Response to – Is the authority of the press really weakened by the Internet? Hold your thoughts!

In the post, “Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press,” Jay Rosen discusses three regions that according to Daniel Hallin explain journalism in the United States.  Although interesting, I find that his argument is at times too limiting.  For one, I don’t think that journalism in this country can so easily be divided into three spheres.  Although he does mention that the “three spheres are not really separate; they create one another, like the public and private do.” (pg. 2), making the model less rigid, I still find this three part model rather rigid. For one, it doesn’t take into account, like Rosen mentions, the significant influence of digital news platforms.

Considering that Rosen wrote the post in 2009, we can perhaps accept that he didn’t expand on this last point.  However, in 2012 we can no longer have a legitimate discussion about any definition of journalism without discussing the effect of the internet and digital platforms.

On this subject, I agree when Mariana says that, “The difference between a journalist and a political “apasionado” and bloggers in this point is that a newsman will always rely on official, known, proven to be reliable and accurate sources to get the facts straight and will always rely on checking the accuracy of those facts.”  Nonetheless, there are legitimate journalists that write for blogs and who certainly fact-check what they’re reporting.   They might certainly not be the majority, but like any other relatively new media platform, we need to allow time to show us the shape that it will ultimately take.

Political Players

In her post, Mariana also discusses the following quote by Rosen, “one of the problems with our political press is that its reference group for establishing the “ground” of consensus is the insiders: the professional political class in Washington.” She responds by saying that, “Truth is, if a journalist is writing about politics, who are supposed to be his sources? The players. Who else? A journalist cannot interview the whole American public, that’s why it relies on research and studies done at the different respects.”  I agree with her that as political journalists we often rely on “the players,” those in the political professional class that are immersed in the subject.  But I also appreciate Rosen’s criticism.  As journalists, counting on a “reference group” can make us too comfortable, and let’s be honest, even lazy.  It’s imperative that we look outside the established political insiders and at least consider others that might present a distinct dialogue.

The historian and the journalist

The last point I’d like to address is Mariana’s statement comparing history to journalism.  She states that, “…journalism can be a lot like history, since both analyze facts and interpret them…the historian bias due to his social, cultural, familiar, educational, health related, socio-economic, geographical background will interfere deeply and directly in his interpretation of the facts, whether he is aware of it or not.”  I agree that it’s human nature to be biased in some way.  As journalists, even in trying to remain unbiased, our experiences will undoubtedly affect how we report on a story.  However, I am not sure that this will ever change or that it should.

Overall, I’d like to know how Rosen would discuss Hallin’s three-sphere model in 2012.  What has changed?  Mariana on her end, did a good job in presenting Rosen’s most important arguments while also adding some though-provoking elements of her own.

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Response to Campaign Finance 2012: Buddy, can you spare a $1

How a campaign is financed – and how transparent that financing is – are critical to democracy. Linda’s discussion about Ellen L. Weintraub’s and Jason K. Levine’s “Campaign Finance and the 2008 Elections: How Small Change Can Really Add Up,” had great examples of what is supposed to be transparent but is in fact really hard to find, as well as what is transparent, but nobody seems to be talking about it.

First, how John McCain’s 2008 campaign was funded was difficult to track down. I set to looking further into this after class and spent a couple of hours reading news reports with lots of accusations of flip flops, but very little on context and the big picture of “who did what.” In summary, what my online search of news reports, OpenSecrets, and then verification through the FEC, found was that McCain accepted public financing for the primaries, then opted out part the way through because he didn’t want to stick to the spending guidelines once he had spent more money than the limits allowed. However, in the general election, according to the FEC Summary of Contributions, McCain appears to have stuck with public financing and used the $84,103,800 in federal funds. The FEC has a fairly solid presidential campaign data visualizer, however, their search fields turned up nothing when the key words “McCain” + “2008” + “public financing” are used, which I found frustrating when trying to get financing information from the site.

Next, was the incredibly telling Obama vs. Romney Contributor’s table that Linda showed in one of her slides. It was impactful not in its surprise factor, but the clarity of the category of backers for each candidate. The top five contributors for Romney are five major banks. The top five contributors of Obama’s campaign are two tech giants, two universities, and a global law firm, which represents mainly tech companies. I wish we were seeing more journalist-written stories and analysis and what that means and why it matters. A Google search for these kinds of reporter analysis turned up a couple of blog posts and one PolitiFact article confirming a Facebook post which listed the top 6 contributors for each candidate. I think political journalists can do better and I certainly hope as the election heats up, we will see more in depth reporting on who is backing who and what it means.

Note: This was originally posted as a comment directly to Linda’s piece, but I realized there was an actual category for response to discussion leader so I’m posting it here, as well.