The coming bumper-crop of news

My old blogger buddy Jeff Jarvis is trying to figure out what’s happening to the news, and how to inject a little optimism into the business:

This Friday, I’m giving a keynote at the University of Texas International Symposium on Online Journalism. My topic: “The end of the mourning, mewling, and moaning about the future of journalism: Why I’m a cock-eyed optimist about news.” I’d like your help. Tell me why you’re optimistic about news: what we can do now that we couldn’t do before, where you see growth, where you see new opportunities. (I’ll put the spiel up as soon as I figure out how to export Keynote with my notes.)

Here’s what I’d tell the children:

The good news about the news is that there’s no shortage of news. The best experts forecast a nearly boundless supply of news clear into the next century, so the news conservation efforts of the past (recycling, echo-chambering, and other forms of plagiarism) are no longer necessary and will phase out as soon as we have the means to harvest the coming bumper-crop of news.

And things aren’t just rosy on the supply side, they’re looking real good on the demand side. Previous generations of news consumers had to get by on two newsfeeds a day, one before work in the morning and the other after work. Now we can graze and forage on news all day long without becoming over-educated.

The challenge to news harvesters is in the construction of the apparatus that harvests raw news, processes it, and takes it to market. In previous generations, this process was most efficient when centralized in local news factories, but today and tomorrow the process will become more decentralized, sometimes even taking place on consumer premises under the control of news robots which sift, sort, organize, and filter according to consumer preferences. The process of moving these functions from central offices to consumer equipment is just beginning, although we’ve had working prototypes of the news robot for 25 years.

The revenue picture has never been brighter, as each feed is easily supported by multiple sources of ad and subscriber fees.

The key elements are understanding that decentralization is in fact multiple centralization, and that each center of news processing is a potential revenue generator. That’s all I wish to say at the moment, but you can do the math.

And Hook ‘Em.

In their own words

Occasionally, we run across someone who claims the New York Time lacks a liberal editorial slant, and we find that bewildering. In the announcement of Gail Collins’ retirement as editor of the editorial pages, the Times acknowledges it:

The Times editorial page has long been regarded as one of the most liberal within the mainstream media, and the change at the top is expected to continue that outlook.

It seems to me that this should clear up the confusion.

Political Punch

Commenting on former President Clinton’s psychic meltdown on Fox News Sunday, MSM figure Jake Tapper finds Clinton is fibbing again. Here’s what Newt Gingrich said about the Osama bombings:

“I think the president did exactly the right thing,” said House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said. “By doing this we’re sending the signal there are no sanctuaries for terrorists.” Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) called the attacks “appropriate and just,” and House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) said “the American people stand united in the face of terrorism.”

And that was the typical Republican response. It was the MSM that pushed the “wag-the-dog” scenario, not the Republicans, with the exception of crazy John Ashcroft and Dan Coats of Indiana.

Moving on up

Matt Welch, the man who invented the Warblog, has moved into the Big House with a shiny new job editing the opinion pages at the LA Times. He’s going to be shaping the national political dialog:

I’ll be helping shape the section; editing and writing both columns and editorials, hopefully bringing some new voices to paper, and cooking up new schemes in the steamrooms under Spring Street. I’ll have the pleasure of working for a smart editor I have a great deal of faith in, Andres Martinez.

And not only is he free from the stifling politically correct conformity of Reason Magazine’s Burning Man crowd, he’ll get to be a frequent object of the wrath of assistant DA and petty Times-hater Patterico Frey.

This is definitely a step forward for civilization.

Cost of Fitzgerald investigation

One of the crazy factoids that’s buzzing around the left side of the blogosphere says that Fitzgerald’s investigation into the Joe Wilson matter only cost $723,000. It’s been on Daily Kos and 30 other blogs, and widely used by Air Hysteria’s hosts. It’s based on a sloppy reading of a story in the Washington Post:

In its first 15 months, the investigation cost $723,000, according to the Government Accountability Office.

But it’s not true.

GAO does report on some of the expenditures of Special Counsels, but their reports don’t come out for a year after the expenditures are made. Every six months, they issue a report on the expenditures that were made in a six month period ending six months before the report, so we don’t have figures for the past year.

The reports that we do have are pretty sketchy, as they don’t include all the personnel costs associated with government employees, like Fitzgerald himself, for example.

Fitzgerald started in Dec. 03, and the report for the period ending Mar 04 shows personnel costs of only $13,330. That’s one cheap lawyer.

In the next six months, ending Sept 2004, Fitzgerald got his operation ramped-up and charged $584,899, again exclusive of certain personnel costs for government employees.

In the next half-year, Fitzgerald charged $112,550 plus an additional $35,195 for Justice Department lawyers and an unspecified amount for FBI investigators:

Also, certain costs were incurred by detailees from the Federal Bureau of Investigation involved in the investigation but the associated costs were not readily identifiable. Such costs of detailees are not reflected in the statement of expenditures

So that’s already $759,236 not counting FBI agents and anything that happened since March of this year. Certainly, the costs are in the millions already, but we won’t know the basics for a year, and even though we won’t know the whole story. One thing is clear, however: the costs of this investigation are already a lot more than the figure used by the Kossacks.

And yes, this type of investigation is cheaper than Ken Starr’s, but no more substantial.

Kaus on the Judybats

Mickey Kaus is kind enough to answer the question we posed yesterday on the press obsession with Judy Miller. with six reasons. First on the list echoes what we said yesterday:

a) Treason: Miller wasn’t just perceived as in cahoots with neocons in foisting the war off onto the public. She was doing it from within the New York Times, which the Left correctly perceives as one of “its” institutions. As a traitor within the liberal camp, she has to be expelled and punished, in a way she wouldn’t be punished if she’d been an equally mistaken and influential reporter for National Review. The host body rejects her.

And most intriguing is the femme fatale angle, which certainly explains Arianna’s personal obsession. While Arianna’s looking hotter with her recent facelift, botox job, and blonde hairdo, the former wife of a gay man isn’t really in the running for the race Miller’s been winning for twenty years. Andrew Sullivan disagrees, however.

Not getting it

Can somebody please explain to me what’s so all-fired significant about Judith Miller? She’s all the leftwing blogs have talked about for the last week, to the point that their obsession with her has drowned out some truly important things, such as the Iraq constitutional referendum and Game 5 of the NLCS. And there was some important news to report on Iraq, chiefly the absence of significant terrorist activity on polling day.

Judith Miller is just some reporter who happened to get tipped-off that Joe Wilson was selected to go drink tea in a hotel room in Niger for a week while asking people if they wanted to confess to committing any felonies because he had a nepotism connection in the CIA. His mission was silly, his handling of it was silly (clue: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence), so his selection had to be silly.

In the course of communicating the nepotism angle to reporters, some Administration officials may have inadvertently run afoul of some arcane law owing to Plame’s long-ago status as a covert agent, so in the end what we have here is more a Comedy of Errors than an evil Neocon plot to undermine the security of the republic. The leftwing obsession with a story that’s obviously technicality and small potatoes simply undermines their credibility with the voting public.

The media are clearly fascinated by Miller because she’s one of them, and one with a number of enemies because she hasn’t always toed the approved Bush-hating line that’s expected of elite journalists, but the rest of us don’t have that excuse. And one sad consequence of this great Miller pile-on is the complete marginalization of America’s Mom, Cindy Sheehan, who just got a new car, and the world’s leading intellectual, the grammarian Noam Chomsky, who just won a poll.

It’s all very sad.

The New Litmus Test

The controversy over Harriet Miers continues, with the Administration desperately trying to shore up support among both moderates like Arlen Specter and conservatives like the Bible crowd and the “victims of liberalism” crowd:

In that conversation, which has been the subject of feverish speculation, Rove also told Dobson that one reason the president was passing over better-known conservatives was that many on the White House short list had asked not to be considered, Dobson said, according to an advance transcript of the broadcast provided by his organization, Focus on the Family.

Blogosphere luminaries Jeff Goldstein and John Cole face down over Bush’s motivation and come to no conclusion.

OK, I have a theory about Miers that I haven’t seen anywhere, so I’m going to throw it out even though it’s raw speculation with nothing to back it up except trace elements of DNA found near the crime scene. Here we go.

Bush doesn’t care about abortion, and neither do the bibliocons. They understand that even if the Supreme Court was to strike down Roe, the states would legalize it anyway, and they’d lose their moral authority. It’s one thing to say that five men in black robes are imposing their personal views on you, and quite another to be faced with the certain knowledge that the people hold values that define you as outside the mainstream. So it’s best if Roe stays intact and the conservative movement has the issue to complain about.

The real problem that bibliocons have with the court showed up earlier this year in the great shouting match over the corpse of Terri Schiavo. All along the bibliocons and paleocons had been telling us they were fed-up with activist judges getting involved in state and local issues where they didn’t belong, but suddenly they were all over the courts for refusing to be activist with respect to the family and the State of Florida. So it became clear that the right wants the mirror image of what the left wants, an activist bench that is willing to impose its personal values and beliefs on the rest of us.

Looking for judges who have that sort of orientation is a hard search, because the conservative team that the right’s been grooming since Roe (Luttig, McConnell, Olsen, et. al.) is all about judicial restraint, and none of them can be relied upon to jump into the breech on Schiavo-type cases and do the right thing by the right. So Bush had to ignore the conservative farm team and draft a close personal friend with the proper religious credentials and the requisite lack of judicial hang-ups.

So that’s why we have Miers, to make the far right wing of the Right-to-Life conservative movement less ineffectual the next time we have a case before the courts involving a corpse on life-support.

Put yourself in Bush’s shoes: his approval ratings started going down when he flew to Washington to sign the Schiavo bill, and they’ve never recovered. The press pounced on him over Katrina because he made himself vulnerable, and they’re not letting up.

And this isn’t a cynical move orchestrated by Rove, it’s George W. Bush being sincere. And sincerely stupid.

There you are.

UPDATE: See some discussion of this theory at Cathy Young, Jeff Goldstein, John Cole, and Doc Searls. Cathy thinks I’m wrong, citing Judge Greer as an example of a good religious judge, but she misses the fact that religiosity isn’t a monolith: Miers is a born-again, while Greer is just a garden-variety Southern Baptist who was expelled from his church for sticking by the law. As she’s a born-again with no demonstrated commitment to the rule of law, I don’t see Miers as another Greer. In fact, I’d much rather see Greer on the court than Miers.

Dem coloreds shaw be crazy

The latest excuse for the Katrina media riot is all about race:

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.

“If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people,” Amoss said, “it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering.”

As I live in a part of country bereft of black people (Pacific Northwest) I can’t comment on this except to say it strikes me as rather remarkable. I mean, this guy works for a newspaper that can’t tell what’s happening right before its eyes, yet he feels competent to analyze an alternate reality that doesn’t even exist?

Oh, I forgot, “facts are commodities, we want lessons to live by.”

Little government worked

Big government certainly failed in New Orleans: the levees weren’t in good shape, the evacuation was a disaster, the Red Cross was not permitted to feed the hungry, and FEMA didn’t perform the miracle of driving upon water. But there were some little-heralded successes that have escaped the notice of our rioting media establishment:

Meanwhile the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, claimed 20,000 rescues by Sept. 8 at which point it suspended calls for more volunteers and boats. While it is unclear how many of these rescues took place in the critical time frame, the only mention of this staggering achievement came in the Sept. 8 press release. How many national reporters thought to call the Wildlife department, or even thought it was a go-to agency?

By the time these stories come out, will the people still be paying attention?