Comments: "If you are inclined to trust Google as your source for news, Google yourself"

Finkelstein it's become disappointing reading much of your commentary. You've become anti-populist often railing against "dragons" that are at worst salamanders. Reading Bill Keller discuss the New York Times as a source of news and information as opposed to the web, which is described in terms of a circle of hens pecking at everything, grossly and self-servingly distorts and misrepresents the unfortunate reality of our times and the political situation America has descended into over the last few decades.

When you think of the NYTimes as a source of news, how can you not remember Vice President Dick Cheney on a Sunday morning news program quoting the NYTimes in reporting the dangers of Saddam Hussein's Iraq attempting to acquire and produce nuclear weapons. The totally bogus story which greatly helped advance a disastrous war was provided by Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon on the front page of the New York Times. Gordon is still with the NYTimes providing more front page stories of similar questionable merit. And questionable is not the worst of it, as the aluminum tubes story so aptly demonstrated. Miller would still be involved with the NYTimes if not for the disclosure of her intimate (perhaps literally) involvement with the, in others times considered treasonous, disclosure of an American undercover agent working to protect America from the use of foreign nuclear weapons - The Valerie Plame case.

Bill Keller does a double sided misrepresentation of the relationship between the nascent efforts of web news producers and analyzers and the "content" that the New York Times and other major "news" organizations now produce. The NYTimes has failed too often and too consistently in the last few years to be polishing itself as if it was a shiny perfect apple. It's rotten, perhaps not to the core as many major news outlets now are, but the rot is far too apparent and far too significant to be overlooked.

The political reporters at the NYTimes have shown a consistent anti-Democratic bias. The Times beat reporters for the last presidential election did a heroic job of demeaning Democratic candidate John Kerry on almost every minor and trivial point, down to the music he selected for his rallies and the jokes he told. In contrast the glaring real weaknesses of the right are rarely pointed out.

And the New York Times IS one of the best of the current crop of news organizations.

Knight-Ridder, which was one of the few news content providers that didn't go along with the Iraq war Republican propaganda was recently bought out and sold to a right wing organization. There are signs that it, as McClatchy News, is being decimated, the better to change the nature of the "content" that is provided to Americans as "news."

I could go on and on with items of Keller's "news content" that are nothing more than propaganda damaging to the vast majority of the people that live in America and to America's future as a whole. And I'm just a "Vinny in the basement."

The web has come about as a voice because of these failures. The intent was never to compete, but to reject the repeated "content" that had little relation to real news. Nothing would please the best of the web activist populists than to have news organizations like the NYTimes provide real honest news. But that hasn't been happening for at least a decade and more.

The other side of Keller's swipe is his ignorance (likely intentional) of the real "news content" that the web is providing. There's nothing magical about getting news content. It's not the sole domain of people that sit in offices in billion dollar organizations like the NYTimes. An old newsperson like Seymour Hersh is living proof of that. It takes talent, intelligence, hard work and dedication to a task that the New York Times too rarely demonstrates. It takes getting on the phone and talking to people that are the "news content" sources. That's not an exclusive task that organizations like the Times are solely able to perform.

The key for an organization like the Times is that it is an established news organization with a reputation that was deserved. "News content" providers often look to provide their information to the Times for that very reason, so the news can get out. Daniel Elsberg recently stated that he didn't think news like the "Pentagon Papers" that he famously disclosed in the Vietnam War era would be published today. Major news "content" would be kept secret to protect a malevolent few. The NYTimes has done exactly that and probably is doing the same right now. Bill Keller's Times has refused to disclose important information about the actions and behavior of America's government because it might have affected an election that abusive government was about to face. What greater importance and value has "news content" than to provide a citizen with informed insight at a time when such insight is critical to a major decision - how to vote? That's the type of failure that's become far too common with Bill Keller's New York Times. Why would or should anyone with important news go to the NYTimes to have that news made available as widely as possible if the Times will not do so, for highly questionable reasons?

I'm not an expert on the news content that the web's news gumshoes do provide. I know of that's an excellent content provider, but its size and funding are minuscule compared to the NYTimes and the other major news outlets. Still, with these "Times" of stenographic propaganda news front paged, Rawstory is notable for its work.

Josh Marshall, through his Talking Points Memo, is easily the Jack Anderson of our day, regularly providing important "content" unfiltered by the Bill Keller's of our world. Far too often the Josh Marshalls of the web are the providers of the "news content" that Keller claims is the valuable commodity only his type of organization can provide.

Bill Keller has failed in the very task he claims sole ability at doing. It's time to move past people like Keller, and if need be, organizations like the New York Times if they merely talk about news content rather than provide it.

Finkelstein, I'm sure you know all this and didn't need me to recite it. Your claim to fame is debunking a smear of Al Gore that lives to this day, despite you. It lives because of people like Bill Keller's "AdNags" etc. ready to spout smears rather than "content." I guess your hope is that you might be hired to debunk the debunker types that you once were.

Posted by Amos Anan at December 3, 2007 06:50 AM

Just a further point on the Google-Wikipedia aspect of the Keller pull quote. The NYTimes proved with its attempt at charging for its content on the Net that it, the Times, needs Google's aggregation more than Google needs the Times' content. Simple fact - recently proved by the Times dropping its failed "Select" pay per view policy. Google's aggregation helps Net users, helps Google and helps the NYTimes and other "content" sources like it. Wikipedia is more a content aggregator than Google (I'm ignoring Google news which I don't use, though I have used Yahoo news, etc. along with sites like for timely information links to content). I think if the Times was really concerned about Wikipedia as a competitor then it could sue for copyright violation and make Wiki's life much more difficult. I don't think Wikipedia quite fits the "fair use" aspect of copyright law. Again, it's probably more beneficial to the Times than damaging. If someone looks up something on Wiki that references the Times, the odds are that they'll then go to the Times for more in depth insights. If the search was superficial then the Times probably would have been avoided anyway. Britannica is hurt more by Wikipedia than the Times.

I've little sympathy for the NYTimes on this aspect of the issue anyway. The recent Tasini case where the Times tried to avoid paying royalties for the new digital avenues of content distribution it was using demonstrated why. The Times tried to avoid paying royalties to its freelance workers who provided some of their precious content. The Times has little problem aggregating content without payment when it suits itself. The current writers strike at its heart is similar to the NYTimes Tasini case.

Posted by Amos Anan at December 3, 2007 10:25 AM

Via Slashdot today -

Publishers Seeking Web Controls
News Organizations Propose Tighter Search Engine Rules

By Anick Jesdanun
Associated Press
Friday, November 30, 2007; Page D02

From the story I get the sense that the publishers are trying to find a way to have Google, et al set up DRM for them, though they don't want to simply block Google through robots.txt. No sir! Not that!

Posted by Amos Anan at December 3, 2007 11:18 AM

> Wikipedia and Google aggregate information
> from, well, from us.

"And we often take our info from agencies (AP, Reuters, ...) which in turn sometimes quote unnamed blogs." ;)

Posted by Philipp Lenssen at December 3, 2007 04:42 PM

Amos: Sometimes I think I should just make a FAQ and number the arguments. :-(.
By the way, all my net-activism work has never yielded me any money at all, and the very small amount of paid article-writing I've done is hardly worth mentioning.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at December 3, 2007 07:28 PM

Finkelstein: March in Line! Left, Left .. Left Left LEFT!

Amos: "The NYTimes proved with its attempt at charging for its content on the Net that it, the Times, needs Google's aggregation more than Google needs the Times' content. Simple fact - recently proved by the Times dropping its failed 'Select' pay per view policy. Google's aggregation helps Net users, helps Google and helps the NYTimes and other "content" sources like it."

With a statement like that, you *might* want to read more about the Google-NYT relationship. The NYT was the #1 or #2 resource on Google News over the last few years, including the TimesSelect era; many NYT links were absent from Google Web Search becaue of a decision by Google, not the NYT. That also explains the dynamics of the relationship. So, with Google having a little bit of leverage like that, you can see Keller racheting up the rhetoric.

It wasn't a great speech, more of the same, and the reaction was more of the same, so it's a draw.

But the ACAP link *is* interesting -- a number of my aggregators had missed that.

Posted by Jon Garfunkel at December 3, 2007 08:28 PM