The interview of the dinosaurs

The interview of the dinosaurs

: There will be many snarking links — all deservedly nasty, I’m sure — to Adam Clayton Powell III’s interview with NY Times technology writer John Markoff at OJR trying to dismiss weblogs. The question is as bad as the answer:

Q: Well, you’ve touched on a really central concern of a lot of people — over the last 10 years, if not longer — particularly among journalists who, I guess you could say, are more traditional, who look ahead and see all these pitfalls that are coming — of people who suddenly start creating content who don’t have the same standards as, well, The New York Times. Do you see that as an issue or are we beyond that now?

Pitfalls? That’s a fine way to frame the question, Mr. Powell. No leading, no prejudice, no bias there, eh?

How about the opportunity this presents: More people giving us more information from more perspectives. If you cared about informing the public, you’d see the benefit in that. Pitfall, indeed. Now Markoff spouts:

JM: Well, I’m of two minds. I certainly can see that scenario, where all these new technologies may only be good enough to destroy all the old standards but not create something better to replace them with. I think that’s certainly one scenario.

Pardon me for interrupting, but that made no frigging sense whatsoever. Can you parse that for me, Mr. Markoff? Or do you need an editor to speak sense? How do new standards “destroy” old standards? Something won’t become a “standard” unless it is accepted by someone in power — the publishers or the audiences. This isn’t a game of PacMan.

The other possibility right now — it sometimes seems we have a world full of bloggers and that blogging is the future of journalism, or at least that’s what the bloggers argue, and to my mind, it’s not clear yet whether blogging is anything more than CB radio.

The reference is as old-farty and out-of-date as the sentiment. It’s clear that Markoff isn’t reading weblogs and doesn’t know what’s there.

Hey, fool, that’s your audience talking there. You should want to listen to what they have to say. You are, after all, spending your living writing for them. If you were a reporter worth a damn, you’d care to know what the marketplace cares about. But, no, you’re the mighty NYT guy. You don’t need no stinking audience. You don’t need ears. You only need a mouth.

And, you know, give it five or 10 years and see if any institutions emerge out of it. It’s possible that in the end there may be some small subset of people who find a livelihood out of it and that the rest of the people will find that, you know, keeping their diaries online is not the most useful thing to with their time.

Well isn’t that condescending. “Keeping their diaries online.” Again, it’s clear that the guy hasn’t read them. I tell you what I eat only once a month (at Burger King … and I’ll have a post later today on that new mustard chicken sandwich, by the way). The rest of the time, we tend to talk about, oh, politics, war, society, technology, religion… just the kinds of things that the New York Times tries to put on its front frigging page.

When I tell that to people

  • How can such a ignorant person work at the biggest newspaper in the world, Jeff? This tripe coming from a man whose newspaper was only caught on fundamental errors and gross inaccuracies by the very medium he derides!
    I wonder if you think that journalism sometimes attracts the wrong kind of people (this makes me wary of entering the profession). If so, could blogging perhaps be attracting a less-ambitious more intelligent crowd? Where’s Gallup when you need it?

  • Bravo, Jeff!

  • It might be my flyover country bias speaking, but I’m more astonished by displays of intelligence and tact on the part of a NYT staffer than the reverse.
    Jeff, you might want to run a spellchecker over fisking articles prior to posting. I rather think that fiskings ought to be like Caesar’s wife – above reproach. I mean, “Curiousity”?
    Arby’s new chicken, bacon and swiss sandwich isn’t too bad. But then, I liked their pot roast sandwich, so YMMV.

  • Good Post Jeff!
    I personally read more blogs than newspapers (online or the actual paper) to get my dose of news each day. I like having somebody’s input on news reports and that is exactly the great thing about blogs.
    Of course, there are blogs that are not as informative as a newspaper, but that does not mean that no blog is.

  • tom

    I’m going to do something unthinkable in the blogosphere: I’m going to speak well of a reporter for the New York Times. Markoff may have hit us where it hurts with his wisecracks about bloggers, but he’s a solid newsman, as are pretty much all who work for the Times. I’m not saying bow down to the guy solely because he’s a scribe for the Times, but this guy has a solid background of credible tech reporting. And as far as I can tell it hasn’t been proved, even to a web junkie like me, that blogs aren’t a passing fancy. I didn’t consider his comments about blogs worthy of comment because he seems to be saying in words what all the people who avoid my blog are saying with their mouseclicks. It’s possible not to be enraptured with blogs and still be a sane person of normal intelligence. Y’all need to develop thicker skin … Markoff didn’t say anything a casual clicker unimpressed by blogging wouldn’t agree with.

  • Robert Swaim

    Mitch H
    And by spellchecking it made the comment any less relevant? Get a life.

  • jonhouston

    “NY Times Reporter Has Seen It All Before, and He’s

  • Regardng Markoff and Mitnick, take that as a cautionary tale. If true, he knows what journalistic power is, what it can do, no matter how net people scream. Ignore that at peril.
    One thing it’s important to recognize when media people speak about “standards”, this is a term of art. It has a complex meaning, roughly “How much consideration does this person merit because of their power?”
    General net people tend not to see “standards”, because in the eyes of the media, we merit no respect – we’re peasants, not nobles.
    He’s basically afraid of something like the French Revolution – tearing down the old structure, but the new one being even worse. A thought which shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

  • KMK

    Amazing, an NYT technology writer dismissing content and communication all in one article. What he shows most by his reponce is a lack of vision.
    Who sets the standards for content? The audience, right? My field is DAMs (digital asset management systems). My view – everything is content. A camera or a camcorder at the right place and time is content. An artist who wants a web gallery, content. Shared experiences, content. The possibilities are endless.
    How could a technology writer dismiss communication applications? If a CB transmission was coming from North Korea would he dismiss it or would the NYT be reporting on it? Diaries are insignificant, eh? What if Anne Frank had a blog instead of a diary?
    In his business he should know it’s all about subscription and buzz. Here’s a vision, if I had a publication I would hit technorati, find my demographic of bloggers, and send them advanced e-copy of my content in hopes that they link to it. I would write articles about these bloggers for the links. I wouldn’t alienate or make an enemy of a subscription base.
    TV news didn’t replace print news. It enhanced it. Blogging offers freedom of personality not found in TV or print news. The field of weblogging is still evolving. To write it off would be shortsighted. All it will take is one true visionary to come along and apply it to their industry and it will be a game of catch up for people like Markoff.

  • Even as I was defending Markoff yesterday, a thought was forming in my brain: didn’t the popularity of CB radios presage the explosion in cellphones & other interactive wireless media? Even if blogs ARE the CB radios of our time they still could be offering clues to something really big on the horizon — so dismissing them as an unwise use of one’s spare time is probably not so wise either.

  • Tom, I don’t think that follows – even if CB radios foreshadowed cell phones, this didn’t mean it was a good use of time to go rolling around the road saying “10-4 good buddy, watch out for the bear in the air, put the hammer down …”