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Wednesday, April 30, 2003  

In the newsroom

•Stop blogging or else

Jen wrote to remind me a Northeastern reporter has been royally dissed for having a web log.

Another journalist/blogger, not mentioned in Ryan's article, is Denis Horgan. The newspaper for which he works, the Hartford Courant, has ordered him to stop posting to his blog. According to the paper's editor, "Denis Horgan's entire professional profile is a result of his attachment to the Hartford Courant, yet he has unilaterally created for himself a parallel journalistic universe where he'll do commentary on the institutions that the paper has to cover without any editing oversight by the Courant. [...] That makes the paper vulnerable."

Jen expresses my opinion for me.

That is easily the most self-important rhetoric I've heard all week that didn't come from the Bush administration.

It is not true that he is making the paper liable by having a blog. As long as Horgan made it clear he was speaking for himself and expressing opinions, there was no libel exposure, especially when it came to public officials and public institutions.

To read more about what happened to Denis Horgan, go to Editor & Publisher.

So far, no one has written to accuse me of profound moral failings because I said that if I return to full-time journalism I will probably keep my blogging avocation to myself, though I was expecting such a response. As long as big media responds to reporters' blogs by swatting them like flies, secrecy seems to be the best policy to me.

•Hold on to your hats

Eric Alterman wears three hats, recently published writer, The Nation columnist and blogger for MSNBC. The latest newspaper to review his book is the Manila Sunday Times. Of Alterman and the conservative media, it says,

Eric has come forward to call their bluff. That’s Eric as in Eric Alterman, author of  What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News. Alterman’s premise is that the conservative wing’s gnashing of teeth about a “liberal media” attacking core right-thinking values is highly dubious.

Alterman believes the strongest political voices in this country are conservatives. And have been for some time.

. . .Alterman is a blogger for MSNBC.com and a columnist for The Nation, and he researched this book over several years while contributing to that left-leaning publication.

The Times gives WLM? an excellent review, declaring it "authoritative and thorough."

But how will Alterman ultimately be reviewed by his employers at MSNBC, who fit his description of contemporary media brass to a T?

. . .the US media now are largely owned by corporations, which exist to make profit, Alterman says. He argues that they are also run, typically, by individuals who are wealthy and whose media outlets often reflect conservative policies, at least in the economic sense. In other words, can you say “Rupert Murdoch”?

Bill Gates' political position seems to be summed up in the phrase 'Just let me have my way.' However, he has potentially the same power to influence public opinion or pull the plug on a too liberal employee of his medium as Murdoch does.

Let's hope Eric Alterman gets to keep wearing all his hats.

•A reporter's 'place'

Another Eric, Tam of Antidotal, is concerned about the fate of a broadcast reporter who won't engage in Babbittry.

There's NBC's not-so-veiled threat to discipline Ashleigh Banfield for publicly criticizing the media's sanitized and rah-rah coverage of the war. I personally think Banfield is one of the better journalists as far as cable news goes and deserves our support, but the quality of her previous work is not the main issue here. This is what is at stake: if NBC gets away with this, then the big networks will have every reason to think they're free to continue pushing their journalists to toe the nationalistic line that has anaesthetized the public into buying the neo-con agenda. When it comes to cable news, we're beyond the "chill" factor; we're headed for a journalistic deep freeze.

I recall anticipating public opinion would swing to very pro-war once the invasion of Iraq was a fait accompli over at DailyKos. Broadcast media was bound to follow the fervor, if not drive it. I believe our best hope to restore some balance is to embarass big media by continually hammering away at their biases whenever and wherever we can -- on our blogs, in letters to the editor and the ombudsmen, at stockholders meetings, e.t.c.. The people in the boardrooms believe everyone agrees with them. We must show them everyone doesn't.

To learn more about the attempt to curb Banfield, read Antidotal.

10:34 PM