TO: Bill Keller, New York Times
FROM: Jeff Jarvis, blogger
RE: The Times’ blog problems and an invitation
: I’m going to end this with an open invitation to Bill Keller, editor of The New York Times. But first….
The New York Times media beat reporters got beaten badly on the Eason Jordan story — by [gasp] weblogs and cable news — and so how do they react? By catching up their readers on what they missed? Of course not. They react by lashing out at weblogs.
This morning’s story by Katharine Q. Seelye, Jacques Steinberg, and David F. Gallagher — under the headline, “Bloggers as News Media Trophy Hunters” — is another example of the disdain in which many quarters of The Times — not all — hold citizens’ media.
This being The Times, many of the slaps are subtle. When they quote Edward Morrissey of Captains Quarter, who stayed on top of the Jordan story, they make a point of saying he is “a call center manager who lives near Minneapolis” Read: “He’s not one of us. He’s not a real journalist.”
When they acknowledge that Jordan was forced out, they say:
Some of those most familiar with Mr. Jordan’s situation emphasized, in interviews over the weekend, that his resignation should not be read solely as a function of the heat that CNN had been receiving on the Internet, where thousands of messages, many of them from conservatives, had been posted.
I think they mean that to be read: “The bloggers didn’t do this; they can’t take credit for this head; that’s our job to behead the powerful; we’re The Times.” But I read it this way: “There’s much more to the Jordan story that The Times also missed.”
But some of the story is hardly subtle. When it comes to quoting media bloggers, they ignore the wise and balanced writings of Jay Rosen on the story and instead, quote the poison-pen letter sent to Rosen by big-media veteran Steve Lovelady: “The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail.”
And, yes, they quote me — from the blog; they did not phone or email me for specific comment — and they pick that quote carefully:
But while the bloggers are feeling empowered, some in their ranks are openly questioning where they are headed. One was Jeff Jarvis, the head of the Internet arm of Advance Publications, who publishes a blog at buzzmachine.com. Mr. Jarvis said bloggers should keep their real target in mind. “I wish our goal were not taking off heads but digging up truth,” he cautioned.
And, of course, that makes it look as if I’m wringing my hands over the morals of my fellow bloggers when, in fact, I’m worried about precisely what The Times is doing here: using this episode to call us a lynch mob. Here’s what I said after that line:
We don’t want to be positioned as the news lynch mob — which is where a radio interview yesterday tried to go — but as the press of the people. Of course, big media can be a lynch mob, too. But that doesn’t mean it’s an example we should follow.
What a handy ‘snip.’
The Times also tries to subtly keep alive Jordan’s assertion on military targeting journalists with this line:
Through the latest uproar, the substance of Mr. Jordan’s initial assertion about the military targeting journalists was largely lost.
Only problem is, they — like we — still do not know the “substance of Mr. Jordan’s initial assertion” because we don’t have the tape from Davos and they didn’t even interview Jordan.
And there’s one more subtle dig:
The online attack of Mr. Jordan, particularly among conservative commentators, appeared to gain momentum when they were seized on by other conservative outlets. A report on the National Review Web site was followed by editorials in The Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as by a column in The New York Post by Michelle Malkin (a contributor for Fox News, CNN’s rival).
Read: “Nobody would pay attention to this story if it weren’t picked up by real papers.” Also read: “Blogs are a conservative lynch mob.”
But, of course, what this doesn’t say is that the story was reported by the publication that used to be The Times’ nemesis before citizens’ media and cable news came along: The Washington Post. It was reported there by Howard Kurtz even though he had to navigate the conflict of interest of being a CNN employee. (Note, by the way, that Kurtz was also the person who brought the discussion to CNN’s air yesterday and let it be known that I felt free to say anything about the story, the network, and Jordan there and it was made clear that we would be emphasizing Jordan as the major part of our discussion.) You’d think that The Times would have beaten Kurtz to the story. But they were beaten by the Post, blogs, cable news — oh, the shame; oh, the humiliation — and why: Because they dismissed this as the mutterings of a rabble, not the news judgment of the people.
Now add this to Sarah Boxer’s horrendous unjournalism about Iraqi bloggers and other feature stories about bloggers without lives and many an offhand slap and it is clear that:
The Times has blog issues. So…
TO: Bill Keller, New York Times
FROM: Jeff Jarvis, blogger
RE: An open invitation
I propose that we hold a one-day meeting of webloggers and Times editors and reporters to discover how the interests of both groups are aligned and how we can work together to improve news.
The problem, Mr. Keller, is that many of your reporters and editors hold citizens’ media in obvious disdain that has become all too public in your pages. This means that they are slapping the public you would serve and, in fact, your own readers: people who still read news. This also means that they are missing stories — witness this one. They are missing the opportunity to correct stories and do better reporting — witness Boxer’s story. They are doing The Times and its reputation in this new medium and with the next generation no favors. That is not true of everyone in the paper, of course; we have seen cases of The Times getting ideas and reporting from blogs and listening to the interests of the public through them. But that is clearly not true in other quarters.
So let’s get some Times journalists and citizen journalists together in a room.
The agenda is quite simple:
1. Let’s spend a few hours letting each group vent at the other to get over it.
2. Then let’s explore our common interests — quite simply, informing the public, acting as the people’s watch on authority, getting to the truth, and creating a better-informed democracy.
3. Finally, let’s investigate the ways that citizens’ media and professional media can help each other find stories and find the truth and listen to the public and extend the eyes and ears of The Times and its journalists in ways never possible before.
If we do this right, the reporters and the bloggers will learn that the “other side” is not another side at all; this isn’t about monoliths and mobs but about good people trying hard to do the right thing. Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson spent a few days at Harvard in a room with bloggers and didn’t seem to come off any worse for the wear; I think she and the bloggers came away, instead, with better understanding and respect.
So how about it, Mr. Keller? We’ll bring the bagels, you bring the sandwiches.
: Here’s Michele Malkin’s roundup of dino reaction.
: The Wall Street Journal editorializes, making the assumption that this is the only reason Jordan is out (I don’t believe we know that part of the story at all):
That may be old-fashioned damage control. But it does not speak well of CNN that it apparently allowed itself to be stampeded by this Internet and talk-show crew. Of course the network must be responsive to its audience and ratings. But it has other obligations, too, chief among them to show the good judgment and sense of proportion that distinguishes professional journalism from the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs.