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Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bleary-eyed Blathering

It's three o'clock in the morning, and I can't sleep - again. This is the second night this week. As Hugh Hewitt said on his blog this weekend, "use the time constructively". I don't know if this satisfies the requirement, but at least I'm doing something besides tossing and turning in a bed.

Our local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette had a wonderful display for Memorial Day, showing photos and a brief biography of all the members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team that have been killed in Iraq. The 2nd BCT is coming to Fort Carson over the next few months, instead of returning to their former home in Korea. While a lot of people have much to complain about with their local newspapers, the Gazette is much better about displaying the military as it is. The Gazette is a Freedom Newspaper, and while it does carry a number of articles from the Associated Press, the New York Times, and other liberal news organizations, it isn't guilty (normally) of a political or anti-military bias. Of course, having five major military installations surrounding the city on three sides just MAY have a little to do with that. In addition to the biographies and photos of those who's units are coming to Colorado Springs, or are already assigned here, the Gazette opened up its editorial page to the military commanders in the area, for their opinion about this Memorial Day.

Colorado Territorial Days are also being held this weekend. It's a great three-day celebration of fun, food, entertainment, and even a little history snuck in here and there. A good time is being had by all, even with the light (and sometimes heavy) rain that's been falling all day today.

Roger L. Simon posted two questions on his weblog, discussing some aspects of the proposed "Pajama Media" network. I can't seem to log into my Typekey account, so I'm going to cheat and post both the questions and my answers here. There's an excellent discussion on Roger's blog, so do check it out.

Question #1 - What Is "Fair and Balanced"?

I think the question is irrelevant. News reporting should be truthful and honest - a series of facts linked together into a story that explains the typical who, what, when, where, why, and how of an event or series of events. "Fair and Balanced" are emotionally tagged words. Fair to whom? Balanced in what way? I would much rather read an article that is complete, accurate, and follows a logical sequence of events. A news article should be "fair" by being written with that objective in mind, not in trying to provide information that may conflict with the facts in order to "give both sides of the story".

Example: the vote on John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. We've been presented with several dozen conflicting "facts", and an enormous amount of opinion thinly disguised as "fact". We know that John Bolton was nominated by President Bush. We know that he's a bit of a rough cobb for a diplomat. We also know that the United Nations is deeply embroiled in not one but several scandals. We also know that the United States provides an inordinate percentage of the funds to run the United Nations - funds that are frequently used in a way that conflicts with what the President believes is the best interest of the United States.

We've also seen that the Democratic Party has embarked upon a program of obstruction against many nominees from President Bush, both for high-level offices in the Executive branch, and for judges for Appelate and higher Courts throughout the country. All of this information - most of which are indisputed facts - change the focus of the story from an ordinary appointment to a pattern of internal political warfare between the two major political parties, at the detriment of the operation of the federal government and its ability to meet the needs of the citizens of this nation. Both sides feel "justified" in doing what they're doing, yet much of the nation's business is being delayed and/or hampered by the internal bickering. There is no way the story can be objectively reported in a way that's "fair" to both sides. Telling the story in a way that says both sides have equally valid ideas in an attempt to provide a "balanced account" misses the bigger story that the nation's business isn't getting done. Since that's the sole duty of ALL branches of government, it's impossible to be both "fair" and "balanced" in reporting.

I think it's far more important for reporters to write stories that are honest, accurate, and complete, than to attempt to write something that's "fair and balanced".

Question #2 - "How can we be an online Joe Friday?"

I think the only way to do this is to write what one knows, and indicate the story being covered is incomplete, with more to follow. Speed in reporting isn't the only advantage blogs have - they also have the ability to make corrections quickly, and the information being covered is archived in a format that's easy to recover. I think feedback will help those bloggers who tend to include too much opinion mixed with news to either wean themselves from that practice, or drive them out of the program. Either way, both the program and the bloggers who do stress truthful reporting will benefit.

I wrote in someone else's blog several months ago that the primary purposes of any source of information are to inform, educate, and entertain. Informing means providing the who, what, etc., of a particular situation. Educating means linking the situation to other similar situations, or to background information that establishes context, expands the scope of the story, or provides glimpses into how a particular situation may affect others beyond those in the immediate area. Entertaining means writing the story in a way that makes it a pleasure to read, rather than drudgery. That means clear sentences, well-constructed paragraphs, and writing so the reader can easily follow the flow of events within the article. That takes both skill and practice.

There are obviously going to be people whose contributions to the group are hard news. Others will provide "soft" news - much like the "Features" section of a newspaper. Still others will provide opinion. Some may provide many different kinds of stories. Is this organization going to provide weather information? What about emergency notification? How should we try to participate in such hot topics as homeland defense, border interdiction, military activities, crimes, judicial review, etc.? Is the organization just going to be an online news provider, or is it going to cover an entire spectrum of topics, using multiple approaches?

Anyone can try to create a blog that mimics Captain's Quarters, Power Line, Free Republic, Roger Simon, Michelle Malkin, or Hugh Hewitt. Mimicry works with print media, because usually only one or two sources are available in a given area. Mimicry on the Internet doesn't work that way. Everyone is available to everyone else. The way to get traffic is to offer something unique, that people enjoy and are willing to return, day after day to read what's new.

Having 400 people write about the same thing may ensure that the information gets out, but who is going to want to wade through 400 stories about the same thing? At the same time, if 400 people all write about a different story, there's going to be too many choices, and some will have to be ignored. Writers are going to have to have some way of indicating whether they're writing news, opinion, reviews, interpretations, or whatever, as well as categorizing their writing by subject matter. That's going to require some heavy thought.

The whole idea of a linked blogger information network is fantastic. Links are good, but that doesn't tell you whether a writer has updated his site recently or not, or what his latest missive is about, so one can decide whether to visit that site or not. There's a brave new world on the horizon, but the path there is strewn with boulders, dead trees, and a gremlin or two.

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