Posts from February 15, 2005

The Mob Times

The Mob Times

: I thought we’d be moving past l’affaires’ Jordan and “Gannon” today — I’m jealous of Jay Rosen’s certainty when he headlined his latest good post “Closing Thoughts on the Resignation of Eason Jordan” — but there is more to say about this story, in part because some are trying to make blogs the story rather than Jordan or the White House or the powerful.

Some are trying to call blogs a “lynch mob.” Here’s what I said in reply to that yesterday on MSNBC:

If seeking truth from power is the action of a lynch mob, then all of journalism is a lynch mob and welcome to it.

We’ve also heard efforts to call this “McCarthyism.”

Well now, that’s ludicrous on so many levels, even the definitional: If anyone practiced that thankfully dead art, it could be argued it was Jordan because he as much as held up an unseen piece of paper and said, I have a list; he said he knew something we didn’t. He then backtracked and backtracked again because he was questioned by people who demanded to know what he said and what he knew. If a tough reporter did that, would it be “McCarthyism” or “journalism.” It’s journalism, people.

Now here’s Hardblogger calling bloggers — fellow bloggers, it would seem by the title, no? — the “Taliban of the American media” and the “Gang of Four.” This comes from Chris Matthews’ show called Hardball where the goal is to ask hard questions of power. If that’s journalism, so is this, eh?

At home, I have an old post that William Randolph Hearst hung on the walls of his newsrooms to remind his reporters of their jobs; I’ll dig it up and quote it tomorrow. For now, though, etch this in brass and hang it on the newsroom — and J-school — wall:

Welcome to the new world of journalism, where every witness to news can report the news, thanks to the internet; where every citizen can question the powerful, thanks to the internet; where every speaker can be a pundit, thanks to the internet. Journalism is no longer the closed society of the gatekeepers. Journalism can no longer just lecture; now it must listen. News is freed from the limitations of paper and schedules and reporters’ pens. Journalists should welcome the help, for journalists should believe that more information yields a more informed society and that is our goal.

So why are some of these journalists attacking the bloggers with such spittle and spite, with the kind of invective they usually try to keep out of their columns (Steve Lovelady called us not just a lynch mob but “salivating morons,” stooping to the level of intelligence, subtlety, nuance, and articulation of an Oliver Willis fuss)? Yes, it’s jealousy. Yes, it’s fear. But it’s also truly about not understanding how this world could possibly operate. These are the people who used to control the news and they think it’s now uncontrolled; they think that’s bad. Listen to Lovelady after he took his meds:

But it’s no longer the Jeff Jarvises or the David Gergens or Journal editorial writers who drive these matters to a conclusion. It’s the headless mob.

Some think that’s a good thing, others see anarchy unloosed. As for us, we’re with Gergen and the Wall Street Journal editorial writer. This one is not a case of the wisdom of crowds; it’s a case of the madness of crowds.

You got it reversed, my friend. The head isn’t the journalists. The head isn’t the politicians. The head is the people.

We work for the public. We serve the public. The public is our boss. Remember?

If you don’t believe the public is capable of that — if you don’t believe in the wisdom of the crowd — then (I’ve said it before and, be warned, I’ll say it again) you don’t believe in democracy or free markets or reformed religion or art. If you think you’re smarter and better than the people, you set yourself up for a fall — especially today, when the people own the press.

Are there bloggers who get so mad they issue spittle and spite? Sure (heck, look at Lovelady himself). But are all bloggers like that? Do you judge the society by its worst? There are journalists who make mistakes and even lie and cheat. Do you judge the profession by its worst? Are there New Yorkers who murder? Do you judge the city by its worst? Out of fear, you do.

If anyone’s going too far these days, I think it is the few — and I emphasize few — who are still digging to destroy “Gannon” after he’s already toast (I do not approve of the old-style tabloid vindictiveness going on in some of the links in the comments). They forget that their real target is not this jerk, “Gannon.” It is the White House. Remember: Question the powerful.

In the case of Jordan, we bloggers questioned the powerful and apparently the powerful didn’t have an answer; if they had, CNN would not have gotten rid of him. Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire — but not necessarily from lynch-mob torches.

Should we bloggers and we journalists keep watch on each other to improve the quality of discourse and the reliability of the reporting? You bet. That’s what these journalists are trying to do with bloggers. And that’s what the bloggers were trying to do with CNN.

But I can’t resist noting whose language — lynch mob, McCarthyism, Taliban, Gang of Four, morons — was the more fiery and who sounded more like a lynch mob.

: See also: Howard Kurtz: “The power of the blogosphere, I’d suggest, is not in raw numbers but in ideas that garner attention.”

: See also: Charlie Madigan in the Chicago Tribune:

Shut up with your whining and appreciate the fact that after generations of stagnation, something new has arrived….

So, they all get to climb up on a pedestal now and thump their chests and prounounce, “Got another one!”

This isn’t going to stop and I would argue, even more uncomfortably, that it shouldn’t.

What new media gets to do now is exactly what old media got to do back when it was new media, which is work out how it is going to be.

[via Glenn]

: LATER: Roger L. Simon does a Googlejuice audit. Just to be fair, the other Jeff Jarvises include a jazz musician and a tourism somethingorother in Australia. I, of course, like to believe I am the Jeff Jarvis.