Holier than thou

David Carr takes his turn writing a weasely column about bloggers. Apparently, everybody in journalism, or at least at The Times, gets that turn.

Carr quotes me, incompletely, from an email exchange. He emailed me complaining about a Gawker post and said that “some blog discourse does not have the vocabulary or termprament [sic] to deal with serious shit.” Well, sure, some doesn’t. He asked whether this was “an immature medium in immature hands.”

My full response to him, in email:

Sure. But not every Onion story is a gem.
I haven’t seen a Saturday Night Live skit that clicked in, oh, at least a generation.
And I’ve been offended by plenty of stories ripped from the headlines by Dick Wolf or Commander in Chief.
Do do we dismiss print? Do we downgrade all TV? Or do we blame the writers who missed the mark?
Looking for an excuse to write off a medium? I’d keep looking.
As for serious shit, Judy Miller causing war — in Iraq and in the Times newsroom — beats this.
And personally, I think that Kentucky Fried Chicken creating avian flu marketing schemes is a lot funnier.

He didn’t quote anything in bold, after “missed the mark?” I’d say that was convenient editing. He wanted me to say in his column that I agreed with him that Gawker missed the mark when, in fact, I was saying that he was missing the mark with this column idea.

Yet even after that bit of loose playing, Carr gets on his journalistic high horse — one whose shit apparently does not stink — and tries to dismiss all blogging because of the Gawker post he doesn’t like:

Blogs can be serious enough and conventional enough in execution to fit in with mainstream media (as will be the case when Time.com will begin running AndrewSullivan.com in January). But because blogs can be amended or erased, the people who write them tend not to be held to account. The expectation is that bloggers will transgress lines in terms of efficacy and tone and anybody who complains is viewed as a weenie.

And he accuses others of cheap rhetorical tricks? He continues:

A generation of Web writers – many of them excellent and genuinely hilarious – sees the world and its travails through a hail of nasty e-mail messages, tips and other blogs. That’s a different job than leaving the computer screen to interview the mother of an eight-year-old who has been run over by a car.

Man, did they have to replace your keyboard after you slammed that sentence out with a two-by-four?

Ms. Coen of Gawker and some of her fellow bloggers are fond off pointing out that they are not reporters, which explains everything and excuses nothing.

And now he calls in the big guns: The Ethics Group! Uh-oh.

“It could be a maturity issue,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism organization in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It is just now coming of age as a journalistic medium and tends to wallow in crass humor and sarcasm. Everything gets made fun of, including the Holocaust and genocide.”

Now where did the Holocaust and genocide come in? Gawker tabbed up a crime — it’s something that happens in newspapers, too, folks.

The great thing about the Web is that people can say almost anything they please. But it will only mature as a medium if people see that as less of a license than as a burden.

Yes, and the great thing about newspaper columns, too, is that people can say almost anything. Come on, David, you can do better.

: When I cut-and-paste my email, I didn’t pick up the first word, which I’d said in the intro to the quote. Now corrected.

  • He is. Holier than thou, that is. Humor keeps us humble. It puts our tiny place in this vast universe in perspective. Humor is what keeps us human. David should stop starching his underwear, have a pint of Guinness and join in the song-song – it’s a melancholy tune about Mary Mahoney beating her husband repeatedly over the head with a bottle, then dumping his corpse in the river before leaping in herself, but hey, it’s just a bit of fun.

  • Jorge

    I feel there is a load of energy in the blogosphere. The more the merrier can add up to money and ideas. The more people the more ideas . The more ideas the more problems solved.

  • donna

    Clearly a case of sour grapes.

  • right on jeff jarvis……..the New York Times is insignificant……….keep on bloggin’………….

  • Lucy

    There’s a lot out there in the blogosphere that’s not meant to be taken for “serious journalism.” It’s the whole point of having these blogs, they’re crass, caustic, and satirical because they can be — because they’ve found a medium that will allow them to (i.e. not the traditional high horse of “print” newspapers). People like Carr need to take a page from Wired’s article about the Onion and what it’s not.

  • It’s a sad day when journalism is used as a means to attack the competition, but not unexpected. Blogging strikes a very different note in people then anything the Times comes up with. I mean, what a concept, the writers and the readers actually communicate… If something’s wrong in a post, people are going to be able to comment and correct it; whereas in the Times there might be a retraction, but nowhere near as noticable as the original article. This guy can down play blogging all he wants, but it’s not going to eliminate the threat. People aren’t willing to blindly follow the mainstream media’s lead any more and the big boys are just going to have to get over it. And he calls bloggers immature.

  • John Davidson

    “Serious journalism” is simply hilarious. If Carr–or his newspaper–were serious about journalism, they’d drop their editorial page, their columnists, the endless pop cultural drivel, and the crossword puzzle among other things. But he can’t defend the indefensible, so he throws his attacks on what amounts to his greatest competition. Long-form journalism like the kind of pieces that appear in the NYT Magazine or the New Yorker are not threatened by blogs; it’s the columnists and shorter, time sensitive reporting (meat and potatoes of most dailies) that the blogs are decimating.

  • Right of Center

    Why would anyone care what the NY Times has to say about blogging. Would Henry Ford’s comments on, say, rollerblades be of particular interest?

    Mr. Carr shouldn’t worry, his paper will be around for a while longer. It is just that his profession has been “commoditized”. He and his pals will have to work a lot harder for less money. That’s all.

    The MSM could try to “wow” its audience with evenhanded reporting, that might work.

    Anyway the horse has left the barn and Mr. Carr should get to work.

    (must be hard to be a gatekeeper and suddenly notice more and more people are just slipping through lots and lots of holes in your fence…)

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  • The papers are in a slow but steady decline. People dont want to waste money on something they can get in color, for free, from thousands of sources. I read blogs that update on average every 30 min. Id like to see “serious” papaers do that.


  • This is particularly funny to me as this a.m. I had a conversation with several posters at a blog that tends to be very lively, and had a lifelong misconception corrected. That did me a favor, and we all had a lovely time being informed that the mockingbird does NOT lay its eggs in other birds’ nests, that is the cuckoo. I am glad to know that, and glad the birdlore was shared out among a bunch of bright, funny people.

  • I agree with most of Jeff’s post, except — “Judy Miller causing war” — in what alternate universe did this take place? Miller wrote for a liberal audience who were apparently unconvinced… in what way does this equate to “causing war”? And is this whale-sized whopper-class hyperbole the reason for the sneers I see when people mention her name?

  • But if you hadn’t been misquoted in that Times article then I wouldn’t be commenting on your post now.

  • APF

    But because blogs can be amended or erased, the people who write them tend not to be held to account.

    This is a bizarre statement IMO. If anything it’s bloggers who are known for their quick updates/corrections and being held to account by their audience–an audience which is smaller and therefore whose individual voices carry more impact–and by the “distributed conversation” that blogging is an integral part of over the web. As easy as it is to manipulate or delete posts/articles, it is just as easy for readers to save local copies (often done automatically if you use a feedreader), or to use Google’s cache, etc. to get the original work. And if you’re caught radically altering or deleting a post, it’s not the people who complain who are viewed as wankers. If papers like the Times are the champion of rapid and efficient corrections and accountability, then what was the deal with the Krugman correction fiasco, where running corrections was apparently so painful they felt they “had reached the point of cruelty to readers” (OMG A WHOLE THREE NON-CORRECTIONS THE WORLD IS COLLAPSING READERS AM CRY).

    I mean, you have objections to how your words were used in that article, and you posted those objections on your blog. But is the Times going to attach those objections to it any time soon? It can’t, of course, go back in time and change the original printed words; so in which printed edition are we going to see this footnote?

  • Jorge

    The MSM may feel like they are being choked around the neck by the BLOGS and fighting for their life. I hope they don’t respond with those Machivivillian attacks that worked so well against the truth before. The Bloggers and most of the people who comment try to move our society in a foward motion. The MSM for the most part likes society to suffer en mass.

  • Jeff, quit ruining blogging for everyone.


  • Mr. Carr’s and many other old school journalist don’t seem to understand that blogs and the Internet have allowed a more free and democratic means of ranking news and information. They are furious that people would rather read Gawker and watch Jon Stewart than read their long ponderous columns about subjects they know nothing about.

  • APF

    But… but… The Daily Show makes fun of the war… AND SOME THINGS JUST AREN’T FUNNY

  • Seems this is the same old story of old journalism vs. new journalism that has been going on forever.

    I think percentage wise there are as many clueless journalists as there are clueless bloggers.

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