A sustainable model for explanatory journalism


Jay Rosen posted a thought-provoking piece at Press Think this week, National Explainer: A Job for Journalists on the Demand Side of News.  The post takes the case of an excellent piece of explanatory journalism - Ira Glass's The Giant Pool of Money, which is a one-hour tutorial on the mortgage crisis - and bemoans the shortage of good explanatory journalism, especially given the possibility that if more people understood a story, they would be prone to seek out more news about that story.   Rosen even suggests that the primary one interesting audience for this kind of explanatory journalism would be other journalists, whose coverage would improve from better background understanding of a complex story.

More thoughts on explanatory journalism, and how it can become a more prominent feature of the news landscape, across the flip...

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Jay Rosen: "Murray Waas Is Our Bob Woodward"

Jay has a superb piece on how Murray Waas is a much more important and useful journalist today than Bob Woodward.  Rosen even goes so far as to dance around the claim that Woodward isn't really a journalist anymore, but an insider.  

I don't hobnob with Bob Woodward or his ilk, and I mostly spend time with journalists and operatives with much less clout.  What I've noticed is that there is this weird phenomenon in DC, where some political journalists like to consider themselves both closet strategists and independent truth-tellers without an ax to grind.  That attitude just doesn't hold water.  What Waas does strikes me as structurally different; he pores through documents, learns everything there is to know, and works sources to find out how decisions are made.  He's relentless, and he's focused on the big picture.  And eRiposte and Firedoglake are right there chewing through the reporting with him, a kind of adjunct institutional memory.

Waas is a neutral reporter.  FDL and the Left Coaster aren't.  Regardless, how is political bias related to credibility?  If ou are liberal or conservative, are you an automatic liar?  Does it color what you look for so that you are no longer reliable?  With all the 'liberal bias' screeching, I've never heard a good answer to this question.  

Bloggers are often take to dislike the stupidly named MSM.  That's a ridiculous claim; the right-wing movement - on AM radio, national magazines, in the White House - has consistently attacked 'the media'.  What progressive bloggers want is a credible media.  To us, Bob Woodward is not credible, because his sympathies seem to lie with insiders rather than the public.  Murray Waas represents the public.

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Reporters: The Right-Wing Hates You

There's this pernicious attitude among reporters I know that 'both sides give them grief'; it is an ardent desire to be seen as an umpire calling 'balls and strikes' within the political system.  I'm glad Beutler came onto this blog, and had a dialogue with all of us.  He was extremely frustrated earlier and declaimed my intolerance and my constant use of the word 'right-wing talking point' when describing those who parrot conventional wisdom.

It's striking to me, though, that neutral journalists like some of Beutler's colleagues at the Hotline who pride themselves as clear-eyed hard-boiled realists can't see what's right in front of their eyes.  Unlike the progressive blogosphere, which pushes journalists to do a better job, the right-wing has contempt for them and everything they do.  For instance, there's this, from Redstate, on Cheney shooting a man in the face by accident.

This is part of the human condition. We all make mistakes, and every once in a while one of the mistakes causes something really, seriously, bad to happen. To beat somebody up over one of those things, as Democrats who work for media companies have been doing to the Vice President for two weeks now, is positively inhumane. No wonder the public shows growing disdain for the "media." The media deserve it.

The worst part is, we all know why they're doing it. They hate the Vice President's guts. They hate the entire Administration. They are extremely partisan Democrats, and they think that their role is to use their platform in journalism to throw every spear they can, at every Republican they see, every time they get a chance. They refer to this as "informing the public." When this behavior is about politics, we pretty much blow it off, figuring that political figures have voluntarily placed themselves in the public arena and should therefore be prepared to take whatever spears come their way. It is annoying to Republicans that virtually everyone hired by media companies is a partisan Democrat, but that's a different issue.

I'm not trying to prove this Republican, Nick Danger, wrong.  He is self-evidently lying when he says that 'virtually everyone hired by media companies is a partisan Democrat'.  I am trying to say that these people mean what they say.  They hate reporters, blindly.  You as reporters can't do a good enough job to satisfy them, because they are after obediance and not truth.  They hate you.  They hate what you stand for.  They will rejoice in your downfall.  They will lie to you because you don't matter to them.  You have no legitimacy.  

I'm not making this up.  Just read Redstate.  And you should start to figure out a better way to defend yourself from their dripping hatred, because the 'I'm neutral' line sure isn't working.

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