Sunday, May 18, 2008

New journalism

I've often made the argument that while blogs can be invaluable news aggregates as well as great sources for putting a story in its much-needed context, newspapers in this country still remain the primary newsgatherers.

That's why I've argued that if newspapers continue their downward spiral, what's left of the media will become nothing but a loud echo chamber. Everyone commenting on the opinions of others. But nobody doing any real investigative reporting.

Certainly, I'm not the first person to come up with this idea. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Information is the currency of democracy." But I have always embraced the notion that without the vital watchdog role of the traditional Fourth Estate, democracy will fail.

I'm not yet ready to say I was wr...that I'm wron... Let's just say that I've been tweaking my position this week.

As you know, an April 20 New York Times story revealed that the military analysts we've seen so much of on cable and network news in the past five years are actually shills for the Pentagon.

Without a doubt, reporter David Barstow and the Times deserve an incredible amount of praise for exposing these unethical relationships. The newspaper fought for two years and endured a costly court battle to get access to the documents that reveal the coziness between these supposedly neutral analysts and the government.

Now that the public documents have finally been released to the public, who's been doing the followup investigations? Who's been the real newsgatherers in the process?

Well, it sure ain't the networks who have all been remarkably quiet about the revelations about their go-to commentators. Probably because they were too shocked - Shocked, I tell you! - to respond.

No, the folks who have been keeping this story alive, in addition to The Nation magazine - which has vowed "to keep the story alive until it gets the attention it deserves" - are the bloggers and their readers. Citizen journalists.

TPM has been conducting a terribly interesting experiment. One of its writers has been asking readers to share the burden of combing through the Pentagon documents and documenting some of the worst excesses.

This is one of the little tidbits they found:
From:redacted
To:redacted

hi. jed babbin, one of our military analysts, is hosting the michael medved nationally syndicated radio show this afternoon. he would like to see if general casey would be available for a phone interview any time between 3 and 6 pm.
...
please feel free to contact jed directly (contact info below) if the general can/would be available for the interview. this would be a softball interview and the show is 8th or 9th in the nation.

From: Allison Barber
To: redacted
Hi. Thanks for sending this. Just fyi, probably wouldn't put "softball" interview in writing. If that got out it would compromise jed and general casey.

And how about this scary item from Firedoglake:
An ongoing exploration of the documents related to the Pentagon's "message force multipliers" program has unearthed a clip of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggesting that America, having voted the Democrats back into Congressional power, could benefit from suffering another terrorist attack, and doing so in the presence of the very same military analysts who went on to provide commentary and analysis of the Iraq War.

It remains true that it takes the deep pockets and larger resources of newspapers like the New York Times to get access to information that the government would rather keep hidden. But when it comes to sheer doggedness at digging for information, blogs and their loyal readers are proving that they also play an important role in the democratic process.

Lauri in York

Editor's note: "Lauri in York" is the author of a new book, The Devil in Dover: An Insider's Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America. Click here for last week's review in The Patriot News.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Alan said...

Very interesting article, and thanks for keeping us informed on the "softball" relationship of "independent military analysts" and the military.

This issue hasn't gotten the coverage it deserves. It is very similar to the FEMA's fraudulent press conferences, but in a much more important policy domain. So why hasn't it gotten the attention FEMA did? Probably because the broadcast journalists are culpable and no one wants to blow the whistle on themselves.

3:16 PM  

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