WaPo editorial board reverses course, starts questioning Bush Co. involvement in Iglesias firing

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In a post that reminded me of my recent rant on “Old Media” vs. bloggers and other “amateurs,” Glenn Greenwald shows the incredible turnaround of the Washington Post editorial board:

Even more than most national journalists, The Washington Post‘s Fred Hiatt has been a stalwart defender of the Bush administration with regard to the U.S. attorneys scandal. On March 26, 2007 — just two weeks ago — Hiatt wrote:

Mr. Gonzales finds himself in this mess because he and others in his shop appear to have tried to cover up something that, as far as we yet know, didn’t need covering. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president — with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president was entitled to replace any he chose, as long as he wasn’t intending to short-circuit ongoing investigations.

While the Editorial acknowledged that there appears to have been what Hiatt politely called “shifting explanations for the eventual dismissals of eight federal prosecutors,” he argued that there was no evidence of any underlying impropriety with regard to the firings themselves.

As Greenwald notes, today is another story all together. Suddenly, David Iglesiasfiring is worthy of further investigation. Says the WaPo:

Mr. Sampson’s testimony showed that Mr. Iglesias was added to the list after Mr. Rove also complained to the attorney general about Mr. Iglesias’s supposedly poor performance on voter fraud. This revelation not only adds to the evidence undercutting the attorney general’s professions of ignorance about the whole episode; it deepens the sense that the judgment about whom to fire was influenced, if not dictated, by political considerations.

Of course, had you been reading this blog, or any number of blogs over the last two months, you would have already come to that conclusion. Greenwald:

Everything Hiatt argued here has been known for many, many weeks — really for months. Yet until today, Hiatt and his comrades in the national press were insisting that there was absolutely no underlying impropriety here — and that there was no reason other than petty political games which could possibly motivate anyone to want to question poor, beleaguered Karl Rove under oath.

But the whole time, all of the evidence Hiatt just cited was publicly known. And it has been exactly that evidence which bloggers and then Democratic Senators were pointing to in order to insist that there was substantial evidence to suggest very serious wrongdoing with regard to the reason these prosecutors were fired.

All arguments regarding old vs. new media aside, the WaPo editorial board is finally seeing the light. If that’s the case, that’s just more traction for a story that is already “distracting” for some of those involved.

Bloggers and journalists

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David Fryxell, publisher of the Desert Exposure, has an editor’s note in this month’s issue that caught my eye. Fryxell writes about bloggers and other “amateurs” and their responsibilities to readers. Fryxell also talks about things he’s learned as a journalist during the past 30 years.

Now, I’ll be honest: I’ve only been a journalist for four years, but I’ve been a blogger longer than that. And I strive, when working and when blogging here on my personal site, to be credible in everything I write. Live From Silver City is opinionated, because I use it as an avenue for saying things I couldn’t responsibly say when writing for the Daily Press.

Fryxell didn’t mention any names (and I don’t know that he has any specific quarrels with my work at the Daily Press of with this site). He did, however, make some rather sweeping generalizations:

Proponents praise blogs and other personal publishing via the Internet as ushering in a new era of independent voices, unfettered by the hidebound ways of Old Media. I suppose this can be true as well, though I can’t help wondering who has time to read all these blogs and whether this audience—and the bloggers too—shouldn’t perhaps get a life instead.

Fryxell’s note comes on the heels of two recent discussions by bloggers themselves regarding our relationship with “Old Media.” First off, my friend Amanda, who gets right to the point:

One of the most grating beliefs I come across that people have about political blogging is the notion that when we offer ourselves as alternatives to the mainstream media, we are declaring ourselves “citizen journalists.”

She’s got a point, but what really gets me is Glenn Greenwald’s complete takedown of “Old Media” in regards to the lead up to the Iraq War:

Instead, it is because, throughout the Bush presidency (and even before), the national American media as a whole has been extraordinarily gullible, if not outright complicit, in disseminating all sorts of patent falsehoods under the guise of unidentified agenda-driven sources. As but one example, a 2005 Harris poll found that most Americans distrust their media, and the distrust is far more pervasive than exists in Europe: “A 62 to 22 percent (almost 3-to-1) majority of Americans did not trust ‘the press’; Europeans were split 47 to 46 percent.”

And at least one key reason for that distrust is both clear and compelling. Many Americans who more or less did trust the judgment of the country’s most respectable media outlets were severely betrayed, when they supported an invasion of a sovereign country based exclusively on patently false claims that were uncritically though aggressively disseminated by the American press.

I appreciate Fryxell’s position: indeed, I share some of his thoughts on the subject. However, I can’t agree with this:

When people start to get their “facts” from blogs and email postings, however, when they begin to invest amateurs with the trust previously reserved for journalism professionals, suddenly those hidebound ways look pretty important. I know it sounds snooty to speak of “amateurs” and “professionals.” Isn’t anybody who can bang on a keyboard a “writer”? (Sure, and I’m pretty good with a carving knife and have always had a hankering to try heart surgery.)

The point isn’t to inhibit anyone’s creative expression or keep Joe Blogger from telling the world what he really thinks of the latest World of Warcraft. Rather, it’s that if electronic instant journalists want to play the game, they have to abide by the same rules of fairness, even-handedness, transparency and, above all, accuracy. And when they critique mainstream media, bloggers had better be prepared to have themselves held to the same standards.

Readers are turning to blogs because they’ve lost trust in traditional media outlets. As a profession, us journalists have failed our readers during the past six years. And, as Amanda said, most bloggers aren’t trying to be journalists.

Are blogs above criticism? Of course not. Bloggers make mistakes just as journalists do, and I do think they should strive (as Fryxell suggests) to be accurate, fair and transparent. But that does not mean they can’t provide accurate information to readers, nor does it mean they aren’t incredibly valuable to the public discourse.

Take, for example, Talking Points Memo, the blogging organization that kept after the U.S. Attorney Story until the traditional media caught on.

I don’t know that Fryxell has read any of the incredible blogs out there: for instance, how about Heath? The man is a blogger by definition, but the guy is as close to an independent journalist as you can get. He also meets all the criteria Fryxell identified: he’s transparent, incredibly accurate, and beats many publications to the story because of the nature of his media.

This is a timely conversation to have, and I hope to continue it in some fashion with Fryxell.

UPDATE — 4/9/07 5 pm: Wow, right on the heels of Fryxell’s note comes this New York Times article regarding the bad behavior among blogs. Whatever will the world do?

All mocking aside, definitely check out Digby’s response:

The discourse that everyone is so shocked to see is now uncivil and “nasty” was polluted decades ago by a bunch of rich, white businessmen who saw that they could make a very nice profit at exploiting the lizard brain of the American rightwing and help their political cause at the same time. The media thought it was all in good fun (and good for their bosses) just as they do today.

We bloggers didn’t make this toxic, fetid environment, we just live in it. And toxic and fetid it is. At some point the prim and proper MSM are going to have to put down the smelling salts over the uncivil blogosphere and deal with the fact that the world they enabled with their convivial chuckling and snorting at Rush and Imus over the years has brought us to this place. The rest of us are little busy fighting off the neanderthal thugs they helped create.

Congratulations Heath!

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Heath Haussamen, that enterprising independent reporter/blogger down in Las Cruces, has been online for one year:

This site made its debut on March 20, 2006, with an article about former state Rep. William “Ed” Boykin’s plan to drop out of the race before the November election.
[…] At the time, I was still a reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News, but the site grew so rapidly that within seven weeks I quit my day job and became a full-time online journalist.

On any given day, 10 percent of my traffic comes from Heath’s place, which is fine by me. He’s been an incredible asset to the state’s media. Heath’s site offers the mixture of breaking news coverage and in-depth analysis that is the future of online journalism.

Head on over to his place for the latest on Purgegate, Bill Richardson and the special legislative session.

Insight New Mexico radio show

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I was a guest this weekend on the Insight New Mexico radio show, hosted by Eric Griego and produced by Suzanne Prescott. Unfortunately, the Albuquerque broadcast doesn’t quite make it to our neck of the woods. You’re lucky, however, because they’re podcasting the show too!

You can download a copy of the show here (guests, or visit this page to listen to a streaming version. You can also listen to previous shows, which have featured New Mexico lawmakers, journalists, bloggers and other notable guests. Since I called into the show, I’m happy they provide the podcasts: I wasn’t able to listen to the other guests.

I want to send a quick shout out to Eric and Suz for inviting me to be a guest. It’s been almost two years since I left my radio job, and this weekend reminded me that I do, at times, miss it.

Then again, I don’t miss waking up at 4 a.m.

Of all things…

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to be outraged about:

The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter.

Yet there it is on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature. The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books. The controversy was first reported by Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine.

Sheesh.

I also note the opening sentence, and the “polite conversation” remark, and point you to this discussion on “vulgarity.”

The Fine Print

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Wanted

The usually insightful Clay Benntt, at the Christian Science Monitor.

Josh Marshall has some incredible insights of his own, regarding Bush Co. attempts to mislead us into another war cook the intelligence again prove Iran is supplying arms to our enemies in Iraq:

Now, given the black market traffic in arms in Iraq right now, it’s not at all a stretch to believe that weapons are dispersing from Iranian proxies like SCIRI (who we’re holding up as our allies) through black market channels to Sunni insurgents who are in turn using them against US troops. Indeed, it seems like a more probable theory than the conclusion that the Iranians are acting in concert with the Sunni militants who are involved in an on-going campaign of indiscriminate slaughter of Iraqi Shi’a civilians.

So, to summarize, as Gen. Pace said, we seem to know that Iranian-made weapons are turning up in Iraq and being used against Americans.

For context, how many US-made weapons do you think are now being used against US forces. Indeed, how much US weaponry sent to Iraq specifically by the US are in turn being used by insurgents against US forces.

Please, please before we attack another country can we at least make sure (and actually be sure, not be lying about it) that the country poses a real threat?