Friday, November 18, 2005

ISSUE: Why doesn't media cover the "facts" of war intelligence


As you read "The Elements of Journalism," consider this story unfolding right now. Some Democrats are charging Bush with misleading the country about intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. But Bush is countering that Democrats in Congress got the same intelligence briefings he did, and they voted for the war.

Kovach and Rosensteil would argue that it isn't enough to just report what Democrats are saying and what Bush is saying. They would say reporting "factings" requires going beyond assertion and getting "attribution" -- what was the intelligence? Did the same intelligence go to both the Congress and the White House? Was it some how presented or interpreted differently in each place?

A friend of mine wrote to me tonight: "I'm continually struck with the validity of the criticism that reportingtells us "he said/she said" but fails to inform us of the facts. The charge of the White House misleading Congress and people is an example. Would not good reporting summarize available facts as well as opinions to inform us on this issue instead of just printing the counter charges of political lying, etc that Bush et al are making against the Dems? I have printed this story but have not read it. Looks interesting."

Michael Massing | The End of News?

Michael Massing: The Bush administration has restricted access to public documents as no other before it. The restrictions have grown so tight that the normally quiescent American Society of Newspaper Editors last fall issued a "call to arms" to its members, urging them to "demand answers in print and in court" to stop this "deeply disturbing" trend. With the President's poll numbers down and infighting among conservatives more visible, the coverage of Washington has sharpened of late, but overall the climate remains hostile to good reporting.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

FILM NOTES: Orwell Rolls in his Grave

"Orwell Rolls in his Grave"
showing in .Issues in Journalism. class at MCLA

Thurs., Nov. 17 / Tues., Nov. 22

Documentary filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas presents an argument for the
theory that America is under an Orwellian watch with the rise of
prominence of the right-wing politics which Pappas suggests has been aided
by the mainstream media. Pappas interviews a string of commentators, many
identified with left causes, to make his argument. As you watch the film,
please make notes of:

· His consideration of journalism issues we we have discussed.
· Places where his point of view is obvious
· Places where you think he fails to present alternative points of view
· Is the film objective, fair, balance in terms of the way Rosenstiel and Kovach use those words? Should it be?


Pappas bio:


WikiPedia bio of George Orwell:

Densmore's Notes on first 30 minutes

Can they control the media, or will the Internet control that.

Corporations not answerable to the people?

What about the use of forboding music to create an atmosphere?

Question: Is there a pattern in the way stories are covered, and then
Were they not covering stories on purpose?

Film: The Insider, about the killing of a news story.

McChesney: .How can I get one of these vegged out populations?.

Mark Crispin Miller: Goebels: What you want in a media sytem is ostensible
diversity that conceals an actual sameness.

How do you overcome the essentially pessimistic view of the film?

Miller assertion: Big media won.t cover important stories.

Why is response to inequality a drive for lower taxes on the rich?

Pappas: .Has the mainstream media become antidemocratic force in the
United States?.

McChesney: Where are the elements of a healthy journalism system: Not
debated: Need a really hard watchdog.
Miller: Have to arouse people to pay attention.

Bush assertion: .The death tax is a bad tax..

McChesney . propaganda effort by the right: Wasn.t there any lockstep on
the Democratic side?

Interviews Charles Lewis about lobbyist power.

Discussion of free airtime for candidates

Sanders, assertion: The issue is not a debate over ideas: .The issue is
whether ideas even matter..

Tony Benn: Politics presented in terms of politicians, not politics.
Third leading source for broadcast income is political ads. If you are a
politician you don.t get heard unless you do ads.

Lewis: People should be as angry about what happened to our media as the
Russians are about their media.

STOPPED AT: Jim Ryan tv anchor about 35 minutes in.

Reaction to visitors to "Issues in Journalism" -- Sarah Smith


I have had a variety of reactions to the barrage of visitors to our Issues in Journalism class. Eesha Williams spoke to us about his experiences as a reporter and what it was like for him working at small, local newspapers. He emphasized how one must climb the ladder of journalism -- start out at a small publication and work your way up, paying your dues as you go.

Williams's interests lie in getting readers motivated about particular issues and the example he gave of the open space in Vermont was extraordinary. Through an investigative piece he wrote for his school newspaper he was able to unite the community and rise above even the local newspapers and draw attention to an impending injustice and actually prevent it. I was impressed and amazed at his initiative and devotion to his field.

If I was hiring reporters, I would want Eesha on my staff. He spoke of a clean, honest, active type of journalism that I fear is missing dfrom many of the reporters I have come into contact with. He spoke clearly and honestly about the issues today's journalists face. It was a rewarding and engaging conversation.

Fred Daley, the editor of The Hill Country Observer visited next. He focused his "presentation" more on the details of editing and how a story progresses along the copy desk. While he was talking, I was looking at his publication and found the stories to be interesting and timely for a monthly publication. Daley said that he "got out" of daily journalism because he believes most dailies put too much emphasis on trying to fill space and running any old press releases just to get something in the paper.

He said he didn't believe that daily newspapers get to the public genuinely and that in his monthly he is more able to be genuine and print articles and news releases that hold some water. I found this to be an interesting way of looking at the issue -- one that I have not considered.

Daly said something that concerned me. It seemed like he was implying that reporters are a lost art and there was not much of a future in journalism for reporters as we see them now. I think Bill even said that reporting is usually the starting point for most careers in journalism and the ultimate goal should be to move up to an editing position.

I disagree; I think we need good, lifelong reporters who craft and hone their skills over time. There is nothing wrong with a lifelong career as a reporter -- for some people, that would be good enough.

I could see how some of my classmates who are paying good money and putting a lot of time and energy into their college careers so that they may become reporters would feel discouraged by the current state of journalism. We need to inspire these ambitious would-be reporters with ways in which they can succeed in the field. Problem is, I'm not sure how to do that....

AUDIO: PBS Newshour story about citizen journalism -- 11-16-05

The 'We Media' Phenomena
BROADCAST: Nov. 16, 2005

RealAudio: The Internet has spawned a new wave of journalists created not
by traditional newsrooms, but fueled by citizen participation and
interactive technologies. Special correspondent Terence Smith reports.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Future of journalism: What is journalism?

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth
Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by
Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

From the Houghton-Mifflin dictionary at
jour·nal·ism (jûr'n.-l.z'.m)
The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.Newspapers and magazines.An academic course training students in journalism.Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.

jour·nal·ism [ júrn'l ìzz.m ]

1. reporting news for media: the profession of gathering, editing, and
publishing news reports and related articles for newspapers, magazines,
television, or radio

2. news gathering and reporting as genre: writing or reporting for the
media as a literary genre or style

Online Newshour (PBS): The "We Media" Phenomena -- Nov. 16, 2005

* An E-mail Service of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
* and the Online NewsHour
November 16, 2005


The Internet has spawned a new wave of journalists created not by
traditional newsrooms, but fueled by citizen participation and interactive
technologies. Tonight, special correspondent Terence Smith reports on the "we
phenomena and what it may mean for news consumers traditional journalists.
Visit _ (

Broadcast TV Networks Say DVRs Boost Commercial Viewing

Broadcast TV Networks Say DVRs Boost Commercial Viewing

Seeking to stem the loss of advertising because of digital video recording
devices like TiVo, network television execs claim that homes with DVRs
actually watch 12% more TV. Some 53% of DVR users go back to watch
commercials they mistakenly skipped, they claim.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

McChesney & Williams feedback assignment

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 12:48:11 -0500
From: Kara Tajima
Subject: McChesney & Williams feedback assignment

ASSIGNMENT FOR TUESDAY: Use Williams visit and McChesney discussion in
Chap. 6 to write a 200-word essay describing the U.S. media system you
would put in place if you had complete control to re-design government
policies and regulation and media ownership. What values or objectives
would you try to achieve? Email by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14.

Kara Tajima
Issues in Journalism
Bill Densmore

After listening to Eesha Williams ideas on the U.S media and present journalism, I realized that there are a variety of journalistic styles. Williams preference is "Grassroots Journalism", newswriting that inspires people to become active in their approach, not just angry.
I think that "the media" is at a turning point in history. With the technology of computers expanding before our eyes, print news media has never faced such a challenge. Our society hungers for quickness and accesibilty, all attributes that the internet can give to the fast paced reader on the go.
While community news blogs like iBrattelboro encourage citizenship journalism, I have to say that I agree with Williams, and would classify myself as a skeptic. Uncensored blogs allow the idea of more biased and opinionated freelance journalism, verses, factual, well researched, educated news stories.
I would like to see journalists establish more of a name for ourselves with; credibility, education, and overall respect. Critics find fault with people of the press trying to take on a superior role, however, I think that a journalist represents the people, an insider at times, someone who can inform newsworthy events in the public's best interest. The media has come a long way, and still has a long way to go. In the future I hope to see people involved recieve more credit, for the time and effort they put into their work for the good of the people, and the media.

ESSAY: McSweeney -- The future of media

Emily McSweeney
Issues in Journalism
Where is Media Headed?

Through the reading from McChesney.s book as well as the Eesha William's visit I have come to a few conclusions regarding where media is headed
now, and in the future. Media, in my opinion is headed to a more
computerized age, something that will be targeted mostly through computers
over the televised news and newspapers that we take so much for granted.
News and ways in which we currently look for news are on an uproar of
quickness, and accessibility. Today.s world, and the citizens that make
it up are on the go. We want our news fast, and easy; however, we still
need to be able to get accurate and correct news. If this continues, it
is my opinion that media will become more accessible to everyone, thus
being easier for the common man/woman to get a hold of. Computers are
taking over business, if the media fails to fall in line they will be
In Conclusion, the future of media all depends on what the current
outlets of media do to make their business last and be successful.
McChesney stressed the importance of blogs, blogs are something that will
take media and news to higher levels through their accessibility and the
fact that anybody can attribute to a news article. Everyone, and anybody
can get a blog; you have to want to though.

FUTURE: As Blogs and Citizen Journalism Grow,
Where's the News?

Poynter Online - As Blogs and Citizen Journalism Grow,
Where's the News?

At the Poynter Institute website, ex-Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rick Edmonds provides a thorough overview of the the rise of news-oriented blogs and how the mainstream media is reacting to them. The essay includes many useful links to other resources. A sidebar by for San Francisco Examiner editor Steve Outing examines whether local-news websites will find a way to support the paying of citizens to do reporting -- something which Outing forecast will be necessary to the survival of the new genre.

Monday, November 14, 2005

FYI ONLY: The New York Review of Books: The End of News?

Michael Massing, a contributing editor to The Columbia Journalism Review, has written the first of a two-part series in the New York Review of Books entitled, "The End of News." In it, he chronicles the rise of right-wing columnists, and then bloggers. He describes the threat to mainstream newspapers posed by the Internet, and how they are responding, and recites concern about whether the Internet will produce enough revenues to pay for the "watchdog" reporting that the best U.S. newspapers are known for producing. Finally, in this first installment, he suggest that how newspapers respond to declining young readership and circulation will well determine whether journalism, as it has been practiced in post-World War II era, will endure.

ASSIGNMENT / ETHICS / ADVERTISING: Should students be creating ad campaigns?

POSTED BY: Bill Densmore

Please consider this question for discussion in class tomorrow (if we have time) during the visit of Fred and Jenny from Hill Country Observer: Is there educational value in asking students to design advertisements?

Years ago, when we owned the Williamstown Advocate, we and The Berkshire Eagle daily) both used to do "Design an Ad" special sections. In these sections, we would invite elementary- and middle-school children to draw advertisements promoting local businesses. The local business would then buy the space to print these child-created advertisements.

We asked the schools to help by distributing the materials and and the children would draw the ads during class time as an art project and as an exercise at learning how to create a catchy message about something. Mostly these were locally owned businesses -- many owned by people who themselves had children in the schools.

One year, a principal objected on the grounds this represented commercialization of the school. After a back and forth exchange, he relented on the basis that it represented a ligitimate intellectual exercise to learning how advertising messages are crafted. The text of a letter I sent to the principal advocating the newspaper's position is appended below. Below that is an email exchange from Georgia about a similar effort.

What are the pros and cons of this "Create an Ad" effort?


I think the view you expressed at Michael's Restaurant is intellectually honest. I certainly have cringed at the stories I have read over the years of schools allowing sponsored messages and paraphernalia within the learning environment as a tradeoff against declining tax support.

However, I think there is a distinction between having Coke advertisements on scoreboards and inviting some students to do some creative thinking about what goes into to selling products and services at the local-business level. I hope that you agree that a distinction can be made, and that offering students an option to draw a piece of art that is useful in a commercial context is not an example of prostituting the educational process.

To the contrary, I think. At some point, schools have to see part of their their mission as helping kids to understand how business works, and this is certainly a way to do that. Inviting children to think about what goes into creating an effective advertisement may very well teach them to consider what motivates people to buy -- and also how they might resist that buying impulse as astute consumers. I could imagine a very lively class discussion on this topic (which I'd be happy to join in, if asked).

I know that you'll consider this and that if you decide the school cannot participate it will be a principled decision which I'm sure you'll communicate thoughtfully.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2005 22:21:19 -0500 (EST)
From: Bill Yousman <>
To: Frank Baker <>
Subject: Re: [ACME Member List] College students SHOULDN'T be creating ad
campaigns for cell phones

I'd really like to thank Frank for this posting.

When I was a faculty member at the University of Hartford, every year our students would participate in an advertising competition where they were given various products and companies to promote-- ranging from junk food like Pizza Hut to car companies trying to represent themselves as "green."

Except for one or two of us in the department, all of the faculty would get very excited each year about supporting the "advertising team," while I and a colleague looked on in dismay as we saw students spending their precious time at a university learning how to be tomorrow's corporate shills.

I believe this speaks volumes at how morally and intellectually bankrupt much (if not most) of the field of communication really is. And I say this as someone who holds a doctorate in the field.

Again thank you for sharing this. During my days at UH I often felt very alone as most of my colleagues, like the person you spoke with, didn't even seem to understand my concerns.

Bill Yousman
Managing Director
Media Education Foundation

> Today, I met a woman in Atlanta who told me she was a professor of
> Communications at Georgia Tech. She was most excited to tell me about a
> competition between her students and those at rival University of Georgia to
> create an ad campaign for Amp'd Mobile cell phones. (The award for best
> campaign was to be revealed Sunday afternoon)
> I was appalled and I told her so. She seemed so surprised by my attitude.
> This practice (which I assume is rampant) brings up a host of ethical
> issues.....of which I'm sure aren't discussed at either one of these
> universities.
> Anyway, here is a link to more details on the Ga Tech website:
> Frank Baker

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Eagle columnist says movie shows Murrow's warnings of decadence, escapism went unheeded

Sunday, November 13

A warning that went unheeded

Bill Everhart, Berkshire Eagle Staff

'This just might do nobody any good.' So began CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow in his legendary speech to the Radio-Television News Directors' Asso-ciation (RTNDA) Convention in 1958, a speech recreated in part in the brilliant film 'Good Night, and Good Luck,' at Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, and Images Cinema in Williamstown.

Murrow warned his uncomfortable audience that their profession, electronic journalism, was being corrupted by fear of controversy, blind allegiance to sponsors and a lazy pandering to listeners and viewers who should be challenged.

That speech would have done someone some good if it had been heeded, but nearly a half-century later, all of Murrow's fears have been realized in full.

Anyone who remembers or has read about Sen. Joe McCarthy's Communist witch hunts and Murrow's heroic deflating of this dangerous zealot will be mesmerized by director, co-writer and actor George Clooney's faithful recreation of this important moment in American history and journalism.
David Strathairn's dour, principled Murrow not only has to take on McCarthy and risk being smeared by the senator and his media stooges, he also must appease CBS Chairman William Paley (Frank Langella), who worries that Murrow's efforts will backfire on his network and cost it sponsors.

Of course, many young people have no first-hand knowledge of the McCarthy era and maybe no more than a dim recollection of it from history class. They, more than anyone, should see 'Good Night, and Good Luck' (Murrow's trademark sign-off) and tell their friends to see it too.

Murrow, and many other print and electronic journalists from the post-war era, spoke truth to power and were not reluctant to challenge conventional wisdom. Their job, digging out and presenting the facts to their readers and viewers, was serious, and they prided themselves on taking it seriously.

How far we have come. Today, under the Orwellian slogan of "Fair and balanced," Fox News shills for the Washing-ton powers-that-be, mocks those who challenge the establishment and makes a shambles of journalism.

Hapless CNN, losing the all-important ratings game, dumps sober, respected newsman Aaron Brown for pretty boy Anderson Cooper, a Katrina-bred superstar it markets as if he were a teen idol pop singer.

The three major networks provide news almost grudgingly before turning to lifestyle stories and other soft features on their early evening newscasts.

In the days of David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite, these news programs not only provided Americans the news, they offered context and perspective so viewers would know why that news was important for them to know.

Most networks don't have the perverse agenda of Fox News, they are simply prisoners of their sponsors and of the theory that audiences must be entertained above all else.

The dangers of this approach to news was unveiled in the early stages of the Iraq war when "embedded journalists" sold the war as

if it were a reality show with U.S. soldiers as the colorful contestants.

Tough questions about adequate troop strength, absent weapons of mass destruction and post-war strategy went unasked, in part, as in the McCarthy era, because it would have been "unpatriotic" to ask them, but also because that hard news approach didn't fit in with the networks' soft news treatment of the war.

Not that the print media doesn't come in for its share of criticism. The New York Times has apologized in print both for failing to challenge administration claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and for allowing alleged First Amendment heroine Judith Miller to mislead her newspaper about her dealings with Lewis "Scooter" Libby on the Valerie Plame leak. (Miller was also a gullible saleswoman for WMDs.)

At least the Times apologized. Don't wait under water for apologies from other print and electronic media organizations who owe them to America for their Iraq coverage and commentary.

Once they get past the oddity of watching newsmen smoking like chimneys on air and off, young audience members viewing "Good Night, and Good Luck" may be struck by the even odder presence of a craggy, unsmiling newsman sternly lecturing viewers with the eloquence of a preacher. You don't see or hear that much anymore. They, and everyone else, will also laugh at the spectacle of that same newsman, Murrow, awkwardly interviewing early TV celebrity Liberace. Even in 1958, the sanctity of television news was being encroached upon.

"If there are any historians about 50 or a hundred years from now ... they will find recorded in black and white or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live," Murrow warned his audience at the RTNDA Convention.

It has been about 50 years now since that speech, and if we look at tapes of that era's television we'll find examples of what Murrow saw and detested. But there is no need. With Murrow's warning unheeded, we can simply turn on the television news to see the "decadence, escapism and insulation" Murrow spoke of, now in full flower.

Bill Everhart can be reached at or (413) 496-6271.

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