Entries Tagged as 'new media'

The EPA is Not Insane

September 29th, 2011 at 2:35 pm 18 Comments

The Obama White House is many things—flailing as it fishtails from an adult-in-the-room pose to screaming populism; cack-handed, as it both infuriates its base and loses independents; and passive to the point of paralysis, as Chris Christie pointed out in his Reagan Library speech.

The Obama White House, however, is not insane.

The Daily Caller’s breathtaking insistence, with a gratuitously crude reference to a TV wardrobe malfunction, that a what-if scenario painted in an EPA court brief (as an undesirable outcome) is a real proposal doesn’t have a whiff of plausibility.

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Page One: Inside the New York Times

July 8th, 2011 at 6:01 pm 6 Comments

“The old newspaper business is dying.  PERIOD,” proclaims noted columnist and author Jeff Jarvis, at one point in Andrew Rossi’s up-to-the-second new documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times, a film that sets out to show the who, what, when, where, and why of journalism’s ongoing meltdown.

Indeed, the movie’s opening is a symbolic montage — reams of paper and ink-filled printing presses, imagery that’s looking more and more like horses-and-buggies in the era of Henry Ford and Walter Chrysler, after the iPad, Kindle, and Huffington Post.  The next thing we see are the printed on paper editions of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer being sent to the death panel, while even the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle are bleeding as much as $1 million per week.  (The movie was completed well before the atrocities at News of the World were revealed – but the grim Murdoch revelations make Page One and its premise even more timely and chilling.)

Page One tells the story of the 2009-10 production year at the Times, focusing on several reporters (young bucks like Andrew Ross Sorkin and Tim Arango make appearances), but the main characters are embattled editor Bill Keller, and gruff, lovably no-nonsense media writer David Carr.  It also gives us a look inside the Times’ temple of truth (which looks more like a trendy city library with its open floorplan, pop art and furniture and cubicles, than a headachy, fluorescent-lit Lou Grant or All the Presidents Mens sweatshop.)

Far from being a dry (dare I say) newspaper-like documentary, the movie moves at an almost Entertainment Tonight pace, covering the almost uncountable ways and means in which the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing model we’ve known for the past 150 years is being obsoleted at photon-torpedo speed.  From plagiarists and fact-cookers like Judith Miller and Jayson Blair ruining newspaper credibility, to the ethical questions surrounding WikiLeaks, to advertising revenues brought to their knees — well before the 2008 meltdown — by Monster.com, Craigslist, and Angie’s List, it’s all there.  Not to mention the autistic 8-year-old’s attention span of Twitterized, text-messaging young readers, raised on shock journalism and reality TV.  If Page One can be faulted for anything, it’s for information overload and biting off more than it can chew — but it should be commended for trying.

Indeed, while the movie skates on some issues (and though it is specific to the New York Times, it tries to use the Times as a metaphor for what’s going on in the larger writing world), it raises just enough of them to provoke much-needed thought and discussion for the tuned-in viewer.  The most important area that the film breezes through is the fact that it isn’t just a decline in money that’s caused the problem at many papers.  As with the federal budget, there is definitely a revenue problem — but there’s also a priority problem, too.

I can personally name several top-level industry trades and papers who went on Flint Michigan-like downsizing kicks in 2008-10 – sending respected writers with 15, 20, 25 years experience into the dog ditch along with young ones starting out — only to spend literally millions of dollars on getting a few “name” editors the very next year. And as chilling as this is for the practice of journalism, from a Management 101 viewpoint, it may not necessarily be wrong.

Having a superstar editor, dripping with bling in her company Jaguar or Mercedes, may cost the same in salary as 8 or 10 hard-working, no-name writers and journos actually covering stories, checking facts, and generating content 24-7. (By contrast, the “Krystle Carrington” editor might actually do next to nothing writing- or copy-editing wise.)  But she WILL go to all the right cocktail parties and openings in New York, Washington, Beverly Hills, and Brentwood.  She’ll be a buzzy one-person PR “rebranding” of a borderline company.  She will ease the fears of advertising execs and bailout-era banks and boards (“Well, this place must have a bright future, or they couldn’t have afforded her in the first place!”)  In many magazines and newspapers, symbolism has begun trumping substance on a level to warm Karl Rove and Bill Clinton’s hearts.

It’s also no news to reveal, as Page One does, that after OJ, Monica, Jon-Benet, and Robert Blake, the line that once separated “serious” news from tabloid throwaway has all but disappeared even at many prestige venues.  What Page One underlines is that this crudity represents a paradigm shift in how news is delivered — and who delivers it.  In the past, Punch Sulzberger, Katharine Graham, Otis Chandler, and Walter Cronkite told us which stories were the “important” ones; they set the agenda.  Today, Google, Yahoo, and AOL tell newspapers and magazines what stories and topics they need to cover in order to generate traffic.  And that means if Kim Kardashian, Snooki, Lady Gaga, and The Bachelor are “trending” higher than Eric Cantor and Tim Geithner, guess who’s likely to get the electronic ink?  (Can we say “Casey Anthony trial,” anyone?)

Today, making the “hit count” nut isn’t just an issue.  To downsizing-traumatized line editors – even at many “serious” venues — it’s become the main issue.  Now imagine what this means for really serious, world stories.  It may frighten you as much as the budget default.

Against this frightful backdrop, the movie’s climax comes as the Times’ closest competitors for “papers of record” meet their doom.  The Post-Newsweek company skates on the thin ice of bankruptcy, Newsweek going into receivership and The Washington Post brutally downsizing.  And the Tribune Company, parents of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune (as well as several other papers and the legendary TV “superstations” KTLA-Los Angeles and WGN-Chicago) is forced to file for reorganization.  The Tribune story is especially sordid, replete with an Enron/Halliburton level of cynical cronyism and looting, courtesy of its former CEO Sam Zell – a radio man who had little experience in print, who is seen telling outside reporters to “f*ck off” and calling them “p*ssies”, and openly suggesting carrying ads for porn. (The Boogie Nights atmosphere evidently carried over into the workplace, with allegations of rampant harassment and even employees having sex with editors right in the office.)

After spending most of the film “vaporizing” people who criticized Old Media newspapers and network news in favor of the brave new world of aggregation sites and Twitter/Facebook “citizen journalism”, even the tough-as-nails David Carr seems appalled and shaken by the Tribune and Post horrors.  And that’s the most dangerous story on Page One of all.  After all of the above, is it any wonder why people from Arianna Huffington and Markos Moulitsas to Palin and Bachmann hold the old-time news media in utter contempt?  If this isn’t “lame-stream” behavior, what is?  A free and vibrant press is an absolute must for a democracy, and must and should be defended absolutely.  But can there BE any defense of these kinds of travesties (let alone of the even more nauseous abuses that went on at News of the World?)  Of the misplaced priorities, the insular arrogance?  Is there any place left today for news venues that simply report what the news is — instead of the Glenn Becks and Keith Olbermanns, who tell you what to think,too?

For all the dusty dignity and tarnished-armor courage of people like Bill Keller and David Carr, Page One never really answers how we can defend the media as it struggles to exist today – without inadvertently defending the abuses and abusers too.  Or the even more important question, the main question:  whether or not there IS a future for News Reporting 1.0.  And maybe it can’t explain or answer that.  But the point of Page One is that we as a people had better answer that question.  And we’d better do it soon — before it’s too late.

New Media Holds Back Assad’s Crackdown

March 26th, 2011 at 12:55 pm 3 Comments

The traditional rules of engagement between the Syrian regime and its opponents have been suspended.

The Carthaginian devastation visited upon Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, by the Baathist government of Hafiz al-Assad following an abortive 1982 Islamist uprising had long been emblematic of the regime’s mail-fisted approach to dissent.

The leveling of that city by Syrian artillery was a pour encourager les autres-type exercise in quite literal overkill. Hama became synonymous with the institutionalized ruthlessness of a regime dependent on the army, the police and as many as 15 different security services to maintain its monopoly on power.

Now confronted with the first major challenge to Baathist rule in decades, Hafiz al-Assad’s son and successor Bashar has not declared unconditional warfare on his own people. Doubtless he has been urged to unleash the full might of his military and fearsome security services on protesters by some of the apparatchiks who administer his police state. It will be their reflex instinct.

However, Assad has opted for an entirely more proportionate response. The severity of his counter-measures remains restrained –by Syrian standards — in the face of a growing insurgency demanding political reforms and the reinstatement of civil rights and liberties.

The deployment of an armored division to Daraa at the weekend was a show of force intended to demonstrate the city could go the way of Hama. But the regime’s big guns continue to remain silent even though small-arms fire is increasingly being heard there as well as in other centers of rioting.

A regime which slaughtered an estimated 25,000 Syrians at Hama and executed 10,000 dissenters in the decade following  now has no choice but to take an uncharacteristically measured approach to country-wide anti-regime demonstrations. Lethal force is certainly being used — dozens of protesters have been killed since rallies against ‘injustice and repression’ began in January. But the death toll is not on the operatic scale which might once have been expected.

Assad’s hand is being stayed not because he is any more merciful than his father (he isn’t) but because he’s improvising a survival strategy which is hyper-sensitive to Arab and international opinion. The ruthless old orthodoxies of his father’s day no longer apply in the new media age. Hama was destroyed off-camera.  State efforts at censorship notwithstanding, modern revolutions can and will be televised, webcast and Tweeted given the 24/7 news cycle and the ubiquity of social networks sites, smartphones and tablet computers.

And webcammed bloodbaths, as Assad has learned, do not play either on the Arab street or before global audiences.

When Muammar Qaddafi used mass slaughter as both a tactic and his entire strategy for combating Libya’s insurrection, he invited a punitive international response because the world was watching events unfold live and in living color on TVs, computer monitors and BlackBerries.

His preferred take-no-prisoners counter-insurgency measures are now off-limits to Assad and will likely remain so even if the scattered unrest he faces shows signs of coalescing into an organized and cohesive movement. And this is almost certainly already happening. All of the supposedly spontaneous Middle Eastern popular uprisings of recent months were organized and strategized to some degree by way of social networking. It’s unthinkable Syrians, who enjoy one of the highest Internet-penetration rates in the region, aren’t availing themselves of this weapon as their chapter in the new Arab Revolt unfolds.

Assad will know this. He’s perhaps the world’s only webhead of state. As president of the Syrian Computer Society –the one public position he held before being abruptly promoted from spare to heir-apparent following brother Basil’s death –Assad helped to introduce the Internet to his benighted country.

Since succeeding his father as president in 2000, he has presided over a series of increasingly harsh restrictions on its use. However, Assad is aware Syrians routinely evade state firewalls blocking YouTube, Wikipedia and other forbidden sites by using international proxy servers. The protests he faces were inspired by the largely bloodless Arab Spring awakenings in Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings his people followed on the ‘Net not in Syria’s state-controlled media. Last month one of his first concessions to those demanding liberalization of the arbitrary “emergency laws” Syria has been ruled by since 1963 was to lift a five-year official ban on Facebook (fear of “Israeli infiltration” was one of the official rationalizations for denying access).

While still attempting to enforce a media blackout and keep the world blind to his country’s upheavals, Assad knows any scenes of unchecked aggression against demonstrators would bleed out onto the Internet and television screens. Demands for his ouster would go viral as quickly as YouTube videos of wholesale carnage in Syria.

The Damascus-Tehran axis has been a centerpiece of Syrian foreign policy since he assumed power, an alliance intent on establishing a joint hegemony extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Adventurism and terrorism predicated on destabilizing other Arab regimes and subverting the regional balance of power has made Assad quite as despised by his neighbors as Qaddafi.  Any reversion to true   form now in terms of an unchecked counter-insurgency campaign would almost certainly draw Qaddafi -type pan-Arab condemnation.  Outside intervention, while unlikely, is not entirely unthinkable.

Assad is attempting to quell the unrest by launching what amounts to a fits-and-starts reform program in conjunction with his low-intensity crackdown. Whether this strategy will be sufficient to keep him in office and maintain the iron Baathist grip on power remains to be seen. But at the very least it’s time for Assad to post a status update. One to the effect the old rules are no longer in play.


5 yrs of Twitter? I cn hrdly blv it

David Frum March 19th, 2011 at 8:59 am 8 Comments

5 yrs of Twitter?

I cn hrdly blv it.

Y it seems just ystrdy oped clmnsts wd go on & on.

Ponderously using 900 wds to make a pt that cd be made in a sentence or 2.

Then they discvrd that a 900 wd oped cd easily be reduced to a 400 wrd blogpost.

And now a 140 character Tweet.

The computr revn first compressed the machines that did the processing.

Now the revn has compressed time itself.

I have bn using Twitter for 14 months. @davidfrum.

I value Twitter highly.

It’s becom my personal newswire.

In an emgncy like the #earthquake +#tsunami+#meltdown in #Japan,

My various Twitter feeds delivers most information fastest.

(I subscribe to 366 feeds.)

Twitter hs becom my best advertisng medium for my website.

A pithy Tweet pulls readers to a good story like nothing else.

(Way better than Facebook, about wh don’t get me started – ugh.)

Twitter is also emerging as a fascinating new way of writing and talking.

I’ve engaged in fierce Twitter debates about issues like Bush and war crimes accusations

Unlike even on a blog, people on Twitter can watch debate occurring in real time

Between you & an interlocuter in Rio de Janeiro!

Every thought tightly compressed.

Twitter has its own style of humor:

Set up line followed by the punchline in the form of a hashtag.

EG: This coverage of a morning in the House of Reps by @daveweigel

Ted Poe on floor now celebrating 400th anniversary of King James Bible. #jobcreating #itsaprettygoodbiblethough

Some say Twitter will destroy the Englsh sentence, kill literature.

No.

The newspaper column as we kno it is an artifact of telegraphy.

Prvious to mid-19th c., journalism was modeled on the personal letter.

See for example the famous “Spectator” of Addison & Steele.

Or else upon a sermon, as with Dr S Johnson’s Rambler and Idler.

Now take a look at a Walter Winchell column from the 1930s.

Individual sentences separated by three dots, unworried about overall form.

Just like a telegram.

“… Nothing recedes like success ….”

English prose adapts to new media.

Even too English poetry.

See Don Marquis’ Archy & Mehitabel.

Time time said old king tut

is something i ain t

got anything but

R we really sorry that TV abridged the 3 hr parliamentary oration

Into an 8 second clip?

How much more needed than, “Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall”?

My friend John Avlon, editor of new book on histry of news column

Reminds that Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story in 6 wds.

Baby Shoes. For Sale. Never Used.

Gd writing alwys followed rule: omit needless words.

Strunk & White.

Twitter enforces that rule brutally.

Don’t like Twitter? Don’t use it. And don’t worry:

New tech coming, will bring new change.

Nature of language.

In meantime, it’s the grammar of the age.

My wife & I are building a new house in Ont’s P. Edward Cty.

On v strict budget.

Architect directed to omit anything not absolutely essential.

House was pared to 1400 sq feet. 2 bdrooms. Glass & concrete.

We call it: “Twitter House.”

It’s how we live now.

Originally published in the National Post.


Israel’s BlackBerry Gap

March 18th, 2011 at 9:07 am Comments Off

Over the last week it has surprised me that there were so few BlackBerrys in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem. In a city that is supposed to be the center of their politics, I met with probably a dozen senior defense, foreign affairs and political officials – and spotted only one BlackBerry.

In fact, it seems as though the typical politico’s phone is a simple, throwaway flip-phone that you could get for free in America with a contract. Sitting down for dinner with Herb Keinon, a writer for the Jerusalem Post, I expressed my consternation – having been away from the States for only a few days, I was already undergoing the jittery effects of BlackBerry-withdrawal. Keinon too, had not yet switched over to a smart phone.

The difference, Keinon says, is the preponderance of radio news. “Radio is a major element [of news dissemination] here,” he said. “Israelis are very in tune with the radio. You hear the beeps on the radio [signaling a news event] and you listen.”

Top spokespersons for the IDF, too, appeared to have no BlackBerrys (though one did show up to dinner with a loaded rifle). How, I asked Keinon, did he ask questions of political spokespersons? “I call them!” he said. A table of American reporters around him explained that calling rarely gets a frank response from risk-adverse American political spokespersons, many of whom like to see what the questions are up front before they issue a response.

Keinon said that spokespersons are typically empowered to talk to reporters without checking in with the chain of command. And of course, there is the stereotypical Israeli frankness. “People will just tell you bluntly what they have to say,” he said – there is no literal translation of the word ‘subtle’ in Hebrew.

Israel is a country that is still slow to pick up on new media trends, especially in politics –something that is no doubt related to a lower number of smart phones in Jerusalem. However, this is quickly improving in official circles: for example, the Israeli Defense Forces were quick to tweet pictures of armaments seized on the way to the Gaza Strip earlier this week. The IDF also regularly tweets about detainments of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The slower adoption of new media in Israel as compared to, say, America may be in part due to the slow rise of Hebrew-language political blogs.

It’s also interesting to note that not only do reporters have different relationship with official spokespersons than one might expect in the U.S., but average Israelis also have a remarkably more intimate relationship with the news and newspapers.

This can be partly attributed to religion. Observant Jews following the rules of the Sabbath are unable to use electronics from Friday evening until Saturday evening. Many spend the day going through a mound of newspapers.

This can also be partially attributed to conscription, I’m told. With a few exceptions, Israelis between 18 and 21 are required to undergo military service. Newspaper reading is one of the things that the culture of that service drills into them – when they have time to spare, soldiers will frequently be seen reading the news.

The adoption of new media trends is on the rise in Israel, and with a population so hungry and tuned into the news, one would expect it to rise quickly!

Tim Mak is in Israel as a Media Fellow with the new media organization Act for Israel.


Click here to read Tim’s reports from Israel.

Add Tim on twitter: www.twitter.com/timkmak


Oops! HuffPo Puffs 9/11 Truther

David Frum March 9th, 2011 at 4:09 pm 49 Comments

You’ll miss the Mainstream Media when they’re gone.

You’ll miss professional reporting.

You’ll miss editors who ask questions like, “What’s your source?”

What you’ll have instead is … well let me tell you a story that happened yesterday.

It involves Dan Froomkin, a writer who became a hero of the lefty blogosphere during the Bush years for his ferocious attacks on the supposedly supine Washington press corps.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

Froomkin delivered these attacks from the belly of the beast, WashingtonPost.com, where he was employed from 1997 to 2009. After the Post ended his contract, Froomkin shifted to the Huffington Post, where yesterday he published a story on HuffPo’s homepage under the reader-inviting headline:

“A Reagan Republican Makes A Case Against The War — And His Own Party”

The piece glowingly profiled Paul Craig Roberts, who was introduced by Froomkin in the following terms:

Roberts, 70, is one of the original Reagan Republicans. From his perch at the Treasury Department, he was a chief architect of Reaganomics. He edited and wrote for the Wall Street Journal editorial page and was a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Now a syndicated columnist living in the Florida Panhandle, he’s still a devoted supply-sider.

But Roberts is profoundly alienated from the modern GOP, particularly when it comes to civil liberties — and wars.

Sounds interesting, right? Man-bites-dog and all that. To underscore the significance of Roberts’ critique, the story was illustrated with a flattering close-up photograph of Roberts, a portrait of a Founding Father in Continental uniform hovering just over his left shoulder.

Unfortunately, Froomkin’s introduction of Paul Craig Roberts omitted some relevant facts from Roberts’ biography:

* Roberts is a 9/11 denialist, who has stated his views emphatically, repeatedly, and unabashedly for over a decade, eg here.

* Roberts believes that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reduced whites to second-class citizenship.

Racial privilege is a fact of U.S. law. … White males had best give up any idea of defending their women or themselves, and women should not confuse their men’s aversion to jail with cowardice. America has returned to the feudal age when legally-privileged nobles could assault commoners at will, but woe to any commoner who returned the compliment.

* Roberts laments the disappearance of Confederate symbols from public spaces, and argues that never in American history were black people treated as badly as white people are treated today.

* In 2009, the Anti-Defamation League publicly condemned Roberts as an anti-Semite, reacting in part to columns like this one:

There’s no money for California, or for Americans’ health care, or for the several million Americans who have lost their homes and are homeless, because Israel needs it.

Roberts’ idiosyncracies are not exactly obscure facts. As the ADL noted, no non-fringe US publication has carried any of Roberts’ writings since 2006. A phone call or Facebook message to any of Roberts’ former Reagan administration colleagues would have discovered the whole sad story.

I exchanged emails with Dan Froomkin last night, and he acknowledged he did not know that Paul Craig Roberts was a Truther crank. Froomkin evidently did not know any of the things you’d think a reporter would want to find out before writing a piece attesting in front of millions of news consumers to the significance of one individual’s views.

OK, so one reporter did bad work. So what? It happens.

Here’s the so what: It is precisely because “it happens” that reporters do bad work that old-line media organizations instituted quality checks to protect news users from disinformation. Old-line media organizations hoped that these quality checks would incubate a corporate culture in which truth took precedence over ideology.

But those quality checks were expensive. They got in the way. And it turned out that a media organization could make a lot more money by putting ideology ahead of truth. That’s the story of Fox and talk radio. That’s the story of media pranksters like Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe.

And it’s the story of Dan Froomkin and Huffington Post.

I wrote to Dan last night to ask him whether he was unaware that Roberts was a 9/11 Truther. Dan confirmed that he was indeed unaware – but that the Huffington Post had since added an update.

Here it is:

A reader notes that Roberts has also written several times that he does not believe the official explanations surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Roberts wrote an essay in 2006 espousing many of the so-called “Truther” beliefs, casting doubt on how the World Trade Center towers actually collapsed and raising the possibility of a military cover-up. Roberts defended those views in an email: “No real investigation has been done, and experts who raise points have simply been brushed aside or called ‘conspiracy theorists.’” He added that “until the ‘truthers’ are professionally answered, I will remain a 9/11 skeptic.” Roberts’ beliefs clearly raise questions about the soundness of his foreign policy views. He either should not have been cited in the piece or the article should have clearly noted his perspectives.

Beyond that PS, the story remains intact on the Huffington Post site, although hastily removed from prominence, under its original headline identifying Paul Craig Roberts as a “Reagan Republican.”

I wrote to Dan last night that I’d seen more repentant corrections for spelling errors. I asked if I might interview him. When I did not get an answer, I emailed my questions:

Dan, I appreciate that you may feel reluctant to answer questions, and I do have a mid-morning deadline. To encourage and to expedite, permit me to provide in advance the questions I’d wish to ask you:

1) How did the idea of a Huffington Post profile of Paul Craig Roberts originate? Was it suggested to you by anyone? If spontaneous with you, how did you happen to know of Roberts? After all, he has not published any work on any non-fringe media platform since 2006?

2) Beyond your telephone calls and email exchanges with Roberts, what other research did you do before writing the profile?

3) What editorial process occurred after the piece was drafted? Did an editor read and approve or did it proceed direct to the home page without editorial intervention?

4) Who wrote the postscript to the piece? By what process was it decided to leave the original headline and text intact?

Froomkin responded by email as follows, and I’ll give his reply in full:

When I spoke to Roberts about his views on Afghanistan, I was unaware that he was a 9/11 skeptic. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have written about him. There was plenty of evidence of his views on the Internet and I was negligent in not having explored his past writings more thoroughly. Had I found out before publication, we would have killed the story.  When we became aware of those views after publication, we quickly removed the story from a position of prominence on the website. But rather than take the story down entirely, which would not have been transparent, we immediately appended an editor’s note.

I originally decided to contact Roberts after running across a recent column he wrote criticizing the push for military action in Libya. I did a brief search for his writings about Afghanistan, and found his intense opposition notable given his background with the Reagan administration and in light of Grover Norquist’s recent suggestion that Reagan himself would not have supported such a venture. But I should have looked much more closely at his background.

But of course Froomkin didn’t look closely. Perhaps he did not wish to look. Who knows what you might find that way? And there does not seem to have been anybody with the authority or the interest to make him look.

When the Huffington Post hired veteran newsmen Howard Fineman and Tom Edsall, it did seem that some Old Media values might be imported into at least one New Media platform. But the incentives run very strongly the other way. Everyone can see that a media enterprise gets more clicks and better ratings from confirming preconceived opinions than from challenging them. And the consequences of a horrible mistake? Very low. It didn’t hurt Andrew Breitbart to circulate a deceptively edited tape of Shirley Sherrod. And I doubt it will matter very much that Dan Froomkin celebrated a 9/11 denialist as a lonely heroic defender of civil liberties.

Welcome to 21st century journalism. That old ideal “Without fear or favor”? It’s outmoded! It’s been replaced with a new rule: “Let the buyer beware.”