Video: Government Bypasses Press

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Video essay in response to Jay Rosen's "Dick Cheney Did Not Make a Mistake By Not Telling the Press He Shot a Guy" bog post -- featuring Chris Nolan, Mindy Finn, Hugh Hewitt, John H. Brown, Don Beck, Steve Rubel, Merrill Brown, Tom Rosenstiel, Congressman Rob Simmons, and a virtual Jay Rosen.

You can listen to the full entire audio for some of the interviews -- and read the full transcript for the others.

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Music: On The Moon (Trip Hop mix) by disharmonic

Here's a Windows Media version.

Full Transcript and Further thoughts are down below...

KENT BYE: The fact that Dick Cheney decided to inform the local newspaper instead of going through the national press when he accidentally shot a man -- this indicates that there's a fundamental shift in the power dynamic between the press and the government.

Now NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen says that, "Cheney took the opportunity to show the White House press corps that it is not the natural conduit to the nation-at-large; and it has no special place in the information chain."

This is a trend that Chris Nolan first observed during the 2004 election

CHRIS NOLAN ( The idea that you can talk directly to voters past big media was a big, big part of the Republican campaign this past year. I think that that's a very little noticed and a very little appreciated fact. They treated the media as another constituent group like the tobacco lobby or whatever.

MINDY FINN (Republican National Committee, Deputy eCampaign Director): Where our opportunities are -- are through talk radio and through the Internet. And we found that was our best means for communicating our message -- to kind of cut through the mainstream media filter. And also, that there are so many cable channels now that those stations don't have the reach that they used to. And certainly the major networks don't have the reach that they used to.

CHRIS NOLAN ( To a large extent, people bought it. And the people that were the most upset -- the people who complained the loudest were the big media people, and nobody really took up their cause. So I'd say that's a sign that something's changed in a big way.

KENT BYE: Something has changed -- The mainstream media is seen as less relevant, and politicians are more powerful.

HUGH HEWITT (Talk Radio Host & Blogger): What the blogosphere and the Internet have done to the Mainstream Media is just what Luther did to Rome, which was to -- not only to go around the gates, but to shatter them. There are no more gates. Now it's just a question of "What's true?" and "What's objective?" -- not what is an elite's understanding of the former.

KENT BYE: What's True and What's Objective is still a really big open question in our society. And I think it's going to come from some combination of traditional journalism, but also blogging -- and even collaborative media which is what I'm working on.

So let's take a look at this issue from the perspective of a politician.

CONGRESSMAN ROB SIMMONS (R-CT): If you look at the American media, and how it covers politics -- you basically interview a politician, take -- if it's TV -- take one or two sound bites, and build a story around that sound bite. If you look at radio, you allow that same political figure 15 or 20 minutes perhaps on a radio show -- a call-in to explain their position on a certain issue. If you look at the print media, depending on the nature of the interview, the journalist will take some quotes and build a story around it. But it's all based pretty much on what that one individual is saying, and then on how those words are interpreted by the journalist.

KENT BYE: So talk radio and new media provide politicians an opportunity to talk at length without having to be
filtered through the lens of an objective news story.

Well, that's great for them, but what about the public interest?

Who's going to be holding the politicians accountable when the only organizations they're going to be talking to are going to be those who are sympathetic to their message.

Steve Rubel talks about the dynamic between public relations and journalism.

STEVE RUBEL ( The public interest is important, but I think that that's more important to a journalist than it is to the PR professional. PR professional is less concerned with public interest, and more concerned with doing results that are going to get paid for. And where the journalists and the folks in this room where I stand here, they're definitely worrying about the public interest. And ultimately, they're going to decide what's best for the public, not us.

KENT BYE: But now that the politicians can completely bypass the journalists, they're free to focus on their own self-interest, which is mainly to preserve their political power. This has created a very polarized political culture, which is then amplified by the mainstream media.

DON BECK (National Values Center): The Mainstream Media is simple a reflection of the mainstream value structures in a society, particularly in our political class, which is obviously is the "Win at any costs" and be reelected, using often "Us versus Them" polarity -- "From the Left / From the Right," "Conservative/ Liberal" to divide people in like Blue States and Red States, and so forth. So when one looks at the problems in a society, obviously the dominant media will convey those codes, and when it looks like many of those behaviors tend to make things worse.

MERRILL BROWN (Media Consultant): What this country needs, from my point of view, in addition to a skeptical, hard-working news media, is a political system in which members of party in power feel free and have the political courage to stand up and speak up when things aren't going well in their parties. And this applies to both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats who were unwilling to speak up about the failures of the Clintons -- the Clintons in particular, and the administration more generally. Same thing is true now. There's a lot of Republican -- members of the Republican leadership who realize how inept this administration has handled some number of issues, and yet the political dissent and the dialogue from those people in places of power in the Republican party doesn't happen.

KENT BYE: Without this internal dissent, our political system has turned into an all-out cultural war where short-term political gains for either the Democrats or the Republicans is more important than anything else.

JOHN H. BROWN (State Department Employee who Resigned to Protest Iraq War): These are people who think in narrow, political, day-to-day terms -- who are absolutely parochial in their thinking. What’s important is "Winning The Game", and the game is American Politics.

KENT BYE: We have a political culture where winning trumps compromise, where debate trumps dialogue, where polarization trumps consensus.

STEVE RUBEL ( The political environment for PR is much more about spin & influence, and the message of the day, and "How do you get it out?" It's very reactive. It's trying to take what's already coming at you -- and issues -- and then making sure that you shape your position on it.

ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: On the Federal Level, the war between government and press is one of unequal firepower. The government spends nearly half a billion dollars a year, and employs thousands of people in Public Relations, Public Information, Public Image Making, and Public Obfuscation. In the Executive Branch, all of them -- all of those people, all of that torrent of information, all of those Xerox machines -- can be controlled by the White House. A President's personal power to dominate the news is beyond measure.

TOM ROSENSTIEL (Committee for Concerned Journalists): They understand our tendencies better than we understand them ourselves. They understand our weaknesses better than we understand them ourselves.

KENT BYE: So the media is being manipulated by politicians who understand how the media work better than they do themselves.

Jay Rosen agrees by saying that the White House "correctly guessed that if it changed the game on you, you wouldn’t develop a new game of your own, or be able to react... They sensed that the old press system was weakened." And that essentially, "they knew you wouldn’t react because to do so would look 'too political.”"

So politicians currently have an upper hand over the media as far as setting the terms of the discourse for the country.

So where do we go from here?

I think collaborative media actually has a lot of potential in this area, and that's what I'm working on here at The Echo Chamber Project.
But the question is, "Can new media put the power back into the hands of citizens?"

MERRILL BROWN: So I don't think there's going to be fundamental political change any time soon. But I do think -- as in all things -- we go through cycles. And we're in a cycle today where the political discourse is of a certain kind. And I think we're moving -- and will move very quickly between now and the next Presidential election to have a much broader discussion about our national sensibility, our national priorities, the nature of political discourse, dissent and dialogue. And I think media, the blogosphere, and the democratization of thought in this country has a lot to offer in that regard.

I believe that collaborative media that is able to mediate the relative truths and falsehoods within the many different perspectives has the potential to overcome the anomalies within the existing journalistic paradigm.

What I've done is to interview as broad and diverse range of experts talking about a particular issue (i.e. pre-war performance of the media), and then my intention is to have an even broader and more diverse range of participants participate in adding context and meaning to this gathered knowledge

Facts and information do not become knowledge for individual citizens until they have put within a personalized context. The intention behind the use of the information will determine how it is processed and applied, and there have been many innovations over the last couple of years that are able to make these contexts more explicit on an individual level while also yielding significant network effects of social behavior.

This is specifically achieved through mechanisms of folksonomy tags, comment threads, allowing users to dynamically remix audio and video into playlists, allowing people to listen to the entire interviews as podcasts, as well as allowing the reuse of the material through liberal Creative Commons-licensing.

So the three practical steps for journalism would be:

* Collect interviews from experts on issues that are of importance
* Parse the information into granular sound bites.
* Publish these sound bites online in a way that they can be easily sequenced and recontextualized into larger meanings.

This is what I've been building with this collaborative filmmaking infrastructure, and all of the puzzle pieces now exist -- but they still need to be put together.

So I've gathered 86 interviews up to this point, and I have quite a body of sound bites from knowledgeable experts -- You can download the 40+ interviews that I've posted already with this feed:

I hope that this video comment can demonstrate the capacity for creating a system that allows other people to easily juxtapose streams of facts and sound bites together to achieve a larger meaning.

Many thanks for the

Many thanks for the interesting site. Absorbing articles, rich archive. Will be back soon by all means.

very impressive. this is the

very impressive. this is the first time checking out the echo chamber even though i've heard of it.