On Advocacy Journalism

Cup'pa JoeCNN broadcaster Lou Dobbs appeared as keynote speaker at a National Press Club luncheon on Tuesday, where he was introduced as an “advocacy journalist.” It’s an identity, I learned, that he relishes. Formerly the host of CNN’s “MoneyLine,” he’s now ruffling mainstream media feathers as a border sheriff broadcaster for “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” where nightly he eviscerates the Bush administration and the federal government for their unfathomable asleep-at-all-checkpoints approach to America’s border sovereignty.
This Dobbs fella, he’s a real gadfly, a fly in the BigMedia punchbowl. He reports the news, but when the news is really alarming — and in the case of America’s borders being massively breached, uninterrupted, for decades — he has the temerity to detail it, loudly, and perform what he’d term his civic obligation to get you, along with him, really ticked off by it.
For doing this, Dobbs is an “advocacy journalist,” and definitely a media novelty.
Some hours passed after Tuesday’s luncheon, and Dobbs’ role and its context within the rapidly transforming New Media market began to ripen in my thoughts. Specifically, I began to think, in the context of On Frozen Blog, what exactly am I? I wondered, could a blogger be an advocacy journalist? Or, is he or she necessarily one?
Then I began to trace some commonalities of motivations between what Dobbs does and what we at OFB pursue. At some point, in our respective news consumption, we recognized that something was rotten in the media state of Denmark, and we took up arms. We sought to convey accounts we felt were being conspicuously and even derisively ignored. Both of us are unwilling to sacrifice accountability and credibility for our respective journalistic products, and both of us desperately want to shake up the establishment . . . in OFB’s efforts, admittedly in a very, very modest manner.
I settled on the notion that it takes a barren media wasteland of sorts, a climate of conspicuously undeserved news coverage, to breed advocacy journalists. Hockey bloggers — not just any bloggers, but hockey ones in particular — are in many instances advocacy journalists. The crown seems to fit.
I sit in press row, I try and ask intelligent questions of the athletes I observe, and I try and develop original and fresh storylines, but not for a single minute do I pretend that I’m “one of the pack,” and that the subject I’m covering is merely one among a crowded sports landscape to be accorded 12 or 16 column inches placed indiscriminately.
I’m an advocate. I’m trying to remedy, in my own obviously very modest fashion, a malignancy perpetrated by ignoramus and ideology-driven editors. The beauty of it is that it’s a labor of love, it’s fun, and I couldn’t possibly pursue this endeavor in a more hospitable market: an underappreciated sport and hockey organization largely shunned for decades by an unaccountable DC press pack.
On Monday night Comcast’s Russ Thaler hosted ‘Washington Post Live’ adorned in a new Caps’ sweater. I watched for a few minutes with no small bemusement. Admittedly I’m biased, but I think hockey times in Washington are a changing. The progress is modest and tortoise-paced, but I believe a new and wider appreciation for our game and the pro tenant in town is taking hold. It’s a splashy Washington Times sports section front. It’s more than 2,000 people crammed into an ice rink on a spectacular summer Friday night to celebrate hockey. It’s a big newspaper beat reporter making unexpected appearances in Hershey, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio, this spring, to cover hockey. Far from content with these gains, I renew my pledge to redouble my advocacy for our great game. The great news is that we’re far from an army of one.

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3 Responses to On Advocacy Journalism

  1. Caps Nut says:

    If Lou Dobbs has claimed the title of “advocacy journalist” then what in the world is Bill O’Rielly?
    Bill does it better and to a larger auidence than Lou Dobbs.
    But then again, 60 Minutes beat them all to the punch and has been doing it for years…

  2. bill ball says:

    I think the case could be made that Bill O’ Reilly’s opinion show doesn’t really operate in the spectrum of ‘journalism’, but in the spirit of the article, this is not about partisan issues.
    Sports media (in this case, coverage of hockey) is feeling the effects of the blogosphere in a similar way that mainstream news media has for the last 3 or 4 years. Blogs are supplanting traditional sources by offering insight beyond mere headlines and recycled AP reports. Quality blogs have whet the appetite of those who look for specialized information, and in many cases have since become exclusive sources for these folks. The success of OFB and other outlets present a convincing argument that hockey or a sports team like the Capitals is hardly a ‘niche’ interest or only for the hardcore. Often, it’s that folks simply don’t know what they’re missing. When given a choice between the usual de-specialized headlines versus something candid, and rich with pertinent information, there’s little question of which source they’re more like to follow from then on. Especially if this source has a team behind it, that can provide timely updates.

  3. odessa steps says:

    I assumed russ was wearing the Caps’ sweater the other day because Comcast is a broadcast partner with the Caps. I can’t imagine seeing him wearing a Nats hat anytime soon on the show.

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