Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mike Daisey Insults Both Theater and Journalism

“Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it’s your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.”

-- Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, p. 305.

Mike Daisey has long-ago earned the discipline of being a playwright. One of his plays “How Theater Failed America,” is actually a story about how he learned the act of play production and staging. Daisey knows how to command a stage, how to write a narrative, how to perform it and how to make the staging of such a thing profitable for both himself and the theaters he performs for.

These are incredible skills and Daisey can be proud of them. What they don’t give Daisey, however, are the skills of a journalist. They don’t even give him the difficult skill of interviewing someone, let alone interviewing someone through a translator and getting them to say meaningful things. They apparently don’t even teach him to take notes when you interview someone, which according to Daisey, he didn’t do which is why he doesn’t have an accurate count of how many factories he visited or how many secret union members he met with.

There’s a reason you take notes as a journalist and it’s not just to record what everyone says accurately for quotes. It’s because your memory is faulty otherwise.

Despite all this on some level Mike Daisey still wants to defend his play, at least as a play. As he told Ira Glass:
“I know that so much of this story is the best work I’ve ever made,” he says. “I stand by it as a theatrical work. I stand by how it makes people see and care about the situation that’s happening there. I stand by it in the theater.”
(He didn’t say those two sentences congruently, but he did say them.)

What Daisey wants to say, I believe, is: Look I made everyone care about workers’ rights in China. And I did that in a way that journalism never did. I made audiences care passionately about people they’ve never met or never thought of before. No it wasn’t my actual experience in China, but they were true experiences for other people, just not mine. So that makes it true because somewhere out in the world, it’s true.

Daisey says at least once in his play “I am not a journalist.” But then he goes on to tell the audience about things he says he’s seen and people he says he’s spoken to. I was there and you are not, let me tell you about it, is the definition of journalism. You are “reporting” what you’ve seen, and who you’ve spoken to, and what they said.

The original three-hour version of Daisey’s play that I watched, its debut in Washington, DC, contained an extremely strong critique of the New York Times. Hey I found these people in Shenzhen, Daisey basically said, it can’t be that hard for you reporters.

Mike Daisey doesn’t have the discipline of being a reporter. He doesn’t have the skills to ferret out secret information, to get reluctant sources to talk and to get them to say meaningful things. Maybe he thought all that was easy, that the act of going to China and talking to people made him enough like a reporter to pass.

Maybe he just doesn’t actually respect the work of someone like Charles Duhigg, who spends his career trying to find the stories Daisey invented. Or even the work of the producers of This American Life, who week after week actually do acts of journalism in a similar narrative form that Daisey aped.

But you get the sense that Daisey felt that, as a playwright, he could just pull everyone’s experience into one giant narrative. They did the work, that’s how Daisey knew about some of the things he talked about, so if he just incorporated things he read about, that would be okay. Someone else had done the legwork. It was “true,” wasn’t it? He wasn’t inventing things he’d never read about.

The ironic part of this was if Daisey had interviewed Charles Duhigg, and had stood on stage and pretended to be him, pretended to have seen things that Duhigg has seen and talk about people Duhigg had interviewed, no one would be calling him a liar today. In the world of theater, it’s not lying to pretend to have someone else’s experience. Daisey, instead of trying to ape the discipline of journalism in one trip, could have used work of real journalists work to tell their stories in a way they couldn’t have.

But Daisey’s work is always about himself. And maybe he enjoyed the thought that he could be both a reporter and a playwright (despite what he said every night he was on stage). That he had become a karate master of journalism skills that takes others years to learn. I found these stories, and you didn’t, he was taunted reporters.

Except that we know now he didn’t. He was relying on everyone else’s reporting to inform his own stories.

In the Retraction, one of the most infuriating parts of Ira Glass’s interview with Mike Daisey is that Daisey still defends his work as a piece of theater. While the world of journalists descends upon on Daisey, the world of theater should also feel equally insulted. Theater is supposed to make the audience care; either weep or laugh, or think, just as long as they feel *something* from what’s performed. But it’s harder to make audiences care about narratives they *know* are fiction. Making people weep over things that have not actually happened is hard work, but it happens every night on stages everywhere. Theater can also tell stories that are true, but are not the actor’s stories and incorporating someone else’s experience and portraying it is the very premise of “acting.”

But Mike Daisey isn’t an actor, he’s a con man. He tried to say “this is true, and this is my story.” But we know now it was neither. What Daisey did was no better than a cheap horror film that tries to con an audience into believing that “the events portrayed are real” in order to force them to feel something they wouldn’t otherwise.

And the sad thing is that by perpetuating his con, he’s now convinced everyone that horrors in Chinese factories probably aren’t real enough to be concerned with either.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Should I Manage My Personal Twitter Identity?

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. And I started with one account: @NewsCat_in_DC. It remains my “flagship” account in a way; the oldest and also the most followed. But it’s also starting to suffer from brand confusion. It’s a little like software that is out-of-date but I’m trying to decide if its worth the loss of data to upgrade it. (This is a metaphor, let me explain.)

In my profile I talk about what the @NewsCat_in_DC account typically covers: Media & journalism, reproductive rights, and news about my community, which is Arlington, Virginia. This is probably too wide a swath, but I came to it because I’ve worked in Journalism, worked in reproductive rights and over time I realized how awesome Twitter was at connecting me with my wider community. So finding out what I wanted to Tweet about under my own name took some time to discover.

Of course this being Twitter, I don’t solely cover those topics, on any given day I might tweet about DC-area Food Trucks or what’s on television. I’m not going to lie; this hurts my brand. Different followers are following me for different reasons, and if I’m tweeting too much about something they’re not interested in, they’ll drop me.

As I mentioned, @NewsCat_in_DC is not the only twitter account I run, I also have a personal hobby blog @StuffUDontNeed, a work account @NameItChangeIt (circa 2012 in any case), and a specialized account dedicated solely to abortion and reproductive rights which is semi-anonymous.

One issue I noticed by having a specialized account dedicated to ONLY one topic is that I typical gain followers (real followers, not just spambots and advertisers) even when I’m not tweeting often. They’re finding me and not dropping me because I’m sticking to the one topic my profile promises them. No extraneous tweeting about what I ate for lunch.

But at the end of the day everyone has to decide what they want their Twitter account for and how personal do you want your Twitter identity to be. Sometime ago when I realized tweeting about TV was losing me followers I had to decide if I wanted to give it up. And I decided not to be cause tweeting about whatever I wanted makes me happy. I’m not doing Twitter solely for some communications-strategy (anymore than I started this blog just for personal gain). I do it for personal satisfaction – something I think everyone should remember when managing their Twitter accounts, we’re not all doing it for purely strategic reasons. We do it because we enjoy it. The question is: how to not lose the joys of Twitter while also being strategic?

If I was rebuilding my Twitter brand from scratch, or if you are building yours, it makes sense to segment off each area to a separate account: which in my case would be a personal (or community) profile, a reproductive rights profile, and a media & journalism-targeted profile. And then maybe even a private-private-private profile for just tweeting amongst friends (call it the Facebook extension version).

This way my “community” profile could tweet about my community, food trucks, TV or what I ate for lunch, without annoying followers who might only be interested when I tweet about media & journalism or reproductive rights.

So why don’t do I this? Drop the lunch tweeting or create yet another account just for community?

Because right now @Newscat_in_DC has almost 1,000 followers (circa October 2011), the most of any of my accounts. My abortion-related twitter account is growing; with very little work I’ve gotten it up to 500 followers. But the Venn diagram of followers of both accounts isn’t 100 percent.

Since @NewsCat_in_DC is my oldest brand it’s tough to restrict it to a Community Profile or create (build from scratch) another journalism-only profile. For example, the famous @Jayrosen_NYU follows @NewsCat_in_DC. He’s a pretty influential follow to lose if I turn @NewsCat into a profile where I only tweet about DC food trucks. But if I start an Arlington-specific account I’ll lose all my wonderful Arlington followers who do sometimes tell me when traffic is bad because of the Metro.

So this is the tension. I’m curious what more experienced Twitter users would advise?

UPDATE: Of course right after I posted this, I found a great article that points out it's not the sheer number of followers you have, it's WHO follows you. If you're followed by someone with thousands or a million followers, and they retweet you, that's better than another 1,000 followers who each have less than 200 followers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ten Rules of A Perfect Hipster T-Shirt

  1. 1. Hipster T-Shirts do not reference mainstream TV. Your Dunder-Mifflin T-Shirt does not make you look cool. It makes you look like a fan. Fans are not cool. Plus if it’s really mainstream it’s not cool. Yes you people wearing Stewart/Colbert ‘12 shirts, this means you too.

  2. Your obscure sci-fi TV show reference shirt is also not Hipster. If you have to have watched an obscure show that was on for two seasons to “get” the reference you aren’t cool. You are a geek. (You also lose points if the shirts are used ironically by other TV shows to show how lame it is to get the joke).

  3. Star Trek, Star Wars and Lord of The Rings T-Shirts aren’t hipster. They just aren’t dude.

  4. Hipster T-Shirt are rare or at least less mass produced than other items. If every jackanape can go into Wal-Mart and buy the same shirt it’s automatically disqualified as “hipster” even if it meets every other qualification. But hipster T-Shirts have to be sold somewhere for hipsters to buy them. So under this scale the less available the t-shirt the more hip it is. A simple rule of thumb: the hipster T-Shirt purchased at Urban Outfitters < tiny boutique < etsy/Threadless/cafepress < Small-club Bands < thrift-store find.
  5. Hipster t-shirts do not have many words. It’s a shirt not a stand-up routine. If you can’t read the entire shirt in 15 seconds it’s got too many words to be hipster.

  6. Hipster shirts are not “cute.” Be wary of the shirt with cutesy-poo cartoon animals or robots. Smiley faced anything, even when used ironically, is not hipster. That Dinosaur in Space shirt concept seems cool, but real hipsters don’t wear cutesy cartoons on them.

  7. A real hipster t-shirt is unisex and apolitical. If a woman/man can’t wear the exact same shirt without looking ridiculous or seem like they are trying to make a statement then it’s not hipster. Obama, Tea Party, Anti-Tea Party, shirts aren’t hipster either.

  8. Hipster T-Shirts can only be worn by those between the ages of 16-35. There’s some wiggle room, a 15-year-old *may* be able to pull off a Hipster T-Shirt despite not being able to drive. Likewise the upper range is more based on the person. But unless you are a bonafide rock star it’s pretty tough to pull off a hipster T-Shirt past 35.

  9. Hipster t-shirts do not reference in any direct way: sex, barfing, farts, shit or piss. Yes that includes the unicorn shitting a rainbow or crapping cupcakes. As for the bodily function stuff, what are you, 15 years old? And if you have to advertise how cool you think sex is you’re probably not getting any.

  10. Some t-shirts are hipster only when originals, not long-after-the-fact reproductions. If you picked up an original Nirvana shirt in the 90s and you are under 35, it can be hipster. If you bought a reproduction online (or Wal-Mart) it isn’t. How would anyone know? Oh hipsters know.

I know it seems like this excludes a lot of t-shirts, but that’s why it really takes work to be that fucking cool.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review of Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

(UPDATE 3/17/12: By now if you've seen this page you've heard about The Retraction where This American Life, after airing a portion of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," realized much of what Daisey said on stage was not true. Read my reaction "Mike Daisey Insults Both Theater and Journalism.")

Last night Mike Daisey premiered his new play “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” at Woolly Mammoth. It may have actually been the best play I’ve seen in years. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but after watching eight Fringe festival plays (including one that was a monologue), I’m convinced there aren’t too many others out there can keep you entertained for three hours merely by talking. But not just entertained. By the end of you will look at your beloved Apple products differently.

The format follows a familiar path that Daisey uses in his monologues, he tells two stories in sections: one a historical tale, the other a personal narrative of travel, both of which will eventually intersect. “The Agony and the Ecstasy” continues themes Daisey was exploring in his last outing “The Last of the Cargo Cults” about the “stuffness” of our material goods – items that Daisey shares the audience’s enthusiasm for. But in “Agony and Ecstasy” Daisey is on much more familiar ground: the coolness of Apple products, and their ultimate costs. In a really funny narrative, Daisey tells the history of Steve Jobs and Apple. Maybe you’ve heard the familiar story before? The charisma of Steve, the geekiness but technical genius of Wozniak? Someone behind me was quietly tracking the key points in the history like “Sculley” and “NeXT.”

But Daisey addresses the issue of who’s geek cock is bigger. It may be yours, he concedes -- although he does brag that used to fieldstrip and clean his MacBook Pro for fun the way other generations cleaned their glocks. But he tells the unknown geek in the audience that when you get over your social problems you can get on stage and narrate your own history. For now this is Daisey’s tale.

It’s a pretty interesting tale too, one that almost makes me wonder if plays can be their own form of journalism. Coming on the heels of the Jobs press conference where he finally admitted there were some technical problems with the iPhone’s design the play feels so relevant its steams with freshness. (The press conference wasn’t mentioned, but Daisey’s monologues do change over time. He may add a bit about it later). Daisey, an Apple fanatic, spends hours on the Mac rumor boards and eventually learns of an iPhone user who found that his phone came with photos stored inside. They were test pictures at the factory, which lead Daisey to wonder where this factory was? Who were these people who built the cool shit we all rely on?

This eventually leads him to the Chinese city of Shenzhen, a city so large that almost no one in the West had even heard of it. Shenzhen is where everything we play on, call from, or type on is made. The Apple products and the Dell products are made on assembly lines next to each other.

But it is the workers in the factory who interest Daisey. He tells the story of a manager who lost one of 13 iPhone prototypes and instead of getting his house raided, ala Gizmodo, he is beaten by his employer for 12 hours and then told he will be turned over to the police the next day. He chooses to commit suicide. But before he does he posts messages on the internet which is how the story begins to leak out about the treatment of the factory employees who make our stuff.

Daisey, against advice from journalist friends who work in China and Hong Kong, travels to Shenzhen with a fixer. He’s there when the news of the 12 factory suicides at the “iPad factory” becomes international news. So he stands outside the factory and talks to whomever will talk to him. And they do talk. He finds a 12-year-old, 13-year-old, and a 14-year-old girl who work there. He hears what happens to a worker after a 32-hour shift on the floor. He sees the sleeping conditions of beds stacked like cordwood in a 10 x 10 foot room.

While a three hour play without an intermission might seem long, any discomfort ones feels sitting that long immediately goes away when you hear what happens to the human body after sitting down and making the same repetitive motions for 12 hours straight.

When the New York Times publishes its story about the suicides, he says he can “pull it apart like taffy” and recognizes each and every press release every quoted person’s statement comes from. There was no real reporting done, he was the only “media” there and he was just pretending to be a journalist.

Daisey’s message is not that his audience should have known these stories. He’s opinionated but his message does not come off like a polemic. He didn’t know these facts and he stood in line for an iPad on the first day like everyone else. The question is now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

At the end of the night, Daisey said that he will be taking his show on tour, which includes a five-city tour of India. I have to wonder what Indian workers will think of their Chinese counterparts and what stories might get added to the show when it returns to DC in Spring 2011.

I would also pay a lot of money to see what audiences in San Francisco make of Daisey's tales.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Blog Isn't Closed, It's Just Going To Sleep Mode

I used to say that "dead blogs make baby Jesus cry." Well I'm going to try to keep our non-lord from crying.

So I've mentioned that most of my writing can now be found via my twitter account. I am here to announce that I can also be read at RhRealityCheck, where I also have accepted a consulting contract.

Writing (and commenting) is still important to me and I can't say that I won't post the odd piece here or there, but for the most part you will find me writing on reproductive rights (my favorite topic) at RhRealityCheck. I hope you will follow me there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Wednesday, September 23)

Less Peril for Civilians, but More for Troops (A1)
By Ann Scott Tyson

Anonymous Quote #1
"We heard they held back artillery. We also heard that as far as they were concerned, there were women and children feeding them [insurgents] ammunition," said a relative of one of the Marines killed. The family is "going to be asking a lot of questions" about the incident, said the relative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of slowing efforts to find out more from the military about the circumstances of the death.

Obama to Set Higher Bar For Keeping State Secrets (A1)
By Carrie Johnson

Anonymous Quote #1
"What we're trying to do is . . . improve public confidence that this privilege is invoked very rarely and only when it's well supported," said a senior department official involved in the review, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy had not yet been unveiled. "By holding ourselves to this higher standard, we're in some way sending a message to the courts. We're not following a 'just trust us' approach."

Tensions Rise in Honduras Over Coup (A12)
By Mary Beth Sheridan

Anonymous Quote #1
"The fact is, Zelaya is there. . . . We have to now try to take advantage of the facts as we find them," said one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He said that the United States and other governments were urging talks between Zelaya and Micheletti and that there were "initial feelers" between the two sides.

Obama Presses Mideast Leaders to Broaden Talks (A17)
By Michael D. Shear and Glenn Kessler

Anonymous Quote #1
"This phase really needs to come to an end," said one senior White House official who is deeply involved in the Middle East discussions. "It's important that we get on to the permanent status talks. You can't spend all your time trying to create that context."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Tuesday, September 22)

I'm currently behind by four days on posting Anonymous Source counts. I will be "backfilling" the missing four days over the next few days.

State Races Capture The White House’s Eye (A1)

By Anne E. Kornblut and Rosalind S. Helderman
Anonymous Quote #1

A senior Democratic Party official close to Paterson said that while the White House pressure on Paterson amounted to a serious blow, the governor is likely to continue weighing his options until he can determine whether he still has support among Harlem's black political elite. Paterson was a longtime state senator representing Harlem.

The Democratic official, who speaks regularly with Paterson, said he thought the story about the White House effort to nudge the governor out was deliberately leaked to increase pressure on him to stand aside in favor of attorney general Andrew M. Cuomo. But he said Paterson is not likely to bow out -- and Cuomo will not risk a racially delicate challenge to Paterson -- unless the top black Democrats in the city ask Paterson to make way for Cuomo.

General’s Review Creates Rupture (A1)
By Karen DeYoung

Anonymous Quote #1
One observer, characterizing the president's dilemma at its most extreme, said: "He can send more troops and it will be a disaster and he will destroy the Democratic Party. Or he can send no more troops and it will be a disaster and the Republicans will say he lost the war."

Anonymous Quote #2
But senior military officials have expressed growing frustration, while warning that delay could be costly. "Time does matter," said one military official. "The longer the situation deteriorates, the tougher to reclaim" the initiative against Taliban forces. Military and civilian officials agreed to discuss White House decision-making and McChrystal's report on the condition of anonymity.

This military official and others cautioned that any strategy revision that resulted in a pullback by U.S. and NATO forces would leave Taliban forces in uncontested control of territory and could lead to a return of civil war in Afghanistan, opening the door to reestablishment of al-Qaeda sanctuaries there.

U.S. Commanders Told to Shift Focus to More Populated Areas (A1)
By Greg Jaffe

Anonymous Quote #1
"I don't think anyone in the U.S. military wanted to be up there," said a senior military official who oversees troops fighting in the village.

U.S. Resident Held Without Bail in Terrorism Case (A6)
By Carrie Johnson and Spencer S. Hsu

Anonymous Quote #1
But the charge, lying to investigators in a terrorism probe, is a placeholders likely to be supplemented in the days or weeks ahead, the law enforcement sources said on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry continues.

Anonymous Quote #2
A U.S. counterterrorism official said, "We're obviously concerned about Westerners -- and those with Western appearance -- training with terrorists along the Afghan-Pakistan border," although the number of Europeans and Americans believed to have traveled there to do so "isn't thought to be high."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Thursday, September 17)

From Finance Chief, a Bill That My Weather the Blows (A1)
By Ceci Connolly

Anonymous Quote #1
"There will be a lot of horse-trading, and it will not be pretty," said one White House aide who is not authorized to discuss the administration's strategy. "This is all about steps that move us forward."

Biden Pushes Iraqi Leaders on Vote Law, Oil-Bid Perks (A16)
By Scott Wilson

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior administration official said Biden also made his interests known on a variety of issues, such as the need for the Iraqi parliament to adopt laws to better protect foreign investment and leaving unchanged the terms of the timetable for the withdrawal of the 130,000 U.S. troops now in the country.

Anonymous Quote #2
But Biden is reluctant to be seen as meddling in a domestic Iraqi issue, and a senior administration official said the vice president operated largely in "listening mode."

Anonymous Quote #3
Biden reiterated the terms of the withdrawal timeline. The senior administration official said the two men's statements mean "that we have a mutual interest in moving forward" under the conditions set out in the agreement.

Anonymous Quote #4
Biden also appealed to Iraqi leaders to offer more financial incentives for foreign investors to bid on Iraqi oil concessions; only one bid of the eight put out this year was accepted. The administration official estimated that one additional deal would translate into $50 billion to $60 billion in foreign investment in Iraq, generate $600 million in annual revenue and create tens of thousands of jobs in the country.

The official said Biden would deliver the same message to Kurdish leaders in meetings scheduled for Thursday. Kurds' interest in ensuring what they see as a fair share of proceeds from the rich oil fields of Iraq's north has presented an obstacle to a revenue-sharing agreement. Reaching a deal is crucial to Iraq's oil-dependent economy, but the goal has been politically elusive for years.

"In an election season in any country, it's difficult to make definitive progress on any issue, and these are difficult issues," the official said, adding that Biden's hope is for the next Iraqi government to be "in good position" to move on the oil legislation and other matters soon after the election.

Anonymous Quote #5
In all his meetings, Biden asked Iraqi officials to assess their progress on an election law, concerned that without one in place soon the January vote will not be able to proceed. The official said he particularly pressed Ayad al-Samarraie, speaker of the Iraqi parliament, because the law is a legislative matter.

Anonymous Quote #6
But the administration source said Biden told Iraqi leaders that regulatory and other financial protections need to be enacted to make foreign investors more comfortable doing business here.

Some of the proposed protections are before parliament, the official said, and their passage would allow, among other things, for the Overseas Private Investment Corp. to extend loan guarantees to companies wishing to do business in Iraq.

Obama Says He Won’t Rush Troop Decision (A16)
By Karen DeYoung

Anonymous Quote #1
But senior administration officials who discussed the ongoing Afghanistan strategy deliberations on the condition of anonymity said they expected internal discussions of the issue to continue for some time.

Anonymous Quote #2
"Nobody is more impatient for progress in Afghanistan than the president," one official said of the internal talks. "It is a mistake to suggest that ensuring that we have the strategy right and ensuring that we have the right policy in place to protect the American people is inconsistent with urgently addressing the challenge we face in that country."

Anonymous Quote #3
An administration official provided a similar briefing to reporters on the condition of anonymity, and echoed Obama's statement about the timing of any troop decision. The president, he said, was "taking a very deliberate, rational approach, starting at the top of the logic chain," which begins with setting goals and then assessing progress toward meeting them. That process is ongoing, he said, and no determination of whether additional resources are needed will be made until it is completed.

The metrics list, the official said, will allow the administration to assess progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- and on the overall counterterrorism goal of defeating al-Qaeda -- on a quarterly basis, with the first assessment due in December.

Anonymous Quote #4
For its part, a senior administration official said, the White House is reluctant to put McChrystal in the lead to explain its policy, fearing a comparison with the Bush administration's approach.

First Full Afghan Tally Gives Karzai 54% of Vote (A16)
By Pamela Constable

Anonymous Quote #1
Galbraith had pushed for an exhaustive probe. Sources who are familiar with the dispute but are not authorized to speak on the record said Eide argued that the international community should not press too hard because it could undermine national stability.

Galbraith had been convinced that Karzai could not win without fraud and had tried to reduce the number of polling stations in some areas in the south, the incumbent's ethnic stronghold, said one diplomatic source. Eide and others, the source said, were convinced that Karzai would win in any case and that any irregularities could be smoothed over, as they were in the 2004 presidential election that Karzai won by a safe margin.

FDIC Packages Loans From Failed Banks (A18)
By Binyamin Appelbaum

Anonymous Quote #1
An FDIC official said a second deal would soon follow, and that he expected others before the end of the year.

The official said that the agency continued to believe that the program could help banks and that the agency in part was moving ahead so that it would be ready if the industry took a turn for the worse.

"We'd be ready to apply this process either on failed bank assets or on open banks," said the official, who conducted a briefing for the media on the condition of anonymity.

Anonymous Quote #2
An executive with a group that placed an unsuccessful bid said that the FDIC had offered a particularly attractive portfolio in this first auction.

Cuomo Subpoenas Bank of America Directors (A19)
By Tomoeh Murakami Tse

Anonymous Quote #1
New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo subpoenaed five Bank of America directors Wednesday as investigators prepare to file charges against the bank's senior executives in connection with its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Anonymous Quote #2
Cuomo plans to subpoena most, if not all, of the directors over the next several weeks, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Bank of America chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis has already testified.

Board members will be asked about whether the bank withheld material information from shareholders, including the $15 billion in additional losses at Merrill that were disclosed weeks after the merger, as well as the $3.6 billion in bonuses it paid to employees shortly before the deal closed. The directors will also be asked about their role in determining what information to disclose and the pressure the bank may have received from government officials in the weeks leading up to the merger, the source said.

Anonymous Quote #3
A source close to the investigation said earlier this week that Cuomo's office is in the final stages of drawing up charges against senior Bank of America executives.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Wednesday, September 16)

Mullen: More Troops ‘Probably’Needed (A1)
By Ann Scott Tyson

Anonymous Quote #1
“There's a very big opportunity here to reduce violence by reaching out to some of the lower-level guys, to give them an opportunity to see a life that's better than fighting for the Taliban," said a senior official at the NATO command in Kabul who discussed the program on the condition of anonymity. "What's really important is to get a feel for where the Afghans are" on reintegration, the official said.

No decisions have been made on what the incentives would be, although the official said they could include cash and jobs.

The major challenge is to develop a program the Afghan government accepts and implements from the start -- in contrast to Iraq, where the United States paid former fighters and then struggled to persuade the Iraqi government to integrate them into its security forces and other jobs, the senior official said. "It has to be owned and driven by them."

As Right Jabs Continue, White House Debates a Counterpunching Strategy (A1)
By Anne E. Kornblut

Anonymous Quote #1
"In a world with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report and everything else that makes up the right-wing noise machine, nothing is clean and nothing is simple," a senior administration official said. "You don't stomp a story out. You ride the wave and try to steer it to safe water."

Anonymous Quote #2
"There's a broader argument that is the underlying argument to all of these attacks, which is a very fundamental struggle about trying to tear this president down and delegitimize his presidency," said one senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "That is really the war. And all of these are skirmishes -- some of them flare up into battles -- but the broader war is about the fate of this presidency and the other side's attempts to delegitimize him and to make him into a failure."

White House Seeks Renewal of Surveillance Laws (A3)
By Carrie Johnson and Ellen Nakashima

Anonymous Quote #1
Durbin and Feingold want to tighten standards for obtaining national security letters so that the government must show some "nexus to terrorism," according to a Senate Democratic aide, heightening the current standard of showing "relevance" to a counterterrorism investigation.

Anonymous Quote #2
The bill would also ensure that new powers granted under last year's law would not be used as a pretext to target the communications of Americans in the United States without a warrant, another Senate Democratic aide said.

Diplomat in Kabul Leaves in Dispute (A14)
By Pamela Constable and Karen DeYoung

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior U.N. official here said Galbraith "will be back."

Anonymous Quote #2
In the post-election dispute, sources close to the United Nations said Galbraith represented the view that the fraud probe must be fully carried out, along with a partial recount that the complaints panel ordered, even if this leads to a delayed runoff.

Anonymous Quote #3
Diplomatic sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said U.S. officials here had been frustrated in their efforts to press Karzai to acknowledge the widespread fraud and to accept the possibility of a runoff, or to make a deal in which he would remain as a titular president but be held more accountable for his actions and allow himself to be surrounded by foreign, technocratic advisers.
The sources said Karzai has been privately trying to win over European diplomats, including Eide, suggesting that they not be overly concerned about the fraud problem and give him full support on the grounds that he has won a decisive mandate.

Anonymous Source Watch: Definitions

I should define what I call an anonymous quote. Anytime the speaker or source for the information isn’t named, I call that anonymous. Excluded from that are unnamed “official spokesperson” where it is clear their words are sanctioned by the agency. Also generally excluded are times when a reporter spoke to many people to come up with background information (“multiple sources have confirmed”) but the specifics of source-given information cannot be ascertained.

I also separate the number of quotes by paragraphs, even if the source is the same. My theory is that the number of times the article cuts to anonymous sources is what I’m counting (even if is the same source, quoted two or three times in the same article). However if one anonymous source is quoted through successive paragraphs, that counts as one quote (they got their bite at the apple)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Tuesday, September 15)

Threat of Trade War With China Sparks Worries in a Debtor U.S. (A1)
By Steven Mufson and Peter Whoriskey

Anonymous Quote #1
The Obama administration also said it was not worried. "We do not expect that it will have an impact on the broader relationship," said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. He said that there had been a "robust effort" by the administration to negotiate with China for a settlement on tires before imposing import tariffs. He asserted that U.S. imports of Chinese tires, which more than tripled since 2004, clearly met the test for tariffs aimed at reducing "surges" in imports.

But when asked about whether the United States would simply import from other nations, he conceded that "it is hard to predict the impact with specificity."

U.S. Says Raid in Somalia Killed Terrorist With Links to Al-Qaeda (A9)
By Karen DeYoung

Anonymous Quote #1
At least four helicopters participated in the raid, launched from a nearby U.S. naval vessel, a senior military official said. At least one of them landed, and troops retrieved the bodies. "You want to go in there, do this fast, and get out before you're detected," the official said.

Anonymous Quote #2
A U.S. counterterrorism official described Nabhan as a senior official in the Shabab who maintained close ties to the Pakistan-based al-Qaeda leadership and provided a link between the two groups.

Judge Says SEC Failed Investors (A12)
By Zachary A. Goldfarb

Anonymous Quote #1
A person familiar with the Cuomo's investigation said Monday that his office is in the final stages of drawing up charges against senior Bank of America executives.

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Monday, September 14)

In Kandahar, a Taliban on the Rise (A1)
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Anonymous Quote #1
“Kandahar is at the top of the list," one senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan said. "We simply do not have enough resources to address the challenges there."

Anonymous Quote #2
We could wind up with the exact opposite effect than we're seeking to achieve," one official said.

But, the official noted: "Unless we get more troops, we don't really have a choice. We can't go into the city with the forces we have now."

50 Taliban Fighters Reported Killed (A8)
Associated Press
By Rahim Faiez

Anonymous Quote #1
The ISAF official said the operation was launched because there were signs that the Taliban kidnappers planned to move the two men and hand them over to higher-level insurgents.

British troops came under heavy fire as soon as their helicopters landed, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the operation that had not been made public.

Anonymous Quote #2
The British troops killed about a dozen militants during the operation, the official said.

"People need to understand that it's not like we walked in and tried to save this one guy and leave the other behind," the official said. "It was really heavy fire, and the risk wouldn't have been justified to recover a person they knew was already dead."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Sunday, September 13)

U.S. Gives New Rights to Afghan Prisoners (A1)
By Karen DeYoung and Peter Finn

Anonymous Quote #1
"This process is about doing the right thing -- only holding those we have to," said the administration official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about policy.”

Anonymous Quote #2
U.S. courts in general have shown no inclination to interfere with operations in Afghanistan. "Habeas is inappropriate for the battlefield," the administration official said.

In Shift, Wall Street Goes to Washington (A1)
By David Cho, Steven Mufson and Tomoeh Murakami Tse

Anonymous Quote #1
The relationship "has changed in the sense that it's clear that every one of the firms, including Goldman Sachs, recognizes that they would not exist today had the government not stepped in when it did," one former senior bank executive said.

Unease Grows Over Afghan Election (A20)
By Pamela Constable

Anonymous Quote #1
"Everyone realizes now that Karzai has won, but the fraud was so unpalatable that Abdullah will never accept the results," said a U.N. official here. "The only hope is to abandon the process and return to the backroom deal, but there is too much enmity between them for that. There is just no good option in sight."

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Saturday, September 12)

I apologize for being a day late posting this.

U.S., NATO to Revamp Afghan Training Mission (A3)
By Ann Scott Tyson and Walter Pincus

Anonymous Quote #1
“We are building our side of this bridge. The Afghan bridge is not building," said one senior U.S. official, who like others discussed the matter on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. "Having U.S. troops enforcing martial law where they don't understand the people or speak the language -- this is a recipe for disaster."

Anonymous Quote #2
"The coalition did a poor job of coordinating with the Afghans our vision for how we were going to employ the Marines," the official said. Dozens of Marines have died fighting in Helmand since July.

5 Taliban Leaders Held in Swat Raid (A8)
By Pamela Constable and Haq Nawaz Khan

Anonymous Quote #1
A Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the fugitive extremists had been arrested Wednesday. They were thought to be dead until the authorities suddenly announced their arrests Friday, the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States. "I think it was a good move to make on the day which falls on 9/11," the official said.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Friday, September 11)

Iran Urges Disposal Of All Nuclear Arms (A18)
By Thomas Erdbrink

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the administration had determined it would not reject the package out of hand but would see whether there were elements that could form the basis for substantive talks. The written offer notably did not include criticism of the United States.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Thursday, September 10)

After Rescue, Recriminations (A11)
By Pamela Constable

Anonymous Quote #1
"He was such a nice person. I am so sad and confused about what to feel," said a longtime colleague of Munadi's at the gathering, who was very distraught and asked not to be named. "I blame everyone -- the government for being weak, the Taliban for using journalists for political aims, the foreign forces for the operation," he said. "We take so many risks and work under fire, but it seems like no one cares about us and our lives

Senate May Narrow Proposed Regulatory Role for Fed (A19)
By Brady Dennis

Anonymous Quote #1
"We really do take what the administration did as advisory. We have our own ideas," said one Democratic staff member familiar with the legislation who was not authorized to speak on the record. "We've been thinking about this a long time.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Wednesday, September 9)

Dodd Said to Decline Kennedy Post (A6)
By Paul Kane

Anonymous Quote #1
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is next in line after Dodd to assume the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and multiple sources in the Harkin orbit, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are internal, said Harkin would be certain to take over the post.

Wrong Man For Top Job At UNESCO? (A8)
By Edward Cody

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior administration official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity, was more direct. "There's no way we can support this guy," he said. "We did everything we could to get the Egyptians to support another candidate."

Four Killed in Deadliest Day for U.S. Troops in Iraq in Weeks (A12)
By Nada Bakri

Anonymous Quote #1
In the first incident, military officials said a soldier was killed when a roadside bomb struck his convoy in southern Baghdad. The U.S. Army did not provide details, but an official from the Iraqi Interior Ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the patrol was on its way back to its base when it was hit somewhere between Baghdad and Mahmudiyah, a town south of the capital in a region that was once so dangerous that its inhabitants nicknamed it the Triangle of Death.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Monday, September 7)

For Obama, A Pivotal Moment in Afghanistan (A1)
By Karen DeYoung

Anonymous Quote #1
Asked whether the administration would consider reversing its strategy in the direction of withdrawal, a senior official said: “The president’s view is that there are a lot of good ideas out there and we should hear them all. When you come down to the question of governance, we’ve seen what happens when one viewpoint is not particularly debated or challenged or reviewed or measured.”

“I don’t anticipate that the briefing books for the principals on these debates over the next weeks and months will be filled with submissions from opinion columnists,” the senior official said. “I do anticipate they will be filled with vigorous discussions … of how successful we’ve been to date.”

Anonymous Quote #2
But this official and others, who agreed to speak about the upcoming national security discussions on the condition of anonymity, gave no indication that withdrawal would be seriously considered. “There’s not a lot of rethinking that the strategy we have pretty much worked on to go forward with needs some drastic or dramatic revision,” a second official said.

“We can’t deny that they’ve had their successes,” the second official said of the Taliban. But McChrstal’s recommendations are “all in the scope of how do you refine your tactics, not your strategy.”

Anonymous Quote #3
Although that discussion is ongoing in some military and administration circles, a senior defense official said, there is widespread recognition that falling back to pure counterterrorism “just can’t be done” because of the stakes involved and the investment already made.

U.S. Tried to Soften Treaty on Detainees (A3)
By R. Jeffrey Smith

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior Bush administration policymaker confirmed in an interview last week, however, that the existence of the CIA prisons and the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the Defense Department has held hundreds of suspected terrorists without initially disclosing their names, was "a complicating factor" in U.S. deliberations on the treaty.

"Our negotiators were certainly aware that there was this program where people were being held, and were not in touch with people, and they had to be careful to ensure that there was room" for that program to continue, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations. He added that the treaty's proposed definition of "enforced disappearances" was only one of several problems Washington had with the draft.

"As with a number of previous human rights treaties, the language was just so broad that . . . we were not going to be able to sign," he said.

Anonymous Quote #2
The senior Bush administration official noted, however, that Washington's ability to gain concessions from others was undermined by public revelation of the CIA prisons in 2005. "I doubt that other countries would have been pushing quite so hard on this particular convention at this time were they not trying to cause problems for the administration," he said.

The context, he said, enabled "both the Europeans and the Latins" to "join forces" in arguing against the U.S. proposals.

Afghan Reaction to Strike Muted (A4)
By Pamela Constable

Anonymous Quote #1
"There has been a marked difference in the way the U.S. military dealt with this incident. Instead of arguing about the number of casualties, as has happened often in the past, they recognized the Afghan perception and addressed it," said a senior U.N. official here. "This is very heartening, and it bodes well for the coming months as this conflict inevitably continues."

Anonymous Quote #2
"One day you are building a bridge and the next day you call in an airstrike that kills civilians. What kind of message does that send?" said the U.N. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It may turn out there is a lot more work to be done to make sure NATO follows its own rules."

Iranian Invites Six Powers to Tehran (A6)
By Thomas Erdbrink

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no official communication has been received, said U.S. officials were "struck at how little new there was in the comments earlier today, particularly in light of the desires of so many Iranians for a new relationship with the rest of the world."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Sunday, September 6)

I had originally intended to launch this project on Sunday, but I got a late start on the day and thought tweeting about the “morning” paper in the evening didn’t make sense. However since I still have the Sunday paper lying around here are the anonymous source citations for the Sunday paper.

The Change Agenda At A Crossroads (A1)
By Scott Wilson

Anonymous Quote #1
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly, said that “there were so many things we had to do, and those are the things that feed into the skepticism that government is taking over everything or can’t get it right. These were things we had no interest in doing,” the official said. “That’s the irony.”

Anonymous Quote #2
“From a timing point of view, we just don’t know if it’s possible,” another senior administration official said on the condition of anonymity in order to describe an internal assessment.

Sole Informant Guided Decision On Afghan Strike (A1)
By Rajiv Chandradsekaran

Anonymous Quote #1
“I don’t agree with the rumor that there were a lot of civilian causalities,” said one key local official who said he did not want to be named because he fears Taliban retribution. “Who goes out at 2 in he morning for fuel? These were bad people, and this was a good operation.”

Administration Seeks to Keep Terror Watch-List Data Secret (A4)
By Ellen Nakashima

Anonymous Quote #1
One intelligence official said the information’s disclosure creates a host of difficulties.

“Here’s the problem,” the official said, discussing the matter on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. “If you’ve got somebody, including a suspected terrorist, who can FOIA that information, you’re making intelligence-gathering methods vulnerable. You’re possibly making intelligence agents and law enforcement personnel vulnerable. Suspects could alter their behavior and circumvent the surveillance.”

Anonymous Source Watch: Washington Post (Monday, September 7)

Obama Readies Reform Specifics (A1)
By Ceci Connolly

Anonymous Quote #1
“Let’s see what the Finance Committee does,” said one administration aide who is involved in health policy but is not permitted to speak to the media. “Then we’d have five bills to pull from.”

Anonymous Quote #2
“The announcement was evidence that the mere mention of an Obama speech “is already having an effect,” said a senior White House official who requested declined (sic) to discuss internal deliberations publicly.

In Adviser’s Resignation, Vetting Bites Obama Again (A2)
By Scott Wilson and Juliet Eilperin

Anonymous Quote #1
A White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter, said Sunday that Jones’s past was not studied as intensively as that of other advisors because of his relatively low rank.

Anonymous Quote #2
“He was not as thoroughly vetted as other administration officials,” the official said. “It’s fair to say there were unknowns.”

Anonymous Sources Watch: Washington Post

The recent baffling story in the Washington Post where an article penned by Peter Finn, Joby Warrick, Julie Tate and Walter Pincus reported (entirely from anonymous sources) that torture worked and prevented attacks, has led me to launch a new project. The Anonymous Sources Watch: Washington Post edition. All this week I will be tweeting the stories, quotes, and descriptions of the anonymous sources printed in the Washington Post’s newspaper (Virginia edition). You can follow me on Twitter hashtag (#anonymousWP ). I’m offering no judgment about whether these were “good” or “bad” uses of anonymous sources, you can follow the project and judge yourself. If any occur in strictly online stories or quotes are changed let me know.

UPDATE:
Via Twitter Jay Rosen suggests "Rate each use by whether it obeys the Post guidelines."

(Good suggestion, except I can't. Their internal guidelines aren't made "public.")

As recently as August 16 the WP ombudsman Andrew Alexander wrote a column about these guidelines.

The Post has strict rules on the use of anonymous sources. They're spelled out in detail -- more than 3,000 words -- in its internal stylebook.

Post policies say that editors have an "obligation" to know the identity of a reporter's unnamed sources so they can "jointly assess" whether they should be used. "The source of anything that appears in the paper will be known to at least one editor," the stylebook says.
I've just emailed the Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander for the sections of their internal stylebook that deal with use of anonymous sources. I will post them online if I get them. Back in November 2005 the former ombudsman, Deborah Howell, offered to send them to anyone who requested them.

UPDATE II: Washington Post Ombudsman responds:
Thanks for writing. Although I have quoted from The Post's policies on sourcing, I also have noted that those policies are not available to the public. I think they should be, and have made the case in a column. The policies are in the process of being updated, and I've quoted Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli as saying they will be made public once the updating is completed (I suspect that may take several months). But for now, they are not.

As you may know, I operate independent of The Post's newsroom and management. Notwithstanding the offer from Deborah, I think you should probably direct your request to someone in Post management (like Mr. Brauchli).

Good luck with your project.
Andy Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Newspapers, Now Straight from the Reporter to You!

If anyone reads this blog I'm sure they'll find not only typos but also sentences that just don't make any sense. That's because I'm a terrible first-draft writer. I write fast but dirty, with my fingers often not quite getting the right signals from my brain. The freedom of the blog is that I never have to submit to any copy editor. It goes straight from my cerebral cortex to the internet.

And you all can read the results.

When I worked as a reporter my stuff didn't go directly from my brain to the printed version. Before everything was committed to paper there was someone looking over my poorly drafted copy. Well soon that'll be a thing of the past. (The paper he's talking about is the Wilmington News Journal.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Twitter is My New Blog

First off if you noticed I haven’t been blogging all that much in the last few months its not because I’m not active. It’s because Twitter is pretty much my new blog. (You can follow my tweets here. I twitter under the name NewsCat_in_DC).

It’s funny that Twitter has managed to make me blog the way I was told I should be blogging. Short, sharp observations and a link.

A long time ago when I started blogging in earnest I would frequently NOT write something because I either a) didn’t have anything new to add to most topics or b) didn’t feel like what I would write would have any added value for anyone. I basically held my fire until I saw a topic that wasn’t being addressed or could add something that hadn’t been discussed before.

I had a mentor who said I “overthought” my blog posts and I should be writing shorter, zippier little posts. Kind of like Eschaton. Now Twitter has turned us all into Atrios.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

How Feminist Organizations Should Talk To Feminist Bloggers

Coming out the Feminism 2.0 conference I had a bit of an epiphany. The bloggers/activists panel attended by Tedra Osell of Bitch Ph.d , Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen, and Kim Gandy, former president of NOW, was probably one of the most useful conference panels I’ve attended since I’ve been attending conferences.

Feminist organizations, cannot treat the major feminist bloggers (or the major women bloggers) as if they are volunteers. You cannot send the major bloggers the same press release or action alert that you have just sent out to your 5,000 email subscribers and expect them to response with marching orders. “Sending press releases to bloggers” is not a real strategy of blogger outreach. And it’s probably not enough to just sit on panels with them at conference every few months either. While it’s useful to have the personal contact that builds the relationship with bloggers that is only the start of the relationship.

Feminist organizations should treat certain well-trafficked women bloggers the same way they would treat Amy Goodman or Rachel Maddow. As high-flying media personality you want to co-opt and a relationship that requires constant personal attention directly from the executive director or president.

I’m going to talk about NOW because Kim Gandy was on the Feminism 2.0 panel on bloggers and activist. Kim started to talk about the difficulty in discussing what was happening with the economic stimulus package and the process where the family planning provision was dropped. It’s a complicated political issue and it’s not as simple as saying “Obama screwed the women’s interests for political expediency.”

It was difficult enough for NOW to explain the issue to their members, let alone for the feminist public to digest. This is where bloggers can come in. It would have been useful for Gandy or someone from her senior staff to call (and I do mean call) some of the highest profile bloggers and explain the situation the same way Gandy did at that conference. Then the bloggers can write a post that starts with “I just got off the phone with Kim Gandy…the situation is this…” Or alternatively “A high-profile source at NOW is telling me the reason the family planning was dropped was XYZ…they have heard from Henry Waxman…”

Feminist organizations should treat major bloggers the same way Senators treat newspaper columnists. Let’s face it, a lot of the issues that non-profits want to explain are complicated. But if Jessica Valenti of Feministing or other highly-trafficked bloggers write a post their readers will trust their “vouching” on the issue. It is an effective strategy when the issue is complicated to target several “opinion leaders” and for a lot of feminist organizations that is the feminist bloggers.

This is not unlike the relationship between conservative newspaper columnists and republican politicians. George Will doesn’t work for the Senate Republicans. But his ideology and theirs are often similar. George Will can be co-opted, and wants to be co-opted, but he needs to be feted.

This was something Liza Sabater was getting at on the panel. The reason Daily Kos is the number one blogging site isn’t because of the writing, she says. It’s because the Howard Dean campaign feted Markos Moulitsas for almost two years. And the end of the Dean campaign, Markos was seen as a player and subsequentially has made a lot of money because of that reputation. That’s what Sabater wants and so do most of the biggest bloggers, to be seen as a player and insider. In exchange feminist organizations, like NOW, get access to the bloggers’ readership. For NOW, with its aging membership, being tight with feminist bloggers is a way to get a lot of potential new blood in their organization.

Sabater was essentially asking to be feted by those groups that want her to write about them. Feed her tips, give her access and in exchange you get her good will and access to her readers. And there is another aspect to treating influential bloggers with access. She, meaning bloggers, can also play “the bad cop” and say things that organizations can’t. There are going to be points in the Obama term that is going to put the major feminist organizations in the delicate balance of not wanting to push their friends in the Senate, House and White House too hard but being unhappy with the message they are getting. This is where feeding the feminist bloggers can put the message out even when you can’t get any louder on your end without pissing off your political friends.

The thing about treating blogger outreach as a high-profile as talking to any media personality is that it costs very little but it requires a realignment of thinking.

cross-posted at Feminist Underground

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dear Prudence's Bad Advice

A while back Slate's advice columnist, Dear Prudence, gave some advice to a woman who was concerned about her baby niece living next to a pit bull. Prudie agreed that the situation sounded pretty unsafe to her, but then had to throw in a little gratitious slut-shaming.

SHe's just written a year-end column about the letters that got the most response...not that she was owning up to changing her mind about anything just that "isn't it interesting" that some of her columns riled people up.

Naturally I wasn't the only one who got upset about her response to the pit bull letter. She actually quoted my email to her, at least part of it.

Everyone got mad at me for my answer to Uneasy. She was writing because her 20-year-old sister—a single mother with a toddler—just moved in with a roommate who had a nervous pit bull. I said both baby and dog must be intensely supervised when together and otherwise separated to avert a tragedy. Pit-bull lovers said my answer maligned their loyal, loving breed. Pit-bull haters said I exonerated these malevolent dogs and sent me articles from around the country on pit-bull maulings. Single mothers and others were outraged by what they felt was a gratuitous slap when I said that since the mother of the toddler had her while still a teenager, that indicated she lacked an ability to understand the consequences of her actions. "The fact that she is 20 and a new mother and single is why she's not able to clearly see the danger. But you lost me the minute you basically called her a slut," one reader bristled. "Two years ago, the woman had sex. God forbid! If you ever have pre-marital sex, you could end up with an unexpected pregnancy. So what?" asked another.

No, I did not call her a "slut," and, yes, I agree she is too young to be a mother. The "So what?" is that it's a tragedy that so many young women with no education, prospects, or partner are raising children alone.
Prudie then and in her response to me at the time kept talking about "the consequences of [young women's] behavior" but never really spells out which is the behavior that needs watching. Is it having sex out of wedlock that is the sticky wicket or just getting pregnant? Here's the full part of the email I sent to Prudie.
It sounds to me the fact that she *is* 20 and a new mother and single is why she's not able to clearly see the danger. Maybe she's happy in the living situation and doesn't want to face up to the fact that she'd have to move because of the dog. There's a lot of "maybe's" and it's easy to see why a young, new mother might justify the dog saying "I don't see it as a problem." Especially if up until this point, it hasn't been. (I'm with you however, on the issue that she needs to move her child away from the dog. Other dogs can bite but pit bulls' bites are known as especially dangerous.)

But you lost me the minute you basically called her a slut in not-so-many-veiled words. Tsk, tsk, you young woman for having sex.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Red Is the New Blue (Bike)


So six days after my bike was stolen I've bought a new Trek. This time a FX 7.3. As you might be able to guess from the picture, it's a men's bike. I went up a class, partially because there were some differences in the handlebar I didn't like in the 7.2. But the frame of the men's compared to the women's wasn't all that different. Here is the Trek 7.2 FX WSD I was considering.

As you can see, the frame isn't really all that much more angled, although I probably will have to wear bike shorts under my skirts on the days I forgo pants.

I could have gone with the women's FX 7.3 but ultimately, it came down to color. I just preferred the red. Lately everything I buy is red.

However I did figure out one other issue; how my bike was stolen. I was using a Kryptonite U-lock circa 2003. I didn't realize until today that in 2004, there were videos posted how to break the locks using a ballpoint pen and they've been considered pretty unreliable ever since. Until I was in the bike shop looking at locks I had completely forgotten that I bought mine five years ago, right before I moved to DC.

In a way, this comes as a relief. It means that there is an easy solution to my problem and that the issue isn't that I had a good lock that was broken, but a bad lock that was unreliable in the first place.

I probably rushed into the buying faster than I should have, maybe I should have tried out some more bikes. But even walking to the bike shop I realized how much I've relied on my bike to get me to and from the metro quickly. Walking just seems so interminably slow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Someone Stole My Bike

Goddamn it I want to cry! I loved my bike probably more than any other material possession I own. I bought it almost exactly 11 months ago. I locked it up at the Metro this morning like I've done almost every morning for a year and when I came out it was gone. I even used a u-lock. It was just gone. Even the u-lock.

And I'm wondering "did I not secure the lock?" "did I actually miss the loop somehow?" Or did someone who knows how to break a u-lock finally come along and snatch it.

And yeah, bikes can be replaced. But it was pretty! The new Trek 7.2 FX colors are ugly!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Election Al



It's been a long time since I posted a Friday Cat Blogging pic and being both Halloween and close to Election Day I should have been more inspired. I tried taking a certifiable "Cats For Obama" picture but Al wasn't helping. (Neither was my flash). I think Al might be undecided or maybe unregistered. Lena is harder to poll.