Hoisted from Ten Years Ago: Back When I Was Much More Optimistic About New Media and the Public Sphere…

Hoisted from June 4, 2007: Neil Henry vs. Jay Rosen Future-of-Journalism Smackdown! http://www.bradford-delong.com/2007/06/neil_henry_vs_j_1.html: “Excuse me, I need to worship my idol a bit more… There… That’s better…

Karl Marx said somewhere that the hand-loom gives you the feudal lord and the power-loom gives you the industrial capitalist. So in 1884 Ottmar Mergenthaler gave us the traditional American twentieth-century newspaper journalism of Charles Foster Kane (and the broadcast TV spectrum allocation gave us Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkhite). The Mergenthaler gives you the power to deliver advertisements–classified advertisements, department store advertisements, movie advertisements, new car advertisements–to every household metro-wide for pennies.

But how do you get people to read the advertisements rather than simply throw them away or use them, unread, for birdcage liner? You mix the advertisements with news, and reviews, and sports, and opinion, and entertainment. You make the twentieth-century American newspaper.

Because the ads that are mixed with the best news (and reviews, and sports, and opinion, and entertainment) get read the most, there is pressure on the then new-media moguls–because daily newspapers were once new media in their day–to employ lots of good people and to pay them well.

Over time the business consolidates: papers fold or find their niches, and establish stable competitive positions. Now there are monopoly profits to be distributed–and some of them go to the people who write the news (and reviews, and sports, and opinion, and entertainment). Now there is often an owner who is a big wheel in at least local politics and celebrity, and is willing to pay some out of his pocket to buy a better newspaper to increase his relative status vis-a-vis his or her other power-elite peers. It is a golden age. And, indeed the public sphere, the civic discourse, the informed citizenry created by journalism is well worth its price in terms of the subsidy from advertising profits that high-quality journalism needs.

But without sufficient competition, people and organizations get lazy. William Greider has his off-the-record breakfasts with Reaganite OMB Director David Stockman, who tells Greider that the Reagan administration is lying through all thirty-two of its teeth. William Greider doesn’t tell the reporters working for him “you can sharpen that criticism of the administration and it will still be accurate” or “that defense of the administration is substantively misleading” or “you’ve buried the lead.”

And he’s not alone: think of Clay Chandler or Jonathan Weisman or Sebastian Mallaby or Deborah Howell. All Washington Post reporters with temporary monopolies who have forgotten that their job is to inform their readers, and instead have fallen on their knees before their sources, their editors, their bosses, or the flacks leaving message after message on their answering machines.

And then, one day, the Mergenthaler’s descendants are obsolete, and the necessary link between the ads and the news (and reviews, and sports, and opinion, and entertainment) delivered via the morning paper vanishes. And the pool of money that had subsidized the news dries up.

And then (to be continued)…

Must-Read: Heather Boushey: Investing in Early Childhood Education Is Good for Children and Good for the Economy

Must-Read: Ross Douthat’s citations here are to journalist Joe Klein’s 2011 unprofessional trashing of Head Start and Republican Tennessee political Kevin Huffman, plus Baker, Gruber, and Milligan (2008) and Lipsey, Farran, and Hofer (2015). These are not the four citations that anybody would choose who is not actively attempting to misrepresent the state of knowledge about early childhood education programs.

This is one of the many, many things that makes me think that the New York Times does not have a long-run future. Its only possible edge is to develop a reputation as a disinterested information intermediary as the legacy position it had gained as a result of its role as central place for upper-class New York print ads ebbs. Things like this make developing such a reputation materially harder.

Smart New York Times executives would kill the op-ed page and give its budget and its newshole to David Leonhardt to fill, and then back off and let him do his thing. But these are the executives who let Nate Silver walk at least in part because of the political staff. As Nate said:

This guy Jim Rutenberg…. Jim Rutenberg and I were colleagues at the New York Times in 2012 when 538 was part of the New York Times. They were incredibly hostile and incredibly unhelpful to 538, particularly when 538 tried to do things that blended reporting with kind of more classic techniques of data journalism…. When we went to New Hampshire… the New York Times political desk is literally giving us the cold shoulder like it’s some high school lunchroom…. We filed the story pointing out… that Rick Santorum had probably won the Iowa Caucus, a story that involved a combination of data work and reporting…. They were apoplectic because their Romney sources were upset…. A story that… got things totally right pissed them off because they didn’t get the scoop and it went against what their sources wanted…

But the executives aren’t that smart…

Heather Boushey protests about the lack of journalistic quality control here:

Heather Boushey: Investing in Early Childhood Education Is Good for Children and Good for the Economy: “Ross Douthat used his New York Times column to express frustration that hoping for a “substantive debate about domestic policy” in this presidential election year is “delusional”…

…He imagines a scene from a future debate between… Hillary Clinton and… Donald Trump… over the benefits of early childhood education. Douthat even added several hyperlinks… links that alas fall short on revealing where the evidence actually stands today….

Randomized control trials that follow children from pre-school through adulthood… children who participate… do better in school, are more likely to attend and graduate college, and are less likely to smoke, use drugs, be on welfare, or become teenage mothers… the Carolina Abecedarian Study… the Milwaukee Project… Project STAR… Raj Chetty and his co-authors find that kindergarten test scores are highly correlated with outcomes at age 27, such as college attendance, home ownership, and retirement savings. Like in the Perry Preschool/High Scope study, in Project STAR, researchers found that while the cognitive effects on test scores fade as a child ages, the non-cognitive effects did not. Of course, not every study found such results… the Early Training Project….

Overall, though, the evidence points to the conclusion that investing in early childhood is important for future outcomes both for the children themselves and our economy more generally. If columnists provide hyperlinks to real-life academic studies to buttress fantasy debates between the two presidential candidates, they should at least point to the best studies available. In this case, the preponderance of evidence shows that early childhood education works for the children, their families, and the broader U.S. economy.

Must-Read: Noah Smith: It Isn’t Just Asian Immigrants Who Thrive in the U.S.

Must-Read: Noah Smith: It Isn’t Just Asian Immigrants Who Thrive in the U.S.: “Nicholas Kristof… ask[s] the ‘awkward question’ of why Asian-Americans have been so economically successful….

…The focus on East Asians, and ‘Confucian’ culture, seems misplaced…. More than 43 percent of African immigrants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher…. That education translates into higher household income. Nigerian-Americans, for instance, have a median household income well above the American average, and above… those of Dutch or Korean descent. This isn’t the power of Confucius. It’s the magic of high-skilled immigration…. Every society has its own version of what Kristof calls Confucian values. They are universal. And skilled immigration brings the families with those values to the U.S….

This isn’t to ignore the contribution of low-skilled immigrants, who work hard, pay taxes and commit relatively few crimes, despite what some conservative politicians now claim… [who] have enriched the U.S. enormously…. Nor should the U.S. worry about inflicting harm on the source countries…. Skilled people [who] move to the U.S…. end up helping their ancestral nations…. Instead of singing the praises of Confucian culture, the U.S. should be harnessing the power of its immigration system…. An economy with more smart, dedicated, ambitious people–no matter where they come from–is good for everyone, but especially for the working class.