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Hullabaloo


Thursday, January 15, 2004

 
Someone's Watching

Via TAPPED, I find that the Columbia Journalism Review has started a blog of sorts called "Campaign Desk" to try to fact check some of the lies and misinformation that get into the bloodstream of the body politic during the campaign.

One of the minor rituals of American presidential politics is the post-election self-examination (or perhaps I should say self-flagellation) by the press. Quadrennially, we regret having pursued some lines of inquiry while ignoring others, or having gotten caught up in momentary feeding frenzies over unimportant things, or having been too susceptible to spin -- and then we resolve to do a better job next time. But now we have a new tool. In 2004, the Web makes it possible to analyze and criticize press coverage in real time, so that suggestions for improved coverage might actually be heeded, and incorporated into campaign coverage, while the campaign is still under way.

Thanks to generous funding from foundations -- mainly the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Revson Foundation, and the Open Society Institute -- we have set up a campaign press criticism "war room" here at the Journalism School, with the beginnings of a full-time professional staff of seven that will monitor as much of the campaign coverage as possible, and write about it here. The managing editor of CampaignDesk.org, Steve Lovelady, is already on board, and he and Mike Hoyt, the editor of CJR, are well into the hiring process. Steve is a veteran journalist who earlier served as a deputy page-one editor at the Wall Street Journal; then, as part of Gene Roberts's dream team at the Philadelphia Inquirer, helped supervise eleven Pulitzer Prize-winning works of journalism over twenty years; and, more recently, was an editor-at-large at Time Inc. Bryan Keefer, assistant managing editor, was one of the co-founders of the website Spinsanity.org. CampaignDesk.org will be updating the site several times daily, with particular emphasis on speed when the staff feels it can get inside the news cycle and try to improve coverage as it's being formed.


They are already doing a fine job in my estimation. They've taken on the lazy lurid non-story of yesterday about Dean's "trooper" beating his wife and have debunked today's breathless Drudge exclusive in which he butchers Wes Clarks testimony before the televised House Armed Services Committee on Iraq.

The hope, I think, is that journalists will turn to this site to get information on the latest spin and misinformation so that they will not be reporting it blind. I have my doubts as to whether many of them give a damn, but there must be at least a few who didn't become reporters purely for the social acceptance of their peers.

Likewise, might I hope that people do not spam this site with abusive e-mails when it doesn't conform to their point of view? It seems like one place where we should try to make reasoned arguments and present evidence rather than vent our spleen. They might actually have an effect on the way the campaign is covered if it works and it would be helpful if it could be a flame-free zone.

Aaaah. Who am I kidding....



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