Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

November 29, 2008

Jeff Jarvis's Cowardly Evasions (1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:02 am

I suppose I should have been satisfied to have been one of the first to have called “bullshit” on one of our age’s biggest and most fraudulent media bloviators and peddlers of second rate pretensions to “new thinking” about journalism.

And it has been satisfying to see him squeal like a stuck pig at being called out for his heartless midget-mindedness (you can almost forgive heartlessness from someone with a great mind, but not from such an egregious mediocrity, whose pretensions reveal such an utter failure to understand what journalism is about–despite his mercenary exploitation of real journalists’ misfortunes.)

But since it promises to be–if only for its comic pleasure–worthwhile to keep an eye on his ballooning ego and further empty-headed pontifications, as a kind of measure of how low the culture has sunk that it pays attention to such a second-rater, therefore, as a public service, I’m going keep a kind of informal Jeff Jarvis watch.

I suppose if I were mean spirited I would be satisfied with reprinting some of the comments e-mailed to me by–I was going to say “his peers”, but let’s be frank his superiors–in the profession, in response to my critique of Jarvis’s notions about journalism. But he seems determined, in a disingenuous way, to avoid taking responsibility for his mean-spirited and cowardly kick-them-when-they’re-down attacks on more talented but less fortunate journalists–those who have brought honor to the profession rather than shame themselves by profiting, as Jarvis has, off the misery he’s helped create, by shilling for the Zells of this world. Therefore I think I might as well, for the benefit of the families of his betters who’ve been laid off for not devising–as Jarvis has–a parasitic way of feasting on the dying body of the print profession, let Jeff know what his betters are saying about him.

These are not people who are laid off but some of the smartest people in the profession, concerned of course by the upheaval in the business, but contemptuous of the dimbulb consultants who set themselves up as experts without ever having demonstrating any excellence but self promotion. The people below didn’t write me to be quoted by name, so I won’t use their names, just some of the delightfully vitriolic and contemptuous words they pour upon JJ’s insufferably smug and self-congratulatory head.

More than anything I feel that pity for the unfortunate students who are being taught a pinheaded caricature of “journalism” by a posturing self promoter who doesn’t know the first thing about it, requires that I begin with letting those students know just what a ridiculous figure he makes, capering around as he does, to intelligent people in the profession.

We’ll go on from there to consider the intellectual bankruptcy of his “thinking”, but the quotes are a good place to start, to give a sense that I’m not alone in my views of the p.r. con game he’s running:

“… [I] wept tears of blackhearted joy when I caught wind of your almost too-genteel evisceration of the insufferably pompous Jeff Jarvis. I read your SLATE post with unalloyed glee, savoring every word …There’s more hubris in a single Jarvis entry than all of Sophocles laid end to end…”

“Loved your critique, except that you were much too nice to him…”

“Ron, Your defenestration of Jeff Jarvis is much appreciated. His great contribution to journalism is EW and he thinks he is the AJ Liebling of the web. Good God!…”

“… [his] arrogance and vehemence are remarkable. Perhaps some day Jeff will explain why some poor bastard who has spent his or her life doing the honorable, day to day work of reporting for a newspaper should be held responsible for Craig’s List …”

“Thank you! There is no one I despise more in media more than Jeff Jarvis. He’s the absolute worst, and why any self-respecting media company would pay this guy a cent is beyond me…”

Just a sampling, and again, not one of them from a laid off journalist but from successful editors and writers who see through Jarvis’s jive.

And now let’s turn to the intellectual dishonesty of his response to me in which he claims that I didn’t engage with his “ideas” but merely attacked him because I no longer “liked” him.



  1. […] Read the entire piece here. […]

    Pingback by Pajamas Media » Jeff Jarvis’ Cowardly Evasions — November 30, 2008 @ 2:35 am | Reply

  2. The idea that journalism is about “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” is one of the arrogant assumptions that is driving its demise.

    Journalism should be first and foremost, telling the truth. Finding the facts and stating them without prejudice.

    In this, journalism has manifestly failed and is reaping its just rewards.

    Comment by Evil Pundit — November 30, 2008 @ 3:17 am | Reply

  3. What a pompous ass.

    Comment by Michael Hankamer — November 30, 2008 @ 3:45 am | Reply

  4. poor guy. It looks like the drive bys will not go qiuetly but lie on the ground convulsing till they bite off their own tongue’s. Pass me a beer this is going to be great!

    This is sweet music to my ears or more properly called eye candy I guess.

    Exit question… when will our friend fire himself for the good of the profession?

    Comment by mpgrunt787 — November 30, 2008 @ 5:30 am | Reply

  5. Whatever journalism used to be it now is Big Brother’s way of controlling the masses; how hideous is their practice of creating crises to control the mindset.

    Journalism is dead, overtaken by control-freaks; finding the facts and stating them will get banana republic mobs to harrass those who expose truth.

    Mr Rosenbaum, journalism is evil Big Brother on siliconed steroids with pretty people talking stupid.

    Comment by syn — November 30, 2008 @ 5:44 am | Reply

  6. Mr. Rosenbaum makes a lot of good points here, notably the importance of actual reporting and the foolishness of imagining there is a replacement for it. I hadn’t heard of the Google book, but the Jarvis position as represented here is astonishing. However, it also bears a striking resemblance to what I have seen in the mainstream media lately.

    Rosenbaum asks, apparently with a straight face, “Should White House reporters refuse to ask Barack Obama questions about his policies and instead “reverse engineer” what they think he’s doing and thinking?” Should they? No. Did they? Yes, indeed!! (It’s certainly wrong, but it’s not a technique used only by Mr. Jarvis.)

    I agree with EP in rejecting the idea that the job of a journalist (or reporter) is to comfort or to afflict. Reporting is telling the story, as truthfully as possible, in the time allowed.

    It doesn’t require a degree or any special training–citizen journalism is not the least bit like citizen dentistry. Experience certainly helps, but for the most part, anyone who cares about something can report on it effectively by paying attention, getting the facts right, and using plain English.

    That’s something to be celebrated, not something to be nervous about. The Internet is creating a meritocracy of writers. I think what will happen over time is that writing and reporting will get better in every medium, now that we have a chance to compare and contrast how stories are handled.

    The national dialog is being conducted differently now, with many more voices being heard. But the principles of truthful, firsthand reporting and honest opinion presented as such still apply, and will always apply, whether we are speaking around the campfire, writing books or newspaper stories, or chatting over the Internet.

    Comment by Sarah Rolph — November 30, 2008 @ 6:40 am | Reply

  7. Having read numerous reports from “citizen” journalists, I and having read even more from “professional” journalists, I must say many times I prefer the almost absolute honesty of the citizen.
    Journalism as a profession has reared the head of partisanship under the guise of knowing better than “the people.”
    Gosh, we “people” are so dumb only the elite can lead us to nirvana. “tTheir” idea of nirvana I must add. But not the idea of all & not what should be imposed on all.

    Comment by Rubicon — November 30, 2008 @ 7:02 am | Reply

  8. Great piece Mr. Rosenbaum! Unfortunately this great country of ours is plagued by people who claim to know more than those who actually do. The old saying “Those who can’t do it, teach it.” comes to mind. Keep up the fight for the integrity of your profession kind sir. Those of us at the mercy of the journalism profession for our news will surely thank you.

    Comment by Thinking Person — November 30, 2008 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  9. When I was in J101 way back in High School, the 1970’s I believe it was (although memories are understandably dim), my J teacher taught the ‘who, what, when, where, how’ theory and told me the ‘why’ was for columnists.

    I learned early that journalism as a profession had been practiced for decades by hard-bitten Marlboro-chomping WWII vets with sleeves rolled up, three telephones ringing on the desk and the old dependable typewriter clattering away in front of them. They wanted to know what happened, who did it, where and when, and how it was done.

    Needless to say, it was not a profession like lawyering or doctoring. It was a job, like plumbing or electrical wiring or perhaps engineering. If you could keep a grip on facts, you could be a journalist.

    This business of elevating it to atmospheric levels of professional wisdom and degrees and ‘specialness’ is fairly new and VERY obnoxious. It is NOT hard to find out who, what, when, where and how. It does NOT take a degree from Columbia School of Journalism. It only takes common sense.

    They have tried to create for themselves a high mountain where only special people can go. They ended up making fools of themselves before every honest and sensible person, and stars of themselves for the rest who are susceptible to such things.

    They need to come back down to earth, and they won’t volunteer for it, so a system wide financial crash is the cleansing stroke needed. I like it, I endorse it by NOT buying newspapers or spending money with network news advertisers. I suspect I am not alone.

    Comment by Dave in Texas — November 30, 2008 @ 7:44 am | Reply

  10. Gee, Ron, why don’t you say what you REALLY feel? (snicker…)

    Comment by Wild Bill — November 30, 2008 @ 7:48 am | Reply

  11. Mr. Rosenbaum’s view that reporters are hard-working, dispassionate professionals hasn’t been true for a long time. What I see are smug political types who went to J-school because they wanted to “make a difference”, i.e. move the country to the left. Instead of reporting, we get political propaganda barely disguised as “news”. There are a lot of intelligent people who have stopped reading the newspapers they grew up with because they are tired of the partisan posturing.

    If this author really believes that papers are dying because of Craigslist, he should take a bit of his own advice and do some real reporting. Sit down with a phone, Mr. Rosenbaum, and call the people who have cancelled their subscriptions. Ask them why they did so. You will get an earful, and then some.

    Comment by George Lukes — November 30, 2008 @ 8:45 am | Reply

  12. I don’t know who Jarvis is but I’ll sure watch for hum. However, Rosenbaum is no gem, either. His efforts to distinguish good journalists from, well, Jarvis presumes that there are actually good journalists.
    Journalism is a profession just as prostitution is a profession. Just because Rosenbaum tries to distinguish between the skanks and the hos doesn’t change the fact that they are all still hookers.

    Comment by TexEd — November 30, 2008 @ 9:12 am | Reply

  13. I never heard of Jeff Jarvis before and I get around. Count me as one of the lucky ones!

    Comment by charlie finch — November 30, 2008 @ 9:18 am | Reply

  14. Why is this on Pajamas Media? Used to be one of my favorite “new media” sites. On a dismal Sunday, with
    nowhere to go, I have to read this vitriol about Jeff Jarvis????? I was just looking for something on Mumbai
    on the ever nimble internet (thank goodness for what was I thinking? The NY Times had nothing on its editorial pages. VENERABLE JOURNALIST ROSENBAUM
    can only hurl jealous venom about someone he feels is more successful than he is. Thought I’d check out
    Buzz Machine and found some interesting Citizen(Heaven Forbid)journalism from people who had the
    misfortune to be in Mumbai during the massacre. Talk about sad, Mumbai is sad, and Rosenbaum is
    just downright pathetic for writing about this!!!!

    Comment by zazulu — November 30, 2008 @ 9:57 am | Reply

  15. While Jeff Jarvis may be getting too big for his britches (if there’s one thing the Oil Sheiks can do, it’s make you feel your britches are a bit snug) I’d say this little screed doesn’t make me feel a bit better for the print industry.

    Yes, being out of work sucks. Yes, actual legwork is required for good journalism, as opposed to punditry. (And pundits should take care to at least cite sources and search for corroboration.)

    But this is just indulgent. Jeff is surfing a wave you missed, and that I still don’t think you understand. That he’s not surfing it with as much class as you think he should doesn’t justify the tantrum I just read.

    Comment by Mark Poling — November 30, 2008 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  16. ———-
    Remember when journalism was supposed to be about “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

    WTF?? Wasn’t journalism supposed to be about getting facts straight and being accurate, and letting people be comforted or afflicted as the facts dictated??

    That sort of attitude—–that journalism is some sort of calling, much like the priesthood, which must be kept out of the hands of those dreadful blogging proles—-is what will kill the “traditional journalism” Mr. Rosenbaum is so enamored with, not Jeff Jarvis.

    Tempis is fugiting, Mr. Rosenbaum. Adapt or die.

    Comment by Harry — November 30, 2008 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  17. […] can’t wait to see the Countercolumn reaction to this entertainingly nasty little shiv thrust by Ron […]

    Pingback by Chapomatic » Guilty Pleasure — November 30, 2008 @ 11:00 am | Reply

  18. I recommend a spell check (and a delete of this comment). Googe, pontificaor, Fubai, onthe, extra commas.

    Comment by Chap — November 30, 2008 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  19. Thank You Ron,

    As a former Information Technology professional whose involvement with the internet goes back to way before the advent of the World Wide Web I have often been appalled by the ignorance Jeff dosplays when he writes of new media. he does not understand the technology nor its weakneses when put to tasks for which it was not designed.

    The Free For All that is web2 is not a great expression of free speech as JJ like to claim, in fact it makes the work of those who would control the distribution of information and limit discussion so much easier viz the control freakery of the Obama campaign which managed to suppress several stories that would have sunk other candidates.

    As Dave in Texas suggests Jarvis is another examle of a new breed of oligarchs that seems to be emerging from the University faculties.

    Comment by Ian Thorpe — November 30, 2008 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  20. Dave in Texas writes:

    This business of elevating it to atmospheric levels of professional wisdom and degrees and ’specialness’ is fairly new and VERY obnoxious. It is NOT hard to find out who, what, when, where and how. It does NOT take a degree from Columbia School of Journalism. It only takes common sense.”

    You are so right, Dave! I am so surprised that any of the MSM gets any traction at all considering it’s loaded with such self-congratulatory drek..

    ..especially since one finds some outstanding commentary from blogs written by the “common man” (and, or course, the “common woman”).

    Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum are growing tedious, among them folks like the self-righteous George Will, the menopausal Peggy Noonan, and the terminally self-referential Bill O’Reilly. It is amazing that these folks command an audience.

    Comment by Войска ПВО — November 30, 2008 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  21. Ron Rosenbaum,

    I have never heard of you nor have any idea who this Jeff Jarvis character is but wonder how you could possibly fail to see that having to resort to copy and pasting un-attributed quotes in support of your argument smacks of embarrassing desperation.

    This is especially ironic as, as I understand it, this dispute is over journalistic standards themselves. I just thought I should point this out before you further embarrass yourself. This is the kind of ineptness that gives online (would be) journalists such a bad name.



    Comment by James Westlake — November 30, 2008 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

  22. Back when Pajamas Media was OSM briefly, around the time they had their debut party at the Rainbow Room, Jeff Jarvis was on his BuzzMachine blog poo pooing the entire idea of this new venture, declaring that he “just doesn’t get it”, that there was no point at all in the effort.

    Welp, PJM is a great site and is progressing into a larger vehicle as time passes. If Jarvis was so darn good at spotting new media trends, then why didn’t he “get it” 3 years ago when Pajamas Media was launching? (

    After I blogged about his lack of understanding of the concept of Pajamas Media, he came and left snarky comments at my site and accused me of misquoting him (despite the fact that I directly copied and pasted), and then personally attacked me. I wasn’t exactly bothered by the experience, but after reading this piece here and the Slate article I can see that this is precisely the kind of character that Jarvis IS and HAS BEEN.

    Comment by QuickRob — November 30, 2008 @ 12:13 pm | Reply

  23. Ron Rosenbaum —

    You and Jarvis are BOTH wrong. Wrong in just about everything.

    The media are nothing but a monolithic bunch of shills for the Democratic Party and worship Barack Hussein Obama as their living God. They really do. They censor the news, refusing to report anything negative about their tin God, and making him look like the Second Coming. Literally.

    Meanwhile much of the Web stuff is nothing but a rehash of links and content, nearly all of it junk, generated by the media itself.

    An example would be Obama’s donor base. The media simply repeated Obama’s lie that it was from small donors. In fact, it came from big donors, bundlers, and (illegal) foreign money, most of the latter from Saudi and Muslim terrorist organizations (Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.)

    The few independent citizen journalists, most with a partisan agenda of their own, pointed this out during the election. As they did Obama’s website allowing illegal and foreign donations, with no credit card verifications (deliberately turned off with connivance with the credit card companies).

    What this leaves is an information “gap” and most people are simply going to believe rumor an innuendo. The media by being nothing more than shills for Democrats and worshipers, quite literally, of Obama as their own Personal Jesus, are not trusted. There are no alternatives that are “trusted” either.

    What this does is legitimize rumor and innuendo as a social and political means of communication. This will stay the situation until a new brand of media establishes itself as “trusted” and that will take decades. We are now facing a run of at least 20 and perhaps 50 years of rumor and innuendo taking center stage as how people receive information.

    Let me add that when the Media leave “gaps” that are easily exploited, particularly with a Media Image and inconvenient videos, written statements, and other bits of information that contradict the Media Image, rumor and innuendo are readily believed. This was the case in the USSR and Eastern Europe during Communist domination. No one believed the state-run media and everyone subscribed to the wildest of rumors and tales. Particularly when they could see obvious “gaps” … such as showing the “Grapes of Wrath” to demonstrate how poor Americans were — Soviets picked up on the fact that the Joads had a CAR!

    Comment by whiskey — November 30, 2008 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

  24. the marble headstone for journalism can be found alongside serious novelists, painters, dramatists, newly conceived musicals and william schirer.

    in any case, there are no journalistic standards because there is no demand for it. (there is however, as we have learned to our great sorrow, quite an intense demand for walmart’s price-slashed 50″ plazma tvs).

    the intrepid journalist and compulsively driven editor with a flurry of fact-checkers exists only in the nostalgic fog of memory and mourning.
    the common sense variety of interpreting information is gleaned from reality shows, CNN’s mostly baffled looking hosts and barbara walter’s moronic the view. it will have to suffice.

    pajamas media gets it mostly right, nonetheless. i like visiting.

    Comment by Judy, NYC — November 30, 2008 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

  25. Midget-mindedness? Probably not; his raw I.Q. very likely is all right. But his soul? Another issue entirely.
    In any event, you chose a target which richly deserves it.

    Comment by Bleepless — November 30, 2008 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  26. I remember Jarvis’ reaction to the debut of Pajamas Media as well – pathetic envy. Nowadays I rarely read him. He doesn’t have much of interest to say. My only quarrel with Rosenbaum why he wastes his time on such a person.

    Comment by A. N. Pierson — November 30, 2008 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  27. “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”

    This is truly a gross misunderstanding of the role of a “mainstream” journalist. It may also be the number one reason why bias slips into their reporting. Why should the so-called comfortable be afflicted? Did they do something wrong? Is it immoral to be “comfortable?” And no, I am not being facetious. The job of a journalist is be fair to everyone, to report the facts, and stay away from editorializing as much as possible. If someone indeed wishes to engage in advocacy writing—that is fine and dandy. They should therefore immediately seek employment with the National Review, Nation, or The New Republic. But this sort of writing is forbidden to the journalist hired by a legacy media outlet claiming to be “fair and objective.”

    Comment by David Thomson — November 30, 2008 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  28. “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”

    I think we need to understand the spirit of the meaning here. It’s not supposed to be taken literally. It means that truth can be a comfort to the afflicted and an affliction to the comfortable.

    (in trying to be clever by switching around the nouns and verbs, the meaning gets a little poetic, don’t be so picky…)

    Comment by Eric Gauvin — December 1, 2008 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  29. While I don’t really care for Jarvis, you sound like just another whining journalist crying for attention as the entire profession circles the drain.

    Comment by Vivictius — December 2, 2008 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  30. Ron, I would like your take on what some real journalists Mark Halperin think about how fake journalists, the people you seem to stand up for, handled the election coverage?
    Do you really think they were completely unbiased and held true to journalistic standards they learned in J school?
    How do you not think this has something to do with the lack of respect many of us have for so called “journalists.”
    I for one have cancelled my subscription to the NYTimes, and it has nothing to do with my desire to read more blogs.
    Halperin called the election media coverage “the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war. It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”
    What is your take?

    Comment by Bryan — December 2, 2008 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  31. The MSM were so in the tank for Obama only the willfully blind could miss it. I don’t blame Obama for using this to his advantage, but the actions will have lasting effects on an industry that was already in trouble.

    How is becoming the American Pravda, a bought-out sold-out entity to be used as a propaganda vehicle for the powerful, “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”?

    Comment by Zim — December 2, 2008 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  32. Didn’t get invited to “Fubai”, eh? Or is this the last of the rats eating each other as the ship sinks? Just wait until you sober up and see what you’ve written.

    Oh, sorry. That would be reverse-engineering this little hissy fit, so I should probably just ask: What occasions this ill-tempered and embarrassingly ill-becoming display?

    Comment by Swen Swenson — December 2, 2008 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  33. If one is afflicted, the truth comes as no surprise,- and no comfort. If one is comfort able, who gives a damn bout the truth. The “saying” is not only not wise, it is truly stupid,like most things related to the “journalistic profession”. Once a craft or trade, It is now a calling pursued largely by dim-witted children of affluence, persuaded by socialist academics that they can “make the world a better place” by attacking greedy capitalism and lecturing their readers on the glories of deconstructionism and diversty, and the idolitry of vacuous incompetents like BHO, Something like being a “Professional Environmentalist”, a category formerly known as” Tree Worshippers”.

    Like many others here, I know nothing of JJ or RR and the reason for their little spat over their noble means of livelihood. But I have been realizing of late that most of those I follow closely and trust in reportage and commentary are lawyers (!!), engineers, historians, economists – rational thinkers and serious searchers after the truth (like Steyn), rather than graduates in the “social sciences”, which apparently now includes journalism.

    Comment by dragonfly — December 3, 2008 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

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