I’ve been looking at media stories this week. That includes both traditional and nontraditional forms. The internet continues to influence the release of news and how news is made and reported. Several topics really caught my eye. The first is the ease with which we’re seeing documentation of Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations on places he’s been and news stories he covered. It seems like one exaggeration/lie after another is popping up from all kinds of places since David Corn of Mother Jones found out that O’Reilly was never near a battlefield during the Falklands War despite the stories O’Reilly tells. Here’s some of the latest on the life and times of the blustery, on line person who really is a serial liar.
Former colleagues of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host whose tales of past reporting exploits are facing renewed scrutiny, have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.
Six people who covered the riots with O’Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O’Reilly has claimed, “concrete was raining down on us” and “we were attacked by protesters”.
Several members of the team suggested that O’Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble.
Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O’Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O’Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: “Don’t you know who I am?”
O’Reilly, 65, is one of the most influential figures in American broadcasting and publishing. He is paid a reported $20m a year to host his show, the O’Reilly Factor, which consistently ranks among the most-watched current affairs programs in US cable TV. He has also authored several bestselling books and memoirs.
He has for several days been defending himself against accusations that he inflated his recollections of reporting from Argentina at the end of the Falklands war as a young correspondent for CBS News. The Guardian found he had told differing versions of an apparent encounter at gunpoint with Argentinian forces.
He has also been accused of lying in one of his books about being present at the scene when a CIA source, who had allegedly been linked to the assassination of President John F Kennedy, killed himself in 1977.
Fox News and Holt–publisher of O’Reilly’s book on Kennedy–have stood firmly by their man. O’Reilly’s show has never much been about facts any way as delivering anger to a key republican base. This would seem hard to ignore. Additionally, O’Reilly has actually threatened reporters. Every one expected the name calling but it’s gone way beyond that now. How can Fox stand behind an on air personality that lies and threatens journalists?
As the controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly and his war reporting experiences continues to heat up, with more allegations coming out each day, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow wonders how much longer Fox News can stand by the host.
On Wednesday evening, Maddow spoke with Mother Jones author David Corn, one of the journalists who wrote the original report revealing the inaccuracies in O’Reilly’s story. O’Reilly subsequently called Corn “a liar” and said that he deserves to be put in “the kill zone.” On Tuesday, the Fox News host threatened a New York Times reporter covering the scandal: “I am coming after you with everything I have,” O’Reilly said.
“Apparently, they [Fox News] think it’s proper for one journalist to call another one names,” Corn told Maddow. “Not that it scares me off the story, but I have family and I have friends who are concerned about me now.”
Corn called the threats “highly inappropriate” and noted that O’Reilly still has not disproven “a single fact” from his piece.
Maddow said that after his threats to Corn and the Times’ reporter, it is “untenable” for Fox News to stand by him.
“They employ a lot of journalists, including those who work in risky situations,” she said. “Fox is a good place to work for journalists.”
Maddow made a similar point on her show one night earlier, questioning what O’Reilly’s behavior will do to Fox News’ “work environment” and to the “real reporters” that work there
Why on earth do news personalities like O’Reilly and Brian Williams lie when their jobs should be all about integrity? Do they all yearn to be seen as Walter Cronkite? Do their memories and egos just run amok?
News in America has increasingly become infotainment—half factual information about the world’s events, half dazzling production and splashy narratives. Simultaneously, fewer and fewer Americans have ever seen battle; most of us only know war from what we see in film and television. So war itself becomes difficult to distinguish from entertainment. American Sniper, with its ambiguous moral commitments, is now the highest grossing American war film of all time, adjusted for inflation. Unlike popular war films about battles long past, American Sniper is set during the Iraq war, the effects of which are only beginning to ripple across our culture. Moreover, its story allegedly reflects the true-life story of its central character, sniper Chris Kyle. It’s somewhat true, like the news, but with a better script and pretty actors.
Which makes it hard for the news to keep up, even when you’re as handsome as Brian Williams. Unlike most cinematic retellings of wars, actual wars are multifaceted, complicated, anti-climactic, and grim. When war is already a successful subject in mainstream cinema, news purveyors whose professions have become increasingly akin to entertainment are shrewd to play up war stories in relaying the narrative of the day. The trouble is that shrewdness, for some news professionals, has morphed into a calculated consideration of the entertainment value of war stories, regardless of their factuality.
Maybe Williams and O’Reilly are merely victims of the fallible human brain. Or maybe that hunger to entertain—and, perhaps, for a touch of glory—overwhelmed their professional duty to the facts. What, after all, is more exciting than a war story in which you’re the star.
The other story I’ve followed has been yet another installment of “Is blogging dead?” These are articles that I’ve seen a lot of since around three years ago. I guess the collapse of the Andrew Sullivan experiment has brought on another deluge. The link explores the musings of bloggers from “The Golden Age” which seems an odd way to describe a period of maybe 5 years. Any way, there are a few bloggers with opinions both ways. I’ve followed a few of the links including this one from fellow economist/blogger Noah Smith.
In a nutshell, what is dying is the idea of the blog as a news source. In the old days, as a reader, you would have a favorite blogger, who would write many frequent posts throughout the day. That would be your main news source, your portal to current events. Often the post would have a slight bit of commentary or reaction. Basically, you got to hear the world narrated through the voice of someone you liked. For me, those narrators were University of California, Berkeley, economist Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, now at Vox. For many, it was Sullivan.
Twitter has basically killed that. With a Twitter feed you can integrate a bunch of different narrators into a single, flowing newsreel. It turns out that most of the micro-commentary that used to accompany a blog post can be squeezed into one or two tweets.
But the thing about micro-blogging is that, well, it’s micro. If you look at the blogs that Klein lists as the future (and there are many, many more), you will see that they all do posts that are about the length of a news article. That’s something Twitter complements, but can’t replicate.
However, that doesn’t mean that blog posts are now just news articles freed from the tyranny of professional editors. With blogs, you can do something that news can’t easily do — you can carry on a conversation.
I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about those declaring blogging to be the refuge of 40 year olds with kids or that nothing relevant happens on blogs these days. Maybe it’s because many of my friends are bloggers. But, I would like to point out that Lamar White–a blogging law student–broke two huge stories in the last year. The first was the shoddy situation with moonlight Congressman–now Senator–Double Bill Cassiday. The LSU med center just
audited whitewashed its findings and Lamar is still on top of it. His second piece connecting Congressman Steve Scalise to the local white supremacists and David Duke nearly cost Scalise a leadership position. Indeed, bloggers can frequently do good local investigations which is something local and national media rarely fund any more.
I would agree that blogging is changing but then so are all forms of written communication as well as broadcast media. Chris Cilliza has another notion.
The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It’s not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me — an ever-shrinking populace — a “blog” is simply a publishing medium. It’s a way to put content on the Internet — usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing — opinionated, snarky — that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake.
Well, we’re still standing–or sitting as the case may be–while sharing information with each other. We’ve all come a long way since we were booted from various communities for being loyal to Hillary back in 2008. I think there will always be a place for alternative voices. I say this as a former writer of an underground “newspaper”–The Aardvark–from way back in the day. The medium evolves. The writer’s voice and need to write carries on.
So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I started hanging out at FDL around 2006 after being on a Democratic BBoard for years. That makes me a late-comer to the political blogosphere. I joined Facebook when you couldn’t get on to it with anything but an academic email. My two first friends were my daughters who I stalked as the concerned mother of two teenage girls. Shortly after that, FDL folks got into Social Media and my buddy list filled up. I still have many connections there but the 2008 vibe from the site and its management still leave a taste in my mouth even though many of my friends still participate there. It’s a different world from 2004 and 2008 and perhaps it was only a matter of time before some one explored that.
TDB has an article up that features Susie Madrak and Peter Daou that you should read. It’s an interesting view back in to Netroots Bloggers ten years ago. I know BB came via the DKOS route. I joined (2004) before I joined the FDL community but really didn’t do much there. I found the diaries sort’ve trite displays of personal ego and preferred the structure of hourly new threads by folks who participated in their discussion. Many of us remember the pre-, post, and 2008 atmosphere of the leftie political blogs when we wound up being homeless . The leftie bloggers took sides–vehemently–in the primary. The safe places became fewer and fewer. Those same places are now dead end blogs. I apply this term generouslysince many of them are really right wing r*f*ing sites now that make you wonder if any of them were actual real democrats at any point in there live or supported women’s issues or anything the Clintons supported. Frankly, it’s the overt racism that gets me now more than anything as they seem to be more aligned with Pam Geller and Phyliss Schafly than Hillary Clinton.
The basic picture of Netroots–ten years after–is an affiliation in decline according to the TDB article.
Part of the Netroots decline had to do with the inevitable maturing of the movement and the simple evolution of the Internet. Ten years ago the blogs were one of the few places on the Internet where it was possible to find out what was happening in real time, as even many establishment news organizations hadn’t figured out how to move their offline print and broadcast products to the Web.
That has long since been sorted out, and in the meantime, dozens of online-only news outlets have been likewise competing for clicks and crowding out some of the proud amateurs. The political conversation, like the rest of the online conversation, has moved to Facebook and Twitter, and the bloggers steeped in an earlier Internet culture have not been able to keep up.
“Some bloggers have learned how to play well with a very dynamic Facebook community, with a very dynamic Twitter community, but a lot just don’t have the mental bandwidth,” said Henry Copeland, CEO of Blogads, which sells advertising on the Internet. “You need a density of folks who are excited about doing it. All of this stuff requires a community, and as a blogger you want to be responding to other bloggers and be in the thick of it, and the thick of things has just moved in another direction.”
The typing hordes have moved in another direction too. The pace of blogging was always punishing and nearly impossible for those who did it to keep another job. But being marginally employed loses its charm after a while, even if you are able to elect the Congress of your dreams.
“The blogosphere that we knew of in 2004 and 2008 is not what it was,” says Raven Brooks, executive director a Netroots Nation, an IRL annual meet-up. “It is still a tight community; it is just older, more established. The economy isn’t what it was then. A lot were students, and they have graduated and gone looking for jobs.”
The back half of the article is dedicated to a where are they now kind’ve narrative. Many of the original bloggers have been mainstreamed into other places and a lot of been consolidated into bigger blogs. The article argues that the blogosphere and netroots is no longer a force for Democrats.
But with another critical election two weeks away, politicians, political operatives, and even the bloggers themselves say the Netroots are a whisper of what they were only four years ago, a dial-up modem in a high-speed world, and that the brigade of laptop-wielding revolutionaries who stormed the convention castle four years ago have all but disappeared as a force within the Democratic Party.
I wonder if they would reach the same conclusion about all the right wing blogs? It seems to me that they are taken much more seriously even by the traditional press. Afterall, Susie or Peter have not been hired by CNN to talk about elections but useless pieces of flesh and oxygen like Erick Erickson are hired as ‘consultants’. I’ve never heard a serious word or thought coming from his mouth once.
So, I’m sure that the GOTV ground game this time in key states is much more important to the Democratic candidates this year than positive action from bloggers. How many of you have actually visited ACT Blue this year? Still, there are a few candidates–Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth come to mind–that are still getting the benefit of the lose affiliation and affinity that happens on line between liberal activists and liberal bloggers. Where it will go in the future is any one’s guess at this point. I just know that I feel much more connected to democracy by participating. I also know that it’s one of the few places you can still go to get good conversations on extremely important things ignored by the MSM like drones, kill lists, and income inequality. So, call me a lifer.
Tonight, we’re celebrating 21 days of the little blog that could!
First, Saturday night Treats will feature BostonBoomer and some New England Recipes that sound great for a chilly autumn eve. Be sure to come and share!!! I think I’m going to have to work up to sharing my best gumbo recipe just to keep the seafood competition up!!!
Second, we were adopted this week !!!! I’m so happy that some of my fellow New Orleans Bloggers have decided to give Sky Dancing a try!!! Thank you Editilla!!!
Third, the move from file cabinet to active community has increased our Alexa status! We’ve broke the 10 million mark!! We started in the top 18 million blogs so that’s quite a bump! We’ve had some great link backs from HuffPo, Corrente, and this fun one from the WSJ (via Technorati)!
WSJ.com: Real Time Economics
Recent Influential Reactions
Sky Dancing — Authority 439
economists as “William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard“. Actually, the signatories aren’t distinguished economists at all. They’re mostly political hacks and conservative policy ideologues.
Look at that Team!! We’re ‘influential”!!! (It must be that 9,915,575 ranking, daggummit!!!)
Another shout out goes to Sima’s wonderful post on S.510: Food Safety Modernization Act. Sima got a link back from opencongress.org/bill/111-s510/show/ as well as a shout out on some other blogs. As you know, Sima’s venture into blogging is going well and we’re glad she’s joined the team!!! She provides an important voice to one more important set of issues!
Any more frontpagers in waiting in the wings out there? Let us know!!! Again, we interested in discussing issues here and any one with an important issue that they follow closely and would like to post on would be more than welcome!!!
So,we’re #9,915,575 and WE try harder!! We’re hoping to go under 1 million in less than 3 months!!
(Hey, it’s a start!!! Right?)