Internet bigotry – again

I was growling at my iPhone on the train this morning as I read a prominently promoted New York Times story about the rumored Chelsea Clinton wedding that didn’t happen. Sixth graph:

The persistence of the rumor despite the lack of tangible evidence says something about today’s free-for-all Internet media culture, where facts sometimes don’t get in the way of a good story. It also says something about the Clintons and the mistrust they have engendered over the years that so many people do not take them at their word, even over a question like this.

It’s bad enough that the reporter, Peter Baker, made two such gross generalizations but it’s worse that there was no backup for either in the story.

Who spread the rumor according to Mr. Baker? Here’s every attribution in his story:
* “The wedding rumor mill got started by the Boston Globe…”
* “Then New York magazine picked up the ball…”
* “In July, the New York Daily News said…”
* “’There is no truth to that,’ Mrs. Clinton said on Fox News…”
* “The Washington Post reported…”
* “The Post followed up…”
* “On Sunday, the New York Post reported…”
* “The New York Post concluded…”

I don’t see a damned thing about “internet media culture” there, do you? Not one snarky, unreliable, rumor-mongering, content-stealing, value-sucking blog. Nope, not one mention of Gawker. Just big, old newspapers and magazines. Indeed, the only refutation of the rumor – the fact-checking of it – appears to have been on Fox News. (I also saw no editor asked whether they continued to spread the rumor because they didn’t trust the Clintons.)

This is the sort of internet bigotry that pops up in The Times like clockwork.

Mind you, The Times as a whole is doing lots of innovative things online: The Local (in which CUNY is involved), its blogs, its twittering, its API – plenty to praise.

Yet this snarling about the internet still bubbles up from the newsroom, from reporters and from the many editors who choose to publish it. That’s the newsroom culture – as opposed to that damned internet media culture – you keep hearing about as an impediment to change. This is how newsrooms fight it, using the one weapon they have: the keyboard. They may be forced to blog and podcast but they can always get their revenge in print. Good, old, comforting – though unsubstantiated, rumor-mongering, never-let-the-facts-stand-in-the-way-of-a-good-story – print.

  • And it’s not just the Times, of course. What about Time maggie — have you checked out Joe Klein’s screed against Glenn Greenwald, for example?

  • Matthew Terenzio

    Maybe by “free-for-all Internet media culture” the gentleman was referring to traditional media, and by mistrust of the Clintons he meant how one was voted president and the other was voted Senator and almost nominated for President. You need to read things a little better Jeff.

  • I read that article and something about it didn’t sit right with me. Thanks for pointing out the obvious error there. It was a rather non-newsworthy story anyway. Why give more media attention to a rumor?

    • Someone always needs to stand up against this erroneous reporting. The fact that you think it is not newsworthy is besides the fact. You missed the point. The “attention” was not for the rumour, it is towards the sensationalism reporting styles that seem to dominate all too much of the print media; simply to increase much needed sales.

  • Andrew Feinberg


    You buried the lede here inadvertently, I fear.

    Instead of tilting at the NYT for generalizations about online media, why not use your voice to organize a campaign by respectable journalists and bloggers to reclaim online media from the likes of Gawker?

    They’ve stolen the reputation of online journalism. Let’s steal it back, shall we?,

    • Seriously. Blogs have won. They’re here to stay. Anyone looking at the economics of newspapers can see where they’re going.

      Is it really necessary to wave a bloody shirt every time someone says something bad about online journalism? Let them stand on their own. Better yet, see if they can defend themselves. Frankly, I think a lot these sites hide behind this crap because they do a lazy and mediocre job.

      • Ryan,
        I just saw your comment on Reuters and responded there, wondering whether you’d read my post. Apparently, you have. This post isn’t at all about defending blogs. It’s about calling out a reporter for attacking what he calls internet media culture with not one iota of evidence from the internet backing up his argument. That’s it.

  • Stephanie

    Actually, they may have a point about the “internet culture”. Not that the internet/bloggers are to blame, in this case, but that newspapers feel that they must beat the internet to break a story. The sad part is, I keep seeing ill-prepared and poorly researched stories in the news where they picked up the information from a blog rumor. And the blog is to blame? How about reporters actually stick to journalistic integrity and do their research instead of just spouting off, only to look like morons? (i.e. all those newspapers you listed in your post).

    I love Gawker. =)

  • Mike Manitoba

    When you growl at your iPhone on a train, do people back away slowly?

  • GetAClue

    Jeff – did you miss the memo. The Times is a piece of crap – a highly biased liberal rag…you overlook this last point since you’re a far left guy yourself.

    You can’t disagree with the fact that there’s a much higher %age of crap “content” online though than in papers – are you still in denial about that?

  • Andy Freeman

    They can’t help themselves. And, to be fair, it’s not like the internet is the only thing that they get wrong consistently. See

    • GetAClue

      Very funny Andy – and let me guess, are you a lawyer?

    • Andy Freeman

      I’ve been known to voluntarily associate with lawyers and a couple of folks have wondered why I didn’t become one, but no, I’m not a lawyer.

  • Joo Janta 400 Super-Chromatic Anger Sensitive Sunglasses have been specially designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to iPhones. At the first hint of anger, they turn totally black and thus prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you.

  • Words always gain their meaning from the perspective of the reader–the writer isn’t in control, eh?

    I took “Internet-driven media culture” to be a commentary on the Internet rather than any elements of the particular players in it. A nod to the fact that the internet has (sadly) driven all media outlets to tap into “gossip” stories to drive traffic.

    The jab at mistrust in the Clinton’s is rather unfounded, though. These kind of stories percolate and gain traction among all celebrities in our culture. And have since well before the internet.

  • There just isn’t enough real *news* to be reported on a daily basis….by scores of publications to boot.

    That’s why we get mostly crap.

    And that’s why I pity *news junkies*.

  • Robin Lynch

    I always find this kind of outraged commentary amusing, but not very constructive. Why do new media commentators have such a chip on their shoulder about MSM? If the internet is the superior product, and MSM hacks are so narrow-minded and snooty, then why do bloggers reduce themselves to their adversaries’ level in this ridiculous playground slanging match? The smugness from bloggers and commenters alike is unbearable.

    To my mind, the phrase “Internet-driven media culture” refers to the fact that newspapers’ online sites are increasingly losing track of journalistic standards in the unseemly stampede to drive traffic and increase their Google ratings. The journalist in this case isn’t slamming blogs or web sites; he’s criticising other newspapers and their failure to meet the challenge of the internet. Is the reason you’re so angry because someone else is doing your job for you?

  • carson

    The social science work done by Carnegie Mellon shows, among other things, that people are not drawn to news or good information nearly so much as they are drawn to drama. The fastest way to convert information into drama, they found, was to add blame. Suddenly, a dry list of facts is a moral tale and there is a villain: someone to dislike, to feel superior to, to vent on.

    Sometimes reporters’ invoking the internet is perhaps reflexive as much as anything: it is a characteristic of reporters who grew up when they were the only game in town and that security engendered a bit of laziness — a quick tag line in a couple of paragraphs implying some plausible blame juiced the story and turned something like this article — a belaboring of the fact the Chelsea is not getting married — into something wholly unrelated but dramatic: WHO SAID SHE WAS. Well, it wasn’t US (MSM); it was THEM.

    It’s laziness that is borne of a privileged background — the family fortune is largely mortgaged now, but the kids are having a hard time realizing their new social standing, not to mention vocational dreams.

  • Jeff, if you haven’t done so before, I recommend that you read Gordon Allport’s 1954 book “The Nature of Prejudice.” While most people read it for insight into how racial groups relate to each other, Allport is actually talking about a more general phenomena — i.e. a set of behavioral patterns that appear whenever you have distinguishable groups who are in economic competition with each other…
    One of Allports’ contributions is to define a “Scale of Prejudice and Discrimination.” The first step on that scale is: Antilocution — or “speaking against.” (i.e. what you write about above) Note: Step 5 on the scale is “extermination”…!
    See Wikipedia for more details:

    bob wyman

  • Those who know the least about the Internet are also the least restrained in drawing sweeping conclusions. And with the MSM, there’s the added fear of being made obsolete.

    New York Times reporters may also resent the Internet’s role is exposing their errors and less-than-professional journalism.

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  • Danno

    More internet bigotry from Thomas Friedman and Tom Brokaw:

    The MSM was completely silent on the Van Jones controversy until he actually resigned.

    Apparently this was a story you didn’t deserve to know about. Amazing. And Friedman has the nerve to call the internet a “sewer”?

    Will we be seeing any apologies from the MSM? Don’t hold your breath.

  • markdouma

    Peter Baker’s generalization of “Internet media culture” is like stating The National Enquirer is representative of all self proclaimed “Professional” Print Media Journalists.

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