What is good journalism

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

Taking a break from ‘what is good radio’, I wanted to point out what I consider to be good journalism.

Dave Winer is on a tear against the professional news organizations because of an appearance of Jon Stewart on Crossfire. I listened to a recording of this (managing not to hotlink directly to the MP3 file), and I enjoyed many of the quips between the participants, and found Stewart to be both funny and clever at times; but I also found him to be disingenuous and rather cheap.

(Transcript here.)

Stewart kept iterating that they, the Crossfire folk, are “…hurting America’–they in this case meaning, we presume, journalists. No, they aren’t. Americans are hurting America. We’re hurting America because no matter what we hear, no matter how factual the reporting, we’ll believe what we want to believe or what suits us to believe. Americans would rather listen to hyperbole and rhetoric than to fact. Not just Americans – the same can be said of the average citizen of most countries.

“You are hurting us.” “You are hurting us.”

Sounds like Arnold before he learned to act. Oh, wait a sec….

When Dave Winer uses the Stewart appearance as a segue into an exposition that reporters should be paying more heed to their customers, as iterated in this Bloggercon question (in which he insults most of the people who do him the courtesy of responding), I damn near choked on my coffee. If anything, reporters should be listening to their ‘customers’ less.

On any given day I can find at least one example of excellent journalism. It’s sophisticated and chi-chi clever to sneer at the professional news organizations, but if you keep your eyes, and your mind, open, you’ll find that many of these organizations do as good a job as their ‘customers’ allow. And in some cases, a better job than their ‘customers’ deserve.

Take this piece I found in the Houston Press (via a post made today in Fodor’s Travel Blog). No, its not about Iraq, or the Presidential race, or the contaminated flu shots. It’s about osso bucco.

A food critic questioned the osso bucco he was served at a local restaurant and was told, “If you don’t like it, there’s the door. Pay your bill and go. And don’t come back”, by the restaurant’s owner. He was also challenged about his knowledge of osso bucco.

This should be enough to earn a completely negative review; yet the food critic actually followed on the chef’s challenge and researched osso bucco, educating both his reading audience and himself on what to look for (what the restaurant served was not it). And even after being thrown out of the restaurant, he made a qualified recommendation of it because of the freshness of the fish served. Most importantly, he never took himself completely seriously, as you can see in the humor of his writing, particularly with the description of the busboy and his fake accent:

If you get the spiky-haired young waiter who reads the specials off the blackboard with a phony Italian accent, resist the temptation to ask where he’s from. (He was born in Galveston and reared in nearby Santa Fe.) If you play along, he’ll do this goofy Italian accent all night long for your entertainment.

Not to point fingers, but if Robb Walsh was a weblogger, he would have blasted the restaurant, daily, for three weeks; accused them of a conspiracy; nicknamed the whole thing ‘osso buccogate’; suggested that this action in Houston just demonstrates Bush’s Texan disregard for the voters; posted the restaurant’s phone number for people to call and harrass the spiky haired busboy; and then got all of his readers to Google Bomb the place with the words, “This Restaurant Sucks!”

Of course, this was only about food, but if I continued my morning reading of all the publications I check out from throughout the world, I’ll probably find decent reporting in many, and about more significant stories. As for the bias, it’s up to me to spot it where it exists–that’s cuz I is smart, and I rede good.

But if there is bias in a publication, it’s because the customers put it there. Fox got where it was by listening to its customers. What we need is less customer intervention, not more.

Hmmm. I wonder if all of this would sound better as a podcast? Should I start it with the NY Loose song, “Hide?” Is that copyright free?

From the notes I read at the other weblogs, such as Norm’s most people don’t necessarily share my viewpoint. I respect Norm, but don’t agree with him that Stewart is a hero.

When did taking a sanctimonious cheap shot become the

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