Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This Post Written by a Fool

Hugh Hewitt had Joseph Rago on his radio program today, discussing his article, "The Blog Mob- Written by fools to be read by imbeciles", which disparaged the blogosphere. Hugh Hewitt challenged Joseph on his belief that the blogosphere is inferior to MSM in reportage, in quality, and in providing oversight.

In challenging the superiority of MSM over the power of the blogosphere, Rago brought up coverage of the Iraq war as a case example. Hugh Hewitt brought up the important work of embedded bloggers, Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Totten:
HH: Those three bloggers have, this year alone, Roggio spent three months in the country, Michael Yon brought news from Mosul of the Gates of Fire series of posts, Michael Totten has been in and out of Kurdistan and Lebanon reporting on the Cedar Revolution. Do you wish to set them up as inferior to any three mainstream media journalists?

JR: No, certainly not.

HH: So if those three represent one aspect of media, then we’ve got a tie.

JR: Well, I don’t think three people adds up to a tie. You know, a Baghdad bureau is extraordinarily expensive, reporters going in and out for the mainstream media. And I just don’t think it’s comparable to find isolated incidents…you know, three people, and compare it to the entire apparatus.

HH: But if those three people are doing good reporting, and mainstream media is by and large doing bad reporting out of Iraq, doesn’t that mean the ‘sphere is doing better reporting?

JR: Well, I mean, I don’t think that the mainstream media is doing all that bad reporting out of Iraq. You know, the pessimistic, glass half-full [I think he means glass half-empty- ws] reporting they’ve done has held up much better than the commentary in the blogosphere.
Rago doesn't really answer Hewitt's question about whether or not "if" three bloggers are doing good reporting and the vast mainstream media network is doing lousy reporting, wouldn't that make the 3 superior?

Hewitt goes on, though, to challenge Rago's belief that the mainstream isn't "doing all that bad reporting out of Iraq", by offering up an interview that Lt. General James Mattis gave:
“I was talking to a lieutenant in Haditha,” he told the San Diego County reporter, “He told me that because they are now all connected nowadays, and they’re FOB’s, he could read stories about Haditha.” He said, “I guarantee you there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here. We are seeing,” the general continued, “I think, an unwitting passing of the enemy’s message, a critical, unwitting passing of the enemy’s message, because the enemy has successfully denied the Western media access to the battlefields. I’m not sure what Lloyds of London is charging now. I think it’s over $5,000 dollars a month insurance for a reporter or photographer to go in. But the murder, the kidnapping, the intimidation means that in many cases, we have media folks who are relying on stringers who are Iraqi. Now you can have any kind of complaint about the American media or Western media you want, but there is at least a nod, an effort, towards objectivity. The stringers who are being brought in, who are bringing in these stories, are not bringing in the same degree of objectivity. So on the one hand, our enemy is denying our media access to the battlefield, where anything, perhaps, that I say as a general is subject to any number of interpretations, challenges, questions. But the enemy’s story, basically, gets out there without that, because our media is unable to challenge them. It’s unwitting, but at the same time, it can promote the enemy’s agenda, simply because there is an apparent attempt at objectivity.” Now Joe, without debating the specifics of what the general’s saying here, he is putting forward the proposition that in fact, mainstream media is terribly broken because they’re giving the appearance of covering what’s going on in Iraq, when in fact they’re relying on Iraqi stringers.
JR: You know, I’m certainly not going to argue with the general who is on the ground and has all the facts. And again, my general argument is in terms of opinion and comment. If you look at the analysis of the Iraqi situation, I think what you’ll find in the mainstream media has largely been more realistic, and more rigorous, than what you’ll find in the blogs.

HH: Well, actually, again, I have to disagree with you, because Mudville Gazette spent a year in country as a sergeant there, a number of mil-bloggers are over there from chaplains to generals. For example, I interviewed John Abizaid at length, put it all up on the blog, got his message out there without the filter that you folks tend to put in the way, you folks being mainstream media people. And in fact, Michael Yon, Roggio, the rest of them, they run circles around your folks. And Bill Roggio just spent…embedded with the Iraqi army, for goodness sake, in Fallujah. That’s after a tour in Afghanistan, another tour in Iraq this year. I think maybe there are some isolated instances of good reporting coming out of Iraq by mainstream media people, but I think unless you can come up with three people who have done the same kind of ground-breaking work, or four people that I’ve just cited, I actually think you’re wrong. Are you open to the prospect that you’re wrong on that?

JR: I’m always open to the prospect that I’m wrong. I just don’t see an argument supported by three or four people versus the entire apparatus of the mainstream media. And I guess the other point is, I don’t think that anybody would read my article and come away saying that the mainstream media is infallible, or that it even always does a good job, or even sometimes does a good job. The point, rather, was that the institution, the way that they filter things, tends to increase seriousness and expertise in the purveying of opinion and comment, and I just don’t see that on the internet.

HH: Well, it sounds to me like you’re making the argument that because the mainstream media spends a lot of money maintaining bureaus in Iraq, they must therefore be doing good work.

JR: No, I don’t think that’s it at all. I’m saying that they have an institutional support which vastly increases the professional reporting.

HH: But again, I don’t think that’s by any means at all evident. If you’ve got Roggio running around Fallujah, typing up his notes every night, where you’ve got Michael Yon in Mosul, or you’ve got Totten running around Kurdistan or Lebanon, typing up their notes and putting it out there, the fact that you’ve got a thousand journalists in the Green Zone doesn’t negate the comparable quality of both of those things. I trust the three Americans who are out in the combat land, and I trust military bloggers, of whom there are legions, much, much more than Green Zone bound journalists. Do you?
So what do you imbeciles think?

Flopping Aces has the audio of the entire interview for download. Transcript up at Hugh Hewitt.


Blogger Old Soldier said...

"So what do you imbeciles think?"

I think Joseph Rago places himself in the category of "imbecile." He must read blogs if he is to be an informed writer, correct? He's probably just p1$$ed because the "alternate media" makes his journalism intelligentsia tow the line in accuracy in reporting. They hate being challenged and especially hate being found in error. Goodness they are a hate filled lot, aren’t they?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 4:51:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Well, Rago is only 23 years old; and I think in his exchange, his ill-experience in comparison to Hewitt's clearly showed through. Hewitt really took him to the woodshed. The audio is worth listening to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 7:50:00 AM  
Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Who u callin an imbecile huh huh huh?..LOL...I trust military bloggers, of whom there are legions, much, much more than Green Zone bound journalists. Do you?..I agree wholeheartedly!..theyre just intimidated that bloggers expose the TRUTH!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 8:35:00 AM  
Blogger The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

This garbage never ends. Today I saw a rant in the headlines stating that Iraq deaths have , "exceeded 9/11 death toll." Imbecile is an understatement. Thanks for the post.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 9:20:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I hope you imbeciles really do take the time to listen to the audio. There's much more that I didn't put up from the transcript. Download...burn to cd, listen in the car, pass it on to your MSM-reading friends.


It makes no sense why there is such an obsession to judge the validity of the war, based upon such comparison numbers. What exactly does that mean, "the death toll has now equaled/exceeded 9/11"?!? We're in a war that will probably last generations; and unfortunately, we have no "lives saved toll" to tally up, because we chose to engage in a war against Islamic terror and regimes who harbor and support terrorism.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 6:44:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

It was milblog day at Hugh Hewitt's yesterday. The audios might be of interest to some of you.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 5:00:00 AM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

I worked as a reporter before being a teacher. The politics of the press is so incredibly all pervasive - and that is their real filter.

Not that I'm saying anything new to anyone here...

Rago sounds like someone who tried to put himself into a vaunted and hallowed profession, and now has to make excuses for the clay feet that sully the image.

He doth protest too much.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 5:17:00 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

I was basically planning on saying the same thing as Old Soldier so Ditto Old Soldier's comments.

The Drive By Media mainly consists of elitist, liberal snobs who are pissed off that bloggers are showing them up and that people are taking us seriously. The same way they condescend to Conservative Talk Show Hosts and Fox News.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

To prove Rago's comments to be imbecilic, all one has to do is look at recent examples of how wrong the "professional" journalists get it. Has Rago forgotten the fiasco of the Katrina reporting? The lies and distortions of Plamegate?

Accuracy takes a back seat to propaganda with the "professionals."

If you want to read unprofessional reporting, pick up The New York Times. Turn on the network news broadcasts or CNN or MSNBC. Listen to NPR.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

The Youthful Curmudgeon (excerpt, by Hewitt):

You have to ask yourself, What has made these young people curmudgeons? After all, Rago is far from the only young journalist who has a decided lack of fondness for the blogosphere and has expressed his hostility in print. In short, Why the anger?

PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS THINK journalism is tough. Most of them went to school with an eye towards entering their chosen field, and they think achieving a level of skill at it can only come through years of learning, practice and dedication. After all, refracting history through the unfolding prism of the present is obviously the kind of thing that amateurs shouldn’t attempt.

Most journalists also think they’ve paid their dues. Some clawed their way up by spending years covering Board of Aldermen meetings attended by only get-a-lifers, old people with nothing better to do and ambitious young journalists. Others paid their dues in a less onerous fashion by attending one of our nation’s best schools (or Dartmouth) and doing some writing while there. Regardless, most journalists feel like they had to jump through some hoops to win the privilege of writing for an audience.

With the creation of the blogosphere, the entry barriers to being a writer came down. Anyone who wanted to be a commentator or even practice a little freelance journalism was free to do so. Some of the people who chose to adopt this avocation met with huge success. The Powerline guys, for example, are probably read by more than any op-ed columnist in the country. What’s more, the political class seeks the favor of the top bloggers with an ardor that only the country’s most influential journalists get to experience.

The same is even truer on the left side of the blogosphere. Markos Moulitsas is unquestionably more influential than any American journalist. Actually, he’s probably more influential than America’s top five lefty editorial boards combined. He put Howard Dean on the map and on the path to the Democratic nomination. Later, after a disastrous and embarrassing presidential campaign, Markos got Dean installed as DNC Chair. When the dead-tree gang can pull off stunts like that, then we can debate who’s really got the juice.

IT HAS TO BE FRUSTRATING for journalists that hordes of bankers, lawyers, professors and other anonymous shlubs can so easily crash their gate. It’s probably still more galling that the gate crashing can only go one way. If the typical journalist said he wanted to give being a law professor a whirl, no matter how skilled he was at refracting history through the prism of the unfolding present, he would find no takers.

Neophytes can enter the previously sacred temple of journalism and go as far as their talent will take them. Other professions remain closed. A brain surgeon can go to Townhall.com and start a blog in five minutes. Journalists aren’t allowed to perform brain surgery, unless there’s a really crappy HMO out there that I’m not aware of.

So how has the journalistic class reacted to this new challenge? Some don’t seem to mind. Tom Friedman’s still able to sell a zillion books (God only knows why), and countless others remain confident enough in their talent and what they’re doing to not blindly lash out that their blogging compadres in the marketplace of ideas. I count among my email pals several of America’s most prominent conservative writers.

But other journalists are obviously angry. It just doesn’t seem fair. They spent the time getting their tickets punched, and find themselves not breathing rarefied air but instead being suffocated in a crowded room surround by a bunch of virtual Mongols.

Thus the youthful curmudgeon came into being. Hearing Joe Rago on the radio with Hugh, I felt bad for him. He seems like a nice guy. He also seems befuddled by a world that hasn’t lived up to his youthful notions of what it was going to be. A dozen years ago, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, almost alone, moved conservative opinion. Then came the Weekly Standard and the renaissance of National Review. And later came the blogs. The Journal is now but one voice in the choir and far from the loudest, in large part because it has a minimal internet presence. (James Taranto is great, but he’s only one man.)

So I guess if you graduated Dartmouth and thought you were going to be at the pinnacle of conservative thinking when you landed a gig at the Journal’s editorial page, there could be some disappointment. But there shouldn’t be.

The Journal editorial page remains at the pinnacle of conservative opinion making. It’s just that the pinnacle is a lot broader and a lot more crowded than it was a decade ago. A guy like Rago has a great chance to make a name for himself. His stuff will be read. Whether or not it will be appreciated will depend on its quality.

The fact that Rago and his like-minded colleagues have a problem with that says a lot more about them than I bet they’d be willing to acknowledge.

Friday, December 29, 2006 7:05:00 AM  

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