It's just such a stunning example of newspaper-industry hubris and cluelessness. True confession: I'm writing about it for the second time, and I still haven't made it past the 10-minute mark, where Cleveland Plain Dealer "reader representative" Ted Diadiun refers to bloggers as "a bunch of pipsqueaks."
Diadiun -- he represents those readers who are executives at the Plain Dealer, evidently -- talks to reporter Rich Exner, mostly about the P-D's Connie Schultz's recent column supporting a plan to tighten copyright law to limit the right of Web sites to discuss or paraphrase original reporting by newspapers for 24 hours. A plan to rein in the First Amendment, in other words, in order to protect newspapers from the blogosphere stealing their content and ruining their business.
As noted yesterday, newspapers "stealing" from bloggers, on the other hand, isn't just OK, it's something Exner actually brags about and uses as evidence that newspapers are so much more valuable than bloggers.
But let's get back to Diadiun's "pipsqueak" moment. He'd been talking about a followup Schultz had written to her original copyright column. Schultz "spent some time kind of rebutting something that was done by a guy who has taken it upon himself to support online news dissemination and public journalists at the expense of print," he said, referring to Jeff Jarvis and his blog BuzzMachine, "and gave him a lot of ink in her column, which I thought was kind of unfortunate."
We're just going to ignore the phrase "public journalists," OK? It's a bizarre formulation -- as opposed to, what, private journalists? -- but he probably meant something like "citizen journalists," and we'll just mark it down to speaking off the cuff. But why, representative of us readers, is it kind of unfortunate that Schultz gave Jarvis a lot of ink? Back to Diadiun:
"... which I thought was kind of unfortunate because Connie's column is read by 25- or 30,000 people a month, which has to be many times more than this guy gets on his blog, and she gave him more publicity through that column than he would get on his own anytime."
Thirty thousand readers a month "has to be many times" what Jarvis gets on his blog? Wait, that sounds like one of those unsourced, unreported assumptions you might get from ... from ... A BLOGGER! Diadiun actually started to say "is," but than corrected himself and phrased it "has to be." That was an admission, however subconscious, that he didn't have any idea what he was talking about. He was guessing to make his point.
Why is it so common for print people who criticize the low standards of the Web to go on the Web and say and write things they would never say or write in print? Does Diadiun just guess at stuff in his newspaper column?
Since Jarvis has more than 20,000 followers on Twitter, I would guess that Schultz's 30,000 monthly readers, as reported by Diadiun, do not dwarf Jarvis' readership. But I don't like to guess -- even in a blog! -- so I did something crazy. I got all newspapery and responsible. I asked Jarvis how many readers he has.
"My web stats say I had 106,000 unique vistors in May," Jarvis answered via e-mail. "I had about 20,000 RSS readers, last I knew," though he confessed to having forgotten his password to re-check that figure.
Diadiun goes on: "I mentioned that there was a big reaction from the blogosphere to Connie's column last week. A big reaction in the blog world is maybe 100 people, maybe 20 or 30 people responding and most of those are snarky comments that really don't add a lot to the debate anyway. So it's really a bunch of pipsqueaks out there talking about what the real journalists do."
Like, for example, check facts.
Jarvis' response to Schultz's column got 144 comments. Pretty good for the blogosphere, where 100 people is a big reaction. Schultz's column, on the important because it's so big Cleveland Plain Dealer site, got 133 comments. Schultz's followup column got 131.
Just eyeballing it, because my obsession is not quite so great that I'm going to read 408 comments, I'd say there is some but not a ton of repetition of commenters on both sites. It's not just "20 or 30 people" on either. And, as you might expect, the conversation is much more civil and engaging on BuzzMachine than on Cleveland.com. It's pretty rich for a newspaper guy to dismiss blog comments as "snarky comments that really don't add a lot to the debate" when it's newspaper Web sites that are known for that very thing.
So my question to Diadiun, my representative, would be: Who are you calling pipsqueak?
As blogger Ken Layne famously said to British journalist Robert Fisk in 2001, "We can fact-check your ass."