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March 27, 2007

“Who Watches the Watchers?”

by at 10:22 am.

My husband will kill me for using that phrase as a title, because I haven’t ever found time to finish Watchmen, but it’s appropos for the newest journalist-blogger tussle (and this on the eve of the NENF conference in Lowell in two weeks, no less) about remarks from David Bernstein about the Governor, bloggers, and grassroots governing. Bernstein responded on the BMG thread, stating that he really meant to write his post about how things will be perceived in the media and the public. It’s too bad he couldn’t have been so precise on his original points, especially given that he tells us at the beginning he neither attended the event nor really looked at the relaunched civic engagement website, DevalPatrick.com.

Massachusetts Liberal points out that the Phoenix can hardly be considered part of the mainstream press, and its reporting is definitely from a different perspective much of the time. Others chimed in, however, like Charley in comments (bold mine):

Perhaps “professional media” would be a better term than “MSM”. And as David Kravitz said, we at BMG are big fans of the Phoenix’s political reporting, both by Adam Reilly and Mr. Bernstein. Even so, these guys sometimes line up with the MSM is some surprising (to me) ways.

It often seems to me that the debate between “Old” and “New” media lies squarely in that space. Loyalty to one’s colleagues sometimes trumps good reporting - and media critique - in the professional sphere. This is one of the reasons I’ve disagreed with Dan Kennedy on some occasions. I like Dan a lot, and I think he’s brilliant and sharp in many of his criticisms on the media, but I also see some of that cliquish tenacity in him as well. When fellows are attacked…for what appear to be good reasons…often the professional media, even those who are considered rogue elements like the Phoenix, sometimes fall back on that gut feeling that one of their own was hurt and they must rally around.

To media watchers who are not professional, who are simply media consumers obsessed with devouring news, this is severely disappointing to us. Though I suppose bloggers are often cliquish too - witness the voracity at which the blogosphere defended Jerome Armstrong when Beat the Press screwed up. Our case was strong, no doubt, but also our reaction was strong. It doesn’t help that bloggers constantly feel like the media is just waiting to swoop down and crush their contribution to the conversation - every time a media story comes out about a blogger and a lack of integrity, the media makes it a big story, even when the facts show it’s an isolated incident. Hell, in the Times piece prompting that Beat the Press segment, they outright deceived and lied.

So it’s obvious, we’re watching them, and they are watching us. With all this watching going on, let’s hope that democracy and truth somehow get served up to the people in the crossfire.

2 Responses to ““Who Watches the Watchers?””

  1. Ryan Says:

    Ditto that last comment. Although, I’d say the onus of informing the public lies with the people who have distrutions of hundreds of thousands and actually get paid…

  2. Dan Kennedy Says:

    “Brilliant and sharp”? Good Lord, what have I done to deserve such praise? Not to be churlish, but when have I come to the defense of an unworthy colleague? Cite someone other than John Carroll, please, since you’ve already conceded that the Jerome Armstrong matter was over the top. (I also think it’s a little unfair to pick on me for defending a guy I *work with*, as opposed to some ne’er-do-well at the Globe or the Herald.) Anyway …

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