It used to be that newspapers controlled all the content. They decided what was news, what wasn't news; who they would pummel and who they would elevate.
Blogs created an alternate platform that allowed experts working as volunteers to both bypass the gatekeepers and show the absurdity of their coverage. Since most bloggers were more qualified to cover their particular specialties than the jack of all trades reporters who had been trying to cover multiple issues, the blogs eventually became more popular and more trusted than the mainstream media.
Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook provided platforms in which the masses could respond to both mainstream media and blog stories.
Eventually, folks like Sal DiCiccio and David Schweikert developed such large followings on these platforms, that they could generate their own coverage for their own following.
Today, we see the final step. The roles are fully reversed.
The Republic's EJ Montini is commenting on David Schweikert's Facebook post. Think about that for a second. Facebook used to provide Schweikert with a platform to comment on Montini, now newspapers have become so insignificant and Facebook has become so powerful that Montini has to use the Republic as a platform to comment on Schweikert's Facebook posts.
The New York Times is covering the Creativity Conference at Cannes and makes this point.
Ironically, the author describes the rise of Facebook and Google and then compares it to the Allied invasion of Normandy. OK, I guess that's fine. After all, the conference is in France. But if Google and Facebook are the Allies who are storming the beaches...then what role does the mainstream media play in this metaphor?
Hmm, that seems a bit odd. I certainly don't describe the mainstream media as entrenched Nazis fighting to hold their positions against the forces of freedom as exemplified by Facebook and Google. Of course, if that's how the New York Times sees it, then who am I to argue.
Meanwhile, hunkered down in an otherwise empty pillbox on Central Avenue, EJ Montini pores over elected officials' Facebook pages in a desperate attempt to appear relevant.
Breaking News! Exclusive! Must Credit Espresso Pundit! EJ Montini, Laurie Roberts and the editorial board of the Republic and Star are working on a huge story. Warning: There will be no other coverage until thousands of column inches have been written about this massive story.
Here's the Smoking Gun for this massive media barrage: Check out this story about John McCain's "Libertarian" challenger.
Tamburri has all the markings of a stalking horse meant to pick off votes from likely GOP nominee John McCain. Tamburri was accompanied to the Secretary of State's office to file his petitions by the former executive director of the state Democratic Party. And his attorney in the petition challenge is Jim Barton, who just so happens to represent the Democratic Party.
Wow. So the Democratic party put up a Libertarian Candidate in order to siphon votes away from John McCain. How do I know that this is going to be HUGE? Because anytime anything remotely related to this topic has occurred, it has been HUGE!
You see, now that there's a Libertarian in Arpaio's race, Roberts believes that Arpaio is behind the effort because after all, Arpaio is in a close race and Libertarians draw votes from Republicans which means that...well whatever, the bottom line is that this Libertarian is part of a dirty trick and even though there's no evidence that Arpaio is behind it, it's clearly a shenanigan.
Now read the snippet about Tamburri again....He's a "Libertarian" running against McCain who was accompanied by a Democratic Party bigwig and is being defended by a Big Democratic Party Lawyer. The story just writes itself...or maybe it doesn't, we'll see.
Another HUGE angle is that Tamburri is obviously a SHAM CANDIDATE! He's not just a real candidate who has no chance of winning, he's part of a larger plot...which is, of course, HUGE!. You can tell that it's HUGE when you read the 23 articles that claim that Olivia Cortes wasn't just another candidate with no chance of winning.
And that's just the Republic! When you Google those very obscure terms, you get like 2,600 articles. Because after all...shenanigans. Wow. Think how many articles you will see about Tamburri! The Republic will have to print extra editions so that they can dissect his life, tell us about his elementary school experiences and cross reference his Facebook page with Democratic Party bigwigs...kind of like the Olivia Cortes coverage. Wow. I can't wait.
The next wave of stories will be all he mea culpa stories in which Laurie Roberts and EJ Montini apologize for claiming that Republican efforts to make this dirty trick a little more difficult were examples of "voter suppression" and other assorted dirty tricks. Here's the most recent example...
Here's another example.
So after the articles about the Democrats getting all Shenanigany and then the articles about Tamburri being a sham candidate, Montini and Robert will spend a lot of time pointing out that the Republicans were right. The bills that made it a little harder for Democrats to get the Libertarians on the ballot were actually a reasonable attempt to short circuit a popular dirty trick.
It looks like Tamburri has been booted off the ballot, but we know what would have come next. That's because we saw the end game of this dirty trick in previous elections. Check out this mailer that the Democratic Party sent on behalf of the Libertarian Candidate in order to defeat Jesse Kelly in 2010.
Of course, that was a smoking gun too. So maybe this story will get as much coverage as that story...which, is, of course, NONE!
The Democratic Party blatantly and openly advocated for the Libertarian candidate which caused the Republican Candidate to lose by a few thousand votes. Then when the Republican Legislature responded by making in marginally harder to pull this trick off, the media go crazy.
Now the Democratic party has been caught playing the same trick on John McCain. Let's see if the media give this story even a fraction of the coverage that they would give it if the Party labels were reversed.
I think it's time for me to, once again, explain why I write this blog.
A couple days ago I reprinted a "Quick Hit" by former Republic Editorial Board Editor Robert Leger in which he criticized "Regular Fearmongers" (sic) for expressing concerns about possible disease threats posed by Central American immigrants. I juxtaposed that two-year old article with an article from that day's Republic about the measles outbreak that has been traced to the Eloy detention center.
Leger's hit was simply unprofessional. Here are four reasons. The use of fearmonger (sic) was an ad hominem attack and it was the worst subset of an ad hominem attack, because it was simply name calling. His use of "regular" was an example of mockery. He misspelled "fear monger" and not only were the concerns about disease reasonable, but the Republic is now also covering a disease outbreak. So he was wrong.
I think my suggestion that Leger's post does not rise to a professional standard is a reasonable one.
I then tweeted that Leger's post was emblematic of the quality of the journalism in Arizona. I didn't mention Arizona Daily Star Columnist Tim Steller in my post, but he replied to my tweet this way.
So my point that the local journalists are overly reliant on name calling and mockery was met with...name calling and mockery. The only point he didn't ratify was local journalists' propensity for spelling errors. Then the gods of copy editing smiled upon me because a few tweets later, Steller showed that he doesn't know how to spell "judgment."
I'm not here to pick on Tim Steller. By all accounts, he's a decent guy and he has a difficult job in a dying industry. Since he's a decent guy and seems especially offended by this blog, I've realized that it's probably time for me to, once again, lay out what I'm doing and why. It's been over 8 years since I wrote the original explanation. After you read this post, I'm hoping that you will take the time to read that one as well.
Ponder those five points for a moment. Journalism is an important profession and it's supposed to have high standards. Moreover, journalists are supposed to not only abide by those standards, but they are also supposed to hold each other accountable to those standards.
This blog is my response to what I believe is a widespread view that Arizona journalists are not meeting either of those obligations.
In an ideal world, journalists would look at point number 2 "Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness." and would respond professionally to my commentary. Instead, in best cases, my commentary is ignored by members of the media and in the worst cases, I am relentlessly mocked by people like Tim Steller.
Ironically, that mockery has evolved. I used to be mocked because I was a nobody who dared comment on the work of professionals. (That type of mockery was a subset of what was originally called the "pajama narrative". Journalists used to say that--as professionals--they weren't going to comment on criticism from guys who wrote while wearing pajamas).
The new mockery is that I'm Chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, so it is somehow unbecoming for me to comment on media coverage. I've evolved from too insignificant to blog to too important to blog.
Yes. I'm the incoming Chairman of the Board of Regents. I'm also a lawyer, CPA, former Legislator, former Chief of Staff to the State Senate, former Director of a State Agency and former Governing Board Member of the MIHS Hospital. I'm 52 years old and I've been working in the highest levels of government since I was 26. When I sat on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives as a freshman Legislator to hear my first State of the State speech, it was delivered by then Governor Rose Mofford. I think that this background gives me some insight into the political process and the coverage of that process.
To be sure, my Regents and legal responsibilities limit my ability to comment on some issues. For example, I no longer blog about Universities or the Corporation Commission. Blogs and twitter are not an appropriate forum for a Regent to discuss education policy. That means that I'm not going to get drawn into discussing these issue no matter how often Tim calls me a "chicken."
While I'm not tempted to respond to the "you are a #chicken" taunt, I must confess that I am vulnerable to "Double Dog Dares" and sensitive to "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire."
Another criticism is that in my role as media watch dog, I am "self appointed." That is, of course, true. However to my credit, I put myself through a long nominating process and confirmed myself by a narrow margin.
Indeed, if journalists would hold each other accountable, then I would be out of a (volunteer) job. That would be wonderful. How about instead of you guys contacting me privately and telling me how right I am, you Tweet something when your colleagues fall bellow professional standards?
If you are wondering what to look for, here is a list of the top journalism "sins" with a few examples.
The first example covers a multitude of sins...unprofessionalism, name calling, personal attacks, mockery and gimmickry
This illustration from the Republic is simply embarrassing. In addition to being childish and unprofessional, Roberts is engaging in name calling. She may disagree with a lot of legislators, but printing a list of the top ten "Kooks"--and then systematically targeting them is the worst type of ad hominem attack. Roberts has used the "Kook" and "kookocracy" memes endlessly.
There are plenty of other examples. Linda Valdez constantly calls Republicans "Mastodons". Get it, the GOP symbol is an elephant and the Mastodon is like a really old and extinct elephant. I'm sure she thought that was funny the first 25 times she used it and then it was just amusing for the next 25 times. By the way, what's the symbol for the Democratic Party?
EJ Montini used to mock Governor Brewer by calling Russell Pearce the "De Facto Governor." Again, these digs are unprofessional and I believe that they lead to widespread disrespect and distrust of journalism as a profession.
The next sin is Misleading Editing. Check this out:
Brahm Resnik came close to actually getting away with this fake story. Bernie Sanders gave Brahm Resnik four minutes for an interview and when the time was up, Sanders abruptly ended the interview. Resnik claimed that Sanders had "walked out" on him and tweeted a still shot that made it look like Sanders was storming out. Other reporters picked up the (fake) story and it went international. When KPNX eventually released the full video, the misleading editing is obvious. The picture in the tweet is simply Sanders standing up and removing his mic. In the full video, he catches Brahm claiming that he was going to walk out, and admonishes Brahm not to make the false claim. Then he sits back down until Brahm leaves.
Brahm engaged in misleading editing in the next example as well. The tweet talks about Reagan trying to dodge reporters and the reporters catching her. However, the picture that goes with the tweet is 6 minutes into the interview and is not the first shot, it's the last shot of the clip.
The real story is that Reagan responded to a barrage of questions for six minutes and then left. The reporters followed her and when the elevator doors closed, the interview was over. That's what this picture represents. This is fraud and the worst type of journalistic abuse. Yet I have yet to hear anyone publicly admonish Brahm for this failed trick. He still works for KPNX.
There were plenty of reporters who participated in the interview with Reagan and when I Tweeted that Brahm's use of "dodge" and KPNX's use of "flees" was misleading, I included Howie Fischer. Check out his response.
Howie isn't telling me I'm wrong, he's saying he's not the one who said it. Howie "didn't use either word". That's why this blog exists. (By the way, I think Howie is one of the better reporters working today. He sells individual stories and so he writes actual news. His stories are often about complex issues and he handles them well.)
Tim Steller wasn't in the room with Reagan and the scrum of reporters, and I didn't mention him in the post. However, he jumps in to accuse me of conducting a "jihad." Well, there have been examples of "jihad" in the news over the last few years and I don't think it applies to what I do. That's why I started this post by listing the Journalists' code of Professional Conduct. I have asserted that KPNX used creative editing in order to offer a misleading account of the Reagan interview. Howie responded that he's not the one who mischaracterized Reagan's response and Steller says that I'm a terrorist.
Brahm responded as well....
Keep it classy Brahm...
If you are looking for another example of deceptive editing, check out this post in which EJ Montini alters a quote from the US Attorney in order to claim that then Governor Brewer's actions were unreasonable.
Another sin that journalists commit is bullying.
Here's another bullet point from the Standards of Professional Conduct.
Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
Now take a look at this story about Senator Jeff Dial and this oneabout Kevin De Menna. Neither of them rise to the level of actual news stories, but they could have been interesting human interest stories about people who overcome adversity. Instead, they are both (very) long, self debunking hit pieces about incidents that are long past. They are also full of innuendo. The authors attempted to convince readers that Dial lied about being a Veteran and that De Menna tried to use some type of personal influence to reduce his penalty. Neither of those implications is true. Forget about balance. These stories have no news value and were designed to humiliate the subjects.
Here's a great bullet point from the Code of Ethics.
Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
How's this fit into that rule? Remember Ariel Castro who kept three women captive in his basement for a decade? Here's Benson's take on it.
Sure, the GOP is exactly like that.
Several reporters have responded that political cartoons are supposed to be controversial etc. OK, but there's still a line. Right? Somewhere there is a line? Comparing "No contraceptive coverage" to "ten years as a sex slave in a basement" crosses that line. If no one at the Republic is going to speak out against this, then someone is going to step into that breech and at the moment, that someone is me....self appointed or not.
Civility is a subset of the Hypocrisy violation. That's because the papers call for civility but don't provide it. So on the same day that the Republic announced the winners of its "Civil Discourse" Essay contest, Steve Benson drew Governor Brewer as Libyan Dictator Mohamar Quadafi. Robert Leger received my hypocrite of the year award for leading the Republic's "Civility" campaign and also justifying the basement rapist cartoon for the national media.
Speaking of Hypocrisy, remember when Channel 5 was running all those "Hold the Powerful Accountable" stories about lawmakers being wined and dined by lobbyists? You may also recall that Ed Munson was the General Manager of Channel 5 while at the same time he was the Chairman of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. Isn't that awesome. The same guy who was nailing legislators for accepting favors from special interests was simultaneously Chairing the organization that is the most indicative of special interests--and that spends thousands of dollars a year wining and dining legislators.
The SPJ Ethics guidelines have a lot to say about avoiding conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety. They also have a lot to say about journalists' responsibility to expose unethical behavior of other journalists. I'm the only one who wrote about the Munson story.
I could go on and on.
For example, I've written dozens of stories about Republic "Fact Checks" that are actually thinly-disguised hit pieces. Is Michael Squires supervising his interns? Is he using them in order to advance his personal agenda?
How about Dustin Gardner's coverage of the City of Phoenix? Sal Diciccio made a credible allegation that Gardner had plagiarized research that DiCiccio's office had produced. Did the Republic follow up on that?
I've alleged that Gardner's series of stories against Michael Nowakowski had no basis in fact. They are self debunking and Gardner essentially made them up. For his part, Nowakowski eventually refused to answer Gardner's questions at a press conference. Nowakowski, of course, was pummeled for not speaking to Gardner.
These are serious allegations of violations of ethical standards made by credible sources. Is the Republic looking into them? Do they supervise Gardner? Is it possible that he has issues with Nowakowski that go beyond city of Phoenix business? At what point will the general public lose confidence that Gardner can cover the Councilmen fairly?
I would be happy to stop writing this blog if the Arizona journalism community would start covering Arizona journalists. I believe that they have an ethical obligation to police their own industry and hold themselves and other members of their profession to a high ethical standard.
So far, no one has been willing to cross that thin Helvetica line.
On Friday I pointed out that KPNX Reporter Brahm Resnick used a screen shot from the end of an interview in order to claim that Secretary of State Michelle Reagan had tried to "dodge reporters". This fake theme is not just a misleading view of the events, it's an outright fabrication. Here's the copy of his tweet from last week.
KPNX has posted the full interview and the headline is clearly an unacknowledged correction of Brahm's false narrative. Notice how awkward the new headline is.
The headline acknowledges that she answered the questions. The fake "dodge reporters" theme is gone. Also notice that KPNX has corrected the order of events; KPNX has renounced Brahm's fake, "she dodged, we catch up, questions ensue" theme.
The only fig leaf that they left Brahm was using the word "flees". Of course, even without watching the video, the headline is absurd. She ANSWERED THE QUESTIONS and then "flees". What should an interviewee do after answering the questions? Once the station has conceded that she answered the questions, then how can they justify using "flees" to describe her exit.
If you click on the video, you will realize how absurd the headline really is. The video is over 6 minutes long! She didn't just answer a couple questions on the way to the elevator, she stood there for six minutes and answered the same questions over and over and then then walked away. The reporters then followed her and repeated the same questions until the doors closed.
This story is a clinic on the lack of reporting ethics. Stay tuned for updates tomorrow and Wednesday.
Check out this tweet that Channel 12 Reporter Brahm Resnik sent out last week. If you watch the actual footage you will see that the Tweet is fake.
In the video, Reagan answers reporters' questions for several minutes and when the questions become redundant, she then leaves. The cameras follow her, and the reporters continue to ask her the same questions and then she gets into the elevator and when the doors close, the interview is over. The "dodge reporters" story line certainly doesn't appear on the video. Yes. She eventually terminates the interview, but at that point, she has answered each question several times. There is no "dodging".
Furthermore, the picture that Brahm tweeted is from the last few seconds of the interview. By combining the "We catch up. Questions ensue" text with the picture that is actually from the last few seconds of the clip, Brahm is trying to give credibility to the fake "Regan dodged us" theme.
This story is journalistic fraud. Again, this is not a picture of the reporters "catching up" with her. Brahm uses a picture from the end of the interview and combines it with the narrative about the beginning of the interview in order to prop up his fake "Reagan dodged us theme."
This isn't the first time that Brahm has faked a story. Last March I busted Brahm for essentially the same infraction. He edited his interview with Bernie Sanders to make it look like Sanders walked out of the interview. Then after the "Sanders walked out" theme went viral, Brahm was forced to release the full video that showed that Sanders not only remained for the full interview, but warned Brahm not to try to claim that he had walked out.
OK. Boys and Girls today's lesson is "The Structure of the United States Government."
The "United States" is formed from a group of governing bodies called "States". The sovereign, or "police" power resides in those states. They formed a federal government and granted some powers to that government. They also formed (or allowed to be formed) local governments that included counties, cities and school districts plus lots of little governing units like homeowners associations.
Naturally the people who run these other governments attempt to accumulate more and more power. So the federal government tries to expand its list of "enumerated" powers in order to control things as trivial as light bulb standards. Meanwhile, the cities encroach on state power from the other side and try to legislate minimum wage and other employment law plus a host of other issues such as whether or not stores can use plastic bags*.
The state resists these encroachments from above and below.
People who don't understand this structure or who are ignorant of United States History, find it somehow illogical and criticize the states for defending the authority that belongs to them.
Unfortunately, some of the individuals who lack this training and understanding get jobs as "journalists" in which they are paid to opine on things that they don't understand.
Naturally, the Republic's Linda Valdez is against the recent bill to expand the State Supreme Court. However, this line makes it obvious that she hasn't done her homework.
Let’s see how many independents or Democrats wind up on a Ducey court.
The answer of course is that Ducey is One for One. Clint Bolick is an Independent. She should know that.
More telling is her reaction when Steve Twist pointed out her error.
Valdez shows that she has limited understanding of the political spectrum, as well as the complexity of legal thought. She seems to think that the spectrum is linear and that Republicans are on the right and Democrats are on the left while independents are in the middle. This limited perspective might get you through the AP History test, but for a political reporter/columnist/editorial writer, it's shockingly ignorant.