At the Star-Ledger’s version of Comment is Free/Huffington Post, NJVoices, Gov. Jon Corzine’s former girlfriend, Carla Katz, a union official, went on the attack against a Ledger reporter who has been dogging her.
Editor & Publisher, sadly, is confused about the paper having Katz blog: “So it seemed at least a bit odd when The Star-Ledger of Newark, the state’s largest newspaper, gave Katz a blog this past summer as part of its new NJ Voices program, which offers blog space to non-newspaper people.” I don’t see anything odd about it at all. Isn’t this somebody you’d want to hear from? Isn’t it the paper’s job to find a way to have her be heard? Isn’t the blog a new opportunity to do that? Doesn’t this break open the closed control of the presses? And what the hell, it’s fun when something erupts:
:But last Friday, the blog burst forth with controversy when Katz took on Star-Ledger reporter Josh Margolin, one of the paper’s top statehouse scribes. She wrote that he was “downright obsessed” with covering her and attacked him for stories such as his recent article about dissident union leaders filing charge to have Katz ousted for allegedly misappropriating funds.
“…no other union leader’s or union’s internal local drama (and trust me, we all have internal drama) gets consistently and continuously plastered across the pages of the Ledger, almost all with Josh’s byline,” Katz wrote. “It is more than slightly disconcerting to see the comparatively normal internal drama of our local covered in the paper with the same intensity of the Yankees recent quest for a new manager.”
Katz eventually asked readers to send her stories about Margolin, who was among the reporters honored in 2005 when the paper received a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of former governor James McGreevey’s resignation.
“So, I was thinking that if the Ledger is going to write soooooo much about me and the Local that I should even the playing field and, well, write about Josh. The Josh chronicles,” she stated. “So folks, send me your best Josh Margolin stories. I’ll keep them anonymous unless they are Pulitzer material. And I promise, I won’t hold a grudge.”
Margolin told E&P he has no problem with Katz having a blog or criticizing him: “Once anyone is given the space to blog, the call is clear, they have the right to say what they want to say.”
Star-Ledger Editor Jim Willse said he had invited Katz to blog on the site because “she has opinions about a range of matters just as her fellow bloggers do that are of interest.” He said the Margolin posting was not edited, although he expressed it made him “a little uncomfortable.”
“It is a bit of uncharted territory,” he admitted. “But if you are going to invite someone to write commentary on a blog, you have to let nature take its course.”
Compare that with the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s attitude toward an open conversation, quoting their ombudsman, Ted Diadiun: “This is a story about how The Plain Dealer got itself spattered by some primordial ooze last week.” Bloggers being the ooze. They see this as a story of control: “[Political blog] Wide Open debuted in September, and [Plain Dealer online editor] Dubail sat back to watch the fun. For his trouble, he wound up being called a “moron” in his own brainchild the second day out, when one of his bloggers linked to an unflattering story about the paper that had been in one of the city’s alternative weeklies. But in general, the blog did what he wanted it to do.” He concludes:
But that’s the way things work in the blog world: “Yellow Dog Sammy” [the blogger ejected for contributing to a candidate] rejects the ingrained ethics of the newspaper world, preferring to read editors’ minds and create his own reality. Other bloggers pick that up and repeat it as gospel, and suddenly we begin getting questions from all over the country about why we’re letting Steve LaTourette run the newspaper.
No, that’s the newspaper imposing its view on the public, calling bloggers unethical and refusing to acknowledge their ethics of involvement and transparency. The paper’s refusing to learn anything new, to see other worldviews. Primordial ooze, indeed.
(Full disclosure: I worked with both papers as president of Advance.net and still consult for the Ledger , where I pushed the start of NJVoices.)