A very incomplete listing of citations, interviews, comment, and historical curios having to do with me and some of the publications I've founded. Listed in reverse-chronological order; last updated, though not comprehensively, on June 17, 2003.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country from Gawker geographically (but next door in the blogosphere) sits the L.A. Examiner. Originally conceived as a localized Romenesko, LAX was also meant to be a precursor to the upcoming free weekly newspaper bankrolled by former mayor Dick Riordan. Longtime Angelino journalists Matt Welch and Ken Layne (both former OJR'ers) focused their angst on L.A. media, but have now re-focused on a bigger Los Angeles scene, a la Gawker.
Welch, an associate editor at Reason, is an open admirer of Gawker but doesn't want to do a cut-and-paste copy of it. "If you took an L.A. map and traced your finger down Sunset Blvd. to the sea (or, better stated, the 405 freeway), the inch or so south and north of that is jam-packed full of crazy young (or young-at-heart) people making movies, starting rock bands, knowing too much, making too little," he e-mailed me. "They absolutely do not have a publication to call their own, or that comes close to reflecting their reality."
-- Online Journalism Review, June 12, 2003
We have more options for news than ever before. But some news organizations aren't trying to build audiences by simply getting the story out fastest, or covering the most angles. The New York Times recently reported on CNN's plan to position itself as "less tabloid" than rival Fox News by running more culture and entertainment features. They expect this strategy to lure more educated and affluent viewers, helping CNN secure more lucrative advertising.
The Times, interestingly enough, has been accused of the same thing. Journalist Matt Welch recounts the Times' pitch to advertisers, boasting readers "almost three times as likely as the average U.S. adult to have a college or post-graduate degree, more than twice as likely to be professional-managerial and almost three times as likely to have a household income exceeding $ 100,000."
If the subscribers to the nation's paper of record are all above-average and exceptional, is it still the paper of record? Not if the Times prints only the news that's fit for its readers.
-- Nicholas Genes, Boston Herald, May 25, 2003
"It has always been a Beltway magazine that happens to be online," said Matt Welch, a correspondent for The National Post of Canada and a former columnist of the Online Journalism Review. "They don't have the political passion, but they share the obsession with the pecking order in media and politics of many traditional magazines."
Mr. Welch noted that Slate's weblogs and its user bulletin board, The Fray, made it more interactive than a print product and that word of its break-even status was good for the medium. "They were lucky to have this behemoth to absorb the initial losses, but it is heartening news that some outfit with 30 people can break even on Internet advertising," he said.
-- New York Times, April 28, 2003
Matt Welch, columnist for the Canadian National Post, agrees with Drudge, who was one of several online journalists to post the images. Welch compares the decision not to run the pictures with one several networks made after Sept. 11, 2001, not to show workers at the World Trade Center jumping to their deaths.
"I think we deserve and need to see images of horror and war, with obvious restraints built in for showing torture," said Welch, who is working with former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to start a new Los Angeles weekly. Welch, who blogs his own war commentary at mattwelch.com after many East Coast writers have gone to sleep, said he received about 45,000 hits Tuesday - the second highest since he began posting on Sept. 16, 2001.
Welch said he's "impressed as hell" with bloggers' initiative, drive and energy. He particularly appreciates Command-Post and the new Kuwait-oriented Weblog qHate.com, which recently posted a video featuring President Bush tap-dancing and Osama Bin Laden dressed like the "Where's Waldo" character in children's books. The best blog writers hew to the Mike Royko-Herb Caen style of writing, he argues. They may be amateurs, but they know how to engage readers and spark debate.
"People with absolutely no training or experience in journalism are having advanced discussions about the relative reliability of the Jerusalem Post, Arab News, Reuters and the Associated Press," he said. "It's extraordinary, I think. And it's very, very healthy for journalism."
-- Baltimore Sun, March 27, 2003
A major op-ed column in The Washington Post this week by Walter Russell Mead of the Council for Foreign Relations argued strongly for military action in Iraq on the grounds that many thousands of children and adults were being killed by the "containment" policy. Unfortunately for Mead, the figures he used were debunked some time ago.
Mead argued that "containing (Saddam) for another 10 years condemns at least another 360,000 Iraqis to death. Of these, 240,000 will be children under 5. Those are the low-end estimates. Believe UNICEF and 10 more years kills 600,000 Iraqi babies and altogether almost 1 million Iraqis."
Yet independent writer and blogger Matt Welch pointed out in the pages of Reason magazine in March last year that figures like these had been exaggerated. To begin with, not every death attributed to sanctions could be laid at their door: "drought, hospital policy, breast-feeding education, Saddam Hussein's government, depressed oil prices, the Iraqi economy's almost total dependence on oil exports and food imports, destruction from the Iran-Iraq and Persian Gulf wars, differences in conditions between the autonomous north and the Saddam-controlled south, and a dozen other variables difficult to measure without direct independent access to the country" all pressed competing claims.
Moreover, the figures for deaths themselves have dubious provenance. One source was a five-day survey of fewer than 700 households, from which 500,000 child deaths a year were extrapolated. Other figures were reprinted by the World Health Organization direct from information supplied by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The idea that the Iraqis might have been exaggerating did not seem to occur to the U.N.
Nevertheless, as Welch said, the truth is bad enough. If we take the respectable estimates of Professor Richard Garfield from the School of Nursing at Columbia University, we still see at least 15,000 children under age 5 dying each year as a direct result of Saddam staying in power. Mead's case would have been strong enough if he had used these figures. It is a shame he felt he had to rely on discredited figures.
-- Iain Murray, United Press International, March 21, 2003
It's been forgotten now, but in October 2001, the media was full of dark predictions about a "quagmire" in Afghanistan, and claims that there wasn't enough "proof" that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks. Noam Chomsky was claiming that the US was planning a "silent genocide" in which millions of Afghans would starve to death as a result of war, and humanitarian groups were more or less echoing his predictions. Meanwhile we were told that the Afghans, natural warriors, would pick off American troops by the thousand, and Muslims across the world would rise as one, plunging the planet into conflict.
It was all twaddle, of course, and quite a few of us found ourselves pointing that out. Someone (I think it was Matt Welch) coined the term "warblog," and it stuck. What's more, people were eager to read our critiques.
-- Glenn Reynolds, The Guaridan, February 20, 2003
The LA Examiner is due to start publication in June. A prototype produced last month gives a hint of what to expect. The editors, Ken Layne and Matt Welch, two experienced newspapermen who were pioneers in the online world of weblogs, have put together a colourful 52-page tabloid full of articles by an array of seasoned LA journalists and a few well-known outsiders, such as Billy Crystal. The aim, says Mr Layne, is to reflect the cultural energy of the city and, naturally, to cover local stories better than the existing media does.
This is a reference to the Los Angeles Times, the dominant local daily—and hardly a favourite with the Examiner crew. Mr Riordan griped at it throughout his time as mayor and during his failed run for governor. Messrs Layne and Welch, irritated by what they saw as the Times's lack of basic beat reporting and its mealy-mouthed approach to racial issues, started a website in 2001 devoted to daily criticism of the paper. They called it LAExaminer.com in memory of an earlier competitor, the LA Herald Examiner.
If this sounds familiar, it is because the story is distinctly similar to that of the New York Sun, a right-wing newspaper which sprang out of smartertimes.com, an anti-New York Times site. Messrs Layne and Welch insist that they are less conservative sorts than their New York peers, but the Herald Examiner is still likely to be more right-wing than the LA Times, and it is making the same pitch as the Sun for upmarket readers.
Until last October Los Angeles had two free weekly “alternative” papers, the Los Angeles Weekly and the New Times LA. They both wrote about local politics, published entertainment listings and competed for advertising, especially for movies and sex services. In October, though, the New Times group, which is based in Phoenix, Arizona, reached a deal with the Weekly's parent, Village Voice Media in New York: the New Times LA and the Village Voice's Free Times in Cleveland would both close, letting the LA Weekly and the New Times's Cleveland Scene raise advertising rates.
The news was a blow to LA readers who relished having alternative “alternatives”. But the Examiner has duly snapped up some New Times writers. Even better news came on January 27th, when the Department of Justice ordered the colluding weekly groups to pay fines and sell the assets of the closed newspapers, including the newspaper racks that sit on street corners. It will hardly hurt the Examiner to have had the leftish Weekly's parent so briskly spanked for behaving like a scheming monopolist.
The Examiner plans to eschew sex-ads but still offer itself for free. This chaste, generous approach may make it hard for it to break even in three years, as it hopes. Mr Layne loyally argues that one attraction will be the voice of Mr Riordan himself, who will have a column. Another interfering proprietor? At least he dropped his original plan (possibly not altogether serious) to call the paper the Big Dick.
-- The Economist, February 6, 2003
And as of last week a 52-page prototype was circulating to advertisers and media. The prototype has articles by comedian Billy Crystal, social scientist James Q. Wilson, former New Times Los Angeles columnist Jill Stewart, media critic Cathy Seipp, former Los Angeles Times political writer Bill Boyarsky and political pundit Susan Estrich.
This thing is for real. [...]
The Examiner’s editor, Ken Layne, is not a newspaperman but a writer who’s made a name for himself as online blogger. Layne, along with colleague Matt Welch, hosts the laexaminer.com web site – a forum, unaffiliated with the newspaper, for critiquing and criticizing LA media. [...]
Newspaper analyst John Morton, of Morton Research is optimistic about the Examiner’s chances.
"There’s plenty of room for a weekly that goes after a niche audience," says Morton. "They’re all alternative weeklies, whether they’re aimed at urban youngsters or the affluent – and as long as they target their audience well, it works."
-- Media Life, February 3, 2003
Holding a copy of their 52-page prototype - which editors hope to circulate to prospective advertisers and investors for a June 5 launch - managing editor Ken Layne explains further: "I read the Los Angeles Times and think, this is a bunch of East Coasters who are trying to imitate The New York Times," he says.
The family-owned Los Angeles Times was purchased in March 2000, by the Chicago Tribune Co., ending 100 years of local ownership.
"We want something that reads like it actually comes from the city," says Mr. Layne.
-- Christian Science Monitor, January 30, 2003
Graphically, the new weekly's 52-page prototype is a handsome, highly readable package with a promising and intelligently arranged editorial format. The decision to print on high-quality paper makes for exceptionally crisp photographs and drawings, something a shrewd editor can exploit and advertisers probably will like.
-- Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2003
Layne, who along with Matt Welch operates the laexaminer.com Web site, an interactive local news digest, said attracting investors is critical. "I really don't know if Riordan is prepared to go forward alone," said Layne. "Just looking at his past business involvement, you can see that he almost always has partners. I think he's more comfortable spreading the risk -- and profits."
The Examiner's prototype, which has about 20 color pages, was put together by Layne, Welch and former New Times Los Angeles production designer Eric Almendral, under the direction of former McKinsey and Co. consultant Tim DeRoche. [...]
The Examiner, according to Layne, is envisioned as a 70- to 80-page tabloid that will be published every Thursday. Each week's issue will begin with an "Economist-style week in review," said Layne, "then go right in a newsy opinion section with regular and guest columnists." The prototype has pieces by Lynda Obst, Billy Crystal, James Q. Wilson, Joel Kotkin, Jill Stewart, Cathy Seipp, Bill Boyarsky, Susan Estrich, Gene Lichtenstein and Andy Klein. There will also be sections devoted to business and economics, books, theater, events, dining, music, travel and sports. "We're going to be very big on sports, and we're also going to have a big gossip section right in the middle," said Layne. "We'll probably also do weddings."
-- Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2003
The five-person Examiner staff is currently completing the prototype and drafting a business plan. The incorporation process has been initiated, DeRoche said, although the paper's holding company does not yet have a name. Certain particulars, such as official titles for Riordan and the editorial staff, have yet to he worked out. "What my eventual title will be depends on everyone else's title," Layne said.
It is not clear what will happen to the LAExaminer.com Web site, which Layne founded with Matt Welch, also a member of The Examiner's editorial staff. "Most likely we will continue LAExaminer.com for what it is," Layne said.
-- Los Angeles Business Journal, January 20, 2003
Matt Welch looked at five former U.S. ambassadors for Canada's National Post and concluded, "They have carved out a fine living insulting their own countrymen while shilling for one of the most corrupt regimes on Earth." If you closed your eyes while listening to their apologies, "you would think the person talking held a Saudi passport."
-- Daniel Pipes, in the New York Post, December 11, 2002
The columnist Matt Welch observed a while back that, if you close your eyes, America's ex-ambassadors sound like they're Saudis. Effectively, there's no US ambassador to Saudi Arabia but a whole platoon of Saudi ambassadors to the US - Prince Bandar and full supporting chorus.
And what was he doing with Bush at the ranch in September? Most heads of government don't get invited to Crawford. As I've said before, Australia's John Howard, unlike Crown Prince Abdullah, is a real ally in the war on terror, but he's still waiting for ranch privileges; Alberta, not Saudi Arabia, is America's principal foreign source of energy, but premier Ralph Klein can't get past the assistant deputy under-secretary. Meanwhile, Bandar, a humble ambassador from an economically moribund theocratic dictatorship, gets received like a head of state.
-- Mark Steyn, The Spectator UK, November 30, 2002
SATURDAY, Nov. 9 Writing in Canada’s National Post today, Matt Welch of the LA Examiner website (www.laexaminer.com) warns Washington pundits against dimming California Governor Gray Davis’ presidential prospects so fast. Yes, he is bland, his supporters call him "distinctly loathsome," and he just limped to victory against an opponent who waged the worst campaign in history. But Davis remains in charge of the largest state economy, his fund-raising prowess has earned him the nicknames "Cash Register" and "Pay for Play Gray," and he’s a decorated Vietnam War veteran who just loves killing convicts. As Welch notes, "There is some precedent for a despised Californian politician surviving the political wars to emerge as an unlikely candidate for president." Orange County favorite son Dick Nixon, come on down! We just wonder which distinctly loathsome sombitch will be Gray’s Spiro Agnew.
-- Matt Coker, OC Weekly, November 22, 2002
Daily newspapers are struggling, yet these are fertile times for some journalists. Blogs -- stands for "Web logs" -- are flourishing; they are Web sites with short hit-and-run commentary and abundant links to other blogs, articles, and sites. Blogs are a pure expression of the Internet: unmediated opinion and information passing from hand to hand. Blogs promise a reckless, independent use of the First Amendment, journalism without fact checking, editors, advertisers -- nothing but writers and readers communicating directly. In theory they offer across-the-spectrum opinion, electronic libertarianism.
One local specimen, LA Examiner, has clearly captured Riordan's eyeballs. LA Examiner offers a wealth of information without generating much itself. What it does generate is a mountain of opinion, mostly press criticism. The Examiner links to a smattering of local newspaper stories, making it a great grab-and-read for journalists and insiders perusing Southern California news. But what has gotten it far more attention is its skewering of the Times. From reading the site entries and the e-mail from its readers, you can summarize LA Examiner's opinion of the Times this way: The dum-dums blew it again! Much like Riordan's review, a dated tone creeps into the Examiner's criticisms -- they sound like Civil War reenactors suiting up to restage creaky battles over "political correctness" and "liberal bias." The tone is acerbic, patronizing, witty, whiny. (Full disclosure: They criticized me for being soft on Times columnist Steve Lopez.)
The site is stewarded by Matt Welch and Ken Layne, a pair of young college dropouts and veterans of media start-ups who talk like insiders, who with their access to the Internet are insiders. Blogs scramble the divide between reader and writer, professional and amateur. This drives a lot of print journalists crazy. But while bloggers go heavy on the anti-print rants, there's a passion there, too. Thanks to the Internet, the outsiders are in. The Web makes every journalist equivalent to every other; it makes everyone a media critic, media critics who don't even need Riordan's millions to get their message out.
Riordan's had numerous meetings with Welch and Layne, and one report said he'd interviewed Australian print journalist and blogger Tim Blair to be his managing editor. Either Riordan looks at LA Examiner and thinks he's seeing a newspaper -- in which case he's egregiously misreading the Web -- or he's found some young confederates to hate the Times with.
The LA Examiner guys have their own newspaper they want to start up, a five-day-a-week tabloid they've been planning longer than Riordan's been plotting his. "Whoever gets to the money first will come up with a paper," says Welch. Short of the mayor's kind of money, though, he's happy to team up with Riordan. LA Examiner for a time was lining up subscriptions for its collaboration with Riordan but recently pulled the ad. Although Welch loves the idea of working for a "crazy celebrity editor," he acknowledges his potential boss doesn't hvae "complete assurance about where he's going with this. It'd definitely not a 100 percent deal. I wouldn't make a large bet with you that this will happen. But I'd make a small bet."
-- R.J. Smith, Los Angeles Magazine, October, 2002
A favorite trick of bloggers is to post links to each others' sites (call it "blogrolling"). Defense Week was directed to 172med.org by Andrew Sullivan, one of the bigger fish in the blogging world. Sullivan, in turn, was tipped off to their existence by blogger Matt Welch (predictably, those two links can be found at andrewsullivan.com and mattwelch.com).
-- Defense Week, September 23, 2002
McCalman also repeated one of the two great post-9/11 myths: that dissent in the US has been crushed. She didn't provide any examples because there are none. "In the first two weeks after the September 11 massacre," reports Los Angeles journalist Matt Welch, "the LA Times published more than a dozen impassioned antiwar essays from the likes of Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Fisk, Howard Zinn, Alexander Cockburn and Jonathan Schell." (Note to Janet: All of these dissenters were, at the time of writing, still alive.)
-- Tim Blair, The Australian, September 12, 2002
Quite a few insist they'd like to read an "honest" conservative on Salon, but only one proposed alternatives. "Among the many, many conservatives I'd rather see published in Salon than Sullivan: Marshall Wittman, Brink Lindsey, Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Christopher Caldwell and Eugene Volokh. I'd certainly welcome such other liberal-balloon-prickers as Virginia Postrel, Ken Layne, Matt Welch and even Professor InstaPundit. Every single one of them ... has a better track record of honesty and avoiding the ad hominem than either Sullivan or Horowitz."
-- Joe Conason, Salon, September 10, 2002
I get invited to blogger parties here in Los Angeles because blogging has its roots in media criticism and bloggers here remember I used to write a monthly column about the Los Angeles Times for the old Buzz magazine, which could be considered sort of a primitive '90s proto-blog.
Through all this I met LA star bloggers Ken Layne and Matt Welch (who's married to Emmanuelle.net's Emmanuelle Richard), close friends who worked together on a newspaper that Welch helped start in the early '90s in Prague, and then on Tabloid.net, an extinct online site that Layne ran in the late '90s out of San Francisco.
Los Angeles seems to be the capital of blogging.
-- Catherine Seipp, UPI, August 7, 2002
At twenty-two, Welch started Prognosis, and English-language daily in Prague. He returned to the United States in 1998 to get involved in Internet journalism, and has since gained a reputation as one of the Web's best columnists. Now thirty-three, Welch writes about New Media for the Online Journalism Review, where he chronicled his short but memorable experience at DEN, and pens "the odd column about whatever" for the Los Angeles Daily News. His popular e-zine, MattWelch.com, is chock full of cool stuff. [...]
"Once you [start a newspaper], it never stops, it's never out of your blood. You always have that instinct when you're dissatisfied with your job. You feel like, 'Shit, I'd better start a thing up.'"
-- Lori Gottlieb and Jesse Jacobs, Inside the Cult of Kibu: And Other Tales of the Millennial Gold Rush, July 23, 2002
"People mostly compare their favorite bloggers to the boring and predictable columnists on the op-ed pages," says Matt Welch, one of the writers behind LA Examiner. "It sheds light on what newspapers have gotten progressively worse at doing: giving readers lively and relevant personalities to read and interact with." [...]
Blogging "punctures the self-importance of gatekeepers, ombudsmen, media critics, J-school profs and everybody else who is institutionally biased toward defending the values of monopolist daily newspapers," says Matt Welch. "It has allowed many people to realize that the weird retired guy down the street is a better and more interesting writer than anyone on the local op-ed page."
-- SF Gate.com, July 22, 2002
Incidentally, one of the reviewers of Nader's book (and a former
admirer) writes of witnessing Nader "tell a variety of whoppers" on
the campaign trail two years ago. Matt Welch, who covered Nader for
a lefty Web site, penned a piece in Reason magazine in May that
deconstructs Nader's ideology and political strategy.
Welch says much of what left Nader's mouth went unchallenged, as
the campaign was undercovered. Maybe the once cozy relationship
between much of the press and Nader is waning. That happens, of
course, when you try to be Chicken Little about things that aren't
falling from the sky - like basketball and book marketing. Ralph
Nader: He used to be somebody.
-- Editorial, Daily Oklahoman, July 15, 2002
"I started my own blog after Sept. 11, and so did a ton of people," said Matt Welch, co-creator of L.A. Examiner (laexaminer.com), a blog that skewers Los Angeles media.
His personal site morphed into a war blog (mattwelch.com/warblog.com) in the days after the attacks last fall as he found a need to compile information that put it all into perspective for him. He wasn't the only one.
"There was an explosion of these things," Welch said, "who knows how many. I've seen figures of 40,000 and 450,000. It's really hard to tell.' [...]
Welch expects the field of blogs to continue to grow, especially as important news breaks.
"Any issue from now on is going to get its own blog," Welch said. "That there's a Reseda blog, I think, speaks for itself."
-- Los Angeles Daily News, June 23, 2002
Matt Welch, a freelance writer, blogger, and editor of LAExaminer.com, has strong feelings about Los Angeles. As one of the minds behind LAExaminer, which links to and comments on stories about the Los Angeles media scene, he thinks there's a lot more to Los Angeles as a city with interesting media and ideas that our major paper, the Los Angeles Times, doesn't cover well. That's why he and friends, including fellow blogger Ken Layne, started the website and, with the backing of ex-mayor Richard Riordan, are planning to turn it into a print newspaper, either weekly or daily. [...]
Q: Beyond David Shaw, what do you think is inadequate in the L.A. media scene?
A: The Times has, as far as I understand, the smallest penetration in its home city of any major paper in the country. There is a palpable, tangible dislike for the paper and at the same time, there has been an incredible civic revival in L.A. since the earthquake and fires of early '90s. The people who said "the hell with L.A." left and the people who stayed started doing something. There's a really strongly renewed interest in the place and a confidence. The city doesn't look over its shoulder as much.
The Times, even its peak, never had confidence in itself. It's always been looking over its shoulder to New York or Chicago or D.C. [...] They're also just bloated. They're a monopoly. They charge monopolist rates for circulation -- they doubled the price this year -- and advertising. And there are new technologies that will let us be really competitive on cost that were unheard of just five years ago. [...]
Q: You guys all have a lot of online publishing experience now. How do you think that will inform the new paper?
A: Everyone who's been involved on our side are people who have been publishing a lot online for several years. I think I can say without hesitation or too much hubris that it would be the first real integrated online-print product -- the first 21st century newspaper in that way. Our general idea would be everything online is free; we'd use it as a promotional tool. We can use cheap off-the-shelf software to make it happen. There's no reason you need a staff of 25 for your website. We'd have two or three. Hopefully, every columnist would have a blog of his or her own.
-- Interview & profile in the Digital Coast Reporter, June 21, 2002
In the immediate aftermath of the November 2000 election, there were moments when Nader celebrated the defeat of Al Gore as his own victory. But there were also moments when he insisted that his third-party campaign didn't affect the outcome. He occasionally cited a poll that shows he took relatively few votes from Gore, although most surveys indicate that he drained away more than enough to "elect" Bush (for a convincing analysis, read this Reason article by Matt Welch).
-- Joe Conason, Salon, June 10, 2002
The Los Angeles Times has performed an extensive study of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and concluded that the dead numbered between 1,067 and 1,201. Every such death is uniquely regrettable, but that's significantly below numbers offered by critics of the U.S. military action last year, such as the 3,700 figure cited in one much-ballyhooed report last winter.
During the U.S. bombing campaign, at least one anti-war Web site included a graph that showed the alleged number of Afghan civilian dead climbing day by day to equal and then surpass the 3,000-plus casualties of 9/11. Analyses by the L.A. Times and other news organizations have now exposed that claim as baseless.
Even worse was the claim of 10,000 casualties put forward by cartoonist/commentator Ted Rall in an April 17 opinion column.
Matt Welch, a Los Angeles-based commentator, is on the mark when he says, "This continues to be an interesting litmus test for the anti-war movement's sense of peer review and fidelity to facts."
-- Editorial, Omaha World-Herald, June 18, 2002
LEFT BEHIND. Writing in Canada's National Post, Matt Welch takes a look back at just how off-base some of the far left's leading lights -- Noam Chomsky in particular -- have been since 9/11. Somehow these people never seem to look worse than they do in retrospect. In particular, Tapped enjoyed the take-down of Marc Herold, a University of New Hampshire professor who, based partly on Taliban-inspired media reports, insisted last December that 3,700 civilians had been killed by U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. Tapped can't tell you the number of times we've seen this "study" cited, or had it mentioned to it. It is, of course, bunk; as Welch writes, "Later, The Associated Press, Reuters and other organizations conducted their own inquiries into civilian deaths, arriving at numbers between 600 and 1,500." Welch also observes that "the figure was not just quoted approvingly, but presented as an undercount by columnists from The Nation, the Guardian UK, the Daily Mirror, Irish Times, Hartford Courant and Sydney Morning Herald."
-- Tapped, The American Prospect, June 10, 2002
"It's almost hilarious how the two papers have spun the same pieces of news," says Matt Welch, a local journalist and online media critic (LAExaminer.com) who is advising former mayor Richard Riordan on launching his new daily newspaper. "And with the Times it surprises me, to the extent that the news stories about LAFCO [the Local Agency Formation Commission, which put the secession measure on the ballot] seem to be spun to suggest that secession is a bad idea to begin with."
Welch also says the Times has fared poorly in its attempts to sound evenhanded on its op-ed pages, and he points to a May 13 collection of secession musings by local writers. "The whole thing struck me as conceived and executed by people who thought secession was silly, even though they had a couple of dissenting voices," Welch says. (Actually, only one pro-secession piece, by former Valley assemblyman Richard Katz, was included.) "I think even when they try to take it seriously, they don't take it seriously. In the news coverage, they seem to take it for granted that secession is ridiculous."
The Daily News, on the other hand, is almost comically serious. Its May 23 story issue about LAFCO placing secession on the ballot -- bearing the banner headline "It's Up to You" -- was the kind of play you expect when the Berlin Wall comes down, Welch says. "I don't know that anyone who reads the Daily News is laboring under the impression that it's reporting the subject in a fair and unbiased manner. But it's entertaining, at least," he says.
"The Daily News is obviously more skewed, but it feels more honest. On the other hand, maybe I'm just a sucker for big headlines," says Welch. "The Daily News chose this as a crusade years ago...and that's fine with me. I'm all in favor of newspapers launching crusades." [...]
But few doubt that the scrappy Valley daily won't carry the secessionists' banner to election day. Predicting how the paper will cover the campaign, media critic Matt Welch says he's reminded of what he saw in a similar situation in Eastern Europe.
In 1993, Welch was running a newspaper in Slovakia when that country divorced from the Czech Republic, and he sees parallels with the nationalist Slovakian papers that advocated for independence. Soon, Welch says, the Daily News will stop emphasizing city hall's ineptitude and instead will turn to another subject to bolster Valley nationalism.
"You'll see them," he says, "celebrating the wonderful, glorious culture of the Valley."
-- New Times L.A., June 6, 2002
John Montorio, the Los Angeles Times' deputy managing editor for features, seems comparatively blog-savvy. He sometimes reads LAExaminer.com, a site that links and comments on L.A. media, and occasionally checks the blogs of LAExaminer's founders, Ken Layne (kenlayne.com) and Matt Welch (mattwelch.com/warblog.html). But Montorio dismisses most blogging as "cranky star turns." [...]
I am not a blogger, but the blog world is friendly to kibbitzers. I get invited to blogger parties here in Los Angeles because blogging has its roots in media criticism and bloggers remember I used to write a monthly column, which could be considered sort of a primitive '90s proto-blog, about the L.A. Times for the old Buzz magazine. Then for a couple of years I wrote a media column on Mediaweek's old online site that was often linked on Jim Romenesko's MediaNews site.
Through all this I met L.A. bloggers Ken Layne and Matt Welch. They're planning to start a new, 100,000-circulation Monday-through-Friday Los Angeles paper as an alternative to the L.A. Times this fall. The project began attracting media buzz in April, when former Los Angeles mayor Richard J. Riordan got involved after losing the Republican gubernatorial primary in March (see The Newspaper Business, page 68). Riordan, who sees himself as a hands-off editor in chief, flew out Australian journalist (and blogger) Tim Blair to talk about the managing editor's job.
Layne and Welch, close friends, are both college dropouts (as is Lileks, who began his writing career while working as a Minneapolis convenience store clerk), which can be a hindrance in the world of traditional media but not in Bloggerville. [...]
Bloggers, who are temperamental free agents, often chafe when restrained by big institutions. Blogging can lead to bigger things -- Welch and Layne's plan for a new L.A. paper has its model in the New York Sun, which partly grew out of managing editor Ira Stoll's Smartertimes.com blog, devoted entirely to raking the New York Times over the coals each day -- but it doesn't usually bring in much money. [...]
Welch contributes regularly to Reason and is working on a book about the Ralph Nader presidential campaign, which he covered for the leftist news site Workingforchange.com.
-- Catherine Seipp, in the American Journalism Review, June 2002
Q: What is the type of readership and what kind of relationship do you have
with the readers?
A: The readership is varied, smarter than me, and wonderful. I average around 2,500 unique visitors a day, from 30 countries. I don't know what they have in common, really ... some are hard-core conservatives, some are hard-core leftists. Some are somber forty-something housewives from the midwest, some are goofball comedy writers in New York. Also, a large percentage of them now have blogs, which is real fun.
Our relationship is very close, in ways that might seem strange to outsiders. One guy I've never met just sent me four batches of cookies, for example. [...] Several times now, readers have come from thousands of miles away to have a drink with me & some of the local bloggers at our neighborhood tavern. I've also been fortunate enough to meet several dozen bloggers from other cities, and found them to be terrific folk.
It's a bond unlike anything I've ever experienced writing anywhere before. I could go on about it for days, but I'm all sleepy now.
-- Q&A with Stanford Student I-chun Che, Journalism and the Internet, May 25, 2002
Matt Welch, a Los Angeles writer who briefly consulted for the company, said its collapse "would have been one of the textbook classic dot-com flameouts even without this. It was a bad idea, at a bad time, done by bad people.... I wouldn't say there was an atmosphere of criminal behavior, you just felt the decadence."
-- Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2002
But another, perhaps more exciting and risky alternative lies with following something closer to the Sun model. Matt Welch, the 30-something publisher of the lively LA Examiner Web site, (www.laexaminer.com), has been urging Riordan in this direction. He sees a daily tabloid that covers Los Angeles with passion and interest -- in contrast to the perceived indifference of the Times -- as having far more relevance than a weekly publication that, in his words, "appeals to 25,000 rich people on the Westside."
Welch may well be right, and his zeal for a Los Angeles publication that appeals to local pride and interests reflects an increasingly strong local identity among a new generation of post-riot writers and journalists. But it still may boil down to a matter of dollars and cents. And since it’s largely Riordan’s pocket change that is at issue, what happens next is largely up to him.
As a community that loves Los Angeles, and intends to stay, we can only wish Riordan, Welch and their compatriots well as they look to create an alternative that all Angelenos deserve. So, too, should my sometimes-journalistic colleagues at the Times, for whom a strong, intelligent competitor would provide the most salutatory of medicines.
-- Joel Kotkin, in The Jewish Journal, May 17, 2002
In two cases, bloggers have prepared the way for new newspapers in major cities. Smartertimes.com, a running account of the sins and omissions of the New York Times, led to the founding of the New York Sun, New York City's new conservative daily paper. A similar path is being followed in Los Angeles, where LAExaminer.com regularly snipes at the Los Angeles Times to prepare the way for a new anti-Times daily paper.
-- John Leo, U.S. News & World Report, May 13, 2002
These "reliable accounts" of 500,000 dead Iraqi children, for example; this figure first appeared in the mid '90s, based on data supplied by Iraq's Ministry of Health (there's a reliable source) and a five-day study run by the World Health Organisation.
Even then, the total estimate of deaths was well below 300,000. According to a deeply researched piece by Reason magazine's Matt Welch, the number jumped to 500,000 when New York's Center for Economic and Social Rights whimsically doubled the estimate.
Hey presto! Half-a-million dead Iraqi children, just like that!
-- Tim Blair, The Australian, May 9, 2002
MEDIA WATCH: The new Web site, www.laexaminer.com, that takes great pride in puncturing media egos of news organizations, such as the Daily News and the Los Angeles Times, might have to ding itself.
One of the site's owners, Matt Welch, is working with former Mayor Richard Riordan on his plans to publish a new newspaper. Included on the Web site is a subscription form for those who want to be charter subscribers for the publication if and when it gets off the ground.
-- Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily News, May 6, 2002
While former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan is working out many of the details for the launch of his newspaper, the LAExaminer.com Web site has begun offering subscriptions to the publication.
Riordan recently announced plans to put out a paper this summer with the help of LAExaminer co-founder Matt Welch. While Riordan has wavered on the question of how often the paper would publish, the Web site was touting it as "the new Los Angeles daily'
The first 1,000 people to subscribe to the paper through LAExaminer.com were promised a "special treat" and a "special super-cheap discount rate' Subscribers won't be billed until after they start getting the paper.
-- Los Angeles Business Journal, May 6, 2002
They're trying to start another newspaper in Los Angeles, so now the local media establishment's knickers are in a knot. [...]
[T]he germ of the new paper is Laexaminer.com, a Web site founded by media gadflies Ken Layne and Matt Welch that regularly needles the old harrumphers at the Times.
Veteran TV critic Howard Rosenberg is known as "rancid Howie" on Laexaminer.com. Creaky media critic David Shaw was described this week on the site as "reporting from his cryogenic chamber."
This sort of public tweaking has worked before, at least when it comes to getting attention and a new paper off the ground. The managing editor of the New York Sun, which made its much-anticipated debut last month, is Ira Stoll, whose SmarterTimes.com Web site criticizes the New York Times. [...]
I keep thinking about something else Delmar Watson said: "Whenever you lose a newspaper, I don't care if its good, bad or whatever, you've lost one hell of a thing."
If you gain one back for a while, as Jim Bellows repeatedly did, that's also one hell of a thing. And so is starting one from scratch, as Riordan and Layne and Welch hope to do. If the smug naysayers don't like it, so much the better.
-- Catherine Seipp, for UPI, May 1, 2002
Two young free-lance writers, Matt Welch and Ken Layne (who run a media-commentary Web site at http://www.laexaminer.com), said they are helping the ex-mayor with the paper. "There will be a premium placed on writers who are fun and make you smile and chortle," said Welch, who hopes to work with a bunch of "eclectic weirdos."
-- Editor & Publisher, April 29, 2002
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Ira Stoll is the managing editor of the New York Sun and creator of smartertimes.com. Smartertimes is one of a growing number of web sites dedicated to criticizing a major periodical. Another is the L.A. Examiner whose prime target is the L.A. Times. When the Examiner's creators heard of Ira Stoll's rise to the Sun, they began dreaming of, quote, "the day when their own wealthy industrialist with an itch to take on the L.A. Times would come calling." Enter former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. Bent on starting his own conservative paper, Riordan is hiring the Examiner's founders to help him compete against the L.A. Times. Matt Welch is co-founder of the L.A. Examiner and self-described "co-conspirator" in the upcoming L.A. Daily. Matt welcome to OTM.
MATT WELCH: Thank you for having me.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So I guess the New York Sun is your canary in the coal mine. Are you nervously watching the Sun's progress as a forecaster of your own fate?
MATT WELCH: Kind of. The, there's a couple of things that are different about their experience. One is that they're in a crowded newspaper market. Here we are absolutely not. There are many newspapers; a lot of small ones that people don't pay attention to. However the New York Times has The Daily News, it has the New York Post covering New York and so the Sun has to present itself more as an ideological alternative and I think that the proposed Riordan paper won't have such a set ideological position. I don't think that you would be able to describe it accurately as "conservative," for instance.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well isn't a conservative paper exactly what the former mayor wants to have?
MATT WELCH: Well, you know -- people in Los Angeles like Richard Riordan because he's a pragmatist, because he's a problem-solver, and because he loves L.A. So I don't think that you -- this is going to be, you know, some thumping right wing paper. The, the division here in this city isn't necessarily about liberal/conservative or Republican/Democrat. It's more about smart and dumb.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you suggest that one of the things that has been missing in -- at least in the L.A. Times coverage of L.A. is a real love for the city. What besides that do you think that your new paper would provide?
MATT WELCH: The Times, like many other monopolist papers in the country, tries to model itself after the New York Times which is a terrific newspaper, regardless of what Ira Stoll says. [LAUGHS] You know, there's things to criticize about it, but the New York Times is the, is the golden yardstick. But the New York Times has this competition on its flank. When papers who are in a monopolist situation try to mimic them, that means they're spending an enormous amount of resources finding feature stories in Utah and looking everywhere except their own back yard. Frankly, at the end of the day, they just don't cover Los Angeles all that much, and so our paper will be pretty much Los Angeles. And not doing it with very notorious political correctness that you'll find in the L.A. Times.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's talk about that issue of political correctness at the L.A. Times. Do you think it's too politically left?
MATT WELCH: Some people and maybe some people I'll be working with soon probably think so. I, for me it's really not a case of left or right. It's a case of being unwilling to ask tough questions about what's happening to the city. We have an enormous impact of immigration in this city, but when the Los Angeles Times writes about it, they do it with such gingerness -- they're afraid of offending communities. We want to offend every day -- not in a bigoted way, of course! Who does? This, this, this is not a bigoted town, and there's no reason to, to do anything but condemn people who do that. But to approach everything with this tentativeness is, is something that the Times has become notorious for, and I don't think that's something you're ever going to see in our newspaper.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Will the Examiner criticize your own upcoming paper?
MATT WELCH: [LAUGHS] I hope so! I hope -- I hope Riordan, who plans to be the editor in chief, by the way -- not a publisher -- I imagine he'll criticize his own writers in print. I mean we're not going to hire an ombudsman. We're not going to hire people to sort of stroke their chins and, and, and look very seriously at issues. We're going to have an aggressive back and forth inside and outside the newsroom and with our readers.
-- WNYC's 'On the Media', April 27, 2002
More intriguingly, [Riordan has] been in deep conversation with a pair of L.A. journalists who've made a name for themselves with witty critiques of local media at their Web site, LAExaminer.com. What exactly their role in the newspaper will be has not been determined, although they say they might be interested in becoming section editors under Riordan.
"I don't like newspapers. Actually, that's not true, I love them, but they're so dull and self-important," says Ken Layne, one of the founders of the so-called blog site.
Adds cofounder Matt Welch, who also started Prognosis, the first English-language newspaper in Prague: "We should be covering this city as a daily newspaper, not covering it as a process or a series of sociology papers; not covering it as a series of what the [New York] Times did or didn't [print], not covering it as to how or what New York or Chicago thinks about what's going on here.
"There's a lack of old-style tabloid journalism -- not the stuff about Elvis sleeping with a nun, [but] stories that are supposed to be entertaining, with funny, smart writing, not this sort of chin-stroking viewpoint."
-- New Times L.A., April 25, 2002
Matt Welch is only 33, but for media-watchers, it seems as if he’s been around for ages. The Los Angeles-based freelancer launched Eastern Europe’s first independent English-language newspaper in the early 90s, before returning to the US as news editor of the late lamented Tabloid.net, a pioneering dot.com news site.
He went on to become one of the most respected critics of a journalism scene he helped create, writing regular columns for the influential Online Journalism Review. Recently, he’s been a gun for hire, publishing in numerous newspapers, magazines, and websites, while contributing to his weblog on an almost daily basis. [...]
Q: Can anyone be a journalist now?
A: Well, sure. It’s always been true, though oftentimes more in theory than in practice. The country I live in, for example, has a rich tradition of pamphleteers, weirdos handing out flyers, punk-rock zines. The best of the self-starters -- I.F. Stone, Ben Franklin, Matt Drudge -- gained notoriety and can either be called "journalists" or some other separate creature worthy of respect. At the end, few self-publishing exercises on the Web end up resembling what we normally associate with the word "journalism," but the list is still long, varied and vital. The weblogs, especially those that have sprouted in the last six months, are a new kind of publication, more akin to the notes of an op-ed columnist or editor.
But in general, I resist being pulled into a conversation about "who's really a journalist," because A) I don't think it really matters, and B) it's usually brought up in a discussion that, in one way or another, seeks to exclude new entrants from an old club.
As a fan of the free press, it is in my best interests to have as many people as possible publishing, writing and opining. I want them to have all the legal protections that I have, and to not be dismissed up-front for whatever reason. Judge them by their work, is all.
-- Long Interview/Profile, EPN WorldReporter.com, April 23, 2002
It's a fascinating evolution: Several of the former communist parties in the former Soviet bloc countries have earned respect by jettisoning a leftist agenda and embracing free enterprise.
American journalist Matt Welch, an insightful commentator on such matters, writes in an analysis of Hungary's current election campaign that, "as is often the case in Central Europe, the ex-communists have a solid track record in sober fiscal management and free marketing." In fact, he says, Hungary's ex-communists, who now call themselves the Socialists, have formed a coalition with a free-market party against the country's ruling party, which "continues to flirt with the uglier side of Hungarian nationalism."
-- Editorial, Omaha World-Herald, April 21, 2002
Riordan said there would be a staff of about 40 and that he plans to start the publication with Matt Welch, co-founder of LAExaminer.com, a local media Web site that provides local news and analysis - much of it biting - about the heretofore ignored L.A. media scene. [...]
Welch said that he and Ken Layne, co-founder of the LAExaminer.com, had been pursuing ideas for a print publication in Los Angeles when Riordan called out of the blue. "I laughed at first and then we started having a serious discussion on ideas," Welch said last week.
"For now, I consider myself a co-conspirator in this process," he explained. "I've started several other publications -- both print and online -- and that, I'm sure, is part of the reason he contacted me. I don't think he has a management team that's set in stone. But some of the people he's been talking to I know would be able to start working on this right away after he pulls the trigger." [...]
Welch said he expects the new paper "to have a lot of personality and fun. Punchy writing with a good sense of humor. It would compete against the laborious tone of the L.A. Times Column One stories."
As for the chances of success, he added, "I believe there is plenty of room here for either a daily paper or a weekly one. This is a media town, under-served and under-appreciated."
-- Los Angeles Business Journal, April 22, 2002
Riordan said he has various writers in mind to serve as part of a lean staff of free-lancers. He would serve as editor-in-chief and the paper would be run by an as-yet unnamed managing editor.
Among the people Riordan has been talking to about playing a role with the paper are Sue Laris, editor and publisher of Los Angeles Downtown News, and Matt Welch and Ken Layne, who run the media-watch Web site www.laexaminer.com.
-- The Associated Press, April 17, 2002
Blogs scrolled down the screen before Sept. 11, but the horrors of that day had a "big bang" impact, energizing a constellation of individual voices united by a communal understanding that a hole had been blown in the very architecture of our lives. I belong to a number of chat boards, and it soon became glaringly apparent to me that the bloggers had a far keener existential grasp of the trauma wound and the magnitude of the task ahead than these online "communities," which swiftly reverted to their customary crabby infighting and sneer responses. Blogs are far less parochial, the New York-Washington axis of mainstream media coverage offset by the strong presence of West Coast bloggers (Ken Layne, Matt Welch), with others chiming in from Australia (the acerbic and hilarious Tim Blair), Croatia (Natalija Radic, who appears on the libertarian Samizdata site), and Norway (Bjorn Staerk), nearly all of them citing and providing links to one another, fostering a global clubhouse atmosphere. In the early days of the anti-Taliban campaign, foreign and domestic bloggers countered the defeatism of the dominant media -- which was then in its "quagmire" funk -- and corrected the falsehoods, exaggerations, and rote groupthink of the punditry. "We can fact-check your ass!" Ken Layne crowed, and the phrase quickly became the rallying cry of blogland.
-- James Wolcott, in Business 2.0, May 2002
15. Matt Welch
Blog from Los Angeles-based freelancer who writes columns and features about New Media, politics and other issues. ... Also maintains War Blog on the events of 9/11 and thereafter.
-- Business 2.0, "Notable Bloggers," April 16, 2002
Calling it "Riordan's Revenge," our former mayor said last week he is looking at starting up a weekly newspaper to report on downtown affairs that he said are now being ignored.
"The L.A. Times doesn't have anyone from L.A. in charge and they treat the city like it was the bad adopted child," Riordan said, adding he has talked with some three dozen people about becoming involved in the project for the yet-to-be-named paper.
Riordan said he is working with Matt Welch, founder of the www.laexaminer.com Web site that analyzes local news coverage.
-- Rick Orlov, in the Los Angeles Daily News, April 15, 2002
Some bloggers regard themselves as media watchdogs. The Los Angeles Examiner, for example, carries an online web log that specialises in upbraiding the Los Angeles Times for stories that it has allegedly missed or mis-reported.
-- Louise Kehoe, in the Financial Times, April 6, 2002
A blog [is] even more valuable to people who aren't well known. Some, like Brink Lindsey, have access to op-ed pages, but their writing can be more varied and more frequent on a website. Some, like Ken Layne and Matt Welch, are old-fashioned reporter types who know a lot but have taken weird career paths and would be unknown except for their blogs.
-- Virginia Postrel, on Dynamist.com, April 2, 2002
Whatever Beam wrote, it’s here. But I think you’ll enjoy Matt Welch on Opening Day more. I loved it, and I don’t even like baseball.
If I ever start a paper ... Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots -- that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page -- and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page -- it’s all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin "I am smoking in such a provocative fashion" Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn’t buy that paper? Who wouldn’t want to read it? Who wouldn’t climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks, on Lileks.com, April 2, 2002
The September 11 terrorist attacks spurred a particular burst of interest in weblogs. "There was a rush to try and figure things out after the World Trade Center was pulverized, and blogging, it turns out, was perfectly suited to the task," says Matt Welch, a Los Angeles-based journalist with both print and online experience who writes for the Online Journalism Review and runs his own weblog, www.mattwelch.com/warblog.html.
Blogging, Welch says, "allowed people to identify and bookmark some of the more interesting of the thousands of news stories that were streaming in every hour, and after awhile it helped people organize their thoughts, seek comfort in somewhat like-minded others and enjoy new voices they could trust to guide them through." [...]
Because of the Internet's unique qualities, bloggers make use of several capabilities unavailable to writers operating in the print medium. Welch describes some of the advantages: "Speed of publication, obviously (no editors, no print deadlines). The ability to link, which adds a tremendous amount of transparency to the process (you can't just misquote or mischaracterize a column you disagree with) and allows you to say 'Hey! Check this out,' which print columnists obviously can't really do." [...]
As for the charge that weblogging is dilettantish, Welch observes: "The word dilettante to me has always been more or less equivalent to journalist -- we learn how to specialize in 100 different disciplines, and write passably on topics of which we know nothing. Sometimes the strain shows, and a blogger with particular expertise in the poorly covered area will pounce on the shallow reporting. It's a pretty terrific corrective for us."
-- Geitner Simmons, in Masthead, April 1, 2002
The transcript gave Pentagon spokesman Victoria Clarke all the ammunition she needed for a stinging letter to the editor of the Chronicle two weeks ago, pointing out the obligation of serious journalists "not to put words in [a] person's mouth and not to misquote him or quote him out of context." The paper grudgingly conceded that "the editorial provided an inaccurate context for a Wolfowitz quote" and, further, that "Wolfowitz was misquoted" in one instance. It attributed these "discrepancies" to "errors in transcribing a tape recording of the interview." Further, it admitted that the editorial did not meet the paper's standards for presenting quotations. The back-and-forth between the paper and the Pentagon was well covered by Internet columnist Matt Welch a couple of weeks ago.
-- Richard Starr, in The Weekly Standard, March 28, 2002
A small but growing contingent of amateur and semi-professional media critics are taking aim at newspapers and periodicals, picking up where those papers' ombudsmen (if they have them) leave off.
One of the first to appear was SmarterTimes.com, a site that painstakingly points out flaws in The New York Times. Since then, similar sights have cropped up that skewer the Los Angeles Times (LAExaminer.com) and the San Francisco Chronicle (Chronwatch.com).
-- FoxNews.com, March 18, 2002
"U.S. economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein have caused the death of a million Iraqi children!" It's not surprising that this claim has been trumpeted by the usual cabal of America-hating lefties like Robert Jensen, Edward Said, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. But when the mainstream media pick up the chant and repeat it, it's no wonder many people accept it as fact. In the March issue of Reason magazine, columnist Matt Welch does yeoman's work in ferreting out the derivation of this wildly inflated statistic.
-- Mike Rosen, in the Rocky Mountain News, March 15, 2002
Irreverent and clever, LAExaminer.com's daily blurbs about the city's news and news gatherers is catching on with the city's writers and thinkers. [...]
"I think the Times has improved a lot in the last year, but it never covers Los Angeles like it should," says Matt Welch, one of LAExaminer.com's creators. With no major competition in its hometown, the big daily has gotten complacent and lazy in its local coverage, he says, but it's media critic [David] Shaw who seems to irk him the most. "Shaw measures success by how many words he can fit into a series," Welch says. [...]
Layne recalls that he and Welch were drunk one night last year, discussing how they were going to get rich enough to start their own newspaper -- or find a wealthy patron to do it for them.
-- New Times L.A., in a Tony Ortega profile of LAX, featuring interviews and photo of me and Ken Layne; March 7, 2002
Does reading the L.A. Times make you snort in disgust? Does a perusal of the Daily News leave you wanting to put your own eyes out? If so, you'll enjoy laexaminer.com, a Web site that wittily dissects the all-too-frequent fumblings and bumblings of our local media. The Examiner crew -- four savvy writers with extensive experience in the trenches of L.A. news gathering -- puts up links to news stories that raise their ire and tops them with sharp, snarky commentary that's usually right on the money.
-- New Times L.A., naming LAX the "Best New Web Site Covering Local Media"; March 7, 2002
The libertarian Reason magazine, however, cautions against death counts circulated by "loonies on the left." Examining the oft-repeated 500,000 child death figure cited by opponents of U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq, author Matt Welch uncovers a comedy of misrepresentations and mindless repetitions that fatally contaminates the count. In the end, however, Welch says there's evidence the sanctions have contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990, more than enough to justify revisiting Iraqi policy.
-- Gale Holland, in the Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2002
Matt Welch kicks ass.
-- AndrewSullivan.com, February 26, 2002
I wasn't the only one. Hundreds of "warblogs" started proliferating. A law professor named Glenn Reynolds set up one called "Instapundit.com," and fast became a sensation. Established writers like the libertarian Virginia Postrel (dynamist.com), the neo-liberal Mickey Kaus (kausfiles.com), and the left-liberal Josh Marshall, saw their own traffic jump and their influence grow. Previous unknowns like Ken Layne and Matt Welch added to the chorus.
-- Andrew Sullivan, in the Sunday Times of London, February 24, 2002
There are plenty of intellectually vivacious writers tilling the blog fields now, and my daily web anabasis is much better for them. If you're interested, here are a few: [...]
Ken Layne and Matt Welch. Again, famous links, but for a reason. Smart writers with good links, and when these guys do a smack down, that which is smacked stays down.
-- James Lileks, on Lileks.com, December 18, 2001
Media critic and former SportsJones contributor Matt Welch agrees with Merron. "ESPN's online operations are especially adventurous -- they publish Hunter Thompson, for crying out loud," said Welch in an e-mail interview. "I think Royce Webb and company would make a great fit."
-- ReadMe (an NYU publication), December 12, 2001
To be sure, the internet opens our eyes to the Middle East press, but the sight revealed is rarely pleasant. Bjoern Staerk, a 22-year-old Norwegian weblog author, brings his readers excerpts from the day's Saudi and Pakistani press. (bearstrong.net/warblog/) The effect, at least on me is to make me doubt the existence of moderate Muslim opinion.
Matt Welch, author of the War Blog, blasts some quotes from a Saudi prince in Arab News. "Unluckily for him, there is an internet, and his verbal contortions no longer sputter out on the Arabian peninsula. We get to read it right here in beautiful Los Angeles, California."
-- Nick Denton, in the Guardian UK, November 15, 2001
Zone News was having a hard time generating ad revenues, a key source of income for the free publication, but Cremin argued that the magazine met its goals. "In a difficult market, the magazine ran for over two years," he said.
But Matt Welch, a freelance writer who regularly contributed to the magazine, painted a gloomier picture of Zone Communications' economic situation.
"It was messy in the end," he said. "They were having trouble meeting payroll and getting checks out. I think they eventually got checks to everyone they owed (money) to."
-- The Los Angeles Business Journal, October 29, 2001
It's no surprise that the Left and Right are at each other's throats, but vicious feuds have also erupted within the Left, whose commentators quickly split into pro- and anti-war camps. US-based Brit pundit Christopher Hitchens launched into Noam Chomsky after the veteran leftist sought to downplay the September 11 attacks by comparing them to America's bombing of Sudan in August 1998.
"To mention this in the same breath as a plan, deliberated for months, to inflict maximum horror upon the innocent is to abandon every standard that makes intellectual and moral discrimination possible," Hitchens (himself a lefty, and whose most recent book called for Henry Kissinger to be tried for war crimes) wrote in The Nation. "No political coalition is possible with such people and, I'm thankful to say, no political coalition with them is now necessary. It no longer matters what they think."
So why bother covering them? Because, writes Los Angeles freelancer Matt Welch, "I'm too astonished to let some of these things go, and I think it's important that we record, for history, how some of these buffoons behaved when the chips were down." Welch, who voted for Ralph Nader in the last US election, now finds himself a rare hawk among California's abundant media doves. His website quotes another of the pro-war Left, Salon.com's David Rieff: "Odd and indeed disgusting as it is to find oneself writing that there is no alternative to war (and knowing full well how filthy and degrading that war will be), I find myself nonetheless with nothing else to suggest."
-- Tim Blair, in The Australian, October 4, 2001
The online news sites are useful for a quick check of breaking news, but I am looking for something more. And that I have been finding on weblogs. Some, such as Kottke.org and Dave Winer's Scripting.com, are well-established technology weblogs which have interrupted normal service to bring their take on the crisis. A few, such as wtc-filter, Matt Welch's "warblog", and the Guardian's own crisis special, are instant publications set up to cover the story.
-- Nick Denton, in the Guardian UK, September 20, 2001
Matt Welch, a reporter for the online trade publication The Online Journalism Review, said such Web sites are popping up nationally because of students' Internet savvy.
"It's just the same trash-talking you would see in a high school bathroom, but of course the graffiti can be broadcast all over the world," Welch said. "What starts as a joke can really escalate."
He said he's been trying to keep up with incidents and has found at least one every week. "Lord knows how many times it happens and isn't reported," he said. [...]
"This is as natural to teenagers as roller-skating was to our generation," he said. "It's built into the culture. Everyone's on the Internet."
-- The Dallas Morning News, June 10, 2001
Before Matt Welch got hired at the famously defunct Digital Entertainment Network (DEN), he really thought that broadcasting custom-made, TV-like programs over the Web for Generation Y could work.
After his first day on the job, however, he started to wonder.
It wasn't just the parking lot filled with expensive cars, scores of new hires, bloated expense accounts, exaggerated six-figure salaries for staff and multimillion-dollar salaries for upper management, expensive production, and lavish studios built yet barely used. There was also the daily mass confusion over direction and content, constant management shuffles, and a sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company's co-founder.
"On a broader level, it was clear that this was a company with one hell of an elevator pitch -- revolutionary, original broadband entertainment and news for Generation Y -- and a big stack of money, but no firm idea on how to get from A to B, let alone Z," Welch says....
-- Upside Magazine, March 2001
The most thunderous crash so far is that of the Digital Entertainment Network, a heavily hyped webcasting operation. Matt Welch, a survivor of DEN's descent, wrote an engaging and witty memoir of his time there for the Online Journalism Review (ojr.usc.edu). After reading his account of that particularly dysfunctional -- and well-funded-corporate hierarchy, you won't just understand why it flopped so spectacularly; you'll wonder why the collapse took as long as it did.
"Web sites looking to make real money," Welch concludes, "need to A) be Yahoo, B) sell porn, or (best of all) C) start small, and win a following. There's a dirty little secret about content companies: popular, scaled-down sites like Suck, CapitolHillBlue, and TheSmokingGun all make money, as in that stuff left over after all the bills are paid. Meanwhile, heavily staffed, venture-backed heavyweights like Salon, TheStreet.com, and APBnews are bleeding money like hemophiliacs."
-- Jesse Walker, in Reason Magazine, December 2000
"The mergers between record companies, movie studios, cable providers, Internet service providers, magazine publishers et al create two unfortunate side effects," says Matt Welch, a media critic for Online Journalism Review. "First, they obviously boost the amount of synergistic entertainment coverage, and second, they dilute and confuse what were once original and interesting voices, such as when CNN suddenly tried putting on shows with Time Magazine." [...]
Welch says Disney "hasn't had much success" running two of its purchases, the Anaheim Angels baseball team and Los Angeles Magazine. "Time and Warner had a dickens of a time getting it together," he adds, "and I think AOL will botch their purchase (of Time-Warner), if it is allowed to go through. It's very difficult structurally to merge two headstrong companies with very different cultures across media types." [...]
Once consumers start to understand the connections, will they begin sniffing out cross-promotion and conflict of interest, in order to separate real news and entertainment from advertising, spin and hype? With the overwhelming majority of the nation getting their news from divisions of major media companies, that seems unlikely.
Welch, for one, is doubtful. "Who wants to bother tracing down the intricate webs of corporate cross-ownership, let alone direct business partnerships and competitions every time you watch the news or read your paper? I certainly don't -- it takes too much time, and it bums you out."
-- Newark Star-Ledger, November 19, 2000
Matt Welch appreciates the exposure he's had to interesting events and topics. "What a terrific way to learn about and discover stuff," he says. As media critic for Online Journalism Review and political columnist for NewsForChange.com, Welch has written about the U.S. presidential campaign, various legal scandals, and a variety of media issues. "I've covered the breakup of Czechoslovakia, student protests in Belgrade, baseball in Cuba, and, in the last three years, I've had this wonderful and absurd crash course in new media," he says. "What's not to like about that?"
-- About.com's "Freelance Writers" page, November 16, 2000
But Matt Welch, a trenchant young media critic for the Online Journalism Review, told me recently that he is convinced that Winans's sins, if committed today, would not provoke one-tenth the media outrage expressed in 1984. When a Silicon Valley gossip columnist accepted cheap pre-IPO shares from a local technology mogul, he noted, many supposedly sensible professionals wondered aloud whether she had done anything wrong. "Journalists see all these people getting rich -- including other journalists, back when online content was worth something," Welch says. "And a lot have really lost their bearings."
-- Columbia Journalism Review, November 2000
Employees began to leave the company, though few cite the founders' behavior as the reason. "With everyone there, it was like, 'I'm going to make as much as I can, and I'm going to leave in eight months and start my own company,'" remembers Matt Welch, a former freelance consultant for DEN who says that he himself stopped working for the company because of professional frustration even before the scandal broke.
-- Yahoo! Internet Life, November 2000
Matt Welch, whose posts include serving as media critic for Online Journalism Review, selects his assignments carefully. "I've spent most of my career choosing to write exactly what interests me for publications I respect and/or want to help out," he says, "rather than do assignment work for big-ticket titles I may or may not be rooting for." Thus, Welch worries a bit about the consequences of those decisions. "Ongoing, the most frightening thing, I guess, is my fear of obscurity or doing good work for audiences of 12," he notes. Has it been worth it? Welch says yes: "On the positive end of that ledger, I am one of the least cynical or burned-out journalists my age that I know, and I've met many wonderful people in the business."
-- About.com's "Freelance Writers" page, October 24, 2000
Matt Welch began to suspect that he was interviewing for the Job from Hell soon after he set foot in the office. "A friend of mine recommended me," he recalls. "I went in to see this woman, and after we talked for a few minutes, she said, 'So, you want to be the managing editor?'"
-- Smart Business, October 16, 2000
Journalist Matt Welch, who was hired to develop a news division for the network, says the collapse will go down as a monument to mammoth egos. "DEN was the poster child of Internet excess," he says. "In terms of grossly overpaying executives who don't know anything about the Internet, this was the ultimate."
-- Los Angeles Magazine, September 2000
You should bookmark the American Journalism Review, www.ajr.org, and the Online Journalism Review, www.ojr.org. Both include solid articles and analysis of the issues in interactive media. OJR, particularly, includes several good columnists like Matt Welch and Ken Layne.
-- Online Technology, September 2000
As Matt Welch of the Online Journalism Review points out: "He [Brill] will benefit materially from every positive book or magazine review he publishes, and his right to cover one of the most important media issues of the day... is hopelessly compromised."
-- Guardian UK, July 31, 2000
More news from the DEN of iniquity! Yes, that streaming beauty from Southland got mired in a ruinous affaire, but just how ruinous you ask? Here's a blow-by-blow description from a scarred vet. Jaco especially likes the high-quality way Matt Welch describes the looks of the DEN's with-it CEO.
-- Michael Tchong, in The Iconocast, July 6, 2000
Instead of listening to us and our online peers, like Bill Bastone of The Smoking Gun, Ken Layne and Matt Welch of Online Journalism Review and Romenesko, who uniformly understood what we were saying, the APB folks sneered, insulted and raged at us.
-- Green Magazine, June 21, 2000
Ken Layne and Matt Welch -- These two columnists for the Online Journalism Review pull no punches in their coverage of the media world. If your name appears in one of their columns, most often it's not because you're being praised. What else would you expect from the originators of the controversial Tabloid.net zine (currently in limbo)?
-- Steve Outing, in Content Exchange, on "The Net's Hottest Columnists"; June 12, 2000
In search of answers, we hit the clicks. Romenesko would know. He always knew. And there it was, the fourth bullet point in a four-item addendum, buried like a turd in a litter box by a cat with something dark and sinister to hide. The cat that ate the canary? Maybe. It was a piece from the OJR morgue, 'The New Crime Boss,' written back in the high-flying days of December. We clicked, we read, we marinated in the piece's prescient skepticism about APBNews.com's ambitious marketing strategy. And slowly, like an ugly, screaming, large-headed baby emerging from the overtaxed pelvis of his tiny-framed momma, our hypothesis began to materialize.
-- Greg Beato, in Suck.com, June 12, 2000
Une polémique intéressante se déroule en ce moment aux États Unis, à l'initiative de Matt Welch, un des principaux rédacteurs de OJR, Online Journalism Review. Welch reproche à Brill's Content, un magazine papier et un site de critique des médias et de leurs "contenus" (livres, articles, émissions) d'avoir fait entrer au capital de "ContentVille" des groupes comme NBC ou CBS.
L'objet de la critique est assez simple: quelle confiance le lecteur peut il avoir dans les critiques de Brill's Content, si certains des ouvrages examinés sont édités par des sociétés qui, directement ou indirectement, sont propriétaires du site? L'affaire a pris du relief, Brill ayant embauché comme médiateur une des consciences du journalisme américain, Bill Kovach, que Matt Welch met sérieusement en boîte.
Cette polémique pose toute une série de questions sur le web-journalisme, et le journalisme spécialisé sur la société de l'information. A tel point qu'une question finit par se poser: y a-t-il un journalisme indépendant sur le net?
Le point clé est évidemment le financement des publications.
-- 19 Clics, June 9, 2000
Me and Brooke got laughed at for this site, we've funded it ourselves with no record company money (my ex-company doesn't "believe in the Internet" still and when it does, it uses it in a really transparent way that anyone but six year olds can see through). ... But we got laughed at by the same people that ran DEN into the ground with male arrogance, and decadence and anti-artist bullshit. [...]
I got this letter from a guy that worked at DEN that Brooke will post it may be of no interest to a lot of you, but I think its really insightful as to what's going on where I live and what the problems are. It of major importance that we, the smart people, grab power from them, the evil people, now. (Read the DEN letter)
-- Courtney Love, at Holemusic.com (I never sent her any such letter), June 2000
But, as in most times of crisis, there are signs of genuine response to these dark forecasts for the media. In some media quarters there's a steely resolve -- somewhere on the far side of fawning celebrity reportage, political rainmaking and muckraking, and bullish business analysis -- that there's respite from the acquiescing mood that characterizes "the essential and little-discussed backdrop to the New Era of journalism." In a recent column for Online Journalism Review, Matt Welch suggests considerable room for possibility against the tide of mass commercialization:
My hope is based on the market. Consolidation of expression (print journalism, music, film, broadcasting, books, Web publishing) creates giant companies that become more inefficient and out-of-touch with each new employee. This conformism in turn breeds backlash, and nourishes the soil for independents. It's a well-established cycle in all businesses catering to the public tastes: Prohibition begets jazz, suburbia begets rock & roll, corporate rock begets punk. There are too many weirdos with energy in this country to allow a handful of bland, patronizing COOs to define our common media experience.
Maybe this is the news that's not in the news, but should be. Certainly there are appearances of it from time to time, and more often than not, these sightings are happening online.
-- Jeffrey MacIntyre, in Spark-online, May 2000
In response to the wailing and gnashing of teeth by media experts over the demise of journalism as evidenced by the AOL-Time Warner merger, columnist
Matt Welch asks that things be put in perspective: "Before you claim that The Merger represents the victory of Big Brother, requires antitrust intervention and sounds the death-gong for independent journalism on the Web," he says, "ask yourself one question: How much of
AOL-Turner-Time-Brothers do you actually use, let alone respect?" Welch's point isn't that this merger promotes quality journalism, but that the major media outlets have long since quit being paragons of journalistic virtue -- if they ever were. Mergers aside, popular media is not exactly rife with quality, and its march toward mediocrity will be the engineer of its demise.
"If we really want to stave off the Brave New World," says Welch, "let's take a page from dissidents in countries that had to face real totalitarianism: Stop taking Big Brother seriously. Laugh at him, detail his many clumsy corruptions and conflicts for everyone to see, stop pretending that he's a credible journalist, and for God's sake don't work for him."
-- Ifra Trend Report, February 23, 2000
Well, you know all about the latest mergers and how we're making progress down that happy road on the way to just having one big all-powerful music company. But the amusing part of this story is that company size seems to be inversely proportional to agility and snooping ability. As Matt Welch astutely reports in his recent column for Wired, it's a foregone conclusion that bloated corporations will seek to abuse their power -- but actually getting them to take full advantage of the technological advances that will facilitate that is like getting Jabba the Hutt to do jumping jacks. Click on the link above for the full story -- after you give this one a read, the future won't look so dim after all.
-- Briefme.com, February 4, 2000
Dos de los principales críticos de los medios que aún operan con independencia -- desde sus cubículos del ciberespacio--, Jon Katz (Freedom Forum) y Matt Welch (Online Journalism Review), han reaccionado negativamente, pero de dos maneras bien diferentes, a la creación del megamonstruo AOL Time Warner: Katz llora y Welch prefiere reír.
-- El Mundo, January 27, 2000
"... Eventually they started playing some Beatles and Stones, and I started taking the third harmony parts, and finally they got stumped by some song ... 'Angie,' maybe? ... and I took the guitar and commenced to play a dozen Stones songs, some Beatles, and then a rousing and silly version of 'Purple Rain,' at which point I broke two strings. The crowd was huge and warm, buying me shots of medicinal liquor, and everyone was singing. Later, I found out that the two singers had been two of the three members of the Czech equivalent of Peter, Paul & Mary, and that this was the first time they'd sung together in 15 years, due to various exiles...."
-- Seven Questions With Tom Mangan, December 4, 1999
Doch das E-Zine "Online Journalism Review" hatte da seine Zweifel. Nach dem Amazon-Skandal wühlte sich 'OJR'-Reporter Matt Welch durch die Berichte der New York Times über Amazon -- mit einem Hintergedanken: Vor zwei Jahren waren die "Times" und Amazon-Konkurrent Barnes & Noble übereingekommen, daß die "Times" neben ihren Buchbesprechungen im Internet einen Link plaziert, der unmittelbar zur Kaufseite von Barnes & Noble führt. Solche sogenannten "Affiliate"-Deals, bei denen sich Webfirmen Links zu anderen Seiten bezahlen lassen, sind im E-Commerce gang und gäbe. Nach der Recherche stand Welch "die Kinnlade offen": In den vier Wochen nach der Amazon-Enthüllung druckte die "Times" sieben Artikel über den Bookseller - mit negativem Tenor und ohne die eigene Kooperation mit Barnes & Noble zu erwähnen. Die "Times" nahm's nicht tragisch. Auf Anfrage erklärte John Freed, zwischen Werbung und Inhalt werde strikt unterschieden, für ihn sei das wie "die Trennung zwischen Kirche und Staat".
-- Der Spiegel, July 5, 1999
When news consumers visit most of the major newspaper Web sites, they won't find much breaking news except for dispatches from The Associated Press. This dependence on the AP gives newspaper sites an oddly homogenous quality, says the Online Journalism Review's Matt Welch, and fails to take advantage of a big newspaper's reportorial talent.
"As news consumption switches to the bountiful Internet, it remains to be seen how long news providers can get away with posting the exact same commodified news from the exact same sources," writes Welch."
-- Newswatch.org's Media Critic, June 7, 1999
The unverifiable nature of "emailed partisan heresay," has backfired within the NATO camp, according to Matt Welch of Online Journalism Review. He wrote that the expulsion of foreign journalists from Kosovo, the muzzling of Yugoslavia's media and NATO's reluctance to divulge information have combined in a "sloppy [news] cocktail."
"On March 29," he writes "news outlets from the BBC to Freedom Forum to the New York Daily News wrote about the brutal Serb-led execution of Kosovo newspaper editor Baton Haxhiu. The Independent of London even printed a full obituary -- a day after Haxhiu emerged, very much alive."
-- Thunderbird Magazine, June 1999
The New York Times' agreement to post Barnes & Noble "buy" buttons next to its online book reviews should continue to raise questions about the relationship of news content-providers and e-commerce companies. However, much of the initial criticism has died out and the news industry has largely followed the Times' lead into e-commerce. Content from The New York Times recently brings the relationship into serious question. In one remarkable 35-day stretch in February and March, the Times ran five articles and two opinion columns, effectively sullying the reputation of Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble's biggest competitor. In only one of the articles did the Times disclose its influential agreement with Barnes & Noble. ... Author's conclusion: If The New York Times' coverage of Amazon -- and its routine lack of disclosure of the Barnes & Noble agreement -- is anything to go by, the top news organizations still have more questions to answer about exactly how their e-commerce relationships will not be allowed to erode confidence in their coverage.
-- Benton.org's Communication-Related Headlines, April 29, 1999
According to Matt Welch, writing in the Online Journalism Review, America's media have practically abandoned foreign coverage. An obscure London-based nonprofit "published more original articles with a Balkan dateline than the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and Miami Herald combined," he wrote.
The Cable News Network (CNN) has more foreign bureaus than all four major TV networks combined. The 1460 American daily newspapers have a total of only 286 foreign correspondents "--186 if you exclude the Wall Street Journal" reports Welch.
The saving grace -- if it can be called that -- is the Internet: a wide-open source of information and misinformation from all sides. Online Journalism's Welch gives two dozen Websites you can visit for a range of Online Sources of Kosovo News and includes an analysis of their political line and content.
-- Web Pointers Online, April 20, 1999
Meanwhile, an interesting piece in the Online Journalism Review looks at the growing need for corrections in online media. Matt Welch writes about a new-media watchdog site called Slipup.com, which posts the weirdest correction or clarification its founder, Frank Sennett, can find. "It's a medium in gestation and there aren't accepted standards for many journalism issues online," he says."
-- The Industry Standard's Media Grok, March 5, 1999
Witty, urbane and insightful newsman Matt Welch has written a piece for Online Journalism Review on how journalists' online output is received by glass-office types.
-- Tom Mangan, in Newsies 2.0, February 13, 1999
In "The Cookie Monster of Putnam Pit," a recent feature in the Internet newsmagazine Salon, Davidian comes across as an intellectual Matt Drudge on a mission to show the powers that be what can be accomplished by a real crusading journalist.
"My God, you've got the fucking New York Times, you got the L.A. Times, they're all sitting around doing thumbsuckers about where the economy's going to go," he told Salon writer Matt Welch. "May they ROT in HELL for every story they could have done that rectified some injustice!" [...]
With Burks's murder, the concept of negative campaigning took on a whole new dimension. "Dateline was out there last week, and The New York Times," says Davidian. "I'd been writing about what a wacky place Cookeville is -- it's beyond what straight journalism can deal with. In that Salon article I said there are people dying there, and the next thing the guy dies there," marvels Davidian. "The law doesn't apply in Cookeville. It's just a real frightening place."
-- Houston Press, November 5, 1998
In June, Disney agreed to buy a large portion of the search engine company Infoseek. NBC purchased a share of CNET and its online search engine, Snap! These new investments, wrote Matt Welch in the Online Journalism Review (www.ojr. org), "further confused the already byzantine web of ownership, business alliances, and competition among the parent companies of the biz/tech sites."
-- Columbia Journalism Review, September 1998
Some Dutch girls had first recommended Prague as a good cheap place to spend the winter -- it seemed like a lucky find and I was disturbed when I briefly returned to California and saw, in the Los Angeles Times, a picture of the Prague newspaper's editor looking like a pompous hippy fruit. I hoped for the best and expected the worst and went back anyway. The hippy fruit was Matt Welch and he turned out alright.
-- Ken Layne, in Tabloid.net, August 26, 1998
Every biweekly issue was produced in an atmosphere of crisis, with 36-hour work days punctuated by naps on sticky communist linoleum floors. We had two telephone lines for 25 full-time employees -- and sometimes (when we didn't pay our bill) they would be cut off for a week at a time; we produced some issues by relying on the pay phone across the block and the ability of our fine writers to behave like carrier pigeons. We built desks by balancing plywood on piles of unsold copies. We didn't have a photocopy machine until late 1993, and then it broke. With the exception of the Czech staff, most of us couldn't speak Czech. Prognosis was, as you might predict, the best place I have ever worked. It was, as co-founder Matt Welch wrote in the final issue, "one of the most ferociously good newspapers any part of the world has ever seen." It seethed with passion and irreverence; it was filled with spirited writing, dramatic photography and breathtaking design; it contained glaring goof-ups and remarkable triumphs. It is an essential historical document for anyone interested in the essence of post-Communist Europe, not merely the facts. It was a place that pushed you to your full potential -- because there was no other way to manage but at full throttle.
-- John Allison, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 11, 1995
Prognosis, Prague's first English language newspaper, has closed. ... A group of young Americans launched Prognosis soon after the 1989 revolution. The newspaper concentrated on general news features and editorial comment and was well respected.
-- Euromarketing, March 7, 1995
WAS the hiring of Hana Koecherova by the British embassy in Prague three years ago simply a monumental foul-up by the Foreign Office? It certainly revealed major flaws in vetting procedures and a huge breach in national security, but could there be more to it than meets the eye?
Hers is quite a curriculum vitae. Her husband had pleaded guilty to spying on the United States for communist Czechoslovakia and she was alleged to have worked as his accomplice.
It was not as if her past was secret. Koecherova shot to international prominence in 1986 when she and her husband, Karel, who had pleaded guilty to espionage in a New York court, were traded by the Americans for the leading Soviet Jewish dissident Anatoly Shcharansky. When Shcharansky walked to freedom across the Glienicke bridge into West Berlin, the Koechers came the other way.
Marriage to a spy is not usually the best qualification for a plum job at the commercial section of the British embassy, but it emerged last month that that was exactly where Koecherova worked from February 1992 to June last year.
The facts only came out in a libel case when Koecherova sued Prognosis Weekly, an English-language newspaper published in Prague, after it accused her and her husband of working for the KGB as well as the Czech secret police.
-- The Sunday Telegraph, March 5, 1995
Prague's oldest English-language weekly newspaper, Prognosis, called it a day with its last issue Tuesday, citing financial problems.
Launched in March 1991 as a monthly by a group of New York [?] university friends, Prognosis was celebrated for its plain speaking and its anti-conformist style. It concentrated on reporting the social problems confronting the country during its post-communist transformation.
-- Agence France-Presse, February 28, 1995
[Scott] Rogers went to Prague during the summer of 1992, when the U.S. media were hyping the city's latest product -- the hip and exciting English-language newspaper Prognosis. Details magazine got into the act with an article on the founders of the paper that also managed to discuss Prague's bohemian night life.
"That article definitely had something to do with everyone coming in at that time," Rogers said. "Somehow I managed to miss it and show up anyway."
-- Roanoke Times & World News, May 2, 1994
Unbeknownst to [Rick] Bruner and his partners, they had launched Week the same month as the Moscow Guardian and Prognosis, which have similar origins as Week. Five young Americans who met while working at [The Daily] Nexus, the campus paper for the University of California at Santa Barbara, were backpacking across Europe when they stumbled upon beautiful, inviting Prague. "Over beers in a pub, we talked ourselves into starting a newspaper," explains Ben Sullivan, 25, one of the founders and now a senior editor of Prognosis.
Nearly a year later, circulation tops 10,000, the staff includes about 20 full-time employees, the monthly budget reaches $7,000, and some 20 investors are backing the enterprise.
Prognosis, like the other five English-language newspapers in Prague and Budapest started by Western entrepreneurs, is said to be making money or, at the least, to be "over the hump." But it's difficult to see how they could all be solvent, given the limited market.
-- The Quill, May 1, 1994
In Prague, however, some members of the 13th Generation (the title of Neil Howe and Bill Strauss' parodic quest for their generation's identity) find that before the ripe old age of 25, they can become the editor of a newspaper, the publisher of a magazine or the director of a theater group.
Take Prognosis, one of two English-language papers on newsstands all over the city. The average age of the staff is 25. With a circulation of some 10,000, the bi-weekly tabloid addresses a resident and transient international audience.
Part newspaper, part magazine, it mixes in-depth coverage of politics, economic and culture, commentary, reviews, humor and tourist information. Impressed with the newspaper's quality, I took a day to meet the people behind its pages.
Call them children of California. In March 1991, Christopher Scheer (son of California journalist Robert Scheer), and several friends who had worked on UC-Santa Barbara's school paper, the Daily Nexus, founded Prognosis. Some of the 25 young people who work on the newspaper first gained experience as designers, photographers and writers at the Los Angeles Times.
Crammed into four small rooms on the outskirts of Prague, the newspaper's headquarters remind me of 1960s movement offices. Amid peeling walls adorned with rock posters, young Americans and Czechs scurry about, learning their craft under pressure of deadline.
An egalitarian ethos creates an atmosphere of contained chaos. All staff members earn a monthly salary of $150 plus health insurance; reporters, as well as editors, suggest story ideas.
With an ideological tilt left of center, Prognosis is an alternative newspaper that tracks the Czech Republic's traumatic transition from communism to capitalism. Reluctant inheritors of the '60s legacy, they focus on the plight of those squeezed by the new market economy: a famous poet thrown out of his flat by rapacious new landlords; workers laid off by newly privatized business; prostitutes harassed on the German border; Gypsies discriminated against in housing and employment.
-- San Francisco Examiner, December 2, 1993
Matt Welch, a United Press International correspondent in Bratislava in the new Slovak Republic, said foreign correspondents there are under constant pressure from government officials and the public. "It's more of a feeling you get every day, a sense of defensiveness and a sense they are thinking, 'Why would you make us look bad?' And once a week you'll introduce yourself to someone in a bar and say, 'I'm a journalist.' And they'll say, 'My God, you're ruining our country! How can you do this to us?' That wears on you after a while." [...]
UPI's Welch said foreign coverage by Slovakian media comes down to a question of money -- or lack of it. "Very few newspapers can afford their own foreign reporters, so they turn to the Slovak news agency. The problem is, the Slovak news agency is terrible."
-- Transcript of the Freedom Forum Conference, "Resetting the Compass: News Coverage of Central and Eastern Europe After the Cold War," November 15, 1993
Matt and I are on our way to Ivana Trump's ball at Prague's opera house. Our tickets say "black tie or tails," so Matt has washed his shoulder-length blond hair, shaved, and put in a conservative earring. He's wearing a rented set of tails with sleeves that reach his thumbnails and a pair of white wing-tips shoes that belong on a putting green. I've spent all day acquiring the last rentable pieces of clothing in Prague that look like a tux: a blue suit that is tight in the crotch, along with a black vest and six-by-three-inch tie, circa '73.
Matt Welch, twenty-four, is covering Ivana's ball for prognosis, an English-language newspaper he helped start a year earlier in Prague. There have been rumors of an anarchist "action" planned for the evening.
We are walking up Wenceslas Square, the cobblestone venue for many of the demonstrations that toppled Czechoslovakia's Communist regime at the end of 1989. Everyone we pass stares, first at Matt's shoes, then at my bow tie. "Dressed like this probably a good invitation to getting the shit kicked out of us," Matt says. He is silent for a while and seems to be calculating the Norman Mailer points he'll earn for a brawl... in a foreign country... in tails.
A crowd has gathered at the top of the square, and man in a trench coat has climbed up on the statue of King Wenceslas himself and is shouting something. Tails flapping, Matt strides into the crowd, looking for someone who speaks English, and soon finds Jiri, a second-year agronomy student in a black leather jacket. Jiri interprets for us: "The rich people at the ball think they are the kings and queens of today." Someone jeers, and Jiri repeats in English, "Words, words, only words." Jiri's friend keeps eyeing our bow ties and muttering. The crowd is ugly and impatient for action....
-- Henry Copeland, in Details Magazine, in a very long profile of me, Prognosis and Prague; April 1992
The article "Prague . . . Land of Opportunity" (Jan. 13) quoted our chief competitor, Lisa Frankenberg, general manager and part-owner of the Prague Post, as follows, referring to her time as advertising director of Prognosis: "We raised $17,000 and spent most of it on rent and alcohol. I know because I kept the books."
We were never asked for a rebuttal or comment but, in fact, Frankenberg's statement is erroneous in all three of its major points:
1. We (actually "we" is a misnomer since Frankenberg was traveling through Europe when most of the money was raised) did not raise $17,000. The start-up of our paper was paid through our personal funds-traveler's checks, credit card loans, a cashed-in high school graduation gift and the insurance payoff from a car wreck-a motley collection which managed to come to some $8,000. Investor money about matched that modest sum, the combo being spent on one computer, one laser printer, software, translators, a lawyer, office rent, utility bills and supplies, support for five people to live and work for four months between the project's conception and our first issue, government fees, and our first printing bill. Our investors have expressed amazement that we have been able to eke out so much from so little.
2. We did not spend "most of it on rent and alcohol." Money spent on personal fun came either from the last of our individual savings or, later, the stipends we allowed ourselves (about $40 a month) after publication. In fact, the charge is ludicrous since $17,000 would buy nearly 17,000 bottles of good Moravian wine or about 55,000 bottles of the best beer in world, more than even Ms. Frankenberg can believe we drank, no matter how licentiously Bohemian she might believe us to be. Regarding rent, we had no office for the first four months of operation and worked out of a series of two-bedroom apartments that held from four to nine of us at any given time.
3. Lisa Frankenberg never kept our books.
Maybe the reporter thought we were just a bunch of cute kids playing with their parents' money. The reality is that we are trying to put out a good paper on a limited budget, and we are serious about it.
editors, Prognosis, Prague
The authors of the above letter have noted that two paragraphs of quotes in the Prague article, speculating on whether Prague of the '90s will turn into Paris of the '20s, were misattributed to Benjamin Widiss and were actually the words of Christopher Scheer. They are correct. The error came about because, inadvertently, I had written Mr. Widiss' name at the top of that page of my interview notes. My apologies to Widiss and Scheer, both of whose comments on young Americans in Prague were thoughtful and accurate.
-- CHARLES T. POWERS
-- Los Angeles Times Letters Page, March 2, 1992
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