Get it? There is great, institutionalized pressure on journalists to cultivate "access," and "access" can only lead to self-censorship. Lose the access and you're aced out by those with it. So very quickly, the culture becomes - being part of that "chummy club" is the way to be productive and relevant and besides all the competing news outlets are part of the club. And too much time marinating in that Kool-Aid gets you to the point where it's Snowden, not what the NSA has done, that's the problem.
posted by kgasmart at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


My dog is getting enough Cheese. Don't bother me.

Gödel was right.
posted by mule98J at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2013


And access also leads to celebrity, which further distorts the role of journalism.

"The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism"

No it really isn't.


I think Greenwald would argue that you can't separate the two (the collapse of journalism and the development of a secrecy state). They go hand in hand. That has been his point for years now.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:56 AM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jeff Jarvis asks Who is a journalist?
In this age of radically open networks, journalism is no longer a profession. It is a service to inform society anyone can provide.
And goes on to propose that all journalism is advocacy and that there are no journalists, there is only the service of journalism.
posted by adamvasco at 11:14 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's as foolish as saying there are no carpenters, there is only the service of carpentry. You can't have a service without someone serving. So, yes, there are journalists.

Is journalism a profession? That's a different question, one that has been debated for decades.

James Alan Anslow says journalism is an activity.

Philip Meyer says it used to be a craft but it ought to be a profession.

Hunter S. Thompson said it is "a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits."

It's certainly not a profession in the way that law or medicine are professions, with minimum standards and regulatory bodies allowing or denying entry. It's equally certain that if you do it for a living, you are a professional journalist.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:35 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


While there a lot of data points that show the failure of modern journalism in the current discussions about the NSA revelations (or more specifically their focus on personalities and human drama than about the actual disclosures), I think one can look at the Iraq war as a more solid example of the death of modern journalism.

Between MSNBC's firing of Donahue (it's highest rated show), the NYTimes misleading reporting (based on confidential US government sources that were either mistaken or misleading in the information they gave) and the downplaying of the massive protest movement in the US, I think the 'mainstream media' demonstrated their incompetence and subservience to the US government (and military-industrial complex) at that point.

In addition to the subservience to the government/national security apparatus another explanation for the focusing on Snowden (instead of his revelations) is that it's an easier story to write - it's a human drama and a straightforward story. Covering the depth of the revelations is more difficult and nuanced of a story to tell.

Finally, it could all be about ratings - not only is it easier to report on the human drama of Snowden, but that's the type of story that will be widely read, and make them more money.

But no, it's not a new decline of journalism, merely another datapoint about the current state of reporting. See also someone giving up even trying to critique CNN.
posted by el io at 12:07 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Note to Establishment: "Anyone can be a journalist now"

posted by mmrtnt at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2013


it's too bad there can only be one REAL story

Yeah. Christopher Lambert really needed Sean Connery's experienced hand at his side.
posted by Twang at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2013








It is almost as if you people have never heard of Manufacturing Consent.
posted by Chuckles at 11:22 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Washington Post corrects Walter Pincus column
Meanwhile
Pew: About a quarter of Americans say journalists contribute little to society.
posted by adamvasco at 5:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


About a quarter of Americans say journalists contribute little to society.
And they give the highest marks to the folks who run the NSA, strangely enough.
posted by nightwood at 7:22 AM on July 12, 2013


It is almost as if you people have never heard of Manufacturing Consent.

Or its arguably better predecessor and inspiration, Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion.
posted by seemoreglass at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]






Greenwald: About the Reuters article.
"Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It's particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly "blackmailing" and "threatening" the US government. That is just absurd".
posted by adamvasco at 10:18 AM on July 14, 2013






How to be a rogue superpower. A manual for the twenty-first century.
It was a Secret Court that vastly broadened the powers of the NSA.
Former two-term GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire emailed Edward Snowden
Mr. Snowden,
Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.
posted by adamvasco at 11:53 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]








Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the internet is.
The press has lost the plot over the Snowden revelations. The fact is that the net is finished as a global network and that US firms' cloud services cannot be trusted.
posted by adamvasco at 6:40 PM on July 28, 2013


Wow! Talk about a Kangaroo court :

Manning judge alters charges to assist government ahead of verdict

“Because all of these critical ‘clarifications’ are coming after eight weeks of testimony, and because these offenses carry with them 50 years of potential imprisonment, and because the Defense was actually misled by the Charge Sheet, the Defense requests that this Court declare a mistrial as to the section 641 offenses,” declared Coombs.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:15 AM on July 29, 2013










James Risen's risk of prison means journalism is being criminalised.
That a New York Times national security reporter may be jailed for refusing to name a source is a total affront to press freedom.
posted by adamvasco at 5:48 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


We need another FPP on James Risen, heck the link even broke in the previous one mentioning him.

"I've been an investigative reporter for a long time, and almost always, the government says that ['you can't publish that because of the national security risk'] when you write a story. And then they can never back it up. They say that about everything. And it's like the boy who cried wolf. It's getting old." - James Risen (via adamvasco's link)

I suppose this "boy who cried wolf" effect comes from the fact that really almost nothing needs secrecy now. We spend so much effort maintaining information asymmetry, ostensibly to benefit American interests. Yet, these "interests" offer no benefit to, or actively harm, ordinary Americans. Worse, the information asymmetry with the general public obstructs social and economic progress. Our military only gets away with spending $500 on hammers because their books and purchasing decisions are closed.

It's Dangerous For Free Speech When We Confuse Leakers With Spies (via homunculus)

Indeed, we've started confusing journalism with espionage seemingly because spies no longer carry any import. Al-Qaeda isn't going to hide the communications any more effectively because we disclose and restrict the NSA's worldwide spying apparatus.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:12 AM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


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