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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Monday, January 02, 2006

It Is In The Times, But I Doubt They Understand It.

Hugh Hewitt found this piece in the New York Times business section today. The article is long--3 pages--and I am not going to cite the entire thing. But, I will cite a couple of key pieces from it. It is written by Katharine Q. Seelye.

Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, or so goes the old saw. For decades, the famous and the infamous alike largely followed this advice. Even when subjects of news stories felt they had been misunderstood or badly treated, they were unlikely to take on reporters or publishers, believing that the power of the press gave the press the final word.

The Internet, and especially the amplifying power of blogs, is changing that. Unhappy subjects discovered a decade ago that they could use their Web sites to correct the record or deconstruct articles to expose what they perceived as a journalist's bias or wrongheaded narration.

But now they are going a step further. Subjects of newspaper articles and news broadcasts now fight back with the same methods reporters use to generate articles and broadcasts - taping interviews, gathering e-mail exchanges, taking notes on phone conversations - and publish them on their own Web sites. This new weapon in the media wars is shifting the center of gravity in the way that news is gathered and presented, and it carries implications for the future of journalism.

Have we not been saying this for sometime? Did Mr. Hewitt not write a book (BLOG) about the subject that, in effect, warned the media the chickens were coming home to roost? Brent Bozell wrote "Weapons of Mass Distortion" which reflected on the media's bias. Bernie Goldberg wrote "Bias" and "Arrogance"; all four were on the Times bestseller lists.

The media got hit hard over Eason Jordan, and Dan Rather, and even Jayson Blair. The biggest reasons why was because they refused to get the story. They refused to say anything about it. In the case of Rather, once the media did pick up the story, it was almost over, and their spin just could not save him. Not that it would have. Had they joined the battle, they would have been beaten on just as hard as Rather was by the blogs. That was a mistake that Rather made, and that he paid for. The media barely paid attention to Jayson Blair and Eason Jordan; making them passing subjects in a nightly news cast.

And I believe that one of the reasons why blogs are growing, and moving in the direction that they are is because more and more people are turning away from the news. You can look to the elites in the blogosphere like InstaPundit, Powerline, Captain's Quarters, and Michelle Malkin, and you can get all the news links you need. When people go to these sites, they know what they are goig to get. There is no misnomer about where their ideology lies.

But for bloggers, it is not about ideology. It is about information. We consider ourselves the new purveyors of information; a definition disdained by Dan Rather while addressing journalism students. He believes that the media presents the truth. This thought could not be further from the truth, and journalists that truly believe this need help. Journalism is the collection and presentation of facts to people. The story--all it's facts and details--are what people use to make a decision. Without that, you cannot reached an informed, educated decision.

Blogs, like ours and those listed above, give the reader that. We present the facts of a story, and begin disseminating it. Things that raise more questions, things not fully addressed, catching the blatant bias in the story, etc. This is what bloggers do, and on a frequent basis. Ask the Times if they really like the abuse that is being handed out on a daily basis regarding the NSA story. How about when Newsweek ran the phony Flushed Koran story? Or, even better, ask Dan Rather what it was like to go fifteen rounds with the collective blogosphere. He still hates us, and probably always will. Move over Danny-boy; there is a new sheriff in town.

"In this new world, the audience and sources are publishers," Mr. Rosen said. "They are now saying to journalists, 'We are producers, too. So the interview lies midpoint between us. You produce things from it, and we do, too.' From now on, in a potentially hostile interview situation, this will be the norm."

All these developments have forced journalists to respond in a variety of ways, including becoming more open about their methods and techniques and perhaps more conscious of how they filter information.

"To the extent that you know there's someone monitoring every word, it probably compels you to be even more careful, which is a good thing," said Chris Bury, the "Nightline" correspondent whose interview was published by the Discovery Institute. "But readers and viewers need to realize that one interview is only one part of the story, that there are other interviews and other research and that this is just a sliver of what goes into a complete report."

But that is the point. All too often, the public is treated to the cut-down, watered-down, needlessly over-hyped garbage the MSM decides is "news worthy." Yes, all the comings and goings of the DC crowd might be worth noting in the news, and of course the normal run of the mill mundane news is brought to light. But, what happens when the MSM completely drops the ball?

Their reporting on Hurricane Katrina was pitiful. There were erroneous stories that were not properly vetted before running them. There were contradictions between first-hand sources. It was disgusting how bad the media failed. And what about the Dongzhou Town incident that occurred last month? In 1989, the MSM was all over the protests in Tiananmen Square, and the massacre that occurred at the end of the protests. Sixteen years later, the Chinese again open fire on unarmed civilians who are protesting the seizure of their land. The MSM does not whisper one whit about the news. Bloggers did.

Abu Ghraib is a prime example of further media bias. Abu Ghraib grabbed the headlines early in 2005 as the media--CBS, to be exact--jumped all over the story of "torture" at Abu Ghraib prison by US troops. The word "torture" was used constantly by the media outlets despite the fact that what was done to those detainees was not torture. Humiliation, embarrassment, maybe. Torture? Not even close. And yet a year later, and we still hear Abu Ghraib invoked on the nightly news on slow days. Now I know what the post-Watergate news must have been like.

But the power of blogs is exponential; blog posts can be linked and replicated instantly across the Web, creating a snowball effect that often breaks through to the mainstream media. Moreover, blogs have a longer shelf life than most traditional news media articles. A newspaper reporter's original article is likely to disappear from the free Web site after a few days and become inaccessible unless purchased from the newspaper's archives, while the blogger's version of events remains available forever.

Too true. As we can attest to, the only way we lose anything from our site is if we remove it. That which a journalist writes can be buried within layers and layers of Lexis-Nexus hell. On a blog site, when a journalist or their piece is cited, it stays. We have done this many times, and we have Sabrina doing it now, as well. Thomas' idea in the beginning was that if it were a news story, and it needed citations, cut-and-paste it all, and include commentary in the mix. It works. We can refute a journalist's point-of-view regarding a particular subject on a point-by-point basis.

Interview subjects are "annoyed that they're quoted out of context, or they did a half-hour interview and only one sentence got used. Or sometimes they're just flattered that a reporter called them," she said. "If you're one of a growing number of people with a blog, you now have a place where you can set the record straight."

And with that sort of reporting, is it any wonder why certain people will only grant interviews with certain outlets? How many journalists were frosted when the White House granted Bill Sammon and a few other journalists unprecedented access to the president. Mr. Sammon was prepping his book "Misunderestimated," and wanted some time witrh the president. The book does not paint the president in a bad light, does not show him to be the "monarch" that so many on the Left see, and shows him as a down-to-earth sort of man. But, also a man who is a consummate professional in his job as the leader of the world's last superpower.

And we do try to set the record straight. When we see news, like the NSA story, we beat on it. We beat on it until people get where we are coming from. Now, we do have a slight advantage in this realm when it comes to the questions of legality, but that is only part of the story. That story still has unanswered questions, and we would like to have those answers. Were US citizens surveilled without a warrant? Were those same citizens under such surveillance because of probable cause? Why did the Times wait to publish the story? Was it a coincidence that is coincided with the Patriot Act renewal vote? And, was the NSA really surveilling these people, or were they simply "mined"? (When I say "mined" I mean data-mining; the job Able Danger did.)

"It's now O.K. to demonize the messenger," he said. "This has led to a very uncivil discourse in which it seems to be O.K. to shout down, discredit, delegitimize and denigrate the people who are reporting stories and to pick at their methodology and ascribe motives to them that are often unfair."

Thomas Kunkel, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said reporting on reporters had created a kind of "Wild West atmosphere" in cyberspace.

With reporters conducting interviews more frequently by e-mail, he said, "You have to start thinking a couple of moves ahead because you're leaving a paper trail. And the truth squad mentality of some bloggers means you are apt to have your own questions thrown back at you."

We are not "demoninzing" anyone. What is wrong with demanding something from the media? All we want out of the media is for them to do their jobs without injecting any personal conjecture, bias, or spin into the story. Report the facts. How hard is it? Most bloggers do not have a journalism degree, but they do a far better job of reporting the news--fairly, accurately, and quicker--than the major news outlets. Let us go back to Dan Rather. He was caught trying to peddle phony Texas Air National Guard memos regarding the president's service in the Guard during Vietnam.

Did he come out, when caught, and admit his mistake? No, he claimed they were accurate. When it was proven that they were not accurate, and that they were probably written in the last ten years, or so, did he admit that it was a mistake to do the story? No, his excuse was they were "fake, but accurate." When bloggers created a swarm--a blog storm usually comprised of several blogs, all on the same subject; in Rather's case the storm numbered in the hundreds--the media circled the wagons. Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings rushed to Rather's defense. Tom Brokaw accused the bloggers of being pajama wearing muck rakers who live only to attack people on their side of the computer.

When the attack is warranted, Mr. Brokaw, of course we will fire at will. And in the end, we won the war. It was our pressure on CBS that forced them to put Dan Rather out to pasture three or four months before he was supposed to retire from the evening news. If this is the "wild west mentality" spoken of above, then yues, that is what the blogosphere has within it. But that is not bloggers completely, and that is not how we see it.

Bloggers do not just touch on news, politics, and current events. Manolo, who is a blogger for Pajama Media, blogs about shoes. Just shoes and fashion. Glenn Reynolds, of InstaPundit fame, puts up a number of "carnival" links throughout the week. The Carnival of Cordite (guns), the Carnival of Recipes (cooking/recipes), the Carnival of Knitting (duh), and the Carnival of Education (double-duh), just to name a few. Yes, there are a number of politics bloggers out on the Internet, but not every blogger is a political/current events commentator.

We chose to do this because we have focused on this completely over the last year, or so. Thomas was doing it far longer than I was, but we both have a knack for catching this, understanding this, and commenting on this intelligently. And that, I believe, is one reason why more people are turning to blogs, and moving away from the MSM. Those in the media feel that they alone are the gatekeepers. They know the combinations. They hold all the keys. But, as bloggers have pointed out constantly, the gates are now open. The MSM cannot put the genie back in the bottle, and it is all thanks to the Internet.

Anyone with a mind and a keyboard can post up things on their sites. If it is bad reporting, people will walk away from it; giving it little, if any, credence. Site like DailyKos, which is little more than a moonbat sounding board, will always have their moonbats that read Markos' incessant and insane rants. But for those wanting news, for those wanting facts, the blogosphere is wide open with a variety of sites.

At the end of 2005, I saw many sites we regularly visit posting up links to the "up and comers" in the blogosphere. These are people that hit the nail on the head, or had such a great year in reporting that they deserve some kudos. Michael Yon is one, in particular, that blew the lid off the MSM. Mr. Yon is a blogger who paid for his way to Iraq, and embedded himself--with permission from the military--into a squad over there. So impressive was his reporting that it attracted the attention of not only bloggers, but also of one particular celebrity. Bruce Willis was so taken by his ability to report, and with the excursions of "Deuce Four" in Iraq, that he wants to make a movie about the team's exploits. That is what good blogging can do, and in the process of the reporting, Mr. Yon has shown that the media is indeed coloring the stories out of Iraq in a far different light.

While some say they are learning to accept the new interactivity, they also worry that the view of many bloggers - that reporters should post their raw material because they are filtering it through their own biases - ignores the value of traditional journalistic functions, like casting a wide net for information, coaxing it out of reluctant sources, condensing it and presenting it in an orderly way.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior correspondent at the Pentagon, said the traditional skills of sifting through information and presenting it in context were especially vital now because there were so many other sources of information.

"With the Internet, with blogs, with text messages, with soldiers writing their own accounts from the front lines, so many people are trying to shape things into their own reality," he said. "I don't worry so much anymore about finding out every little detail five minutes before someone else. It's more important that we take that information and tell you what it means."

Ms. MacKinnon predicted that traditional journalism and the art of distilling information would not vanish. "Most people don't have hours and hours every day to read the Web, and they want someone who can quickly and succinctly tell you what you need to know," she said. "But it's great the raw materials can be made available to those who have the time."

The traditional journalism that Ms. MacKinnon is apt to hold tight to is dead. The bloggers, in their own ways, have forced the media to reexamine itself, and to watch it's step. For some media outlets, they tread a bit more lightly today, and force themselves to back up their stories. For other outlets--the New York Times, The LA Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune--they refuse to change. They feel themselves to be above all the rest, and see no need to change how they do things. These are the dinosaurs that seem unfazed by the meteors that came crashing down on their world. Either too blinded by bias, or too stupid from self-aggrandizement, these outlets will not change their ways until it is too late. For them, they are walking tall, still holding that torch of journalism, and proclaiming that the world belongs to them, and their viewpoint.

For clear-thinking, common sense individuals, the secret is out. The emperor wears no clothes. We can see it. We have witnessed it firsthand, and despite their carpings to the contrary, they are losing. Those major outlets I listed above are looking at losses in subscribers, in advertising revenues, and in jobs as they have been forced to cut because they do not have the capital to keep them. On the flip side, advertising for bloggers is up, so is readership. We can attest to this. At the beginning of October 2005, we had just barely hit 5000 hits on the site. By the mid-point of December, we marked our 10,000th hit. For us, that is a milestone. For the elites, that was a drop in thebucket just a year, or so, ago. But, then again, we are small fish in an extremely big ocean.

The media will come around, someday, and realize what steps they will need to take to survive. Some are already making the change. Others refuse to. In the end, I predict an alliance between news outlets that have adapted and have embraced bloggers for their ability to thoroughly check out and report on news. Those that are still stuck in their early 20th Century mindset that they need no help will flounder; possibly food for the outlets that are stable. Until that time comes, bloggers will still be here.

And we will do the job quicker than the MSM. We will do it more accurately than they can. And we will do it without the filters the MSM has put in place to spin the news. News is what happens, and good or bad--despite the ideology of the people reporting it--the public deserves to hear the whole story with all the facts, and nothing but the facts. Until that day happens, we will remain to be the de facto ombudsmen that the MSM should really have in place.

The Bunny ;)


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