(updated below - updated again)
[Since 9/11] we have had outpourings of new political speech through new methods and means, for example, uh, people I wish never existed -- bloggers.
This did not exist before 9/11. Are we really in such a civil liberties crisis if bloggers are able to use this new media to say I think quite incredible things?
As Ailes says: "Yoo wishes they never existed because, unlike illegally-detained prisoners, torture victims and law school students, bloggers talk back."
Time Magazine's Joe Klein at a May 5 Annapolis Book Festival, broadcast on C-SPAN (h/t reader CG):
I am really getting sick and tired of people bashing the press all the time.
It used to be that people like me would get bashed from the right, and now there is the whole blogosphere bashing us as well.
Look, at this point, we're pretty well battered. We're losing advertising revenue.
And unless we can actually have the revenue to go out there and the credibility to report these issues, all of these right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and the left-wing bloggers who are parasites on our reporting, are going to have nothing to do but sit home and twiddle their thumbs and opine about things they have no data for.
Apparently, things were fine -- and the Joe Kleins were perfectly content -- when they were getting viciously attacked and mauled every day by Rush Limbaugh and the right. But matters became intolerable once left-wing bloggers started criticizing the press. That is when things just went too far.
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, at The Huffington Post, in a post last night:
There's one dimension of the blogosphere that never ceases to amaze me: Some people disbelieve nearly everything they read in the "mainstream media" -- and believe nearly everything they read online. Never mind that the ground-breaking reporting on which they base their opinions often comes from the MSM publications like Newsweek, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
That's because until now, few online publications have invested enough money to undertake original reporting, which is much more expensive than mouthing off at home. I'm happy to see that the Huffington Post is moving to change that disparity by hiring top-flight and highly experienced reporters like Tom Edsall.
I'm also glad to see the magazine Radar sending young reporters like Jebediah Reed out to cover politics. The more the merrier. Unfortunately, Reed is a bad reporter, and his bad reporting of a 30-second sidewalk conversation involving me, Edsall and former Sen. Mike Gravel is now rocketing around the web. . . .
Why do I bore you with this? Only to reinforce the point to be careful of believing everything you read. Just because it's in Radar or online somewhere doesn't make it true. The same goes for reading me or Tom Edsall or others who happen to have worked at first-rate news organizations.
But our batting averages--and David Broder's--are a helluva lot higher than the Jebidiah Reeds of the world, which is only one of the reasons why the readers of Huffington Post are lucky to have Edsall aboard.
When I first saw that Alter had written about this Radar article and called Reed a "bad reporter," I assumed he was going to claim that Reed conveyed the Gravel/Edsall/Broder exchange inaccurately. But he didn't. Instead, he offered this, one of my absolute most favorite statements in a long time:
I don't remember [Edsall] calling Broder "the voice of the people," but if he did, it was said with a pleasantly arch tone, neither serious nor sarcastic.
And while there's exactly no one on the face of the earth that grizzled reporters like us would "matter of factly" call "the voice of the people" (No, not even Mike Gravel), Edsall and I both know that whatever disagreements we may have with recent Broder columns, he is an honest reporter and no ivy tower thumb-sucker.
Alter, Edsall and Broder all work for "first-rate news organizations," while Reed works for some crappy low-level thing on the Internet that Tim Russert never even heard of. Therefore, the way that Alter fantasizes that the conversation would have occurred had he remembered it (which he doesn't) is more reliable than Reed's first-hand account of it.
Colin Powell was not convincing on al-Qaida/Iraq connections, but he was persuasive on Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. We cannot afford to wait until Iraq obtains such weapons and blackmails the region -- as North Korea is doing now. . . .
While war against Iraq may increase terrorism in the short run, it is, on balance, more likely to decrease it in the long run. . . .
War is always a leap in the dark, but even the chance of greater regional democracy -- and thus less of the displaced anger that fuels terrorism -- makes the risks worth taking.
First-rate. With first-rate analysis like that, who would dare challenge Jon Alter while sitting at home mouthing off? Also, Alter wants us to know: "I took my leave (paying for Reed's lunch, plus that of the Gravel entourage)."
There is much to learn from the contempt expressed by John Yoo, Joe Klein and Jon Alter towards blogs -- i.e., a collection of hundreds of thousands of politically engaged citizens who are dissatisfied with the prevailing political and media power centers and have created their own instruments for expressing and activating that dissatisfaction.
It is absolutely true that citizens are forced to rely upon large media organizations to collect information and report what the government is doing, and that is precisely why their profound failures are of such concern. And the isolated and all-too-few instances of real adversarial and investigative reporting (see e.g., Dana Priest and Charlie Savage) sadly illustrate what this country has been so sorely lacking.
These blogging instruments prevent people like Yoo, Klein and Alter (and Brian Williams) from making pronouncements without being challenged and corrected, and it undermines the authoritative opinion-making monopoly they once held. I wonder if that has anything to do with the contempt they feel.
UPDATE: This Digby post is indispensable -- literally -- for understanding the state of our national press. Then again, it wasn't written by someone who works for a first-rate news organization or who cheered on George Bush's war -- just someone who writes on the Internet sitting at home mouthing off.
And in addition to loudmouths at home who are not particularly impressed with the "first-rate" work of our most prestigious news outlets, people like David Halberstam and Bill Moyers have also been mouthing off with the same sweeping criticisms.
UPDATE II: It is worth adding that the claim by Klein that "left-wing bloggers are parasites on our reporting" -- and Alter's similar claim that bloggers do nothing but sit at home "mouthing off" about the "ground-breaking" reporting of the "first-rate news organizations" -- is simply false.
The New York Times recently noted that the best original reporting on Lewis Libby's trial was from the liberal blog FireDogLake, offering the "fullest, fastest public report available" and "many mainstream journalists use it to check on the trial." Numerous sources, including The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, acknowledged that the source most responsible for pushing the U.S. attorney scandal, by far, was Talking Points Memo.
Two months after I began blogging, when I had a tiny readership, I was able to contribute this find to the blossoming NSA scandal only because I could alert other bloggers who recognized its importance and who amplified it to the point where the media reported it. And so much of the key original reporting over the last several years has been done by the lesser known and/or online journalists whom Alter scorns -- including Knight Ridder's heroic pre-Iraq-war reporting team, Mark Benjamin's breaking of the Walter Reed story in Salon, and one scoop after the next by Murray Waas.
As I indicated, it is true that only large news organizations have the resources to gather news in a comprehensive way. And there is a difference between original reporting (which discloses relevant facts) and punditry (which analyzes those facts and finds their meaning). Given that Alter does the latter far more than the former, it is bizarre to hear him refer to that as nothing more than "mouthing off at home."
An analysis of the facts (which, admittedly, is what bloggers do more than original reporting) can be just as important, if not more so, than a gathering of the facts. To say that bloggers do more of the latter than the former is hardly an indictment of the worthlessness or "parasitic" nature of blogs. Nonetheless, it is simply false to assert that important original reporting is done only by large news organizations.
UPDATE III: Radar's Jebediah Reed posts his superb reply to Jonathan Alter's attack on Reed's article. It really is bizarre how Alter purported to dispute Reed's reporting of Edsall's Broder comments even though Alter admitted he has no recollection whatsoever of that exchange. Fortunately for Reed, he not only recalls the exchange vividly -- something that one would think would be pre-requisite for any "first-rate" journalist before commenting upon it -- but he also tape-recorded it, erasing any lingering doubts for those who harbored any.