Monday, March 28, 2005

Strib, PiPress, and Self-Googling

Readers at both daily Twin Cities newspapers, hmm. Posted by Hello

I wonder who reads my blog from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press? Maybe I can figure it out by dancing an Irish jig. Or maybe if I go to mass (although I'm not Catholic) and sit next to a Muslim, er, Middle Eastern parishoner. I would be better at figuring things out if there were more textbooks, er, books in the classroom.

Scroll down or click here to see the Google searches that brought the newspaper employees to this humble site.

Googling your own name? We've all done it! Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Nick, Laura, and Barbra(?)

Check out the St. Paddy's Day column where Laura Billings talks about her marriage to an Irishman. Seems that the Newspaper Newlyweds danced an Irish jig at their wedding reception. I expected they would have Barbra Streisand singing "Evergreen." No self-respecting liberal couple would have a wedding without Barbra!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ragsdale, Rather, and the Right

Here is my letter to the reporter of the Dan Rather/Blog story in the Pioneer Press:

Dear Mr. Ragsdale:

What is the Pioneer Press position on the authenticity of the National Guard memos in the 60 Minutes story? I wonder if your readers know the basis for the conclusion that the documents were fakes.

Also, your article (3/10) has the tone of a typical George Stephanopoulos piece. The ex-Clinton staffer is unable to keep his exasperation in check when interviewing conservatives. Invariably, his tone and body language scream, "How can you SAY that?" You were obviously incredulous that conservatives could criticize Senator Kerry's war record on the one hand, while criticizing Dan Rather's treatment of President Bush's war record on the other hand. Let me help you on the difference between the two:

--The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were a 527 Group with an admitted agenda, while 60 Minutes is a news program, which is not supposed to have an agenda. It is different for a 527 to take shots at a candidate than for a network news program to do so, even if the documents were authentic.

--The Kerry campaign highlighted Kerry's military career, even inviting us to listen to those who "served with" the senator.

--Senator Kerry told some whoppers after his service about Christmas Eve in Cambodia and widespread war crimes.

--Although this was not brought out by the SwiftVets, Kerry suggested that Lt. Calley should not be punished harshly for My Lai because everyone was committing war crimes.

--The media are generally inconsistent whether military service is a campaign issue. For Bob Dole, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush, military service doesn't matter. For Max Cleland and John Kerry, military service makes them qualified for the office they are seeking.

--John O'Neill started the campaign after donating a kidney to his wife, which was a continuation of his efforts to set the record straight more than 30 years ago. He is a Texas Democrat, which may qualify as a moderate Republican in other parts of the country, but he has consistently maintained the same position since he returned from Vietnam. So this is not an election year allegation for John O'Neill.

--Senator Kerry still has not signed an SF 180, as President Bush has and as he promised to do.


Peter A. Swanson

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Swarms, Stribs, and Coffee Breaks

Here is the latest Star Tribune story on blogs. Not a bad story, except for the continued lack of insight and self-awareness. Is there a danger that the public will only choose the blogs with which they agree? Sure. Can blogs unfairly swarm someone? Of course. But the mainstream media (MSM) can be guilty of the same things.

If weblogs and the Internet expand the range of opinion available, then it is more likely that people will encounter information that challenges their worldview. Opinion is not a new feature of the medium, just the lessening of the potential for an opinion monopoly.

It is one thing to ask that a reporter be reassigned to a different beat during an election. It is quite another to interfere with a civilian journalist's day job in retaliation for something he writes on his blog. That is what happened when both the Nick Coleman and the City Pages went after Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson's employer (which is my employer, too). They took a look at the time stamp on posts and decided that he was blogging during work hours. This, they rationalized, justified their attacks on his day job. At the time of the controversy (coffee break-gate?), I asked Scott where and when the City Pages reporter called him. He replied that he got the call at work, at around 5pm. So to prove that Scott was engaging in politics when he should have been working, the reporter calls him AT THE OFFICE. It is true that waiting until typical quitting time is better than calling during the day, but the fact that he was still at the office sort of undercuts the whole slacker accusation.

The attempted swarm by the MSM against Powerline does not compare to the successful swarm against Dan Cohen. The excellent book by Elliot Rothenberg on this landmark U.S. Supreme Court case describes the Captain Ahab-like pursuit of Cohen by Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow. Cohen's crime was to reveal public arrest records about a state-wide candidate in the 1982 election in Minnesota. Ah, the quaint old days before the Smoking Gun. His other crime was relying on a promise of confidentiality from both the Strib and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Abandoned by the Republican party and fired from his advertising job, Cohen finally landed on his feet at the University of Minnesota. Once Doug Grow found out, the Strib turned up the heat and Cohen was forced out of his new job. So much for the MSM being the bulwark against unfair "swarms."

Although President Bush doesn't need me to defend him, the "fake, but true" National Guard story is also an example of an unfair swarm. I am often guilty of writing about something a day or two after it is in the news (better late than never). But 60 Minutes II takes the cake for writing about a story almost four years into his presidency, concerning events 30 years ago.

In the incidents mentioned above, and many others (including this post), the blogosphere is the cure for unfair swarming and groupthink.