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The [Thursday] Papers

"When Barack Obama took office 20 months ago - and what a long 20 months it seems - there was a lot of talk about the great 'Team of Rivals' he was appointing around him," the Daily Telegraph writes (via the Sydney Morning Herald). "Parallels were drawn with the cabinet of substantial talents and big personalities assembled by Abraham Lincoln to rebuild the nation after the civil war.

"Now, in a new book, Obama's Wars, the veteran reporter Bob Woodward has confirmed in intricate detail what has been known in Washington for some time: that some of the team could barely stomach working with each other. General David Petraeus, then the military overseer of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, avoided contact with David Axelrod, the President's chief strategist, whom he regarded as a 'complete spin doctor.' No one had a good word for General James Jones, the national security adviser and former Nato commander, while his number two, Thomas Donilon, was regarded as a 'disaster' by the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates.

"Most withering of all was Vice-President Joe Biden's description of Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan, as 'the most egotistical bastard I've ever met.' Biden has nearly 40 years' experience in Washington, so that is saying something.

"Much of this would be unimportant if there weren't a war involved - no one expects to be given a smooth ride in the White House and some of what Woodward describes could even be called healthy debate - but the aura of dysfunction portrayed by Woodward as Obama and his 'team' debated strategy in Afghanistan is truly alarming."

The Daley Derby
Tom Dart? I guess running a jail is good practice for presiding over the city council.

Sexism Knows No Ideology
"Calling a female candidate such sexist names as 'ice queen' and 'mean girl' significantly undercuts her political standing, a new study of voter attitudes finds, doing more harm than gender-neutral criticism based solely on her policy positions and actions," USA Today reports (via WTSP - Tampa Bay's News Leader!)

And guess what? That applies to Sarah Palin as much as any other woman out there.

Smartest In The Room
"Independent group messages have far more credibility and clout than those from party and candidate committees - even groups with generic-sounding names no one has heard of," Mike Lux writes on Open Left (h/t: Jeffrey Hearn via Facebook).

"Republican strategists like Rove got this early, and went about methodically organizing a network of corporate money to get involved in independent expenditure ads in swing races all over the country. But the Obama White House, sure of its fundraising ability and organizing genius, has consistently sent the signal to Democratic donors to not support outside efforts. They did it after they won the primary in 2008; they did it when they set up OFA to operate solely inside the DNC in 2009; they did it during the health care fight when they felt HCAN was being a little too independent in pushing for a public option, sending a clear signal to donors not to give to them at crucial times during the fight; they did it when ACORN had some bad publicity, very quickly making the decision to distance themselves and let them die even though no group has registered more voters or turned out more people in the last 10 years than ACORN.

"I have been fighting this battle inside Democratic strategy circles for 15 years now, but the problem is worse with the current team at the White House. The folks running the Obama political operation have always believed they could control the message and the resources of the party better than anyone else, and that they didn't need or want to empower outside progressive groups. Now embattled House and Senate candidates are paying the price, and it is a bitter price to have to pay."

Dumbest In The Room
I literally threw my hands up upon receiving this e-mail yesterday:

Interesting that the Sun-Times broke the Jesse story and was ahead again today, yet you link to the Tribune, which was unable to confirm the girlfriend part of it.

Yes, interesting!

The e-mail was anonymous - because God forbid someone, possibly even a reporter, simply ask me about their concern - but experience tells me, besides the obvious inference, that it came from inside the Sun-Times newsroom.

Let me take this opportunity, then, to explain a little bit about my work method. It's not as methodical as some of you might think.

Sometimes the link goes to the best summary I can fit in my format or that works with my comment. For example, why, for godsake, do I link to a London Daily Telegraph story reprinted in the Sydney Morning Herald in my first item this morning when the Web is filled with stories about Obama's Wars?

Because I had made a note yesterday about David Petraeus' comments about David Axelrod. This morning I googled their names and scrolled through the results and I came across a piece that not only included the Axelrod jab I wanted but addressed the myth of a Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals." Bingo!

I found that Telegraph piece to be credible - it includes an AP video analysis - but I was a bit concerned that the Telegraph is a conservative outlet.

So I was particularly glad to be able to link to a lefty website in a following item about Obama. Sometimes it works that way and sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes the link simply goes to the first result on Google. Sometimes it goes to whichever site I read first and spot a story I want to include. I'm not keeping score. I'm not counting scoops. Links aren't always about you. (There's another person out there who would do good to learn that, too; you know who you are.) Sometimes - especially when it comes to posting stories on our Facebook page - it's the headline that counts most. Some work and some don't. Depends on the punch line.

Whichever way, I'm trying to serve my readers (and my own convenience) best. I'm not here to serve reporters.

Ironically, the Sun-Times actually had an unfair advantage here until recently. When I still received print editions of the papers, I read the S-T first and would tear out and mark up stories of interest for items. If the Tribune version of the same story didn't offer anything new, I wouldn't even bother tearing it out. So a disproportionate share of S-T stories got linked here.

Now that I work only with their online editions, I read the Tribune first just out of habit in terms of the order of sites I go through every day.

Sometimes it's that random. Because whose link it is isn't always the point.

I might add that the Sun-Times doesn't even use links in its stories (nor do most papers, and when they do they use useless automators that link to proper nouns that no one cares about, showing an utter failure to understand the purpose and value of a link.)

In fact, I was on a panel earlier this year that included Sun-Times editor Don Hayner, who displayed a startling ignorance not only of how links work but of his paper's own website. First, Hayner explained that he didn't want links used in articles because he didn't want to "send readers all over the Internet." Um . . . okay.

Then he claimed his paper did put links in its web stories. I told him that wasn't so. He fought back, embarrassingly, challenging my reading habits. A few minutes later, someone in the audience stood up and said he had just checked the S-T website on his phone and indeed the paper wasn't using links in its stories. "I thought we were!" Hayner said.

Um, maybe it's you, Don, who never reads your website.

I might also add that to whine about not getting credit via a link is a laugh. The blogosphere is all about credit, whether it's in aggregation itself or standard practices like the hat tip. It's the MSM that so often can't bring itself to simply acknowledge that an idea, a story or a piece of reporting came from somewhere else. I get ripped off all the time.


Not long after that first e-mail, I received a follow-up:

Do you still work for the Chicago Tribune? Seems that way.

Yes! I still work for the Tribune! Just not NBC.

Which reminds, I have to give Randy Michaels a call and set up that lunch at Hooter's because I haven't been receiving my checks.


Finally, the Tribune story I linked to yesterday was followed by a link to a Carol Marin column in the Sun-Times and then a link to a Sun-Times story.

One of the biggest heartbreaks of my life continues to be the lame stupidity of the newsrooms I once aspired to. We can do better.

Call The Schoolmaster!
Is The Wall one of the great masterpieces of our time? Watch the video - today we have Part 2 - from opening night in Chicago on Monday and tell me it isn't a triumph.

Change Illinois!
Find out which candidates are dodging questions about reform.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Tear down the wall.


Posted on September 23, 2010

MUSIC - Millions Of New Guitar Players.
TV - "One America News" is AT&T.
POLITICS - When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park.
SPORTS - Tonyball, Bears On The Run, Eyes On The Sky & More!

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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