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Friday, November 09, 2007

Plain Dealer Reader Rep Ted Diadiun Runs Away From Blogfight: 'I'm Sorry I Bothered'

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine deconstructs a Sunday column by Ted Diadiun, The Plain Dealer readers' rep. Diadiun contends the newspaper's experimental and now dead political blog Wide Open expired over ethical conflicts. When the newspaperman jumped into the Buzzmachine comments section trying to clarify what happened, Jarvis then gave
Diadiun even more heat as an apologist and cheap shot artist. Rather than slug it out and defend his position, Diadiun retreated from the online confrontation. His final words, "OK, I'm sorry I bothered."

Diadiun's response, unfortunately, comes off like this: If I don't get the last word, I quit. And that's disturbing, because newspapers and newspaper people need to adapt to the new media and forums, they need to enjoy the mixing it up and duking it out, the collision of divergent opinions. Diadiun's retreat to his corner before the bell resembles a cry of "no mas, no mas."

The link to Jeff Jarvis' blog is above in the first paragraph. The exhange of comments starts here:

Ted Diadiun Says: November 7th, 2007 at 7:41 pm
I’d like to clarify something, if I may:
You commented that “they (the Plain Dealer) see this as a story of control,” and offer as proof a quote from my column that, “in general, the bloggers did what he (Dubail) wanted them to do.”
But that statement didn’t mean the bloggers generally did Dubail’s bidding — it meant, as I noted earlier in a part of the column you didn’t quote, that the bloggers’ mission was to “opine daily about the political scene, play off each other and generate response from fellow online politics junkies. They got free rein on what they could write.” THAT’s what Dubail wanted them to do, and that’s what they did.
This was never an issue of control or political pressure. It was always about long-standing newspaper ethical concerns, about conflict of interest. The bloggers were never told they couldn’t comment about whatever political issues they wanted, never were censored. It was only after the newspaper discovered that one (and later, two) bloggers had contributed money to political campaigns that they were told they couldn’t write about those campaigns while being paid to write on a Plain Dealer blog.
That separation is so well established in the newspaper world that it usually goes without saying. But with this arrangement, those ground rules should have been discussed up front. Quite simply, it occurred to no one — not the editors and I will take on faith not the bloggers — that it would be a problem.
Everyone feels bad about this. I think that reasonable people can disagree, as you and I do, about whether the newspaper should have established different ethical guidelines for the Web site that would have acknowledged the bloggers “involvement and transparency,” as you put it.
That is a discussion worth having. I think it’s too bad that the discussion degenerated instead into conspiracy theories about political pressure and why The Plain Dealer “really” took the steps it did.
The Plain Dealer makes congressmen angry all the time, and publishes many stories they hate. To imagine that some complaints from a congressman could bully the newspaper into silencing a blogger is ludicrous.

Jeff Jarvis Says: November 7th, 2007 at 8:20 pm
Sorry, Ted, but that’s utter crap, complete bull.
You say that your rules “go without saying.” Apparently so. You hired bloggers with clear opinions who are involved in their communities but then when you find that they contributed to campaigns — which in any other quarter would be considered a mark of civic participation — you accuse them of being unethical. That is grossly insulting. You are imposing YOUR standards on the perfectly normal and acceptable behavior of citizens whom you hired to be citizens. But you didn’t know what to do with it.
i found your column appalling. You can keep denying your meme about political pressure. But the bottom line here is that you revealed yourself to be utterly clueless about blogging and citizenship, You didn’t try to listen or learn. You imposed your worldview on them.
You embarrass me.

Ted Diadiun Says: November 7th, 2007 at 8:43 pm
Et tu, eh? I thought that here at least, we could have disagreement without personal attack.


  1. Bill, Jeff:

    That's Ted. In spades. I let him have it too in my blog and (honestly) deleted his comment by mistake back to me and I tried to reconstruct it with my comments. The gist of course, is he can dish it out to others (as people who have worked with him will attest) but he can't take it. My way or the highway, that's Ted's way.

  2. Hi Bad American --

    I am so glad that you stopped by and much of what you say about the flaws and warts of the newsbiz are true. I have seen the same things first hand over the years.

    However, I know Ted. And the Ted I know is fundamentally a decent man. For a time we shared a fantasy baseball team at The Plain Dealer called Bill and Ted's excellent adventure. There will be no insults aimed at him personally from this quarter. My disagreement is this: I think that the engagement he began to have with Jeff Jarvis should have continued for a few more rounds, perhaps 8 or 10. We all would have learned something, taken information away, by watching the licks being exchanged. And the two debaters/combatants/intellectual duelers might have gathered something from the sparring, too.

    The Plain Dealer (at least in the 'sphere) is coming off as a place run and staffed by boobs. That impression is not accurate.

  3. "The Plain Dealer (at least in the 'sphere) is coming off as a place run and staffed by boobs. That impression is not accurate."

    Actually, Bill, I don't think that at all - I don't think that it's coming off as staffed or run by boobs.

    The PD is coming off as obstinate and narrow-minded and in a serious state of denial. It's coming off as high and mighty and without humility. It's coming off as we're better than you and always will be because...we're not really sure why but at least we have this ethics code thing.

    I've written many times about how it is PRECISELY because the PD people I know are NOT boobs that such a situation like Wide Open is so depressing to me - it just did NOT have to be this way.

    It's not over, I'm sure. They aren't boobs, I'm sure of that too.

    But they do need to stop being so damn insular and protective of what already barely exists anymore.

    You made the leap - I know they can too. It's not so bad or scary. And you don't have to lose quality or anything else.

    Sigh - anyway. Just wanted to say that - it's because of having high expectations of the PD that this situation stinks.