NW Roots Conference: Joel Connelly and others at media workshop

Joel Connelly attended the NW Roots conference in Seattle yesterday and wrote these two articles about it: Inslee takes the edge off controversial idea and Red meat from a vegan — Kucinich.

The second article contains several taunts against Kucinich: “fiery old-time populism, mixed with New Age”, “is looking to Washington as a state where he once saw a UFO (staying at Shirley MacLaine’s home in Graham)”,  and “The congressman mentioned ‘violence against animals.'”  Even the title “Red meat from a vegan — Kucinich” is a taunt.

Curmudgeonly Connelly sometimes espouses progressive views, but he’s no apologist for progressives. As a professional journalist, he probably should be skeptical.

I lamented to him the loss of the Seattle P-I editorial page. He smirked and said that few people had read it, and it was boringly predictable in its liberal views. I said that at least it provided balance to the Seattle Times’ editorial page. I asked him why the P-I doesn’t raise the prominence of the P-I’s online editorial pages, so that readers can contribute and feel invested. He said they might. I asked him whether the Seattle Times is making money. He said: probably they’re losing money.

So far the Seattle Times — which I don’t subscribe to and avoid visiting, as punishment for their adamant opposition to I-1098 — does not mention NW Roots, at least on its home page.

At the media break-out session at NW Roots, Connelly and others, including Darcy Burner, discussed the prospects for finding a viable funding model for newspapers and investigative journalism. My question to the panel was about public funding for investigative journalism. Just as we need the police and the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to protect us, we should fund independent investigative journalism. It would serve the public good and forgoing it is just stupid. But anti-tax craziness has overtaken the nation, and people are hardly even willing to fund public education.

Connelly responded that well-written, engaging journalism can both entertain and inform. He gave an example: an interesting story that had political impact. “Reports of newspapers’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.” People thought that file sharing would be the end of the music business. But iTunes shows that you can make money online. We need a similar model for news.

But I doubt it’s doable in general: I think that the Internet has doomed effective for-profit investigative journalism. Too few people are willing to pay for hard news, as opposed to smut and entertainment and financial advice. Furthermore, I think that in the long run, America will return to the balance between public and private that the Founders saw we needed. The US Constitution is a compromise between big-government Federalists and small-government Jeffersonians. It calls for the defense of the General Welfare, as discussed here. But recently America has lost its balance.

Other things said at the media break-out session:

Murdoch has moved from the gutter to the sewer (phone hacking, bribery). Britain’s news is even worse than America’s.

The Internet and Net Neutrality are our last great hope for media (Darcy). Millenials (under 30) don’t watch TV or read regular newspapers. They use facebook. Blue ocean territory.

The Right has set up virtuous cycles with huge return on investment. They buy politicians and media and both reward them.

Q: How can I get press accreditation (credentials)? Show you get your major income from journalism. (lol)

Recently, Rob McKenna refused to speak when a lefty cameraman appeared at a speech.

Journalists really do aim for accuracy and evidence. Too many bloggers eschew accuracy for opinion. (Connelly) Someone disagreed, saying, “Just because they’re paid to write doesn’t mean they’re accurate.” (Fox News) Unpaid bloggers sometimes break great stories (Bush torture). Connelly said: sometimes corporate media do it right and break good stories, even if it dooms them financially. (He gave an example of the Hearst Corporation’s plan to by the Tri-City Herald and the concurrent story in the P-I about a 25 year radioactive leak from a smokestack in that community.)

To attract readers, don’t use facts and graphs, as Drew Westen suggests in The Political Brain.

Ultimately people will have to pay for online content or no one will produce it. (I’m not getting paid for this!) Hard to get paywalls started; people go to free content.

More on NW Roots soon.

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