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From The Publisher's Desk: November 06, 2005
STG - Susan Tom Gets What She Deserves!
09:38 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Susanandalan
Some of you might remember Susan Tom[1], a remarkable woman who over the past decade or so has made it her mission to adopt and care for 11 special needs children. Some have had physical disabilities, some have had learning disabilities, some have had terrible illnesses. Three have died from their afflictions.

I first heard of Susan May 11th, 2004. As I wrote on our Iraq page then:

Tonight, I finished watching the HBO documentary My Flesh And Blood, which tells the story of Susan Tom, a 53-year-old single mother in Fairfield, California. Susan is the mother of 13 children, 11 of whom she has adopted, many of whom suffer from handicaps and diseases.

Teenagers Hannah and Xenia were born without legs. Anthony has a degenerative and usually fatal skin disease. Eight-year-old Faith has disfiguring scars and no hair from being badly burned as an infant. Joe, 15, recently passed away from cystic fibrosis. Margaret, 18, helps Susan raise the family. (You can learn more about her story here, here,   here and here, you can read about the documentary here and here.)

Hers is a powerful and wonderfully inspiring story. It left me moved by the grace, love, and caring Susan Tom exhibits to these children … her children … children whom, without her, may very well have gone throughout life without love, without tenderness, without a chance … without having really lived at all.

I turn from that documentary to The Command Post, where I see posted the photographs of Nick Berg’s beheading, and I’m struck bluntly by the complete antithesis of Susan Tom: murder, brutality, and disgusting inhumanity. In moments, I went from having tears in my eyes to having bile in my throat. And I’m left wondering, as I’m sure are most of us are, what exactly to make of it all.

Well, I’ve decided what to make of it all, and what I’m going to make is some good. Susan Tom is a hero … one of millions … waking each day with a commitment to make the lives of others better through love.

Hers is an example to which humanity should aspire. So my response to the murder of Nick Berg and the inhumanity it represents is to use it
as motivation to give to Susan Tom and the humanity she represents.

All of Susan Tom’s children save Katie plan to attend college. Susan will have education bills to pay, and toward that end she’s established the non-profit Tom Family Education Trust to assist the Tom children with college tuition and book expenses (according to the stipulation of the trust, the monies can not be used for any other purpose).

For the next three days, between the time stamp of this post and Midnight EDT Friday night, Michele and I will contribute all donations made to The Command Post PayPal account (the button’s below this post and also over in the right-hand column) to the Tom Family Education Trust.

That post did three things. First, it rallied the blogosphere, and we ultimately raised $15,000 in three days for the education trust. Second, it was the germ of an idea that ultimately led me to create Strengthen The Good, a non-profit network of bloggers committed to raising awareness for small charities around the world. Third, it introduced me to Susan, whom I've since come to consider a friend, and her kids, who are as much an inspiration as is she.

Well, Susan finally got what she deserved. ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition built her a house. The episode airs tomorrow night at 7:00 EST (it's a two-hour special), and I strongly encourage everyone to watch the show. It's a program that often brings people (including me) to tears; Susan's story will inspire you to change the world, in whatever small or grand way you can. It did for me, and I'm a better man for it.

Thank you, Susan, for being a hero, and congratulations on getting what you've so long deserved.

1. You may visit Susan's web site here; the bulk of this post is cross-posted here.

From The Publisher's Desk: August 02, 2005
Site Matters - Hacked
07:58 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

Our forum was hacked, and it's trashed. Hopefully we can retrieve the database, as it contains (in addition to the threads authored by the participants) a significant historical record of global response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

We're working on it, and we're talking with some other folks who were hacked by the same sensless, worthless piece of trash hacker about next steps.

Apologies to everyone who enjoyed the forum; it seems some people out there need to prove their place in the world through the small-minded defacement of others' work.

From The Publisher's Desk: July 25, 2005
Site Matters - Kill Spam Dead!
07:40 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Lots of complaints recently about trackback spam at TCP. They're well-deserved; with five blogs running and some 17,000 inidivdual posts, there's a lot to spam.

Over the weekend we installed Brad Choate's new SpamLookup plugin, and it seems to be doing the job: no new trackback spam since Saturday. It may produce a false positive from time to time, though, so if your trackback doesn't go through, send us a note and we'll take care of it for you.

Thanks for reading the Post.

From The Publisher's Desk: June 24, 2005
Site Matters - Thanks!
06:35 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Michele and I were named as “Honorable Mentions” in the Always On/Technorati Open Media 100 list. Thanks to them, and thanks to our readers.

From The Publisher's Desk: June 12, 2005
Book Reviews - The Gift Of Valor
11:06 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Because of my role at Command Post, I'm occasionally sent a book to read, sometimes with a request for a review and sometimes not. Last week I was offered a review copy of Michael Phillip's new book, The Gift of Valor. It arrived Thursday; I read the bulk in two sittings (on the plane to and from Minneapolis on Friday), and the remainder this morning.

My main comments on the book are tangential to the core facts of a review, so I'll get the core facts out of the way first:

  • The book is about Corporal Jason Dunham, U.S.M.C., who died from injuries suffered in Iraq when he covered an insurgent grenade with his battle helmet in an attempt to blunt the blow and minimize injuries to his troops.
  • The book is extremely well-researched, well-written, and engaging. Difficult to put down, the accounts of battle are riveting, and the accounts of family and character are vivid and personal.
  • Phillip's account is (thankfully) apolitical … he presents events through the eyes of a reporter who treats matters factually. It's a story of people, not a screed on the war.
  • It's an extraordinary book, one I enthusiastically recommend to others.

Now to my main comments. I first leaned of Corporal Dunham when I read Phillip's first Wall Street Journal article about the Marine on 25 May 2004 (link via Blackfive). I remember being touched by the story; my feelings after finishing The Gift of Valor are deeper, stronger … more moving and substantive.

I finished the book just an hour ago, reading the final chapters on our back deck, warmed by the Sunday Pennsylvania sun as it rose through the white pines of our back yard. The air was warm but not hot, a soft breeze coming from the South, a trio of male cardinals chasing each other from tree to tree in the yard.

Kate by my side. Warm and freshly-ground coffee in my mug. The dog in the yard, happily munching on a stick, on the lookout for squirrels.

When I finished the book, I was moved.

Some of my reaction was a function of contrast: the obvious juxtaposition between my life in reading the book, and the lives of Corporal Dunham and his peers in living it. This book gives you a very clear window into the reality of the war in Iraq, the reality of war in general, and the people who shape and are shaped by that reality day in a day out.

It makes a Sunday morning on the deck with your wife seem a rich blessing, which frankly, it is.

Some of my reaction was melancholy at the death of Corporal Dunham. Some will call his death a waste, others a sacrifice, others still (including me) an act of courage and honor. History will apply that final lens, but regardless of that judgment, he was clearly a fine and good young man, and Phillip's descriptions of his life, his family, and his character struck deep chords.

And finally, and perhaps most of all, my reaction was humble awe not just of Corporal Dunham, but of the support of those around him through his journey: the Corpsmen, his fellow Marines, the nurses and doctors, the administrators … the infrastructure of the US military and the U.S.M.C, which brought humanity and caring to every step.

This is where we find the real story of The Gift of Valor: in the valor of not just those who serve, but of those who serve those who serve. This is a book about not one, but hundreds of heroes.

Of the Major who waits hours for his men to receive medical attention before revealing that he, too, has been shot.

Of the neurosurgeons who leave wealthy practice in the States to make a gritty practice in the sands of Iraq.

Of the nurses who refuse to leave an injured Marine alone for even a moment, hour upon hour.

Of the administrators at Bethesda who drain their personal savings throwing barbecues for the families of the injured, weekend after weekend.

Of the people of Scio who drain their rainy day funds to send Corporal Dunham's family to Germany, if needed.

There are two passages in this book that, for me, eloquently struck this chord of systemic caring. Both are in the book's final pages, as Corporal Dunham's family struggles with the decision of whether or not to honor the Corporal's living will request to not receive life support if in a vegetative state.

The first:

When the Dunhams stood up, one of the Marines took their place at Jason's side and held his hand.

The second — too long to recreate here — describes how General Michael Hagee, the Marine corps commandant, skipped a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to present Corporal Dunham's Purple Heart in person, and to be at his parent's side to tell them what kind of a Marine their son was.

Perhaps I'm naïve. But I've never held the view of the Marine corps, or of our military in general, as an infrastructure that would provide such humane caring for its people: to ensure a wounded soldier, even one in a deep coma, is not left without a hand to hold; to demonstrate that parents facing the most difficult choice they can make are a greater priority than the planning of our military's highest council.

Time and again The Gift of Valor tells these tales: people, caring for each other, loving each other, in the eye of a storm of pain and risk and death. It's terribly moving.

One of my favorite films is Love Actually. It's one of those movies that, if I catch a glimpse of it on TV, I'm committed to see the rest of the thing out. The film opens with a narrative by Hugh Grant, in which he says:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the
arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make
out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that.
It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly
dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons,
mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old
friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of
the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or
revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got
a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

And so it is with valor. The dictionary tells us valor is "courage and boldness, as in battle; bravery". The message Michael Phillips brings us is that, yes, Corporal Dunham had the gift of valor. But the bigger message is that people all around us … doctors, nurses, administrators, the school principal down the street … they also carry that gift, for they have the courage and boldness and bravery to love.

And in that, valor is all around.

(You may see the Fallen Heros Memorial page for Corporal Dunham here, and the Marine Corps News story of his death here. Cross posted at Seat 1A.)

From The Publisher's Desk: May 25, 2005
Blog Spotting - Mike Moran; Blog Panel
05:59 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

While at the DNC in Boston I bumped into Mike Moran at the hotel bar. Mike was behind Hardblogger, and we had a good chat about blogs and journalism (while having, I seem to recall, some of the finest chowder of my life).

He's now posting over at Sword and Pen for the Overseas Press Club of America … check it out.

He's also taking part in a June 1st panel on blogs and international news, along with Joe Trippi, Paul Mirengoff, Marshall Loeb, and Rebecca MacKinnon. Hmm … CBS and PowerLine, together at last … should be interesting. It's in NYC; go here to learn more.

From The Publisher's Desk: May 23, 2005
Blog Spotting - Alan's New Blog
03:49 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

You may now also find me here.

From The Publisher's Desk: May 05, 2005
Site Matters - Notice to Emailers
09:06 PM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano

I've had a bit of an Outlook crash. Well, a huge Outlook crash.

If you have mailed me at my TCP address in the past month or so, or if you sent a mail that you thought deserved a response and didn't get one, please resend your inquiry to micheleREMOVETHIScatalanoATgmailDOTCOM.

Thank you and I apologize for not getting back to you.

From The Publisher's Desk: May 04, 2005
Go See - The Substance Of Style
07:01 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

A quick book suggestion: I recently picked up a copy of Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style, which I'm very much enjoying. She's been a fan of Command Post since the start, and SOS is well worth the time and $ if you're at all interested in culture and aesthetics. Check it out.

From The Publisher's Desk: March 06, 2005
Site Matters - On My Way Back ...
12:05 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

I've been on vacation and without net access for the past week. I'm back online now, though, and will be plowing through the emails that have come in since I started my break. If you sent one, be patient: I'll get to them all.

Thanks.

From The Publisher's Desk: March 05, 2005
Go See - Gunner Palace
08:39 AM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano
GUNNER PALACE reveals the complex realities of the situation in Iraq not seen on the nightly news. Told first-hand by our troops, 'Gunner Palace' presents a thought provoking portrait of a dangerous and chaotic war that is personal, highly emotional, sometimes disturbing, surprisingly amusing … and thoroughly fascinating.

Filmmaker Michael Tucker, who lived with 2/3 Field Artillery, a.k.a. “The Gunners” for two months, captures the lives and humanity of these soldiers whose barracks are the bombed-out pleasure palace of Uday Hussein (nicknamed Gunner Palace), situated in the heart of the most volatile section of Baghdad. With total access to all operations and activities, Tucker's insider footage provides a rare look at the day-to-day lives of these soldiers on the ground — whether swimming in Uday's pool and playing golf on his putting green or executing raids on suspected terrorists, enduring roadside bombs, mortar attacks, RPGs and snipers.

See the trailers here.

A list of screenings is here.

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From The Publisher's Desk: February 18, 2005
Blog Spotting - ¡No Pasarán!
07:01 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Stumbled recently across ¡No Pasarán!, a group blog published by Erik Svane and Joe N. of Merde in France. Its focus:

What expats and the mainstream media (French and American alike) fail to notice (or fail to tell you) about French attitudes, principles, values, and official positions.

Check it out.

From The Publisher's Desk: February 16, 2005
Trivia/Quizzes - All The President's Hair
11:34 AM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano

Via MetaFilter:

Think you might know a thing or three about US Presidents? (Alternately, have five minutes to kill?) Then try identifying some of them by their hair! Be sure to give it a few tries as there are more presidents than hairdos-to-guess per game.

Go on, guess the President's hair!

From The Publisher's Desk: February 14, 2005
Site Matters - The New Treo 650 ...
08:00 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

… works great with Movable Type (as you can see by the fact that I'm posting this with the Treo right now).

Test complete.

From The Publisher's Desk: February 12, 2005
MSM - What CNN Can Learn From Pep Boys
08:15 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Pep Boys is a pretty unassuming company. Sells car parts. Does some simple service. Straight forward, easy to understand, not involved in all sorts of complex financial circumstances, international industries, or sophisticated financial instruments (like, say, a BP or an Exxon/Mobile or a Merrill Lynch).

Yet consider what Pep Boys needs to do to satisfy the SEC and the investor community:

  • File an annual report (and make that available to all shareholders and potential investors) that reviews the state of the company and management's strategic intentions and priorities for the coming year.

… and frankly, a dozen other things: analyst calls, annual meetings, etc.

Why must simple Pep Boys do this? Why subject poor Manny, Moe, and Jack to such rigor?

Because people are tangibly invested in the company, and as such, they demand as transparent a view into the stewardship of that investment as possible.

It's been that way for a long time, but ENRON, in particular, has made transparency the watchword of the decade for publicly traded companies, their boards, and their CEOs and CFOs.

Which brings me to CNN.

Eason Jordon. Wow. And this was a blog event, from the beginning to the end.

Like Dan Rather.

Like Howell Raines.

Here's the lesson for these and similar folk in mainstream media:

The era of required transparency in news organizations has arrived.

Information has always been a commodity in the public discourse. But now, for the first time in history, the channels of distribution have sufficiently fragmented that information (and news) is no longer something that's held, it's something that flows. From the “Law of the Flow” section of my APME speech:

If you’ve ever taken a class in macroeconomics, you might remember learning about “stocks” and “flows.” In economics, a stock is something that is accumulated over time … furniture in your house is a stock.

A flow is something that occurs over time, and tends to change the level of a stock. Income and savings are examples of flows.

And one of the conversations you have in macroeconomics is about money, and whether it’s a stock or a flow … and increasingly, as money has become more ubiquitous with credit cards, checks, cash, PayPal … money is more of a flow than a stock. It’s not something you ever really have as much as it’s something that flows from place to place as a means of accumulating the stocks you DO have.

Here’s the lesson from Command Post: information in general, and news in particular, is now a flow, and not a stock.

Before the Internet, information was governed by set distribution channels and gatekeepers … brokers … who decided who was able to have what. The stock broker had the price. The real estate agent had the prior housing report. The car salesman had your credit report.

And in news, the journalists had the facts, and the editors acted as brokers, making choices about what would be reported and what wouldn’t.

Not the case now. The Internet hates brokers. It KILLS brokers. Now, because of the Internet, everyone with a computer, an email address and a browser is a point of distribution … the only thing needed for information to “get out” is an interest on the part of one person to supply it, and a demand on the part of another person to have it.

Because of The Flow, people now are exposed to more information, are naturally more dependent on it, and are better able to judge its quality than ever before.

It's the currency of exchange for daily life, and mainstream news organizations (at least before the blogs) have been our banks of information: they held the currency, and they distributed it to the populace. And in serving that role, we made a similar investment in the mainstream media: We invested our faith.

Which is where CNN has something to learn from Pep Boys. Publicly traded companies must now begin to provide high levels of transparency if they hope to keep the faith of their investors. The same is now true for MSM news outlets. For … well, forever, really … they’ve been able to live in a world with no transparency, and make choices about how to handle the investment of faith by others without accountability to the investor.

Not any more. Now The Flow, facilitated by the blogs, are pulling back the covers on our banks of public trust. Dan Rather, Howell Raines, Eason Jordan … they were the CEOs of those information banks. For decades they've made choices of how to handle the consumer’s investment without providing any visibility into direction or intention. They've had their ENRON here and their WorldCom there … we just never learned of them. Now, the blogs are forcing transparency upon you, and some consumers are rightly finding that their investment hasn’t been treated as well as the like.

So they’re placing it elsewhere. They're placing it here.

In the closing pages of BLOG Hugh Hewitt writes:

The key to keep in mind is that trust drives everything. To build and maintain trust is a tremendously difficult thing, requiring patient attention to detail and discipline over long periods of time.

Yep. Trust drives everything. Always has. The difference now is that the media not only needs to earn it, they need to prove they deserve to keep it. Doing so is going to require true change in the structures and policies of these institutions. Good intentions and a commitment to better ethics won’t suffice (it certainly wouldn’t for Pep Boys) … and the resulting change is going to require a transformation of enormous consequence, the beginnings of which we have yet to even see.

From The Publisher's Desk: February 07, 2005
Blog Spotting - DeepBlog
10:18 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

Visited DeepBlog yet? Just checking.

JBTP - Campaigns & Elections Blogging Panel
06:09 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

I'm taking part today in a panel on blogging, journalism, and politics at a Campaigns & Elections seminar in D. C. Among the other participants are Hugh Hewitt and Matt Gross. I'll moblog anything interesting from the site, and have a post-panel post this evening.

From The Publisher's Desk: February 06, 2005
Go See - GO IGGLES!
09:58 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

OK ... totally off topic for Command Post. But it's my page, damn it. And the fact is, as a Philadelphia resident, I can no longer contain myself. So ... all together now:

Fly Eagles fly, on the road to victory.
Fight Eagles fight, score a touchdown 1-2-3.
Hit 'em low,
Hit 'em high,
And we'll watch our Eagles fly.
Fly Eagles fly on the road to victory!!!!

E. A. G. L. E. S. EAGLES!!!!!!

Update: Ugh.
From The Publisher's Desk: February 02, 2005
JBTP - Are Bloggers Journalists?
07:55 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

The Christian Science Monitor takes on that question, including whether journalists warrant press protections.

My two cents: If in addressing the issue of protection you’re comparing the guarantee journalists have to that enjoyed by physicians and attorneys, it strikes me as a false comparison. Unless there's a form of “official” accreditation or licensing for journalists, we're not journalists.

Of course, given that there is no such accreditation or licensing, that means that journalists aren't journalists, either. So we're all either in the protection soup, or we're all out.

The fact is, the protection journalists have enjoyed re: their sources is a legacy of their being the only news distribution channel in town. They’re not anymore, and as such, they’re no more or less official in their roles than are the bloggers … unless we want to say that the fact one might get a job with the New York Times counts as a vetting and accrediting process equal to that of passing the Bar.

Which, we know, it does not.

(Tip to Power Line)

Blog Spotting - Sullivan's Giving Up The Dish
07:40 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Andrew Sullivan is giving up his Daily Dish:

After much hemming and hawing, I've decided to put the blog as you've known it on hiatus for a few months. The Dish will still exist, the site will be updated weekly with new feature articles, and I'll still post when I feel like it. But it won't have the regularity or content of the past four and a half years. Why? The simple answer is that I want to take a breather, to write a long-overdue book, to read some more, travel to Europe and the Middle East, and work on some longer projects. Much as I would like to do everything, I've been unable to give the blog my full attention and make any progress on a book (and I'm two years behind). It's not so much the time as the mindset. The ability to keep on top of almost everything on a daily and hourly basis just isn't compatible with the time and space to mull over some difficult issues in a leisurely and deliberate manner. Others might be able to do it. But I've tried and failed. Besides, this is my fifth year of daily blogging - I was doing this when Clinton was president and Osama bin Laden was largely unknown - and I've always thought it's a good idea to quit something after around five years or so.

Virginia Postrell comments intelligently, as usual:

Even the few brilliant scholars (Tyler Cowen, Eugene Volokh, Grant McCracken) who make blogging seem like it should foster serious thought limit their posting to topics they want to mull over in public. Current-affairs blogging of the Sullivan/Instapundit/name your favorite type is inherently quick, dirty, and disposable. It may add to the public discourse, but it doesn't tend to deepen the blogger's own thinking. That, plus sheer laziness, is why this blog has never promised more than a few posts a week, and why I've given up my think-magazine-editor instincts to voice an opinion on everything. For a full-blown argument, I want to write something for a sizable audience and get paid. And I don't really want to post half-baked ones.

I appreciate the point of view. Luckily for us, we have lots of contributors to carry the torch.

From The Publisher's Desk: February 01, 2005
JBTP - Who's Blogging From Davos?
05:45 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Brett Stephens at Opinion Journal:

The theme for this year's meeting of the World Economic Forum is “Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices,” and on Thursday afternoon the choice before me is this: Do I sign up for the session on Arab Reform with Gamal Mubarak, heir apparent to Egypt's throne? Or do I plump for the “Reinvent Yourself” workshop with Angelina Jolie?

I must say, the Mubarak meeting is awfully tempting to this Middle East policy junkie. Also on offer Thursday night are discussions about the weak dollar, the blogosphere, dangerous ideas, European leadership, cubicle design, public universities, brand USA and the economics of populism. Overall, the forum hosts 189 meetings over five days, not to mention press conferences, coffees, nightcaps, and plenary addresses by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac and Victor Yushchenko, among others. It's all so exciting.

… the weak dollar, the blogosphere, dangerous ideas … what? The blogosphere? Who's at Davos talking about the blogoshpere?

Ahh, here it is … “Welcome to the Blogpolis”:

By providing highly personalized, real-time political information, blogging is reshaping how citizens make political decisions, for good and ill. 1) When do bloggers provide better information and analysis than conventional media? 2) Are bloggers effective media watchdogs? 3) Can bloggers be a positive political tool, and not just a threat to the powers that be? 4) What is the relationship between bloggers and democratic values?

Moderated by Richard Sergay, Senior Producer, Internet and Technology Unit, ABC News.

OK, but which bloggers are there? You now … him, or him, or her?

Now, the WEF has its own blog here (although its views “do not neccessarily reflect those of the Forum”). I see Loic Le Meur is a contributor, and some MSM types.

Ahh, here it is. The blogging panel included:

  • Loic
  • Eric Hippeau, Managing Partner, Softbank Capital, USA (as far as I know, not a blogger)
  • Rebecca MacKinnon, Berkman Fellow, Harvard University, USA, and blogger (a good panelist)
  • Oh Yeon Ho, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Ohmynews Co, Republic of Korea
  • David M. Webb, Editor, Webb-Site.com, Hong Kong SAR

But seriously: If you wanted a panel about blogs as a political tool, and their role at the nexus of politics, media, and the public, wouldn't you want someone around who had actually, you know, used them as such? A Matt Gross … a Mike Krempasky … somebody?

I'm just sayin'.

From The Publisher's Desk: January 31, 2005
Go See - A Big, Wet Sloppy Kiss ...
07:26 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

… to my blog partner, friend, and general all around action hero cool chick, Michele, on the four year anniversary of her taking mouse, and blog, in hand.

The 'sphere has never been the same.

You rock, pards. Like RJD.

From The Publisher's Desk: January 27, 2005
TCP Polls - Doug Feith Leaving Defense
09:04 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

New poll up on the main page: Is Doug Feith leaving Defense a good or bad thing?

And if you don't know who Doug Feith is, you need to read Command Post more! Here's a primer

From The Publisher's Desk: January 23, 2005
Contributors - Welcome Keith of Sortapundit
12:22 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

We're proud to add Keith Taylor of Sortapundit to our ranks of contributors. Visit his blog and help welcome him to the Post.

As for Michele and me: Welcome, Keith!

MSM - Objectivity & Truth
10:16 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

The Philly Inquirer's Chris Hedges has a think piece up today titled Journalists' objectivity needs balance of truth. In it he notes:

Balance and objectivity, without a strong commitment to the truth, can turn journalism into farce. It was impossible to witness the army massacres in El Salvador or the murder of children by Bosnian Serb snipers in Sarajevo without being revolted. I hated these crimes. I took risks, along with many of my colleagues, to expose and explain them. And I wanted, through my reporting, to get the world to wake up and put an end to the wholesale murder of innocents.

This commitment, however, was effective only when we were rigorous about telling the truth. It is this moral core, this belief that we can contribute to an open society and make the world a better place, that keeps me and other reporters focused on truth as well as balance and objectivity.

And then this:

Balance and objectivity have become code words to propagate the insidious and cynical moral disengagement that is destroying American journalism. This moral disengagement gives equal time, and sometimes more than equal time, to those who spread falsehoods and distort information. It tacitly sanctions the dissemination of lies. It absolves us from making moral choice. It obscures and often shuts out the truth.

This sophistry has come to characterize the circus that goes by the name of journalism on cable news shows. Facts on television are largely interchangeable with opinions. The television reporter, like a game show host, makes sure each warring party has his or her time to vent. The veracity of what is said is irrelevant. But the disease of moral neutrality is no longer confined to the poseurs on television, who are, after all, entertainers posing as journalists. It is seeping into those organizations that are still attempting to report the news. Objectivity is not the same as moral disengagement. Balance does not mean giving everyone the same space. We are more than dutiful court stenographers. Journalists have a contract with viewers and readers. This contract was broken. We must make sure it is not broken again.

“Entertainers posing as journalists.” Wow. Wonder how he feels about Dan Rather.

From The Publisher's Desk: January 21, 2005
Go See - And About Lincoln.ppt?
11:08 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

I see the boys at Powerline critique Corzine via a parody of a critique of Lincoln's second inaugural (what?). Reminded me of another Lincoln-related parody. Evils of PowerPoint, anyone?

JBTP - Wow. Belmont & Jarvis.
11:03 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

This is a great post. “Abramson shuddered.” I bet. Enough said.

Site Matters - Shout Out To You, Mr. Hastings Law Reader
06:10 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Michele just sent me this. Nice to know we've entered the ranks of the academy, if only through a back door. And if you're reading this, Mr. Hastings Law Student, thanks for stopping by. How IS contacts, anyway?

From The Publisher's Desk: January 20, 2005
Site Matters - The Command Post: How We Can Get Better
06:47 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

Typing this from 37,000 feet and US Airways flight 1640.

I’ve just completed Hugh Hewitt’s book, Blog. Hugh’s folks were kind enough to send me a complementary copy before its release, but true to form I was only able to start it two days ago. The good news is that I read it in two sittings, most of which were on airplanes, which supports Hugh’s hope that it be a fast read.

I don’t write this to post about Hugh’s book, as much as I liked it. I’ll do that in another post. I’m writing this post to talk about Command Post, and what’s next for me with the site.

Fact is, we’ve been really lucky here. Our post-election traffic has held up quite well, stabilizing at about the same level as it was before the conventions and Election Day. What’s more, the tsunami proved what we’ve seen with the war and with the Northeast blackout and with hurricanes and a host of other stories: when news breaks, people around the world can rely on our network of bloggers to aggregate new fast, accurately, and with more global depth of coverage than just about anywhere else out there. People may not come here every day, but they come here when a story hits.

That’s wonderful, and it’s the point of the site: a sort of “middle ground” in journalism. Not mainstream media, and not the pure opinion of most blogs, but a third alternative, primarily about the news, that’s an awful lot faster, easier to access, and personable than the MSM sites.

And if you trust Command Post more than CNN or FOX, more power to you.

But reading Blog was a catalyst for a bunch of thinking I’ve been doing about the site, and where I’ve settled is that I in particular can get much better as an administrator and contributor. So, without consulting with Michele (she’s reading this for the first time, too … sorry pards, had to get this on, well, not paper, but screen), here’s what I’m thinking about my commitment to Command Post:

  • Bigger network. People come and people go from TCP, and that’s fine. But our policy is to keep people on the rolls, and they’re all still welcome. And I don’t care how often someone posts … because if they only post once a year, but it’s a key issue or breaking item, that’s good enough for me. That said, I want to expand the network. We have some 170 contributors now … why not 300? Or 500? Or 1,000? The value of the network is the square of its number … so let’s grow the sucker. Our mission, vision, values, and posting guidelines are over there in the left-hand column. If you can live by those, you’re welcome to join the team.
  • Write more. My posting comes and goes, and is almost always a function of my travel and work schedule, which are both frankly quite demanding. Most of my work days are in front clients or team members or on airplanes, not in front of a PC, and my blogging time is generally restricted to weekends, early mornings, and late evenings. That said, if I can post, I’m going to try to contribute more original stuff. I’ve only really done this twice here, with this Op/Ed and with my APME speech, and both seemed well received. So look for me more on Op/Ed and the Publisher’s Desk. And if you hate my writing, thoughts, or style, well … sorry about that.
  • Link to blogs more. We do a great job of linking to MSM, but I think we can do a much better job of linking to the blogosphere. BUT: we have to link to the left and the right, given our desire to keep this site to the center. So I’m going to get better at finding and highlighting unique, and undiscovered, blog voices on the events and topics we cover here. I’m sure I’ll learn something, and perhaps you will, too.
  • Get mobile. I can post from my phone, and did so extensively during the RNC. In fact, near as I can tell, I was the only blogger posting from inside the hall during the President’s acceptance speech. Our whole network needs to be able to do the same, so I’m going to equip us all with mobile posting capability.
  • More responsive. Readers send me email and tips all the time, and I almost never respond. I used to, but the volume simply outstretched my available time. I read every email, though. Always have and always will. What I can get much better at is acting on those links and tips. So I may not reply to you, but I’m going to do my best to check out, and if it works, post, the stuff you send. The forums can become yet another source for this … for readers to post news items and have conversation about those stories. In fact, maybe I need to start a “Tips” forum topic. Note to self … [Update: Done.]
  • More sticky, more fun. Gotta love a line like that. I can do a much better job of making Command Post a more interactive, and frankly, more fun, site. The forums are a start, and seem to be coming along well. I can change the poll question more often, we can have more contests, and we can engage the blogosphere more. Hugh’s done a great job of this, asking other bloggers to post answers to questions and then cross-linking them, and I intend to steal this idea with abandon. (Flattery, Hugh, flattery.) What’s more, we have an awfully funny and compelling writer in Michele, as anyone who reads ASV knows, as we do among many of our contributors. No reason not to unleash those same talents on the Op/Ed page, related to our topics of coverage, or in the form of a bit more personality in our posts on our main news pages. So look for that (and you have been warned).

So … that’s a start. I don’t expect, nor do I have dreams for, Command Post to be a great revolution in media. That’s already underway. It’s called the Blogosphere, and we’re but a small part. But this is a labor of love, and in the very least, it’s been a personal investment of time, energy, thought. And because of that, it’s an investment I want to be proud of. We’ve done well, being a resource of citizen-journalism for people over the past 18 months, but we can do better. And if I can keep the commitments above, at least for my part, we will.

Just thought you should know.

Thanks for reading the Post.

JBTP - We’re Incorporated
06:23 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

Michele and I wanted to let you know that we’ve incorporated The Command Post. The official name of the firm is “JBTP, LLC”, with “JBTP” standing for “Journalism By The People.” We took this step based on the advice of Hugh Hewitt, which he dispensed during a conversation he and I had at the DNC in Boston. It doesn’t mean much in a tangible way … it’s not like we’re making a ton of money doing this … but it will help us account for our travel expenses at speeches and panel discussions, and our donations, a bit more cleanly.

More important, I think it’s symbolic of our little corner of the Blogosphere becoming “real” enough that we had to treat it as so. Which, I think, is symbolic of the Blogoshpere itself becoming increasingly “real.” (As are the incorporation of Strengthen The Good as a 501©(3) non-profit, the formation of Red State as a 527 … I’m sure there are others). To that we owe thanks to Hugh and Reynolds and Lileks and APME and many other sponsors and interested parties, but most of all we owe thanks to our contributors and our readers. For all of you: We’re grateful. It’s fun doing this, but only because Michele and I have had occasion to feel part of something larger than ourselves.

Some of you know that I fly almost every week. If you happen to see a guy in his mid-30s tapping a blog entry on a black IBM Thinkpad on your next commercial airline flight, it’s probably me. Say hello, and I’ll buy the drinks.

Caption Contests - Inauguration Caption Contest!
08:55 AM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano

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Jenna loves Ronnie James Dio!

Trivia/Quizzes - Inauguration Trivia!
07:23 AM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano

[Not really news, so I'm just sticking this here]

__________ was the shortest inaugural address at 135 words. (1793)

________________was the only president to walk to and from his inaugural. He was also the first to be inaugurated at the Capitol.

The first inaugural ball was held for _____________.

____________ was the first president sworn in wearing long trousers.

____________was the first president to affirm rather than swear the oath of office.

_________________'s was the longest inaugural address at 8,445 words.

The first inauguration to be photographed was _______________'s.

__________ was the first to include African-Americans in his parade.

___________s mother was the first to attend her son's inauguration.

____________ inauguration was the first ceremony to be recorded by a motion picture camera.

__________'s wife was the first one to accompany her husband in the procession from the Capitol to the White House.

____________s second inaugural parade.

____________ was the first president to ride to and from his inaugural in an automobile.

__________'s was the first inaugural address broadcast on the radio.

_________'s was the first to be televised.

____________s inauguration had first poet to participate in the official ceremony.

____________ was the first (and so far) only president to be sworn in by a woman.

_________'s inaugural parade featured solar heat for the reviewing stand.

_____________'s second inaugural had to compete with Super Bowl Sunday.

The first ceremony broadcast on the Internet was _____________'s second inauguration.

Bonus: Name the six presidents who did not take their oaths in Washington, D.C.

[Trivia from infoplease.com. Leave your answers in the comments - I'll post the correct answers tonight.]

From The Publisher's Desk: January 19, 2005
Contributors - New Contributor: Joshua of One Free Korea
06:50 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Please help us welcome a new TCP contributor, Josh Stanton. Josh publishes his blog One Free Korea from Washington, DC. Josh served in Korea, and is a former Army JAG prosecutor and defense counsel. Welcome, Josh!

Go See - Helmets To Hardhats
06:07 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

We were asked to exchange banners with Helmets to Hardhats, a company funded by the Department of Defense to help transitioning military and veterans find careers in the building and constructions trades. We don't run banners (as you can see), but we're more than happy to give the site a plug. Check it out.

From The Publisher's Desk: January 18, 2005
JBTP - The 10 Most Important Ideas of 2004: Blogs & The Internet
04:34 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

Via Weinberger: How to Save the World's list of the 10 most important ideas of 2004, blog/Internet style. My favorite: “The blog is a journal, and online journalism is our game.” Or as we like to say: “Journalism is history written on the run, and we record the race.”

From The Publisher's Desk: December 22, 2004
Site Matters - Bye Bye Wiki
07:22 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

It was a good concept, and we had some good content, but the spammers are crushing the Command Post Wiki, so we've taken it offline for now. When we get a decent form of spam control, we'll consider relaunching it. Thanks to all who provided content … and thanks for reading the Post.

Site Matters - Now Open: Command Post Forum
07:08 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

We've had requests to open a forum for some time, and decided to take the plunge. Visit the Command Post Forum, and enjoy.

From The Publisher's Desk: December 21, 2004
Resources - New Search Tool: IceRocket.com
07:25 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Bloggers live and die with their search engines. Reader Blake Rhodes recently emailed to note that he and Mark Cuban have launced a new search engine called IceRocket.com. One of the features: blog-focused searches.

Blog Spotting - Redstate's Announcement
07:10 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

While on the topic of Mike Krempasky, he's also sent this:

Gah. The government makes it so hard to be politically active these days - in any number greater than “one”, that is.

So we've decided to jump through the legal hoops and start building a real political organization. It's a bit of an experiment, I think - one that's not been tried. To be sure, lots of 527's and other political organizations have blogs - but a blog turning into an organization? We'll see.

You may read their full announcement here. Congratulations, Redstaters. And it terms of a blog turning into an organization? No worries, it can be done: Strengthen The Good became a 503/c non-profit in November.

JBTP - Get Credentialed For CPAC's Annual Meeting
07:06 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Mike Krempasky at Redstate emails to say that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has agreed to credential bloggers “as real media - the whole nine yards” for its upcoming national convention. If you're interested in applying, visit this page at CPAC.

Blog Spotting - Systemperturbations.com
06:54 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Through the course of my Command Post life I've followed (and once or twice corresponded with) national grand military strategy guru Tom Barnett. (Attentive readers will recall my linking to TB's blog from time to time.)

I've also built a nice online relationship with his webmaster and business partner Critt Jarvis, who's launched a blog of his own: Systemperturbations.com. The content's great, and I love the look (for what that's worth) … check it out. Great job, Critt.

From The Publisher's Desk: December 20, 2004
TCP Polls - Don Rumsfeld's Job Secuirty
06:31 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Is Rummy's job at risk? Vote in the TCP Poll on the main page.

Site Matters - Beware the Bold Tag in Comments
06:15 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

For some reason … perhaps our move to dynamic page generation for individual archive pages? … bold HTML tags are turning on, but not turning off, in the comments. If you'd avoid using them for the time being, I'd be appreciative. Thanks.

From The Publisher's Desk: December 07, 2004
STG - A Dose of Good Karma!
04:01 PM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano

Those of you who particpate in Alan's Strengthen the Good might remember Debi Faris, whose Garden of Angels was an StG charity choice in October.

Debi's Garden of Angels is a project involves “providing dignified burials to infants when they're found, and encouraging parents to avoid making that choice in the first place.”

Last week, Debi Faris won 27 million dollars in the California lottery.

That's a beautiful thing, no?

Open Thread - Who's The Next Intel Czar?
08:21 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Presuming the intel reform bill passes, who do you think the president will tap to run our 15 intel organizations? Toss your two cents in the comments …

From The Publisher's Desk: November 29, 2004
Blog Spotting - Little Harlan Is All Grown Up ...
06:53 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, taking on Kofi Annan on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

From The Publisher's Desk: November 22, 2004
Blog Spotting - Strengthen The Good: Send Your Books And Help Spread Freedom And Opportunity!
12:20 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Want something the feel good about? Check out the latest profile at at Strengthen The Good: the work of Douglas Dart at The The C.S. Lewis Bilingual Gymnaziumin in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The gist: Douglas and his family are in Bratislava for a year, teaching English and American Studies to Slovakian teenagers, at a small and poor school set among the towers of a Soviet-era apartment block. They call English “the language of freedom and opportunity” … but they have no English-language books.

So I thought we could help build a library, and have something to feel good about along the way.

Got an extra copy of The Fountainhead or Old Yeller or the works of T. S. Eliot lying around? Here's your chance to use it to do some good. Visit STG to learn more. And remember: Don't just fight evil; strengthen the good!

From The Publisher's Desk: November 15, 2004
Blog Spotting - STG On NYT
07:59 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

For those who follow Stregnthen The Good, the site (and others) was profiled today in the New York Times. Thanks to those who have joined the network and helped to strengthen the good.

From The Publisher's Desk: November 13, 2004
JBTP - AP CEO Tom Curley: Internet Represents Future Of News
11:34 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

This from CBS, reporting on AP CEO Tom Curley's keynote speech to the Online News Association conference in Hollywood:

The future of news is online, and traditional media outlets must learn to tailor their products for consumers who demand instant, personalized information, the head of The Associated Press said Friday.

The growth of high-speed broadband connections is leading to a future in which computers are always on “and so are the users,” …

… Curley also touched on Internet users who disseminate news and ideas through Web logs, citing one recent estimate that there are 4 million “bloggers” making 400,000 posts per day.

“That works out to roughly 16,000 posts an hour, or about as many stories as the AP sends out in an entire day,” he said. “It will get even tougher to be heard above the roar of the Internet crowd, and the business bets will have to be for greater stakes.”

Still, Curley predicted current news giants will survive.

“The bloggers need a baseline of facts and professional analysis on which to base their work,” he said. “Imagine Drudge without somebody to link to, or Wonkette without somebody to poke fun at.”

More interesting, though, are these lines from Curley's speech:

At the start, I'd like to make a subtle, but critical, overall observation about the magnitude of the revolution we're undergoing. The Internet has become our new business environment, not just another medium for distribution. …

… First, content will be more important than its container in this next phase. That's a big shift for old media to come to grips with. Killer apps, such as search, RSS and video-capture software such as Tivo — to name just a few — have begun to unlock content from any vessel we try to put it in …

… And in Web 2.0, discrete pieces of content — stories, photos and video clips — all categorized and branded, will be dis-assembled from whatever presentation you create and magically re-assembled on the PC desktop, the mobile device or TV set-top box, for consumption on demand.

That's the fundamental behind personalization. The content comes to you; you don't have to come to the content …

… The implications for content providers are enormous. You cannot control the “containers” anymore. You have to let the content flow where the users want it to go, and attach your brand — and maybe advertising and e-commerce — to those free-flowing “atoms.” …

… The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place.

That's a huge shift in the “balance of power” in our world, from the content providers to the content consumers. “Appointment-driven” news consumption is quickly giving way to “on-demand” news consumption.

And, as we've seen so clearly in the last year or so, consumers will want to use the two-way nature of the Internet to become active participants themselves in the exchange of news and ideas. The news, as “lecture,” is giving way to the news as a “conversation.” …

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Law Of The Flow, Law Of The Many. Recognize the shift in power from distributor to consumer. Mass customize. Engage and welcome participation. Curley clearly gets it.

And there's also this:

So, are we being beaten at our own game?

Not really. As we know from the campaign season, this is more about the emergence of an engaged audience, than it is about competition.

An active two-way connection to the audience has always been the secret to success in our business, whether you're talking about inspiring a letter to the editor or selling classifieds and cars.

We can't help but benefit from this new engagement, and if some of the new “consumer-contributors” become “professionals” in their own right — well, then, you've got more potential members for ONA.

It's a “good thing,” as one recently incarcerated publisher used to say …

… Established brands in the news business will continue to be extremely important, even as new voices enter the conversation. The expanding “blogosphere” is indeed huge, but the bloggers need a baseline of facts and professional analysis on which to base their work. And that's where the AP and many of the other organizations you all represent come into play.

Imagine Drudge without somebody to link to, or Wonkette without somebody to poke fun at.

It's a new community that's forming in the news and information space. The “neighbors” may not all like each other, but we're all part of the same network, like it or not.

There's really no reason not to like it: If we can ship our content anywhere and let anyone comment on it, and focus even more attention on it, we will rev up a virtuous cycle that will drive eyeballs and ultimately support the new businesses we need to build on the network.

A refreshingly positive perspective. You may read the full text of Curley's speech here.

Resources - Great News For Treo Bloggers
10:43 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Great news for those of you who (1) use a Treo phone and (2) post to a Movable Type blog: if you download the latest version of the Xiino web browser to your phone, you can use it to directly manage and post to your blog—without any third-party “moblogging” software … which is exactly what I've done here.

JBTP - Jay Rosen On Newpaper Accountability @ The NY Times
10:07 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

Jay Rosen has posted an interesting piece deconstructing a memo in which New York Times assistant managing editor Allan M. Siegal lays out plans for a special committee to improve “accuracy and accountability” at the Times. Worth the read … and here's a taste:

Should we be responding systematically to outside critics who attack our believability for political or commercial reasons of their own? What is an effective vehicle for doing this? A column by the editor or editors on how we work?

Here, I think the direction is all wrong. Except for the part about the editor having a column. The editor of the New York Times should have a blog, and use it to explain himself and his thinking. (One example.)

In regard to critics…who attack our believability for political or commercial reasons of their own… That happens. Ax grinders will grind their ax. When criticism is totally politicized (which happens) it loses its value. But some critics attack the Times believability because they think they've been asked to believe things that aren't true. To reason from their “motives” does not seem fair, or especially illuminating. All critics have reasons of their own. And partisan critics often make excellent points. As Matt Welch argues, this is because they have the motivation to watch closely.

But seriously: what use does the Times have of these “outside” voices? That's what I want to know: What does a great newspaper want from its critics in the public-at-large?

From The Publisher's Desk: November 12, 2004
Blog Spotting - Defense Tech Blog Goes Big Time
08:51 AM EDT | Posted By Michele Catalano

Noah Shachtman and Defense Tech have been invaluable sources for Command Post since its inception.

Today we offer congratulations to Noah on the news that Defense Tech has teamed up with Military.com to bring you a slicker version of the already excellent blog.

In addition to the new design for Defense Tech, we'll be adding more features in the months to come. But starting today, readers can expect an expanded roster of news, tidbits, rumors, and analysis about the future of national security. We're also setting up a forum, so you can discuss the latest in military technology, defense news, and security trends. Expect more soon, including interviews with some of the key figures behind the changing face of defense.

If you aren't already reading DT, go on over and check it out. Well worth an addition to your bookmarks.


Congrats to Noah.

From The Publisher's Desk: November 11, 2004
JBTP - [Updated] Jarvis Fisks Randall Rothenberg
12:25 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

I LOVE this. Go get em', Jeff. A sample:

I really should stop giving attention to big, old media Flintstones who bang their clubs on their heads and insult bloggers (also known as the public) to get attention. But I guess I can't resist revealing the idiocy of these blind fools.

The doofus du jour is Randall Rothenberg [link mine ~ Alan], once-was ad columnist for the NY Times now biding time in AdAge and as “director of intellectual capital” for Booz Allen (that is, he plays editor of a magazine nobody reads for an overpriced consultancy desperate for attention). There's no link on the AdAge site (I've been trying to get to editor Scott Donaton to bug him about this) and it's significant that I've seen no one else quote the column (guess fewer people read you than read blogs, Rothenberg) so I'll retype a few of the dingleberries for your entertainment:

Having reflected on blogs for the better part of two year, and having participated in the sport for a short two months, [note that he doesn't have the balls to give us the address - ed] I am prepared to report that blogging is little more than hype dished out largely by the unemployable to the aimless.

Rather like columns, eh?

Who in the world has the time to read this crap?

He also doesn't have the balls to list examples of crap. It's just all crap, it seems. As if crap can't be printed on paper.

That is, he plays editor of a magazine nobody reads for an overpriced consultancy desperate for attention. I'll tell you: I'm a consultant. And that line rings so true, words fail. Love that line. L.O.V.E. it. Read the rest.

Now, if it's OK with you, I'm going to return to being unemployable … and you should go back to being aimless.

Update: The comment thread for this entry over at BuzzMachine is worth reading … especially the comments by “Observer.” The comments reminded me that Rothenberg is a person, too … one with respect in certain quarters … but that still doesn't mean I (or you) have to appreciate being cast as the great unwashed (in this case, unemployable and aimless).

It's this holier-than-thou, pedantic tone that some MSM observers keep invoking that's the problem. Don't mind the bloggers … they're just a bunch of agoraphobic, dateless—and now, unemployable—geeks in their pajamas. Bullshit, and any observer who tosses such Ad Hominems about while also staking a claim to professionalism should be ashamed of himself … including Randall Rothenberg.

From The Publisher's Desk: November 09, 2004
Blog Spotting - Mader Blog
11:29 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

While reviewing our referrals tonight I came across Mader Blog, published by David Mader, a law student at the University of Texas at Austin. I just wanted to throw him a link. Check it out.

From The Publisher's Desk: November 08, 2004
JBTP - Blogs, Exit Polls ... And Clarity From The Wall Street Journal
08:11 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

I continue to follow the exit poll issue with interest (given that we, too, posted the early numbers, with our traditional “GRAIN OF SALT” warning). (For a sense of the MSM tenor, check this pedantic screed by Eric Enberg. Somebody want to fisk that, please?)

Indeed, some of you might have seen our name in the AP story on the issue. As I tried to express to David Baude, the point of interest for us wasn’t just the numbers … it was that they were out, and that they would soon be everywhere. As I said then:

“I didn't struggle with the decision, because I knew it was going to become a global news item within about 30 seconds. Our approach is: We post, you decide.”

That point … that the democratization of information had made it no longer possible for the media to embargo the information … has been lost on lots of folks.

But today, the Wall Street Journal gets it:

For years TV coverage of Election Day has operated on two levels, one for outsiders and one for insiders. Outsiders wait for the polls to close and the precinct reports to roll in; insiders watch their fellow insiders telegraph what the numbers are saying, usually through dissections of the mood in Camp A or B.

What's changed is that once you had to be a media or political person of a certain minimum altitude to be let in on the secret; now, all you need is a Net connection and rudimentary typing skills. Those who used to have the clubhouse all to themselves have found the door wide open to anyone and everyone. And some of them don't like it.

Which, come to think of it, really is so 1997: Information formerly reserved for a cadre of insiders now spreads more quickly than those insiders can control it. In other words, the middlemen have been eliminated.

Exactly. As I noted to the Associated Press Managing Editors:

Here’s the lesson from Command Post: information in general, and news in particular, is now a flow, and not a stock.

Before the Internet, information was governed by set distribution channels and gatekeepers … brokers … who decided who was able to have what. The stock broker had the price. The real estate agent had the prior housing report. The car salesman had your credit report.

And in news, the journalists had the facts, and the editors acted as brokers, making choices about what would be reported and what wouldn’t.

Not the case now. The Internet hates brokers. It KILLS brokers. Now, because of the Internet, everyone with a computer, an email address and a browser is a point of distribution … the only thing needed for information to “get out” is an interest on the part of one person to supply it, and a demand on the part of another person to have it.

When you have a billion people connected to each other, there is a supply and a demand for everything … and when you have search engines like Google, they actually have the ability to find each other.

This is why technologists like to say that “information wants to be free.” In a connected world, it’s no longer possible to make discretionary choices about what gets reported and what doesn’t.

The Command Post is simply a clearinghouse for news … a medium for the flow … and our contributors enrich that flow with information from a global network of newspapers, radio, TV, direct observation, and emails sent by readers.

So the lesson from the law of the flow: Your ability to choose when and how something is reported, and the timeline over which you can hold information as you make that choice, are more compressed every day. Anyone can spill the beans, and with the web and email, everyone has access to the beans. The important question to ask about a piece of information … and especially highly relevant information … is no longer “if,” it’s “when.”

I'm not a professional journalist, nor do I profess to be. But it seems to me that the MSM absolutely must grasp this point. It's no longer “if,” it's “when.” And if they thought the diffusion of polling data was troublesome this year, wait until they experience 2008.

And what are their choices? Not conduct exit polling? Not likely.

The fact is that the MSM have spent the past several election cycles solving the wrong problem. Rather than finding better ways to obscure the available information until the polls have closed, they should be finding better ways to report an election presuming information transparency while the polls are still open. Because in 2008 the polling data will be out there … blogs or not.

Resources - WSJ Online Free This Week
07:20 AM EDT | Posted By Alan

FYI, the Wall Street Journal Online is having an “open house” this week in which non-paying readers have full access to all its online content.

From The Publisher's Desk: November 07, 2004
Site Matters - Changes To The Command Post
06:17 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

To help kill the pain from this, I've made some changes to the site.

Based on reader feedback, we've expanded the “show the category just before the title of the post” layout to the rest of the news pages and Op/Ed.

(Contributors: please start adding categories to all posts, but also please try not to add new categories unless you think they'll remain relevant over time … I want to keep the category set as reasonable in size as possible.)

I've also added categories to the post titles on the main page … and, based on a nice suggestion in the comments, have also modified the main page to show the number of comments for each post (helping you see what's “hot” for discussion).

Hope you like these changes …

Now, back to the race (yes, I watch NASCAR. My driver? This guy.)

From The Publisher's Desk: November 05, 2004
Site Matters - Question For The Readers
05:47 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

Do y'all like the way we led the headlines with the category (in red) on the 2004 page during the election (and how the category also shows up on the main page)? I'm wondering about extending that change to all the news pages, and would love some user feedback …

JBTP - Blogs And ForPol (And A Dash Of Self-Affirmation For Flavor)
05:12 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

I see (tip to Reynolds) that Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell have a piece in Foreign Policy on the effect of blogs on media and foreign policy. It echoes some of what I said to the APME, and I'm glad to see these themes get wider exposure (especially since Dan and Henry, are, well, smart as hell) … the law of the flow

North Korea is perhaps the most blog-unfriendly nation. Only political elites and foreigners are allowed access to the Internet. As might be expected, there are no blogs within North Korea, nor any easy way for ordinary North Koreans to access foreign blogs. However, even in that country, blogs may have an impact. A former CNN journalist, Rebecca MacKinnon, has set up “NKZone,” a blog that has rapidly become a focal point for North Korea news and discussion. As MacKinnon notes, this blog can aggregate information in a way that ordinary journalism cannot. North Korea rarely allows journalists to enter the country, and when it does, it assigns government minders to watch them constantly. However, non-journalists can and do enter the country. “NKZone” gathers information from a wide variety of sources, including tourists, diplomats, NGOs, and academics with direct experience of life in North Korea, and the blog organizes it for easy consumption. It has already been cited in such prominent publications as the Asian Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Times of London as a source for information about North Korea.

… the law of the fast

The comparative advantage of blogs in political discourse, as compared to traditional media, is their low cost of real-time publication. Bloggers can post their immediate reactions to important political events before other forms of media can respond.

… the law of the few

These prominent blogs serve as a mechanism for filtering interesting blog posts from mundane ones. When less renowned bloggers write posts with new information or a new slant, they will contact one or more of the large focal point blogs to publicize their posts. In this manner, poor blogs function as fire alarms for rich blogs, alerting them to new information and links. This self-perpetuating, symbiotic relationship allows interesting arguments and information to make their way to the top of the blogosphere.

The skewed network of the blogosphere makes it less time-consuming for outside observers to acquire information. The media only need to look at elite blogs to obtain a summary of the distribution of opinions on a given political issue. The mainstream political media can therefore act as a conduit between the blogosphere and politically powerful actors …

… The blogosphere also acts as a barometer for whether a story would or should receive greater coverage by the mainstream media. The more blogs that discuss a particular issue, the more likely that the blogosphere will set the agenda for future news coverage.

… and the law of the many

As the museum looting controversy reveals, blogs are now a “fifth estate” that keeps watch over the mainstream media. The speed of real-time blogger reactions often compels the media to correct errors in their own reporting before they mushroom. For example, in June 2003, the Guardian trumpeted a story in its online edition that misquoted Deputy U.S. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz as saying that the United States invaded Iraq in order to safeguard its oil supply. The quote began to wend its way through other media outlets worldwide, including Germany’s Die Welt. In the ensuing hours, numerous bloggers led by Greg Djerijian’s “Belgravia Dispatch” linked to the story and highlighted the error, prompting the Guardian to retract the story and apologize to its readers before publishing the story in its print version.

Read it all

From The Publisher's Desk: October 21, 2004
JBTP - Thanks (For Your Patience)
07:07 PM EDT | Posted By Alan

I'm moblogging this from my gate at the Minneapolis airport. I don't have many moments this week, but I have one now, and I want to say thanks for all the comments and feedback about the speech.

I've been working on my thoughts about the reaction (and your comments) and will post them soon.

Thanks again …