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Statesman Editorial Board Should Read Their Paper's Reporting

by: Phillip Martin

Thu Jul 17, 2008 at 08:14 AM CDT

Over the last few days, the Austin American-Statesman has focused on Netroots Nation in their paper with some really well-written, well-rounded articles. Here's a link to those articles:

Let me first, very clearly, state that I enjoyed reading these articles. I think all the reporters did a good job telling the story of the goals of bloggers coming to Austin, the history of the convention, how the convention came to Austin, and what the local blogging scene is like. Both KT and Matt are featured prominently in all the articles, too -- which shows the reach and success of our site, two things we're always working to expand.

However -- the Statesman editorial board blew it. Complete with a thoroughly dismissive and derisive tone, the Statesman editorial board chose to chide the netroots.

From the editorial: Netroots Nation converges on Austin, we get this kind of language:

  • "hyper-opinionated liberal blogosphere"
  • "something called "The Pundit Project: How to Outtalk the Talking Heads," which purports to train would-be TV and radio proselytizers"
  • "out of touch with what matters to the rest of the country"

Even more than their language, the paper creates a straw man-like frame of what the goal of the netroots is. In the second paragraph, we get this rather odd introduction to the goal of the netroots:

What remains to be seen is what kind of an impact they will have on the general election when their candidate is moving toward the political center.

After a few charity paragraphs of our influence, they conclude their editorial with this:

But progressive bloggers — despite their early and often loud support for presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama — are far from being the kingmakers of their party, a fact they sometimes seem reluctant to admit


Their support alone won't decide the 2008 presidential race.

Why would we admit to failing to reach a goal we never aspired to reach?

The netroots isn't largely concerned with the Presidential race -- if anything, we're trying more to hold Obama accountable on his positions and policies than anything else. I know holding candidates accountable for their actions isn't a priority of the Statesman editorial board --- since they often support progressive, Democratic policies yet happily endorse Republican candidates for President and Governor --- but consistency is something we try to maintain.

The real goal of most bloggers is to actively support a policy that's important to their local area, or a candidate that is in their region. Daily Kos, MyDD, Open Left, Swing State Project, and more of the prominent national blogs focus much more on electing a real progressive majority in Congress than anything else. But here in TX, Texas blogs aren't trying to elect Obama President.

We're trying to elect more Democrats to the State House. We're talking about oil wells and how corrupt Republican leaders are destroying the environment. We're writing investigative pieces on ethics violations. And we're creating a public forum for our audience and readership to share their opinions.  

It's a shame the editorial board had to lay such an egg on this one, especially considering the high quality of reporting the news staff is showing on internet reporting. They could actually read the blogs; their perception of the netroots sounds a lot like the misinterpretations you see on a lot of national pundit shows. Anyone who actually reads national blogs on a regular basis knows that our goal isn't to be kingmakers, especially not for the Presidential race. We want to help elect Obama President, but that's not our goal:

Our goal -- or at least, the broad goal as I understand it -- is to create a more active, more participatory electorate that understands issues, is interactive with candidates of all levels, and elects progressives that are responsive to their constituents.

Maybe someone can run this over to the Statesman editorial board so they can learn that. 


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Nice work Phillip. (0.00 / 0)
Good analysis.  

You nailed it with "holding Obama (I'd say all politicians) accountable".

That's our responsiblity; as a government by the people.


left-wing ? (0.00 / 0)
per the AAS...

"Bloggers - who have been fixating on attacking Obama for his position on telecom immunity for four weeks now - can seem out of touch with what matters to the rest of the country. Their concern that the Illinois senator is abandoning their left-wing interests ignores the trouble with the economy and rising fuel prices."

how did... "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"... become "left-wing" ???

also, "out-of-touch" and "ignores the trouble with the economy and rising fuel prices" ???

perhaps if the editors of the AAS read more blogs they would better comprehend the idea that the deceitful, wasteful, and incompetent Executive Branch's prosecution of "Wars" on "Terror" and on Iraq is the fundamental (pardon the pun) cause of the rise in fuel prices, the inevitable collapse of the housing 'bubble' after amplifying the 'cocoon' effect for too many years, and dismantling constitutional protections of individual liberty and legislative branch oversight?  

and with all that malfeasance, the Bush Administration still could not "accomplish the mission" (unless, of course, the 'mission' was to make their friends very wealthy)  

Meh. Just garden-variety jealousy. (3.00 / 1)
As newspaper readership and circulation rapidly evaporate, they have been forced --like a polar bear paddling around in the Arctic seeking an ice floe -- to scramble onto our turf.  I'll extend some charity by saying that several members of the SCLM have done an excellent job with their political blogs (Elise Hu and Karen Brooks locally are noteworthy).

But ultimately the snobs on the editorial boards resent our freedom to speak our minds without corporate repercussion (and pain of loss, ie their health insurance).  They're in the midst of radical changes in their business model, and that's powerfully uncomfortable.

Some of them are eventually going to wind up in professions outside journalism (and blogging for pleasure and not profit).  I suspect they will be more charitable toward the blogosphere sometime along then.

Look at Burka (or don't).

Afflicting the comfortable via...

One other point - Limited Shelf-Life for Top-Down Business Model (0.00 / 0)
The Statesman grew-up in a very top-down world....just like GM, Ford, other US Companies...this model worked short-term, but these business models need to change out of necessity if they want to survive.

I read the Statesman everyday because perception is realty and they have the eyeballs...it's scary how much influence they can have from a headline on the front-page...so fact-based reporting and strong journalism is not as critical to them is it is to BOR.  Statesman focus is to reward growth and power...if they can keep on the good side of the power-brokers and if Austin keeps growing, they'll stay alive longer.  

I understand the Statesman lost about 4% of their readership...during a time that Austin has grown faster than any other mid-size city in the US.  

The Statesman can only survive if Austin grows...they can delay the inevitable.

They do all they can to support huge growth and spin growth as positive in order to help their paper stay alive. I don't blame them for this strategy...I'd do the same if I was their CEO, struggling to keep my base.

They're just barely hanging on...I don't feel sorry for them.  Their shelf-life is limited unless they change their business model and way of reporting to a more bottoms-up approach.

Our future is bright because these traditional business models are finally changing to more Democratic models, i.e. blogs.  More participatory/interactive models and two-way conversations.

Blogs like BOR will eclipse the Statesman business model within 10 years.  

Possibly their new editor will get that and change before it's too late??  Or is too late already???

Also, more objectivity in their reporting would win fans back in them in the short-term and can help slow down their demise.


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