Friday, March 14, 2008

Presidents, politics, the press and contradictions

The recent remarks by Obama's minister are of course getting lots of attention, but a couple things less noted: Andrew Sullivan points to a video of the young minister who is taking over the church (Obama's next pastor), and the New York Times has a profile of Obama's mother.

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe (and, once, the Miami Herald), who won a Pulitzer last year for being the only reporter to take interest in presidential signing statements, has a story about a recent Bush executive order that basically removes the last government intelligence restrictions put in place after Watergate: President weakens espionage oversight. Wonderful photo illustrating, of a young Dick Cheney with president Ford and Jim Baker.

At Pressthink, Jay Rosen discusses press neutrality and some interesting thoughts by longtime Wash. Post reporter Walter Pincus: Getting the Politics of the Press Right: Walter Pincus Rips into Newsroom Neutrality
(Pincus) says that courage in political reporting sometimes means the courage to admit you’re a participant—a player, a power in your own right—within the struggle for self-government, the battle for public opinion and the politics of the day.
Jim Lehrer of PBS would turn on his heel and walk away from Walter Pincus on some of these points. Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Post, would probably blanch.
Lots of interesting comments already, including these suggestions from Lex Alexander:
Some areas where newspapers might start:
-- Public records. If you think of yourself as a public trustee and/or a watchdog, this is essential. It's also a fairly easy sell to the public.
-- Being pro-consumer. The market is more and more a rigged game these days, from dirty air to downed cattle.
Things papers should have been doing all along, of course.....

This hardly needs a comment, from Reuters: Bush says if younger, he would work in Afghanistan, or as he told a group of soldiers and civilians in a video conference:
"If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."
"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.
As expected, this is attracting lots of snide remarks, like this one:
If Bush were younger, he'd be in the Texas Air National Guard, skipping physicals, drinking a lot and going AWOL to work on one of his daddy's friend's campaigns. Does he think we have no memory?
(Also from Matt Yglesias.)

And, here's a fascinating tale about the value of databases and how they lose public interest after awhile, and why you really need journalists to interpret them, from Poynter's E-Media Tidbits: A Mortality Tale from the "Scorecard" Database.
There are still a few databases you can punch a ZIP code into and find a shocking story. The question is whether there are still enough good journalists to make sense of them.

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