08 June 2007

Poynter Institute's Talking Points ... Discuss

Andy Cline:

The Poynter Institute faculty generated a list of talking points to help reporters create coverage plans for the presidential nominating process. There are 12 points, and I'll cover two per entry.
I want to add this to #1: What's my bias?

What if we envision the journalistic system as layers? On the bottom layer is the body of information produced by the world. It's a quantum world.

Journalists, the human ones, interact with this quantum world through a process such as observation and orientation (Boyd's OODA loop) that includes their cognitive biases and automatic thinking. It is perceptual, psychological and unavoidable in dealing with ambiguity and our sensory and intellectual limitations.

The next layer in our journalistic protocol stack, is where journalistic natural selection acts on this body of information. Done with Mirrors describes some of the process:
When I'm sitting at the wire desk as an editor, it's not much different. AP will move maybe 300 stories in a cycle. We also get stories from the New York Times and Cox wires. Some duplicate the AP coverage, some don't. All told, there may be 500 possible stories to go in the paper (in addition to the ones generated locally) on any given day. Maybe 30 of them will get in, and some of those only in very abbreviated form.

Not only do I chose which ones people read, I decide, or help decide, which ones ought to get more prominence than which other ones.

Along the way I'll choose maybe 6 photos to illustrate the day's news, out of maybe 250 images available since the last time we put out a paper, 24 hours ago.

And the AP editors, whom I never see or interact with, already have weeded through the news to choose those 300 stories, those 250 photos, through which I move like a cafeteria customer. They might have looked at 3,000 or 5,000 articles that were written in that day, and moved only a fraction of them on the wire.

And the photographers decided where to point their lenses .... You get the idea.
The structural biases characterize (to some degree) the natural selection process, or what influences it. I understand it as rhetoric, influenced by language and culture (noetic field). There is no such thing as a neutral language.

Above the natural selection layer is the presentation layer. The presentation layer is characterized by the infrastructural biases (TBD). The infrastructural biases are influenced by the medium used. It takes into account spatial and temporal constraints as well as framing (paper, radio, television, internet, ..., and newspapers vs. magazines, evening news hour vs. newsmagazine, broadcast networks vs. cable, blog vs. online journalism ..., front page vs. climatic teaser).

At this macro layer, the presentation layer, the cumulative effects can be visualized as a surface map which represents our mental map of reality and the distortions (peak and valleys) of the original body of information generated by the biases of the lower layers.

UPDATE: Blogging has its own infrastructural biases. For example, screen size/resolution and bandwidth. Those two impact web look & feel and content generally.

Then there are other less obvious ones - less obvious in terms of infrastructure or structural. For example, 3 column blogs vs. 2 column blogs. Comments or no. Trackbacks or no. Cosmos or no. Link (density) or no. Blogroll or no. Audio or no. Pics or no. Video or no.

Some of the above choices are analogous, I think, to the choices made by USA Today and the Wall Street Journal which are very different in appearance.

Storytelling is constrained by infrastructural and structural biases as well as strategic and definitory rules*. The web has a different set of infrastructural biases from print and broadcast journalism. This also allows for a different set of structural biases and expectations to develop. A different set of rules. A different narrative formula.

The web, and blogging as a form, is best defined by its bias toward read-write.

An Anthology of Journalism's Decline
Talking Points from the Institute, Part 2
Talking Points from the Institute, Part 3
Talking Points from the Institute, Part 4
Talking Points from the Institute, Part 5
Talking Points from the Institute, Part 6

06 June 2007

Bias Hunters and Presidential Debates

PressThink's Questions and Answers about Media Bias

Rhetorica's Media / Political Bias


QUESTION: Given the concerns about Fox being raised by some activist organizations, why did the CBC Institute move forward with the FOX News partnership?

ANSWER: The CBC Institute worked with FOX News in 2003 to broadcast two Democratic debates. Both debates were outstanding productions that also earned high ratings. We are confident that Fox News and CNN will produce four exceptional debates.

Our selection of broadcasters is based solely on the organization's ability to present the debates to the broadest audience possible and produce first-class television productions.

FOX News and CNN are two of the world's leading cable news networks. Both organizations reach millions of households daily and have demonstrated their ability to stage award-winning television productions that inform and engage the public.
MoveOn: It's time to take on Fox

Color of Change: Dancing with the Devil

Previous: Doing the same thing ... and expecting different results?

Thoughtful words ...

I Guess This Is Goodbye

The internet is a mean place. I know, because I’ve contributed to the mean plenty. I think it’s even safe to say that some of the hatred displayed toward me was brought on by me. I readily admit to being snarky when I should have been thoughtful. I was dismissive and sarcastic, when I should have been more open-minded.
Is the Internet "a mean place" in the same way that this is "a cruel world?"

Questions for Bennett, Lawrence, and Livingston

"When the Press Fails...", Jay Rosen comments:

Also, I am going to try to get one or more of the authors to come in and respond to some of this.
That would be cool.

I'd be interested to hear the authors distinguish between the reasons for the press failure pre-9/11 and post-9/11. For example, from the 23rd Annual Ralph McGill Lecture (pdf):
The challenge for newspapers is staying focused in the days ahead, as the war on terror ebbs and flows, and the natural longing for normalcy is accompanied by a longing for a return to synthetic news. We would do our readers--and all the citizens of this great democracy--a grave disservice if we fail to cover the news that matters.

After all, the United States might have been better prepared for the terrorist attacks of September 11 if the press had done the job it should have been doing in the last decade.

As Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen recently admitted, he ignored pleas from officials last year to write efforts to combat terrorism.
and the 2004 Knight Lecture:
Remnick observed that for a decade or more after the collapse of communism, American mainstream journalism took "a triumphal nap, a vacation from sufficient awareness" about the tensions that were building in the Middle East. Throughout the 1990s, the evening news was evolving into "a kind of nonfiction show-business mill" that churned out "sustained narratives of developing gossip." Indeed, the biggest story of the decade concerned the sexual dalliances of the president of the United States.
How does this criticism of press failure support or contradict the authors' conclusion: "Perhaps the path to reform is too obvious. Let every organization start each day by deciding whether they are reporting events from the standpoint of the people or from the viewpoint of those in power."

I'd also like to know what methods were employed by the authors when conducting their post hoc analysis of this press failure to guard against confirmation bias and historian's fallacy/hindsight bias (or reverse hindsight bias when defending past decisions).

On This Particular Program?

Bill O'Reilly Claims to be Donald Duck

O'Reilly's modus operandi on this particular program seemed to be, "Don't talk while I'm interrupting." He looked completely ridiculous.

How's that working out?

This Isn't What I Voted For

05 June 2007

Journalism's 21st Century Henry Ford?

A good conversation over at PressThink. Jay's struggling with an "out of control spam filter" that limits a commenter's ability to post a comment with links. I thought it worthwhile to post my comment here with the links included and tighten (however slightly) the web value of PressThink essays ...

I think "populism" is an important part of this comment conversation not to be overlooked. We're not looking for the "journalistic car" per se, but the 21st century version of the "journalistic Model T." Basically, a populist technology revolutionary like Ford for the daily (and weekly) print community. I agree with Mark and Paul's comments in this vein.

But the other cultural killer of journalism has been the anti-citizen "professional" journalism. The "citizen of the world", "view from nowhere", "we don't vote on principle" [UPDATE: or attend concerts], "divisible from the public", "rainbow group think" monoculture.

I thought that was the most overlooked aspect of the Blitzer/Lynne Cheney exchange from October 2006:

BLITZER: The answer of course is we want the United States to win. We are Americans. There's no doubt about that. Do you think we want terrorists to win.