Columbia Journalism Review
The day that Barack Obama went up with his most devastating ad of the 2012 campaign—quite possibly the most devastating Democratic general election ad in years—I happened to be reading Bill Marx’s review of a new Ambrose Bierce collection in the Columbia Journalism Review. It included this quote from Bierce (best known for his oft-anthologized "An Occurrence At Owl Creek") speaking about the power of ridicule: “Ridicule, as I venture to use it myself,” wrote the author in the Chronicle in 1890, “seems to me to be the most excellent of offensive weapons because it hurts without damaging.
As international outcry grows alongside the body count in Syria, one news network has taken a decidedly unconventional approach to covering the crisis.
Anyone who’s worked for a news organization will recognize the phrase “we did that.” A demonstration at an abortion clinic? We did that. Decay of the New York subway system? Rotting bridges in Minnesota? Shoddy levees in New Orleans? Melting glaciers? Fished-out oceans? Ditto, ditto, and ditto. Other attendant verbs are “rehash,” “warmed-over” and “-up.” Speaking for myself—maybe this is a personal quirk—when I was a kid, I preferred my hash on the second day, warmed up. “We did that” isn’t a sinister response: It’s occupationally necessary.
Greg Marx has an article in Columbia Journalism Review on the gulf between the methods of news reporters, who create narratives, and political scientists, who examine structural forces: That perspective differs from the standard journalistic point of view in emphasizing structural, rather than personality-based, explanations for political outcomes. The rise of partisan polarization in Congress is often explained, in the press, as a consequence of a decline in civility.
When the administration proposes a final vision for health care reform, in advance of Thursday's bipartisan meeting, it will propose giving the federal government more authority to block exorbitant premium increases, at least for people buying coverage on their own (rather than through an employer). The proposal, first reported in the New York Times and then described in more detail by a senior administration official, has the potential to help protect consumers from precisely the sort of increases Anthem Blue Cross of California has proposed for some of beneficiaries.
One reason people are skeptical of health care reform is that they don't believe it will help reduce their insurance premiums. On Monday, President Obama will give at least some of these people reason to rethink that skepticism. As part of the proposed House-Senate compromise the administration is unveiling at the White House website, Obama will call for improving the regulation of insurance rates for people who buy individual policies through the new insurance exchanges.
If you're looking for a careful breakdown of the various allegations against the IPCC that have been swirling around over the past few weeks, then check out this RealClimate post. At this point, it seems like the only glaring error that's been uncovered in the IPCC's climate reports is that statement about Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035—a goof, yes, though hardly anything that's fatal to the broader body of climate research.
Charles Homans has a great piece in the Columbia Journalism Review this month asking why so many TV weathermen—a wildly disproportionate number of them, in fact—refuse to believe in man-made climate change. One possibility is that many of them mistakenly think that climate science is just like predicting the weather, and if the latter's such a crapshoot, the former must be, too: Meteorologists live in the short term, the day-to-day forecast.