There’s a pretty good reason that when a university hosts a “blogging ethics panel,” it rarely invites bloggers to participate. It’s the same reason why journalists enjoy the ability to write to a niche audience that is likely to share their opinions.
It’s a lot easier to shape the debate if you’re only showing your side and you’re preaching to the converted.
Bloggers rant, professors chastise and on and on it goes.
These fights tend to devolve into what a friend once described as “Polish oral sex: You stand across the room from each other and scream, “Fuck you!” “No, fuck YOU!” until at least one of you is finished.”
The men have been shouting past each other regarding Reimold’s post on Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal. Reimold opined that, despite the heavy accolades Weisenthal had received from his reporting peers, he wouldn’t recommend Weisenthal as a role model for his students. Among the reasons he lists: Weisenthal is plugged in to the point where his quality of life could suffer, he is often posting tons of information but not much with depth to it and his work is “wrong and sensational a lot.”
Blodget responded with a “your professor doesn’t get it” post, casting Reimold as some sort of simple curmudgeon before getting to some logic-driven points: digital storytelling is different than print, the skills are different and doing what Weisenthal does isn’t easy. Then, right on cue, he does the “hipster, cooler-than-you blogger closing line” that just always wins arguments:
So, if any of the professors' students have any of the attributes described above and are eager to work in the medium of the future instead of the media of the past, we'd love to hear from you.
This shit fight went back and forth for several days with Blodget saying Reimold couldn’t cut it doing what Weisenthal does, Reimold responding, “Oh, yeah, count me in!” and finally Blodget saying, “We’ll get you a desk next to Joe” thing. Apparently, we will see the fruits of this effort, as BI will document the whole thing.
Before we get too far into this, first let me say, gentlemen, I have no doubt you both have giant penises.
I would put money on the fact that you are each so large and girthy that you have likely had many complaints from your sexual partners and have had difficulty buying pants that do not have wheelbarrows in the front of them.
In fact, the sheer volume of air moved by your current dick-waving contest has likely generated enough wind power to solve the energy crisis.
I’m quite certain that your penises can be seen from space with the naked eye.
With that penile recognition and genuflection out of the way…
This kind of fight between “academics” and “professionals” happens way too often when each side decides it knows exactly what the other side is all about. In this case, however, the stereotypes don’t fit.
Reimold is a good and respected blogger on a number of topics, including student media. I frequently read his work and whether I agree with him or not, I believe him to be an honest broker of information. He is in no way the elderly crank who is sitting in his ivory tower, waving a cane at all these damned kids and their hippity hoppity music. He’s not pining for the days of lead type and line tape when he suggests that accuracy should remain the stalwart of media coverage.
Blodget isn’t the twerp that crusty academics associate with this interwebbing thing that the kids like. His site is informative and extremely rapid. When mistakes are made, they get corrected. The site showcases exactly what good professors have been harping about for years: relevant, useful and interesting information put forth using the best tool to accomplish the job, (text, hyperlinking, graphics, video etc.).
Blodget is a good leader as well. When someone comes after one of my newsroom kids in the way Reimold hammered at Weisenthal, you’d damned well better believe I’m reacting like Blodget did. When you call someone out by name, get ready for the shitstorm that will follow, especially if that person buys pixels by the barrel.
In reading back through his sarcasm-sluiced posts, I wish like hell Blodget had taken a higher road in his defense. It’s too easy to take the easy way out and paint the picture the way he did. To be fair, his approach didn’t make him wrong, just harder for the folks in the middle of the road to stand behind.
What both of these guys tend to miss, however, is that this “game recognize game” gambit won’t come close to providing closure on the topic.
Reimold won’t be able to come close to Weisenthal’s productivity or approach during this experiment. That’s not a rip on Dan, but rather a central point in his favor. What makes journalists like Weisenthal good at what they do isn’t the ability to mainline Red Bull until the last post is posted. It’s the interconnectivity that comes with covering a beat, becoming a known entity to sources and having good instincts on how best to punch out copy. Weisenthal has a hell of a head start in all of these areas.
What Reimold does is teach students HOW to become entrenched in a field like this so that they CAN be the go-to reporter on a topic. His work in student media shows that he’s growing the seedlings so they can bear fruit while keeping an eye on the entire farm. Criticizing him if he fails at this is like a chef criticizing a farmer for failing to prepare a good Soufflé.
Even if he could go to-to-toe with Weisenthal, so what? He shouldn’t WANT to do this for the very reasons he stipulates to in his original post: speed can kill accuracy, trying to punch out too much leads to some vapid crap, being constantly plugged in can numb you to the big picture and finally you burn out from all this.
Doing this is like trying to tell kids that boxing can cause brain damage and then immediately accepting a challenge to train for a heavyweight title fight.
And what happens if Reimold blows the doors off the place? He doesn’t represent all academics, for sure, and his efforts can be viewed as that of one man, not a class of people.
(If you want to read more about this concept and the various ways intergroup relations works in regard to stereotyping groups and excusing individual cases that run counter to those stereotypes, take a look here. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get my academe in your blogosphere.)
If Blodget gets a grudging sense of admiration for Reimold, great. It doesn’t solve the problem that we need more people doing good work that is fair, accurate, timely and valuable. He should consider returning the favor and offering to teach one of Reimold's classes for a term. If this happens, let me know early enough so I can buy stock in Advil...
If Reimold gets a taste of the 24-7 life that is Weisenthal’s bailiwick, that’s fine too. It doesn’t solve the problem of how best to balance journalistic speed against other pressing issues. My great hope is that he finds a way to pair accuracy with speed and we can all start teaching it and calling it the Reimold Model.
Maybe the best we can hope for is that they’ll each look at the other when this is done, light up a couple cigarettes and ask, “Was it good for you?”