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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Alternative reality

I think Stephen Mindich may be ready to tear out his ponytail.

In a lengthy thread over at Blue Mass. Group I stumbled upon this line:
Governor Patrick ruffled a lot of feathers with his comments, shortly after his election, at a meeting of MSM types at which he said that some reporters "never did get" what his campaign was about. Commentaries like [Boston Phoenix political reporter David] Bernstein's today make me wonder whether Patrick's comments weren't pretty close to the mark.
Am I reading this correctly? Is the Boston Phoenix, one of the first "alternative newspapers" in the country, now part of the MSM?

OK, so Phoenix alums are in rather prominent media positions, particularly Globe editorial page editor Renee Loth, op-ed columnist Scot Lehigh and Channel 4's Jon Keller. And many others have gone on to bigger if not necessarily better things than tugging on the cape of the powers that be.

We are in the middle of a realignment of how we communicate with each other. The blogosphere is at the heart of the realignment. And while I happen to disagree with a lot of what Bernstein said (in a blog post, not a dead tree edition I might add) we need to respect what came before.

The Phoenix has always had that respect when it provides an alternative view. That's because it has built a reputation on solid reporting. There's still way too much shoot from the hip (and shoot the messenger) in the blogosphere, despite the efforts of people like Josh Marshall to bring facts along with the opinion.

For this new medium to succeed, those who came before need to get their props. The Phoenix isn't mainstream and never has been -- and if that day comes I stop reading it.

But Stephen, about that ponytail....

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Charley on the MTA said...

Perhaps "professional media" would be a better term than "MSM". And as David Kravitz said, we at BMG are big fans of the Phoenix's political reporting, both by Adam Reilly and Mr. Bernstein. Even so, these guys sometimes line up with the MSM is some surprising (to me) ways.

As it turns out, Bernstein made some observations and conjecture about what *other* professional (MSM) journalists might be thinking. It sounded like it could be his own words, but he clarified in a comment on BMG that he wasn't necessarily speaking for himself.

Anyway, they get it right at the Phoenix more often than not, it must be said. They are a very valuable resource.

March 27, 2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Mass Marrier said...

It is to laugh a bloggy laugh. Yes, the Phoenix earned a spot at the table. Bernstein's piece seemed to irritate several bloggers with his I've-got-mine attitude at the end. His butt's in the audience, but he doesn't seem to want any more chairs.

People get respect first by earning it and second by giving it. Whining about a group he doesn't respect getting access to an official does not speak of the professionalism he should exhibit.

Amusingly enough and to illustrate the unusual nature of the post-meeting event, most bloggers stood at the end and applauded, as though to thank Patrick for that bit of respect he provided. Patrick immediately called out that they should not be clapping, it was part of his job. "You're press," he said.

Decades after its gritty, counterculture founding, the Phoenix straddles the MSM/alternative classifications. Its writers shouldn't be kicking down the guys who are looking up from where it started.

As Bernstein said, he wasn't there. He seemed to be blowing smoke. Maybe he should have held it in a little longer.

March 27, 2007 9:24 AM  
Blogger Ryan Adams said...

Is the political reporting even alternative anymore? How many of these kinds of blogs can they publish before we start to think they've jumped the shark? You're not just alternative because you cover the local music scene. The political coverage should be "alternative" too - and there was nothing about Bernstein's coverage that was alternative at all. It's just the same. So, I say, if the shoe fits...

March 27, 2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Charley, I accept your refinement of terms -- and I'm glad you join me as being a Phoenix fan (going all the way back to Jon Keller and beyond in my case!)

David Bernstein is a good reporter, because he deals in facts, like the Terry Murray/MOTT story. I'm personally stll not convinced there's anything really there but he has dug up facts that the Globe and Herald have not.

He's also a good blogger, because we're discussing his posts, who is speaking for and all that.

And that's still the key. Ryan, I bloviate opinions based on things I read elsewhere (I"m not saying you bloviate :-) That's not political reporting -- alternative or otherwise.

Political reporting is rooting out facts in documents (something really lacking these days, which is what makes Bernstein's Murray story stand out.)

Political opinion writing -- as practiced by Joan Vennochi, Scot Lehigh, Brian McGrory or Howie Carr -- is what we do in blogs. And it's clear, particularly in Howie's case, that facts don't matter as much.

It gets really difficult for someone like Bernstein, who serves two masters -- print and blogosphere. The daily posts are supposed to be news, but they need an edge. That's maybe why he gets under your skin, MM.

I had not heard that Deval told folks to stop applauding because they were press. That is an important sign of respect to bloggers.

We're all feeling our way through this new reality and we all can mess up. But we shouldn't form circular firing squads.

March 27, 2007 7:21 PM  

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