Jay Rosen’s latest posting at his popular Press Think blog, which I probed on Monday, has inspired much push back from journalists since then, so I found it amusing earlier today to find that his leading supporter might well be… Barack Obama.
The New York Times, in a major piece on Obama’s media-consuming habits (loves his iPad) and the president as strong if often silent press critic, reveals that “privately and publicly, Mr. Obama has articulated what he sees as two overarching problems: coverage that focuses on political winners and losers rather than substance; and a ‘false balance,’ in which two opposing sides are given equal weight regardless of the facts.” These happen to be two of Rosen’s prime tenets, as expressed again in that recent post, along with his dissection of what he calls the “savvy” vs. the truth-tellers.
Of course, Rosen’s latest (and, who knows, Obama’s now public agreement) has drawn a good deal of criticism this week from some of those the Rosen shoe might fit, and others, such as David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix. He defended one Washington Post reporter targeted by Rosen who had simply tried to “explain why he thinks Romney’s nonsense works. That’s exactly what he’s supposed to do in the particular corner of the media world he occupies.” That is, Obama’s pet hate, the political “horse race.”
Conor Friedersdorf, to cite just one more example, at The Atlantic weighed in on the same Washington Post writer, suggesting his “focus” is “that rather than assessing the truth of statements made during a campaign, he or she is charged with informing readers of the fact that lots of inaccurate things get said but a price is seldom paid for saying them.” Is that enough?
Rosen, the NYU prof and citizen journalism advocate, promises a response very soon. But today he added a brief update at his blog, highlighting this passage in the Times piece on Obama: "I think sometimes we in the media — particularly under the crunch of deadlines — don’t have time to work through all the issues of discerning what is fact,” said Paul E. Steiger, chief executive of ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative news organization, and a former Wall Street Journal managing editor, “and so we say ‘he said, she said.’ ”