What If They Threw a War and Nobody Came?

by matttbastard

It appears John Cruickshank has dumped Kathy English as his designated useful idiot in The Toronto Star’s ongoing asymmetrical (and largely one-sided) proxy tussle with the intertoobs. This time the projectile has been launched by the normally not-failtastic columnist David Olive, who, in a fit of self-satisfied pique, has convinced himself that the blogosphere has finally and decidedly been overtaken by the “MSM” (See? He’s totally down with our kooky lingo!) in what Olive describes as a “war” between New and Old Media. All because “bloggers” *gasp* like to get paid.

Or something.

His examples, though, make one wonder if Olive actually reads a broad cross-section of blogs (political, music, pop-cult, etc), or merely browses a tiny cross-section of select Old Media exiles who have, at some point or another, utilized the medium, usually as part of a pre-existing business relationship with traditional print venues:

There was always a tendency for bloggers to save their best stuff for the MSM.
For instance, when it came time for a Rush Limbaugh takedown, David Frum penned a cover story last March for Newsweek. But now, even the pretence of independence is going by the wayside. Andrew Sullivan has moved his one-man blog to The Atlantic. Fellow former independent bloggers Andrew Coyne and Eric Alterman (Altercation) now blog for Maclean’s and The Nation, respectively.

Let’s see: Andrew Sullivan (former editor of The New Republic, longtime Times of London columnist); Andrew Coyne (longtime National Post columnist, mainstay of The National’s At Issue panel, and now Macleans national editor, not merely a ‘blogger’); David Frum (former Bush 43 speechwriter, columnist for Sun Media & formerly The National Review, author of numerous books); and Eric Alterman (OG Bearded Librul, longtime Nation columnist, also an author of numerous books and someone who, AFAIK, has, um, always been a paid blogger, going back to the early days of Altercation when it was hosted by MSNBC.com).

Not exactly what I’d call a representative selection of insurgent hostility to mainstream conventional wisdom.

If Olive REALLY wanted to make his point, he could have mentioned recent Old Media wagon-hitchings on the part of Ezra Klein and Ross Douthat. Of course, both Klein and Douthat sold out ages ago (to The American Prospect and The Atlantic, respectively). See, despite the “us” vs. “them” narrative Olive has constructed, us “independent” online opinionators have been reaching for the brass ring of mainstream acceptance (and monetization) since before there was a cool catchphrase to describe the world of “Internet diarists” (Hello? ‘Big Media Matt’?) But, of course, one would have to actually be a regular consumer of blogs to actually be aware of this; wading into the fever swamp of online discourse is clearly below Olive’s paygrade.

Plus, the fact that Olive also neglects to mention recent defections from old media to those online venues Olive sniffily dismisses as mere ‘aggregator’ sites (eg, Dan Froomkin, formerly of the Washington Post and now Washington Bureau Chief of The Huffington Post) is a pretty telling omission. But, hey, no need to hightlight that inconvenient fact, nor the extensive original reporting done by purportedly parasitic (sigh) venues like Talking Points Memo or HuffPo. Because Nico Pitney is such a dick.

Or something.

That few if any ‘independent’ political bloggers (other than some of the brighter lights of the far-right wingnutosphere) are under the delusion that a few scrappy Cheeto-eaters in sweatpants are going to eventually topple the mighty Fourth Estate with WordPress accounts and collective chutzpah is apparently irrelevant. You see, Olive has to fill 800 words for his Sunday column, and if he has to construct the mother of all straw-man arguments to do so, well, so be it.

Look, I’m sure SOME bloggers do see their relationship with Old Media as antagonistic, rather than symbiotic. I’m also sure SOME columnists will never allow the overwhelming burden of unbelievable ignorance to prevent them from offering an opinion — especially one that conveniently dovetails with the biases of his or her boss.

Hey, we all gotta eat.

Update: Wow, that was fast — haven’t seen someone backpedal this quickly since Sebelius threw the public option under the bus.

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With Democrats Like These, Redux

by matttbastard

Upon reading his latest public statement on health reform legislation,  it seems all-too-apparent that co-op-luvvin’ DINO Sen. Kent Conrad, one of 6 senators inexplicably tasked with determining the fate of US health insurance,  has officially lost the plot, as publius notes:

When law students learn about murder, they learn that you generally need to kill knowingly — that is, the prosecution must show that the defendant actually intended to kill the victim.

In some cases, however, a defendant can be so utterly reckless that he is assumed to have knowledge.  For instance, if I drive drunk really fast down a crowded street, I might not have knowingly tried to kill someone.  But because I was so knowingly reckless — so oblivious to the obvious risks — I could still be charged.

That’s basically what Conrad is doing. If he’s not knowingly trying to kill reform, he’s acting with such an extreme recklessness that we might as well assume that he is.

Really hope someone opens up a can of primary whoop-ass on Conrad. The tiresome Lieberman 2.0 “centrist” posturing has gone too far this time. There must be consequences for blatantly pulling a hit on the public option at the apparent behest of his loyal patrons in the health insurance lobby (and, perhaps, the White House).

Some things are more important than Pollyannishly striving to achieve a hollow bipartisan consensus for its own sake (that leaden thud you heard was David Broder’s wrinkled carcass hitting a real American’s kitchen floor. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. He has great health insurance.)

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Wafergate II? Not So Much (Or, Manufacturing Outrage Will Not Stimulate The Economy)

by matttbastard

Regular readers know that I rarely pay much attention to the more wing-nutty residents of the blogosphere, much less the Canuckosphere. I leave that to stout-hearted compatriots with stronger constitutions for regular bullshit consumption than yours truly.  Still, occasionally something from the outer fringe will catch my attention that immediately triggers my ‘dude, WTF?!’ nerve.

In this instance, the flying monkeys are circling over Teresa Wright.

I know, at this point most of you are asking: Who’s Teresa Wright? Well, dear readers, Wright is a reporter with the  Charlottetown Guardian who wrote about a recent speech given by Conservative Senator (and, formerly, CTV’s longtime top Tory sycophant) Mike Duffy.

Ok, with me so far?

Good.

Anyway, the headline to Wright’s piece:

Duffy’s speech hints at looming federal election.’

Pretty innocuous, right?

Well, for whatever reason, Duffy decided to break out Grandma’s pearls, clutch away,  and, in an interview with talk radio blowhard/columnist Michael Harris, stir up a teapot tempest over what Duffy contends is a gross mischaracterization of the speech:

I gave a speech  yesterday to the Rotary Club of Charlottetown, in  which I never used the word  election, and frankly, never mentioned the Prime  Minister, I gave a very dry,  because as you know, Rotary is a  non-political body, I gave a very dry report  card on the more than 200 million additional dollars this government has poured  into Prince Edward Island.

[…]

I was never asked  about an election. I never used the word election. I never mentioned the Prime  Minister by name in my speech or by his office. And yet the headline comes out  this morning, Duffy refuses to dampen speculation of an election and sings the  praises of the Prime Minister in a speech laden with rhetoric.

[…]

I didn’t mention  the Prime Minister. I didn’t ever use the word
election or make any reference to  it because I didn’t want to hurt the neutral ears of the Rotarians, who do so  much great work. And I thought, don’t drag that dirty political thing in  here.

Those poor, delicate, Rotarians–why, the mere mention of anything as jejune as *gasp* politics might cause their pacemakers to short out! Kee-rist. The faux-grievance and feigned innocence is so thick that ol’ Iron Ass himself,  Dick Nixon, must be enjoying an appreciative, jowly cackle from the bowels of Hell.

But wait — it gets even better:

[T]he newspaper reporter never  asked me about an election or about anything else related to the Prime Minister.  She had no, repeat, no questions, so, at least not of the national scene. She  asked something about a local community college. But that was it. And then I  wake up this morning and here they’ve got me singing the praises, great  rhetoric. Well, let me tell you, as much as I like to think that every speech is  a good one, they’ve obviously never heard me when I’ve gotten going as we have.  And so, they put it, all this great rhetoric. I was reading a grocery list of,  of projects for the island. So anyway, this whole thing is manufactured. And I  was thinking so much about you today as I read the paper and the brilliant  column you wrote in last week’s Sun about wafergate in New Brunswick, where the  editors made it up. It had nothing to do with what the reporter said. And so,  I’m saying to myself, my God, this is like the virus or something. It’s creeping  across provincial borders. Now all of a sudden the Charlottetown paper can’t  just report the news. They’ve got to make it up.

[…]

I saw [Wright] yesterday. And, well, in fact I was at an event this  morning. And by the time it was finished and I went over, she had jumped in her  car and fled. So, I didn’t get a chance. But you know, never get in a fight with  people who buy ink by the, by the barrel. I mean, it’s another example. Here it  is in the quiet summertime and everybody’s bound and determined to try and  create something.

So, Duffy disingenuously blows the ‘Wafergate‘ dogwhistle as a means to deflect legitimate speculation generated by what anyone with any sense (even the hothouse flowers of the Charlottetown Rotary Club) could reasonably interpret as a fairly partisan speech that, indeed, does nothing to stem election speculation (who exactly is “we”, Duff?)

Yeah, there’s definitely something that’s been manufactured here, and it ain’t a headline.

That’s right, kiddies: cue the slack-beaked vultures of the far-right, hungry as always to gorge on ‘liberal’ media carrion, as they swoop down with typically measured reserve and sharp insight (snerk):

  • This is not new…too many examples to mention. However they are now being exposed. The game has gone on too long. The snakes can no longer hide in the grass. The serious journalists are starting to do some real journalism. I so appreciate Duffy being free to talk about the ‘old club’….especially the part about Toronto..”the thought control center”.
  • Maritimers have the energy of an old sloth and will believe all the crap that is fed them by these lying urinalists,because they are to [sic] lazy from years of Alberta’s transfers and welfare to seek out the truth. They hate the Conservatives because like the old proverb goes, “you always bite the hand that feeds you”, and the Conservatives to these folks, represent Alberta, where most of the good hard working ones from these parts, have long moved to. For years the slimey liberals stole from the west and handed it out to these ungrateful people, here is the result.
  • The MSM with its socialist statist legions are now running into reality. This is the response to the dike blowing. Trying to paper over the cracks in the artificail [sic] Universe the entitled elitists created in defiance of the Human condition. Including all known laws of physics. The dogma crafted so painstakingly turns out to be a steaming pile of lies.  The world they imagined is collapsing from bowing to fairy tales, while natural Law comes back like a lion with issues. To rend the tale barrers[sic].  In the world of the MSM all must be the same in ideas as well politics. Every Women I meet always told me if you wash all the cloths together you get a grey. The brilliance goes away. So with us they want a collective of hive minds not individuals to speak down to. People with reality based ideas scare the MSM.

Yes, am sure the socialist-statists at CanWest, TorStar and CTVGlobemedia are positively quaking in their wingtips at the sudden imposition of such cold, hard reality (as always, irony is a leftist plot).

Kady O’Malley bends the laws of physics as only a lion(ess) with issues can:

There’s nothing remotely wrong with a senator delivering a partisan speech, notwithstanding the response it incites in certain PEI Liberals. That said, there is also nothing wrong with the Guardian having described it as such, no matter how vociferously the senator in question might dispute that interpretation. What is, frankly, ridiculous is to suggest that this is in any way similar to what may or may not have gone on behind the scenes at the Telegraph Journal, which, as far as ITQ can see, is a rather shameless attempt to feed the “biased media” meme that launched a thousand Finley-penned fundraising letters — not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, either.

Apples, oranges — hey, it’s all fruit right?

Low. Hanging. Fruit.

Look, it seems obvious to anyone with half a brain (ie, those who don’t hang out in comments at SDA) that the leading luminaries of the partisan Canuckistanian right graduated with honours from the Humpty Dumpty School of Fallacious Argumentation (in this instance, showing off their degrees in false dichotomy). Yes, it may come as a surprise to the residents of KKKate’s bizzaro world, but some of us deluded consumers of MSM ‘bias’ (BIAS!!!1) actually demand something slightly more convincing than boisterous online agit-prop or half-baked assertions based on disingenuous denials from someone who, as a former journalist, knows what bullshit smells like. That Duffy now gleefully shovels it (and the base rewards him and his Conservative cronies with fauxtrage and hefty cheques) proves that Prime Minister Stephen Harper knew what he was doing when he called The Duff up to the big leagues.

The fact remains that the primary goal of these erstwhile right-wing media critics isn’t to improve the reporting of professional journalists. Rather, it’s to silence and, ultimately, destroy them — by any means necessary. In other words, the end game isn’t to garner a retraction or correct the record; they simply want another MSM head on a pike to (temporarily) satiate their collective blood lust (while the Conservative Party of Canada reaps the subsequent financial windfall).

But hey, if Duff wants to play footsie with a crowd that thinks his constituents “have the energy of an old sloth” and are “lazy from years of Alberta’s transfers and welfare” more power to him. It’s not like he has any actual accountability to the “ungrateful” people of Prince Edward Island, what being an unelected Senator and all (hey, remember when the Harpercons wanted to reform the ‘undemocratic’ Senate? Good times.)

See, that’s the difference between the so-called ‘liberal media’ and the knuckle-dragging, junior-league propagandists of the wingnutosphere: accountability. Sure, sometimes it takes some poking, but if Teresa Wright and her editors believe an error was made, they will duly issue a correction. Imagine that.

Oh, wait, I forgot: ethics are a Liberal plot, too — likely imported from overseas by that brie-scarfing Ignatieff interloper (just visiting!)

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Antonia Zerbisias, Kathy English, and #TorStarFAIL: Great Expectations

by matttbastard

One thing about keeping your expectations low: more often than not, they’ll be met.  This was certainly the case this past Saturday, as our old friend Kathy English, public editor for the venerable Toronto Star, offered a tepid, passive-aggressive non-apology to Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias. Zerb, as you may recall, had been sandbagged in a column written by English (in concert with Star publisher and scourge to uppity female opinion scribes, John Cruickshank) after Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) head Bernie Farber decided to concern-troll the Star editorial board — and succeeded.

After a vocal outcry, both online and in numerous letters to the editor (two of which were quietly published this past Wednesday, a far-lower circulation day than the prominent Saturday edition where the original column appeared), English revisited the matter this weekend — by whinging about snark and incivility:

It is the opinion of some blogger in Abu Dhabi [aka former Star employee, Jen Gerson, who responds to English’s incivil swipe here], upon reading my column of last week, that I am a “disconnected crony.”

Other bloggers labelled me “priggish,” overly “earnest” and expressed the view that my column is evidence that “old media are still painfully unaware of how blogs operate.”

An online commenter said I should have known that a comment posted by Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias on her blog, which I consider inappropriate for publication by this news organization, was simply the “snark – irony, sarcasm,” of the blogosphere.

I learned much about “snark” and nasty blogosphere invective this week from some bloggers who disagree with my take on what Zerbisias wrote. Mean-spirited personal attack, inaccurate facts, innuendo and even speculation about the identity of my spouse was lobbed my way, much of it anonymously.

Most of what I read simply reinforced my view that blogs produced by professional journalists working under the brand banner of a “mainstream” news organization such as the Star must aspire to far higher standards than what’s emerging elsewhere in the blogosphere.

A good start would be, oh, I dunno, aspiring to make sure you have the whole story before drawing a conclusion:

Here’s the fuller context that explains why she wrote this: Zerbisias had seen Farber marching in the Pride parade wearing a T-shirt that said, “Nobody knows I’m gay.” She didn’t include that information in her blog so readers didn’t know that context. Nor did she tell me that when I showed her my column before publication.

In complaining to the Star, neither did Farber think to tell me that he, along with dozens of others who marched with the Kulanu group, had worn a T-shirt that made its own ironic quip. That’s context I sure wish I had known.

This makes it clear to me that Zerbisias’s comment was intended as sarcastic irony, stock in trade for this columnist and blogger. But I think her attempt at irony failed here; the quip – as published without that context – was ambiguous and could be misunderstood.

And yet the only person who seemed to misunderstand the quip was you and Cruickshank (shit, I bet even ol’ Bernie is a Seinfeld fan). Just because your reading comprehension is substandard is no reason to assume that others share your deficiency, Kathy.

Anyway, moving on:

To be fair to Zerbisias, it should be made clear, though, that she did not “make things up,” as Farber interpreted it. “I don’t `make things up’ – ever,” she said, adding that there “is a lot of space between publishing falsehoods and spouting irony.”

The principle of my column last week remains. Toronto Star journalists simply can’t engage in this hurly-burly tone of the blogosphere if it confuses readers or doesn’t meet the Star‘s journalistic standards. As publisher John Cruickshank told several readers this week: “It creates confusion about how committed we are to the truth and gets imbued with too much seriousness because we are the Star.

Shorter: “Bloggers are MEAN, the DOG ate my homework, and, goddammit, I’m STILL RIGHT!!1one”

Sigh.

Cover your ears, kids–that sonic boom you heard was from the F-16-like point swooping over English’s head.

Dawg, who, late last week, modestly proposed that English’s original column was in fact a Machiavellian plot to make Farber and Cruickshank look like dunces, reassesses his previous bestowal of the benefit of the doubt to English:

Blogs are indeed different from common-or-garden reportage: “hurly-burly” sums it up quite nicely. But editors and publishers are loath to relinquish control, which means that in-house bloggers are forced to look over their shoulders while we in the blogosphere proper are not.

The chilling effect here is palpable: recall that we aren’t even talking about a post, but a comment thread. Ethics and professionalism, both of which Zerb wears on her sleeve, by the way, are not what this is about at all. Rather, it’s precisely what an observer quoted by English says: “old media are still painfully unaware of how blogs operate.”Different languages: different ways of engaging in print; different styles.

But the same ethical and professional standards, pace English, at least for those of us who take the craft seriously. On that point, when she dug around a little more, assisted by hordes of outraged commentators, bloggers and Star correspondents, she discovered that Zerb hadn’t transgressed any ethical or professional codes whatsoever, and had to be content with complaining about her alleged ambiguity. That’s fair comment, I suppose, but a far cry from her original assertions. So why is she even raising the question of standards, leaving the impression, despite her earlier disclaimer, that Zerb had violated them?

Worse, readers are condescended to: none of that hurly-burly stuff for us if it “confuses” us. I submit that no one in this wildly overblown affair was remotely confused. That’s a dodge, plain and simple.

Dave further articulates the bottom line that English has apparently allowed her easily-bruised ego to obscure:

I could fire back with two words, which English would dismiss as evidence supporting her current view. So, I’ll say this: We are your readers, Ms. English.

The “new media” and the bloggers English decided to castigate are the same people that used to sit around the kitchen table bitching about things read in newspapers and whose only recourse was to submit a letter to the very organ and editor with whom they took issue.

It was a one-sided arrangement that left communicative readers at the mercy of “edited for brevity” or without a voice at all. What English doesn’t like is that we like this process a whole lot better. Further, because of the “new media” we are able to communicate directly with the principle subjects of stories and columns – and do. I’m sure that sends chills down the spines of newspaper editors because their worst nightmare has come true: continuous and unrelenting scrutiny, and continuous and unrelenting criticism – some of it accompanied by the language spoken around the kitchen table.

Here’s the thing, Kathy: you fucked up.

You fucked up big.

You guys got played by an experienced player with an agenda who used your forum as Public Editor as a platform to launch a heated proxy missive against a respected Star columnist.  Contrary to your defensive posturing, this is not really about the online rabble, new media vs. old, or the ‘ethics’ of snark; this is about your responsibility as a journalist to gather all the facts before accusing one of your colleagues of making shit up — a charge that, if substantiated, is, I would wager, a fireable offense at any newspaper and thus very serious.

By not gathering the relevant information beforehand (namely, Farber’s highly public–and self-promoted–appearance at Toronto Pride 2009 wearing a t-shirt glibly pronouncing his apparently facetious life on the down-low), you subjugated that responsibility and gravely damaged Zerbisias’ reputation. Saying that neither Farber nor Zerbisias were immediately forthcoming with said information is a cheap cop-out; a five-minute Google search (much like the one likely conducted by SOME BLOGGER IN TORONTO) would have helped unearth the buried info that you now acknowledge exonerates Zerbisias (though you still claim that your original charges are somehow still valid. Logic is apparently an unprofessional blogger conceit).

One can imagine the chill mentioned by Dawg is quite palpable right now in the Star newsroom, as reporters and columnists must be asking themselves: Can the public editor, editor-in-chief and publisher be trusted to protect their staff against spurious charges lodged by special interests trying to muzzle the press?

Many of them, I would wager, feel their trust has been betrayed.

By allowing a lobbyist to dictate the editorial response to an off-hand, ironic remark, your ability to sift between legitimate and manufactured grievance is now in question, Kathy. And by not addressing your dereliction of duty in an open, transparent manner, you aren’t exactly making us brim over with confidence that you do in fact recognize the gravity of your failure.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

So, until that moment of epiphany occurs, be advised, Kathy, that your readers — the hurly-burly, rambunctious, unprofessional online rabble that you scorn — will be watching. This isn’t personal; the dissemination of accurate information is imperative for any democracy to properly function. It is in the public interest to have a press corps free of self-censorship, unencumbered by the fear that the ideology of special interests will dictate their output to the detriment of a vibrant, free press.

As Corvin Russell notes, you owed Antonia Zerbisias an apology for defaming her professional reputation as a journalist and for not protecting her from a bad-faith political attack. But, like Dave said, you also owe us, the Star readership, an apology: for not providing us with all the relevant information; for allowing a lobby group to influence your editorial mandate; and for doing a piss-poor job of representing our interest. Y’know, what they pay you the big bucks for.

It is going to take time to restore confidence in your ability, for both your staff and readers; this time, the expectations are monumentally greater.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Antonia Zerbisias: Under Their Wheels

by matttbastard

Anyone following my Twitter stream this weekend would have noticed that yours truly was a little bit dissatisfied with several pieces recently published by The Toronto Star. We’ll deal with the egregious diversity fail over what constitutes the most ‘important’ works of art/literature over the past 10 years another time (as per the white male columnists commissioned by the Star to map the contours of contemporary Canadian culture, women need not apply). For now, I want to address Saturday’s cowardly hit piece on Star columnist/blogger (and good friend of the Logic) Antonia Zerbisias by Star Public Editor Kathy English.

The 800-word public flogging was apparently commissioned by Star publisher John Cruickshank, after a complaint was lodged by Bernie Farber, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). Farber, no stranger to public grandstanding, raised a stink after Zerbisias left an obviously tongue-in-cheek comment (on an otherwise unrelated post) ironically speculating on Farber’s sexual orientation following his curious participation in the Toronto Pride celebration. Of course, it’s kinda hard to earnestly claim ‘defamation’ on the part of Zerb when there are pictures of Farber in the parade wearing a t-shirt that reads “Nobody knows I’m gay.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with (apparently) bearing false witness to further a political agenda, of course.

A tone of thinly-disguised contempt towards new media applications (note how English repeatedly points out the marginal online audience Zerbisias’ Star-hosted blog, Broadsides, receives in comparison to her ‘real’ column–ZOMG ‘only’ 900 daily hits!) is apparent throughout English’s embarrassingly ignorant column, making one skeptical that she and Cruickshank can be trusted to craft a knowledgeable, nuanced social media policy for Star reporters/columnists, one that takes into full account the conventions and standards of the online landscape (to say nothing of basic respect for digital fora in general.)

Former Star intern Jen Gerson (currently based in Abu Dhabi) does the heavy lifting addressing (and utterly decimating) English’s thinly-sourced and imprecise charges (memo to Ms. English: a blog comment is not the same thing as a blog post, much like an editorial is not a horoscope, even though both are typically part of a broadsheet. Are you following so far? Good.)

Gerson:

Given the context of the comment, nobody but the most wide-eyed naif would assume Zerbisias was outing Mr Farber. She was calling a public lobbyist to account for his hypocrisy. You know, doing that “journalism” thing we all so love to talk about. Albeit, in the snippy tone of a blogger, rather than the staid voice of print.

The obligatory response by Mr Farber, and the ensuing blog banter are all standard fare. I only started to feel my hackles raise upon reading this one: ‘Gay’ blog post was just not fair’ by the Toronto Star’s public editor, Kathy English, who spent the next 870-odd words, knees bent, begging for Farber’s forgiveness while offering her columnist’s head on a sacrificial plate.

She writes: “blogs by Star journalists ‘may not put the Star in a negative light.’”

Yes, because God Forbid we express a Controversial Opinion that may or may not be perceived to be negative with people who we may or may not be trying to kowtow to.

The only journalist who has put the Star in a negative light is Kathy English.
As a columnist, Zerbisias represents herself. Her readership knows her views and biases and pick up the star to read and/or rail about them.

However, as the public editor, English is perceived to represent the wider paper. So that column made the entire publication look like it’s run by humourless, uncomprehending fools who are quick to throw their own people over the edge of the ship at the behest of a well represented and powerful lobby.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this chilling, over the top attack on journalistic autonomy and free expression is the fact that Zerbisias has been spanked–publicly–for violating an as-yet unwritten policy. Vague exhortations regarding ‘civility’ come across as fawning overcompensation; English is simply trying too damn hard to be seen as doing something, and, as noted by Gerson, ends up looking foolish in the process–especially when one considers Farber’s provocative reputation and contentious history with Zerbisias (another memo for English: if you can’t separate legitimate reader concerns from blatant concern trolling you have no business being a public editor).

Exactly why English–and Cruickshank–were so quick to jump on Zerbisias over something that, if inaccuracy is the primary complaint, could be addressed with a simple ‘regret the error’ mea culpa, remains unclear, though this certainly isn’t the first time that Cruickshank has zealously targeted an uppity, left-leaning woman columnist in response to manufactured outrage.

Dr. Dawg wonders if there’s something other than editorial prudence driving the TorStar bus that English and Cruickshank have tossed Zerbisias under:

Why, if there is nothing wrong with being gay, is Farber “forced” to state publicly that he is not? Why all the Sturm und Drang? What does it matter, one way or the other?

And then a Star editor and the publisher go into full damage-control mode–except that I can’t, as noted, discern any damage. Not, in any case, unless Farber, despite his protestations, thinks that the “gay” label is a stigma, and the Star brass agrees with him. Blogs by Star journalists, says English, “may not put the Star in a negative light.” An ironic comment about someone being gay does that?

Tempest. Teapot. And possibly a wee bit of homophobia disguised as hand-wringing concerns about fairness and accuracy? You decide.

Ultimately, however, this controversy isn’t about ‘gay panic,’ or defamation, or even ‘accuracy’; it’s about the gatekeepers of Old Media desperately and opportunistically attempting to assert top-down editorial control over a still-uncertain contemporary media environment where their presence is largely unnecessary and unwanted. Unless Cruickshank, English, and the industry in general learn how to craft an online identity for newspapers and newspaper employees acknowledging the rollicking, informal, interactive atmosphere that defines the blogosphere without sacrificing traditional journalistic ethics, their already fleeting relevance will continue to evaporate.

We still need the invaluable contribution to the public good that is provided by quality journalism; but we must also take into account the industry-wide online evolution that has taken place completely below the radar of certain oblivious publishers and oversensitive public editors.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

2009 F-Word Blog Awards: And the Winnahs Are…

by matttbastard

Fuck yeah!

Awesome:

Sincere thanks to everyone who voted for yours truly in the Support Bro category. Is truly an honour. Also, heartfelt congrats to Antonia, Liss & Co. @ Shakesville, Beijing YorkRenee @ Womanist Musings, Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome and the rest of the winners and nominees for representin’ the f-word in ’09.

(D’ya think it’s too early for celebratory drinks?)

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Read This Now: “To be active is the difference between freedom and submission.”

by matttbastard

Renee brings the awesome with this passionate, inspiring must-read post on patriarchy, culture, and ‘the cycle of victimology’:

While I am certainly not in the position to judge another on the coping mechanisms which they employ to survive our racist, patriarchal culture, I do know that we need to be conscious of why we take on certain labels and how the interpretations of others impacts our decisions.  Allowing another to discern and control what the issues that effect our lives  entail is nothing more than a form of submission in the guise of owning victimology.

We are more than what someone does to us.  Each day when we wake, we make small decisions that have the potential to lead to great change.  It is because we have been understood as powerless that these actions continually fail to merit the respect that they deserve.  We can actively choose not to participate in conversations in which we have been declared unwelcome, or we can kick the door down and demand our voices be heard.  This is not the action of a militant, but the actions of a person that refuses to be the eternal victim so that others may patronize our struggle.  To be active is the difference between freedom and submission.

DJ rewind:

We are more than what someone does to us.

Yes, that.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Go on, read it.

Now.

Go.

h/t Sarah

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.