ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Poke at the Public Eye

Jay Rosen has an excellent post at PressThink. It's an open letter to CBS regarding the launch of their new weblog thingy, the Public Eye. Frankly, I think they are still too self-centered to understand the power of the net and the blogosphere.

On January 10th of this year I suggested at my blog that CBS News “could publish on the Internet (as transcript and video) the full interviews from which each segment that airs is made. All interviews, every frame. Even the interviews that were not used.” The Web makes it doable and it would help with transparency, I said.

Six months later Larry Kramer told CJR Daily: “We’re going to be offering up what used to be considered just work product… there’s no reason we can’t allow our users to see the whole thirty-minute interview if they want.” The Web makes it possible and it would help with transparency, he said.

See how we complement each other?

Transparency Will Change You

“If you’re looking for a journalism professor to render absolute verdicts, this probably isn’t the place to be,” Vaughn wrote in his first post at Public Eye. Well, I’m a journalism professor, and here is my verdict: Transparency will absolutely change you, and it already has. If you don’t change with it, you will lose.

We sometimes forget that the sad events at CBS News a year ago began with an act of transparency. After broadcasting its report (called “For the Record”) Sixty Minutes put the Killian Memos on the Net. That’s how the whole thing started.

People of CBS News, the Net knows more than you. The chances are fairly high that a given producer at CBS would not know enough southern history to grasp what Senator Trent Lott was actually saying when he praised Strom Thurmond’s 1948 campaign for president. The chances of the blogosphere not knowing this background are zero.

“The sheer number of blogs, and the speed of response, make errors hard to sustain for very long,” writes Andrew Sullivan. “The collective mind is also a corrective mind.”

Now we are met in happier circumstances, launch week for Public Eye. Instead of an ombudsman, a weblog and staff to create a dialogue that acts like an ombudsman. Good idea. It worked well here, narrowing the differences between the National Review’s media blogger, Stephen Spruiell, and CBS News.

It didn’t work so well here. Tuesday, the CBS Evening News ended with an heart-warmer (a guy who loves ducks.) Public Eye jumps in with a question: “With such an overwhelming amount of news about Hurricane Katrina—most of it depressing—when and how does a broadcast decide that it’s time to include something unrelated and upbeat?” Listen to the answers Hillary Profita got:
PE spoke with Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, senior broadcast producer for the “Evening News,” about how the decision to include Blackstone’s piece came about.

“It is two weeks plus after the hurricane,” said Ciprian-Matthews, “and we felt like it was the right time to do something else. That kind of feature was uplifting and didn’t detract from hurricane coverage and it just felt like the right time to do that.
I think the inclusion of the work product that is used to develop the final piece is encouraging. But their answer to the question about "Why do this story now?" just shows how the MSM can frame a story to influence its viewers. They say there is no bias, but after 2+ weeks of doom & gloom and scorn surrounding hurricane Katrina, they decide to put a puff piece on... These editorial decisions have an impact - and it is difficult for those editorial decisions to be unbiased.

Now, if they would just admit it and increase the transparency, not only of the background used to produce the stories, but in their editorial decisions as well... Transparency is the key. I mean, everyone who visits this blog knows that we're part of the vast, Rovian cabal... we don't hide that fact - why hide something that you're proud of?


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler