JULY 8, 2009 2:54PM

Facts dog Cleveland newspaper defender

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By King Kaufman: This blog is going to ask for your indulgence. It is frankly obsessed with the 15-minute video at Cleveland.com that both Katharine and I wrote about yesterday. We're thinking of changing the name of this blog to the How Crazy Was That Cleveland Plain Dealer Video? Blog.

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."

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I love that quote.

It truly boggles my mind that the net is still the redheaded stepchild in this frickin' day and age.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- a lot of industries are getting the slow excrutiating death they so richly deserve.
Just remembering my days as a blogger (at Machinist) -- if I'd gotten 25k readers a month I would have considered it a failure.

Also: If the Web sucks so much, why are they doing a Web video? Why not publish his 15-minute diatribe in print?
Wow. What a dinosaur. Do you think somebody's filled him in by now? What do you want to guess that five years from now that guy's sitting a computer trying to figure out how to set up his own blog.
I don't support this war between bloggers and print journalism. I've met my share of stupid, uninformed and ego-driven people in both mediums. The fact is, we need both. And for the record, I will take anything Robert Fisk says over Ken Layne's opinion any day.
You missed the best blogging on this issue at Blackheart Cleveland. Jarvis...meh.


I check all of the Cleveland blogs every day...then I go on the PD website and read the bile from the same 10 racist bottom-feeding 20%'er commenters on every story. Yuck.

I cancelled my subscription to the PD during the Kerry campaign when a large majority of the editors wanted to endorse him but the Neocon-slave publisher refused. The editors held their ground, threatened to quit, but the publisher said then 'We'll endorse nobody' and had their most conservative editor write an editorial that didn't endorse either candidate but still bashed the hell out of Kerry. Thank God Cleveland voted 93% for Kerry anyway.

Their current most senior editor who is running the show is a Beckian tool named Kevin O'Brien: global warming denier, Sarah Palin lover, immigrant-hating gun-loving, Dubya/Cheney apologist. So the paper's tone has taken on a markedly conservative bent.

Not only that, their reporting is sub-par, 80% of their stories are from the AP. Who the hell needs them when they can get that on any home page of the computer they're staring at all day? For quite awhile the best local reporting has been from our local alt-weekly, The Scene. www.clevescene.com.

Cleveland is a liberal city, but we've got a conservative paper. The toe-tag on this rag was written a long time ago.

Too bad Connie has not embraced the new media, I like her writing. I suppose she's got to try and save the job she has...but since her husband is a Senator, she should realize she has the luxury of transitioning to the new media now.
I live in Cleveland, where everyone knows the PD is a conservative rag. I haven't read it in years. I get my news from the amazing Cleveland NPR WCPN.
Don't get me started. Just don't.
I can't read or watch Schultz or Daidiun without shouting at my computer. ("You're scaring the dogs when you yell 'Eye stab! Eye stab!'" My wife said last week. "Please stop.")

I'm surprised you've gotten all the way to minute 10, to be honest.
I'm trying to remember when I first started engaging with Mr. Diadiun. I think it was around 4 or 5 years ago and ironically it was over a rant in his Sunday column trashing bloggers. This is all from memory, by the way, because my hard drive with all my communications with him was lost and because the Plain Dealer's website, Cleveland.com, sucks beyond belief. (I remember once when I had the actual newspaper in front of me, folded to an article I liked and wanted to send to someone out of town. Typing in the title word for word still gave me trouble. I could not find that story, from that very day, on the site. Everyone I know around here knows how bad the PD's Website is--it's just unusable. But I digress.)

Anyway, I wrote TD personally challenging whatever it was that he wrote (archives don't go beyond 6 months), and he wrote something snarky back. I responded with a good-faith question about his sarcasm and he responded kindly, suggesting he'd been in the line of fire or something. (But now I may be thinking of a communication I had with Kevin O'Brien. If either one of you is reading this, feel free to clarify anything I say here.)

Anyway, the point of my comment here is to say that the man and I have had some decent back-and-forth over the years, and though he is an admitted conservative I think he handles most of the political hot potatoes--like how much positive coverage Obama got compared to McCain--fairly.

The last email I sent to him was an impassioned plea for the Plain Dealer to cover its own role in the lead-up to the Iraq War. I had just watched Bill Moyers' excellent program, Buying the War (recommended by Glenn Greenwald), and was so thoroughly demoralized at the state of journalism, given the MSM's complicit role in that war that I asked TD to watch the program and respond. I told TD that I did not specifically remember all that the PD had said or done, although I had read the newspaper every day and remembered a cartoon in particular--which I have not been able to find since--that the PD ran right after that fateful vote in the fall of 2002. The cartoon suggested clearly that the vote was political; it had all the Democrats ruefully waving good-bye to kid-looking soldiers going off to war, claiming something like "If only we'd have been allowed to vote on this after the elections" or something similar. My point to TD was that the PD and everyone else obviously knew that there was a whole lot of politics going on, and could he just make a story in the PD about its own coverage in retrospect? I was not demanding an apology like the NYT gave, because I honestly did not know--again, not having access to archives--whether the PD's reporting could be considered fair. There is an excellent foreign policy journalist there, Elizabeth Sullivan, who is top notch. I would not be surprised if she had perhaps demonstrated more restraint than many other bandwagon journalists out there, but I couldn't be sure.

I never got a response from TD on that or anything else. Looking at the date of the Moyers program, that was in the Spring of 2007. I took that to mean my newspaper wasn't interested in investigating its own role in making an illegal, immoral, historically influential war palatable for its readers. Some reader representative.

Separately, I agree with all those who think this plan, proffered by Shultz, is simply unworkable. I simply don't know how on earth any particular story's parameters could be defined enough to prevent its dissemination without also infringing on the average person's right to summarize what he's read to whomever he wants. But to be fair to Shultz and TD, they are searching for ideas about how to make their reporting and writing pay, and that's something that we here at OS talk about all the time. Not that bad ideas shouldn't be taken to task--I realize we aren't in a brainstorming exercise in fourth grade where "there are no bad ideas children!" but I did want to throw in a sympathetic nod to the problem at hand.
Thanks for writing about this. The video just cries out for dissection. I blogged about it yesterday, too.

You challenge the stereotype by pointing that Diadiun flings "one of those unsourced, unreported assumptions you might get from ... from ... A BLOGGER!" I see your point, but Diadiun and Exner remind me neither of my fellow bloggers nor of my wonderful colleagues at my old newspaper. Exner's words, in particular, strike me as nothing more than the latest proof of the phenomenon that gives Jon Stewart so much of his material: If you point a camera at someone and ask him to talk and talk and talk, he will usually get around to contradicting himself or defying common sense or collapsing into incoherence. This is why 24-hour TV news is so rife with nonsense.

Just because technology makes something possible does not mean it is a good idea. Newspapers should not debase themselves and their standards by producing and posting stream-of-consciousness videos.

For anyone who's curious, my own post about the Diadiun-Exner video is here ...


Thanks again for going deeper on this. I especially appreciate that you sought and got info from Jarvis.
Oh... Dear King. I forgot how much I love reading what you write. Salon.com took a terrible loss when you stopped your (ever less frequent, so I can't really call it a) daily column.

Glory to you for moving up the ladder and doing what you love, but curse you for taking away my daily dose of humorous kickassness.
First off, what happened to the meatloaf? And you have the gall to write about integrity.

Secondly, Diadun or however you spell it is a tool, his video makes it self evident, but all the gnashing of teeth and mutual self appreciation stuff in reaction to his comments are starting to sound a little like trying to puff up the blogosphere's self importance.

Not that I don't believe in the value of the blogosphere but as I've instructed my kids when they score in whatever sport they are playing, act like you've been there. To quote Edna, the designer of superhero costumes in the Incredibles, "I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now." Let the CPD and the others attached to the dead and dying model of print newspapers rant on about their self importance over blogs, they're howling into the wind, but acknowledging them and getting into the kiddie pool of pudding to wrestle with them distracts from moving journalism forward. They're thought process is wrong, they're advertising and subscription revenues will continue to sink and soon, they'll be an interesting section of the second chapter of future History of Journalism books, nothing more.

So yeah, it's fun to dog pile on someone who is obviously clinging to the old ways, who you'll have to pry their cold dead hands from that Smith Corona (that's a typewriter for the kids out there, um, a typewriter was a device used before computers to put words on paper, think of your keyboard and printer being one machine but without spell checking or being able to save anything.) And I am guilty as everyone else of doing this and taking some pleasure from it, but time to move on.

Let these pseudo luddites die out without giving them anymore of a platform. Look, I'm in the beginning stages of taking an idea for an online print supplemented magazine to reality and I come here to steal ideas, um, learn from you folks. Can we talk more about who is doing things right and less about who no longer matters.
@voicegal and judy:
The PD a 'conservative rag'? You've got to be joking. They took a sharp left turn in the 90's and never looked back. I quit reading the Pee Dee years ago. They endorsed the current White House socialist empty suit for president and their editorials are consistently liberal.

" Thank God Cleveland voted 93% for Kerry anyway"? Sweetpea, that's the whole problem with NE Ohio. It's a democratic stronghold, and it's been in a political and economic rut for decades.
The projected deficit from the Assclown-in-Chief’s tax/spend/bailout orgy is $9 Trillion. He kowtows to the world's malefactors and has eviscerated our economy and national security.

You can keep the 'change'
What a great quote to end with! POW!!!
The strangest part is somehow thinking Jeff Jarvis is just some basement-dwelling dweeb, blogging to an audience numbering in the dozens. The fact is, BuzzBoy probably has more experience in the print media's major leagues than Schultz and Diadiun's time spent, combined. He started off as an ink-stained wretch; created, then sold, a well regarded magazine; was the lead of the team that created the Advance Communication (Conde Nast) group's online operation, and now runs the New Media program at City University of New York's Graduate School.

Oh, and he seems to get an invite to every seminar about Old Media/New Media held anywhere in the world, while also having authored a widely-regarded book, "What Would Google Do?"

Other than bloviating for a second-tier newspaper, what exactly has this clown Diadiun actually done?
While it's always entertaining to see some knucklehead in a prominent position exposed as having feet (or maybe brain, in this case) of clay, taking on a "reader representative" at any newspaper is kind of like picking the wings off a fly. Talk about pipsqueaks. And while this guy's comments are indeed clueless, I think it's a bit of a stretch to portray him as exemplifying all of print media. Like so many of us in this flailing industry, this schmo is lucky to still have a job (though perhaps that might change anytime now). On behalf of all other print media, I categorically disavow his nonsense. And I also put in a pitch for this blog and others to resist getting caught up in penny-ante pissing matches like this and focus on bringing some light rather than hot air to the debate about something as important as "The Future of Journalism."
King: I apologize in advance for what is sure to be a ramble, but...

If only "cluelessness and hubris" were singular to the print media industry... Our economy would surely be in a lot better shape right now. I can't think of any industry, actually, that is totally exempt from these self-destructive pitfalls at one time or another. There is surely a lot of stupidity to be acknowledged on many fronts, and a lot of second-guessing that is justified. But that's only part of what's precipitated this death spiral. There have been huge social/cultural/economic shifts that have shaped the current journalism environment. You might argue that the print media missed the boat on reacting more aggressively/intelligently to these shifts, but until just a few years ago, the old economic model (advertising and circulation and a print product) was still a pretty profitable one, in spite of all that stupidity. Now it's much less so. So people are panicky. Clueless spokespeople make dumb statements. Publishers seeking "new revenue streams" try to rent their paper's nameplate for off-the-record "salons." People who have made a decent living originating content wonder how the hell they will continue to do that when so many folks are willing to give some version of it away for free — or, as documented by the dinosaurs in the business pages of the NY Times the past two days, sell lightly disguised advertising as informative "how-to" videos and blog posts. That, no matter how you slice it, is not journalism, even if it is the future. Nobody (unless you are a North Korean dictator, of course) should have a monopoly on information. But intellectual property, even in the form of professional journalism, needs to be respected, or pretty much all information, free or not, becomes worthless. And then folks might just be talking about the cluelessness and hubris of the digital media, too.
always must defender newspaper...they are the freedom of actuality..