Sit back and watch you play yourself | Bleader

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sit back and watch you play yourself

Posted By on 10.01.09 at 09:03 AM

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Always fun to come back to a media fight. After almost a week of eating good food and having people lavish attention on me and be really nice, all of which is uncomfortably disorienting, I returned to work blissful and complacent and with no desire to write. Fortunately, someone decided to (try and) tie Michael Miner's shoes together, which for me is like seeing the bat symbol. After awhile I'll get to writing about things of substance, but I need this sort of thing like I need coffee before I need food every day, just to get my blood moving.

* Miner makes what I think is a reasonable and fairly conservative point, that paying Richard Roeper lots of money for being famous and boring (to this reader, Roeper's column is usually like a 750-word tweet) is a poor allocation of resources for a company that has precious few, and making Roeper be famous and interesting would be an improvement.

The article is called "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Columnists," which is a jokey Shakespeare reference, or perhaps more accurately a jokey reference to jokey Shakespeare references, and transparently not representative of the column, which is about many things, one of which is a criticism of, or at least a triage regarding, overcompensated "celebrity" columnists.

Miner's source is quoted as recommending that STMG replace their star columnists with reporters or columnists who do reportage at lower salaries than well-known columnists. Miner's expressed opinion is that Sneed and Roeper in particular should just, you know, write better. Specifically that they should "inquire and reflect," the latter of which seems an awful lot like it would produce "commentary" or "columns."

* Mike Doyle, to demonstrate how vital commentary is, expends a few hundred words of chest-beating commentary confusing the headline with the article and the source with the author. I probably wouldn't be so annoyed if Doyle weren't obviously very proud of himself for having popped a balloon animal of his own creation that he thinks looks a lot like my colleague (who responds dismissively here). This is my favorite part:

In Miner’s diatribe against commentary [Ed. note: sorry to belabor the point, but this is not a correct interpretation], he even went so far as to call out some [two, and if you read much you can probably guess which ones] local columnists by name*, essentially inferring their work to be inferior to the work of journalists [I'm confused by Doyle's use of terminology, but I think what Miner said, not inferred, is that the two columnists could be a lot more useful than they currently are if they were required to try harder].

That’s unacceptable.

Pistols at dawn - I will be Michael Miner's second!

Then Doyle follows up by complaining that sensitive journalists don't like being criticized, and that that is surprising.**

Doyle's previous post is entitled "Why The Sun-Times Deserves To Die."

Commentary! If you can make sense of all that (beyond "it's just concern trolling" - that's too easy!), maybe you should have my job - I guess I'm too old for the Internet too.

Special bonus earnestness and transparency: PLEASE MAKE CONSISTENT AND LOGICAL ARGUMENTS. PLEASE DO NOT USE STRAWMAN ARGUMENTS. THAT'S BASICALLY MY POINT HERE, ALL I REALLY ASK FOR FROM WRITING USUALLY, AND THE MAIN REASON I'M BOTHERING WITH THIS, EXCEPT MAYBE BECAUSE THIS IS HOW I ENTERTAIN MYSELF, FOR THE SAME REASON I LIKE PLAYING H.O.R.S.E.

Special bonus Mike Doyle awesomeness:

"I could go on at length about the societal worth of good columneering, but this being Chicago, I think I can nail all that in two words: Mike Royko. Would Michael Miner call the patron saint of American commentary [Ed. note: ?] feckless, too?"

No. This Has Been Simple Answers to Stupid Questions (TM). Medal, chest to pin it on, etc.

"beginning with the admission that [Miner] reads the print versions of both of Chicago's leading newspapers every day. (That immediately undercut his contemporary credibility for me, but I digress.)"

I think this is some sort of clever kung-fu reversal of Miner's [Ed. note: completely non-existent in reality and entirely contained within Mike Doyle's head] argument that Doyle has no standing because he is a blogger.*** Or it's actual self-unawareness. Teh internets and the writing contained therein are confusing sometimes.

Either way I think there are certain benefits to reading both newspapers and their online counterparts, especially if you are interested in the transition from print to the Web, not to mention that commuters who (cough) do not drive cars still seem to consume plenty of news in print (I do not, mostly because I'm cheap, thus lending my argument lots of weight), further not mentioning that people who do not use the Internet are a nontrivial part of your potential audience, and finally not mentioning that most of the money that supports newsgathering organizations comes from print and broadcast advertising, and my guess is that will continue to be the case for another decade or so, at least until online advertising stops sucking so much.

Mike Doyle is fortunate that, as a blogger - and not, notably, someone who is professionally responsible for writing about the state of print media in Chicago for a newspaper and a Web site, since I assume if he was, he would probably read both of the city's leading newspapers every day in print form instead of being a dick about people who do (does this even have to be explained?) - he does not have to sully himself with the credibility-undercutting world of words that are on paper instead of on a screen. For better or worse, there are a lot of people who cannot.

Or who don't want to. Personally I could care less how you consume articles, as the only thing that undermines your credibility for me is your ability to comprehend or fairly respond to what you read without requiring me to shake your tree of verbiage to see if an argument falls out.

* Michael Sneed and Richard Roeper. I was unaware that criticizing them is a violation of... something. Ethics? Reason? Not being the nth person to criticize either of those columnists?

** Three tips for bloggers columneerists: 1) No one likes being criticized 2) People will disagree with your criticism for obvious reasons, mostly that when you disagree with them, it follows logically that they are in disagreement with you, and being surprised by that is like being surprised every morning by the existence of gravity 3) Being disingenuous is not a particularly appealing trait in a blogger writer

*** Or he was responding to someone else saying that he has no standing as a blogger. In all the posts and comments the strawmen got to be like John Malkovich in the famous scene from Being John Malkovitch and I got confused.

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