Please, let it be true.

Monday, November 27, 2006
“Journalism’s state secrets.” Now what could those be? It’s a kind of insiders’ code. VandeHei and Harris are serving notice that they won’t be bound by certain gentleman’s agreements that have settled over political reporting in the big leagues, the most important of which is: you don’t name your sources, and you don’t try to name the other fellow’s either. There are deals cut all the time: exclusive information in exchange for reporting only part of that information. All players are dirty.

What VandeHei and Harris are saying is: game is up, guys. Those deals are news, we know how it works, and we don’t have the “institutional bias” that permits the Post and the Times and the Journal to tolerate the gentleman’s agreements, which after all are agreements to bury the story of who leaked what and why, to what effect. This, I believe, is where they think they can blow the lid off the political reporting game and generate some shock and awe for their new venture...
-- Jay Rosen.

Ah, it was never fair and balanced that was needed. It was the promise of money and status for spilling the beans. Sell my grandmother? Depends on the price. I love it. BTW, the Post's Halperin is in on this too. Hugh Hewitt interviewed Halperin recently about his new book, The Way to Win, coauthored with Harris, and during the discussion Halperin was talking about bias in the News room and the need to do somethin about it. I'm beginning see dots here. Dots, dots, dots. Jack Shafer at Slate has more details on these happenings.

This looks like the second coming of the internet to my naive, non-business eye. As the traditional newspapers cut and scrimp to preserve what remains of a nearly 100 year old model, there is a rush to stake out property in the new country. The general area of new "news" is even becoming crowded. Pajamas is taking a shot at it. So too, I think, is Powerline. And that is not to mention all the newspapers and magazines already online. This particular venture strikes me as targeted at the 2008 elections and providing something almost like a political news temp agency. So in this case there seems to be specialization to a particular news product provided by equally specialized journalists. And Powerline reports "that the Washington Post will name Susan Glasser, currently the head of the paper's Outlook section, to be in charge of all news sections at the Post." That looks to me like the Post is also taking closer aim at a slightly different market than before, although Glasser may simply have been the best gualified of those left behind.

With all these startups and changes going on, at some point there will be a shakeout and we will see who lucked out. And I say lucked out, because the only way to find out what is going to work is to try lots of things and after the fact dub those who led the successful outfits masters of the universe. Change is coming, I think things can only get better. I was going to qualify that and say that things might get worse, but after accidentally watching a CNN segment the other day, I don't think that is possible.

BTW, I think VanderLeun has been doing a great job over at Pajamas, It's really starting to click for me.


Skookumchuk said...

Over Thanksgiving, I got the chance to see relatives and some friends that I seldom see otherwise. It is to me staggering that there are still people who listen only to NPR and to CNN and who swallow every meme that is generated, no questions asked. Still. Curiously, they are people who have stopped reading newspapers, not so much because they disagree with their generally lefty editorials, but rather because they don't have the time. These people have simply found a more convenient way to get their prepackaged opinions delivered and can let the newspaper subscription slide. I wonder how typical this sort of thing is and what it may mean to the market. But these examples are not young people. All over 50.

Syl said...

It's interesting to see that 'insiders' are both skoffing and hoping for the failure of this new venture.

I also suspect if sources are revealed, they will dry up quickly enough. Then the former insiders become outsiders and more like 'mere' bloggers.

It will certainly be interesting to watch, though, and may take many years for a real affect on journalism to take hold...if ever.

But these are the beginning years of transition from centralized discreet groups of journalists (mainly on paper) to a more distributed, yet aggregated, source of news and views.

There's an inevitability to it, but it still will take a while.

Yet underneath it all there are two troubling issues with news that will not go away and are not yet addressed:

(2)Choice of story to highlight

Whoever controls those two items, holds the true political power.