Berkman at 10I hope some of you can join us May 15-16 at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society for the Berkman@10 Conference: The Future of the Internet. This gathering, marking the center’s 10th anniversary, is shaping up to be an extraordinary affair.

As a Berkman Fellow the past several years, I’ve had a chance to spend (not nearly enough) time with some great people who are doing some of the best work on understanding the Net’s already powerful impact on our lives. The May conference will, in part, offer a summary of where we are and where we may be going. As the conference home page asks: “In tracing the trajectory of the past and attempting to lean into the future, what are the contours of the moment we find ourselves in? What are the most important questions that will propel us into the next decade?”

Among the many, many great speakers will be our lunchtime keynoter on Friday, May 16 — someone who’ll need little introduction to regular readers of this blog. He is Joshua Micah Marshall, founder and editor of Talking Points Memo and several related political blogs. What he and his team do each day has become essential reading for people who care about politics and policy, and he recently was honored for his work with a truly high honor in journalism, the George Polk Award.

I’ll have the honor of introducing Josh Marshall. He has been a touchstone for my own work, and has shown one way forward for the journalism “by the people, for the people,” in which I so fervently believe.

Editor & Publisher: Newspaper Biz Editors Defend Mortgage Crisis Coverage. Did the growing mortgage credit crisis, which took a huge turn with last week’s collapse of Bear Stearns, get enough early coverage from newspapers? Top business editors at several of the nation’s major papers say yes, although a few admit some of the more complicated elements may not have been broken out enough for readers.

What tripe. The newspaper industry almost totally failed to do its job, and the public got screwed once again.

Citing a story here and there, as several editors do in the E&P piece, is not evidence of newspapers doing their job. It’s quite the opposite.

When an economic catastrophe of this sort — and entirely predicable one — is building, journalists are failing to do their jobs when they don’t harp on it.

As I said in a previous posting, newspapers and broadcasters were raking in billions in advertising from the real estate and banking industries as this bubble inflated. I do not believe this is a coincidence. I also don’t believe it was deliberate malfeasance; but you just don’t see lots of tough coverage in media of the people and companies paying the bills.

Many if not most papers have special weekly real estate pages or sections where you would find little hint of the potential for trouble. I know I looked for it in the papers I read. That’s where the discussion belonged — as well, of course, as Page One — not solely in the occasional business page stories. Hundreds of references to bubbles, most in the past year and not when there was a chance to slow down that train, were dwarfed by comparison to the buying advice that dominated coverage of real estate overall.

Oh, sure, there were extremely infrequent stories containing warnings in a few publications — and occasional quotes from skeptics in the prices-just-keep-rising stories that overwhelmingly dominated the coverage. But the reality is that journalists mostly didn’t have a clue, or didn’t want to have a clue. I don’t know which is worse.

Some bloggers, and some economists, did shout warnings. They were ignored, or worse, insulted by wishful thinkers and (I suspect) people who stood to gain from the continuing bubble.

Again, from a previous post, here are some questions the media all but ignored until too late:

Where were the stories we should have been seeing, noting that “buyers” — a word that is ludicrous in context –were running headlong toward a financial cliff? What happened to the coverage of a housing market that fewer and fewer people could afford to enter except with no-interest or no-down-payment loans, where home prices were so far out of sync with the economy that there was no precedent for such imbalance?

Where were the stories pointing out that the secondary (and far beyond) mortgage markets were salting hugely risky debt all through the American economy? You think your bank or pension fund doesn’t have some of this garbage somewhere in its books? Think again.

The media also bungled by not fingering the makers of this bubble apart from foolish “buyers” who proved to be such suckers. This boom was fueled by people who knew it couldn’t last: brokers, bankers and, above all, Wall Street’s ever-clever wizards who risk other people’s money for gigantic fees.

This is another journalistic scandal. It’s not quite on the order of the bended-knee, pre-war coverage — stenography of government officials’ lies and deceptions — that helped steer America into the Iraq war, but only because it’s not killing people in large numbers.

It’s a massive enough scandal, though. There’s plenty of pain left in this deflation, possibly including an outright tanking of the economy.

The journalism craft should take a long, hard look at what it’s failed to do, yet again, in the housing bubble. It has failed to warn — as loudly and incessanty as it did in promoting the housing bubble — that a financial crunch was on the way.

There’s plenty of blame to go around in this mess. The finger-pointing has barely begun. But when it gets going for real, I hope that journalists who do some of that pointing will at least look in a mirror.

Glenn Greenwald (Salon) writes:

The most interesting part of the controversy over Obama advisor Samantha Power’s referring to Hillary Clinton as a “monster” — one might say the only interesting part — is that immediately after Power said it, she tried to proclaim that it was “off the record.” Here was Power’s exact quote:

“She is a monster, too –- that is off the record –- she is stooping to anything.”

But the reporter who was interviewing her, Britain’s Gerri Peev of The Scotsman, printed the comment anyway — as she should have, because Peev had never agreed that any parts of the interview would be “off the record,” and nobody has the right to demand unilaterally, and after the fact, that journalists keep their embarrassing remarks a secret.

Read the whole piece for a solid, if repetitive, analysis of U.S. journalists often-pathetic deference to power.

When I was a reporter and then a columnist, I had a rule that no public figure — that is, anyone who’d had experience with being interviewed — had the right to declare anything off the record after the fact. Now I might agree not to publish something if it wasn’t relevant, but if something was to be off the record it would be decided ahead of time.

I didn’t have the same policy with people who weren’t media-savvy. Sometimes I’d actually say to someone, “Do you realize that I what you’re telling me might go into the newspaper?” I’d let them reconsider their words.

In the past several days I’ve had a brief email correspondence with a journalism student (not from my own school) who is determined to conflate citizen journalism with the deliberate and unfair maligning of people for political reasons. He knows what he is going to say and only wants a quote or two from me to reinforce it. I declined to be part of his broad slam on a genre that is much more nuanced than he’s apparently trying to portray.

I will be publishing the emails in another post, with my commentary. My current intention is not to publish his name or institution, because I suspect he — despite his course of study — is not savvy about the media in any serious way.

Sadly, savvy in media for U.S. journalists tends to mean doing what powerful people want you to do. That’s the more serious problem, far more so than Powers’ unfortunate remark.

The NYT has the text of President Bush’s radio speech in which he announces his veto of legislation that would have banned the CIA from torturing suspects. See: Text: Bush on Veto of Intelligence Bill for the sickening reality that Bush aims to go down in history as the president who proudly and unapologetically endorsed torture as America’s state policy.

He has shamed himself so many times now that it’s commonplace. But he shames us all — and Congress in particular, unless the lawmakers recover enough of their honor to override this travesty.

Telegraph: Heathrow airport first to fingerprint. All four million domestic passengers who will pass through Terminal 5 annually after it opens on March 27 will have four fingerprints taken, as well as being photographed, when they check in.

The culture that created the Magna Carta is utterly turning its back on liberty. The current American government merely wishes it could do stuff like this, but there’s still just enough left of the Bill of Rights to prevent it — for the time being, anyway.

I avoid Heathrow for many other reasons. This attitude on the part of the authorities there provides one more.

Saddest of all: The British people are happily letting their government turn the nation into a police state. They will rue their inaction, but probably not until it’s too late.

Boing Boing: Remixing the London police’s anti-photographer terrror posters.
Responding to the London Metropolitan Police’s new anti-photographer snitch campaign, wherein posters urge Londoners to turn in people who might be taking pictures of CCTV cameras, many people have taken a crack at redesigning the posters to point out the absurdity of them.

This is how people, creating their own media, can help expose government (and other) overreaching. Another way in this case would be to encourage everyone to take photos everywhere.

The speed with which the U.K. is turning into a police state is just amazing, and frightening.