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April 19, 2005

Darn it, that Nick Coleman is Just Good Copy

"Press Think? I'd like to see that some day." The Star-Tribune columnist, known for tangling with bloggers, sent me this letter.

I think this is what set him off. If you know him a little (Nick’s a rebel) you can figure it out. Anyway, here’s the letter. More or less in the fashion I called newsroom bully baroque, when I wrote, “Newsroom Joe Hates Bloggers: Nick Coleman’s Classic Hit” (Oct. 2, 2004.) It came today:

Gosh. Do you THINK the press is being de-certified? Which side are you on? I thought that was your game plan. You ripped me last fall without even speaking to me because I had the poor judgment (or maybe the balls) to confront right wing wingnut bloggers who have my newspaper (and most others) in the crosshairs of a constant all-out partisan attack. And they are winning, prof. The Star-Tribune now has hired a by-god certifiable right wing activist and power megaphone. Funny, I haven’t seen you make any mention of that yet. Nor do I remember you defending me in December when I criticized the dudes at Powerline, who I called extremists while most of the academic press fakers of the world were bending over to kiss their jodhpurs. By the way, in case you haven’t paid attention, many other journalists have since come to the same conclusion. I could cite chapte and verse, but why bother.

Press Think? I’d like to see that some day.

Nick Coleman

Coleman Watchers out there, send me an explication de text in a paragraph. If it’s good, I will post. (jodh·purs (jŏd’pərz)Wide-hipped riding pants of heavy cloth, fitting tightly from knee to ankle.)

Rebecca Blood:

As I read it, Coleman says that right-wing bloggers are making it more difficult for mainstream media to honestly report the news. By putting partisan pressure on news outlets to “balance” their reports, they are pulling mainstream media to the right. Such pressure, I would extrapolate, would increase the incidence of “he said/she said” reporting, and/or create a chilling effect, resulting in news outlets not reporting anything that might be construed as critical of right-wing politicians and causes. [more…]

Is Coleman right? I don’t know, but I think it’s worth Jay’s time to honestly investigate. Jay is fond of talking about the “decertification” of the press, but if, as Coleman suggests, the press is now concluding that blogging is the domain of wingnuts, the public may well be drawing the same conclusion. Weblogs are now read by only about a third of Internet users [pdf]. Is the entire enterprise in danger of being marginalized before it gains a foothold with mainstream Web users? The “decertification” of blogging due to the effect of a small number of highly influential blogs - how is that not a PressThink story?

There’s more at her weblog.

UPDATE 1.0, April 20: Coleman is now claiming his letter above was personal, intended only to start a dialogue with me. Alas, there was nothing in the letter about that. When a communiqué to my PRESSTHINK mailbox is not for publication what most people do is write “not for publication” or “personal” somewhere in it. And calling me an “academic press faker” is perhaps not the most efficient method of signaling dialogic intent.

They’re on opposite sides of course, but Nick Coleman really reminds me of David Horowitz. Some practices common to both: the instant demonization of others, the personalizing of all disputes (“nor do I remember you defending me….”); the masochism in saying what you intuitively know will get you ripped; the comical self-image as the baddest, bravest truthteller of them all; generating side issues (like the “unauthorized” publication of Coleman’s note) in case the main one flags; the use of politics for narcissistic self-display, and the quality of seeming “unhinged” in public debate.

This is in addition to the most obvious parallel: the principle of all-out overstatement, almost all the time, the practice of rarely using a neutral term when a more inflammatory one can be found.

UPDATE 2.0, April 20.

“The state of transition in which we exist today is little more than its infancy and a maturing is years away.” Riehl World View (conservative blogger, self-described) responds to Blood and Rosen with a description of blogging’s illusions about itself, which are those of an infant. This is part of a long and considered reply:

The blogging phenomenon is prone to the folly of any early adoptive trend. It is more often and more rapidly embraced by the zealous, as opposed to the moderate—and in their zeal, that same group often garners the bulk of attention from anyone looking in or over…

Powerline has set itself up as a shrieking warlord against the media for the Right— but if you want to dissect their work point by point, it simply doesn’t begin to measure up to a small town daily. And with repeat visits and multiple clicks, likely doesn’t honestly reach a great many more people.

That said, it does reach some influential people— but who are they? They’re the MSM of course. The media has elected to make blogs a story long before they really have the capability of covering many themselves with more than a trickle of new information or opinion, fleshed out with a multitude of links to the MSM it, in some cases, purports to so despise.

As for this we are all one big blog machine notion, it’s utter nonsense and not born out by any objective analysis of the linking patterns of any large blog. At this stage of growth, it isn’t a whole lot more than the media talking to a few new individuals and themselves, which, as with most entities, is something it usually enjoys.

Read the rest, and leave him some intelligent comments.

Andrew Cline at Rhetorica:

The rhetorical maneuvers are similar, right and left, as you point out. I believe these to be cultural choices that transcend ideology. All seven that you mention have a common cultural source.

America is the land of individuals who hold individual opinions. The ancient Greek rhetoricians had a better understanding of opinion (because their culture had a better understanding). Opinions in the Greek understanding belong to communities not individuals. If opinions belong to the individual, then fighting for them is fighting for self. And so what you identify as personalization, masochism, etc. all become a form of heroism for one’s cause, which is no different in the American sense from one’s self.

This cultural tendency makes discussing just about anything terribly difficult because Americans tend to “take it personally.”

And give it personally.

…And the newsroom has left the building. “If the folks in the building want to insist that what they do has some sort of magical quality, well, today’s stand alone journalists have an even better chance of becoming the next generation’s most trusted names—plural—in news.”

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 19, 2005 2:55 PM