How Graphic Should War Coverage Be? Ctd

Last week we ran an Urtak poll of Dish readers regarding the thread and the questions it raises. Below are the results from the roughly 1,000 readers who responded (blue means yes, orange means no):

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But that support dropped a little when it came to graphic images of kids:

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And although readers overwhelmingly support the idea of posting graphic images, they seemed to be sensitive to the impact those images have on the small minority of readers who oppose it:

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Understandably the aversion to seeing graphic images of kids was higher among readers who have children (22% aversion) compared to those who do not (14% aversion). Review all of the poll results here. Another reader continues the thread:

I am a little surprised that most of your readers either object or insist on war photography by listing similar reasons – confronting the reality of a war that we take part in but don’t generally have to look at. It’s surprising to me that no one is really questioning the idea that the photography is in some way allowing us to access this reality. It’s not. It’s a picture. One of the common complaints in theories about photography is that looking at these images actually desensitize the viewer by making them complicit with the act of photography, which is by its nature an act of non-intervention.

It makes the documenting of the event seem to be more important in some contexts than the event itself. Think of photographs of starving children, where the photographer presumably could feed the child but takes a picture instead, arguing that if the world sees the starving child that more children could be saved than the one day of extra life this photographer could provide by feeding. But it also turns the act of witnessing the photography into a feeling that you have done something important by confronting something horrible – when in fact the viewer hasn’t done anything at all, hasn’t even confronted something horrible, has just looked at a picture.

And then there is the argument that says basically the shock of seeing carnage like this wears off, and any sadness or horror the viewer feels on being confronted with the image takes the place of any action or more critical thought that might be engendered by another way of presenting the facts of war. I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it, but I think it’s true that the magazines that first published starving children photos in the ’80s sparked a lot of donations – but not really many after that. The photograph insists on the grinding reality of what it portrays, which suggests that these horrors always exist in the world with or without our participation while also only asking of its viewers that they look at them. All you have to do is view them and you have done your part about recognizing the horrors of war. Now, pat yourself on the back and be sure you look at tomorrow’s pictures from some other bloody conflict.

I don’t really have an opinion about whether or not you post pictures. They make me sad but they don’t give me nightmares. And reading about the conflicts also make me sad. But this isn’t a simple question of whether or not your readers have a moral obligation to see this stuff. It’s a lot more complicated than that, and being aware of those complications can help your viewers steer clear of those traps.

Dish Readers: Who Are You? Ctd

Dish Readers: Who Are You?

Back in December 2011, we posted the Urtak survey seen above as a quick and easy way to get a better sense of you, the typical Dish reader. We first brainstormed questions we’d like most to know about you, and then we allowed you to brainstorm and add your own questions – and answer them. The reaction to the reader-driven survey was overwhelming – responses nearly eclipsed the 1.5 million mark. If you didn’t respond to the questions at the time, or think you may have missed some added by readers, go ahead and click through the quick and easy Yes/No questions above. Analyze the results of the survey here. Some cross-tabs from the Urtak blog:

[Andrew Sullivan’s] readers under the age of 35 are less likely to have cried in response to a Dish post. Cold-hearted youth! His married readers would be less interested in attending an annual conference of Dish readers. His Jewish readers are almost three times more likely than their gentile counterparts to have attended Ivy League colleges. His Republican-voting readers are more likely to have emailed him. And his gun-owning readers are more likely to make more than $100,000/year.

Readers also sifted through the data:

I was shocked to find out that FIFTY percent of your readers who took your poll were atheists like me. I’ve always respected your Catholicism and read every word of your debate with Sam Harris years ago, but I think that this is living proof that there are a lot of nameless, faceless, intelligent skeptics out there – many of whom are aligned with you on most other important issues. I think it just goes to show how independent and anomalous you are.

Well, that’s a nice way to put it. Another writes:

I suspect you already knew the rough answer to this question, but it still must be jarring to see that 78% of Dish readers answered yes when asked “do you consider yourself a liberal?” while only 9% answered yes when asked “do you consider yourself a political conservative?” As you know, I’m one of those liberals, tried and true. I think people like me read The Dish because we’re craving an actual intelligent, well-reasoned political opponent. A point of view based in reality but skeptical of liberal political thought. We want to have real political arguments, but they’re impossible to have with know-nothing movement conservatives.  The Dish is where we come to grapple with the patriotic, intelligent, small-c conservative, loyal opposition we wish we could get from the GOP.

Another:

Holy cats, Andrew. The survey of your readership is an eye-opener in many ways, but my greatest take-away from the results so far is: I am one of only 22% of your readers who is female, and the rest of your readership appears to be largely comprised of straight men around my age, a good percentage of whom are unmarried, non-religious, liberal, and voted for Obama. And many of them have dogs!

You’re damn straight I’d come to that annual gathering …

Explore the data for yourself here. Thanks again to all our readers who took a few minutes to answer and submit questions. The most original submission among them:

Would you pay to see Andrew shave his beard live on The Dish with proceeds going to “cure” Marcus Bachmann?

Where Are The Female Dish Fans? Ctd

Thanks for the all words of support from female readers in the in-tray. Unfiltered feedback on our Facebook page. A reader writes:

I am a stay-at-home mom and a political junkie, two things that don’t always go together.  You are one of my main sources of political and international news (and not “just the political stuff”, as your love of the Pet Shop Boys is one of my favorite things about you). I don’t know why your site skews more male than female.  Many women my age (mid-40s) seem so overwhelmed with kids, jobs, carpools, care of elderly parents, that they just don’t seem to take the time to delve deeper than listening to NPR on the way to the next soccer practice, or watching a snippet of the Today show while making the kids’ sack lunches.

Another writes:

Keeping with stereotypes, your blog is perfect for people at office jobs to take breaks during their monotonous day. Maybe a majority these types of workers are men?  I am a student now, but I was the most well-read on current events when I worked in investment banking and consulting (ugh – talk about monotony).

Another dispenses some tough love:

Screen shot 2012-03-19 at 7.57.39 PMI am a woman, and I have been following you for many years – chasing you, more like – from the New Republic, to your original blog, to Time, to the Atlantic, and now to the Daily Beast. I love you, and I do not say that lightly. Your impact on my short-term thinking and long-term world view is more influential than that of my parents, my women’s college BFFs, and my husband.  I would love to meet you someday, but I know it would be sort of like meeting Barack Obama – I probably just start to weep and embarrass myself, so let’s don’t, I guess.

All of that said, if you truly have no awareness of why most women are not as taken with you as I am, then I believe you lack some critical self-awareness.

Andrew, you can be really mean, and your rhetoric concerning certain prominent women – however dreadful they can be – is not the kind of language that most women appreciate. When I think of how you have described the likes of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi, and Ann Coulter over the years, I cannot believe the names you have called them. The words that come to mind now are “monster” and “unhinged” – but you have used far worse. And though you have sheepishly come around regarding Hillary, you have done so only mildly. I can’t think of any women, beyond Margaret Thatcher and Tina Brown, perhaps, about whom the nice things you have to say match in degree the venom you have directed at those others (perhaps you give them extra credit for being British).

Also, the pains that you have taken to distinguish gay men from lesbians seems a bit fraught. My impression is that, as a group, the lesbians are not sufficiently attentive to their looks, in your opinion, and so you don’t care to be compared to such a dowdy bunch. And have you ever called attention to a great popular song performed by a woman? Maybe, but I can’t think of one. You like the dudes. These are just some examples.

I think you should just admit it: You just aren’t that into women.

Marriage equality, my two-decade crusade, has been supported by female couples more fervently than by male ones. And my venom is obviously gender-neutral. Think of what I have said about Dick Cheney for example compared with Condi Rice. But I think being somehow nicer to women in public life is condescending. Another reader:

I don’t think the lack of female readers has anything to do with the site’s content or your own sensibility.  I think it reflects a very common pattern in the political blogosphere.  It is a surprisingly male world, with a few notable exceptions.  I am an avid consumer of political news on the net.  It is clear that male voices dominate the political discourse on the web.  But that is not surprising.  Male voices dominate the media and politics itself, although not as much as in the past.

I also tend to spend more time than I probably should reading the comments threads on the various sites.  I can assure you that men dominate these threads too.  If you do have a large percentage of women who contact you, that’s a good sign.  Interestingly, it might be because you DON’T publish comments.

I don’t want to generalize from a single example – me – but I often start to write a comment on a thread, but then, about halfway through, I say, nah, I don’t think this is “good enough” or “original enough” or “interesting enough” or something or other.  This hesitation does not seem to affect the largely male commentariat.

Please don’t think I’m a shrinking violet.  Indeed I am a retired professor who went to an Ivy League school in a male dominated field at a time when women didn’t go to graduate school.  And I have always had a reputation for speaking my mind.  But I wonder if many women are still not as interested in being controversialists, if they just don’t think it’s worth the nastiness that can sometimes accompany putting their ideas forward in the wild and wooly blogosphere.

Your blog is so very personal.  I really hope you keep it that way.

The above screenshot was taken from the results of our reader-centric survey (the exact percentage of surveyed females is 22 percent, from a sample of 26,000 readers). Some interesting findings: 50 percent of female readers have emailed the Dish, compared to 58 percent of male readers; 18 percent of female emailers have had something posted, compared to 21 percent for men; 66 percent of female readers read the Dish as their primary blog, compared to 71 percent of male readers; 69 percent of female readers agree with me most of the time, compared to 75 percent of men; 20 percent of female readers have been so mad at me that they stopped reading the Dish for a day or more, compared to 17 percent of male readers; 61 percent of female readers have cried in reaction to a post, compared to 34 percent of male readers; 27 percent of female readers watch South Park, compared to 46 percent of male readers.

Dish Readers: Who Are You? Ctd

Dish Readers: Who Are You?

Look above to see the new questions available in our reader survey (such as "Did you support the Iraq War in 2003?" and "Do you have a beard, or prefer men who do?"). The Urtak blog digs into the cross-tabs:

[Andrew Sullivan's] readers under the age of 35 are less likely to have cried in response to a Dish post. Cold-hearted youth!

His married readers would be less interested in attending an annual conference of Dish readers.

His Jewish readers are almost three times more likely than their gentile counterparts to have attended Ivy League colleges.

His Republican-voting readers are more likely to have emailed him.

And his gun-owning readers are more likely to make more than $100,000/year.

Readers are also sifting through the data:

I was shocked to find out that FIFTY percent of your readers who took your poll were atheists like me.

I've always respected your Catholicism and read every word of your debate with Sam Harris years ago, but I think that this is living proof that there are a lot of nameless, faceless, intelligent skeptics out there – many of whom are aligned with you on most other important issues. I think it just goes to show how independent and anomalous you are.

Well, that's a nice way to put it. Another writes:

I suspect you already knew the rough answer to this question, but it still must be jarring to see that 78% of Dish readers answered yes when asked "do you consider yourself a liberal?" while only 9% answered yes when asked "do you consider yourself a political conservative?" As you know, I'm one of those liberals, tried and true. I think people like me read The Dish because we're craving an actual intelligent, well-reasoned political opponent. A point of view based in reality but skeptical of liberal political thought. We want to have real political arguments, but they're impossible to have with know-nothing movement conservatives.  The Dish is where we come to grapple with the patriotic, intelligent, small-c conservative, loyal opposition we wish we could get from the GOP.

Another reader:

Holy cats, Andrew. The survey of your readership is an eye-opener in many ways, but my greatest take-away from the results so far is: I am one of only 22% of your readers who is female, and the rest of your readership appears to be largely comprised of straight men around my age, a good percentage of whom are unmarried, non-religious, liberal, and voted for Obama. And many of them have dogs!

You’re damn straight I'd come to that annual gathering …

Explore the data for yourself here. A big thanks to all our readers who took a few minutes to answer and submit questions. The most original submission:

Would you pay to see Andrew shave his beard live on The Dish with proceeds going to "cure" Marcus Bachmann?

Dish Readers: Who Are You? Ctd

Dish Readers: Who Are You?

The reaction to our reader-driven survey has been overwhelming – responses are steadily approaching the one million mark. Even if you've already participated, there are likely new questions from readers waiting for you above, so check it out. For those of you seeing the survey for the first time, we explain it here. A reader writes:

I think the reason you're getting so many responses is that your software (Urtak?) is the best I've ever seen. I get one or two surveys per week from companies I do business with and ignore nearly all of them, because I'm tired of being asked ridiculously complicated questions about what is important to me (always with way more dynamic range than is necessary, like from 1 to 10 when probably "not at all", "a little", or "a lot" would be enough). The yes/no format is refreshing.

Urtak's engaging and easy-to-use interface is why we are allowing the number of questions to reach 50 and beyond. Such a large number of questions on a typical survey would be overwhelming to answer all at once, especially multiple choice. More on Urtak's approach to polling here. There are more reasons it works for us:

Comment boards are a terrible place. Anonymous users tear apart authors and each other. … Urtak, one of the 12 summer TechStars NYC startups, thinks it has a solution. Instead of comments, Urtak wants users to leave and answer questions. Founder Marc Lizoain says he's seen user engagement with comment boards increase 70% when publishers use Urtak. … "Rather than having 10 or 20 comments on an article, we're seeing hundreds of people answer questions," says Lizoain.  "Questions help direct online discussions."

More from Lizoain here. I've been absorbing the data and was surprised in a few ways. More later. But three quarters of a million individual responses to questions? It's the best Christmas present a blogger could ask for. And we'll be thinking of using Urtak some more in the future.

Dish Readers: Who Are You? Ctd

[Re-posted from earlier today]

A quick update on the results of our fun little survey: More than 150,000 500,000 responses within the first two ten hours alone – and rapidly rising. A big thanks to the hundreds of readers who have been submitting questions, but for now we are freezing the number of selected ones at 42 49, in order to give readers a chance to catch up with new ones. So even if you already answered the survey, there are new questions waiting for you. Such as:

Do you own a gun?

Do you have a parent who regularly watches Fox News?

Are you either studying at or employed by a college/university?

Have you ever used an illegal drug other than pot?

Answer those questions and many more here. Explore and compare the results here.