After the nya-nyas

After the nya-nyas
: Brian Linse thinks the blog discussion of the fall of Howell Raines has been as thin and unsatisfying as melted decaf iced coffee.

He’s right. Most are so busy doing the boogaloo on Raines’ grave that they are not taking a serious look at the serious impact of a crisis of leadership at what can be seen as the single most important outlet for news in the world (considering, as Linse points out, that every other major news organization follows the Times’ lead).

I’ve said before that I worry less about the impact on the Times — there’ll always be a Times — and more about other outlets, which will become safer and thus duller and thus less read and thus less important. Perhaps that’s part of the reason the grave-dancers are doing that cha-cha; they think that if the big news outlets are diminished, they are enhanced. But that’s wrong; the competitor in the news business isn’t other news, it’s other, more fun things to watch and do. And if one big purveyor of news suffers in credibility or compelling interest, all news suffers. In this pond, falling water grounds all boats.

: UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds answers the call with specific and constructive suggestions for improving journalism, PR (post Raines). He also tweaks Brian Linse (above) in the comments (below).

: Dan Gillmor says blogs have been taking “WAY” too much credit for the fall of Raines.

  • I guess I’d be more impressed with Brian’s call for reasoned debate if the post below that one didn’t describe NRO this way: “Can anyone argue that this pathetic site is now anything more than a convenient meeting place for neocon circle jerks where K-Lo usually has the biggest dick?”

  • Kim

    I have a few questions. Are you mad at the dancing? Or are you mad at Andrew? Or are you mad the times has been measured, weighed and been found wanting? Or are you mad that we do not really understand the ramifications of their resigning?
    I, for one, am sick of lies and spin. (from big media and bloggers) Fluff I can handle but not private agendas under the guise of accredited reporting. And if not lies then accountability. Where in the name God is the accountability? They had a job. They didn’t perform well. They resigned under direct public pressure. What’s the problem?

  • tom scott

    I read the professor’s criticism as more than mischievous grin-sparkle in the eye, aww shucks, should’na done it remark. I thought it was a well deserved admonishment. Which brings up the point: you haven’t been shy about criticizing others for their take on the NYT. Why were you so reluctant, while referencing Brian, to criticize his over the top comments?

  • Richard A. Heddleson

    You write: “considering, as Linse points out, that every other major news organization follows the Times’ lead.”
    Does this mean that Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal follow the Times’ lead or that they are not a major news organization? I suppose if I leaned in a different direction I might wonder the same about Reuters or AFP. The question is not entirely tongue in cheek as I am curious about your perception of the news herd from the inside. Was the Times influence really that strong?

  • Louwand

    Thoughts, various:
    1. Dan Gillmor is right on. Bloggers take too much credit for a lot of things. The NYT imbroglio, and the subsequent managerial shakeup, is one of them.
    2. In the post you linked, Glenn Reynolds argues for more feedback, transparency and accountability at the NYT. Yet he himself is among an increasingly small minority of bloggers who haven’t instituted public comments systems. Even Andrew Sullivan maintains a letters page, at least.
    3. Because Reynolds doesn’t offer comments capability, we have to leave them in other places — like Jeff Jarvis’ site — when we want to say things like: Does Reynolds realize how silly he sounds when he refers to Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as “Pinch”? That kind of familiar, breezy tone is fine for the Jarvises or Kauses of the world, who have actually worked in big media or as professional media critics. With those guys, there’s an established sense of access already in place. The nickname “Pinch” is jargon that’s part of their world.
    When Reynolds uses it — a nickname he likely had never heard until this latest brouhaha — there’s something presumptuous-sounding about it. Or fake. Or something other adjective I can’t quite put my finger on. Bottom line: Glenn Reynolds isn’t part of the club. I’m not either… but I don’t pretend to be.
    ‘Tis all.

  • I’m not sure what my NRO post has to do with my point about the Raines/NYT stoy (except that the NRO post is funnier). In fact, there is a consistant theme, which is that journalists who should be doing more serious work are indulging themselves. The bloggers I called out are indulging in grave dancing, and the good people of NRO are indulging in Hillarymania. Whereas, I, B. Loren Linse, am just a rogue blogger, filmmaker, and famously obnoxious bombastic liberal asshole who’s bored with it all.

  • Brian: Hey, you’re just having fun on your blog — but why can’t the rest of us have fun on ours? You’re not trying to turn us into professionals or something, are you?
    Louwand: The “club?” Well, I was on Larry King, O’Reilly and Newshour before InstaPundit, though I don’t know if that counts, but surely it’s enough to get me a Junior Member decoder ring in the Pundits Club. And the Times did a full-pager on me back in 1989. I don’t know if that makes me a member of whatever the club is. But every time the Times has profiled me, the reporter acts as if I’m getting some huge, unprecedented honor as they take notice of a hick in Knoxville, and seems surprised — because they didn’t bother to check — that I’ve been profiled in their paper before. So who’s overfamiliar here?
    And the Times archives are crappy enough that I had to fax a copy of the 1989 profile to the last guy, whose name I won’t mention because it’s not his fault, because even after I told him about it he couldn’t find the piece. In fact, he acted as if he doubted me until I sent him a copy. So I think I’m entitled to twit the Times and its publisher for cheapness.

  • Yeah, Glenn, you’re right. I was just thinking last night before I fell asleep and after I’d said my prayers, “…and please, Baby Jesus, let Glenn Reynolds have more fun with his blog”
    BTW, let’s not gloss over the last graph of my post in which I noted that I’ve been dubious of the NYT for a long time. It is certainly no sacred institution to me. Also BTW, my post stated that it was the drum major for TV news coverage. I never suggested that the WSJ followed it. I think a case can be made that many smaller market papers do, however.

  • Glenn, you are way more professional than you give yourself credit for. Indeed, when you demand accountability from the Times while you yourself have fun with outsourced character sniping and misleading accusations, I sometimes wonder how it is you’re not already the top guy at a major newspaper or TV news operation. Still, I’m sure you’ll get your just due eventually: cream rises to the top!

  • Ooh! Sniping at Glenn Reynolds! Such fun! And you wonder why he doesn’t have his comments enabled on his blog. (He’s done it for occasional posts, and the results have been… lets say that all comment forums seem to deteriorate after a certain number of posts into flame-parties, and his site is no exception.) And Louwand: he does get email, and often posts them and his replies on his site. For what it’s worth.
    To get back to what I thought was the subject at hand, I think all of the NYT’s problems stem from the attitude inherent in this phrase of Jeff’s: “…what can be seen as the single most important outlet for news in the world.” I thought Reuters or Associated Press fulfilled that fuction… but I know little of the press world. What I do know is that some responsibilities are too heavy for an organization to bear, especially if they are too self-coscious about it, as the New York Times seemed to be from what Glenn’s experience with them seems to bear out. (Sorry for the bad grammar but I’m sick and have only had one cup of coffee. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

  • I’d love to contribute to the Reynolds snarkfest, but I agree with Andrea that the NYT is the more useful subject.
    Self-consciousness aside, the Times has bigger and more chronic journalistic problems than those hyped by obsessive bloggers griping over how the placement of this comma or that adjective betrays a liberal bias, or similar minutiae. And as much as Jeff may wish they could be localized onto Jayson Blair, they can’t.
    The Judith Miller debacle played a role in Raines’ fall, too, and is representative of a problem that was a key factor in Blair’s rise at the NYT as well. The same problem helped the NYT totally botch the Wen Ho Lee story and much of the “Clinton scandals” when Joe Lelyveld was the executive editor, so Raines’ exit isn’t likely to change things.

  • And when Glenn changed the subject at hand from the NY Times’ problems to Brian’s post about NRO, you didn’t jump in because why, Andrea?

  • Because I didn’t give a shit, Greg. Your obsessions (or Linse’s, or Reynolds’, or the National Review’s) are not mine.

  • I keep looking for my footprints on those graves Brian keeps referring to, but I’ve been about as successful as a weapons inspector in Iraq….

  • It just occurred to me that maybe Greg thought I really meant it when I said “Ooh! Sniping at Glenn Reynolds! Such fun!” Must remember to use my patented This Is Sarcasm Emoticons™.

  • Toucan Spam

    For the right-leaning pundits, bloggers et al. who have engaged in the anti-Times crusade these past few months, there could be an unhappy result:
    The Times will be stronger than ever.
    Here’s the deal: It’s likely the paper will get itself all fixed up. The problems will be successfully dealt with — unscrupulous reporters will be gone, byline issues will be resolved, management will slip into a good groove.
    And in the meantime, this whole brouhaha will have managed to solidify the paper’s status as the most important media institution in the world. That’s because all the attention from the “anti” folks — among whom I count myself — has pivoted on a single if unspoken premise: that the New York Times is worthy of so much concern.
    In other words, when the dust clears, the pesky problems everybody bitched about will have been dealt with. But that underlying premise will not only remain, it will have been strengthened, if unwittingly so.
    If the paper’s haters want it to go away, or to have its power diluted, their best plan of attack would have been to ignore it. They needed to show that the New York Times doesn’t matter. Not that it matters this much.