Wednesday, June 28, 2006


To quote Don Imus' ironic prediction of his own doom. "My goal is to goad people into saying something that ruins their life, " Imus said.From both consuming the media and listening to some reporters privately, I think that this attitude is becoming much more prevalent in the media than it used to be, but is far from universal and far from being the majority sentiment. The vast majority of reporters, I am convinced, are primarily interested in getting relevant information out for the benefit or entertainment of their readers.


Next to New Hampshire, Pennsylvania is probably the most conservative blue state in America. A strong right wing media presence--led by Richard Mellon Scaife, a major funder of just about every group of economic conservatives in America and the publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, a Bible of Pennsylvania conservative politics--has created an unrepresentative echo chamber of conservative ideas in what ought to be a state with a consistent liberal and centrist majority.

The Capitol Press corps in Harrisburg is a product of this conservatism. To the best of my knowledge, no African-American, or person of Asian or Latino descent, has been a Capitol correspondent for a daily Pennsylvania newspaper, radio, or television station for nearly 30 years. If any signifucant number of existing Capitol reporters have voted for a Democratic Presidential nominee, those persons have done an excellent job in keeping it--and the values that could produce such a vote--a secret.


As one who occasionally helps colleagues with speeches, and who had speechwriting duties as a U.S. Senate intern years ago, I am not sure where this line of inquiry is leading.

Ultimately, it is the duty of whoever speaks words, or allows written words to carry one's name, to stand behind the words that will be attributed to oneself. A Ted Kennedy or John Kerry speech written by Robert Shrum is still a Ted Kennedy or John Kerry speech.

I guess the issue here is whether fraud is involved. If Jesse Malkin is in fact the main author of Michele Malkin's works, does this mean he is fraudulently allowing his words to come from the mouth of an Asian American woman? Is this this arrangement the equivalent of a white owned construction business pretending to be minority owned to fit in under affirmative action guidelines?

In other words, should the byline sometimes read by Jesse Malkin? Or should the byline always read by Michele and Jess Malkin?

Or should we merely recognize that popular figures have more demands for words by them than they can fulfill, and that a large number of words attributed to prominent people are in fact written by others, concepts of authenticity to the contrary?

These are sometimes troubling issues, and they show why letters in a famous person's own handwriting are so valued as unquestionably the person's own work.

April 4, 2005


The fairness doctrine helped reinforce a politics of moderation and inclusiveness. The collapse of the fairness doctrine and its corollary rules blurred the distinctions between news, political advocacy, and political advertising, and helped lead to the polarizing cacophony of strident talking heads that we have today.


I strongly agree with you that liberal media are virtually non-existent. What we have are some media--like the Inquirer and Daily News--which give some coverage to a few liberal positions and some endorsements to a few liberal politicians. But we virtually never have any mass media--not counting specialized publications such as The Nation that clearly target the liberal audience--that devote themselves evangelistically to promoting a wide range of liberal causes and candidates.

June 3, 2006


The problem with Knight Ridder ownership has been that it has no real stake in the region. It sees neighborhoods as markets, citizens as consumers, businesses as potential advertisers, and the city of Philadelphia and its residents as targets to attack for the edification and enjoyment of its suburban readers. As a result of this depersonalized approach, both the Inquirer and Daily News have suffered extremely low market shares compared to newspapers in many other cities.Under the leadership of people such as John Knight and Eugene Roberts, the Philadelphia Inquirer was in the 1970's and early 1980's at the forefront of American journalism. Under today's leadership and its immediate predessessors, it has sunk into mediocrity and ever-increasing negativity.There is value in having a newspaper owned by people with a history in our region and a future in our region. We do not need the neutrality of nihilism or the objectivity of those whose dominant feelings are anger, envy and hopelessness. Climbing a bureaucratic ladder--as Knight Ridder editors have, by definition, excelled in doing, is not necessarily a very high form of human achievement. The Knight Ridder bureacracy has seemed to excel in expelling those with visions of excellence in favor of time servers and nitpickers.I look forward to a Tierney/Toll era at the Inquirer. While I would have preferred Democratic ownership, I think an honest Republican allegiance is preferable to the editorial posturings, evasions, and duplicities that we now have. This area is overwhelmingly Democratic, and Republican strongholds are harder than ever to find. I have a degree of faith that the public will be able to hold any new locally based leadership to standards of fairness easier than it can dealing with a far-away corporate headquarters.

May 24, 2006


Numerous media boycotts have been announced over the years, for both extreme media negativity and for perceived media bias. Both newspaper circulation (except for free newspapers) and television news viewership continue to hit new lows every year. An awful lot of people are fed up with what passes for news, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.I would urge those concerned about excessive coverage of violence to write to offending media outlets, and encourage others to do so. Announce public meetings on the subject, and send out press releases on your meetings and your letters. Set up one or more websites and blogs on the subject. Get across the point that distorted perceptions of reality adversely affect the quality of life in the Delaware Valley. Meet with alternative media sources that woiuld be sympathetic with your point of view to encourage them to publicize your concerns.A boycott probably would be more effective if it is the culmination of a long attempt at persuasion rather the beginning of such an attempt. It's difficult to escalate if you have already launched your most dangerous weapon, and its difficult to maintain serious public interest if your most dangerous weapon has proven to be ineffective.

May 15, 2006


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