sbwpix:  sbw
Just add Waters - Stephen Waters' casual blog








Recent Discussion

Create New Topic


Join Now


Rosen's Bush Thesis Redux

To spare readers the tens of thousands of words piled up by academics, journalists, and itinerant bloggers over President George W. Bush cutting a presumptious reporter down a peg, here is a capsule summary:

The episode began in April, 2004, when Professor and "public journalism" advocate Jay Rosen responded to Ken Auletta, a magazine writer, who observed President Bush, eight months ago, last August, hold up Don Quixote's mirror to a reporter.

Rosen is "Shocked! Shocked!" when the President suggested reporters covering him acted like columnists. Rosen analyzes the mirror rather than the reflection, recognizing several unrelated "Data points" during his musings:

  1. Auletta: The President holds all the cards.
  2. Auletta: Bush: "Assuming you represent the public."
  3. Rosen: His almost interview, an incomplete blogging by radio.
  4. Rosen: Posits "Bush Thesis" that there is no such thing as a press role.
  5. Rosen/Auletta: Press seen as a declining power.
  6. Rosen: Administration doesn't always hold to the "Bush Thesis".
  7. Rosen: Bush meets with the press when in trouble.
  8. Rosen: 90% of press questions anticipated by White House.
  9. Rosen: The President and the press pool both read from scripts.

Several "Data points" may have been overlooked:

  1. Thoroughbred journalists and journalist/academics are skittish.
  2. Once spooked, they can't tell the difference between the mirror and the reflection.
  3. Directed inward, focus for them is as easily distracted to peripheral issues, as it is on TV repeated hourly.
  4. Peripheral ideas with traction, like yarn for kittens, can distract them for hours.
  5. An academic focused on Big Issues Writ Trivial, easily overlooks obstacles immediately in front of him that ought to be of real concern.

Rosen concludes that, while game of "Gotcha" does exist, why focus on that when you can reach beyond the culpable media who overstep themselves, to posit a new, civilization-threatening uber-thesis, that might, even as we speak, exercise power in the White House.

After catching his breath, Rosen observes an "Aftermath" to his piece:

John Kerry says press conferences were "an important forum and an independent way to communicate with our country." but apparently not to listen to the country.

What fails to grab the attention it deserves is the sturdy comment from billg, on Jeff Jarvis' Buzzmachine, that "It isn't the job of the press to represent people. It is the job of the press to report the news to the people."

Rosen hints at, but then fails to follow up on, something nagging in the back of his mind, "I wonder why so few of the President's supporters seem concerned that a vital reality check may be lost to the administration given what are seen as Big Journalism's failures."

Stung, Rosen, broad brush in hand, resorts to metaphor wrapped in emotional, elevated, extended alliteration: "Bush partisans ... drink so deeply of their resentments that they fail to ask whether there will be any costs to Bush himself when the discrediting, dismissing, disdainin and decertifying of Big Journalism is complete.


When comment lines were opened, the hounds were set loose. [And I, the ever-unbiased observer occasionally illuminate in bold]:

Terry Heaton: "the elected don't represent the public (either)" -- Score one point.

rkb: "the press for several decades has seen itself as the only TRUE holder of virtue and truth." -- Public journalism unmasked.

Helen: "Grant, ... You won't admit to the possibility that someone might honestly disagree with you. No, [if] someone sees things differently than you, then they are either stupid ("not sophisticated enough to distinguish between Saddam and Osama") or mislead ("swallowed the adminisitration's case for invading Iraq, which was conflated with the al Qaeda threat"). -- Grant D. must have been a shill... We seem to have forgotten how to weave the truths from all sides together.

Tim: the press... are not honest "about the process of 'observe, orient, decide, act'. ... What I think is more relevant ... is 'the press' role of 'useful fools' during a guerilla (sic) based war."

Steve in Houston: "Who's being reductive here? Who's seeing the world in black-and-white? Who's ruling out any possiblity of connections or nuance here? Hint: It's not George Bush."

Rosen: "my essay tries to summarize and capture what Bush and company are thinking." -- Based on what?

rkb: "increasingly since the 1970s, journalists and the wider 'press' community - most explicitly to include faculty in journalism schools - have arrogated to themselves the role of speaking for me." -- A touch! A touch, I do declare it!

Insufficiently Sensitive: "'why did the Bush team feel comfortable placing hundreds of "special pleaders" with the tanks and troops invading Iraq?' Precisely because the Bush team DOES have some faith in reporters who can describe events in context." -- So not all journalists fit the ostensible "Bush Thesis".

Rosen clarification: "And his big idea, developed as well by his advisors--what I called the Bush thesis--proposes that the national press is not a part of the system of checks and balances in government, does not represent the public, and is little more than a special pleader." -- But you lept from demonstrable examples to generality in a manner that avoided labeling specific behavior for what it was. As "Tim" points out:

Tim: "When "the press" values their filters (gotcha journalism, shock and awe descripting, editorial opinion) over the service of providing a channel between the public and their government, they no longer are valuable as a 4th estate."

rkb, going "meta": "Tim wrote: The fascinating power of blogs, from my perspective, is the power of linking. ... When I look at blogs, I see large, dynamically created and updated value models, i.e. the framework of deciding both how much different aspects of a situation matter to the blogger and also what the facts are (or probably are). Out of that come decisions: what sources of information to trust, what is going on out in the world and whose leadership to trust."

The Other John Hawkins: "It might be a bit of an exaggeration to compare the typical Washington Press Corps reporter with Mohammed al-Sahaf, but not that much of one."

Tim Oren: "You may think Bush is pushing an effort for "discrediting, dismissing, disdaining and decertifying" the press, but he's merely naming the hole that Big Media have dug for themselves."

Rosen again: "What [Glenn Reynolds is] also asking is: can such poor coverage be afforded by the Bush Administration, which, like all Administrations (or even more than most) may tend to believe its own rhetoric, disbelieve even its loyal doubters, explain away bad news, assert its dominance over reality so as to jettison parts of a messy reality that don't fit a much "cleaner" belief system." -- But while Glenn hits the mark, didn't Rosen, in a fit of projective identification, accuse the Bush administration of doing what Rosen's initial essay has done?

Yksgib: "I think the apology asked of Bush by reporters at the press conference is the perfect embodiment of the entire issue." -- Gotcha!

Rosen: "Gotcha is a pattern in the relationship, a "game" with many players. "Stiffed ya" is a game too, played from the podium at the press. -- Because they play "Stiff ya" is no justification to play "Gotcha". It's like saying that because terrorists violate the Geneva Convention that we should, too. You do so at your own peril.

Related articles: Refocusing the media lens


[Macro error: Can’t call the script because the name “commentIt” hasn’t been defined.] [Macro error: Can’t call the script because the name “commentIt” hasn’t been defined.]

This page was last updated: Thursday, April 29, 2004 at 10:03:26 PM
Copyright 2016 Stephen B. Waters Weblog at:
Create your own Manila site in minutes. Everyone's doing it!

This site is using the Default theme.