Friday, November 25, 2005
BLOGS: FEC finds a blog covering public policy is not subject to regulation
Reposted from SPJ Pressnotes, Nov. 23, 2005
Kaitlin Thaney, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
FEC says political blog exempt from campaign law
The Federal Election Commission recognized the partisan blog Fired Up! as
a press entity that is allowed, like journalists, to cover and comment on
political candidates without their positive comments being counted as
campaign expenditures. The FEC unanimously approved Advisory Opinion
2005-16 Thursday in response to a request from the blog's organizers
concerning the application of the finance rules to sites owned and
operated by Fired Up! The five-member commission adopted the proposed
draft opinion without revision. Fired Up! consists of three state-specific
blogs for Maryland, Missouri and Washington, and one covering national
issues, each comprising a mix of editorial postings, quotes and commentary
from other news sources, and links to various articles or other blogs. The
FEC opinion is based on a long-standing two-part test. To qualify for the
exemption under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, the FEC
considers whether the press entity is owned or controlled by a political
party, committee or candidate and examines the intentions behind the
organization's actions to determine if it is performing "legitimate press
functions." Despite its political slant and progressive content, Fired Up!
met both qualifications, the FEC found. Because "Fired Up! is a press
entity, and neither it nor its Web sites are owned or controlled by any
political party, political committee, or candidate, the costs Fired Up
incurs in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial on
its Web sites are exempt from the definitions of 'contribution' and
| Bill Densmore DENSMORE ASSOCIATES |
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| Williamstown MA 01267 USA http://www.newshare.com/ |
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| media / marketing / management consulting |
Thursday, November 24, 2005
CAREER: USAToday roundup finds students still enrolling in journalism
AP story on report Bush talked about bombing Al-Jazeera
Posted on Wed, Nov. 23, 2005
on the website of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal-Gazette
Here's also a link to a Christian Science Monitor roundup on the
Paper links Bush, plot on Al-Jazeera
By Robert Barr
LONDON . A civil servant has been charged under Britain.s Official Secrets Act
for allegedly leaking a government memo that a newspaper said Tuesday suggested
that Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb the Arab
satellite station Al-Jazeera.
The Daily Mirror reported that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera.s
headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16,
2004. The Bush administration has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing
more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.
The Daily Mirror attributed its information to unidentified sources. One
source, said to be in the government, was quoted as saying that the alleged
threat was .humorous, not serious,. but the newspaper quoted another source as
saying that .Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair..
.We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable
with a response,. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in an e-mail.
Blair.s office declined to comment on the report, stressing it never discussed
Al-Jazeera said in a statement that it was investigating the report. .If the
report is correct, then this would be both shocking and worrisome not only to
Al-Jazeera, but to media organizations across the world,. it said.
The network said that if true the report would .cast serious doubts. on the
Bush administration.s explanations of earlier cases involving Al-Jazeera
journalists and the American military.
The document was described as a transcript of a conversation between the two
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing it to Leo
O.Connor, who formerly worked for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke. Both
Keogh and O.Connor are scheduled to appear at London.s Bow Street Magistrates
Court next week.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offense
under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to .a damaging disclosure.
by a servant of the Crown of information relating to international relations or
information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom.
O.Connor was charged under Section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing
illegally disclosed information.
According to the newspaper, Clarke returned the memo to Blair.s office. Clarke
did not respond to calls from the Associated Press seeking comment.
Press Association, the British news agency, said Clarke refused to discuss the
contents of the document. PA quoted Clarke as saying his priority was to
support O.Connor who did .exactly the right thing. in bringing it to his
Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister in Blair.s government, called for the
document to be made public.
.I think they ought to clarify what exactly happened on this occasion,. he
said. .If it was the case that President Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera in what
is after all a friendly country, it speaks volumes and it raises questions
about subsequent attacks that took place on the press that wasn.t embedded with
coalition forces,. the newspaper quoted Kilfoyle as saying.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
CONCEPT: Comparing today's blog-driven media to America's colonial press
Prof. Norm Sims, of the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst, offers this
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 12:26:48 -0500
From: Norman Sims <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: UPDATE: Craig Newman still talking about journalism
Verrryy interesting. I'm increasingly comparing these developments to the rise
of the press in colonial America. There are several parallels. In colonial
America and the early Republic, there were many newspapers, a multitude of
voices in the marketplace, often representing differing political or mercantile
perspectives. Want ads started to form an economic foundation before display
ads were really available under the printing technologies of the time. Content
was dominated by community interests in such things as arriving cargoes, news
that was not common knowledge in the community (such as the latest happenings
from London), and a variety of entertaining and enlightening stuff such as
literature and poems. They tended to NOT carry local news, which everyone knew,
and that runs counter to the current media changes. Subscriptions weren't
free, but the newspapers were often posted in taverns and coffee houses, where
people would often read them aloud for the benefit of community members who
couldn't subscribe or who couldn't read. Very democratic in their purpose and
focus, and if you think about the shaping of the First Amendment in that
environment, you can see how I believe the new MGP environment is in keeping
with the traditions of American history.
On Nov 23, 2005, at 6:58 AM, Bill Densmore wrote:
> ONLINE MEDIA
> Craigslist founder launching online journalism project
> Craig Newmark has already revolutionised classified advertising in the US
> with his hugely successful website, craigslist.com. Now he is planning to
> shake up journalism, which he says has "lost the trust" of the public. The
> founder of the free classifieds site - the seventh most popular website in
> the US in terms of page views - is to launch a major online journalism
> project within three months that will copy his "wisdom of the masses"
> approach to advertising and apply it to journalism. "Things do need to
> change," Mr Newmark said. "The big issue in the US is that newspapers are
> afraid to talk truth to power. The White House press corps don't speak the
> truth to power - they are frightened to lose access they don't have anyway."
> ... He said that newspapers, which originally provided a local service to its
> readers, had lost their trust. "The American public has lost a lot of trust
> in conventional newspaper mechanisms. Mechanisms are now being developed
> online to correct that." Mr Newmark would not reveal any specific projects,
> which will run separately from Craigslist, but implied that they would
> involve using web technology to let readers decide what the major news
> stories would be. "We have seen a genuine wisdom-of-crowds effect at work at
> times on our website," he said.
> Source: Stephen Brook, The Guardian
TECHNOLOGY: Google donates $3 million to "American Memory" digitized Library of Congress materials
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Google Inc. is giving $3 million (euro2.54 million)
to the U.S. Library of Congress to help set up a system for creating
digital copies of rare documents from around the world _ the latest step
in Google's crusade to expand the amount of information that can be
indexed by its Internet-leading search engine.
With the donation announced Tuesday, Google becomes the first business to
back the ''World Digital Library,'' a concept that began to take shape
about five months ago.
The worldwide program is loosely modeled after the Library of Congress'
American Memory project launched 11 years ago.
Backed with $48 million (euro40.64 million) in private donations and a $15
million (euro12.7 million) infusion from the federal government, the
American Memory site at http://loc.gov/memory now has more than 10 million
items, including early maps of the United States as well as photos and
letters from the Civil War.
Librarian of Congress James Billington now wants to create similar sites
devoted to other cultures outside the United States and Europe.
Although nothing has been finalized, Billington initially envisions
devoting large sections of the World Digital Library to material from
China, India and Islam.
''Much of this will be one-of-a-kind material that you won't be able to
find anywhere else,'' Billington said during a Monday interview. ''Getting
the material out there (online) is really important. ''We have already
preserved a lot of material that might have perished in other hands.''
Google co-founder Sergey Brin characterized the donation as no-brainer for
his Mountain View, California-based company as it pursues its avowed
mission ''to organize the world's information and make it universally
accessible and useful.''
''This is a philanthropic initiative for us,'' Brin said during a Monday
interview. ''It's all about making more information available to more
NEWSPAPERS: Editor lists 10 reasons why they'll survive
The editor of the Modesto, Calif., Bee daily, lists 10 reasons why he
thinks newspapers will survive the marketplace turmoil that is chilling
advertising revenues and raising uncertainty about what will pay for
Source: Mark Vasche, The Modesto Bee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 578-2356
Mark Vasché, The Bee's editor and senior vice president, may be reached at
10. Newspapers have been around for 400 years. And, for about 399 years,
give or take a few months, people have been predicting their demise. In my
lifetime alone, radio was going to do newspapers in; then television; and
now the Internet.
9. While circulation has declined industrywide, newspapers remain by far
the dominant way people get news and information. The Bee's share of the
market dwarfs any local radio, TV or Web outlet.
8. Newspaper readership has slipped, but radio, TV and even the Internet
are struggling even more, because of fragmentation and other factors. How
many radio and TV stations and Web sites do you have to choose from?
7. People always have and always will need news and information that can
help them make decisions, large and small, in their daily lives. That's as
true now as ever. And no one is better equipped and experienced to do that
than the local news company.
6. A historical function of the press is what's called the "watchdog" role
. monitoring public officials and agencies, and making sure the public's
business is conducted in public. Arguably, that's needed now more than
ever. And, again, who is better equipped and experienced to do that than
the local news company?
5. Even with the challenges, newspapers in general are very successful and
profitable businesses, and will continue to be so . as long as they take
their public service function seriously, apply sound business practices
and adapt to changes in the demographic, lifestyle and economic landscape.
The best of the best . starting with the McClatchy Co. . know that good
journalism is good business.
4. Just as technology is reshaping how we get information, so it is
reshaping how news organizations gather, organize, present and deliver it.
Companies like The Bee are transitioning from being newspaper companies to
being news and information companies, using a variety of platforms to
deliver what people need and want.
3. While the print product is the core of The Modesto Bee business,
modbee.com already is the leading local Web site and is helping readership
and revenue to grow at an impressive rate. We're in the process of fully
integrating the printed Bee with modbee.com to provide continuous news and
2. The newspaper of tomorrow most likely will be quite different from
today's Bee . in content and appearance . just as today's is a far cry
from The Bee I joined in 1970. In fact, tomorrow's paper may not be
"paper" at all, but a flexible, foldable, paper-thin material onto which
information is downloaded to appear and be read like a traditional paper.
1. Finally, new is not always better. We may have the world at our
fingertips, but there's something special, something personal about being
able to hold what you're reading in your hands. When you curl up with a
good book at the beach or in bed, there's a wonderfully personal and
physical connection between you and those words on the page. It's
something you just don't get with fingers on a keyboard.
BUSINESS MODEL: Non-profit newspaper starts in rural Minnesota
Source: The Associated Press via Editor & Publisher
Residents get strong response to new, non-profit newspaper
While charges of U.S.-sanctioned torture and riots in Paris led newspapers
around the country during the second week of November, folks in Atwater
were reading about a $450 school levy hike and a friendly reminder about
winter street parking regulations. Small potatoes, maybe -- but a
refreshing change after a decade with no local newspaper. At a time when
the newspaper industry is struggling for relevance in a digital age, a
group of Atwater residents went in a different direction -- launching a
nonprofit newspaper staffed mostly with volunteers. "This past year has
been an act of faith," said Connie Feig, a nurse and the chairwoman of the
new paper's board of directors. "It's all come down to faith and belief in
the community, and what it will support." The Atwater Sunfish Gazette --
the name was picked in a contest -- published its first six-page edition
on Oct. 12, and has put out two biweekly issues since. It's mailed free to
the 1,100 residents of the 56209 zip code, bringing them the latest on a
proposed sewer line, a local FFA Organization award winner and the Atwater
Falcons football squad. The town's last paper, the Atwater Herald, folded
in the mid-'90s. The nearest daily, Willmar's West Central Tribune, is
about 15 miles west on Highway 12 in west-central Minnesota, but it only
covers the big stuff in this slowly declining farm town. "It was really
hard to get information about the school, about sports," said Laverne
Pickle, a retiree and 50-year resident.
FUTURE: Liberal blogger hiring two reporters for muckraking
Source: Josh Gerstein, The New York Sun
As newspapers across America race to shrink the size of their news staffs,
a prominent liberal blogger is doing something virtually unheard of these
days: hiring new reporters. Over the weekend, the proprietor of
TalkingPointsMemo.com , Joshua Marshall, announced that he is seeking two
journalists to work for a new blog that will offer "wall-to-wall coverage
of corruption, self-dealing, and betrayals of the public trust in today's
Washington." In an interview, the blogger said he does not aspire to be an
Internet mogul, but simply seeks to fill a niche he sees in the
journalistic marketplace. "I'm never going to have the resources to
compete with the big papers," Mr. Marshall said. He said his new site will
be able to follow long simmering stories more consistently than mainstream
outlets do. "A scrappy blog can provide a different service. I think
there's a market out there for that," he said. Mr. Marshall, whose site
just marked its fifth anniversary, said he has spent the past six months
seeking to professionalize the sale of advertising. A standard
TalkingPointsMemo.com ad costs $500 a week through one ad-selling
consortium, BlogAds.com. A premium ad can cost up to four times as much.
"We've got a backlog of orders already for next year for the political
bloggers," the owner of BlogAds.com, Henry Copeland, said. "It's just
really clear these guys are moving from making good money to making great
Craig's List founder working on news recommendation project?
Craigslist founder talks about launch online news recommendation project
Craig Newmark has already revolutionised classified advertising in the US with
his hugely successful website, craigslist.com. Now he is planning to shake up
journalism, which he says has "lost the trust" of the public. The founder of
the free classifieds site - the seventh most popular website in the US in terms
of page views - is to launch a major online journalism project within three
months that will copy his "wisdom of the masses" approach to advertising and
apply it to journalism. "Things do need to change," Mr Newmark said. "The big
issue in the US is that newspapers are afraid to talk truth to power. The White
House press corps don't speak the truth to power - they are frightened to lose
access they don't have anyway." ... He said that newspapers, which originally
provided a local service to its readers, had lost their trust. "The American
public has lost a lot of trust in conventional newspaper mechanisms. Mechanisms
are now being developed online to correct that." Mr Newmark would not reveal
any specific projects, which will run separately from Craigslist, but implied
that they would involve using web technology to let readers decide what the
major news stories would be. "We have seen a genuine wisdom-of-crowds effect at
work at times on our website," he said.
Source: Stephen Brook, The Guardian
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
ASSIGNMENTS/SCHEDULE: v3.0 Issues in Journalism running assignments, agenda
ASSIGNMENT FOR NOV 29: Email by Monday, Nov. 28, 6 p.m. a few brief
thoughts about "Orwell Rolls in his Grave" with at least one question for
class discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
ASSIGNMENT FOR NOV. 29: FINISH Kovach-Rosenstiel (you should have finished
over Thanksgiving break. ppgs. 131-198.
Tues., Nov. 29 -- Minutes by Matt Nolan
CLASS VISITOR: Martin Langeveld, publisher, North Adams Transcript, and
exec. vp, New England Newspapers Inc. (MediaNews Group). Langeveld will
participate in discussion about "Orwell Rolls" and talk about
challenges "mainstream media" faces in adjusting to Internet-induced
ASSIGMENT FOR THURS., Dec. 1: Read Gillmor, "We Media" introduction and
first two chapters, Pages 1-43.
Thurs., Dec. 1 -- Minutes by Sarah Smith
ASSIGNMENT DUE: Read Gillmor, "We Media" introduction and first two
chapters: Pages 1-43.
On Dec. 1, we will do another 10-minute quiz -- just one question, and
then discuss for 10 minutes. You'll be given six questions to choose from
-- three from the last half of Rosenstiel-Kovach and three from Pages 1-43
of Gillmor. Then we'll watch streaming video of author Dan Gillmor
appearing at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of
Southern California on his "We Media" observations.
Tues., Dec. 6 -- Minutes by Emily McSweeney
ASSIGNMENT FOR TUESDAY: Read (or at least skim thoroughly) Gillmor, "We
Media", Chapter 5, "The Consent of the Governed," chapter 6, "Professional
Journalists Join the Conversation" and Chap. 7, "The Former Audience Joins
the Party," (pages 88-137).
TUES. CLASS DISCUSSION -- The technology of the web/with examples:
Technorati, Feedster, Blooger and Typepad, Village Soup, Clickshare;
consider: "An Internet where anonymity is outlawed and every penny is
accounted for." (quote from Orwell Rolls). Also, overview of political and
public-policy blogging, with examples. Excerpt of Media Giraffe Project
interview with John Hinderacker of PowerLine.COM blog.
ASSIGNMENT DUE: Read (or at least skim thoroughly) Gillmor, "We Media,"
Chap. 8, "Next Steps," Ppgs. 158-173; and Chap. 11: "The Empire Strikes
Back," ppgs. 209-235 and Chap. 12, "Making Our Own News," ppgs. 236-241.
Thurs., Dec. 8 -- Minutes by Jose Vergara
ASSIGNMENT DUE: Read (or at least skim thoroughly) Gillmor, "We Media,"
Chap. 8, "Next Steps," Ppgs. 158-173; and Chap. 11: "The Empire Strikes
Back," ppgs. 209-235 and Chap. 12, "Making Our Own News," ppgs. 236-241.
THURS. CLASS DISCUSSION: We'll discuss issues of copyright and control by
incumbent media and latest developments in this area -- and the options
for "Making our own news."
Tues., Dec. 13 -- Minutes by Nicole Conte
ASSIGNMENT DUE: 300-500 word book report due on your alternate book
assignment. Lead 15-minute discussion of your book:
1. Tuned Out, Mindich -- Steve Beverly, Emily McSweeny
2. Smart Mobs, Rheingold -- Matt Nolan, Kara Tajima
3. Revolution, Trippi -- Sarah Smith, Jose Vergara
4. America's Right Turn, Viguerie -- Bill Densmore, Nichole Conte
THURSDAY, Dec. 15: FINAL EXAM
We'll sit for a final exam from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday,
Dec. 15, in Bowman 203. NOTE START TIME AN HOUR LATER THAN USUAL.
The final format will be simiar to the mid-term: There will be two
questions assigned that everyone has to answer, and two other questions
that you'lll be able to pick from among a menu of questions.
PROPOSAL: I'd like to have a face-to-face meeting with each of you after
the final, to discuss the class and how it can be improved/changed and to
seek advice for the syllabus for the spring-semester "The Future of
Meeting times: Tuesday, Dec. 20. We'll settle this next week.
8:30 A.M.-8:45 a.m. --
8:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m. --
9:00 a.m.-9:15 a.m. --
9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. --
9:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. --
9:45 a.m.-10:00 a.m. --
10:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m. --
Monday, November 21, 2005
PROFILE: Media critic Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post
The New York Times Business
New York Times
Journalist, Cover Thyself
Tireless media critic Howard Kurtz writes for The Washington Post and broadcasts on CNN, raising conflict questions.
November 21, 2005
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
The New York Times
Here's something you do not see every day: a newspaper reporter
interrogating his own boss - on live television yet.
Howard Kurtz, the media writer for The Washington Post, posed tough
questions yesterday for nearly eight minutes to Leonard Downie Jr., The
Post's executive editor, on a program where Mr. Kurtz is host, CNN's
"Reliable Sources." The subject was the revelation last week that Bob
Woodward, The Post's investigative reporter, had not disclosed the fact
that a senior official in the Bush administration leaked the name of a
C.I.A. operative to him more than two years ago.
Mr. Kurtz's program then featured a discussion with three panelists, one
of whom assailed Mr. Woodward. (Mr. Kurtz had invited him to be on the
program, but Mr. Woodward booked himself instead on CNN's "Larry King
You've heard of reality television? This might be reality newspaper. It is
"The Washington Post Live," and it is playing out on CNN, thanks in part
to Mr. Kurtz and his highly unusual double role as media writer for The
Post and media referee for the cable network.
In the last few years, with the rise of blogs and a rich supply of
scandals at news organizations, including The New York Times, the media
have come under intense scrutiny. And many news outlets have turned a
critical eye on themselves - a tricky matter rife with conflict that
raises the question of whether anyone can report fully and fairly on his
or her own employer, particularly for public consumption.
Few have lived in the cross-hairs of these conflicts more visibly than Mr.
Kurtz, who has owned the media beat at The Post since 1990 and been host
of "Reliable Sources" since 1998.
He draws salaries from two of the most important media companies in the
country: CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, and The Post, which is owned
by The Washington Post Company. Such arrangements do not violate Post
policy. In fact, The Post has quite liberal rules regarding
extracurricular work by its reporters and editors.
As Mr. Downie put it in an online chat last week on the newspaper's Web
site, "We think there is value in having our best journalism reach as many
people as possible through our newspaper, this Web site, television and
radio appearances and books."
He may never have imagined that one person might do all those jobs at
once. But Mr. Kurtz, 52, does - redefining the term cottage industry and
raising questions about potential conflicts of interest.
"It's very odd to look at," said Jack Shafer, media critic for Slate.com.
"This is the duck-billed platypus of journalism, an egg-laying mammal with
fur - it's just something very bizarre."
Mr. Downie said in an interview that he was comfortable with Mr. Kurtz's
dual roles because they were disclosed in a tag line in The Post and on
the screen on CNN.
David Bohrman, vice president of CNN and Washington bureau chief, said
that Mr. Kurtz was "as tough as anybody" on the network, adding that his
dual roles at The Post and CNN served as a useful "check and balance,"
because if he were "throttled or stifled at one place, he has another
platform to get it out."
Mickey Kaus, who is a blogger on Slate.com and a frequent critic of Mr.
Kurtz, says that he has been an honest reporter and is equally tough on
The Post and CNN, but that his dual positions create an inherent
institutional conflict that exists regardless of how fair he may be and
how much he discloses his various roles.
"The conflict is that he works for one of the giant corporations that he
covers - CNN - and that corporation has made his career," Mr. Kaus said.
If he makes CNN mad, he said, it could hurt that career. "Len Downie is in
denial about it," Mr. Kaus added.
Mr. Kurtz brushes off charges of conflict of interest and says the proof
of his independence is evident in his work.
"The biggest conflict I face," he said, "is writing about The Washington
Post, which I do periodically and, I think, rather aggressively. I don't
think you can find a media writer in the country who has taken on his own
organization as many times and on as many difficult issues as I have. And
when I write about CNN, which I have also not hesitated to criticize, we
disclose that at the paper."
If Mr. Kurtz is in the lead in the cross-platform era, he is also one of
this era's most prolific production machines. His schedule raises the
simple human question of how one person (newly remarried with a year-old
baby) finds the time and energy to manage it all.
He produces enterprise articles and breaking news for The Post, in
addition to his column for the paper every Monday. He answers questions in
an hourlong, online chat with Post readers on Mondays. He writes on a blog
for The Post every Monday through Friday. On Sunday, he is host of the
hourlong "Reliable Sources." He frequently appears as a media expert on
CNN and other television channels. He is a guest on radio. He has written
four books. And he is now writing a roman à clef about the news business.
"I'm fooling around at the moment with a satiric novel about the news
business and having fun, for once, by not having to check my facts," he
said in one of a series of interviews last week between his multiple
There was no clearer display of the cross-currents of Mr. Kurtz's varied
interests than yesterday's appearance by Mr. Downie on "Reliable Sources."
In a surreal moment, Mr. Kurtz and Mr. Downie discussed whether Mr.
Woodward "gets to play by a different set of rules" because he works in
The Post's newsroom while also writing books - in the same breath
acknowledging that they, too, work in the newsroom and write books.
After being interviewed by Mr. Kurtz, Mr. Downie said that the paper's
critic "doesn't cut me any breaks," though he also said that the questions
posed on the program were similar to those Mr. Kurtz had asked him at the
paper when the news story broke last week.
Mr. Kurtz did come under fire from his colleagues recently, not for
bashing The Post, but for what they felt was a breach of trust. In a
column last month about the paper's confidential in-house critique system,
he quoted the written comments of some colleagues without asking them
first if he could use their names.
Mr. Kurtz, while not apologetic, acknowledged that he should have
contacted everyone quoted before using their names. "I do think it's only
fair to warn people in advance that their comments are going to be used,"
he said, "and if they had not been showing up on lots of other Web sites,
I probably would have treated them with more confidentiality."
Since he began covering the news media at The Post, he has used his bully
pulpit at the expense of his employers. In 1992, he questioned whether The
Post's seven-part series on former Vice President Dan Quayle (part of it
written by Mr. Woodward) had been too soft. Last year, Mr. Kurtz undertook
an examination of his paper's coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war. And
he pointed to his coverage of Mr. Woodward last week, with uniformly
negative reaction from critics, as the latest evidence "that I don't pull
punches even when the most famous member of the staff is involved."
"I think it adds to The Post's credibility that I'm given the leeway to
report and write on the paper as I see fit," Mr. Kurtz said.
Mr. Downie suggested that Mr. Kurtz might have sometimes crossed the line
by letting his own opinions creep into the paper or on CNN, something that
violates Post rules for reporters.
"We try to hold him to analysis and not pure personal opinion," Mr. Downie
said. "If we think he's slid over the line, we can edit it out, and on TV
we can remind him. But it has to be managed, and we manage it by looking
over his shoulder."
On Sept. 30, for example, after Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter
who had spent 85 days in jail, was released, Mr. Kurtz was interviewed on
"Whether you agree with Judy Miller or not," he said in an assertion many
of her detractors would dispute, "she did a courageous thing by going to
jail for three months for a principle that she believed in."
But, he added flatly, in an assertion that Ms. Miller would dispute, "She
basically could have had this deal three months ago."
Moments later, he showed the lengths to which a media reporter who is also
a commentator can go to try to avoid sounding opinionated.
"She is a very controversial figure within journalism," he said of Ms.
Miller. "On the other hand, she's won a Pulitzer Prize, and she's clearly
a very tenacious reporter. On the other hand, you described her as a hero
or a heroine. Not to a lot of people, even in the business, because of her
background, as she engenders a lot of animosity. On the other hand, she
also has gotten a lot of admiration for taking this difficult stand."
Critics generally agree that Mr. Kurtz has reported aggressively on The
Post, and while some say he has been softer on CNN, he has not spared the
network when it becomes newsworthy.
He was the first of the mainstream print reporters, for example, to write
about Eason Jordan, a former CNN news chief, who was forced to quit after
bloggers stirred up a ruckus over comments he made about American
soldiers' killing journalists in Iraq.
"I haven't seen a piece in which he's in the tank for CNN," Mr. Shafer
said. "But he obviously knows a lot more about the inner workings of CNN
than anybody else covering the television news business, and I don't think
his coverage reflects that."
Eric Wemple, editor of Washington's City Paper, an alternative weekly,
said that Mr. Kurtz's reporting was "fair, fair, fair." If Mr. Kurtz had a
bias, Mr. Wemple said, "it's to move on too quickly to the next story."
"What drives him is volume and scoops, not attitude, not edge," Mr. Wemple
said. "It's just volume and clips and ubiquity. He is a franchise."
Is he spread too thin?
Mr. Kurtz, a speed talker from Brooklyn who works from 7 a.m. until
midnight, with "a few hours" off at dinnertime, said, "I'm pretty careful
not to put my name on anything that I don't feel I've had sufficient time
to work on."
If being a franchise demands a lot of time, it also gives him enormous
influence in regard to fellow reporters.
Eric Alterman, a press critic and columnist for The Nation magazine, wrote
in his 2003 book, "What Liberal Media?" that the rest of the news media
had shied away from criticizing Mr. Kurtz, "owing to the power of the real
estate he controls."
But Mr. Wemple, for one, said that was not the case.
"I don't think people are afraid of him," he said. "I think they are
afraid of making a mistake and having Kurtz figure it out."
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Sunday, November 20, 2005
VIDEO: Dan Gillmor on "We the Media" -- discussion at Annenberg-USC
If you have a high-speed connection, you might like to watch this as you
read Dan Gillmor's "We the Media" book:
CLICK ON THIS LINK TO RUN STREAMING VIDEO:
Journalism School Forum: Dan Gillmor, Grassroots Media, Inc.
October 11, 2005
Annenberg Room 207
Journalism School Forum: Dan Gillmor, Grassroots Media, Inc.
Join journalism professor Larry Pryor and Online Journalism Review editor
Robert Niles for a roundtable discussion on new media and citizen journalism
with former San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor. His topic is "We the
Media: The Rise of Grassroots, Open-Source Journalism." Gillmor is the author
of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People.