Thursday, February 16, 2006

Intro to the Blog

This is a blog for the class, "Political Journalism and Activism," that I am teaching in NYU's Gallatin School this semester.

I am a writer, political analyst and commentator, and blogger (my blog is called Empire Notes).

Students are going to start blogging this week and I will be accompanying them with a weekly post of my own. A few words about the idea of the class (from the syllabus):

The current conventional view of journalism is of something practiced for established corporations (including a handful of nonprofits) by professionals schooled in a certain notion of "objectivity" that includes assumption of a putative neutral standpoint and often even effacement of the journalist's basic reasoning faculties. This view is narrow and ahistorical. There is a rich tradition of engaged political journalism, often by self-appointed amateurs, in which journalists argue for political positions and even try to push political programs, and where objectivity, while not abandoned, is understood very differently.

The years leading up to the American Revolution, for example, saw an explosion of popular journalism, from hastily posted flyers and "broadsides" to carefully argued pamphlets, of which Tom Paine's "Common Sense" was the exemplar.

This broader tradition has had its ups and downs but never completely died out, being incarnated in forms as diverse as I.F. Stone's Weekly, which played a major part in informing the anti-Vietnam-war movement, to newsletters of small peace groups, human rights reports, and the informational handouts always seen at teach-ins, as well as in community radio and community access television.

In the last several years, this tradition has once again returned from relative obscurity to mainstream influence, largely through the medium of blogs and other Internet-based tools. Blogs helped to bring down Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader and Dan Rather as anchor at CBS News, and have played an important role in shaping the public dialogue about Iraq. Although most reporting on the subject focuses on technological advances, the heart of the matter is the re-democratization and broadening of journalism after a long period of narrowing.

This course is intended to equip students to participate in this new political journalism. It will be divided into two parts. In the first part, we will review past examples of political journalism: Tom Paine, Ida Tarbell, George Seldes, George Orwell. In the second part, we will look at current examples, including blogs like DailyKos, Atrios, Talking Points Memo, Instapundit, and Powerline; activist endeavors like Venezuelanalysis, the ACLU’s Torture Project, After Downing Street; and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, documentary films like “The Revolution will not be Televised,” and mainstream journalists like Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman and Democracy Now, and John Pilger.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The course sounds fascinating.

Is anyone in the class thinking of recording audio and posting it? A lot of people could benefit from it.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds like an interesting course. I agree with the earlier comment that posting the audio would be great. Podcasts of a series of classes that people could subcribe to would be a really interesting idea. Are there rights issues because it is a school course that people pay for?

1:17 PM  
Blogger Rahul Mahajan said...

This is an interesting idea. The lectures would make for awfully long podcasts. I'll definitely think about it, though.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, the longer the better. :)

Rahul, if you're up for it, I could possibly donate web space and definately audio tech advice.

nonplus /dot/ plus /at/ gm##l /dot/ com

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... tech advice and help, I should say. Noise reduction, editing, etc.

6:05 PM  

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