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Outside The Lines

blogtalklogo.gifFinifinito, who does tech set-up for the amazing music sets each week for Donita Sparks’ Friday “Spin I’m In,” has also pulled together a great series called “Meet The Bloggers” for Blog Talk Radio.  Today, at noon ET, Fini has a great show lined up:

This week’s show is about citizen journalism and the impact sites like FDL and TPM have had. Today I have an interview with Pauline Millard of Editor & Publisher where she is the online editor. I also have Marcy Wheeler sitting in on the panel discussion segment after the interview with Pauline Millard. Ruth Holladay formerly a columnist and reporter at the Indianapolis Star and currently blogging at will also be a guest blogger on the panel.

Listeners to the live streaming audio signal can also call in to the show and talk to Ruth and Marcy in the call in segment the last 15-20 minutes of the hour. The show airs at 12 noon EDT/9 am PDT for one hour at It is then podcast from that page, or listeners can go there and subscribe to the podcast from iTunes or their favorite feed reader like Google Reader or NewsGator.

What a great idea!  Can’t wait to hear the discussion.  Hope that Marcy gets a chance to talk about the work she did last week dispelling the “runaway prosecutor” myth from the right.  Because, frankly, she sure as hell won’t get a chance to talk about it with any of the corporate media types — it doesn’t fit their preconceived, prepackaged, spoon-fed narrative. 

More than that, though, I am so glad to see a forum for the discussion of citizen journalism and accountability from outside the Beltway.  Dan Froomkin had a great column this past week on the Neiman site about internet journalism and the example set by the great I.F. Stone:

…There were many ways in which Stone distinguished himself from his more conventional colleagues. He wasn’t a slave to access. He adored burrowing into original documents. He didn’t hesitate to call a lie a lie. And he was relentless. Those characteristics seem to be in short supply among today’s media elite — as the trial of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby (and its coverage) illustrated so clearly. Instead, it’s the bloggers who have taken up Stone’s mantle.

On the issue of access, MacPherson quotes longtime Washington reporter Marvin Kalb on Stone: “He didn’t care what the ‘senior officials’ said on ‘deep background,’ because I think he assumed they were lying or misleading the press in any case.” MacPherson quotes Stone himself: “You cannot get intimate with officials and maintain your independence.” Whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys” was incidental to him. “They’ll use you.” For Stone, an interview was not an occasion to get spun, but an opportunity to confront an official with facts. He deplored “baby questions.”

Some of Stone’s biggest exposés came simply from reading. Legendary Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus told MacPherson: “Izzy really set the pattern for reading hearings. I still do it. It’s the only way to report around Washington. He was constantly harping on that.” Pincus enumerated the reasons why few reporters dig into documents: “One, they don’t want to believe that someone would deliberately mislead them. Two, it takes a lot of work and time. Three, they don’t want to be the object of opprobrium for writing critical pieces. People assume that you will be cut off. That’s wrong. As long as you write critical pieces that are accurate, you gain respect. As long as they know that by not cooperating they’re not going to stop you from writing anyway, many get the idea that it’s better to cooperate. And by contacting them, they can’t accuse you of not being fair.”

Even as bloggers — and Jon Stewart — build huge audiences at least in part by enthusiastically calling bullshit on government lies, aggressively adversarial journalism seems to be frowned upon in many newsrooms….

This is exactly what we have been trying to do, in our own way — what Jane and I have striven for from the get go here. We saw a need for someone to dig into the legal filings and statements in the Traitorgate investigation, because so much of the reporting on the case at that time was coming from wholly unrelated spin with no factual underpinnings.  When you’ve read the original documents — and then you read some fabricated summary that someone pulled out of their Birkin bag and handed off to a more-than-willing stenographer who has a filing deadline and no desire to insert skepticism into the mix…you get more than a glimpse of how things ought never to work.

That any of us were able to help reverse that trend, to cut through the spin and get to the facts of any of this mess is a miracle in and of itself.  As Jane said in a recent piece for the WSJ (yes, you read that correctly):

…That message wasn’t carried by the beltway Brahmins of the MSM, the media elite who transcend party loyalties and embrace Libby as one of their own. They collectively bristled at the thought that Scooter (and no doubt themselves) should be subject to the verdict of some “ignorant jury” (as Ann Coulter likes to call them). No, that message was carried by bloggers and their readers, the thousands of people who collectively pored over the story’s coverage, serving as institutional memory and holding media outlets to account when the politics of access journalism threaten to obscure the truth.

At a time when government is in desperate need of oversight and the Fourth Estate has become uncomfortably close with those they are tasked with covering, the progressive blogosphere is a place where erstwhile Howard Beales coalesce to fill the gap. They come together to challenge the virulent Rovian notion that no law is so sacred, no tenet of national security so vital it can’t be flouted in the pursuit of political gain. Scooter and other hermetically sealed beltway denizens may think he’s a hero, but the rest of the country realizes he’s nothing better than a garden variety crook.

It ain’t perfect, but it’s progress.

Huge thanks to Fini for putting this show together.  I know I’ll be listening!

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com