Going tab

Going tab

: The New York Times reports today on the switch to tabloid just announced for The Jersey Journal, the paper published out of the building where I work most days.

Apart from sometimes bragging about some bloggy things happening at my day job or asking questions of you all for a project, I try to make a point of not getting into discussions of company policy on this blog because it’s a clear conflict; apart from the sport of watching me tie my tongue in knots, it wouldn’t be of much value. That, by the way, is why I disagree with Debbie Weil and Rick Bruner when they ding Boeing and GM executive bloggers for not immediately gabbing about public controversies in their companies. Especially in public companies where their words could have an impact on stock prices, there is only so much they are allowed to say and they should not try to use their individual platforms to set company policy.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. Neither is the tabbing of the Jersey Journal, which I’m delighted to see happen (the prototype is great and the format is perfect for that paper).

Now, at last, I’ll start getting to the point: The Times story is written by Kit Seelye, a good reporter on the media beat whom I read all the time, and when she called there was a moment’s awkwardness, for it was a story cowritten by her that set me off in my, shall we say, theatrical complaint about some Times’ coverage of bloggers, which led to the email exchange with Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. So now she was calling on a story regarding my day job, which presented an interesting new conflict in the double life of MediaMan and BlogBoy.

She was extremely nice, saying that they tried to get the essence of my quote. I rather fell over myself to be cordial back just to get quickly past that awkwardness. (And, no being nice wasn’t going to get me treated better in the story; that is the advantage of dealing with professional, dispassionate reporters; they will most likely fall over themselves to be fair in such circumstances.) And the truth is that I have no problem with the reporters who wrote that story and I frequently link to and quote their work; I did have a problem with that story and, Lord knows, I had my say.

It occurred to me that this is like being a critic: I absolutely love some shows by David Kelly and I don’t like others and neither judgment has anything to do with Kelly himself but only with his work and my individual view of it. It’s not personal. As a critic though, I never met Kelly and for all these reasons didn’t want to; I wanted to maintain some separation and remain just a member of the audience, not a would be friend. But in this small world, we bloggers could very well run into folks we write or snark about (at one conference or another) and though that can cause a moment’s awkwardness, we still should say what we think. Should I say it less theatrically sometimes? Sometimes, yes.

But that’s still not the point. Here, at long, long last is the point: Blogging is also not like being a critic because most of our criticism tends to be negative, at least when it comes to the press. When I was a TV critic, I wrote about shows I liked and shows I didn’t and I argued that the more valuable reviews for my readers were the positive ones (who wants to waste time on a piece of junk?). That’s why I instituted the grades that became Entertainment Weekly’s critical conceit, so readers woudn’t have to waste their time figuring out what we thought of a “D” show.

In this new intersection of citizens’ and professional media, I think it would be valuable to give positive reviews, too. Of course, we often do that simply by linking to a good story. But when we write about the press and how the job of the press is done, it’s usually to find fault. That is valuable, I believe, and it should continue to give ballast to the hot-air balloon that the press has become. But it’s also important to value good reporting, or many fear we’ll start to lose it.

Will I do that? I have no idea. I’m not taking a pledge for I’ll probably fall down on it. But as I thought about this analogy of blogger to critic, it made me think that it’s also important to recognize good work and to say it more often.

There: That was my point. And I did a damned bad job of getting to it. I give myself a D. I’m going to go to a mirror and rant at me now.

: Oh, and by the way, I think I should be very proud to have gotten the word “cooties” into the New York Times.