Skip to main content

The legacy of I.F. Stone, independent non-neutral journalist, "proto-blogger"

On Wednesday, I attended a panel discussion on the legacy of muckraking, self-publishing journalist I.F. Stone, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. (Image from I.F. Stone official site. Here's some Stone audio, part of an interview with biographer Myra McPherson.)

The panel--two biographers, two former colleagues, plus an academic--summarized the lessons from Stone's career: Think for yourself. Get your facts right. Base opinion and analysis on reporting. Read original documents. Don't accept the spin from those in power. Don't be flattered by access to the powerful.

The Voice's Tom Robbins summed it up:
While all but forgotten today, Stone was an inspiration to radicals in the 1960s, and to such current muckrakers as Seymour Hersh. There was also some suggestion at the event... that Stone just might have been the first blogger, even though he died in 1989, long before thousands of erstwhile cyber-detectives took to their keyboards.

There are clear similarities in method and approach.

By poring over the Congressional Record and scrutinizing government documents that the rest of the press largely passed over, Stone regularly scooped the major dailies and newsmagazines.


A "proto-blogger"

Dan Froomkin, the deputy editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project (and a journalism colleague of mine in college), last year described Stone as a "proto-blogger":
There were many ways in which Stone distinguished himself from his more conventional colleagues. He wasn't a slave to access. He adored burrowing into original documents. He didn't hesitate to call a lie a lie. And he was relentless. Those characteristics seem to be in short supply among today's media elite — as the trial of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby (and its coverage) illustrated so clearly. Instead, it's the bloggers who have taken up Stone's mantle.


As the links above that I inserted indicate, I find some identification.

The neuter in neutrality

In his PressThink blog, NYU journalism academic Jay Rosen suggested that a non-neutral stance, coupled with professionalism, can produce valuable work:
Josh Marshall’s TPM Media operation is a new media newsroom that does political reporting in the same space as the big providers. Marshall believes in accountability journalism, sticking with stories, digging into public records for information, getting to the bottom of things, verifying what you think you know, correcting the record when you get it wrong.

TPM marries these traditional virtues to open expressions of outrage, incredulity marking certain political figures as ridiculous or beyond the pale, and the informed display of political conviction. These make it obvious to any reader of Talking Points Memo that Marshall is a liberal Democrat skeptical of the Bush agenda, though not a dogmatic one. His is the transparency route to trust and success in political journalism. A key crossing point came last month when Marshall and company won a George K. Polk Award for excellence in reporting on the legal system.

The way Marshall figures it, the important thing is to show integrity— not to be a neuter, politically. Having good facts that hold up is a bigger advantage than claiming to reflect all sides equally well.


Rosen concluded:
Reporters with depth of knowledge are capable of challenging government and getting beyond the he said, she said style of tepid truthtelling. But the media corporation shifts its people around a lot. They switch towns, beats, assignments so often that it’s impossible for most reporters to build up any independent base of authority. They can’t challenge spin because they don’t know enough. So they become transmitters. Neutrality valorizes a loss of footing and self-respect.

This is bad news for the press if you care about having a strong one, capable of challenging the line of the day. But fine for the media, which finds it far cheaper to farm out “context” and “analysis” to ex-government officials. They came by their knowledge at another sector’s expense.


And that's part of the problem with Atlantic Yards.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…