Rolling over in Walter Williams' grave

I had dinner Friday night with Dean Mills and several other folks from the University of Missouri J-School. Not one word was said about the death of print, the crushing debt loads taken on by big publishing companies, or other depressing topics that tend to dominate journalism conversations (and blogs) these days.

It was an upbeat conversation about exciting possibilities, all hope and energy and yes, optimism. Mizzou has all sorts of fascinating projects in the works.

A 19th century lesson about the Internet and journalism

Back in the early 1800s a young French writer wrote some observations on the character of American society that I think have something to tell us about how journalists and newspapers should use the Internet.

The writer was Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville, and he wrote Democracy in America, a remarkably clear and astute commentary on the nature of American society.

Government licensing of journalism

At the risk of once again being told that I hate America, I'm compelled to cite Neil McIntosh's observation that the United States has an ugly characteristic in common with a certain African country: "Were I to take up reporting again and do my thing from Web 2.0 in San Francisco next week, I too could be locked up and thrown out the country - just like reporters from Zimbabwe whose fate she [Mindy McAdams] highlights on her blog.

The networks aren't even trying

It's traditional in journalism for everyone to talk at the beginning of an election cycle about how they're not going to descend into horse-race journalism and, instead, focus on meaningful, issue-centered coverage. And then everybody forgets all about it and wallows in the gutter.

Robert Reich, the former secretary of labor, hits the nail on the head with this blog item:

Routing around bad journalism

Here's another example of how the Internet has shifted power from institutions, and how that can be a good thing. While the Internet certainly has empowered whispering campaigns and hate bloggers, it also has enabled us to get to the truth behind badly reported news, if we care enough. Today I found the full Jeremiah Wright sermon from Sept. 16, 2001, in which he made the "inflammatory" statement "America's chickens have come home to roost." It turns out he was quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force.

Not listening

Let's hope I am among the last to comment on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, because honestly, it's getting tiresome. But I have to ask: Is anybody listening to anybody else? And is the press working toward understanding, or just redistributing noise?

I spent some time tonight actually listening to the YouTube snippets of Rev. Wright's intemperate ranting, which is being spun as "racist" and "hate speech" by many of the jabbering television commentators who seem to be mostly interested in perpetuating drama and not really interested in the issue of racism in America.