The Blogging Of The President

In a Democratic candidate’s forum at the YearlyKos conference, the participants were asked if they would appoint a White House blogger if elected. All of them said yes.

Imagine for a moment that you are running for the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. You are appearing on a panel at a conference of progressive bloggers before an audience of 1,500 of some of the most motivated online activists in your party and you are asked if you would appoint a White House blogger if elected. How many answers are there?

To the field of candidates appearing at this conference, there is only one answer, and that is to pander in the most shallow and uncritical manner possible. I can appreciate the pressure that they may have felt in this venue. They may have justifiably feared a hostile charge at the stage had any of them been adventurous enough to actually give the question some thoughtful consideration. But thoughtful consideration is not a trait most politicians spend much time cultivating.

Blogging has certainly made great strides in the realm of new media. It is regarded with a measure of seriousness that was unthinkable a few short years ago. Presidential candidates are now grateful for an audience of bloggers, and TV pundits are shaking in their expensive and anachronistic studios. But I, for one, am not so sure the notion of a White House blogger is particularly desirable. That may appear to be sacrilege coming from a blogger, but if you break down the meaning and purpose of a blog, this position may make more sense.

Merriam-Webster defines a blog as a…

Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

Hiding in that rather dry definition is the framework for all of the vitality that radiates from the best of blogs.

Key amongst the components of good blogging is personality. The authors who attract crowds and inspire readers are those who give something more of themselves than the typical columnist. They dig deeply and feel fiercely, and aren’t afraid to express themselves with the raw honesty of a confessional.

The commentary featured on blogs is enhanced by the comments of readers that are compelled to praise, argue, and otherwise expand upon the blogger’s original thoughts. It is the presence of a community that ties together the disparate souls that linger in the Intersphere, and transforms a private diary into a social gathering.

The problem with a White House blog is that it would be none of these things I just described. It would not offer the personal reflections of a nation’s leader, or even those of a staffer appointed to feel things for the president. The honesty and spontaneity that infuses superior blogs with essence would be diluted beyond recognition by the expediency and message control of the modern presidential PR machine. And the chance that unrestricted free speech would flourish in freewheeling comments (if comments are even allowed) is roughly zero to none.

More likely, the White House Blog would just be another province of the propaganda branch of administration bureaucracy. It would be employed to further the political agenda of partisans, rather to than to inform and/or inspire citizens. Just imagine the sort of blogging that would emanate from the current White House. Would you rush each morning to your computer to devour the details of the latest musings of Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin? Or perhaps they would find an obscure marcom specialist with YAF credentials who would happily report to Tony Snow.

For these reasons, I don’t think it would be contributory to democracy to establish yet another platform for the disbursement of misinformation. Leave the lying and scheming and obfuscation to the president’s press secretary and his/her designees, where it currently resides.

Leave blogging to bloggers.

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Stalking Points Memo: Kos & Effect

Bill O’Reilly: “Many of the Democrats running for president will speak at the DailyKos convention next week. That is a major mistake.”

So says O’Reilly, the renowned Democratic analyst. Listen as he generously contributes his learned advice to the party he dismisses as radical loons.

Visit the growing library of Stalking Points Memos.

John Edwards Takes On The Media

Now he’s done it. John Edwards has unleashed the hounds of hell and will face certain and swift punishment for his petulance. By daring to tell the truth about the risks posed by runaway media consolidation, Edwards now must keep an alert eye over both shoulders. From his web site:

“News Corp’s purchase of the Dow Jones Co. and The Wall Street Journal should be the last straw when it comes to media consolidation. The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media – all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp.”

He goes on to call on all candidates to refuse contributions from the Dark Empire of Lord Murdoch, and to return any donations already received. For the most part, that call is directed straight at Hillary Clinton, who counts Murdoch as a supporter and fund-raiser.

But rather than become defensive, Clinton and the other candidates should stake out their own positions on media reform. To date, Edwards is the only candidate to take a position on the excessive powers that the media have assembled. By overtly challenging the media’s ravenous appetite for consolidation, Edwards is demonstrating a rare courage to seek reforms that are truly in the public interest. But he is also painting a target on his back.

The media are a formidable foe and they don’t like to be challenged. Witness the campaign of Gov. Howard Dean. Early in his campaign for the 2004 nomination, he appeared on Hardball where Chris Matthews asked if he would break up the powerful media conglomerates:

Dean: “The answer to that is yes. I would say there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country.”

Dean went on to say that he would appoint commissioners to the FCC that:

“…believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.”

We all saw what happened to Gov. Dean. His fall from being the front-runner in the Democratic Party to an object of ridicule almost overnight, was entirely the work of a frightened and panicked media. This may be a forecast of what awaits Edwards as he steps into the most shark-infested waters of politics. However, it is exactly this kind of commitment to the principles of freedom that we must demand of our representatives.

Edwards has been more successful in guiding the public debate than in raising his chances for the nomination. He has maneuvered the issues of health care and poverty into the spotlight when no one else was talking about them. One can only hope that he will have the same effect bringing the media’s malignancies into view. He had better, for his own sake. Without widespread support for this issue and/or his candidacy, the media will grind him up and spit him out. Or worse, from a political perspective…they will ignore him.

Rudy Giuliani: Fox Candidate For President

A report in the New York Times reveals that Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, has a special relationship with the front-runner for the nomination of the Republican Party for president. Rudy and Roger go back 20 years and share a level of intimacy that is well illustrated in this paragraph:

“Mr. Ailes served as the media consultant to Mr. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Mr. Ailes’s company, Fox News Channel, was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.”

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to find politicians and propagandists shacking up with one another. Theirs is an incestuous collusion of benefit swapping that goes back decades. What’s interesting is the specific rewards Giuliani has enjoyed thanks to the generosity of his favorite friend from Fox:

“Since the beginning of this year, Mr. Giuliani has appeared for 115 minutes in interviews on Fox. More than half of those minutes, 78, were spent with Mr. Hannity, co-host of the “Hannity & Colmes” talk show.”

That makes Rudy the most frequent guest on Fox News amongst all presidential candidates. It pays to have friends in high places. And I’m sure that’s exactly what Ailes, and his boss, Rupert Murdoch, are thinking when they throw their considerable weight behind White House wannabes.

I Guess It Is Too Late

R. I. P. Wall Street Journal

“It’s sad,” said a veteran reporter at one of the domestic bureaus, who did not want to be named because of concerns over his career. “We held a wake. We stood around a pile of Journals and drank whiskey.”

Something to think about…

And, as if we needed confirmation of the trainwreck ahead of us, Murdoch’s New York Post didn’t bother to report the DJ sale on its front page, or even its front news section. However, in their business section article they portrayed the sale in glowing terms:

“The Dow Jones group, including Barron’s and Dow Jones Newswires, will now be folded into the global reach of News Corp., adding more international clout to the Journal and the company’s other brands,”

I think they may have meant, “…adding more international clot to the Journal…”

Update: FCC Commissioner, Michael Copps, reminds us that there is still a regulatory process to be completed and that it will be “no slam dunk.”

Copps: “It’s interesting to hear the ‘experts’ claim the transaction faces no regulatory hurdles. Not so fast! This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically impacts the local market in New York City.”

Amen. I’d be surprised if the Republican-dominated Commission blocked the sale, but the debate is a worthy one and Commissioner Copps, with his ally Commissioner Jonathan Adelman, could use the opportunity to shine more light on the extent to which media consolidation is harmful to journalism and to the public interest.

CNN’s Parade Of GOP Pundits: Laura Ingraham Edition

In its quest to out-fox Fox News, CNN is handing over its 8:00 pm time slot to conservative shill, Laura Ingraham for a week. Ingraham is the diva that deemed that artists should “Shut Up and Sing” (unless, of course, you’re Ronald Reagan or Fred Thompson). It was only a few weeks ago that CNN recruited Glenn Beck for the same duty. Is this the beginning of a parade of rightist ideologues to audition for the role from which Paula Zahn has been ousted?

Who’s next? Rush Limbaugh? Michael Savage? Ann Coulter?

It is more than a little puzzling that CNN would pursue this course when they already have Lou Dobbs to represent the intolerant, blowhard wing of public opinion. And there doesn’t seem to be an argument for ratings when you consider that Beck bombed, performing 23% below the failing Zahn. If ratings were a consideration, then why doesn’t CNN try to emulate the example of a surging Keith Olbermann rather than the fading Bill O’Reilly, who has lost half his audience in the past two years.

Speaking of fading, wasn’t it Ingraham who called CNN a dinosaur in an appearance on The O’Reilly Fester? And this is her reward. Ingraham also impugned the character of reporters who risk their lives in war zones. Her reward for that was a smackdown by Lara Logan of CBS. Then there was the time Ingraham urged her radio listeners to jam the phone lines of a voter protection hotline.

If CNN considers Ingraham to be a credible host for their “news” network, they really are marching further down the trails blazed by Fox. By traipsing a flock of right-wing pundits across their airwaves they demonstrate the fallacy of the liberal media myth. It’s not as if they couldn’t pick from the likes of Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, Stephanie Miller, Sam Seder, Taylor Marsh, Jim Hightower, Laura Flanders, or other distinguished progressive commentators. It’s just that they don’t want to. And that’s the problem.

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Save The Wall Street Journal From Murdoch

It’s Not Too Late!

Murdoch wants a more business-friendly
finance channel.

Despite reports this morning that News Corp. has secured enough support from the Greedy Bastards Bloc of Dow Jones’ controlling Bancroft family, this fight is by no means over. The vote amongst the trustees is going to be close and the players could still switch sides, as many have been doing throughout the process. After the Bancrofts vote, the deal will be put before the rest of the shareholders later this fall. Today’s results are not determinative.

Rupert Murdoch’s latest ploy to tip the scales in his favor appears to be an outright bribe of wavering Class B shareholders, whom he has offered an extra $30 million dollars for their capitulation. But he cannot offer any such bribes to other retail or institutional holders.

There are heroes in this story who have demonstrated integrity and honor, notably Christopher Bancroft, Leslie Hill, and the Ottoway family, who have all been persistent opponents of this deal. But too many of the remaining clan are more concerned with fattening their wallets than preserving an American publishing institution. So if they are too consumed by their own avarice to act in the best interests of the treasure that has been bequeathed to them, it is up to concerned citizens to step in and make their voices heard. But “What can we do?” you ask.

If the Class B shareholder vote for control of Dow Jones exceeds 30% in favor of the sale, Murdoch still has to pull almost all of the non-family votes in order to prevail. It is generally presumed that this is a given, but several details make the outcome less clear. For one, many retail investors never vote in these elections, making it harder to achieve a majority which is based on the total shares, not the total of those voting. This would force Murdoch into an expensive campaign to solicit votes. Another factor is that the bulk of these shares are held by institutions and mutual funds. That’s where you come in.

The list below are the mutual funds with the largest holdings in Dow Jones & Co. If you see any funds in which you are invested, this would be a good time to contact the firm and let them know that you intend to divest your holdings unless they commit to vote their shares against the sale.

Fund % Held
T. Rowe Price Equity Income 5.37
Fidelity Capital Appreciation Fund 3.40
Hotchkis and Wiley Mid-Cap Value I 2.77
Fidelity Equity-Income II Fund 2.50
T. Rowe Price Mid-Cap Value Fund 2.10
Fidelity Equity-Income II 1.93
T. Rowe Price Mid-Cap Value 1.79
Goldman Sachs Mid Cap Value Fund 1.70
First Eagle Global A 1.54
T. Rowe Price Value Fund 1.30
Fidelity Advisor Equity Income I 1.20
JNL/Mellon Capital Management 25 Fund 1.20
Columbia Mid Cap Value Fund 0.90
Allianz OCC Value Fund 0.80
John Hancock Trust – Equity-Income 0.70
Wells Fargo Advantage Common Stock Z 0.48
Van Kampen American Value A 0.44
Aston/Optimum Mid Cap N 0.39
ING T. Rowe Price Equity Income S 0.31
Tocqueville 0.30

Check your own portfolio to see if any of your funds are holders of Dow Jones. These funds have a fiduciary responsibility to vote in the best interests of all shareholders. Rupert Murdoch has not proven himself to be a sound financial manager in the U.S. newspaper business. His New York Post has lost money for as long as he has owned it. What’s more, another bidder for Dow Jones, MySpace founder Brad Greenspan, has promised to match Murdoch’s $60.00 bid while leaving the company independent and offering a proposal that forecasts a $100.00 share price. The Dow Jones board has failed to consider this offer.

You may be thinking that these big investment firms are not going to shift their investment strategies because you called to complain. That may be true for some, but customer service is a major concern of any retail business, and if enough customers express themselves, the company cannot ignore them.

More importantly, in the end it doesn’t matter that much if they do ignore you. When you divest your shares in the fund, the company can no longer vote them in the Dow Jones deal. If they end up not being voted at all, Murdoch’s majority is placed a little further away. And [This is important] the vote only needs to shift about couple of percentage points to sink the deal. With approximately 30% in play, this is entirely achievable.

If you believe in free, diverse, and independent media, this is the time to put your money where your ideals are. Feel free to reinvest the shares you withdraw in some nice little socially responsible mutual funds. If a people-powered movement can keep the WSJ out of Murdoch’s clutches, we can all feel proud for having been a part of it. And, in any case, you’ll sleep better knowing that you tried.

First Amendment Repealed For Students

A report in the Chronicle of Higher Education states that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the former editors of the student newspaper at Kansas State University in a First Amendment case:

“The students asserted that the university had violated their First Amendment rights by removing their faculty adviser from the newspaper staff following criticism of the Collegian’s coverage of minority issues.

The judges ruled that the plaintiffs’ status as graduates made their claims moot because, as alumni, they are not subject to censorship by the university.”

What an atrocious ruling. How can a First Amendment violation be wiped away just because the victim’s academic status has changed? There was still a violation. This ruling would effectively repeal the First Amendment for students because in almost every case the student will have graduated before the case comes to trial. Knowing that, the university would be able to censor students with impunity.

Would this ruling extend to victims of racial discrimination who graduate before the court rules? Would it extend to employees of a company whose rights were violated if they no longer worked for the company when the trial took place? Would every violation of the Constitution be rendered moot just because the relationship between the victim and the violator had changed?

This ruling by a three member panel of the 10th Circuit is nothing but an unconstitutional constriction of long-held civil liberties. It is an attempt to repeal the Bill of Rights. It must be struck down by the full court, or the Supreme Court, without ambiguity.

C-SPAN Supports Shooting Michael Moore

This Sunday, C-SPAN is airing an interview with Kevin Leffler, the director of a film called “Shooting Michael Moore.” According to C-SPAN:

Mr. Leffler says he knew Michael Moore as a young adult and attended high school with him in Michigan. In his film, Mr. Leffler examines Michael Moore’s work while utilizing some of Moore’s well known production techniques.

Leffler appears to be a pathetic character who is consumed with envy that his high school chum has so far out-classed him. The credibility for which he grasps is built upon the claim that he knows the real Michael Moore. But even in his own trailer for the film, we see him re-introducing himself to Moore, who, at first, doesn’t seem to recognize Leffler. Then when pressed, Moore says, “Oh yeah, I remember you.” That doesn’t strike me as a greeting between two old friends who were ever very close. There goes the foundation for his credibility.

On a more humorous note, the web site for the homicidely-titled crockumentary includes a description of its contents. At one point it reads…

“Shooting Michael Moore is neither mean-spirited nor deceptive, like so much of the namesake’s work.”

That’s nice to hear. Unfortunately, in the very next paragraph, it says…

“Once we learn Iran and Osama Bin Laden praised Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, we also question his patriotism.”

I guess in the view of Leffler, saying that Bin Laden praised Fahrenheit 9/11 when that never happened isn’t considered deceptive, and questioning someone’s patriotism doesn’t qualify as mean-spirited.

Not having seen the film, I don’t really want to critique it because, unlike so many rightist pods, I don’t believe in judging something I haven’t seen. It’s not as if there hasn’t been opportunity, because the film is over two years old. In that time it has failed to either rise from obscurity or find corroboration. So I am curious as to why C-SPAN would drudge up this interview with a director of such an undistinguished film that is plainly biased and outdated. What’s up with that, C-SPAN?

TVNewser Turning Into Drudge?

People who are in the television news business, or are interested in following the inside machinations of the media, have come to rely on a spunky little site called TVNewser. Recently, its founder, a college student at the time, Brian Stelter, graduated and was hired by the New York Times.

Well, it’s only been a week and there are already signs of trouble, as seen in this excerpt from an item about newsman Bob Franken:

“…his cousin, ex-Saturday Night Live star Al Franken, a rabid leftie, is running for the Senate in Minnesota.”

This is a disturbing and inauspicious beginning for new TVNewser, Chris Ariens. It exhibits the kind of juvenile disparagement one might expect from Matt Drudge. You could have reasonably described Franken as Liberal or Progressive, but “leftie” is a deliberately pejorative abbreviation. And what exactly is “rabid” about Franken’s positions, which fit squarely within the mainstream of America that is overwhelming against the war in Iraq, in favor of universal health care, worried about global warming, and disapproving of Bush and Cheney?

The next day, TVNewser had an item about liberal groups pressuring FNC advertisers. However they never reported on Bill O’Reilly’s targeting of liberal bloggers and their sponsors, which is what motivated the liberal groups to respond in kind.

This isn’t the first instance of a dubious omission. A couple of weeks ago, Glenn Beck filled in for Paula Zahn on CNN. He bombed in the ratings, but TVNewser, whose mission it is to report on such ratings performance, never mentioned it.

Jupiter Media purchased TVNewser’s parent, Media Bistro, earlier this year. While I have no reason to criticize Jupiter, I believe it is worth noting that the spunky little web site is now part of an expansive, publicly traded, Internet conglomerate.

Whether or not these changes are responsible for the recent degradation in tone at TVNewser, I can’t say with certainty. However, I can say that if this is what I can expect from TVNewser in the wake of Stelter’s departure, I will certainly not consider it a useful resource in the future, and I suspect that many others will agree with me.

Feel free to email your thoughts to TVNewser.