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The new Comcast executive team has committed two years for building what they hope will be an important, in-depth news show to rival 60 Minutes. That said, Rock’s launch needed some paper and scissors. More than anything: stronger news stories for a primetime news magazine.
Where was Brian Williams’ Lead Story?
Given the greatly hyped mission statement of the broadcast, along with the hiring of two newsmen highly identified with competing networks, I wasn’t expecting NBC’s premiere anchor to “weigh in” with a rambling fluff piece and juvenile sparring with Jon Stewart.
Now, admittedly, I won’t have to: my daily newspaper subscription entitles me to free access online. I’m just sayin’, that if I was asked to, I wouldn’t. The New York Times, and every other publication, is going to have to figure out a more sensible business model. Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. is calling it one of the most significant days in the Times’s 159-year history: “Our decision to begin charging for digital access will result in another source of revenue, strengthening our ability to continue to invest in the journalism and digital innovation on which our readers have come to depend.”
I agree it’s a significant day for the New York Times. Only I think it day that will go down as the worst miscalculation of consumers in the company’s history. Sulzberger seems to believe the world is invested in good journalism. Sadly, they don’t care.
This isn’t a critique of the New York Times and what many see as its mistakes or declining standards over the past few years. This is not about Judith Millers’s war drums before the invasion of Iraq, or Jason Blair, or the embarrassment of the front page John McCain faux mistress story in the middle of the presidential campaign.
I believe the New York Times, on balance, is still an outstanding newspaper, worthy of its many Pulitzer prizes. Their obituaries of the 9/11 victims, focusing on who they were as people instead of what they did for living, was a defining moment in journalism. Their science, health and medical reporting is in a league of its own. Their willingness to take on pharmaceutical companies separates them from network news which has become co-dependent. Tom Friedman, Maureen Down, Paul Krugman, I love them even when I don’t love them. I will miss Frank Rich.
After all, a brilliant mind, even one with whom you disagree, is a terrible thing to waste. Which brings me back to the wacky decision to charge for the New York Times online.
WILL CONSUMERS PAY FOR NEWS ONLINE? JUST ASK RECORD EXECS HOW CHARGING FOR DOWNLOADS IS WORKIN’ FOR THEM? Read the rest of this entry »
IT’S NOT YOUR MOTHER’S MOTHER JONES: OLD “LEFTY” HAS GREAT 24/7 COVERAGE , ANALYSIS
It’s been five days of hard work for many of us searching for the inside, untold, and full story of the revolution in Egypt and its global implications. I certainly didn’t find what I needed on any of the broadcast networks or even cable news channels.
CNN did have great video on Thursday and even convinced Piers Morgan to dump his Colin Firth interview and roll live with it. CNN has great reporters there led by Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson who live and breath the region and are the most nimble and knowledgeable.
But you can get their coverage and a whole lot more if you follow the Mother Jones updates 24/7 and link to YouTube.
You can also hear the silent screams of those frustrated by what they’re seeing day in and day out. Like those from the Abu Muqawama blog from the Center for a New American Security, an independent and non-partisan non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C.
Egypt: People Who Might Actually Know What The %$#@ They’re Talking About (Updated)
I was home in Tennessee for a brief 24 hours and woke up yesterday morning to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which Mama Muqawama likes to watch before work. Nothing against the people on that particular show, because it’s probably just representative of U.S. cable news in general*, but I was absolutely stunned by the willingness of the show’s guests to opine about Egypt without having any actual experience in or expertise on Egypt or the broader Middle East. Is it really that tough to say, “Hey, that’s a great question, Joe, but I am not really the best guy to give the viewers at home a good answer?”
Instead, guest after guest — most of whom are specialists in or pundits on U.S. domestic politics — made these broad, ridiculously sweeping statements about the meaning and direction of the protests.
I traveled to Egypt twice in 2005 and lived there between January and August of 2006 while studying Arabic after having completed my master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut. I am by no means an expert on Egypt. But I like to think I know the people who are, so as a service to the readers, I am providing you all a list of no-%$#@ experts on Egypt. This list is, happily, by no means exhaustive: unlike the lack of informed commentary on Afghanistan, the United States has thousands of people who have lived and studied in Egypt as civilian researchers and students and can thus provide some reasonably informed commentary on events there. The following list is filled with some people whose opinions matter and whose analysis might actually be informed by study and experience. This list is in no particular order except for the first two people on the list, who are both good friends as well as two of the world’s best experts on Egyptian politics.
Elijah Zarwan, Crisis Group
Michael Wahid Hanna, The Century Foundation, @mwhanna1
Samir Shehata, Georgetown University
Josh Stacher, Kent State University, @jstacher
Amil Khan, Abu Muqawama, @Londonstani
Max Rodenbeck, The Economist
If you can, follow the live feed on al-Jazeera Arabic, which has made for the most exciting television I have watched since the Red Sox came back from three games down in the 2004 ALCS. (These events are arguably more geostrategically significant.) If you can’t follow that feed, try al-Jazeera English or follow the updates on Robert Mackey’s most excellent New York Times blog The Lede.
*An exception to the rule: Ben Wedeman at CNN.
Update: Someone in the comments suggested Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid), and I second that. Again, my list was happily not exhaustive. There are a lot of very smart analysts out there who can thoughtfully opine on Egypt — in large part thanks to the legions of Arabic-language students who pass through Cairo at some point in their training.
Perhaps unsurprising for someone who grew up working in a newspaper, I spend a lot of time analyzing journalism and often criticize journalists. So I need to highlight when journalism is frankly awesome. Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing audio recording of the Guardian‘s Jack Shenker reporting from inside an Egyptian paddywagonafter being beaten by plain-clothed state security thugs and imprisoned. Pretty freaking great.
On a related note, where the hell was al-Jazeera yesterday?
HERE’S MORE OF WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND ON MOTHER JONES
Here is a sample of 24/7 updates from Mother Jones:
UPDATE 26, Friday 12:20 p.m. EST: The White House has released a photo of President Obama receiving a briefing on the Egypt protests:
(What else have you missed?) Read the rest of this entry »