Pot calls kettle hot

Pot calls kettle hot

: NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin writes a most befuddling column today calling blogs “amoral.”

His excuse: An NPR reporter put up the redacted report on the shooting of the car carrying an Italian communist journalist/hostage in Iraq and bloggers discovered when they downloaded it that they could read and reported the redacted pieces, including some that affect security. Thus, Dvorkin concludes:

…the blogosphere has proven once again to be an amoral place with few rules. The consequences for misbehavior are still vague. The possibility of civic responsibility remains remote. It is a place where the philosophy of “who posts first, wins” predominates.

Somebody put a leash on that dinosaur.

Because a blogger does something you say is wrong, Mr. Dvorkin, all bloggers are now amoral? By that logic, then, when someone at NPR says something liberal, then all of NPR is liberal. (Hmmm.) And if a reporter lies then all reporters lie?

NPR screwed up but when that’s discovered it’s the bloggers who are amoral?

Few rules? Actually, there are many rules — but they’re not necessarily your rules, they are the rules of the public you serve. They sometimes have different rules and often, sir, you and your network and our profession fail their rules. Who made Dan Rather honest? Journalists or bloggers?

You dismiss bloggers and their rules and thus your audience and the public in one broad slap. You separate yourself from the public you want to serve.

And you do so with attitude: “Once again,” you say without links or citations, “once again” blogs prove to be amoral. Give us your evidence, please.

Civic responsibility? I’d say that blogs are a living expression of civic responsibility — they are the citizens holding the powerful responsible. What could be a better expression?

As for the attitude that he who posts first wins: Well, isn’t that how all news media — yes, even NPR — act? Do you really want to be 10th with the big story?

Now get aloada this NPR hubris:

At the same time, readership for newspapers and viewers of network television news continue to fall.

Public radio — for the moment — seems exempt from that trend. Public radio’s listenership continues to rise. But NPR needs to know what it is doing right to attract these new listeners. Is there a downside to this growth?

I honestly don’t understand his point? Is popular success cooties for an NPR hand?

He goes on to say that media is edging close to bloggers — even on NPR:

Even one of NPR’s newest programs, Day To Day is collaborating with Slate.com, the online magazine. On NPR, these online journalists contribute their editorial perspectives and edgy insights — with gasps of dismay from some listeners and occasionally from the ombudsman too.

It’s not just blogs he finds distasteful. It’s the internet.

He continues:

The appeal of the blogs? Humor seems to be the biggest attraction. Ironic detachment from the news, an ability to deflate egos and refreshing, undisguised opinion are also valued. All are antithetical to most news organizations.

Deflating the powerful and self-important used to be a hallmark of journalism, until it became powerful and self-important itself.

Humor? Hey, we’re human. When you don’t laugh at the absurd in the news — and there’s plenty that absurd and funny — you once again separate yourself from the public. You snot up the news. You make the news dull and pompous. And you wonder why people turn elsewhere?

“Undisguised opinion”? Beats the hell out of disguised opinion, which is what too much of the public sees in too much journalism.

American newspapers traditionally and scrupulously segregate fact-based reporting from opinion by designating pages for each. Radio and television try to ensure that opinion remains secondary to reporting. Conclusions should be drawn warily. Bloggers tend not to care if they, and their readers conflate opinion and fact. It’s part of the appeal of the blogosphere.

As news organizations fight to regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences, the blogs and the number of people who read them continue to grow. The blogs entertain, they provoke, and they are not constrained by journalistic standards of truth telling.

Well, many would argue with your first assertion. But even so, if new organizations do such a good job of this, as you say, then why must they now “fight ot regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences”?

In an attempt to find allies — fellow dinosaurs huddling against the cold of their ice age — Dvorkin quotes the outgoing ombudsman of the Washington Post:

The ombudsman at The Washington Post, Michael Getler, has made similar complaints about his e-mail being clogged by the blogs.

In other words, if Dvorkin is quoting him correctly, he is complaining about readers clogging the email of the person charged with listening to readers. You call it a “clog,” I call it a conversation.

And actually, Mr. Ombudsman, I think it would be wrong to reveal information from that report that could compromise security. I’ll bet even some of the people who did it would think it is wrong if they realized what they were doing. And so perhaps the better thing in your role would be to try to educate them and teach them the values of journalism to improve the public discourse. Instead, you sneer at it.

Or should I say you roar at it?