Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pawlenty on cap-and-trade

Yesterday we discussed the power and danger of new media tools for presidential candidates, specifically former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. Today there's a story out that Pawlenty is continuing to apologize for his past stand on the issue of capping carbon emissions. I guess he realizes he's got some work to do. The most interesting part of this, to my mind, is who he's speaking to - Laura Ingraham, conservative radio talk show host. Here's a bit of "old media".

Monday, March 28, 2011

The power of images, part 3

Rolling Stone today has published a story following up on the reports of American soldiers in Afghanistan murdering civilians for sport. There are more graphic pictures and videos attached to the story, partly because any photographs of this sort, whether caused by normal casualties or otherwise, are prohibited by the military's rules - so that in and of itself is newsworthy.

The more this stuff trickles out, the more likely it is that our presence in Afghanistan will be undermined.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The power of images, revisited

The German newspaper Der Spiegel is reporting on a series of gruesome photographs taken by US Army soldiers. The soldiers apparently killed Afghani civilians and then took photos of the dead bodies in contorted positions, being held up by their hair or twisted and battered. You can read the story and look at the images here (warning: graphic content).

This only further underscores the power of images to shape our understanding of political events. If these images get published in the Muslim world, there could be a backlash like the one that happened after the Abu Ghraib revelations.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some things are good

In our rush to condemn some of the worst trends of the modern-day media, we shouldn't forget that there are still journalists doing incredible work under difficult circumstances. This article in today's New York Times points out how foreign news coverage of the Japanese earthquake, Middle Eastern rebellions, the air war over Libya, and the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia has really been exemplary. Credit where credit is due!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Disaster coverage

The news is full of stories about the horrific devastation in Japan. Meanwhile, here's some thoughts on how journalists cover disaster-related stories, as compared to other, slower-moving events.

Oh, and here's Jon Stewart's take:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maybe I've been wrong

This month's issue of The Atlantic has a long and counter-intuitive piece by James Fallows, a well-known journalist and commentator on the media. Fallows argues that, contrary to the accepted wisdom that I've been echoing this semester, the media isn't doing such a bad job in its primary tasks. Moreover, he states that although change is inevitable, it doesn't have to mean an inevitable slide down.

He starts off by showing that in every generation journalists look back in the belief that the past was always better, a mythical golden age that can never be recaptured. But we can't fight changes caused by shifting cultural trends and technological advancements. Fallows spends a lot of time discussing Gawker, which until recently has had the reputation of nothing more than a scandal-mongering platform. Now, as Fallows points out, it's become the source of revelations about candidate's personal lives and the newest scandals. This may seem tawdry, but it's the kind of news that sells and that people demand.

So, rather than fight this trend, perhaps we should embrace it. Accept that media is a business, accept that people's tastes have changed, and let the media evolve to fit what people want. There will always be a market for high-end publications, like The Atlantic or Harper's or even the New York Times, but maybe not everything has to meet this standard of elite-defined excellence.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Be careful what you say

A lesson in why politicians should be more careful about their language:

In 2008, candidate Obama declared in no uncertain terms that he would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

In 2009, President-elect Obama issued an executive order saying that the prison would close within one year (for which he was criticized by outlets like the Wall Street Journal).

Today? It's staying open, the Obama administration says.


Help us find a way to change your mind!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

If you say so

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case Snyder v. Phelps. In an 8-1 decision, the justices ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church could protest at the funerals of military servicemembers, despite the offensive content of their speech (and it's really offensive!).

Today, on the show FOX News Sunday, the attorney for the church, Margie Phelps (who is also the daughter of the church's leader), said that President Obama and the entire Court are "going to hell." Furthermore, she said that Obama "is going to be king of the world before this is all said and done, and he is most likely the beast spoken of in the Revelation." Huh, ok. So: is this the kind of thing we need to discuss on national television?

Nothing's easy

The U.S. has been trying to shut down youtube videos of radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, but no dice. The problem is, in an open forum like youtube, which knows no borders, how do you possibly control the flow of radical ideas? I suspect you can't.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hillary criticizes American media

Watch here to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticize American media for being inferior to Al-Jazeera!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FOXNews and presidential candidates

Several of the Republicans considering runs for the White House are contributors to FOXNews, which includes a lucrative contract. Seemingly, this is a conflict of interest. After all, if Sarah Palin is commenting on the air today about Obama, and being paid for it, how can the reporters working for FOXNews report about her fairly?

Today, FOX announced it is suspending Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for 60 days, pending their decisions on whether to run. I suspect more of this will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Maybe there's an upside to scandals!

A new paper in the journal Political Psychology by Beth Miller argues that scandal coverage isn't purely soft or negative, but can actually lead people to learn more about policy-related developments. This argument, if the findings are replicated in further studies, would significantly change the way we think about scandal coverage.

Up to now we've assumed that scandal coverage is a distraction from real news events such as policy changes and international events. Perhaps, however, learning more about any news helps people by giving them the tools to encounter further information about the world around them. That may be a benefit we haven't yet fully explored.

(h/t Monkey Cage)