Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

We are the gatekeepers . . .

Several people have linked to this story by Washington Post media critic, Howard Kurtz:

The media are getting mad.

Whether it’s the latest back-and-forth over attack ads, the silly lipstick flap or the continuing debate over Sarah and sexism, you can just feel the tension level rising several notches. . . .

News outlets are increasingly challenging false or questionable claims by the McCain campaign, whether it’s the ad accusing Obama of supporting sex-ed for kindergartners (the Illinois legislation clearly describes "age-appropriate" programs) or Palin’s repeated boast that she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere (after she had supported it, and after Congress had effectively killed the specific earmark).


John Hinderaker notes the truth ain’t so simple as Kurtz suggests (and the media are seldom so exacting with Democrats). See also Mark Steyn’s amusing, if polemical, commentary.

Glen Reynolds suggests a source for the anger: "I think it’s because they don’t matter as much as they once did."

He’s probably onto something, but there’s more to it. In my experience, the leader of the U.S. media is the New York Times. Other newspapers and TV news organizations read the Times and follow suit. Indeed, TV reporters sometimes learn their agenda for the day by reading the Times. That model worked for quite some time, but it is breaking down. It is now becoming obvious that the "Mainstream media" (MSM) is no such thing. Moreover, thanks to the internet (and talk radio before that, but the internet, by providing more access to independent reporting has helped talk radio make news, rather than simply comment on it), it is getting harder and harder for a reporter to know what’s going on by following only the major newspapers and magazines.

In short, the gate-keeper role of the Times (and in politics The Washington Post) in particular, and of the old media establishment, is dying. Note Kurtz’s comment, "The lipstick imbroglio is evidence that the Drudge/Fox/New York Post axis can drive just about any story into mainstream land." (Mickey Kaus had a very intelligent discussion of this change about a week ago).

But there is one more, and, as far as I can tell, little discussed, element to the story: and that is the human dynamic. Put yourself in the shoes of a reporter for the New York Times or The Washington Post. He or she has worked hard for many years to reach the top of a particular hill. And just when he gets there, he finds that the hill is a much less important one than it was before.

Moreover, he suddenly finds that rogues and upstarts of whom he has never heard, and who have not put the years in, in the blogosphere, are getting more attention, and are more important than he. Combine that with the sad state of the news business, and there’s a real prolem. Each week, he hears of old friends and colleagues losing their jobs because the newspapers and perhaps networks too, can’t afford to pay them. If you’re 45 or so, and have just made it, and perhaps have a couple of kids who want to go to college, it’s going to cause grey hairs and ulcers.

Perhaps that’s partly behind Kurtz’s anger. His own status, as the most important media critic in the U.S., is much less than it was when he got to the top of the heap a the Post.

P.S. This might also explain some of the big media reaction to Governor Palin. She represents all that. She did not work hard in high school to get to a top, Ive league school. She did not go to Washington and work her way up. Instead, she worked in a place they had barely heard of, and yet is jumping past people they know in the climb for status. (The references to Palin’s job as a sportscaster when she was younger fit in here. She was not from the "serious" side of the business.) It’s just not fair.

Update: Byron York notes this comment by the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher:

“In this time of ‘American Idol,’ bedroom bloggers and the belief that experience, knowledge and education don’t necessarily mean a whole lot, Palin is a symbol, a statement that anyone can make it if he or she really tries.

“In this hyperdemocratized society,” Fisher continued, “the national conviction that anyone can succeed is morphing into a belief that experience and knowledge may almost be disqualifying credentials.”

Note the implied contrast between "bedroom bloggers" and real credentialed (ie: "vetted"?) newsmen.

Discussions - 17 Comments

There was an article about how Obama was going to start getting more negative on McCain starting today. And, what do we see in the MSM this morning?

Front-page article in the Washington Post today distorting Palin, saying she said Iraq was responsible for 9/11 (from the quote they provided, it's clear she didn't).

Front-page article in the Washington Post today about Cindy McCain's past drug problems.

Article in the New York Times and on AP repeating the Post slur about Palin.


I'm too lazy to get the links; I'm sure they'll be all over the internet, but Drudge has one link up already about the Palin smear.

Good Stuff, Richard. I did have to chuckle when I saw the comment aobut Gov. Palin's having been a sportscaster and therefore somehow inconsequntial since she was not from "the serious side of the business." The fact is that two of the most odious entities on TV "news" started as sportscasters: Bryant Gumble (who thankfully has since returned to his roots) and the despicable Keith Olbermann. Who, except for the occupants of the left wing feaver swamps takes these clowns--nay GOONS--seriously? I think their move from sportscasting to the "news" (cough, cough) was the result of an inferiority complex that does not afflcit our Sarah. After all, it was either she or an admirer who said that she probably learned all she knows about life from being the point guard on her high school basketball team. Somehow I doubt that girlie "men" Bryant and Keith even participted in sports.

I believe that it is accurate to say that many of our most important and most inspiring documents as a country were composed in bedrooms (to say nothing of taverns). And many of our least important and uninspiring tomes (to say nothing of activities in the Oval Office) should have remained there.

One last word . . . do go read the Mark Steyn bit linked above. Sometimes you have to be polemical to nail it. He is, he does and he is a national treasure for doing it.

The real, abiding, genius of this country is that the people hire the government and other institutions. Spare me philosophy. The people hire the press to be our watchmen, not our leaders. The media has been put on probation. If they don't straighten up they're going to get the pink slip.

Mark Fisher's comment:

"In this time...Palin is a symbol, a statement that anyone can make it if he or she really tries."

...well gee whiz, isn't that one of the fundamental precepts of American culture?

I imagine they do feel their position has been usurped by johnny-come-latelies who haven't paid their dues. Welcome to the real world that the rest of us inhabit. It happens to athletes when the kid from Podunk U is a better player than they are. It happens to musicians when the new act is more entertaining. It happens to automakers, salespersons, software designers, restaurants, hairstylists...more than half the jobs in the country.

Many of these newsfolks have the misfortune of launching their careers as the tide is going out. Alas, the receding tide lowers all boats, stranding many.

The other problem reporters have is that there are 25-100 bloggers analyzing every word they write. Bloggers have the time and expertise to check every fact.

Reporters these days are relying on AP who is very sloppy in their fact checking. The consequence of these errors are that reporters are shown to be foolish and careless.

The stress of that daily humiliation must be tremendous.

The leader of the media may be the New York Times, but none of my lefty friends read it. They don't have time. Listening to NPR, on the other hand, is the highlight of their day. And if NPR says it, then you know it's true because NPR is so intelligent and fair and rigorous in their reporting. Or so my lefty friends tell me. Yes, I'm being sarcastic.

Screw them all. Slide rule makers didn't like becoming obsolete and then extinct, either.

Mr. Adams,

I have to laugh at the reference that Palin did nothing serious. My mind jumped directly to Keith Olbemann, leftist buffoon and former sportscaster who now sits on MSNBC. So the MSM best examine their own britches.

As to the general nature of the MSM. Three things:

1) The press is being hit by a shift from third person reporting to first person reporting. The first person reporting is immediate, less clouded with prejudice and essentially free. That guy dumping a video on the internet just watched his neighbors house roof get ripped away by a tornado. Whose more accurate the neighbor with the video or the reporter after the fact?

2) There is nothing magic about what a journalist does. There are no barriers to entry. Have a PC and a website and anyone can do what a reporter does cheaper and easier than the guy/gal tied to a 4 color press. What does matter is the quality of the product free of bias or color. Something that is lacking in much of the MSM. Jason Blair, Gibson, et. al. have long since lost objectivity.

3) Supply chain consolidation. Industries from autos, retail, airlines have all been hit by the supply chain collapse via automation. Why would the MSM think that their particular industrya be any different on that score? The fact is they should not. They are in an information business and that is the easiest one of all to apply automation to.

My observation is that many of these so called 'journalists' would not would not have the guts to be a blogger. It takes verve and sacrifice than none of them are want to do. I cry crocodile tears.

With respect to Mr. Kurtz's statement that "The lipstick imbroglio is evidence that the Drudge/Fox/New York Post axis can drive just about any story into mainstream land," who wants to be the one to point out that the "Drudge/Fox/New York Post axis" has become mainstream land, they just aren't a part of the old mainstream-media.

Dear Maximus,

I still have my Pickett and Eckels log log deci-trig slide rule. I still know how to use it. Well, maybe.

Dear Johnmc,

The press have a vital role in this society. The are the ones who sit in on city council meeting. The dig through the records at the county courthouse. The do that notoriously boring and thankless job - the police beat.

It is my great fear that they will not find a viable business model in time to continue their real job.


This might also explain some of the big media reaction to Governor Palin. She represents all that. She did not work hard in high school to get to a top, Ive league school. She did not go to Washington and work her way up. Instead, she worked in a place they had barely heard of, and yet is jumping past people they know in the climb for status.

This is overanalysis. You're way too caught up in your own stream of thought to realize what your brain is coming up with by this point in the post.

Why would the people called "journalists" be any more resentful of Sarah Palin's career trajectory than any other human being would be? You seriously think journalists are so preoccupied with thinking about bloggers that they're now psychologically transferring the resulting angst onto a random politician?

A little perspective would be helpful here. Journalists aren't worried about bloggers, or anybody else. They're not worried about their own "importance," because their power is as great as it's ever been, if power is measured in readership.

Because here's the thing: The problem in the news industry right now is not one of readership. Newspapers, in particular, have far more readers than ever, because of their websites. The problem is one of revenue. And that's simply because nobody, anywhere, has yet figured out how to monetize web sites the way print products were.

If journalists have any vague angst about the state of their industry, it's directed toward the fact that traditional advertising models don't work online. Maybe some of it's directed toward Craiglist. But it's certainly not directed toward bloggers. We (bloggers) are the Letters To The Editor in their eyes. We're the masses reading the news they report, talking about it, and sometimes advancing the story through feedback. That's all.

Blog triumphalism has made me roll my eyes since Glenn Reynolds -- and others with a personal interest in blog success -- started pushing the meme earlier in the decade. That still hasn't changed...

If you want to see what journalists are upset about, visit

Bloggers are definitely on their list. So are Republicans, and Sarah Palin.

"This might also explain some of the big media reaction to Governor Palin. She represents all that. She did not work hard in high school to get to a top, Ive league school. She did not go to Washington and work her way up. Instead, she worked in a place they had barely heard of, and yet is jumping past people they know in the climb for status."

There is a big difference between elitists with a lazy sense of entitlement and maintaining some standards and a sense of meritocracy. It's not necessarily important that she attended an "Ive league school" or not. Our current president is degreed from two of them, so their significance has already been put well into perspective. It's also not important if she has worked her way up in D.C. or not. It's not important that she's from a small town - we all know that, and I've heard no one suggest otherwise. But people still do want some sense that the person has some broad and deep intelligence, however it was attained. Is the right-wing, the people that are always espousing the merits of hard work and determining one's own destiny regardless of environment and background, really interested in boasting that Palin didn't work hard in high school? What's next, the valorization of a junior high dropout for a seat on the Supreme Court? Or does the idea of maintaining some standards only apply when evaluating Democratic candidates?

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