April 6, 2007

Be Our Technical Director

Please. We’re hiring a technical director to do this website true justice; to spend every day working with our producers to link the radio show into the semantic web; to take advantage in a more ...

Please.

We’re hiring a technical director to do this website true justice; to spend every day working with our producers to link the radio show into the semantic web; to take advantage in a more structured way of all the Flickr photo research and del.icio.us tagging we do; and, most immediately, to see us through a fundamental rethink, redesign and rebuild.

This is a code management gig for the detail-obsessed; it’s also an opportunity to think of fun things to do with smart producers and an insightful audience and then go do them. Map our audience for us. Help us share our reading lists. Come up with a better way for our community to pitch shows.

Do things we haven’t thought of yet.

Open Source is broadcast in major markets around the country; the blog, according to Blogpulse, is consistently among the 500 most-linked-to blogs on the web. We just got a shiny new MacArthur grant to build version 2.0. Come make it happen.

Take a look at our complete job description (pdf) and email hire radioopensource org.

Tell your friends.

March 29, 2007

Shakespeare and Power

On our pitch-a-show thread this week Dora remembered our Thucydides show and what it made her think of: Shakespeare. For months, I’ve been thinking about an exchange that occurred on your Thucydides show. Susan Cheever ...

Greenblatt, StephenOn our pitch-a-show thread this week Dora remembered our Thucydides show and what it made her think of: Shakespeare.

For months, I’ve been thinking about an exchange that occurred on your Thucydides show. Susan Cheever kind of bowed out of the conversation saying something to the effect of “literature is more important than politics.” She’s a wonderful writer, but I’ve just been completely baffled by this comment. I remember thinking at the time that Shakespeare seemed to believe that politics –- i.e. the struggles and dilemmas of those who wield power — were the very essence of literature.

Dora, in an show pitch to Open Source, March 23, 2007

She pointed us to an article in The New York Review of Books by Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare and the Uses of Power.

It begins with Bill Clinton as literary critic, and then goes on to discuss Shakepeare’s depictions of people who for reasons of fate and family are destined to hold power (G.W. Bush? Hillary?); his attraction to characters who attempt to walk away from power (Al Gore?); as well as his distrust of democracy (‘when he tried to imagine electioneering, voting, and representation,’ Greenblatt says, ‘he conjured up situations in which the people, manipulated by wealthy and fathomlessly cynical politicians, were repeatedly induced to act against their own interests.’)

Dora, in an show pitch to Open Source, March 23, 2007

So we’ve got Stephen Greenblatt in the studio tonight. David and I waded into his fourteen-page argument yesterday; it can be best boiled down to a single quote:

…in Shakespeare no character with a clear moral vision has a will to power and, conversely, no character with a strong desire to rule over others has an ethically adequate object.

Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare and the Uses of Power, The New York Review of Books, April 12, 2007

Greenblatt reaches deep into the catalog: King Lear, The Tempest, Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet, Coriolanus, Henry V and Julius Ceasar. We’ll try to do the same tonight, stopping to get filled in on what we’ve forgotten since college. What does Shakespeare tell us about power? Can he shed any light on democracy, or just kings deposing each other? What does power do to his characters? What can we read in Shakespeare about this century’s Presidents? Can you have both a will to power and an “ethically adequate object”?

Stephen Greenblatt

Professor of the Humanities, Harvard UniversityAuthor, Will in the World and Learning to Curse

General editor, Norton Shakespeare

Oliver Arnold

Associate Professor of English, Princeton UniversityAuthor, The Third Citizen

Jim Fitzmorris

Author and playwrightProfessor of Theatre History, Tulane University

Extra Credit Reading
David A. Bell, THe Character Issue, Open University, March 26, 2007: “So in the upcoming campaign, please, let’s not equate ‘character’ with being a boy or girl scout, still less with being ‘meek.’ As Greenblatt reminds us, the character Shakespeare most memorable defined as “meek” was Duncan, in Macbeth. And we all know what happened to him.”Guy Zimmerman, Against the New Model Army, Placebo ART, March 25, 2007: “I think in Shakespeare there’s a recogition that the vertical hierarchy of monarchy was about to be toppled by fanatics of the Self, but what would have surprised Shakespeare is how this process managed to conceal itself within the language of religion and Christianity.”

Alicia Colon, Shakespeare and Politics, The New York Sun, August 25, 2006: “I was under the impression that the Shakespeare plays were a good thing. Then I realized that my tax dollars were paying not only for something I’d never enjoy, but for productions that were less about Shakespeare than about politics.”

Rick Sincere, Report from New York, Rick Sincere Notes and Thoughts, March 28, 2007: “Asquith’s book (subtitled “The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare”) posits that Shakespeare’s plays are “coded” documents designed to support Catholic dissidents in an age of political and religious turmoil.”

Ezra Klein, McCain’s Fall, Tomorrow’s Media Conspiracy Today, March 8, 2007: “It’s possible that, when all is said and done, not only will he have humiliated himself only to lose, but he’ll have lost because he humiliated himself. It’s downright Shakespearean.”

Gerard Barker, The vaulting ambition of America’s Lady Macbeth, The Times, January 26, 2007: “Now, you might say, hold on. Aren’t all politicians veined with an opportunistic streak? Why is she any different? The difference is that Mrs Clinton has raised that opportunism to an animating philosophy, a P. T. Barnum approach to the political marketplace.”

March 27, 2007

Story Meeting Roundup: March 27, 2007

Every morning we meet at 11:00 to talk about the previous night’s shows and what we’re doing for the rest of the week. We drink coffee. Mary tells me to shut my computer and pay ...

Every morning we meet at 11:00 to talk about the previous night’s shows and what we’re doing for the rest of the week. We drink coffee. Mary tells me to shut my computer and pay attention. Here, as part of an experiment moving forward, today’s recap.

We agreed that we’ll all someday work for Toby Johnson, studio guest on last night’s Women in War and imminent corporate tycoon. Our favorite moment last night, though, came when Tina Bean — after hearing Brian Dunbar’s blog comment that combat duty is a “libido killer” — responded, “You can always find time.”

We heard, both from Toby Johnson and — in the thread — former Marine Brian Dunbar about the importance of leadership. From Brian:

In my experience lax leadership (at any level) promotes a lot of shenanigans, including harassment. When your leadership team is effective, when the troops know that the Man does not tolerate the crap (whatever it is) it stops.

Brian Dunbar, in a comment to Open Source, March 26th, 2007

We’ll be coming back to the role of leadership when we talk about Abu Ghraib and the Stanford Prison Experiment in tonight’s show, The Banality of Evil, Part II.

Former intern Henry was in the office; he brought baked goods as always and enjoyed a Norm-like reception.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, check out this Language Log post on the use of the word “compound.” Does it make us think of Kennedys or cults?

Update

Also, we sent two shows, Coal: Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia and Coltan in the Congo, to the graveyard. We do this when interest — on the threads or in the office — has waned on a show, or if the peg — a timely reason for producing the show — has passed. The name “graveyard” notwithstanding, these shows don’t have to be gone forever; if you can think of a great guest or a great reason for doing one of them, let us know.

March 19, 2007

John McCain: Straight Shooter?

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) John McCain, 2005 [Mr. Wright / Flickr] Scrambling a bit for a show tonight, wading in on John McCain. The Straight Talk Express is on the ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

john_mccain

John McCain, 2005 [Mr. Wright / Flickr]

Scrambling a bit for a show tonight, wading in on John McCain. The Straight Talk Express is on the road again; can McCain be the same maverick he was in 2000? Is he a maverick in the first place, or does he just play one on TV? Do we have the same expectations of McCain as we do other candidates, or has his (in part self-constructed) image as a truth teller made us look harder for flaws? Is it as easy for the center to swoon for him after he infamously allowed George Bush to hug him on the campaign trail in 2004?


Michael Scherer

Washington correspondent, Salon.com

Erik Erikson

Blogger, Confessions of Political Junkie

CEO, Redstate.com

Jill Zuckman

Washington correspondent, Chicago Tribune

Robert Timberg

Editor-in-Chief, Proceedings

Author, John McCain: An American Odyssey and The Nightingale’s Song

Extra Credit Reading

Michael Scherer, McCain takes the press for a bumpy ride, Salon, March 18, 2007: “But candidate McCain has also re-embraced a radical notion for this modern era of e-mailed opposition research and minute-by-minute news cycles, when a sound bite can be heard instantly around the world but a position paper is never read. He is betting that voters will forgive a front-runner’s public flubs, and the headlines they produce, if they feel they are voting for a real person, not a consultant-managed product.”

Erick Erickson, McCain Continues Shafting Conservatives, Red State, March 13, 2007: “I’m confused. I thought John McCain was a conservative. Of course he tells everyone who will listen that he is one.”

Roger Simon, John McCain: Is it Déjà vu All Over Again?, The Politico, March 17, 2007: “So was it like the old days? Was it the same rollicking, merry prankster, boys-and-girls on the bus, free-for-all? No. It was access to the candidate that no other campaign grants. But no reality of today could live up to the memories of yesterday, anyway.”

James P. Pinkerton, Chuck Hagel is hot – John McCain is not, Newsday, January 30, 2007: “It’s official: Chuck Hagel is the new John McCain, getting the glowing treatment from glam publications such as GQ. And John McCain is the new Bob Dole – and we know what kind of press Dole got.”

Todd S. Purdum, Prisoner of Conscience, Vanity Fair, February, 2007: “John McCain has spent this whole day, this whole year, these whole last six years, trying to “fix it,” trying to square the circle: that is, trying to make the maverick, freethinking impulses that first made him into a political star somehow compatible with the suck-it-up adherence to the orthodoxies required of a Republican presidential front-runner.”

David Weigel, Hate the Spending, Love the Spenders, Reason Magazine: Hit and Run, March 19, 2007: “McCain’s goal, if he’s honest, would be to produce a large Republican majority that agrees with him. If he doesn’t care if apostates on spending and taxes (and from his perspective, war) hold swing votes in the GOP, he must not care very much about spending and taxes.”

Bull Dog Pundit, McCain Video On Multitude Of Topics, Ankle Biting Pundits, March 19, 2007: “The man still doesn’t get it when it comes to why conservatives are upset with him over CFR. He claims that much of the anger is coming from “special interests’ who have been deprived of money and that those people were “in Washington” who were upset that they couldn’t carry out their agenda. WRONG WRONG WRONG Senator. The main reason conservatives are upset with you about CFR is because it impinges the right to free speech.”

Jonathan Chait, McCain goes over to the dark side, Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2007: “Well, let’s just say that if John McCain circa 2007 was campaigning against John McCain circa 2000, he would call him a communist.”

Matt Welch, Be Afraid of President McCain: The frightening mind of an authoritarian maverick, Reason Magazine, April, 2007: “McCain once wrote that Teddy Roosevelt “invented the modern presidency by liberally interpreting the constitutional authority of the office to redress the imbalance of power between the executive and legislative branches that had tilted decisively toward Congress.” This is the kind of president John McCain is aching to be.”

3:35

On the one hand you’re being flattered by a man who could be President, who’s willing to sit down with you and essentially joust with you intellectually at length for a long period of time. There’s sort of an ego gratification to the whole process. Most candidates you have to beg and fight just to get 15 minutes with, and here he’s trying to basically talk us out for hours at a time . . . On another level, though, he is doing something that I think is really valuable. He’s opening up the process in a way that other candidates simply aren’t opening up the process. We are not working for him. We were looking the entire time for him to stumble or to say something new, and there’s no reason we wouldn’t write it.

Michael Scherer

8:10

[When asked whether he supports funding for contraception in Africa, McCain] sort of clammed up. And clearly got nervous. At one point he said, “I’m stumped.” At another point he called for his communications director . . . it was a telling moment, for two different reasons. One, here you had John McCain, who is marketing himself as the straight talker who knows exactly who he is and who he wants to be and is not afraid to let other people see it. And here he was, being confused by an issue that he admittedly hadn’t thought a lot about, but also was afraid of alienating some Republican voters on. On the other side, I thought it was interesting because it showed exactly why other candidates don’t allow this kind of access. We didn’t catch him exactly flip-flopping on a position—we just caught him off guard.

Michael Scherer

18:14

He drew the line this time. Eight years ago, he pretty much drew no lines. But this time, he was a little more cautious in a few hot-button areas because he’s trying to run to win, and last time it was just a sheer underdog effort.

Jill Zuckman

18:44

I think he learned something from the last election, and he is the first to tell you he did. He describes himself as being wiser. (He doesn’t want to mention being older.) He said that he made a big mistake in South Carolina eight years ago when he got so angry. He said “I got angry. Voters don’t like angry candidates.”

Jill Zuckman

26:04

McCain is starting to attract conservatives who see Rudy Giuliani as probably the chief threat. The major distinguishing point I believe between the two is on the life issue and the social issues. McCain is becoming very much the anti-Giuliani.

Erik Erikson

36:58

Brendan [Greely, Open Source’s blogger-in-chief] . . . talks about McCain being embraced by George Bush on the campaign trail. And I ask you: what the hell was he gonna do? I mean, the president of the United States throws his arms around you: are you gonna head-butt him?

Robert Timberg

March 14, 2007

Patronage, Politicization and Policy

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) The White House acknowledged on Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove served as a conduit for complaints to the Justice Department about federal prosecutors who were ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

The White House acknowledged on Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove served as a conduit for complaints to the Justice Department about federal prosecutors who were later fired for what critics charge were partisan political reasons.

Ron Hutcheson, Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev, White House says Rove relayed complaints about prosecutors, McClatchy Newspapers, March 11, 2007

The House Judiciary Committee is looking this week into the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors for varying allegedly political motivations. Some failed, evidently, to prosecute Democrats aggressively enough; some failed to soft-pedal investigations of Republicans. Some were let go early so a new cohort of Republicans could add “US attorney” to their resumes before the end of the Bush presidency.

That a White House might have exerted political influence on a federal agency doesn’t seem like earth-shattering news. Federal agencies are headed by executive appointees, and it makes sense that each new administration brings in its own. Janet Reno fired 93 US attorneys in 1992. Patronage is, after all, among the oldest professions, and America votes to see policies enacted.

But the Bush Department of Justice fired its own appointees — Republicans — allegedly because they failed to prosecute Democrats aggressively enough. Which makes the DOJ look like a political arm of the Republican Party, and not a federal agency. This is not the first time this has happened. What we’ve learned about Justice this week can be seen consistently over Bush’s two terms: federal agencies are valuable less as a reserve of professional expertise, and more as a means to advance the White House’s chosen policies.

Think of the White House’s impatience with the CIA or the State Department, or the struggle between the Pentagon military and civilian leadership. In 2002, the president dismissed his own EPA’s findings on global warming as a “report put out by the bureaucrats.” “Experts,” then — analysts, diplomats, scientists and now prosecutors — have become bureaucrats. Experts can exercise judgment and have to be listened to; bureaucrats are replaceable and capable only of hampering sound policy.

We’d like to look at the US attorney firings as part of a larger pattern, a nineteenth-century way of looking at the federal government as a political machine. Are the US attorney dismissals an isolated event? Has this White House politicized federal agencies any more than any other in recent memory? Prior to the dismissals, Kyle Sampson in the DOJ mailed to Harriet Miers in the White House a list of attorneys that either “exhibited loyalty to the President” or “chafed against Administration initiatives.” Is the role of an employee of the executive branch simply to “serve at the pleasure of the President,” or to show judgment?

Paul Kiel

Blogger, TPM Muckraker

Wayne Slater

Senior political reporter, Dallas Morning News

Author, The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power and Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential

Ron Suskind

Journalist

Former national affairs writer, The Wall Street Journal

Author, The One Percent Doctrine and The Price of Loyalty

John Nichols

Blogger, The Online Beat

Washington correspondent, The Nation

Associate editor, The Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Author, The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism

Author, Dick: The Man Who Is President

Co-author, It’s the Media, Stupid

Extra Credit Reading

Paul Kiel, Today’s Must-Read, TPM Muckraker, March 13, 2007: “In other words, Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff, unbeknownst to other Justice Department officials, kept all this to himself. A rogue operator within the Justice Department, right under Gonzales’ chin!”

Josh Marshall, March 9, 2007, Talking Points Memo, March 9, 2007: “The two cases we know about are ones in which the US Attorney refused to play along and paid the price. So what about the ones who did play along?”

John Nichols, Gonzalez’s Big Mistake, The Notion, March 13, 2007: “If, in fact, Gonzales or Rove acted with the approval of President Bush or Vice President Cheney, then the issue at hand becomes a constitutional matter of the highest order — or, to be more precise, of the high crimes and misdemeanors order.”

Dan Eggen and Paul Kane, Gonzales: ‘Mistakes Were Made’, The Washington Post, March 14, 2007: “”I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility,” Gonzales said. He said he did not know the details of the plan to fire the prosecutors, but he defended the dismissals: “I stand by the decision, and I think it was a right decision.”

Paul Krugman, Department of Injustice, The New York Times (behind the Times Select firewall), March 9, 2007: “In fact, it’s becoming clear that the politicization of the Justice Department was a key component of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a permanent Republican lock on power.”

Christy Hardin Smith, The Rule of Karl Must End, Firedoglake, March 14, 2007: ” What needs to be made crystal clear to everyone is that the Rule of Karl is at an end, at long last . . . And that, henceforth, this sort of hack behavior will not be tolerated ever again. The only reason this has come to a head as it has at this point is because the Republican-controlled Congress was voted out in November — because of their long-term rubber stamping pact with Rove, no meaningful oversight on this issue has been done for six long years.”

10:05

Every president does nominate their own United States attorneys, the logic being that they should have people enforcing administration priorities. So when Clinton came into office, he replaced all 93 United States attorneys, when Bush came into office, [President George W. Bush's] father, he replaced the United States attorneys. It’s just a matter of course. What’s abnormal is to it in the middle of an administration. That has never been done before, particularly en masse like this, and for no reason.

Paul Kiel

19:00

What Karl [Rove] understood on the day after the election was that the Bush administration had lost the ability to contain the kind of subpoena power and investigations that Congress would undoubtedly begin to do in the final two [years]. He couldn’t really control that. But some of the areas which he could control, and the White House could deal with, would be in making sure that law enforcement, the US attorneys around the country a) were less inclined to pursue the kind of scandals that might embarass the party before 2008, and b) would be the kind of people who, unlike the New Mexico US attorney, might be a little more receptive to going after democrats.

Wayne Slater

24:50

That’s the concept. You act in these ways. You do what you can. You show, essentially, a strong perception of power, whether you house it or not, by making examples of certain individuals. And others will know: boy, I’m not going to do certain things that I might have otherwise done.

Ron Suskind

31:40

John Dilulio, who talked to me for one of the Esquire pieces — he’s the guy who ran the faith-based program, he was the first guy to leave the white building and speak real truth — and what he says early on — this is 2002 — he say’s there’s no precedent in any modern administration for this. There’s no policy apparatus. They don’t produce white papers; it’s kids on big wheels. He says, I’m in meetings where they get Medicare and Medicaid mixed up. And in this vacuum, rushes in the political arm.

Ron Suskind

34:15

We have had times in our past when a lot of positions in the government were filled by political hacks and for political reasons. What’s different in this administration, and what I think is significant, is so many positions are filled by ideaologues. And that’s where you get really dangerous. A political hack often knows enough not to make a stupid mistake. But an ideaologue believes that he can just go ahead and do what he thinks best, and that ultimately everything is going to turn out right.

John Nichols

45:05

Ideaology is about a kind of absolutism. We’re done asking questions, we’ve made our decisions, and now it’s a matter of the hows, not the whys. It’s a matter of execution, if you will.

Ron Suskind

March 1, 2007

Open Source's Shiny New MacArthur Grant

The best letters start like this. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, in all its wisdom, has seen fit to award us $250,000 “in support of the innovative use of internet-based tools in ...
Our MacArthur grant letter

The best letters start like this.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, in all its wisdom, has seen fit to award us $250,000 “in support of the innovative use of internet-based tools in the production of a daily public radio program.”

This is very good news.

It means that we can start an aggressive campaign to improve the creaky, duct-taped infrastructure of the site. It means we can continue to pay Greta for the work she does with our community, and Greta is worth every penny. More important, the letter we got in the mail this week — the best parts are reproduced above — serves as a nice confirmation of what we’re doing.

I spent a lot of time at the Integrated Media Conference in Boston last week answering questions from public radio people about what we do. MacArthur has decided to support us for the same reason; we’re developing tools at Open Source that are going to be useful in the future to a lot of people. People in public radio, people in public television, people tiptoeing toward that fantastic beast we’re beginning to call “public media.”

So expect a lot of development activity in the next two or three months. If you care about the structure of the community, by all means keep letting us know what improvements you’re looking for.

And thank you. Thank you, to the more than 4,000 of you registered on the site; who show up on the comment threads every night; who take the time to pitch us the show ideas we’ve been getting better and better about producing; and who care enough to email me (brendan radioopensource org) with suggestions on how to make the site better. You are our story. You are the success we pointed to when we went to MacArthur for support.

February 2, 2007

The End of the Foreign Correspondent?

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) Going the way of these guys? [hugovk / Flickr] On January 23rd, the legendary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski died. The next day The Boston Globe closed ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Two dodos on display in a museum.

Going the way of these guys? [hugovk / Flickr]

On January 23rd, the legendary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski died. The next day The Boston Globe closed its last three foreign bureaus. Kapuscinski was the inspiration to a generation of foreign correspondents, Poland’s only reporter outside its own borders during the Cold War who, since he couldn’t cover everything, had the latitude to report at length what he found interesting. The Globe, like The Baltimore Sun and other smaller-city papers, was forced to reduce its foreign coverage to save editorial jobs closer to home.

The outside world won’t disappear. The Globe will borrow from the foreign desk of The New York Times; we still have the AP and Reuters and about a million journalists in Iraq. But what, then — as we consider the model of Kapuscinski — is the value of a voice? Do we lose something with the disappearance of longer-form, magazine-style reporting from abroad? Is there a value in having more than two Americans covering the same country?

And, more broadly, what are we learning about the rest of the world, and how are we learning it? As Joshua Hendrickson writes on our site, war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Should we be covering countries before they become hotspots? So we understand why they do, when they do? Beyond the wire services, what’s the model for foreign coverage in the future? Is it Global Voices? The young, unattached, motivated freelancer?

Jon Sawyer

Director, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Charlie Sennott

Former Foreign Correspondent for the Boston Globe

Thomas Crampton

Paris correspondent, International Herald Tribune

Blogs for proto-blogger Joi Ito

Will Stebbins

Bureau chief for the Americas, Al-Jazeera English

Allison Kaplan Somer

Blogger, An Unsealed Room

Middle East editor, Pajamas Media

Extra Credit Reading

Ethan Zuckerman, Are foreign correspondents going extinct? Or just changing their stripes?, My Heart’s in Accra, January 26, 2007: “Foreign reporters are an endangered species in the US today . . . Newsday, which had unique and exciting Africa coverage under his leadership, now has only four overseas employees and will close all bureaus by the end of this year. They’re not alone. The Boston Globe is shuttering its four overseas bureaus, leading Christine Chen in Foreign Policy’s Passport to observe that there’s now only one foreign correspondent for each 1.3 million people in the US.”

Vanessa Gezari, “Freelancing Overseas: Casting Off the Parachute”, Poynter Online, Winter 2004: “There will always be war reporting, but American readers in particular would be well-served by more reporting on peace — or what passes for peace — in far corners of the world.”

Michael Hirschorn, “Get Me Rewrite!”, The Atlantic Monthly, December 2006: “John Vinocur writes a great weekly column for the International Herald Tribune, but anyone who cares about Europe can tap hundreds of other sources in a matter of minutes.”

Howard Kurtz, “Journalism’s Rising Risk Factor”, The Washington Post, August 28, 2006: “Being a foreign correspondent is one of the world’s most thankless jobs. Those who ply the journalistic trade around the globe are increasingly subjected to bombings, shootings, kidnappings or simply being jailed on spying charges.”

Elisabeth Witchel, “The Fixers”, Dangrous Assignments, Winter 2004: “In a climate of heightened danger for the press, local fixers, though they may blend in more than Westerners, have become targets themselves because of their association with international media outlets. And as fixers’ work becomes both more substantial and more dangerous, news organizations face tougher questions in navigating this new terrain in international journalism.”

6:31

In 2002, I spent a great deal of time in Iraq and all through the Middle East reporting on how people in those Muslim countries looked at the impending American confrontation with Iraq. And what struck me, a) was how few American reporters were in Iraq in 2002, and b) the fact that my perspective — what I saw in Iraq moving around the country interviewing people who were openly contemptuous of Saddam Hussein — it was quite different from the picture that was being painted by the media at large in the United States and by our government about the totalitarian regime that was on the march. I didn’t see that. That’s not what I saw.

Jon Sawyer

12:48

The problem I think we got into in the run-up to the war on Iraq, the failure of the meda, the huge failure on our part to do a good job covering that, had to do with something else, which I think is a sort of devaluation of ground truth. That because we have big media, because we have CNN, and our foreign editors and managing editors can sit in the confines of their offices and feel like they’re watching what’s going on, they’ve dismissed those reports from the ground.

Charlie Sennott

29:15

I think that as we move forward, we’re going to find that these very same brand names, these very same newspapers that are facing such a difficulty right now are going to be seen as holding the key for the future, which is the certification of, “this is a news source or a blog that’s worth reading according to a trusted news source.” I think that that’s a role that’s going to increase in value over time. There’s so much conversation going on out there; we need to trim it back to figure out what is interesting, what is important.”

Thomas Crampton

34:34

The one distinction with Al-Jazeera is that we make no distinction between foreign and domestic news. We don’t have a foreign desk. Our audience is global, and our perspective is always global.

Will Stebbins

48:40

[Bloggers are] a different kind of foreign correspondent because their readers can relate to them, not just because they’re American or they’re coming from the same culture, but because they’re talking about news events from the ground, in terms of how a regular person would see things.

Allison Kaplan Somer

44:14

I’d like to throw out the counterintuitive thought that it’s not so much the foreign correspondent that has disappeared as the broad audience has disappeared.

Jon Sawyer

January 26, 2007

On Radio and the Internet

Yesterday we pointed out that WETA in Washington, DC has adopted an all-classical format and will no longer carry us. Blog regular plnelson asks: Why can’t DC listeners listen via streaming audio, from other stations ...

Yesterday we pointed out that WETA in Washington, DC has adopted an all-classical format and will no longer carry us. Blog regular plnelson asks:

Why can’t DC listeners listen via streaming audio, from other stations that carry the show, e.g., WGBH in Boston? Or dowload the MP3’s? I listen to programs from all over the world that way, as well as participate in their blogs, etc.

Maybe I’m not “getting” what the problem is here but it seems to me that an old-fashioned radio station where the listener and the broadcaster are limited by their physical location is SO 20th century!

plnelson, in a comment to Open Source, January 25th, 2007.
Mid-century clock radio

I wish I could quit you! [stereonaut / Flickr]

It’s a fair question, and there are two answers. First, as josephmoyer pointed out, public radio stations pay to carry Open Source; a large part of our business model is for public radio stations to use donations from their audiences to pay us to produce this show.

Second, even were we to find ourselves a Medici to write us a yearly check to record Chris talking to interesting people, we’d argue that a public radio presence would remain a crucial part of spreading the gospel. I, for example, am as wired as they come; I listen to the BBC and Georgia Popplewell via podcast on the T, and once in a blue moon I stream RFI at home so I can pretend I’m learning French.

Which I’m not.

The point is, I still listen to Morning Edition on a plain old terrestrial FM signal when I eat breakfast. Radio is easy, like a utility; you turn on the tap and out it comes. I don’t think you can overestimate the value of simplicity. The mere fact that I don’t have to synch anything or wait for a download or maneuver my laptop into place to get plain old radio makes it exponentially more likely that I’ll listen to it.

Or, in other words, we have roughly 150,000 radio listeners and a podcast audience of 8,000. The podcast audience is invaluable; it gives us comments from sidewalker in Tokyo and bicyclemark in Amsterdam. But you can’t argue with 150,000, and we’ve noticed that every time we pick up a new station our web numbers jump, too. A significant portion of our referred web traffic comes from the sites of the radio stations that carry us. (Here’s a list, by the way.)

More listeners = more people commenting on the site = better blog conversation.

So web-based distribution is important, but we have no intention of leaving the terrestrial sphere to inhabit your brains through the web alone. Radio and the web complement each other in ways too important to ignore.

January 19, 2007

Found on the T This Morning

[Brendan Greeley] It’s not even like it snowed and then the snow got gross. Or that it was cold, here in Boston, for more than a day. But someone who rides the Red Line is ...
Bah hum bug graffiti on the Boston T

[Brendan Greeley]

It’s not even like it snowed and then the snow got gross. Or that it was cold, here in Boston, for more than a day. But someone who rides the Red Line is in possession of a thick Sharpie and a bad mood.

How about where you are? Has it been nasty enough this year to feel the end-of-January malaise?


January 18, 2007

Horne on Algeria, Iraq and Rumsfeld

Yesterday Maureen Dowd wrote that the President is reading Alistair Horne’s “A Savage War of Peace,” an account of the French twentieth-century experience of fighting Muslim guerillas in Algeria. Henry Kissinger had recommended it to ...

Yesterday Maureen Dowd wrote that the President is reading Alistair Horne’s “A Savage War of Peace,” an account of the French twentieth-century experience of fighting Muslim guerillas in Algeria. Henry Kissinger had recommended it to him.

It is not the first time the administration has had a copy in its hands; Horne sent one to Donald Rumsfeld, as he told us when we interviewed him for a show last week about the possibility of leaving Iraq:

Click to Listen to Alistair Horne on Algeria and Iraq (15 minutes)

I was asked to send it to him, and I thought, rather impudently … it’s 700 pages, I thought I would simplify things for him by underlining one or two points … and this was largely around the time of Abu Ghraib. And I pointed out to him that the whole question of abuse and torture is no no no … the French won the Battle of Algiers, you may have seen that famous film, through the use of torture, but they lost the war through it.

And he took this rather badly, ‘Well we don’t torture.’ And I said, ‘No, I know, but the dangers are, that if these things occur, it’s worse than Algeria thirty years ago because now it appears immediately on the media. …

I was asked to send it to him by his office, I was supposed to go in and have a lunch with him, it was unfortunate, but it was the day the good Pope chose to be enthroned, or whatever Popes do, and so there was no news spot for Rumsfeld on the front page of the Washington Post, and no lunch.

And I just left the book, and then we had a correspondence, it was rather heated … he thought I was attacking, and I probably shouldn’t have sidelined those portions, and I did, and then I got a very conciliatory and sensible letter back from him, I mean obviously he appreciates the propaganda nature which I just outlined.

Alistair Horne on Open Source, January 10, 2007

Horne draws an extensive and alarming comparison between the two conflicts: compromised local police, porous borders. He offers, as a historian’s counsel, Tallyrand’s dictum during the Napoleonic Wars: “Wherever there’s trouble, look for a priest.”