November 16, 2012

Is there anyone with the same power and visibility who flat out makes stuff up like Roger Ailes?

I don’t think there is. (See this one, for example. Or this.) Here’s what he said the other day to TVNewser’s Chris Ariens:

When I saw the President say, ‘I know you all voted for me,’ and a thousand people stood up and cheered and applauded and then when the applause died down, he said, ‘Oh probably except you guys at the Fox table.’ I thought, ‘Am I the only guy in this room doing his job?’ They set up Freedom of the Press. The press is supposed to watch the powerful. And not throw in with them. And when I watched a thousand people stand and cheer and applaud I thought, ‘Uh oh. Somebody better do this job.’

As soon as I read that quote, I knew it was Roger’s fantasy. Because I had watched the speech. And if the Washington press corps had gotten to its feet at the mention of “all of you voted for me,” I would have remembered it. It would have been a big deal at the time. But it wasn’t. Because the standing ovation never happened.

See for yourself. Go to 1:35 in the above clip. Obama’s joke is, “I am Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me.” Lots of laughter. Lots of applause. Some cheering too. No one gets to their feet. No “a thousand people stand and cheer and applaud.” Ailes just made that up. 

November 8, 2012

"Unless they are going to secede, they are going to have to pop the factual bubble." 

Rachel Maddow at the peak of her talent. Just watch it. It’s from her review and commentary on the 2012 election. 

November 6, 2012
These are my user’s awards for campaign coverage in 2012.
Well, the 2012 campaign is officially over.
These awards reflect my personal opinion upon attempt to use the enormous stream of election journalism that came my way. As you will see, these selections also show my biases. So be it!
My top reporter for 2012 was McKay Coppins, Buzzfeed. An intelligent filter of campaign news and an originator of it. “Tell me something I don’t know” journalism.
My top interpreter: Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine. Consistently put order to the campaign data for me. 
News Scoop of the Cycle: David Corn and Mother Jones (Monika Bauerlein, Clara Jeffery, Editors)  Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters.
Best in my “analysis” category: Ron Fournier, National Journal, Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card. Predictive in its way.
Thought scoop of the cycle: Ron Brownstein, National Journal, "This is the last time anyone will try to do this.”  (For an explanation: click.)
The “aggregator with comment” (also called blogging) site I found more valuable in 2012: Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. A person’s voice, plus aggregation machine, plus user-submitted stuff… very effective.
Editor of the year, 2012 election: Josh Tyrangiel, Businessweek.
Blog post of the cycle: Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama, Conor Friedersdorf on atlantic.com.
Political journalist whose instincts and assessments seemed consistently the sharpest to me: Josh Marshall.
Signal to noise winner, daily coverage: Greg Sargent’s Plum Line, Washington Post. 
Person whose prose I most looked forward to reading in campaign 2012: Mark Leibovich, New York Times magazine.
Pundit I most enjoyed listening to on television: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.
Best television interviewer, 2012 campaign: Soledad O’Brien of CNN.
Special award for going rogue on his colleagues in the press pack: Alex MacGillis of the New Republic.
(Photo credit: bankbryan. Creative commons license.)

These are my user’s awards for campaign coverage in 2012.

Well, the 2012 campaign is officially over.

These awards reflect my personal opinion upon attempt to use the enormous stream of election journalism that came my way. As you will see, these selections also show my biases. So be it!

My top reporter for 2012 was McKay Coppins, Buzzfeed. An intelligent filter of campaign news and an originator of it. “Tell me something I don’t know” journalism.

My top interpreter: Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine. Consistently put order to the campaign data for me. 

News Scoop of the Cycle: David Corn and Mother Jones (Monika Bauerlein, Clara Jeffery, Editors)  Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters.

Best in my “analysis” category: Ron Fournier, National Journal, Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card. Predictive in its way.

Thought scoop of the cycle: Ron Brownstein, National Journal, "This is the last time anyone will try to do this.”  (For an explanation: click.)

The “aggregator with comment” (also called blogging) site I found more valuable in 2012: Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. A person’s voice, plus aggregation machine, plus user-submitted stuff… very effective.

Editor of the year, 2012 election: Josh Tyrangiel, Businessweek.

Blog post of the cycle: Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama, Conor Friedersdorf on atlantic.com.

Political journalist whose instincts and assessments seemed consistently the sharpest to me: Josh Marshall.

Signal to noise winner, daily coverage: Greg Sargent’s Plum Line, Washington Post. 

Person whose prose I most looked forward to reading in campaign 2012: Mark Leibovich, New York Times magazine.

Pundit I most enjoyed listening to on television: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

Best television interviewer, 2012 campaign: Soledad O’Brien of CNN.

Special award for going rogue on his colleagues in the press pack: Alex MacGillis of the New Republic.

(Photo credit: bankbryan. Creative commons license.)

November 1, 2012
Nate Silver of 538.com and his critics in the press corps. Get your literacy up.
With these five links… (Only have time for one? Fine: one. Want more than five? Scroll down.)
Dylan Byers in Politico. Nate Silver: One-term celebrity? …Sets forth some criticisms of Silver and observes that he has a lot riding on the outcome of the election.
Brendan Nyhan in CJR. Pundits versus probabilities: The misguided backlash against Nate Silver… Responds to those criticisms.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. Under Attack, Nate Silver Picks the Wrong Defense. …Knocks Silver for offering to bet on his prediction. (Proceeds to charity.)
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, Sorry, Margaret, You Need to Get Out More. “…Silver is not really reliant on the Times at all. He’s his own brand.”
Mark Coddington at his blog. Why political journalists can’t stand Nate Silver: The limits of journalistic knowledge… This is about data masters vs. interpreters of the race.
Bonus link: for those want to know a lot about this argument. 
Snark version: Deadspin, Nate Silver’s Braying Idiot Detractors Show That Being Ignorant About Politics Is Like Being Ignorant About Sports
Academic lit crit version: The Passion of Nate Silver (Sort Of) by Natalia Cecire of Yale University. (“This is a form of boyishness, as boyishness has been constructed in U.S. history.”)
Geek version, In Defense of Nate Silver, Election Pollsters, and Statistical Predictions by Zeynep Tufekci in Wired. (Want less horse race journalism? Then you want Nate Silver’s modeling.)
Photo credit: Randy Stewart, Creative Commons License. 

Nate Silver of 538.com and his critics in the press corps. Get your literacy up.

With these five links… (Only have time for one? Fine: one. Want more than five? Scroll down.)

Dylan Byers in Politico. Nate Silver: One-term celebrity? …Sets forth some criticisms of Silver and observes that he has a lot riding on the outcome of the election.

Brendan Nyhan in CJR. Pundits versus probabilities: The misguided backlash against Nate Silver… Responds to those criticisms.

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. Under Attack, Nate Silver Picks the Wrong Defense. …Knocks Silver for offering to bet on his prediction. (Proceeds to charity.)

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, Sorry, Margaret, You Need to Get Out More. “…Silver is not really reliant on the Times at all. He’s his own brand.”

Mark Coddington at his blog. Why political journalists can’t stand Nate Silver: The limits of journalistic knowledge… This is about data masters vs. interpreters of the race.

Bonus link: for those want to know a lot about this argument. 

Snark version: Deadspin, Nate Silver’s Braying Idiot Detractors Show That Being Ignorant About Politics Is Like Being Ignorant About Sports

Academic lit crit version: The Passion of Nate Silver (Sort Of) by Natalia Cecire of Yale University. (“This is a form of boyishness, as boyishness has been constructed in U.S. history.”)

Geek version, In Defense of Nate Silver, Election Pollsters, and Statistical Predictions by Zeynep Tufekci in Wired. (Want less horse race journalism? Then you want Nate Silver’s modeling.)

Photo credit: Randy Stewart, Creative Commons License. 

November 1, 2012
We walk like rats. I’m in the dark zone of Manhattan. Last night after walking home from Times Square I noticed something about the pedestrians as they criss-crossed the blacked-out streets— including myself. 
Jay Rosen ‏@jayrosen_nyu

Third night on the dark end of Manhattan linked to the grid by iPhone. Spooky out there. People behave more like rats when streets go black.

Sources of light are sources of danger. It’s a car or a bike headed at you, or a dad and a kid with a flashlight. And so as you’re walking in the dark end of Manhattan you instinctively move away from the light when you see it. More like a rat would.
(Photo credit Nate Sherman, under a Creative Commons License.)

We walk like rats. I’m in the dark zone of Manhattan. Last night after walking home from Times Square I noticed something about the pedestrians as they criss-crossed the blacked-out streets— including myself. 

Third night on the dark end of Manhattan linked to the grid by iPhone. Spooky out there. People behave more like rats when streets go black.

Sources of light are sources of danger. It’s a car or a bike headed at you, or a dad and a kid with a flashlight. And so as you’re walking in the dark end of Manhattan you instinctively move away from the light when you see it. More like a rat would.

(Photo credit Nate Sherman, under a Creative Commons License.)

November 1, 2012
Best-ever thing you can read on climate change and the American press.
A convenient excuse by Wen Stephenson in the Boston Phoenix is unlike anything I have read on the subject. Stephenson is a colleague of journalists at places like the Boston Globe, Atlantic magazine and Frontline on PBS. He used to work side-by-side with them. Then he quit for writing projects of his own. He would up devoting himself to grasping climate change, and doing something about it. Here he tells his former co-workers what he thinks of their response to the slow-moving crisis that is now upon us. A key quote:
You are failing. You are failing to treat the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced like the crisis that it is. Why?
Look, unlike most of your critics, I know you. You’re not just names on a page or a screen to me: you’re living, breathing human beings, with lives and families. I’ve shared the stresses and anxieties of journalism in this era. I know how hard you work, and how relatively little (most of) you are paid. I know how insecure your jobs are. And I know that your work — even your very best work — is most often thankless. Believe me. I know.
I also know that you take your responsibility as journalists, as public servants, seriously. Why is it, then, that you are so utterly failing on this all-important topic? I could be wrong, but I think I understand. I’m afraid it has to do with self-image and self-censorship.
Nothing is more important to me as a journalist than my independence. Yes, I’m still a journalist. And I’m as independent as I’ve ever been — maybe, if you can imagine this, even more so. Because leaving behind my mainstream journalism career has freed me to speak and write about climate and politics in ways that were virtually impossible inside the MSM bubble, where I had to worry about perceptions, and about keeping my job, and whether I’d be seen by my peers and superiors as an advocate. God forbid.
Read the rest. It is clear, direct, honest and very, very critical of our press.
But the problem it identifies is so huge that solving it requires an ideological war to be fought and won within the journalism profession, which is still populated by people convinced that they have no ideology. That makes me pessimistic. What makes me optimistic: the pressures that brought Stephenson to his conclusion, (“business-as-usual, politics-as-usual, and journalism-as-usual are failing us…”) are not going to change. And so others may be led to where he has gone.

Best-ever thing you can read on climate change and the American press.

A convenient excuse by Wen Stephenson in the Boston Phoenix is unlike anything I have read on the subject. Stephenson is a colleague of journalists at places like the Boston Globe, Atlantic magazine and Frontline on PBS. He used to work side-by-side with them. Then he quit for writing projects of his own. He would up devoting himself to grasping climate change, and doing something about it. Here he tells his former co-workers what he thinks of their response to the slow-moving crisis that is now upon us. A key quote:

You are failing. You are failing to treat the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced like the crisis that it is. Why?
Look, unlike most of your critics, I know you. You’re not just names on a page or a screen to me: you’re living, breathing human beings, with lives and families. I’ve shared the stresses and anxieties of journalism in this era. I know how hard you work, and how relatively little (most of) you are paid. I know how insecure your jobs are. And I know that your work — even your very best work — is most often thankless. Believe me. I know.
I also know that you take your responsibility as journalists, as public servants, seriously. Why is it, then, that you are so utterly failing on this all-important topic? I could be wrong, but I think I understand. I’m afraid it has to do with self-image and self-censorship.
Nothing is more important to me as a journalist than my independence. Yes, I’m still a journalist. And I’m as independent as I’ve ever been — maybe, if you can imagine this, even more so. Because leaving behind my mainstream journalism career has freed me to speak and write about climate and politics in ways that were virtually impossible inside the MSM bubble, where I had to worry about perceptions, and about keeping my job, and whether I’d be seen by my peers and superiors as an advocate. God forbid.

Read the rest. It is clear, direct, honest and very, very critical of our press.

But the problem it identifies is so huge that solving it requires an ideological war to be fought and won within the journalism profession, which is still populated by people convinced that they have no ideology. That makes me pessimistic. What makes me optimistic: the pressures that brought Stephenson to his conclusion, (“business-as-usual, politics-as-usual, and journalism-as-usual are failing us…”) are not going to change. And so others may be led to where he has gone.

October 16, 2012
Just hold the mic and keep the clock, Candy. 
That’s what the Romney and Obama campaigns have said to the moderator of tonight’s debate, Candy Crowley. But she has other plans. From my new piece in The Guardian on why we continue to argue about the moderator’s role.

Just hold the mic and keep the clock, Candy. Good rule?
On that we have no consensus. But the strange thing is that our complete lack of consensus has been built into the system. That’s why we keep arguing about it. It can sound arcane, like a dispute over procedure, with big egos getting in the way. But what we’re really arguing about is this: In a real debate, in a grown-up world, in the political and media systems we actually have, does presidential power need an interlocutor to reveal itself? Or can it speak for itself and by taking responsibility – stepping up to the plate, under pressure – make itself sufficiently clear?
… In the vice-presidential debate, Martha Raddatz said something like this: Thank you for your service, Jim Lehrer! I will not be taking your approach. I am the interlocutor tonight. I represent the audience’s interest in getting better answers. I will intervene when needed. Politely, of course! And if I don’t hear any specifics, I will press the candidates to provide them. I am also a reporter myself, and will bring my knowledge to the table when I ask my questions. I think the people watching this understand very well why I am here, so abuse me at your peril. Are you ready, candidates?
To Jim Lehrer’s minimalism and Martha Raddatz’s vitalism, Candy Crowley has to bring something different: a kind of ventriloquism.

The rest is here.

Just hold the mic and keep the clock, Candy. 

That’s what the Romney and Obama campaigns have said to the moderator of tonight’s debate, Candy Crowley. But she has other plans. From my new piece in The Guardian on why we continue to argue about the moderator’s role.

Just hold the mic and keep the clock, Candy. Good rule?

On that we have no consensus. But the strange thing is that our complete lack of consensus has been built into the system. That’s why we keep arguing about it. It can sound arcane, like a dispute over procedure, with big egos getting in the way. But what we’re really arguing about is this: In a real debate, in a grown-up world, in the political and media systems we actually have, does presidential power need an interlocutor to reveal itself? Or can it speak for itself and by taking responsibility – stepping up to the plate, under pressure – make itself sufficiently clear?

… In the vice-presidential debate, Martha Raddatz said something like this: Thank you for your service, Jim Lehrer! I will not be taking your approach. I am the interlocutor tonight. I represent the audience’s interest in getting better answers. I will intervene when needed. Politely, of course! And if I don’t hear any specifics, I will press the candidates to provide them. I am also a reporter myself, and will bring my knowledge to the table when I ask my questions. I think the people watching this understand very well why I am here, so abuse me at your peril. Are you ready, candidates?

To Jim Lehrer’s minimalism and Martha Raddatz’s vitalism, Candy Crowley has to bring something different: a kind of ventriloquism.

The rest is here.

October 11, 2012
Jim Lehrer, debate moderator of the minimalist school, answers your questions.
All answers are Jim Lehrer’s words quoted verbatim. Click on the A. for the source and to check up on my editing. I did the questions myself, FAQ style.
Q. It seemed to us, and a lot of other people, that you lost control of the debate. Did you?
A. “It’s not my job to control the conversation. If the candidates gave me resistance, and I let them talk, to me that’s being an active moderator, not a passive moderator.”
Q. So letting them talk was what you were trying to do? 
A. “I thought the format accomplished its purpose, which was to facilitate direct, extended exchanges between the candidates about issues of substance. Part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so.”
Q. How did this format come about?
A. “The Commission came to me with this idea… Let’s see if we can try to have a real debate–not a moderated, simultaneous one-on-one interviews with the candidates, which is what they’ve been for all practical purposes–and set up a situation where the challenging is done not by the moderator, but is done by the candidates. And the candidates are either up to it or they’re not up to it. They’re either ready to go or not ready to go.”
Q. And if they’re reluctant to engage on the harder issues, which has been known to happen in politics, it would not be your job to prod or challenge them?
A. “I was not there to do the challenging. I was there to facilitate the challenging. If they didn’t want to do it, then I wasn’t going to do that work for them.”
Q. Okay, but does this extend even to keeping time? At several points in the debate, both candidates just rolled right over when you tried to enforce time limits. Was that part of the plan too?
A. “The first few times I said ‘let’s move on’ and they wanted to keep talking, the inclination of course is to stop them so I could cover all the subjects I wanted to cover. But I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Wait a minute, they’re talking to each other, leave ‘em alone.’ So I backed off.”
Q. And are you happy with how it turned out?
A. “Sitting here talking to you now, I have absolutely no second thoughts about it. I think it was a major development in the growth of presidential debates.”
Q. Major development: How so?
A. “This is the first time in the history of American political campaigning where an incumbent president of the United States stood eyeball to eyeball to a challenger and they talked at each other and they talked about things that mattered. That each was allowed to challenge the other and respond to that challenge.”
Q. If it’s candidate to candidate, eyeball to eyeball, then why have a moderator at all? 
A. “I don’t know if I’d go that far. But I think we took a step in that direction on Wednesday night and I think that’s a very good thing. It’s not about a moderator following up and asking tough questions. You can do that in interviews.”
Q. Mitt’s Romney’s comments on the 47 percent of Americans who see themselves as victims and want the government to take care of them: do you think that should have been part of a debate on domestic policy? You could have asked about it, but you didn’t. Why?
A. “The reason I didn’t ask that is because I felt those were the questions the two candidates were to ask. I was not there to question people. I was there to allow the candidates to question each other. Certainly I could have brought up the 47 percent. All kinds of things I could have brought up.”
Q. Were you bothered at all by the way Governor Romney at times bullied and interrupted you? 
A. “Everybody saw it. If somebody was turned off by the way Romney interrupted me, then they saw it… Judge it and react accordingly.”
Q. What about a situation where a candidate lies or distorts the record, and his opponent is reluctant to go after him for his own reasons? The American people in that situation won’t even get a shot at the truth. That’s a problem, isn’t it?
A. “No, I couldn’t disagree with you more. This is ninety minutes in a campaign that’s already been underway for a year… This was ninety minutes of the two candidates showing who they are and what they were willing– if Obama made a decision, he didn’t want to do that, alright, now we know that.”
Q. So you’re not moved by any of the criticism since the debate?
A. I’ve heard some of the criticism, but it’s not keeeping me awake at night. My conscience is clear.”
To read my analysis go to my site, PressThink: The Vanishing Moderator.

Jim Lehrer, debate moderator of the minimalist school, answers your questions.

All answers are Jim Lehrer’s words quoted verbatim. Click on the A. for the source and to check up on my editing. I did the questions myself, FAQ style.

Q. It seemed to us, and a lot of other people, that you lost control of the debate. Did you?

A. “It’s not my job to control the conversation. If the candidates gave me resistance, and I let them talk, to me that’s being an active moderator, not a passive moderator.”

Q. So letting them talk was what you were trying to do? 

A. “I thought the format accomplished its purpose, which was to facilitate direct, extended exchanges between the candidates about issues of substance. Part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so.”

Q. How did this format come about?

A. “The Commission came to me with this idea… Let’s see if we can try to have a real debate–not a moderated, simultaneous one-on-one interviews with the candidates, which is what they’ve been for all practical purposes–and set up a situation where the challenging is done not by the moderator, but is done by the candidates. And the candidates are either up to it or they’re not up to it. They’re either ready to go or not ready to go.”

Q. And if they’re reluctant to engage on the harder issues, which has been known to happen in politics, it would not be your job to prod or challenge them?

A. “I was not there to do the challenging. I was there to facilitate the challenging. If they didn’t want to do it, then I wasn’t going to do that work for them.”

Q. Okay, but does this extend even to keeping time? At several points in the debate, both candidates just rolled right over when you tried to enforce time limits. Was that part of the plan too?

A. “The first few times I said ‘let’s move on’ and they wanted to keep talking, the inclination of course is to stop them so I could cover all the subjects I wanted to cover. But I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Wait a minute, they’re talking to each other, leave ‘em alone.’ So I backed off.”

Q. And are you happy with how it turned out?

A. “Sitting here talking to you now, I have absolutely no second thoughts about it. I think it was a major development in the growth of presidential debates.”

Q. Major development: How so?

A. “This is the first time in the history of American political campaigning where an incumbent president of the United States stood eyeball to eyeball to a challenger and they talked at each other and they talked about things that mattered. That each was allowed to challenge the other and respond to that challenge.”

Q. If it’s candidate to candidate, eyeball to eyeball, then why have a moderator at all? 

A. “I don’t know if I’d go that far. But I think we took a step in that direction on Wednesday night and I think that’s a very good thing. It’s not about a moderator following up and asking tough questions. You can do that in interviews.”

Q. Mitt’s Romney’s comments on the 47 percent of Americans who see themselves as victims and want the government to take care of them: do you think that should have been part of a debate on domestic policy? You could have asked about it, but you didn’t. Why?

A. “The reason I didn’t ask that is because I felt those were the questions the two candidates were to ask. I was not there to question people. I was there to allow the candidates to question each other. Certainly I could have brought up the 47 percent. All kinds of things I could have brought up.”

Q. Were you bothered at all by the way Governor Romney at times bullied and interrupted you? 

A. “Everybody saw it. If somebody was turned off by the way Romney interrupted me, then they saw it… Judge it and react accordingly.”

Q. What about a situation where a candidate lies or distorts the record, and his opponent is reluctant to go after him for his own reasons? The American people in that situation won’t even get a shot at the truth. That’s a problem, isn’t it?

A. “No, I couldn’t disagree with you more. This is ninety minutes in a campaign that’s already been underway for a year… This was ninety minutes of the two candidates showing who they are and what they were willing– if Obama made a decision, he didn’t want to do that, alright, now we know that.”

Q. So you’re not moved by any of the criticism since the debate?

A. I’ve heard some of the criticism, but it’s not keeeping me awake at night. My conscience is clear.”

To read my analysis go to my site, PressThink: The Vanishing Moderator.

October 7, 2012

Watch what David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press does here (sorry about the ad!)

It’s the only really funny bit from Saturday Night Live’s skit on the first presidential debate. The fake Jim Lehrer says, “Mr. President, Governor Romney has just said that he killed Osama Bin Laden. Would you care to respond?” And Obama replies: “No, you two go ahead.”

David Gregory’s interstitial comment is what I want to bring to your attention: Saturday Night Live was “having some fun at the President’s expense,” he says. True! Obama is shown as comically disengaged and unable to mount any defense of himself.

But the skit is also making savage fun of Mitt Romney. The Saturday Night Live writers are commenting on Romney’s shamelessness, his tendency to say anything that he thinks will help get him elected. Thus, “Governor Romney has just said he killed Osama Bin Laden.” (Which gets a big laugh because it is apt.) What Gregory notices is the Saturday Night Live writers making fun of Obama, probably because Gregory has already absorbed into his own normal Romney’s willingness to say anything, regardless of whether it’s true— like, for example, his false claim that his health care plan covers pre-existing conditions. 

Okay, it’s a tiny thing. And I don’t claim that this is evidence of bias. Nor do I think Gregory is being unfair to Obama. It’s just… interesting what is revealed in his unthinking segue.

September 29, 2012
There is no such thing as judgment with a capital J. 
Today a giant in American journalism passed:
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper’s founding in 1851, died on Saturday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 86.
The final lines of the obituary by Clyde Haberman of the Times are this compelling quote from Sulzberger: “You’re not buying news when you buy The New York Times. You’re buying judgment.”
And that is completely true.
However. There was a time when that was statement was almost enough. Editors could get away with the mystification of what is sometimes called “news judgment.” What I mean by mystification is pretending that the kind of judgments editors make originate not in who they are, or how they think, or where they come from, or the culture they share, or the priorities they have established, not from their vision of the world but simply from their superior knowledge of what news is— from professionalism or experience itself.
I do not think these attitudes suffice any longer. Increasingly, users want to know what goes into those judgments— that is, their basis. If judgment is what they are selling, then New York Times journalists need to know where that thing comes from.
If they continue to mystify the faculty of judgment that Sulzberger spoke of, they will be unable to improve it. If they cannot improve it, they cannot make it more valuable. If they cannot make it more valuable, they cannot prosper and secure their franchise for the next generation of Times journalists.
(Photo credit: B.K. Dewey.)

There is no such thing as judgment with a capital J. 

Today a giant in American journalism passed:

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper’s founding in 1851, died on Saturday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 86.
The final lines of the obituary by Clyde Haberman of the Times are this compelling quote from Sulzberger: “You’re not buying news when you buy The New York Times. You’re buying judgment.”

And that is completely true.

However. There was a time when that was statement was almost enough. Editors could get away with the mystification of what is sometimes called “news judgment.” What I mean by mystification is pretending that the kind of judgments editors make originate not in who they are, or how they think, or where they come from, or the culture they share, or the priorities they have established, not from their vision of the world but simply from their superior knowledge of what news is— from professionalism or experience itself.

I do not think these attitudes suffice any longer. Increasingly, users want to know what goes into those judgments— that is, their basis. If judgment is what they are selling, then New York Times journalists need to know where that thing comes from.

If they continue to mystify the faculty of judgment that Sulzberger spoke of, they will be unable to improve it. If they cannot improve it, they cannot make it more valuable. If they cannot make it more valuable, they cannot prosper and secure their franchise for the next generation of Times journalists.

(Photo credit: B.K. Dewey.)