October 07, 2003
Neil Postman (1931-2003): Some Recollections
The author, media critic and NYU professor Neil Postman
is dead at 72. Some comments on his life and work by one of his students.
I have no count, but I sense a dwindling number of people in the
academic world who are unclassifiable. Neil Postman, who died Sunday, was
one, and now we can say he will always be one. Such figures--with
reputation but no real discipline--have a tendency to make people think.
Postman had that.
He was expert in nothing. Therefore nothing was off limits. Therefore
one's mind was always at risk, from a joke, a headline, an idea, a person
walking through the door. The only way to respond to such strange
conditions was with ready humor. And humor would bring you more ideas. Now
what discipline, what department is that?
Everyone who knew Postman--and I include perhaps a hundred thousand who
only heard him speak--knew him first through humor, which was the
reflection in person of the satire in most of his books, each of which is
a pamphlet, an essay between covers: The Disappearance of Childhood
(1982) was satire about the infantalization in American culture.
Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) was satire about
entertainment and what it was doing to us. Technopoly (1993)
was satire on the "surrender of culture to technology." One of the first
journals he associated with was Monacle (long gone), a magazine of
political satire, which is where he met Victor Navasky, publisher of The
Nation, which is how he came to serve on The Nation's board, even though
he was the world's worst leftist and couldn't stomach the right. Of course
in all the satire there was Neil's sermon, but again: what discipline is
The civilized man
Postman's intellectual pose, as well as his poise in public settings,
as well as his great gift, which was terribly good humor, came down
essentially to this: the trials of a civilized man in a century of
barbarism. It later softened into the civilized man in a culture of
television. But the barbaric that was in television, between the
wicked dots, softened, but still there... well, Postman had the eye for
that. He would teach you this angry eye, and that was one reason I hung
around NYU and got a Ph.D. He knew what to ignore,
when to object.
"You have to understand, what Americans do is watch television." I
heard this many times. "I am not saying that's who they are. But that is
what they do. Americans... watch... television." And he would have
figures sometimes demonstrating it: the number of commercials a child
would see betwen five and eighteen (the number was 675,000 in 1979.) But
frankly he had zero interest in mastering figures about the big machine of
commercial TV. He had a big machine of his own,
which was simply everything he ever read and learned from wiser heads, all
the books he placed against television in order to see it more clearly.
One of his essays is entitled, "Social Science as Moral Theology"
Among those I heard him talk about most often were Bertrand Russell,
George Orwell, G.K. Chesterton, George Bernard
Shaw, Alfred North Whitehead, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Philippe Aries,
Jacques Ellul, Rudolph Arnheim, Norbert Elias, Robert Maynard Hutchins,
Christopher Lasch, Walter Ong, Eric Havelock, Lewis Mumford, Harold Innis,
and of course Marshall McLuhan, whom Postman met in the 1950s, before
anyone had ever heard of the Canadian English professor who would write
Understanding Media (1964). McLuhan always regretted that he had
not founded a Ph.D program like Postman's, and until the re-discovery of
McLuhan by young people of the Internet Age, that program helped keep
interest in his ideas alive. "The medium is the message," McLuhan's most
famous line, is not an easy idea to grasp. It just looks that way.
Neil Postman was easily the best public speaker I ever heard, and most
who heard him agreed with that. He never spoke off the cuff, never from
notes. He wrote all his speeches in longhand, and would try them on
students first, usually revising a few words just to give you the sense
that you had participated by listening. He wrote twenty books with only a
felt tipped pen on notebook paper; all sentences crafted by hand. This too
was satire, on "progress" in writing instruments. Postman, world famous
media scholar, was famous among students and friends for refusing any
technology thought to "improve" something in which he had never requested
improvements. A simple rule, with hilarious consequences. He didn't care
if you had a better solution to a problem he never felt was real, and he
would make fun of you if you tried to recommend it.
That is what I mean by the pose of the civilized man, beset by
answering machines. The pose is shared by many standup comedians, and Neil
had that in him. He also had edge. Television, he always said, is inhuman
to children because it gives them answers to questions they never asked.
It did this for purposes of control. Educational television--Sesame
Street--was not the alternative; it was the worst offender. This view
denied a lot of people, including educated liberals, comfort. To him that
Postman resented being controlled
by technology or bureaucracy, way more than most Americans. He
resented the new for retiring an "old" that had no reason to quit. But he
thought it funny--and fascinating--that people allowed this manipulation,
especially Americans, who were the most open to it. Postman had a big
audience and gave many
speeches in Germany, where several of his books were best sellers
during the 1980s, in part because there was so much in American life he
simply rejected. Thus he wrote with a pen, never used email, owned no
computer and had no regrets about never going online. To him it was not a
matter of convenience. It was about keeping an independent mind by making
independent use of objects. In this way, he taught me and many others to
think for ourselves, precisely because we didn't think as he did.
Postman's general philosophy, which was General Education, also known
as the Great Books approach, was made known to me shortly after I enrolled
in a graduate program under his chairmanship in 1980. I was there to study
the media, and he was at that time a Professor of Media Ecology (a name
for his anti-discipline). As he explained to me: "We're just trying to
give people a good liberal arts education." Which, he further argued, and
easily demonstrated himself, was exactly the tool needed to understand the
gathering beast... The Media. In an age of specialization, this is not how
academic life works. But his did.
The first curriculum
Postman, one should remember, was originally an English teacher. He
entered the University in a time of expansion and optimism in public
schooling. We were building lots of schools and creating big public
universities then. His degree was in English Education, from Teacher's
College at Columbia. From 1959 on, his home was the School of Education at
NYU. His original and core readership remained
school teachers, and I witnessed it numerous times, the ritual: a woman in
her 40s or 50s would approach after a speech. "Professor Postman, I just
want to tell you, I read your book, Teaching as a Subversive
Activity...(1969) That book changed my life." Often she would have
the book with her, and he would sign it... with a felt tip pen. This made
an impression on me. A stray sentence lifted from that book:
We must emphasize that the concept, "that we must unlearn
dead concepts" is itself new, and so rather incongenial to most who
confront it the first time.
If Postman was an English teacher, he realized very early that a
bigger, brighter and more compelling classroom existed out there, and it
would teach your kids no matter how good you were at reaching them. Today
this is a commonplace... they get it from television! But in the 1950s,
when Postman began serious study, it was a far more original thought:
We're being out taught by the media. For this he later found a
briilliant description. Television, he said, is the first curriculum.
School is second.
There's no accounting for what you absorb from such a man. For he knew
the two secrets of all great teachers, things no Teacher's College can
teach: First, you don't put knowledge into people, you draw it out. (Which
is why personality was his one and only classroom "method.") Second, if
you can manage to conceal, artfully, some crucial part of what you are
saying, then young people who are listening really, really hard will make
it their business to find you out. And that's when you can really teach
them. I must have heard it a thousand times. "It's not that simple," the
student says to Postman. Oh? And right there, the drawing out begins.
There's no point, he felt, in being an English teacher today--armed
with literature and its human testimony--if the conditions for successful
teaching are all around us being "disappeared." (A favorite construction
of his.) That's why he became a media critic. And that is the master
image, if there is one, in all of Neil Postman's writings: either a
disappearing we should regret, or a forgetting we have failed to do.
The greatest sentence he wrote will, I am sure, give comfort at some
time in the future. It's the first sentence in The Disappearance of
Childhood. "Children are the living messages we send to a time we will
in Salon Oct. 9, 2003.
the New York Times obituary.
son Andrew Postman.
Angeles Times obituary is more like a brief intellectual
Share reflections on Neil Postman's life and works in the Comments
section...Posted by Jay Rosen at October 7,
2003 02:46 PM | TrackBack
Robert Stacy McCain, a writer and editor at the Washington Times and a
self-declared cultural conservative, emailed me with this comment:
Like you, I greatly admired Postman and enjoyed his books
which--well-thumbed, dog-eared and underscored--occupy honored space on my
I wish you had made mention of the fact that Postman was one of those
rare men of the Left whose writings were widely admired on the Right. Oh,
I am sure there are uber-libertarians who saw him as an enemy of the
market, butI count myself one of the many cultural conservatives who
shared Postman's rage at television and its impact on our society.
Postman struck me, above all, as a man who loved civilization, who
understood that ordinary decency-- simple politeness--was vital to
good society. Unlike the contemporary cultural Left, Postman
evinced no animus against the customs and habits of "bourgeois" family
life, and did not suggest we succumbed to "false consciousness" in
cherishing the simple comforts of home and hearth. He understood that
literacy is essential to civil society, that the television habit is
destructive of literacy, and thus that TV -- by its very nature -- is a
In all this, Postman would get no argument from most thinking
conservatives, and his observations were so penetrating, and so vividly
argued, that they permanently embedded themselves in the mind of the
reader. I shall never forget reading his point that the main lesson taught
by "Sesame Street" is... how to watch TV. EXACTLY. Educational television
is an oxymoron. I often wondered why, when Gingrich and company were
railing against funding for public broadcasting, they never thought to
call Postman to witness before some congressional hearing.
At any rate, I saw your column on Salon and wanted to share my
admiration for your mentor. He was a great mind who articulated truths
that transcended partisan categories.
-- Robert Stacy McCain
I came into work this past Saturday, turned on my PC, opened IE,
proceeded to pull down my Favorites list, and clicked on the bookmark to
Postman's NYU webpage. To my surprise the "page was not found". Since I
was used to bookmarks being outdated, I browsed back to the Department
homepage and attempted to find him through the faculty links page.
However, as you might guess, he was no longer listed. Eventually, I found
an article about his passing by doing a search on NYUs website for his
name. I am still somewhat stunned.
A very recent fan of Postman, I was introduced to his work (Amusing
Ourselves to Death) this past summer through a co-worker. Just this week,
without hearing about his death, I finished Technopoly, and heard him for
the first time, on a taped interview, speaking about the book.
Well, in that short time his work influenced me enough to be here -- to
spend time reading these messages, and writing my own (for whatever it's
While not the Luddite that Postman was, I think many of his ideas and
his critical mindset need to be shared with those who study, shape, and
spend time with the media.
Being new to his work, (almost a decade after Technopoly and two since
AOtD) I was concerned about it's relevance to our current society -- I
mean, a lot has happened with the media in that time span. However, It is
quite clear that it is not only still relevant today, but more important
The world will miss this great "Loving Resistance Fighter".
"Death ends a life, but not a relationship"--Robert Anderson,
I was a student and eventual graduate of the doctoral program in the
Media Ecology program at NYU, and attended "courses" with Neil Postman for
about four years. Although among Neil's peeves was the victory of the
visual over the expository and technology over culture, and although our
readings and discussions revolved around a variety of writers whom one
could classify as media ecological thinkers, ultimately I think that media
ecology was a meta-concept for a far more important one: that one should
develop one's own perspective on life with the influence of the those
thinkers who represented those whom we consider significant in the
"history of ideas" combined with our own perspicacity. Of course, media
subvert this history because media's goal is to eradicate history by
seducing us to live in a mundane, rather insignificant present. Although
Neil's ideas were prescient, often revelatory, and at times incredibly
prophetic, those who take up his mantle should, I think, consider that it
was his personality that distinguished him. His civiity and kindness were
his trademarks; and without them, those who continue his intellectual
tradition should not only look without, that is, "at" the society we live
in, but "within," at our motives, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, so we
may become better people. I am not optimistic about loosening the popular
media's control over the "average" American's agenda, and am fearful that
media critics will be relegated to a dependent role where their writings
will more nearly serve as self-advancement and aggrandizement within an
academic framework. That is, why, perhaps, I have dissolved many of my
bonds to this critical project, because I want to remain caring and
affectionate, not disparaging--something that Neil maintained in his years
of teaching. Or as Krishnamurti once said when asked by a questioner what
might one do to improve society, answered, "It is better you inquire what
you can do to improve yourself." The outcome of my experience in the Media
Ecology program has come through the development of my creativity and my
attempt to communicate in positive ways, those things that the media do
not have the competency for. Through poetry, fiction, and creative
non-fiction, I have found my personal antidote to a mass mediated world.
As Neil often cited (was it Niels Bohr?), the opposite of a great idea is
another great idea. Thus, I have to say unless one has a great idea,
silence is preferable. I believe ultimately, Neil's message was close to
Allen Ginsburg's in his poem, 'Howl': "America, when will you be
We need to keep the press from being absorbed into The Media.
This means keeping the word press, which is antiquated. But included
under its modern umbrella should be all who do the serious work in
journalism, regardless of the technology used. The people who will
invent the next press in America--and who are doing it now
online--continue an experiment at least 250 years old. It has a
powerful social history and political legend attached...
|Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over:
"Here is one
advantage bloggers have in the struggle for reputation-- for the
user's trust. They are closer to the transaction where trust gets
built up on the Web. There's a big difference between tapping a
built-up asset, like the St. Pete Times 'brand,' and creating it
from scratch." More...
In the Press Room of the White House that is Post Press:
"There's a difference between going around the press in an effort to
avoid troublesome questions, and trying to unseat the idea that
these people, professional journalists assigned to cover politics,
have a legitimate role to play in our politics." More...
De-Certifying the Press, Continued: The British have the
ritual of Question Time in Parliament--where the Prime Minister must
answer the opposition-- while the U.S. has the White House press
conference to serve a roughly similar goal. Maybe it doesn't serve
very well, but on the other hand if the press does not have an
accepted right to question time with the President, who does?" More...
Bush to Press: "You're Assuming That You Represent the Public.
I Don't Accept That." "Bush and his advisors have their own
press think, which they are trying out as policy. Reporters do not
represent the interests of a broader public. They aren't a pipeline
to the people, because people see through the game of Gotcha. The
press has forfeited, if it ever had, its quasi-official role in the
checks and balances of government." PressThink's most well-read
post so far. More...
Journalism Is Itself a Religion: "We're headed, I think,
for schism, tumult and divide as the religion of the American press
meets the upheavals in global politics and public media that are
well underway. Changing around us are the terms on which authority
can be established by journalists. The Net is opening things up,
shifting the power to publish around. Consumers are becoming
producers, readers can be writers." More...
News Turns from a Lecture to a Conversation: "Some of the
pressure the blogs are putting on journalists shows up, then, in the
demand for "news as conversation," more of a back-and-forth, less of
a pronouncement. This is an idea with long roots in academic
journalism that suddenly (as in this year) jumped the track to
become part of the news industry's internal dialogue." More...
Open Source Journalism, Or "My Readers Know More Than I
Do.": "The Net is ideal for horizontal communication-- peer to
peer, stranger to stranger, voter to voter, reader to reader. When
you talk about the Web era in journalism think: audience atomization
overcome. Then you will be on the right track." More...
Action in Greensboro on Open Source Journalism. "With the
local blogging scene rapidy coalescing on its own, the local
newspaper, led by a blogging boss, decides to act. He wants to
remake the site as 'an online community or public square.' E-mail
from the Greensboro newsroom 'In many ways we've waited 10 years to
do this and aren't going to wait any longer. My report is due next
Maybe Media Bias Has Become a Dumb Debate: "This here is a
post for practically everyone in the game of seizing on media bias
and denouncing it, which is part of our popular culture, and of
course a loud part of our politics. And this is especially for the
'we're fair and balanced, you're not' crowd, wherever I may have
located you." More...
Of Course Ted Koppel Was Making a Political Statement. So
What? "Koppel and his producers took a kind of political action
Friday night. But the language they have for explaining that action
does a pitiful job. And so they are attacked for 'being political,'
and hypocritical-- and their replies to the charge only compound the
original error. The press in general, and Koppel in a painfully real
way this week, have over the years learned to describe themselves as
political innocents." More...
A Little Detail in the Sale of About.com to the New York
Times: "The Post's links don't expire, you see; links to the New
York Times do. The Elliot column couldn't embed itself in the Web,
and sink proper roots. It's effectively "gone." From Elliot's point
of view, he loses a potentially huge readership for his work. Can he
afford it?." More...
Bill O'Reilly and the Paranoid Style in News: "O'Reilly
feeds off his own resentments--the establishment sneering at Inside
Edition--and like Howard Beale, the 'mad prophet of the airwaves,'
his resentments are enlarged by the medium into public grievances
among a mass of Americans unfairly denied voice." More...
The View From Nowhere: "Occupy the reasonable middle
between two markers for 'vocal critic,' and critics look ridiculous
charging you with bias. Their symmetrical existence feels like proof
of an underlying hysteria. Their mutually incompatible charges seem
to cancel each other out. The minute evidence they marshall even
shows a touch of fanaticism." More...
Thoughts on the Killing of a Young Correspondent: "Among
foreign correspondents, there is a phrase: 'parachuting in.' That's
when a reporter drops into foreign territory during an emergency,
without much preparation, staying only as long as the story remains
big. The high profile people who might parachute in are called
Bigfoots in the jargon of network news. The problem with being a
Bigfoot, of course, is that it's hard to walk in other people's
The News From Iraq is Not Too Negative. But it is Too
Narrow: "The bias charges are getting more serious lately as the
stakes rise in Iraq and the election. But there is something lacking
in press coverage, and it may be time for wise journalists to assess
it. The re-building story has gone missing. And without it, how can
we judge the job Bush is doing?." More...
The Abyss of Observation Alone. "There are hidden moral
hazards in the ethic of neutral observation and the belief in a
professional 'role' that transcends other loyalties. I think there
is an abyss to observation alone. And I feel it has something to do
with why more people don't trust journalists. They don't trust that
Rather's Satisfaction: Mystifying Troubles at CBS: "Dan
Rather and CBS took the risky course, impunging the motives of
critics, rather than a more confident and honorable one: Let's look
at our sources and methods. What can explain such a blind reaction?
Here is my attempt."More...
What if Everything Changed for American Journalists on
September 11th? "On the whole the American press has not seen
fit to start its own story over after the attacks of 2001, just to
see if 'journalism' comes out in the same place, if 'ethics' are the
ones that were adequate before, if duty to nation looks the same, if
observer-hood still fits." More...
THE WEBLOG, THE WEB and JOURNALISM TODAY
Top Ten List: What's Radical About the Weblog Form in
Journalism? "The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas
most of today’s journalism comes out of the market economy."
PressThink's most linked-to post. More...
A Second Top Ten List: What's Conservative About the Weblog
Form in Journalism? "The quality of any weblog in journalism
depends greatly on its fidelity to age old newsroom commandments
like check facts, check links, spell things correctly, be accurate,
be timely, quote fairly." More...
Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds: "Sure,
weblogs are good for making statements, big and small. But they also
force re-statement. Yes, they're opinion forming. But they are
equally good at unforming opinion, breaking it down, stretching it
Editors Rock Who Let Weblogs Roll: "When you're sitting at
your desk and there are things strange, wonderful and new on your
screen, you may have to re-decide what journalism 'is' and is
finally about, in order to cover the new class of cases that arise
when you're doing it live online." More...
The Weblog: An Extremely Democratic Form in Journalism
"It's pirate radio, legalized; it's public access coming closer to
life. Inside the borders of Blogistan (a real place with all the
problems of a real place) we're closer to a vision of 'producer
democracy' than we are to any of the consumerist views that long ago
took hold in the mass media, including much of the journalism
presented on that platform." More...
Adopt a Campaign Journalist in 2004: The Drift of a
Suggestion "Over the holidays, an idea gained some Net traction:
webloggers 'adopting' a campaign reporter. That means you monitor
and collect all the reporter's work, and then... And then what?
Follow the turns as the suggestion is taken up and debated." More...
Why I Love the Adopt-a-Reporter Scheme. Why I Dread It: "I
am curious why we don't see hatred of the press as taking some toll
on the hater. (We do when it's racism.) In this sense I dread the
adopt-a-journalist scheme, even though I support the idea, because I
think dread is a fit response when people who are in some quarters
hated--perhaps symbolically so--are being carefully "watched" in
those quarters" More...
When it Goes Both Ways: A Blogger for the Liberal Media Thesis
Meets Contrary Evidence at the LA Times "There is more to this
'watchblog' thing than greets the eye. It may be one way the press
is adjusting--or being adjusted--to a two-way public: readers who
are also writers. But the two-way weblogger has to adjust too,
especially when there is new information, or a theory that fails to
Sudden Meaning for the Political Verb: to Link "Events had
played their hand. The Kerry people decided they will be held
responsible for comments by bloggers they link to. By this policy--a
second theory of to link, the strong view--they can be forced into
comment on any offending remark. The upshot is that any blogger in
the heat of exchange, a pissy mood, or an incautious moment can get
you killed in the news, which feeds off matters the campaign will
comment on." More...
No One Owns Journalism: (Background essay for BloggerCon)
"And Big Media doesn't entirely own the press, because if it did
then the First Amendment, which mentions the press, would belong to
Big Media. And it doesn't. These things were always true. The weblog
doesn't change them. It just opens up an outlet to the sea. Which in
turn extends 'the press' to the desk in the bedroom of the suburban
mom, where she blogs at night." More...
Brain Food for BloggerCon: Journalism and Weblogging in Their
Corrected Fullness "Blogging is one universe. Its standard unit
is the post, its strengths are the link and the low costs of entry,
which means lots of voices. Jounalism is another universe. Its
standard unit is "the story." Its strengths are in reporting,
verification and access-- as in getting your calls returned." More...
Dispatches From the Un-Journalists: "Journalists think
good information leads to opinion and argument. It's a logical
sequence. Bloggers think that good argument and strong opinion cause
people to seek information, an equally logical sequence. What do the
bloggers bring to this? My short answer to the press is: everything
you have removed."More...
Political Jihad and the American Blog: Chris Satullo Raises
the Stakes "Journalists, you can stop worrying about bloggers
'replacing' the traditional news media. We're grist for their mill,
says Satullo, a mill that doesn't run without us. Bloggers consume
and extend the shelf life of our reporting, and they scrutinize it
at a new level of intensity.."More...
Questions and Answers About PressThink "The Web is good
for many opposite things. For quick hitting information. For
clicking across a field. For talk and interaction. It's also a depth
finder, a memory device, a library, an editor. Not to use a weblog
for extended analysis (because most users won't pick that option) is
Web dumb but media smart. What's strange is that I try to write
short, snappy things, but they turn into long ones." More...
CAMPAIGN POLITICS AND THE PRESS, 2004, HIGHLIGHTS:
Politics in a Different Key: "It is the politics of the
savvy class. Its members are the insiders. They are the pros. They
are the pundits, handlers and funders, vultures and parrots who run
and staff the campaign story, which is above all the inside story of
how you get elected in this country. Its outstanding feature, Joan
Didion wrote, is "remoteness from the actual life of the country."
They are the people of this remoteness." More...
A Politics That is Dumber than Spam: "I remember the
moment when presidential campaigns turned from just maddening and
absurd to completely empty for me. It might have happened years
before, but I am a believer in politics. So it took until the fall
of 2000. Bush and Gore were then fighting it out, not by opposing
one another in any kind of argument, but by running virtually the
same campaign, on the same issues, pandering to the same groups,
advancing a rhetoric that sounded the same but for a few catch
Private Life, Public Happiness and the Dean Connection:
"Somehow it had all gotten away from them. Presidential campaigns
had drifted out of alignment with most Americans. The ritual no
longer seemed like something the country did for itself every four
years, but what a professional cadre did, and sold back to the
country as 'politics.' But it wasn’t, really. At least it wasn’t
democratic politics at anything like capacity." More...
The Master Narrative in Journalism: "Were 'wining' to
somehow be removed or retired as the operating system for news,
campaign reporting would immediately become harder to do, not
because there would be no news, but rather no common, repeatable
instructions for deciding what is a key development in the story, a
turning point, a surprise, a trend. Master narratives are thus
harder to alter than they are to apprehend. For how do you keep the
story running while a switch is made?" More...
Raze Spin Alley, That Strange Creation of the Press: "Spin
Alley, an invention of the American press and politicos, shows that
the system we have is in certain ways a partnership between the
press and insiders in politics. They come together to mount the
ritual. An intelligent nation is entitled to ask if the partners are
engaged in public service when they bring to life their invention...
Alternative thesis: they are in a pact of mutual convenience that
serves no intelligible public good." More...
Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!:
"How is it you know you're the press? Because you have a pass that
says PRESS, and people open the gate. The locker room doors admit
you. The story must be inside that gate; that's why they give us
credentials. We get closer. We tell the fans what's going on.
And if this was your logic, Bill James tried to bust it. Fellahs,
said he to the baseball press, you have to realize that you
are the gate." More...
Psst.... The Press is a Player: "The answer, I think,
involves an open secret in political journalism that has been
recognized for at least 20 years. But it is never dealt with,
probably because the costs of facing it head on seem larger than the
light tax on honesty any open secret demands. The secret is this:
pssst... the press is a player in the campaign. And even though it
knows this, as everyone knows it, the professional code of the
journalist contains no instructions in what the press could or
should be playing for?" More...
Die, Strategy News: "I think it's a bankrupt form. It
serves no clear purpose, has no sensible rationale. The journalists
who offer us strategy news do not know what public service they are
providing, why they are providing it, for whom it is intended, or
how we are supposed to use this strange variety of news."More...
He Said, She Said, We Said: "When journalists avoid
drawing open conclusions, they are more vulnerable to charges of
covert bias, of having a concealed agenda, of not being up front
about their perspective, of unfairly building a case (for, against)
while pretending only to report 'what happened.'" More...
If Religion Writers Rode the Campaign Bus: "Maybe irony,
backstage peaking and "de-mystify the process" only get you so far,
and past that point they explain nothing. Puzzling through the
convention story, because I'm heading right into it myself, made me
to realize that journalism's contempt for ritual was deeply involved
here. Ritual is newsless; therefore it must be meaningless. But is
that really true?."More...
Convention Coverage is a Failed Regime and Bloggers Have Their
Credentials: "No one knows what a political convention actually
is, anymore, or why it takes 15,000 people to report on it. Two
successive regimes for making sense of the event have collapsed; a
third has not emerged. That's a good starting point for the
webloggers credentialed in Boston. No investment in the old regime
and its ironizing." More...
Down at the Tick Tock Diner, I Caught Up With CNN:
"'Nobody had ever asked to anchor convention coverage from the
floor,' Feist said as we shared a booth-- like real diners. CNN got
the new gear, tested it out, and made the request to the Democrats.
The Democrats said yes. And right there the sky box era at
conventions came to an end."More...
Stark Message for the Legacy Media: "Journalists find
before them, with 50 days left, a campaign overtaken by Vietnam, by
character issues, attacks, and fights about the basic legitimacy of
various actors-- including the press itself, including Dan Rather.
It's been a dark week. And the big arrow is pointing backwards." More...
Every Four Years Journalism "The Every Four Years headset
is like outdated software still running because it's an expensive
decision and major disruption to replace a piece of press think so
big, with so many parts. There is no agreement on a new 'think'
system. And there is every incentive to keep the old program going
for another election cycle, even though the world has moved on." More...
Philip Gourevitch: Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat: "'A
presidential election is a like a gigantic moving television show,'
he said. It is the extreme opposite of an overlooked event. The show
takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen
by the Secret Service. If you go outside the bubble for any reason,
you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand."More...