Down in Atlanta yesterday, I was watching a local yak show, in which Pulitzer Prize-winners Hank Klibanoff and Cynthia Tucker were being interviewed about the comparative strengths of the print rags vs. the blogs. The two Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters gave a pretty good account of the merits of print media, giving some cred to the blogosphere as a source for good reporting, but stretching a little painfully, I thought, to paint a bright picture of the future of print at a time when daily newspapers across the country are laying off staff in droves.
You can find a revealing example of why print is often an inferior medium, at least for political reporting, by comparing the recent coverage of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul at one of the better political websites Orcinus and alternatively at the Boston Globe, which has won more Pulitzers than any daily other than the Grey Lady and WaPo. Here’s a teaser from Sara, writing on Paul at Orcinus back in June:
What I can tell you — what all of us need to know before we run out and sign on for a summer of Ron Paul Love Feasts — is that Paul has some long-standing ties to early-90s Patriot groups — and some ugly attitudes on race and equality — that should give us all long and serious pause….
She then cites some disturbing quotes attributed to Paul or his newsletter, including:
* A 1992 screed on African-American”racial terrorism” in Los Angeles, in which Paul insists that “our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists — and they can be identified by the color of their skin.”
* Another 1992 article, this one asserting that “complex embezzling” is “100% white and Asian;” and noting that young black male muggers are “unbelievably fleet-footed.”
* A Houston Chronicle citation from 1996, in which he asserts that Barbara Jordan was a “fraud.” Paul wrote: “Everything from her imitation British accent, to her supposed expertise in law, to her distinguished career in public service, is made up. If there were ever a modern case of the empress without clothes, this is it. She is the archetypical half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism.”
There’s more in a similar vein in Sara’s article, and Orcinus has many other disturbing reports about Paul. Contrast this hard-hitting reportage with the Boston Globe’s limp pages on Paul, which you can access here. To be fair, it’s not just the Globe. Major dailies in general have given him an easy ride of it. When it comes to comparing dead tree media political reporting to political blogs, it’s often like patty-cake vs. hardball.
The exception that proves the rule is the late great Molly Ivins, who hipped her readers to his extremist views many years ago. No doubt they miss her a lot these days.