About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Fifth Estate or Trailer Trash Nag?

A somewhat non-Latin America / Border Issues thought ...

As a guy who spent roughly ten years involved with newspaper journalism I never thought twice about the idea of blogs responding to reporters. I was always trained that if a reporter messes up s/he does so in a very public way and the readership will make you pay. I've done writing, photo, page design, and advertising design - all which require careful precision or the client (readers / ad buyers) will take have your head.

Therefore, when I saw MexFiles "Malcolm in the Muddle" post I was positively perturbed by rambling rumblings of a former News Nugget ... um, News Week editor claiming that foreign correspondents aren't experts, they just give a perspective, and any blog criticism of the coverage is no more than a nagging wife begging for attention. I myself had griped about PBS using reporter David Luhnow as an "expert" on Mexico - and in that Malcolm and I can agree: foreign correspondents are not experts. But should they bot be criticized for faulty "commentary?"

Yesterday NBC newscaster Brian Williams reflected on media criticism in the form of John Stewart of the Daily Show. Speaking on NPR, the transcript reads:
Williams tells NPR's Guy Raz that on occasion, when he feels his broadcast tap-dancing toward the precipice — tossing around a story idea for "what I call Margaret Mead journalism — where we 'discover Twitter,' " for instance, or entertaining some other unfortunate editorial possibility — "I will, and have, said that, 'You know, maybe we can just give a heads-up to Jon to set aside some time for that tonight.'

"I should quickly add, we have another set of standards we put our stories through," Williams cautions. "But Jon's always in the back of my mind. ... When you make The Daily Show, it's usually not for a laurel, it's for a dart."

None of this, the NBC anchor says, is to claim that Stewart and his crew have had some wholesale transformative effect on the news media.

But "a lot of the work that Jon and his staff do is serious," Williams says. "They hold people to account, for errors and sloppiness. ... It's usually delivered with a smile — sometimes not. It's not who we do it for, it's not our only check and balance, but it's healthy — and it helps us that he's out there." Read more here.

Ok. I think for academics the blog component creates an interactive space with the world of our specialties beyond the classroom. My primary job is to research and disseminate that research. After that I teach students what historians do and what we investigate. Beyond that the blog offers me a chance to combine teaching and research to a larger audience (depending on if the post mentions sex or erotica). Commenting on what my students or the public hear about Latin America is a natural extension for academics, as well as a long tradition of press criticism in the United States.

As a reward - if you finished this post I'm mentioning a new resource on the links on the side. H-net lists blogs on Latin America by academics of Latin American topics.

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