Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

December 22, 2008

Jarvis Watch (2) He Brings In Mommy and Daddy!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:21 pm

This has got to be a blogospheric first! No surprise, I suppose, that it’s brought to you by Jeff Jarvis, self-proclaimed pioneer of blogospheric thinking. Still when I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it. I knew Jarvis had been avoiding defending himself from the substance of my critique of his ludicrous notion of “journalism” i.e. you learn more about an institution such as Google by refusing to talk to anyone who founded or works for Google. Seriously! That’s the method of his forthcoming Google book. Apparently Jarvis has no defense, because all his replies are complaints that someone dared criticize him.

Instead and I’m not making this up, he’s hiding behind his mommy and daddy to avoid engaging with my argument. Somebody told me about this passage which I think will become famous in the annals of Web discourse. Call it Crybabyism 2.0. It’s from Jarvis’s blog, shortly after my Slate piece ran. I should have been paying attention but so much of his blog is devoted to self-reverential accounts of his many travels to self-congratulatory blog “summits”, and quotations from cronies telling him how smart he is, I missed it.

But, really, it tops it all, garners the gold in the Jarvis self-pity Olympics. He quotes an e-mail from his parents who read my critique of little Jeffy:

“I was more bothered than anything that I got email from my parents wondering who this Ron Rosenbaum was (and why was he attacking their son). Even bloggers have mothers.”

Awww. Pardon me while I wipe away the tears. It’s actually pretty offensive to me, when you think about it. Offensive to me, offensive to his own mother that he uses her to hide behind. He can’t defend his position on journalism from criticism on any rational grounds–basically it comes down “better to learn less than more–so he has so accuse me of causing pain to his parents.



  1. I’m not familiar with the history of this so I apologize if some of this has been said already.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Jarvis next points to the market as a defense. He’s getting paid while real journalists aren’t, therefore, the market has dictated that he is right.

    The problem with that argument is something alluded to above. That is, the business end of journalism is what has failed, not the journalists themselves. It’s unfortunate that these same business managers are in a position to fire the journalists and blame them for the failure. But any reasonably conscious observer can tell that people didn’t quit buying newspapers because the news in them was deficient, but because everything else about the newspapers was. From the production to the distribution and the revenue stream, newspapers have failed even though some (increasingly fewer) of them delivered a superior product, better journalism.

    Now, in the face of their own failures to adapt their business models to technology, media business managers are grasping at straws in an attempt to salvage their job titles. It’s no surprise that they’d try to co-opt the very product that made their incompetency so glaring. Music industry execs have been trying to do the same thing for a few years. Made obsolete by the internet, they keep trying to claim ownership and profit from the same online distribution streams that made them obsolete in the first place. In both cases, the folks who actually produce a product, musicians and journalists, end up paying the price.

    Comparing the two industries, music and news, actually provides a pretty interesting perspective. Not only have the ‘artists’ (musicians and journalists) been let down by the failures of distributors and managers to adapt to the internet, but the competition that defeated them was a swarm of amateurs in the form of garage-bands and bloggers enjoying the free exposure the internet granted them. Of course, that’s also a key difference. While many of those garage-bands were actually as good or better than the under-contract MTV bands they were supplanting, most news bloggers are untrained, unskilled and sloppy. Like Jarvis.

    The internet, by killing the old distribution models, has given us a chance to experience so many more of the excellent unsigned musicians and writers in the world. But it’s also raised our exposure to a mass of awful wannabes and hacks. For every great new band or writer to appear on myspace or blogspot, there are hundreds of terrible ones. This isn’t a bad thing. A discerning audience can always find the better bands and the better news sources even if the industry is constantly marketing to the lowest common denominator of demographic audience. But the social consequences of that lowest common denominator listening to bad music is nothing compared to the effects of such bad journalism. The world survived the Spice Girls relatively unscathed, but yellow journalism, propaganda and misinformation have left some pretty nasty scars.

    We need to save the good, responsible and honest journalism that has been evolving in our society for hundreds of years, not replace with the flavor of the month because of bad business decisions. While the music execs might have been a little justified in blaming the contract musicians for their failure to sell CDs, the news execs have nobody but themselves to blame for failing to sell newspapers.

    Comment by Kasey Rasmussen — December 23, 2008 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  2. Man, what a juvenile – and tedious – pissing contest…

    Comment by jdm — December 23, 2008 @ 11:02 am | Reply

  3. You guys gotta be kidding. What is a “real, professional journalist” to you? Let me tell you what one is to me: A biased, ill-read, purblind shill for whatever he or she agrees with, working for an organization without scruple when it comes to sensationalizing, distorting, or flat out ignoring the truth if they find it disagreeable or it means they can grab a few more eyeballs for their paid advertising. Objective, unbiased, thoughtful analysis is completely beyond their ability and/or desire. You have got to be joking when you say that the Chicago Tribune missed the Gov Blago story because their “competent” journo’s got laid off. It was not covered so it wouldn’t splash any mud on Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. Corruption in Illinois politics is and has been rampant and endemic for decades right under the noses of your pitiful, out of work “journalists”.

    Please don’t confuse my harshness as support for this Jeff Jarvis character (no idea who he is). He sounds like a real preening “everything is different now and I saw it first” weenie. However, before you get your “real journalist” ego too blown up, tell me how it matters if you interview Google or IBM management (to use your examples) and then selectively edit their responses, take phrases out of context, shoot them in unflattering light, recut questions and answers, and put words in their mouth? Who’s the better journalist then? If you honestly conducted the interview and made the full original source available and produced a thoughtful analysis then I would say your argument holds water (unfortunately you’d never get the resulting piece broadcast or published). In those circumstances, since “real journalism” can’t be (or won’t be) done anymore, maybe the reader has a better shot at a true picture by a random sampling of outside (expert & otherwise) opinion.

    Think about it, Ace. Jeff Jarvis may really be a shallow, self-promoting idiot, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile. He might just be on to something about fact gathering in the modern internet age. My blog pseudonym was coined after reading what a “real journalist” wrote about a subject I happened to have direct experience with. How do you think he did?

    Comment by Staring In Disbelief — December 23, 2008 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  4. Sorry Ron but you’ve been a journalist too long if you think the major problem with journalism today is the corporate ownership. The major problem with journalism today is the it spends all it’s time attacking the same boogeymen (conservatives) and excusing and covering up the worst excesses of it’s hero’s (Democrats).

    For instance your aside about Blago and Obama and what may have been reported if the Tribune hadn’t fired a bunch of journalists. I’ve got news for you Ron, if they didn’t fire those journalists they would have just had more stories about how great Obama is. There are plenty enough journalists at the Tribune or the LA Times or wherever to have reported on Obama’s ties to the Chicago political machine. They just didn’t want to. As far as I’m concerned having 20,000 journalists sucking up to Democrats and swooning over Obama is much better than having 40,000 doing it and if I was in corporate I’d probably figure it would be cheaper too.

    So excuse me if I laugh everytime I read about more newsroom lay-off’s and some journalist tries to blame it on corporate. Sorry guy but corporate doesn’t right the boring, one-track yellow journalism crap that spews from the MSM these days.

    Thanks for the laugh though Ron, your last few paragraphs are hysterical. “good, responsible and honest journalism”, that’s rich man.

    Comment by Big E — December 23, 2008 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  5. Tell it to the Joads

    Comment by charlie finch — December 23, 2008 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  6. For the record guys, try to separate my purile, uninformed comments from Ron’s. Cheers!

    Comment by Kasey Rasmussen — December 23, 2008 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  7. What Rosenbaum doesn’t understand is that sophisticated blog readers had deserted Jarvis (a monumental bore) years ago. What Jarvis has to say about new media – and alas Rosenbaum’s response – is tedious and irrelevant.

    Comment by Arthur Feld — December 23, 2008 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  8. The journalists deserve every bit as much criticism as that which is heaped on the business side. I follow civil liberties and corruption issues, and were it not for people like Radley Balko who is a blogger who is damn near a journalist on the side, a lot of the information would fall through the cracks because the local media couldn’t be less interested. There are often a lot of stories that happen in modest sized jurisdictions that the media could blow wide open–and be civically responsible at the same time. Yet, they don’t because they are often too busy chasing the conservative-libertarian boogeyman that another commenter pointed out.

    Both sides are made for one another. Jarvis sounds like a tool with respect to his book on Google (it sounds like a hit piece a la Naomi Klein’s libelous tome about Milton Friedman), but he is justified in experiencing schadenfreude when discussing the fate of much of the mainstream media.

    Comment by Mike T — December 23, 2008 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  9. I am another who stepped into this debate just now. I have no real stake in things, other than to comment that using one’s mother to defend yourself against a critical article is a bit unfair, to say the least. I also was amused that Mom didn’t know who Ron Rosenbaum was, but knew her son (of course). I, on the other hand, know who Ron is (Explaining Hitler was a very good book) and have no clue who this Jarvis character is. I had to think just a minute when I wrote his name; I’d already forgotten it. I expect I’ll never hear of him again, thankfully.

    Comment by DavidN — December 23, 2008 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  10. I haven’t read much worth reading from Jarvis in a while (take that for what it’s worth, life’s to short to regularly read anyone who bores me), but ditto on commenters above.

    The problem with journalism is that too many journalists are advocates willing to arrange the facts to fit a predetermined story line. They don’t want us to draw our own conclusions, they want us to draw their conclusions.

    Comment by tim maguire — December 23, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  11. Personally, I don’t “callously dismiss the crushed hopes of whole families of journalists thrown out of work”.

    I grin with glee and schadenfreude. The more of these worthless left-wing parasites who are forced out to seek honest jobs, the better for society.

    Two of my favourite websites are Reflections of a Newsosaur and AngryJournalist. They never fail to cheer me up.

    If, as you claim, Jeff Jarvis is contributing to the fall of the corrupt institution of jpurnalism, then more power to him!

    Comment by Evil Pundit — December 23, 2008 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

  12. I am a big fan of Ron Rosenbaum. Why, I wonder, is he devoting an atom bomb to annihilating a flea? Ron, get a grip. It’s not worth the intellectual and emotional expenditure.

    Comment by Stephen Rittenberg — December 23, 2008 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

  13. Your original critique is a shining example of the type of distorted reporting pointed out by “Staring in Disbelief” above.

    Few of the quotes show what you claim, and they are presented in a slanted, snotty, tendentious style. I for one look forward to the demise of the self-appointed gate keepers who know better than us what we should know, and what we don’t need to know. And their “suffering families” too!

    Comment by Clark — December 23, 2008 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  14. It is presently my intention to, from here forward, present the words “journalist” or “journalism” in quotes. Ain’t what they used to be, and there’s no telling what they actually are.

    Comment by Ann — December 23, 2008 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  15. Mr Rosenbaum obviously knows what journalism should be, and yet we see that it doesn’t really matter whether he does on not. As Rome burns, “the media” bred journalists focus on who screwed up the secret handshake at the last fraternity meeting. After decades of training, those within the Profession Formally Known as Journalism seem incapable of seperating what is important within their own frat house from what is important to the mass of those they hope to reach.

    Now, on to another article about “The One” looking good in Hawaii. (Hawaii is so much nicer this time of year than, say, Chicago where they have all that corruption and bad weather. Don’t you think?)

    have a nice day

    Comment by Rashputin — December 24, 2008 @ 2:50 am | Reply

  16. Ron, are you seriously arguing that the editorial side has no culpability in the newspaper business collapse?

    Comment by Tao Te Truth — December 24, 2008 @ 5:52 am | Reply

  17. What an odd use of Pajamas Media: a rousing defense of traditional journalism, and in case that’s not enough, a call to pity those poor reporters and their families (at Christmastime!). I half feel that Charles or Roger need to come in here and pull a Palmieri. And the part where Rosenbaum goes all Glenn Greenwald with his resume was extra special.

    Comment by Brian O'Connell — December 24, 2008 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  18. Jarvis makes his living being a well-compensated consultant to old-line MSM newspapers like the Newark Star-Ledger, which has taken the route of destroying its own franchise while terrorizing its employees. This charlatan even has the chutzpah to nod knowingly while his online idiots go on at length about how lousy the Ledger’s website ( is, while never copping to the fact that he was the consultant who designed it in the first place. He is beneath contempt, no matter what anyone may believe about the cosmic merit (or lack of it) of journalists.

    Comment by Renfield — December 24, 2008 @ 11:14 am | Reply

  19. Yeah, right! The Trib “journalists” would have exposed Blago’s activities! And I have some ocean front property to sell you in New Mexico, with private beach rights, for real cheap!

    Comment by Rubicon — December 24, 2008 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

  20. Wah wah, blah, blah. I’m amazed that journalists allow vultures and cretins to control this narrative. How many of you have ever met a journalist? Ever worked as one? Ever known one? Jesus, most of your knowledge of an industry seems to be informed entirely by cop dramas and tired stereotypes.

    Comment by Mel Michaelson — December 25, 2008 @ 12:50 am | Reply

  21. I’m amazed that newspapers allow vultures and cretins to do journalism. But the failure of the news industry is the inevitable outcome of that choice.

    The more the readers know about journalists, the less they trust them.

    Comment by Evil Pundit — December 25, 2008 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  22. The business end of journalism has failed, that’s true. The way people use media has changed. But to claim that’s the only reason for the failure is typical of the people still in the field.

    I’ve worked in the newspaper business for close to 30 years, and very closely with journalists. I’ve seen the decline in character and skill of journalists. Most are activists now. Generations coming up in the business are increasingly incurious. They have poor critical thinking skills, have no basic knowledge of history or civics. They ARE quick to omit for the convenience of making a story fit an agenda and slow to recognize their own bias.

    I’m not saying there were none interested in learning and working to get it right. But the vast majority contributed to the sorry state of their own vocation.

    I would love to pick up a NYT and read it as I did years ago, but there is not much learning or pleasure from it anymore. Blame the failure on the business end if you like, but to deny that journalists are not part in their own demise is telling.

    Comment by kasper — December 28, 2008 @ 7:40 am | Reply

  23. Mel Michaelson – “Wah wah, blah, blah. I’m amazed that journalists allow vultures and cretins to control this narrative. How many of you have ever met a journalist?”

    I’ve known a few even though most of them are now retired or gone from this world. I also have a cousin who is prominent in the business. It’s talking with people in the field that has led me to believe that if a journalist has no integrity, whatever else they have isn’t important.

    The articles on this topic actually remind me of an old “Spy vs Spy” comic from Mad Magazine. Were it not for the fact that I do have some respect for Mr Rosenbaum, I’d think it was just vultures fighting over the corpse of the aviary keeper who bred them and raised them on the corpses of those he slew for cheap thrills.


    Comment by Rashputin — January 3, 2009 @ 1:22 pm | Reply

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