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Warning: Table './kentbye_echochamber/cache' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache SET data = '<p>June 28th, 2004<br />\nTranscription by Volunteer Citizen Journalist Brian Brown</p>\n<p><STRONG>ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: </STRONG> Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself and what does <em>Editor and Publisher</em> do.<br />\n<STRONG>GREG MITCHELL:</STRONG> Okay, Well I’m Greg Mitchell. I’m the editor of <em>Editor and Publisher</em>. <em>Editor and Publisher</em> is the bible of the newspaper industry. It’s been around since 1884 and it continues to be the leading publication of the industry right now. It has a very active website and a monthly print edition. </p>\n<p><STRONG>ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT:</STRONG> So who is your viewership then? ...<br />\n<STRONG>MITCHELL:</STRONG> Our audience is made up mainly of people in the new in /home/kentbye/public_html/echochamberproject.com/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 120

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Warning: Table './kentbye_echochamber/cache' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache SET data = '<p><strong>Watch Video Blogs</strong><br />\n<a href=\"http://www.antisnottv.net/\"><img src=\"/files/images/fireant.png\" width=\"90\" height=\"30\" alt=\"Get FireANT\"/></a><br />\n<a href=\"http://www.vlogmap.org/?lon=-68.8513&amp;lat=44.6393&amp;zoom=7\"><img src=\"http://www.echochamberproject.com/files/images/vlogmap.jpg\"></a></a></p>\n<p><strong>Contact Kent Bye</strong><br />\n<a href=\"mailto:kent@kentbye.com\">kent@kentbye.com</a><br />\n<a href=\"/aim:goim?screenname=kentbye1&amp;message=Greetings+Kent!\">Instant Message</a></p>\n<p><strong>Help Support This Project</strong></p>\n<form action=\&quo in /home/kentbye/public_html/echochamberproject.com/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 120
Interview with Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher, Editor | Echo Chamber Project

Interview with Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher, Editor

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June 28th, 2004
Transcription by Volunteer Citizen Journalist Brian Brown

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself and what does Editor and Publisher do.
GREG MITCHELL: Okay, Well I’m Greg Mitchell. I’m the editor of Editor and Publisher. Editor and Publisher is the bible of the newspaper industry. It’s been around since 1884 and it continues to be the leading publication of the industry right now. It has a very active website and a monthly print edition.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So who is your viewership then? ...
MITCHELL: Our audience is made up mainly of people in the newspaper industry: top editors, top publishers, reporters, business people, circulation advertising and so forth -- also includes many people in Universities -- both the faculty and students -- media critics, online bloggers, people at newspaper and other media websites -- Anyone who has anything to do with the newspaper business or is interested in press coverage.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay, and so could you give me kind of an overview of – kind of the food chain of who can make the decision that decides what’s "news" and how that flows down?
MITCHELL: What’s -- you mean -- what’s -- ?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Like for example, the New York Times, if they show something on the front page it may become more news all around versus, you know --
GM:You mean who makes the decision in the industry or at Editor and Publisher?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: No, within the industry, who are the most powerful editors and why?
MITCHELL: You mean around the country or -- ?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Right -- In the United States.
MITCHELL: Gee. I’m not quite sure how to answer that because -- I mean, there’s many top newspapers around the country. Well, I’ll try to answer it but it’s certainly hard to-- Well there are many leading newspapers around the country. Probably the ones that are thought of as the most influential are the New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times. Then it drops down a bit to The Boston Globe, and San Francisco Chronicle, and Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald. So the Editors of these publications have a great deal of power and a great deal of influence in how they play stories. But nowadays, unlike the old days, there’s many other forces at work. Of course, there’s television and cable TV and radio, but also now there’s the internet. Both internet news sites, such as CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, but also individual media sites. So sometimes a story will be in a place like the New York Times or the Associated Press, maybe not get that that much attention, but then it starts to get picked up in internet sites and places like Editor and Publisher and then it takes on a life of its own. It gets picked up in many other web sites and then many other newspapers. And we’ve had many cases where we’ve done stories that have ended up on television that night strictly from the bottom up. So it’s sort of like grassroots news coverage that then works its way up the food chain and ends up getting national attention.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. So in a way a lot of the technology is kind of democratizing the -- breaking down a lot of the walls that were up there previously.
MITCHELL: Right, I mean -- Okay -- Some people run blogs which, you know, are personal websites. And even people like that sometimes cover stories that end up then getting national attention. So it’s really quite a different system now than it used to be. In fact, Editor and Publisher, which has been around 120 years, I can honestly say has had more impact with its stories in the past year than it did in all those previous years. And the reason is that our website became phenomenally popular. It has a lot of respect. And so we get links on many other websites, pick mentioned in USA Today, and you know, television. -- So it’s made what we write and what we do much more influential than it ever was. So it gives us a certain amount of power that we never had before.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And with respect to the lead-up of the War in Iraq coverage -- How has Editor and Publisher influenced that debate? For the -- What stories have you done?
MITCHELL: Yeah. Well, we noticed in the months leading up to what became the invasion of Iraq that most newspapers were kind of going along quietly with the Bush administration claims. And we were quite alarmed with that and we speak to the entire newspaper industry. So we thought we had a real role in continually calling attention to the questions that the press was not asking. In fact, we ran a cover story in January of 2003 -- more than two months before the invasion -- and the cover story was called "Unanswered Questions" and it had a picture of Bush. So we recognized early on that a lot of the assumptions and declarations of evidence from the administration were very weak and that the press was not pressing them hard enough. And unfortunately we had to keep that up during the war -- after the war. And unfortunately we’ve been proven correct on virtually everything that we were warning about because the weapons of mass destruction were not found, the links between Iraq and al Qaeda were not discovered, the fact that the war was gonna be incredibly more costly, there were going to be more casualties, it was gonna go on longer than anyone imagined -- All these things that we were raising at the beginning of 2003 have all come to pass. So despite our warnings -- I mean, in some ways, it made us feel good because we got a lot of attention -- a lot of credit for doing that. We won a major award for our news coverage throughout the year. But on the other hand, it made us also feel a little helpless because we weren’t able to swing the newspaper industry as a whole behind some of the alarms we were raising. And unfortunately many of them ended up with egg on their face. But nevertheless, we felt we did a real service in -- Eventually we’ve brought a lot of places around to admitting the failures, and hopefully doing a more of a watchdog approach in the future.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So leading up to the war in Iraq, you would say that -- You noticed that the media could have been doing more. What do you think they could have been doing more of?
MITCHELL: Well, the -- Let me start over. There was an assumption -- Perhaps it’s a patriotic duty that most of the press and media fall into that they should not question too skeptically or cynically the claims coming from Washington. I think it’s natural on the one hand. But I think the tone of all our coverage on Iraq -- in fact, all our coverage on all subjects -- is not to be partisan or not to be left or right or anything like that. But we believe in the -- what should be the main principle of journalism, besides being accurate and fair, is to be skeptical -- To raise questions, to not take what officials say as the gospel truth -- unless it’s really proven -- if there’s documents. And that -- And in this case, it happens to be Washington -- it happens to be the White House or Congress. But it can be in a small town -- You’re covering the mayor’s office. You’re covering an agency in a small town. You’re covering any kind of official claims in a small town -- The journalistic principle is the same: To be skeptical unless there’s hard evidence and proof. And you report what someone says -- "It’s their claim." "It’s what they say." "It’s what they allege." "It’s what they’re trying to prove." -- But you don’t present these things as fact if you’re not sure they’re fact. And what happened with the Iraq coverage was that too often newspapers -- and especially television -- went with stories that were based on official claims -- and in retrospect, were really propaganda. Because in some cases, the officials were well-meaning -- [Interruption] -- maybe they thought that they had the evidence. But in other cases, they knew their evidence was incredibly shaky -- or should have known -- and yet went with the evidence claiming it was fact. And the press just, in most cases, accepted it.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay... I just want to make sure I have a clean sound on that. Pick up from the -- Well, let me just ask this: What do you attribute this lack of asking questions? Why weren’t these questions being asked? What factors were playing into that?
MITCHELL: Okay. Well there are various factors why the press was not asking tough questions often enough. Of course, one was just patriotism. You know, as Dan Rather said, ‘When we’re at war, I’m biased in favor of my own country.’ And that’s understandable. I mean, you can’t get away from that completely. But people took too much of a "rah-rah" attitude. The second was just not being skeptical enough. In journalism school, they teach reporters at the lowest level to be skeptical of what officials say. And make them prove their assertions -- or print their claims as claims. When Colin Powell went before the United Nations and laid out his evidence for the war, virtually all of the newspapers the next day reported what he said with a reverential tone, saying that ‘He had made his case.’ Called it, ‘Convincing,’ ‘Overwhelming Evidence,’ and so forth. When what they should have done was said he made a partisan case. He laid out evidence totally unproven -- Made assertions -- Showed photographs that had not been verified by anyone -- And also published the quotes from some people questioning it. But instead they rolled over. And that was one of the -- if not the key moments in the run up to the war. Now little Editor and Publisher -- the next day and the days beyond that -- published stories on our website raising those very questions. It didn’t take hindsight. It didn’t take a huge staff. It just took a few journalists who were acting on the principles of journalism -- To be skeptical. And if we, little Editor and Publisher, could point out that the case had really not been made or needed to be proven, it made us wonder why some of the bigger outlets just sort of rolled over.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Do you think that -- From looking at television, it seemed like they were not being skeptical at all after November 8th -- after the war resolution (sic [UN resolution]). It was just kind of assumed that we had authorization to go to war. Did you do any reporting on international law issues? --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: -- and can you comment on issues that -- You know, there was a big debate of whether or not -- The administration was saying that they had authorization, but everyone else in the world was saying that they didn’t. So --
MITCHELL: Well, I mean it was just -- authorization -- it was just a Congressional thing -- I don’t know. It just didn’t -- I would say this though, that -- As weak as newspapers were, television was far worse. In fact, we ran articles where we -- perhaps because we serve the newspaper industry -- We would say, ‘Television is really getting it wrong. Television is really over-the-top with the "rah-rah coverage." But newspapers have a lot to explain, too.’ And that’s how I would see it. I think the press -- Partly because the press is -- can present more questioning articles in different sections of the paper -- editorials, Op-Ed pieces and so forth -- and can show more balance -- where newspapers were more stark -- And then there’s the whole question about the embedded reporters. We raised questions about the embedded reporter scenario way before the war. We were saying almost from the get go that this had a lot of advantages but this had a lot of disadvantages too. It didn’t take hindsight that ‘Putting 500 reporters in living with the troops was going to cause a conflict of interest and that you would tend to get coverage that would glorify what the reporters were doing.’ And that’s exactly what happened. You had some great journalism, you had some great reporters who did stand back a bit and print all sides. But you had so many -- especially on television -- who were cheerleaders. And it’s no surprise to us. And again, and I’m not sure why it was a surprise to other people later.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Right. Right. Well, the film that I’m working on -- I’m looking at the time period leading up to the war. And one question I have is -- How do you see that newspapers influence the television news coverage at night?
MITCHELL: Well, I guess I can say this -- Normally in day-to-day coverage, television often picks up what’s been in the newspapers that morning and runs with it. They get most of their ideas from newspapers -- and this is even more true on local levels with local TV stations and newspapers. They just take what they can get from the morning paper, get some visuals, and that’s often what the coverage is. That’s often true on the national level, as well. But in the case of the war, where there was continually breaking news and a need for visuals -- and a continual accent on the anchor talking about the war with tremendous visuals -- and American Flags and so forth in the background -- the crawls running along the bottom of the screens -- and the reports from the embedded reporters on the scene -- In a way, it was a reversal. Newspapers really couldn’t quite keep up with that. To some extent on their websites they did. But television because of the visuals from the embedded reporters and so forth, really was running on it’s own. And I think to some extent, it shows you what the dangers are of an unfettered television coverage that’s not grounded in the -- more of the principles of print. Where again you tend to stand back a little bit, you tend to get all sides, you tend to bring in some opposing views, and you have Op-ed pieces that can balance what’s on the front pages. But the T.V. coverage was just "rah-rah 24/7". So I think that was a real problem. I think they could have used more of a newspaper approach.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. And how do you see the role of public relations -- With Government crafting their message very specifically, and how they -- Just speak to the role of public relations versus journalism.
MITCHELL: Right. Well, in this war, you had many press briefings by officials -- from Rumsfeld and other cabinet members and military officers -- that were off-the-record -- that reporters could only attend them if they agreed not to quote anyone directly. So the reporters were getting a lot of information they couldn’t attribute, and that was being given to them as insiders. The tendency is always -- You’re in the room with a Rumsfeld, and he’s giving you exclusive information. It sounds like it’s, "Gee, what more could you want? Exclusive inside information during a war." I think people too often treated it with great reverence just being in the room and being -- having access to that. There’s, in fact, a movement now by reporters, bureau chiefs and so forth in Washington who for the first time are banding together and beginning to demand that they will not attend press briefings anymore if those kind of rules are in effect -- That they may boycott press briefings with those kind of rules. So that’s one factor in the coverage. Another factor is the presidential press conferences. You know, Bush has had very, very few of them. There was a famous one on the eve of the war where he had a press conference and reporters were there and he only took a few questions and the questions were -- the people that were going to ask the questions were all picked in advance. And the reporters asked very weak questions, especially considering they’re on the eve of war -- And it was his first press conference in months. If it had not even had been a wartime, you might have felt the questions were kind of weak. But on the eve of war, it was an amazingly weak performance by the press. And you know again, Editor and Publisher, the next day -- We did a column called -- I think it was called something like, "14 Questions The Press Didn’t Ask." And it got tremendous pickup. [Interruption] -- and it got -- and it got –
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Yeah, Just say that ...
MITCHELL: The day after the press conference, Editor and Publisher ran a column called "14 Questions The Press Didn’t Ask Bush." It was so shocking to people -- or so strong or so -- It was on the mind of so many observers that these questions had not been asked that that column got tremendous -- Picked up all over the country and mentioned in major media, and in websites and everything -- Not because there was anything brilliant about it, it’s just that this was what people-- Millions of people had watched that performance and were appalled. And so it struck a nerve. So again it’s not a matter of hindsight that a year later, people -- it suddenly dawned on people, "Well gees. Maybe tougher questions should have been asked." It was obvious to many people right away. So I think there are real lessons there that I hope journalists will learn for the future. I mean, all of this is for the -- hopefully the assistance of future years and future administrations and future generations of journalists that they might learn something from this. But I have to say that in the months after the war started, we saw much of the same behavior, and -- Things got tougher after a while. I think you got more probing much later. But even to this date there’s still not enough questioning by reporters of official claims -- Look behind the claims for the real evidence.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Can you talk a little bit about some of the reporting that you’ve done on Knight Ridder, and some of the information that they were -- that they got from unnamed sources?
MITCHELL: We found that there were -- Some of the toughest critics, at least among reporters, who actually dug deep behind the evidence after the war was over -- To look at the rationales for the war -- To look at who is feeding the administration information -- To look at where all of this false information about weapons of mass destruction came from -- That some of the best reporting -- and in some cases, some of the only reporting -- came from places like Knight Ridder, it came from UPI, it came from the Associated Press. Some people who are not usually associated with that kind of ground-breaking journalism or real scoops or investigative journalism that could win awards. So it made us think, to some extent, that some of these places are a little bit outside of the beltway or a little bit outside of this group think that goes into, to some extent -- or at least in the coverage of the war -- went into helping to shackle New York Times and maybe some of the networks -- that these people, major players, who were a little afraid of getting ahead of the story so they went along with the conventional wisdom -- Where some of the smaller players were not trapped into that. We’ve run many stories, sort of tipping our hat to some of these places which -- ahead of the New York Times, for example, and CBS -- was digging out some of this evidence. So there were really were some really terrific efforts made that didn’t make the radar screen in some places, but which we covered extensively.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Can you talk a little bit about the pack mentality of the press leading up to the war? And is that always a -- What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of that?
MITCHELL: Well, I guess I just talked about it a little bit. I think -- Well, Okay -- What happens, to some extent, is that -- Editors don’t want to get too far ahead of what’s already out there -- And one thing you always have to remember is -- While reporters get a lot of criticism for their individual stories, that it’s really the editors who may assign the stories, who certainly okay the stories, certainly edit them and just as important decide where they are going to be played in the paper. I mean, you can bury a story if you are a little uncertain about it. You can kill it entirely. You could put it on Page One. You can put it on the top of Page One. You could run the same story or variations for four or five days. Or you could just let it go away. So one of the real problems was -- particularly in the coverage of the war -- was places like the New York Times, which not only ran countless numbers of stories that had been proven at least partly false, but they also played them at the top of the front page -- or at least on the front page -- signaling that these were stories that were very strong, very factual, very important. If they had buried them, it wouldn’t have had half the impact. So as the pre-war developed, we found many cases where the administration, which is usually critical of the New York Times, was taking stories that were in the New York Times and citing them as evidence. So we had what we’ve called in some columns the "Echo Chamber" between the press and the administration -- where stories get passed back and forth in a way, and the more they’re repeated the more solid they seem. And so you get this kind of myth of evidence that’s built up and credibility where actually, as it turns out, a lot of these stories were based only on evidence supplied by defectors, by Mr. Chalabi, by people who were completely partisan in trying to create the war. And so they would leak something somewhere, it ends up in the administration, it gets passed to the press, the press publishes it, and then it gets cited by the administration. So that’s why we call it an "Echo Chamber." And all of it might just be the evidence of one person -- who has a stake in the outcome of a war -- passing bogus information. So I just think that the whole -- This whole episode of the buildup to the war is going to turn out to be one of the most appalling periods in the history of the press, which is not to say that there wasn’t a lot of tremendous coverage and a lot of tremendous work by various reporters, and so forth. But I think that when they look at the end result, which is a very costly war, it is going to have to rank as one of the worst press performances in recent time.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: ... You talked a little bit about the importance of editors and a lot of conservative organizations, like the Media Research Center will be claiming a liberal media bias. I know that you are starting to do some investigations on that. Can you talk a little bit about -- How do you see liberal media bias claims in general? But also how did that play up to the lead-up to the war in Iraq?
MITCHELL: Right. Okay, I could just in general -- One factor in the coverage, although it can’t really be proven, is how much the hammering at the media for years now about the alleged liberal bias had to do with the media -- particularly television -- bending over backwards to support the administration to support the patriotic cause. Where ordinarily they might have been more skeptical. But it’s almost the feeling like ‘We get hammered. We get hammered. We get hammered. Now here’s a chance to really show how patriotic we are. How we stand up for America as much as anyone else. How we’ll stand up for the Republican President even if we have some doubts.’ Now it’s unproven, but I would say that intuitively, at least part of that has to be correct. That there’s a bending over backwards to prove you’re objective or to prove you’re not liberal or you’re not questioning and so forth.. But having said that, the Democrats in general didn’t question the war, by and large. So the media -- Again there was kind of an "Echo Chamber" built up here where there was very little questioning that was going on, and so the war came about rather easily. So I think that’s where the liberal bias -- or alleged liberal bias -- can play into it, but actually in a negative way. Normally you’d say, liberal bias causes too much criticism of Republican actions. But it can also cause the same people -- [Interruption] There’s nothing I can do about that. It’s actually the computer telling me that I’m getting mail. You’ve probably got enough from that. I was sort of repeating myself.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay .. From what I see... the claims of liberal bias will apply more to domestic issues and not so much to foreign policy issues and what do you see of that?
MITCHELL: Well, surveys -- I do take seriously surveys that show that there are more liberals in newsrooms than conservatives. I think that’s probably true. There’s a lot of reasons for that, which has to do with the nature of the business itself, and the type of people who would likely go into grubby newspaper work might tend to be more on the liberal side. But, in terms of international coverage, you can go back to Vietnam, and every foreign adventure that America has been involved with since then. Many interventions abroad -- the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, practically everything -- the press has unified behind the Presidential action. So if you want to characterize, the press has certainly been, at the most, moderate on international coverage -- no matter what you might say about them in terms of some of their domestic coverage. The war plays into that as well. The press wants to show it can be tough. It’s almost like a politician. The press wants to show it can be tough and that’s partly what went into the glorification of the embedded reporters. Because here was their people risking their lives on the front lines, and you got tremendous visuals. So it was a great package. But I think in general, a statement I would make is that -- The coverage of the war itself on the ground -- except for the fact that they underplayed the civilian casualties -- I don’t think that was the real problem. The problem was getting into the war. Once we were into the war it was going to be played out the way it went. You know -- there was going to be a lot of death. It was going to take that long to win because of the state of the opposition. And then as we predicted, it was going to be a long, deadly occupation. It was going to be worse than people were saying, and so forth. But the embedded reporters, while I have a lot of questions about the work they did, they’re not the real problem. The problem was the getting us into the war. It was the many reports in the New York Times and other places that led to the war. And those are the people that really have to answer the tough questions. Because that’s -- given what has happened with the war -- [Interruption] -- Given what has happened with the war it was the prewar coverage that really is the most significant in all of this.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Can you kind of -- Have you done evaluations with like say with the New York Times or The Washington Post to say that leading up to the war they were mostly pro-war or anti-war. There were a lot of claims from both sides that -- Liberals will say that they were pro-war, and the conservatives will say that they were anti-war. So can you say from your viewpoint -- ?
MITCHELL: Well, I don’t know if any conservatives are saying it was anti-war.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Well, Andrew Sullivan was one, you know, and they’re many others --
MITCHELL: That their coverage was anti-war? -- Leading up to the war?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: There’s a number of conservatives who say that these newspapers are liberal, and that the New York Times is anti-war. Washington Post is anti-war --
MITCHELL: You mean in general?
MITCHELL: You mean, but not in the case of this
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: In the case of Iraq.
MITCHELL: Well, I mean, maybe since -- you know, maybe since in recent months or something. But I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t really see that. I don’t see people really saying that at the time. We -- I could say this -- Well, one of the odd things was that -- During that run up to the war, weeks before the invasion, E&P was the only publication that was doing weekly updates -- surveys of Editorial opinion -- not news coverage, but what was being said in newspaper Editorials -- not their Op-Ed columnists, syndicated columnists or anything like that -- What the newspapers themselves were saying. What was very odd was that it was kind of a reversal of what often happens. Often you’ll find editorial pages very "Rah-Rah" for intervention and wars and so forth, and news coverage more skeptical. So people will single out reporters or they’ll say, "Such-and-such a newspaper is liberal or anti-war" -- or something like that. What was odd in this was that our survey showed of the top 50 or top 100 newspapers was that the newspapers on the Editorial page were very divided on the war or were raising questions. It’s about the first time I can ever remember where the editors -- or the editorial page editors -- were raising more questions about a war -- or about the evidence that was presented -- than we were seeing on the front pages. So it seemed like the editors -- the news editors and reporters were going along with the buildup and were not questioning what Rumsfeld said, and what Powell said, and what Bush said. But the editors from their easy chairs were. And that was sort of a reversal. So we were -- In other words, we were finding even newspapers like The Washington Post, which has had some of the better coverage and some of the tougher coverage after the war. Really a lot of tremendous reporters there -- completely outfoxed the New York Times. They were, and remained, even as I speak, very pro-war. Their editorial page has been very supportive of the war from the get-go. Even while on their news pages, you know, they’ve been more questioning. The New York Times -- on their news pages really helped build up the war, really helped make the war possible. Their editorial page raised some questions. It certainly was not anti-war, but it did raise some questions. So it was an interesting dichotomy in this case where some newspapers, even some conservative newspapers, were raising questions about the war on their editorial page even while their news pages were sort of helping to make it possible.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Have you looked at television news -- like ABC, CBS, and NBC specifically - the quality of the investigative or enterprise reporting that happens on the broadcast television news stations?
MITCHELL: I really can’t -- you know, I don’t see enough of it to really comment. I mean, I watched a lot of the war coverage as it was going on -- that nightly kind of thing. But in terms of what they’ve done or who’s better than the others or anything, I really don’t know.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. One question I have is -- In newspapers, you have editorial writers to analyze and give a lot of context. But with television you don’t have that. Can you speak to what affects that has with kind of having this racehorse coverage -- covering issues on -- covering issues -- or stories as issues as opposed to daily events?
MITCHELL: Well, I would say this -- In newspapers, not only do you have editorial pages that can differ from the news coverage, but you also have Op-Ed columnists to give other points of view. On television -- particularly during a war or some major event like that -- they get very little of that, particularly in the case of the Iraq war. Almost all of the commentators were Generals, retired Generals, military instructors or Senators or whatever. There was very, very little of a dissenting view during the buildup to the war or while the war was going on. You almost never saw an opposing view on television. Now that was completely different in newspapers. Newspapers you always had some columnist -- somewhere, someone was -- or maybe just a Doonesbury cartoon -- but there was some commentary that often differed from the official view. Where on television you tended to have the same talking heads, the same experts all bolstering the war. And that’s a bad thing for television. On the other hand, you don’t really want to imagine television with every reporter weighing in with their opinion. You know, the problem with Fox News is that it’s become so identified with the right that you now have -- I don’t know what the percentage is -- but a very large percentage of the public that only watches Fox News. Everything else is seen as too liberal or anti-war or whatever. So you’re starting to go down this path perhaps where each of the networks will take on their own personality of political views. So you might have -- CNN will eventually be the liberal network, and MSNBC will be known as the centrist network, and people in those camps will only watch those networks. Now there’s something to be said for that. As we’ve seen with Fox, with their identity, they’re able to take the gloves off and be very strong for their position. It’s certainly paying off in terms of viewers. And it does produce -- If you’re of that persuasion, it does produce some very convincing journalism. It’s thrilling if you agree with them. But it could end up where everything is so splintered that people are not talking to each other. They’re only -- they’re all doing partisan journalism. And I guess that’s why I love newspapers -- Is that I feel that despite the claims of liberal bias and everything else, newspapers are generally full of dissenting views. They’re all over the map. They seem to be really tough on one issue. They’re weak on another. They seem to favor the Democrats here and the Republicans there. They’re a mess. They’re a healthy mess, generally. And I think that’s what great about newspapers, and I hope it stays that way where they at least strive for objectivity. There’s certainly a lot of questions about how objective anyone can be. But at least newspapers strive for objectivity where television is going to reach the point where that’s not even on the map.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Would you recommend – What would you recommend to people who only receive their news from either ABC, CBS, or NBC?
MITCHELL: You mean, watching television?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Right, one of those television shows -- that half hour show -- that’s the only source of news.
MITCHELL: Is there anybody anymore? I don’t know. (laugh) I don’t know
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So what would you say -- just generally, I mean not -- just imagine if you were talking to them -- What kind of advice would you give?
MITCHELL: I would just advise people to read more than one newspaper. Check out internet sites. Sometimes, some of the best information comes from abroad. Certainly during the Iraq war -- if you filter out the opinions and just go with what was being reported by the reporters -- you had, in general, more accurate information coming out of the British papers. Britain was part of the coalition of the willing. So it’s not like the Brits were against us. But the British newspapers or some of the British newspapers were running articles that were punching holes in the arguments for the war, and were seen at the times as biased or whacko and everything else. But if you went to -- On the internet, and went to a couple British newspapers everyday during the buildup to the war, and during the war, after the war -- you would’ve gotten a far truer sense of what was really going on than if you only read American newspapers. So sometimes letting in some of these outside views -- while it may seem alien, you’re not quite sure who these writers are or who these publications are -- sometimes can be a breath of fresh air.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: You mentioned getting a breadth of -- reading more of the one newspaper. Can you speak to that and also the mosaic of trying to find the truth by reading many different sources?
MITCHELL: Not really. Not anymore than I’ve already I said I think. I’ve got to get going here.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. I think that’s good.