Writers On the Rolls

Friday, December 12, 2008


Economic misery has spread to journalism and newspeople everywhere are being laid-off. But The New Republic's Mark Pinsky has found hope for reporters in a previous economic downturn. He advocates a resurrection and re-imagining of the Work Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project.

Comments [20]

David Rowe from Lawrenceville, NJ

To Bob Garfield,

Perhaps we're coming closer together. I clearly don't think my assertions about missing party designations are "plainly untrue" as you state, given the examples I provide, but you look at such examples as merely anectdotal. Perhaps we are both begging the question because we are both presuming the claim we are attempting to prove (that the media is, or is not biased). I can cop to that.

But two things:

1) It IS worth looking into to see if there is a pattern, trend or preponderance. There is so much distrust of the media as it has become more and more ideological that more and more reporting is simply being dismissed. Some ignore Fox, others ignore MSNBC, and still others the NY Times. I believe the media needs to go the extra mile these days to show that they are reporting brute facts to the extent that it's possible (I know it's not)

It might be interesting to see if a newsroom editor has a policy on how long into a story's cycle viewers still need to know that Eliott Spitzer is a (D) or that Larry Craig is an (R).

2) With regard to Blagojevich and Chi-town politics: I wouldn't have a problem if a media outlet didn't say "conservative NRA member" or "liberal NOW member." Those are almost redundancies that everyone is largely familiar with because those organizations are country-wide. But I don't think someone living in say, rural Connecticut, knows like an Illinoisan or a CBS news journalist knows, that (as you say) every single person in this story is a democrat, and therefore doesn't need to be told.

Thanks for the helpful engagment.

Dec. 18 2008 04:20 PM
Bob Garfield

@David Rowe,

I can find you examples of anything. Argument by anecdote is great for lawyers and pols, but unproductive for journalists. There is a vast difference between an instance and a pattern, or a trend, much less a preponderance. The Democratic Party connection has been at the HEART of this story...along with any culpability of Blagojevich's fellow Illinois Democrat, Obama. EVERYONE in this story is a Democrat.


Dec. 18 2008 01:16 PM
Mike H from Joliet Il


Dec. 17 2008 09:40 PM
Sarah from Bethlehem, PA


Dec. 17 2008 05:41 PM
Mike H from Joliet Il

“I just wonder what all these folks spitting out their venomous replies of "learn to swing a hammer" and "would you like fries with that" would do if those hated, hated journalists all found themselves jobless.“

Ahh yes, because all commerce and industry would grind to a halt, leaving hundreds of millions homeless, cold, and hungry if there were massive Big Three style layoffs at the newspapers and TV stations. The very fabric of space and time itself could be torn into pieces leaving the universe a chaotic and hostile environment for intelligent life!

Its nice to see such a stunning display of both narcissism and ego considering that the average American has a higher opinion of personal injury lawyers and Congress than they do of journalists.

But a more simple answer to your question: I'll have a #6, medium with a Dr Pepper and an extra side of ranch.

Dec. 17 2008 01:28 PM
Carolyn from Montana

"On The Media" unceasingly circumvents the real reason for the slow demise of major publishing corporations. Lack of objectivity has taken its toll.
Advocacy journalism has become the main focus of writers for most publications.
To continue to insist that the reading public is unaware and just not quite smart enough to pick up the bias, subtle or blatant, editors will only help to bring about more failures and lay-offs.

Dec. 16 2008 06:03 PM
Sarah from Bethlehem, PA

Call me naive -- I'm relatively new to the news business, having started my first newspaper reporting job only this August -- but the incredible anger directed toward journalists baffles me. There are certainly sour apples in every profession and more than enough in the media. Being *fair* or *objective* is, I believe, paramount to our profession, but even the most careful attempt at this can only ever be an attempt. I don't believe any human can ever be impeccably objective.

I just wonder what all these folks spitting out their venomous replies of "learn to swing a hammer" and "would you like fries with that" would do if those hated, hated journalists all found themselves jobless.

Would that really make your day?

Dec. 16 2008 06:00 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

Great idea. The Social Sciences have stagnated. They have relied on the same progressive ideological premises for far too long. We need an injection of new narrative themes that allow for modern politically correct research projects needed to support President Obama's policy objectives and give Pelosi and Reid leverage over those pesky Republicans. To the pens young defenders of progressivism! We only need a soon to be President Obama to appoint a leader worthy of both the NATIONAL and SOCIAL responsibility that General Hugh Johnson so galantly wielded during the Great Depression. (We already have a blue eagle to rally around!)

Dec. 15 2008 11:33 PM
Mike H from Joliet Il

To Bob:

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist

Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly) (100-1, D to R ratio)

I thought you were part of the "reality based community"?

Anyhoo …

After going after the Bush administration for the past 8 years I fully expect a detailed and complete examination of every misstep and scandal of the new Obama administration, with every hair brained demented marginally notable right wing demagogue that OTM can book.
I want to hear John Kass talk about Obama’s campaign’s roots in the corrupt landscape of Chicago politics like when you had Molly Ivins on. I want to hear Karl Rove talk about media strategies like you had David Axelrod on. Lets hear about how ACORN was tightly linked to Obama and quite possibly helped him “win” several key states like Indiana and Ohio like when you had nutjob and 9/11 truther Greg Palast on. I cannot wait to hear the endless parade of spokespeople from Judicial Watch that you will interview just like all the people from the ACL and National Lawyers Guild you had on.

Yeah right ... let OTM's beatification of Barack begin, after all, I bet you all are looking for a big ol hunk of that gub-mint cheese too.

But if you cant (or wont) learn to swing that hammer ladies, try this: “would you like fries with that?”

Dec. 15 2008 07:22 PM
Jay Edgar from NJ

Disgusting. What Pinsky is advocating is that government goons take resources away from one group of people to give it to writers. This is done with the threat of force. This is no different than going to the mafia and having the mafia shake up businesses to "redistribute wealth". As a "former religion writer" Pinsky should read the writings of Ghandi.

Dec. 14 2008 07:15 PM
David Rowe from Lawrenceville, NJ

To Bob Garfield:

Having worked in network televison for over a dozen years (having left ABC in the late '90s) I trust my eyes. But I decided to go back and look to fact-check. First thing I found is that others have seen the same:


But all you have to do is go looking. I spent less than 10 minutes on this. The first ones puts a (D) next to Jesse Jackson Jr, but but not Blagojovich, and in a 5:30 minute story does not state the word Democrat:


And another - no mention at all:


The you'll get a commentary with no mention:


So believe as *you* wish, but it is pointless to imagine that simply stating something as a fact makes it true. In fact, I think your assertion about my assertion is untrue, Bob, and your saying it's untrue does not make it so.

Dec. 14 2008 04:48 PM
stuart kuhlman from brooklyn ny

Pinsky's characterization of how the populace is disengaged because they "don't feel they have to be engaged," is striking because it doesn't take into account the loss of faith in the news. A large contributor could be because of the lack of credibility of news organizations across the board. The fourth estate is weak because it has lost it's integrity. The news media today largely lacks objective reporting and sometimes reporting at all. I see cut and paste articles from the AP all the time.
Perhaps this can be a good thing for news reporting where all the sub-standard "journalists" have to begin to look at what they are contributing to their editors and begin to question their place in this important establishment.

Dec. 14 2008 10:38 AM
Angus Grieve-Smith from Woodside, NY

I had no idea there were so many jobs for hammer-swingers and shovelers out there in this economic climate. In that case I wonder why I'm hearing so many stories about immigrant laborers going back to Mexico because there's no work here. Maybe it's because people like Mike H. don't actually know what they're talking about?

Dec. 14 2008 10:29 AM
Robert from NYC

You're right Brooke, they haven't kept up and they are no longer the watchdog of government but have become an arm of government and if male I dare not say which arm and hand they have become... man's favorite hand, if you get my dirty little gist!!

Dec. 14 2008 10:13 AM
Robert from NYC

Well maybe they can get jobs in govt, say, ummm, lobbyists or consultants. After all they are, many of them, on the good side of the politicians, or at least it seems so after these 8 years of mostly supportive stories, reports and articles of the most corrupt administration in the history of this country. So they must have friends in government.

Dec. 14 2008 10:11 AM
Tech Writer T. from Carson City, NV

"... Learn how to swing a hammer."

What utterly ignorant and witless commentary in light of our current economic failures in the housing market. I suppose a comment about ‘turning a wrench’ could be equally viewed as uninformed when considering the U.S. auto industries impending failure.

Indeed, why doesn’t the out of work Wall St. CEO learn how to swing a hammer? Why doesn’t Donald Rumsfeld or Karl Rove learn how to swing a hammer?

Journalists and other technical communicators are professionals in their fields of expertise. There seems to be a lack of appreciation for the value of journalists or publication specialists, I’ve noticed this myself searching online for freelance writing work, where little or no compensation is offered. If ‘anyone’ can write, why then do companies need to solicit for writers that will work for free, why don’t they just do the research and write the articles or manuscripts themselves?

Dec. 14 2008 01:45 AM
Bob Garfield

To David Rowe:

The (D) has been in every story I've seen -- including the page-one stories about Blagojevic's relationship with the president elect (D). Believe in liberal-media lockstep as you wish, but it is pointless to imagine that simply stating something as a fact makes it true. In fact, your assertion is plainly untrue.

Bob Garfield

Dec. 14 2008 01:33 AM
peoplepowergranny from Asheville, NC

You are right on, Mr. Pinsky! I'm game for this. In my current Americorp/VISTA position, I work for an environmental group that is seeing many long-time owners of valuable mountain land have to sell to make room for new developments that house people with second homes and immigrants from other states. The guard is changing in America, and many parts of our country will be a thing of the past if we don't get off our rear ends and start recording the voices of land owners who are losing their sense of place after many generations of their families. We can't put brakes on this phenomena unless we know the hopes, dreams and loyalty to the land of these people. I would love the opportunity to go out and listen to these voices here in the mountains of North Carolina and throughout Appalachia, even the rural areas of the Midwest. Let's go for it! Our people and culture must be protected before it disappears!

Dec. 13 2008 04:33 PM
David Rowe from Lawrenceville, NJ

This is such quibbling in light of the fact that OTM is actually doing media stories again, rather than all-but-reporting on the present administration. And Obama victory has its benefits, and getting OTM back to covering "media" in the broadest sense is clearly one of them.

And yet... in the last number of years we have become so accustomed to hearing railing only against the adminisstration that, well, what now? Nothing on how reporters in Chicago cover politics in a town so obviously corrupt? Nothing from Chicago reporters on how believable it is that Obama can be completely different from Blagojavich and every other Daly-brokered politician? Nothing on why you don't see a "(D)" next to the Governor's name the way you would see an "(R)" next to so many other politicians on the evening news? This IS a different OTM!

Or not.

Dec. 13 2008 02:55 PM
Mike H from Joliet Il

Welfare for writers and journalists? Here's an idea, learn how to swing a hammer.

Dec. 13 2008 09:40 AM

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