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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Splitsville In Cleveland: A Marriage Of MSM And Blogs Ends In Bitter Divorce

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The news that an independent blogger was served with divorce papers from his paid gig with The Plain Dealer because of partisan political activities should be as about as surprising as Liz Taylor ditching a beau. Who really thought the match was made in heaven? The blogs are sluttily bodacious like Mae West, while the newspapers are a stockholders' business.

Remember Fitzgerald, writing in The Last Tycoon:

"'Why, you can hire anyone,' exclaimed his visitor in surprise.
'Oh, we hire them, but when they get out here, they're not good writers -- so we have to work with the material we have.'
'Such as what?'
'Anybody that'll accept the system and stay decently sober.'"

But we have this and this and this and this and this. And this, too, plus this and this. Didn't anybody sense that blogs and newspapers made strange bedfellows?

[UPDATE: 9:58 p.m. -- Lisa Renee Ward at Glass City Jungle weighs in by calling The Plain Dealer asshats, and Jerid at Buckeye State Blog openly mocks Wide Open for failing to remove content by a blogger it has removed. Jeff Coryell says The Plain Dealer's editor sent out an e-mail that inaccurately contends the newspaper did not bow to political pressure over the disagreement that lead to his parting company with Susan Goldberg's publication. As Ohio Goes points out that other Plain Dealer bloggers have contributed to political campaigns, and notes that bloggers often are politically active.]

On a blog, conversation does not range from Gertrude Stein, to tea, George III and 18th Century French portraitists. It's about breaking dishes in the kitchen. Newspapers are the gentlemanly butlers serving pot roast in the dining room. The blogs have a freshness and vitality; the newspapers are stony, like a statue.


  1. O, if only more bloggers looked like Mae West.

  2. Sorry Chris, best I can do is aim for looking like Elvira...with padding of course...


  3. This is all quite well said, Bill. The opposing cultures were always headed for an eventual clash, and here it is. But I think it was more than reasonable to ask him to simply include a disclosure whenever he wrote about the congressman. It was not reasonable to bar him from ever writing about him again in that space. And of course it's not so surprising that Brent Larkin would have been involved, because he's the venerable court of last resort for the usual suspects/old cronies trying to influence editorial policy in the dark.

  4. Hi Chris, Lisa Renee and John --

    Jeff is a great fellow and blogger. But I, too, would have fired him. I think if you operated in a newsroom -- or had come from that environment -- you would be very uncomfortable with the work of a committed partisan appearing alongside your own, or that of your staff. Many of those I've spoken to and who looked at this Wide Open arrangement, and thesre are people from the inside of the news biz, perhaps saw a totally different picture than those outside the news biz. They saw conflicts of interest and possible corruption -- that bloggers might be getting paid to say what they are saying, or are doing it for political gain, ambition, exposure, friendship, or patronage for a relative . . .

    Not that Jeff did any of that -- but what are the rules he operates under, any bloggers operate under? They probably have less restrictions than a Blackwater crew in Iraq. No rules. Or that is how it seemed to those on the inside. As you all know, the newspaper has Connie Schultz under a tether because of her and her husband's politics -- they wanted Jeff under a similar tether.

    If he wanted to stay independent, he did the right thing by quitting and going the way he has.

  5. Bill... just curious, but what action did Jeff take that would cause you to fire him? (Note that the question has a subtext involving how you would handle the other three bloggers.)

    Are you advocating that op ed columnists be held to the same content standards as "journalists" on a paper? The precedent was set by George Will and his advocacy of Ronald Reagan, yet for some reason everyone seems to forget that when they talk about "liberals" paid to express their opinions. Hiring four partisans to debate politics from their individual perspectives would clearly place them in the same territory.

    (For the record I am a big fan of George Will's writing as long as he sticks to baseball, and have no problem with him expressing his opinions since he's a paid pundit.)

  6. Chris --

    I don't think it was an action. I think it was a persona.

    That said, perhaps some kind of Op-Ed type area, fenced off, clearly, clearly defined etc. would work. I know this Wide Open space was supposed to be an arena of its own, but it got blurred, I think, is some minds as being part of the newspaper's brand or business.

    When you say George Will, you are speaking of a columnist who is a distinct brand. When he writes, he is speaking as George Will, and does not get blurred with The Plain Dealer.

    I guess the same applies to Ann Coulter, too. She is a distinct brand. So is Tom Teepin etc. I don't think I would employ Coulter, for example, because she is rude and acts in poor taste -- manners.

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