Monthly Archives: March 2007

The permanent online campaign

If Gov. Deval Patrick wants to use the Web as a governing tool, as his supporters say, then shouldn’t he be doing it here? Why should we look at the soon-to-be-unveiled DevalPatrick.com site as anything other than part of his permanent campaign?

By the way, if you go to DevalPatrick.com right now, you’ll find that you can only do two things: (1) get onto his campaign’s e-mail list and (2) give money. Of course.

Update: The Outraged Liberal has a characteristically smart take about DevalPatrick.com, which does, indeed, look promising. But O.L. and I will have to continue to differ on one thing: the appropriateness of Patrick’s using his privately funded campaign site as his primary outlet for online governance.

I still think this ought to be taking place on his gubernatorial site, and that there’s something vaguely wrong about making it an extension of his campaign. But, of course, he wouldn’t be able to solicit campaign donations on his official site — something that makes even O.L. a little queasy.

Update II: Media Nation’s views get some play in the Herald, in Casey Ross’ “Monday morning briefing.”

Mapping the vote

Check out NYTimes.com’s interactive map of yesterday’s congressional vote on the Iraq war. You can do breakouts by urban, suburban and rural districts; affluent and poor districts; mostly white and mostly minority districts; and Kerry and Bush districts. Roll your cursor over a square and you get thumbnail information on each House member and how he or she voted.

Washingtonpost.com does something similar with its Votes Database. It’s not as graphically interesting, but it does let you break out the vote by, among other things, a House member’s astrological sign and by whether or not she or he is a Baby Boomer.

Don’t blame blogging

Did blogging lead Ben Smith down the road to error? Or did he err because he was trying to do real-time reporting on a rapidly unfolding story?

Smith, as you may already know, is the blogger for Politico who reported that John Edwards would suspend his campaign — “and may drop out completely” — because of Elizabeth Edwards’ recurrent cancer. Smith wrote a heartfelt mea culpa later in the day, and Howard Kurtz has the complete rundown this morning in the Washington Post.

Smith had what he says was a reliable anonymous source and a chance to make a splash. He made a mistake that anyone could make, and the attacks to which he’s been subjected are unwarranted. Still, I find it curious that he blames his error, at least in part, on blogging itself. Smith writes:

Though I’ve spent the last several years at major newspapers — the New York Observer and the New York Daily News most recently — I’ve done much of my reporting on blogs, and have developed an instinct to let my readers know whatever I know, as soon as I know it. The medium typically allows you to refine and update a story as it changes — including saying, “Well, my original source had it wrong.”

But the scale of this story was simply too big to report that way, to share information with high but imperfect confidence — and without making that level of confidence crystal clear. I should have waited for a second source, or hedged the item much more fully. Or simply waited for the news conference like everybody else.

Smith also quotes his editor, John Harris, as telling him: “I believe a blog item is different than a story — not in standards of accuracy or fairness — but in the ability to report and reveal a breaking story in real time: You write what you know when you know it. BUT, and here’s where you went wrong and we let you go wrong, you can not write more than you know.”

Well, now. It strikes me that what Smith did was not qualitatively different from what radio and, especially, television journalists have been doing for years: Reporting live from the scene, offering something no newspaper can match, but sometimes getting it wrong because the story is still unfolding.

To screw up as a blogger is to link to a bit of news that has already been proven wrong (see this and this), or to a site that you should know lacks credibility.

Once you pick up the phone and start calling people, though, you’re acting not as a blogger, but as a reporter who has a blog. And the normal standards of verification apply.

McNamara departs

I’m playing catch-up — if you’re looking for any intelligent comment from me, it will have to wait. But I can’t let the day end without noting that Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara is taking the buyout and leaving the paper.

McNamara, who won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, brings an unusually keen social conscience to her post, and her voice will be deeply missed. She was also a fine news reporter for many years prior to being named a columnist.

And here is Globe editor Marty Baron’s memo on his accepting buyout applications from 24 staff members.

Bailey to Media Nation: Call me!

Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey e-mails Media Nation:

dan, i have always loved you stuff. but how can a media critic of your standing not call me first! for the record: i am staying. please correct.

best, bailey

Media Nation responds: Steve, thanks for the kind words. And I’m glad you’re staying.

I’ll save my shtick on what bloggers do and don’t do for another time. But I will say that pointing to interesting stuff on the Web is the essence of blogging.

Sometimes you point to something that turns out to be wrong. So consider this a correction.

Speaking of Bailey …

The city’s best columnist, Steve Bailey (left), and legendary investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian are among those who’ve told Boston Globe editor Marty Baron that, all things considered, they’d rather be somewhere else. (Update: Bailey tells Adam Reilly that he’s staying put.)

Michael Calderone reports in the New York Observer that some 30 Globe staff members have said they want to take advantage of early-retirement incentives the paper is offering in a bid to shrink its news and editorial-page ranks by 19 (via Romenesko). The Bailey-Kurkjian development comports with information Media Nation picked up independently.

The loss of Kurkjian would be significant, though he is near retirement age. Bailey is another matter altogether. No Boston columnist, and few journalists of any kind, breaks as much news as Bailey. It’s unimaginable that he’d leave, but, then, a lot of unimaginable things are taking place at the Globe and other struggling newspapers these days.

Even though — or maybe because — he has the best forum in town, Bailey is occasionally rumored to be moving on. Three years ago he turned down an offer from Pat Purcell to work for the Boston Herald. So we’ll have to see how this plays out.

Gonzales is just the beginning

Is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ imminent departure really going to be enough to put the fired-prosecutors story to rest? It shouldn’t — certainly not after today’s disclosure in the Washington Post that Gonzales’ office was teeing up U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald while Fitzgerald was in the midst of the Valerie Plame leak investigation.

Fitzgerald was never actually fired, of course. But for the administration to be making ominous noises about his lack of loyalty at the very moment that he was investigating possible illegal behavior in the White House is repellent, to say the least.

TPM Muckraker has a great synopsis of the latest from last night’s document-dump.

The media are fully revved up now, but the danger is that they’ll drop the story as soon as Gonzales departs. They shouldn’t. Just as Scooter Libby’s conviction in the leak case told us more about Dick Cheney than it did about Libby, so do the shenanigans of Gonzales and his former aide D. Kyle Sampson tell us more about President Bush’s no-hold-bars political operation than it does about Gonzales and Sampson.

Yes, Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, that means you.

Meanwhile, “On the Media” this week has a useful discussion with Slate legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick, who puts to rest the notion that the Bush administration’s attempt to get rid of eight U.S. attorneys in midstream is somehow analagous to Bill Clinton’s replacing all 93 at the beginning of his presidency.

Media Nation on wheels

Sorry for the light posting. I have been busy upgrading the official vehicle of Media Nation from a 1993 Volvo 960 to a 2007 Toyota Corolla LE. The Volvo went to its reward in engine-smoking glory on the back roads of Middleborough recently despite having just 163,000 miles on it. Media Nation Jr. has his permit, so the Corolla has been equipped with every safety feature known to humankind.

Open Web, closed sites

If you were online in the early 1990s, then today’s New York Times story on MySpace‘s entry into politics will seem familiar. Back then, Prodigy users couldn’t send e-mail to friends on America Online, who in turn were walled off from folks on CompuServe. We were still a few years away from the Internet being expanded so that all online services — and their customers — could talk to each other.

Well, here we go again. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain are just a few of the presidential candidates who have deep, useful Web sites. But apparently that’s no longer enough. Now candidates have to have separate sites on MySpace and Facebook. Up next: Second Life, an alternate-reality site explained last summer by Camille Dodero, then of the Boston Phoenix, now of the Village Voice.

At least MySpace and Facebook are free — it’s not like having to pay monthly subscription fees to Prodigy, AOL and CompuServe in order to stay in touch with all of your online friends. (Not that anyone could actually afford to do that.) But it strikes me that politicians, by setting up shop on such social-networking sites, are moving backwards. The interactivity of the Web is being broken up into chunks. Content on MySpace and Facebook can’t even be Googled. You’ve got to register and log on to each site if you want to keep up.

Here is Obama’s MySpace site; here is his Facebook site. (You can access the MySpace page without an account, although you won’t be able to do anything but look. To view the Facebook page you’ll have to register.) Any reason these couldn’t be integrated into his main site? Of course not. And I honestly don’t think it’s me who’s being the Luddite here. I remember how frustrating the online world could be before everyone was connected. Why are we moving back to the bad old days?

A few months ago Lisa Williams got me to sign up for yet another social-networking site, LinkedIn, which I guess is supposed to be like a Facebook for grownups. I do want to explore it when I get some time, as it seems to have some pretty neat features. Ultimately, though, it’s yet another walled-off community that I’ll need to log on to on a regular basis.

No doubt Hillary, Barack et al. won’t be far behind.