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Filling in for the Press

The lead from a December 19 New York Times article by Helene Cooper is portentous if not frightening: “President-elect Barack Obama says that he wants to make his administration more responsive to the American people. To that end, his aides are introducing a host of YouTube and other efforts aimed at bypassing the media and communicating directly with voters.”

Just the day before the Times had reported on the significant diminishing of Washington news bureaus by many major newspapers and chains due to a lack of finances. Entire bureaus are being closed and others have only a few reporters and editors left. With fewer seasoned journalists available to report and analyze what is going on in Washington, fewer politicians will be held accountable. Coupled with plans by the Obama administration to bypass what remains of the media, we will see if anyone notices the reporters’ disappearance. Will we feel flattered that Obama and his deputies are digitally reaching out to us? Or will we feel manipulated?

Given the economic meltdown, the uncertain future of the American worker, the billions of dollars given to banks, Madoff’s fifty billion dollar Ponzi scheme, corrupt high-level officials, the extraordinary decisions that have to be made on the future of the environment, etc., it would seem that a larger crew of reporters and editors would be necessary. One caveat is that this would have to be a group of people working in the public service, not seeking to emphasize spectacle and celebrity for the sake of profit.

Obama might turn out to be one of our more noble presidents, but any administration still requires checks and balances. In the absence of sufficient editorial staffs we will need a more aggressive and focused use of the Web on the part of the 2.0 generation, including a more sustained use of Wikipedia for analyzing and evaluating contemporary policies, a networked group of experts capable of speaking to various issues, amateur reporters who serve as whistle blowers on the local and corporate level, individuals recounting their experiences in staying alive during the economic collapse, and photographers and videographers who dissect staged events that are set up to mislead us. Above all we will need a concerted effort to put aside our individual egos for the public good. If the government’s YouTube videos strike a resonant chord, so be it. But I’m not sure that it’s the best idea simply to wait and see.


  1. Giovanni DB wrote:

    In Italy Berlusconi controls about 6 television channels (3 of his own and 3 state owned). In France Sarkozy is changing the law so that the president in charge could directly decide who will be the head of “France Television”, without counting that the other TVs are owned by his intimate friends.(this without speaking of the papers and magazines…)
    Obama will have his own channel to speak to the people but at least it will be clear it’s his and will not be passed out as “journalism”. It is simply well done “communication” or “propaganda” to use an old word. US is still not as bad as others…
    The scary thing is that the future of great journalism seams to be a person in dressing gown and slippers eating chips in front of Obamatube and Wiki to have cheap news to write in an unverified blog….
    Long life to democracy!

    Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 7:17 am | Permalink
  2. Bailey Wier wrote:

    Fred, thought you’d enjoy this:

    “What you see here is a placeholder between what was and what is to come for Don’t get too used to this page–the complete rebuild is around the corner. Soon we’ll have a new look and a more enjoyable, modern, open and participatory way to share our ideals with the Country.

    On Friday of last week, we chose a vendor to rebuild our website and digital presence; the two are not the same and the distinction matters—a lot. It matters especially so for us. The website you see today is difficult to update, hard to use, and locked in a Web 1.0 environment. It is also stale. It is in need of a massive spring clean… Then, we elected a new Chairman, re-grouped, re-staffed and then, finally, we locked & loaded.”

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

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