Blogging vs. TV and newspaper commentary

An old friend of mine made this comment on a previous blog post—

I have a question for regular readers of this blog. Do you have any theories about why we can’t get commentary like Phil’s on TV, or in the New York Times–let alone on Fox News? Respectfully, Steve Badrich, San Antonio, Texas.

To begin with, my friend gives me much too much credit.  Unlike when I worked on a newspaper, I do very little original reporting.

Most of what I write is based on facts and ideas I find on other, better blogs and on-line news sites. The best thing about many of my posts is my links to those blogs and news sites.  Go far enough upstream from those blogs and news sites, and you find the ultimate sources are in traditional journalism.

Blogging is very different from reporting, or even writing a newspaper column or appearing as a guest commentator on TV, which I have done.  As a reporter, I was accountable to an editor for being fair and accurate.   Editors were accountable to a publisher for producing a product that would appeal to readers and bring in advertising.

This discipline improved the quality of what I wrote, but it also made me think twice about going against conventional opinion.  When I wrote something, for example, that reflected favorable on Eastman Kodak Co., my community’s largest employer, it was accepted without question.  When I wrote something that Kodak executives didn’t like, I was usually called in to justify myself.

I usually was able to justify myself.  I was fortunate to have editors that stood behind reporters when they were right.  But the further my writing went deviated accepted opinion or the wishes of the powers that be (which was never very far), the higher the bar for justifying myself.  I was surrounded not by a barrier, but by a hill whose steepness increased the further I went.

As a blogger, I am not accountable to anyone except myself.   I don’t have to meet anybody’s standards of fairness and accuracy except my own.  No gatekeeper asks me to justify my conclusion, whether orthodox or unorthodox.

I am as free as anybody gets to be in 21st century America.  I am retired, and I’m not in the job market.  I have good medical insurance and a sufficient income for my needs and desires, which many people don’t.  I don’t belong to any organizations, associations or cliques that would kick me out because of my opinions.

If these things didn’t apply, I wouldn’t feel free to post under my own name, and I’d be more cautious about what I did say.

Since, in practice, I enjoy a greater amount of freedom of expression than many people do, I have a right and responsibility to exercise it.

I dissent from a bipartisan consensus that commits the United States to perpetual war, to violation of basic civil liberties, and to economic policies that hurt working people and help a wealthy elite.

Hardly anybody to whom I talk on a day-to-day basis believe there is such a consensus or regard it as a problem.  I might not believe so, either, if I did not have time to read and reflect.  Hardly anybody I talk to on a day-to-day basis agrees with me.  Instead of arguing with them, I express my opinions on this blog.

I think the Russiagate conspiracy theory is being used to limit the range of acceptable opinion on the Internet.

The Department of Homeland Security is drawing lists of news organizations and rating them as to whether they are pro- or anti-government.  Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have changed their algorithms to downplay “divisive” opinion.   I think it is only a matter of time before Homeland Security starts asking blog hosts such as WordPress start policing themselves.

I don’t want to give the impression I think of myself as some sort of bold dissident.  I’m not.   I doubt that this blog would ever be considered important enough in the total scheme of things for the government to prosecute or persecute.

I don’t consider myself part of any particular political movement.  I don’t consider myself to be the spokesman for any larger group or category of people.  I suppose this gives me a certain sense of objectivity and detachment.

I write partly out of ego, to leave a record of myself and my thoughts behind after I die.  I write partly in order to figure out what I think about certain topics.   I write about whatever I happen to be thinking about at the time, which is not necessarily the objectively most important issue.

If you find that I write of interest, I am pleased.  If not, no harm has been done.

LINKS

You’re gonna reap just what you sow by Avedon Carol for Avedon’s Sideshow.

Land of the Lawless by Ralph Nader for Lapham’s Quarterly.

The Media Never, Ever Gives Peace a Chance by Ted Rall for Counterpunch.

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7 Responses to “Blogging vs. TV and newspaper commentary”

  1. Anne Tanner Says:

    Excellent blog, Phil. I’ve been searching my somewhat dim mind to try to remember if any of the difficulties with Kodak were on my watch. I believe that when I left, it was still somewhat healthy, but certainly the handwriting was on the wall and had been for some time. As far as I knew, the Kodak folks we dealt with regularly highly respected your work, as I did. But I do wonder what you would have written in those hectic days had you been blogging instead of reporting!

    Anne Tanner

    Like

    • philebersole Says:

      Readers, Anne Tanner was business news editor of the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle in 1978, when I moved from the D&C copy desk to the business news staff.

      That was about the time that newspapers all over the USA were waking up to the fact that business news coverage requires more than just printing product announcements and middle management promotions. Anne is the one who brought D&C business news coverage into the 20th century.

      I covered Eastman Kodak Co., our community’s main employer, from 1980 and 1992. The year 1980 was arguably the year that Kodak’s business reached its peak and started to decline, although it took me many years to realize that this was what was happening.

      In the early years, I enjoyed cordial relations with Kodak management and PR people. Later on, after Anne left, as I reported more on problems than achievements, I would say relations were “civil”.

      When I wrote an article that reflected favorably on the company, Kodak PR would phone me and tell me my article was “fair.” When I wrote an article that reflected unfavorably on the company, they would say my article was “incorrect.”

      I didn’t have any serious problems with Kodak – certainly no more than any reporter has in writing about someone their publisher plays golf with.

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  2. Steve Badrich Says:

    In my life, I’ve had the extraordinary good luck to know Phil Ebersole as a close older friend to me and my late parents since I think 1959 (when I was twelve and Phil was about twenty-three). I literally grew up talking to Phil about everything, asking him questions, following up on his suggestions about reading, and having him on hand as an example of a moral and intellectual life well lived–not that I ever had Phil lecture me about anything (richly though I would have deserved it), or heard him lecture anyone else. Readers of this blog who have never met Phil should be assured that Phil in person is the same wise, modest, droll, and absurdly well-informed person that he appears to be (his literary persona) on this blog. One thing Phil and I often talked about decades ago was science fiction, the old stuff from the 50s and before, when the best science fiction often served as covert social commentary. Today, I seem to find myself and my fellow citizens trapped INSIDE some brilliant 50s dystopian science fiction novel, one in which many of its characters have come to accept a brutal, sinister mirage as reality–and I search the faces of people I meet for signs that they know better, that they haven’t bought in to these dominant illusions. (Believe me, I’m aware how grandiose and paranoid this analogy sounds.) Anyhow, Phil’s commentary on this blog means QUITE a lot to me. By no means everyone who has had Phil’s education and (modest) opportunities has used them as humanely as Phil has.

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  3. philebersole Says:

    Readers, you should know that my friend Steve’s compliments apply much more to himself than they do to me. Of the two of us, he is the one who is wise, modest, droll and deeply learned. If I was ever once a kind of teacher to him, the student has greatly exceeded the teacher.

    Steve, unlike me, has lived a life of hard struggle, which he had met with good humor, good judgment and his motto, “labor omnia vincit” (unremitting labor overcomes all things).

    He is a community college teacher in his adopted city of San Antonio and I have hardly ever gone anywhere with him in that city without him being greeted by a friend or former student.

    He is multi-lingual and has a deep love and understanding of literature. Yet he is not only friendly, but a true friend, to people from all walks of life and levels of education.

    I don’t believe in comparing oneself to others, but, of all the people I know, Steve is the one I would most wish to resemble. His e-mail rants to his circle of friends, which I imagine he dashes off in a few minutes, are more amusing and insightful than blog posts I spend an afternoon working on.

    Like

    • Steve Badrich Says:

      Readers: I suppose we should shut down this “thread.” I don’t recognize myself from Phil’s kind remarks. But I stand by everything I’ve said about him–and I’m confident readers of this blog will see why. I feel privileged, at this crazy moment in American and world history, to be a part of this virtual community, and to have the benefit of his, and your, insights. Respectfully, Steve Badrich, deep in the heart of Texas

      Like

  4. philebersole Says:

    This exchange shows (1) how we all see ourselves differently from the way we’re seen by others around us, including our good friends and (2) that the best way to respond to a compliment is to say “thank you” and nothing more.

    Like

  5. Craig Says:

    Regarding the question that was asked, I believe that media opinion is regulated by the owners of those corporations, and so much of the media is owned by so very few corporations. I’m guessing that opinions are vetted before expressing them, and that very few opinions other than consensus opinions (from either polar end of American politics) get expressed. It has always been this way, but now a lot of media has a global reach. So globally there are fewer opinions being expressed, and certainly no dialog.

    Like

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