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January 24, 2006

Brady, Hamsher, Reynolds, Jarvis, Rosen at the Post site. Plus: Elite Newspaper Divergence (END)

Our live Q and A begins 1:00 pm Wednesday... Brady says he's working on adding comments to news articles... Times columnist David Carr’s take on the “whirlwind” around Deborah Howell includes some extraordinary instructions for how to e-mail him: don’t... "Wow," says Dan Gillmor.

Word has arrived on the blogger’s roundtable you may have read about with Jim Brady, executive editor of the It was to be done in person, around a table in Arlington, VA, headquarters for the Post site. That proved impractical. Instead it will be a version of the Post’s online Q and A’s. Here are the essentials:

What: Ethics & Interactivity online roundtable

Where: at

When: Wednesday, January 25, 2006; 1:00 PM


Jim Brady,
Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine
Jay Rosen, PressThink

How do I suggest questions? You can’t, too late. But you can go to this page and read.

Or you can post in comments here. I told readers of my last entry, Transparency at the Post, a Q & A with Jim Brady, that if this roundtable at Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive (WPNI) happened, I would open a new thread about what ought to be discussed if we’re going to get somewhere. After 388 comment posts, it’s time to start the meter over anyway. (A record for PressThink.)

There’s a small bit of news from Brady, further evidence for my Elite Newspaper Divergence (END) theory. It states that the Washington Post and New York Times are going to grow more apart as they take different paths on the Web. (For more, go here and here, and here.) Brady told me that within two weeks will introduce by-lines for Post writers that are “hot linked,” as we used to say when the Web was a marvel. The difference between

By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer


By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer

may seem slight. But it’s not, because that simple link can go a lot of places. (Reporter’s blog, for example.) I asked Brady what writers’ names would be linked to, initially. “The bylines will be — for now — hyperlinked to e-mail forms so that reporters are all accessible via email,” he said. “Eventually, we’ll probably include recent stories, maybe a bio and photo. But, for now, it’s a communications device.”

Which makes sense, but also makes a point coming after New York Times columnist David Carr’s take on the “whirlwind” around Deborah Howell. Carr gave some extraordinary instructions for how to e-mail him: don’t. Causing Dan Gillmor to say: wow. What startled Gillmor was Carr’s closer.

“Personally, I’m all for a robust interaction with the reading public. My address is David Carr, New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10036. And don’t forget that the price of stamps just went up.”

Which I read as defiance projected at these people. For robust interaction with me write a letter, put it in an envelope, and mail it, Web hordes. What theory of modern newspapering is that?

Of course, Times watchers know that Carr is pioneering a Times blog, called Carpetbagger— which is about Hollywood and the Oscars. It has comments, which seem to work just fine, and there’s an easy way to e-mail the author. So it’s not clear what the defiance in Monday’s column means. Is Carr clowning? (Steve Lovelady in comments: “Of course Carr is clowning.” Jeff Jarvis said Carr confirmed it: clowning.) Or will he soon be telling Len Apcar, the editor-in-chief of, to disable the e-mail link and comment function at Carpetbaggers? (Obviously he won’t, because he was clowning. Right.)

Jim Brady told Dan Gillmor that more changes are coming at the Post site, once the Post fixes the problems it had last week. He also explained what the problem was: the site wasn’t requiring a valid e-mail address from people leaving comments

because we were working through Movable Type, and we had not synched up our registration system with it. But we are hoping to add comments to articles reasonably soon, and when we do that, we’ll have that layer of security. But, after the events of the past week, we now know we need that layer on our MT blogs as well. Lesson learned, I guess.

Brady said comments at will be back soon and I have no reason to doubt him. He also said that he’s adding comments “reasonably soon” to Washington Post articles online. This is bigger news— if it happens. It will increase substantially the two-way-ness of the Post site. (See Brady’s clarification in “After Matter” below.)

There’s no telling how the ability instantly to comment on breaking news will affect the Post’s journalism. (Yesterday Jack Shafer of Slate, a Washington Post property, used his column to explain how their moderated system, The Fray, works. Slate pays somebody to oversee, and give order to it, including awarding stars for people who contribute greatly. Who publishes Slate? WPNI.)

Meanwhile, the New York Times is breaking new ground with blogs you have to pay to read. It’s not clear which theory of the blogosphere such blogs could operate within. Does linking to subscriber’s only content make sense when the point is to participate in public discussion?

Now if you are in Select company, you can “send a comment,” which is not the same as posting one. “TimesSelect aims to offer subscribers unique opportunities to communicate with Op-Ed columnists,” the site tells you. “Please use this form to submit your questions and comments for any of the Iraqi bloggers.” I understand what they’re doing. They are adding value to being a Times select subscriber, but not by “taking away” what had been available freely— instead, you add bloggers, a new class of vendor, and a subscription should be worth more. Except that a blog that can’t be linked to is automatically worth less on the Web, so who’s worth counts?

But first let Will Femia at MSNBC’s Clicked guide you through recent events: “The dots I’m clicking show a change in mood and tactic by online liberal activists.” Could be consequential.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links.

Well, the results are in. (Jan. 25)

Jane Hamsher isn’t satisfied, not by a long shot. She tells us she had a lot of people “conferenced in” and assisting:

Peter Daou, Atrios, John Amato, Digby and jukeboxgrad from DailyKos (who would not let Jim Brady slide on his nebulous explanations, much to Brady’s irritation) — not to mention Markos and Brad DeLong who offered their input yesterday, Matt Stoller who was patrolling comments over at the Open Letter to the Washington Post blog (as well as Taylor who has been moderating), and Redd who was holding down the fort here. All I can say is that the answers that were given were the result of lots of people thinking together, including all the emails and commenters, and I can’t tell you all how much I appreciated the collaborative effort.

She thanked the for the opportunity, then added. “Brady gave himself the last word many times, goaded me for a response and then closing it before I could answer, despite the fact that I was asking in the accompanying ‘chat’ box for a chance to do so. Neither would he give substandial, meaningful answers to questions I posed to him.” And she challenged Brady to a one-on-one.

Furthermore, Hamsher and Digby agree that Jarvis and Rosen were just “filler” and the real debate—the only debate—was between Jane Hamsher and Jim Brady.

Hamsher and Brady have an exchange in comments here. Jane:

Structuring the debate like they did allowed Brady to continually evade answering some serious questions about some very sketchy excuses. Were he not using those excuses — which he refuses to backup — for repeated flame throwing at about largely civil comments left on the, I would not be hammering him.

Jim Brady:

Jane, Not giving you the answers you want is not the same as evading questions. If you’re waiting for me to break down and confess that we shut down the blog to stifle dissent, and that there were really no profane comments and that we did all this because we don’t care what our readers say, then you have a long wait ahead of you.

Bob Somerby at the (aptly named) Daily Howler: “Today, Jane Hamsher is leading the liberal brigade.” Others have passed on that opportunity, he says, because they wanted jobs at Newsweek and the Post! “To our ear, career liberal writers are still unable to describe the press as it actually is—- as it has strangely (but plainly) been over a long stretch of years.”

National Review Online’s Stephen Spruiell thinks we’re seeing The Left’s Revolution Against the Media.

Brutally sarcastic, extremely funny and well worth a read: Poor Man Institute, Let’s stage an all-star panel on blogger ethics in my pants.

Vapor Trails. Daniel Glover at National Journal’s Blogometer reviews the Post Q and A and reactions to it.

Katie Couric pulls a Deborah Howell on the air; Liz Cox Barrett of CJR Daily lets her know.

Highlights from the discussion at

Glenn Reynolds:

The barriers to entry in blogging are very low. You want to get your ideas out? You can start a blog in 15 minutes. So why do you feel entitled — and that’s not too strong a word for what I hear sometimes — to put your comments on someone else’s site?

Jeff Jarvis:

If Deborah had appeared in the comments immediately asking people to treat her as a person, not a silent oracle, then I’ll bet the tone of the exchange would have changed. That’s not to say that some would not still be angry and rude but what were they really asking for but answerability? So if you answer, you defuse that demand.

Jim Brady:

I’ve used the word “civility,” but it’s true that it’s a tough word to define. Among the things we’ve learned here is that we need to have clear rules and examples to help people understand the limits of what we’ll accept. So I’ll retire “civility” at this point.

Jane Hamsher:

The should be thrilled by the passion and intelligence and civility exhibited by the vast, vast majority of commenters. Over at Kos, someone compared an archived version of the original comments on the “Maryland Moment” blog with the ones that were restored and found only ten that were deemed so “offensive” that they had to be deleted. That’s a 99% civility rate.

For my highlight, click.

Dan Froomkin is back, big time. (His wife just had a baby.) Here’s what he said in his Post chat today:

I think’s comment cutoff was a mistake. It’s a big paradigm shift for people used to controlling every word that appears in their newspapers — but online, a little loss of control pays off big time.

We should glory in the passion of our readers. We should listen to what they have to say, respond to their concerns, and if necessary correct their misimpressions. In short, we should empower the reader, not shut the reader up — even temporarily.

Rem Reider, the boss at American Journalism Review, writes an insight-free column about the Howell episode. “Much has been made of the Web’s great contribution to instant and freewheeling political discourse. But this wasn’t discourse, this was target practice.”

“The shift to trying to prove Brady a liar was a mistake, in my opinion.” Me, in the comments.

Stephen Spruiell at National Review’s Media Blog: As Reynolds Explains Decision not to Host Comments, Reuters Provides Case In Point.

Jim Brady e-mails (Jan. 24). The comments-for-articles feature isn’t quite ready for prime time, he says:

“Just to clarify the post on the comments on articles project. It is something we’ve been working on for months, but based on the events of the past week, we’re re-evaluating the technology behind that feature. Obviously, we want to make sure it works the way we need it to. I don’t want folks walking away with the impression that this is an imminent launch. It’s not. But we have indeed been working on it.”

Brady did the PBS Newshour (Jan. 24): Online Feedback Goes Offline.

At Buzzmachine, (Jan. 24) Jeff Jarvis gets warmed up for the big match the next day:

Q: Are media required to play host to the opinions and criticism of others?

A: No. But they will be judged by their interactivity.

That’s the real issue here: One-way media are trying to figure out the two-way world and it’s hard, but necessary.

Steve Outing at Poynter, Taming the Comment Monster. Relevant. Also see the reactions. They’re relevant too.

Atrios gets acerbic about the Q and A:

Nothing like convening a panel to discuss how to deal with internet comments which consists of someone who doesn’t allow them, someone who doesn’t get any because nobody gives a shit what he writes, and someone who deletes them and clearly exaggerates the reasons why.

Oh, and Jane, who we of course love.

The first someone is Reynolds, the second Jarvis, and the third Brady.

Posted by Jay Rosen at January 24, 2006 6:28 PM