Monday 13 May 2002

Let’s blame the victim

Time Magazine photograph of Josh Quittner (I'd like to credit the photographer but Time's web team don't believe in ALT tags)Bruce Burkhardt’s CNN interview with “self-proclaimed blogger Josh Quittner” touched more than a few raw nerves in Blogaria today. Burningbird asked:

Why is Josh Quittner the definitive authority on weblogs, do real people use the word “cool” that much in their conversation… and who the fuck cares?

And visitors to her site were quick to comment.

Jeneane Sessum: you forgot to mention the exclamation points. we bloggers love those as much as Josh talking about blogs! Don’t ask a woman blogger though. NOOOO way.

Rogi: *What* a completely and utterly useless article that is…do you think that they actually paid him for it?

Stavros: think I might eat a plate of flowers, in hope that I might then be able to shoot bees out of my mouth.

Ed Murray: hands down the worst ‘mainstream’ piece about weblogs to date. what’s this new site called Slash.com Mr. Quittner seems so enamored of?

Perhaps spending so much time with AKMA over the weekend has left me with a quart of the milk of human kindness flowing through every vein. Or, again under AKMA’s influence, I may be drawn to desperate, forgotten, impossible or lost causes. Either way, I feel compelled to rush to Josh’s defence. I’ll start by quoting Adam Curry’s The Big Lie:

I’ve been in the public eye for more than 18 years, in Europe and the US. I’ve enjoyed fame and recognition, which comes at a price.

That price isn’t privacy, as many would have you believe, the price is the cost of the truth.

I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times. By broadcasters, publications, newspapers, magazines, school papers. You name it, they’s interviewed me.

Not once, ever, has the result been factually correct.

Though I’m not even remotely “famous,” I’ve been interviewed dozens of times. More often than not, my ideas or opinions have been blatantly distorted in order to manufacture controversy. Even when you try to be on your guard, a skillful journalist can still make you look like a clown.

For example, Josh’s reference to Slash.com:

So, my favorite — the one I go to every day… is a site called Slash.com. It’s a blog for techies. The cool thing that (Slash) does though, is its software has this really interesting algorithm that weights how many times people actually hit on a particular link and how valuable they found it. So the good commentary floats to the top….

Am I alone in believing that Josh is actually referring to Slashdot? And that Bruce Burkhardt assumed he meant “Slash.com” but didn’t bother to check, since the real Slash.com describes itself as a:

site… used for web site development [which] has no content of interest to anyone except the developers. There are a number of student sites hosted here and you are welcome to visit them.

Needless to say, there are no links to any of the sites mentioned in the interview.

So isn’t the real villain CNN’s Bruce Burkhardt? After all, he wrote the “article”—in the time-honored pro-journalist tradition: “Who gives a shit about weblogs? Why bother with fact-checking? After all, isn’t our real job trivializing the subject and undermining the credibility of those we interview?”

As far as I can tell, Josh Quittner is guilty of one thing: as a journalist himself, he should have seen the setup a mile away. But hey, who amongst us hasn’t behaved like a dill at one time or another?

So my sympathies are with Josh. Even if the CNN interview is karmic payback for his past journalistic sins. But no way will I try to defend Gurshuran Sidhu.

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Comments

You're right about the factually incorrectness of interviews. Journalists often hear only what they want to -- or whatever their brain is equiped to deal with. The slash.com blunder is a cool example. BTW, I haven't checked all links (so many!), but the first ones are kids' pages. Talk about a journalist checking out the facts, huh?

Didier

Posted by dda on 14 May 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Spot on as usual Jonathon. When I read or listen to the mainstream press, or even a blog, I try to apply a heavy dose of cynicism before believing any facts.

For what its worth, the quote on the page now reads;

"The cool thing that (Slashdot) does though is its software has this really interesting algorithm that weights how many times people actually hit on a particular link and how valuable they found it. So the good commentary floats to the top."

Mind you, its quite interesting that a journalist picks another journalist as the subject of an interview about blogging.

Posted by Andy Todd on 14 May 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour