22 thoughts on “The Press Herd: Stumblin’ and Bumblin’ Off the Cliff.

    1. Here’s (one) deal, Mike. The piece you linked to, on Al Gore and the “Oregon massage” (yuck, yuck) as … yet another example of liberal media bias … skips one little, teeny tiny piece of the story. Namely, that unlike the Watergate burglars, Al Gore was NOT ARRESTED, or even charged. Maybe the cops freaked at the political fall-out, but do you have any idea how easy it is to create a situation where the cops “file a police report”? Every dirty-op political hit man knows how to play that gamre. I go down to my precinct station and say, “I saw a guy named Mike Kennedy porking a goat in a grade school playground.” The cops file a report. Had Gore been charged, I’d say, “Amen” to your point. But the context here is the dissemination of ACCURATE, RELEVANT information. Until the cops charge someone — i.e. validate a complaint — the information you’re suggesting doesn’t rise to the level of either.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Oh, what a bunch of pablum. If journalists and newspapers restricted their reporting to only incidents where there were criminal charges, half the shit that gets reported would never be reported.

        I read stories all the time about people who are teachers, or priests or cops who have been accused of touching or sleeping with a child and the media sure as hell doesn’t wait until formal charges have been filed.

        I covered cops and courts for several years. What you claim and what actually happens are two different things.

        Now, I’m not saying I don’t agree — that perhaps reporting should wait till charges are filed. It just simply doesn’t go down that way and living by that in some cases and not others is hypocritical.

    2. john sherman says:

      Talking Points Memo has covered the story at least as thoroughly as anyone else. And it is worth noting, that unlike David Vitter and John Ensign, Al Gore is a private citizen holding no public office.

  1. Kelly Groehler says:

    Wow. I need to resume more regular visits to cleanse the mental palate. Fantastic screed, Mr. Lambert. However, speaking for myself – though I work for (what I hope is) a more reputable “mom and pop shop” – I must take exception with your carte blanche depiction of local business reporting. From my end of the line, Jackie, Tom, and others with whom I engage can hardly be accused of “uncritical reverence” in their handiwork. They do their jobs, pretty well.

    1. The day-to-day reporting of what company is introducing a new product, snuffling for investment capital, booting a CFO is one thing … but watching a pirate fortune build up at places like Hecker auto, Petters, Inc., UnitedHealth and on and on without serious skepticism is … well, appalling.

  2. john sherman says:

    Somebody, TBogg I think, contributed memorably to the iconography of the national problem. The subject under discussion was why Chuck Todd, who as recently as a year ago had seemed like a bright, creative thinker with a real facility for explaining numbers, had turned into just another desk ornament droning the conventional wisdom. The answer was that media big feet are like barnacles: they move around until the find the place they want, cement themselves to it, cover themselves with secretions and let their brains rot. It is fitting that one of the lesser ones is even named Mike Barnicle, who was fired from the Globe for plagiarism and yet ends up now and then on MSNBC as some sort of universal expert.

    1. The Todd experience is interesting. The guy was in his element breaking down numbers. A poor network version of Nate Silver. But once “promoted” to White House stenography, his default position now is to “report” every story with the lead of how … forcing BP to a $20 billion escrow account … has been calculated for political effect. The horse-race view, in other words. He seems kind of lost, frankly, not wanting to appear “played” by everyone.

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong…but in in the modern newsroom, isn’t the modern resume written to reveal the interviewee’s exposure, while the modern employment interview is to determine the interviewee’s access?

        And this is not limited to newsrooms.

        And you are correct, I do not have the proper attitude for modern newsrooms…nor is that limited to newsrooms.

  3. Okay, the server’s down and work is slow, so I read past your first paragraph that resulted in my last comment. Maybe there was a brief era of true journalism between the Hearst media empire and the Murdoch one, one that we associated with in our idealistic youth and cling to beyond reason…(insert dream sequence here).

    But the harsh light of reality should tell us that rarely has truth been spoken to power by mainstream media…and when it has THAT is the bigger story and one that we should conclude was likely arranged by the CIA like Watergate supposedly/likely…okay, be real, it was.

    It is no coincidence that independent journalists and freelancers break the biggest stories and tend to tell them more honestly. And it should be no surprise that the biggest part of this story has deflected into a media Battle of Hastings. A new and shiny object that mainstream media can attack with full throat instead of literally everything else that they tip-toe around.
    –War in Afghanistan…nope, off limits to coverage.
    –True Financial Reform…nope, next.
    –Kabuki Kagan…yawn, did Lindsey Graham get a haircut?
    –BP oil spill…old news, fill ‘er up and let’s move on.
    To…Hastings…hey, any port in a storm…and any beer on a hot boring day.

    Ultimately, from Izzy Stone to Hunter Thompson…to today, the names change, but the only true journalists are those scrappy Amy Goodman types and none of those overpaid talking heads. Feel free to pine for Murrow and Cronkite (or Hightower and Molly) all you want…with today’s blogosphere, the chances of true journalism have never been better.

    1. There’s growing “mass” on the blogosphere, with accruing credibility in some corners — note how few of those, Glenn Greenwald, Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum ever appear on The Great Credibility conveyer, TV — but the irony is that lacking the compromised context of a big media company (with advertisers who can be cowed, etc.) — they get little or no access to influence, certainly not of the in-person variety. But with the rise of real computer assisted reporting and rising savviness with data-bases it becomes easier and more likely that independent journalists (working at Taco Bell drive-thrus at night) can and will break stories.

      1. The (THE) most under-reported news story on mainstream TV news programs is the growing ‘mass’ of influence of the blogoshere news. I suppose that is not a surprise, is it.

        But advertisers are not waiting for the TV newsrooms to report it, they are moving away from mainstream media onto the blogospheres, but of course again as you should also expect, they are doing their best to undervalue the value of the blogosphere to their business because they want to keep ad rates low.

        As for mainstream news, over the weekend I was at my sister’s–and my mom was desperate to find the evening news on sis’s newfangled cabley TV and stumbled onto CNN thinking she would see actual news from this vaunted 24 hours news station tauted to be the best in cable news coverage…and instead was treated to a half hour of ‘where is the crowd on the bama beach non-coverage’.

        We finally had to explain to mom that the real news will not be shown here, that she might as well wait until the 10pm local news team and hope their coverage was not restricted to flag-waving in the rain FoJ annual ritual coverage.

        Really, mainstream TV news is dead, but it’s coverage is just so very bad (stuck in old formulas and ritual), that it doesn’t realize it yet–and of course will be the last to report it even when they do.

  4. john sherman says:

    Amy Davidson at the New Yorker’s blog has weighed in on the Hastings controversy on Matt Taibbi’s side.
    Incidentally, Raw Story has up a story amplifying Joe Scarborough’s claim that Boehner is a lazy bar fly. The interesting point is the RS points out that this is common knowledge inside the beltway, but unreported. I can still remember when Wilbur Mills was found cavorting in a fountain with Fanny Fox, the Argentinian fire cracker, and the press then said that they all knew that one of the most powerful men in the House couldn’t hit his ass with both hands most of the day, but didn’t think it was important to report. If the minority leader is unfit to drive a car part of most days, shouldn’t we be allowed to wonder whether he should become speaker? Nice to know our crusading journalists are protecting from information. It is interesting that the Republican Scarborough broke the story.

    1. Sometimes I think modern papers would be no worse off — commercially, certainly — if they collected their crack reporters in a bar, plied them with a couple drinks on the company dime and cued a video camera. The stories you (always) hear there are so much more informative than what you read that morning in the dead tree version. Sure, they were half drunk, and sure your average reporter is as inclined to bullshit-up his/her standing as the greatest goddam listening post/morality watchdog since I.F. Stone, but well over 90% of the time (disclaimer: unscientific estimate) what they say is eventually proven true. Right now, here in Minnesota, there are a half dozen head-slappers that are considered “irrelevant”, “not newsworthy”, “beneath our dignity” and or, “too controversial”.

  5. Newt says:

    Here’s another story the media dropped the ball on …

    Health overhaul may mean longer ER waits, crowding

    By CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson, Ap Medical Writer Fri Jul 2, 7:31 am ET

    CHICAGO – Emergency rooms, the only choice for patients who can’t find care elsewhere, may grow even more crowded with longer wait times under the nation’s new health law.

    That might come as a surprise to those who thought getting 32 million more people covered by health insurance would ease ER crowding. It would seem these patients would be able to get routine health care by visiting a doctor’s office, as most of the insured do.

    Rand Corp. researcher Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann predicts this from the new law: “More people will have coverage and will be less afraid to go to the emergency department if they’re sick or hurt and have nowhere else to go…. We just don’t have other places in the system for these folks to go.”

    Kellermann and other experts point to Massachusetts, the model for federal health overhaul where a 2006 law requires insurance for almost everyone. Reports from the state find ER visits continuing to rise since the law passed — contrary to hopes of its backers who reasoned that expanding coverage would give many people access to doctors offices.

    Massachusetts reported a 7 percent increase in ER visits between 2005 and 2007. A more recent estimate drawn from Boston area hospitals showed an ER visit increase of 4 percent from 2006 to 2008 — not dramatic, but still a bit ahead of national trends.

    “Just because we’ve insured people doesn’t mean they now have access,” said Dr. Elijah Berg, a Boston area ER doctor. “They’re coming to the emergency department because they don’t have access to alternatives.”

    Crowding and long waits have plagued U.S. emergency departments for years. A 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, found ER patients who should have been seen immediately waited nearly a half-hour.

    “We’re starting out with crowded conditions and anticipating things will only get worse,” said American College of Emergency Physicians president Dr. Angela Gardner.

    Federal stimulus money and the new health law address the primary care shortage with training for 16,000 more providers, said Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Jessica Santillo.

    But many experts say solving ER crowding is more complicated.

    What’s causing crowding? Imagine an emergency department with a front door and a back door.

    There’s crowding at both ends.

    At the front door, ERs are strained by an aging population and more people with chronic illnesses like diabetes. Many ERs closed during the 1990s, leaving fewer to handle the load. The American Hospital Association’s annual survey shows a 10 percent decline in emergency departments from 1991 to 2008. Meanwhile, emergency visits rose dramatically.

    At the back door, ER patients ready to be admitted — in hospital lingo, ready to “go upstairs” — must compete for beds with patients scheduled for elective surgeries, which bring in more money. “If you’ve got 10 ER patients and 10 elective surgeries,” Kellermann asked rhetorically, “which are you going to give the beds to?”

    That’s why easing crowding will take more than just access to primary care. It also will take hospitals that run more efficiently, moving patients through the system and getting ER patients upstairs more quickly, Kellermann said.

    Ideas that work include bedside admitting, where a staffer takes a patient’s insurance information as treatment starts.

    That and other strategies are being tried at St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers in Indianapolis. There, the performance of nurse managers is measured by how long admitted patients wait in the emergency department for a bed upstairs.

    And to stave off inappropriate ER visits, the hospitals have opened after-hours clinics staffed by primary care doctors to handle patients who can’t leave work to see a doctor, said Indianapolis hospital executive Keith Jewell. ER wait times have fallen.

    A Chicago hospital, too, is readying for the onslaught of ER patients. On the city’s South Side, Advocate Trinity Hospital handles 40,000 emergency visits a year and is expecting more because of the new law.

  6. Mmmmm. I’ve read this, Newt. Note a couple things. The impact of diabetes (obesity) on emergency room congestion and the reduction in the number of ERs. There’s no question that more (RN-staffed clinics, in malls, office complexes, etc.) will take out a significant percentage of those who still only imagine going to a full-tilt hospital for care.

  7. Good post, Brian. Two points: 1) The one accurate traditional media institution to get Iraq right was McClatchy DC, which pointedly did NOT have White House or any other access. They roamed the backwaters to pick up the real story. And 2) I think it was The Nation that did a study a few years back to find out the commonality in college sports scandals. Lo and behold, they only broke out in two paper towns. Can’t imagine why that is.

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