Category Archives: Journalism

The Loudest Voice in the Room

loudest-voiceThe Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country (Amazon)

I rarely read biographies. And I never watch Fox News. But the excerpts from this book really hooked me and the book did not disappoint. I literally had trouble putting the book down. It read like a novel.

The image I had of Roger Ailes — before reading this book — was very superficial. Pretty much the right wing boogyman lurking in the wings of Fox News. Author Gabriel Sherman shows us a complex, talented man who is deeply flawed.

Ailes is only seven years older than I so I witnessed some of the history he helped make, starting with The Mike Douglas Show (he produced); helping Richard Nixon and two Bush’s get elected; the creation of Fox News and its evolution as the propaganda arm of the modern Republican Party.

I won’t look at TV news or politics in quite the same way after readying the book. The author lifted the edge of the tent just enough to see what rubes we are.

It’s difficult to imagine the world won’t be/become a different place after Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes leave the playing field. Has anybody in the last 20 years had a greater impact on the news business (and, by extension, the world) than these guys?

The TV news business that Roger Ailes helped change seems to be changing again. Will the great instincts about television carry over to the world of Netflix and YouTube? Ailes is old and sick and will — hopefully — be on the sidelines.

The Roger Ailes we see in this book is not a happy guy. Rich, powerful, talented, influential… without a doubt. But not happy. I’d give a hundred dollars to know if Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch read this book.

Afghanistan: Drawdown

“Removing the Taliban and wiping out Al Qaeda, emancipating women, education for all, and eradicating the poppy and heroin trade. These were some of the lofty ideals that were espoused earlier in the war. Now they lie abandoned on the Afghan battlefield and getting home is the only clear mission.”

Boy, I hope nobody who lost a loved one in Afghanistan sees this documentary by John D. McHugh. Because it will be damned hard to say it was in a worthy cause. If I lost a family member — or important parts of my body — in this effort, I’d have to find a way to convince myself it was for a good cause or I’d go mad.

If you can’t do the full 25 minutes, just watch a few minutes of our guys trying to train and motivate the locals.

News is bad for you


“News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.”

“News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic.”

Full article in The Guardian


“There is no news industry”

“If the public can speak directly to one another in large groups and with high visibility, then the self-definition of a journalist as a privileged translator takes a big hit. If you think of yourself as a member of the only class allowed to find and explain information, you find yourself in a very uncomfortable position.

“The easiest way to get people in institutions to do interesting new things is for that institution to go bankrupt and for those people to change jobs.”

Anything in the news business that can be commodified will be commodified. The people who cling to the idea that humans are required to rewrite wire service copy are spending money that no longer needs to be spent.”

From an interview with Clay Shirky by The Europlean Magazine

My country right or wrong?

The military (and many outside the military) consider Bradley Manning a traitor for leaking classified documents. Let’s imagine we’re in the latter days of World War II and a German soldier leaks thousands of documents related to concentration camps and the atrocities committed there. Is he a traitor? Probably. Did he do the right thing? Depends on who you ask? If the only difference between my hypothetical and the Manning case is whose ox was gored, that’s morally thin ice.

But the Manning leaks could have endangered American lives, goes one argument. No doubt, although I’ve not seen anything to suggest any lives have actaully been lost. Would it matter if some of the leaked documents revealed American actions were costing innocent lives?

I thought the Viet Nam war was a bad idea, primarilly because it could have gotten me killed. Turns out there were plenty of other reasons. Like the the mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians near the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers. Most of the victims were women, children, infants, and elderly people. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies were later found to be mutilated and many women were allegedly raped prior to the killings.

Would it be treason to tell the world about My Lai?

“My country, right or wrong!” was a popular slogan for those supporting that war. That did work for me then and it doesn’t work for me now.

Challenges of Conversational Journalism

“The most visible journalism these days — aka the loudest journalism, namely cable news, pop culture blogs, tabloid magazines, TMZ, Buzzfeed, HuffPo, talk radio, etc. — mostly takes the form of opinionated conversation: professional media people discussing current events much like you and your friends might at a crowded lunch table. A side effect of this way of doing journalism is that you rarely hear from anyone who actually is an expert on the subject of interest at any particular time. That approach doesn’t scale; finding and talking to experts is time consuming and experts without axes to grind are boring anyway. So what you get instead are people who are experts at talking about things about which they are inexpert.”

From a post by Jason Kottke

Twitter Radio

Twitter is my first source for breaking news. If anything big (that I care about) happens, it will show up first in my Twitter feed. I guess a cable news channel might come close or a good all-news radio station (do those still exist?) but my Twitter stream is non-stop in my pocket. Smart news organization (NPR and Reuters, for example) know they need to have their stories where I am, rather than try to get me to come to where they are.