Feb 152010
 

George Packer may not be right about Twitter, but he’s right on in his assessment of political journalism.  In this blog post he calls out specific writers in specific pieces for focusing entirely on political performance and perception.

Importantly, he puts this sort of empty journalism side-by-side substantive reporting on other issues in order to better illustrate its uselessness:

A war or an economic collapse has a reality apart from perceptions, which imposes a pressure on reporters to find it. But for some reason, American political coverage is exempt.

It’s not a very long post and it’s worth reading the whole thing.  In a previous post I noted that “Much of what we today consider ‘political journalism’ is junk and not very useful from a civic perspective.”

This is an entirely unoriginal sentiment, echoed constantly throughout the blogosphere, particularly during election cycles.  But it’s true.  And Packer does a nice job calling out specific examples.

For a lengthier assessment of the problem, James Fallows’ 1996 Atlantic piece Why Americans Hate the Media is a great read.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen has a nice related post titled The Quest for Innocence and the Loss of Reality in Political Journalism.  Definitely worth a read.

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Feb 102010
 

It may seem like a stupid question.  Why not go to TED, if you could?  It’s full of brilliant and influential people.  And celebs, if you’re into that.  Anyone who’s ever watched a TED talk knows how thought-provoking they are and how addictive watching them can become.

So why not go to TED?

Well this post by Josh Macht at Harvard Business Review got me thinking…

But why is TED so different? Partly it comes from the A-list speakers, including Bill Clinton and Bono. But I suspect it’s the variety of speakers, not the status of the headliners, that provides TED with its real fervor.

In particular it was this bit that jumped out at me:

“Prepare to have your mind blown,” says one eager TEDster while waiting in line to get our TED gift bags on the evening of the big conference.

And, again, maybe this doesn’t strike you as odd.  Wouldn’t it be mind-blowing?

I’m not so sure.  After all, what are they going to tell me that’s so special?  Not that I already know it all – I most certainly do not – but rather what are they going to convey in person that I couldn’t otherwise learn?

The talks themselves are available either live or after the fact on the TED site.  Many if not most of the presenters write books and articles, maintain blogs, or post updates on Twitter.

More generally, I have access through Twitter and my RSS reader to a diverse cross-section of the world’s brightest thinkers.  Jumping from a post by Tyler Cowen to a video by Lawrence Lessig and then over to Clay Shirky’s Twitter feed doesn’t leave much time to wish someone would organize a conference for me to hear interesting ideas.

And so what I wondered about the eager TEDster was whether he was even paying attention.

Is the TEDster oblivious to the wealth of content freely available and one good filter away?

Of course, I’d love to attend TED if given the chance. And obviously there are elements of the conference that one experiences by being there that I just can’t experience at home.

But why wait for an annual conference to get your mind blown when you can do it, for free, every day?

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Feb 082010
 

I may not own an NBA team, but since everyone and their grandmother seems to be weighing in on the future of news and journalism, I figured I’d share some thoughts.  That’s a big part of what this blog is supposed to be about, after all.

It’s not intended to be a unified theory and the points don’t necessarily even relate to one another.  But they are all things I stress whenever I discuss the topic with anyone.

So here we go…a very rough overview of my thoughts on the future of news and journalism…

Continue reading »

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