Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jeffrey Rosen Quits the Interwebs

I will preface this with the fact that I have rarely been a fan of Jeffrey Rosen's work, and cackle with no small amount of glee at the news from Wonkette...

Not too long ago, Jeffrey Rosen did a piece for the New Republic on "The Case Against Sotomayor." It was a hatchet job, based not on any actual research--save hearsay--and when he got a response to his knee jerked and ill informed response (my personal favorite is this gem: "I haven't read enough of Sotomayor's opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor's detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths. " which translates to anyone who has a few brain cells in their heads as a COA statement to say, "Yeah, I'm pulling this from my touchis") he weeped and wailed to the high heavens.

The problem being, for Mr. Rosen, that enough people with working brain cells actually read his piece, and ignored his caveat to address the lack of journalistic standards that he employed. His defense?

“It was a short Web piece,” Rosen says now, sounding a little shellshocked. “I basically thought of it as a blog entry.”

You know, for that little known, little quoted, very often ignored and never mined selectively by folks who like get their case out early, The New Republic.

So, it was a throw away case. He just threw together something for fun. That is the defense. In getting out a piece to state a case--and one that has often been referenced, though selectively quoted from, and rarely from the COA caveat at the end--that he hadn't really thought about.

So, now that folks have torn apart his article, his caveat, and his reputation, he has decided to take his ball and go home, and say to the heck with all these meanies out on the Interwebs who dare quote his own articles, and question him when he throws away any semblance of journalistic integrity, and then wails that this doesn't count, because it was just an internet blog?

It was an article for The New Republic. Get it right, Mr. Rosen. You've written for them before, and you've collected enough pay from them over the years to understand that 1000+ words, slated to post before the print and to be spread across and quoted from in a coordinated campaign to be mounted against a Supreme Court Justice, to understand that you occasionally are called upon to actually back up your claims.

Rosen quitting isn't really what is at the heart of the matter. At the heart of things is a growing sentiment, and it's one that the media must resist with every fiber of their being, to allow lax journalism, and worse, lax politicians and public figures attempt to retcon their own records. We've seen a blitz with Dick Cheney trying to cast the 9/11 dime at Clarke for daring to report months in advance the danger and possible plans that Al Qaida might use. We've seen it with Lindsey Graham. We've seen it over and over again with Governor Palin. We continue to see an utter lack of responsible behavior on the part of folks who should know better.

But, they don't. Because, we aren't holding them responsible. We can blame it on the 24/7 news cycle. We can blame in on infodensity or the next new term for informational overload, but in the end, we have to remind folks that they will be held responsible for their own words. That what they say will be preserved, and what is sad, is that when the finally get the message, we will have to dig harder. Because you will see Senators and Governors, and talking heads volunteer far less.

The landscape will be quieter, and that means more room for Rachael Ray doing her level best to jiggle her way into our hearts and kitchens. It means that there will much more coverage of the reality show of the moment. It will be more shaggy dog stories, and the PR machines will turn out much more polished pieces. Harder to detect, and with far more sophistication.

Which, is essentially what Rosen's own FU Interwebs! is. It's a sign that he will retire from the field and take the lesson to heart. Maybe. He will spend more time with articles, perhaps even send them to editors before they are published, and perhaps a few facts will be checked. Maybe. That is the flavor of his statement. But in reality, he is retreating from the field, because he got caught, and worse, he got caught immediately. And that flavor of immediacy scares a lot of folks. And it should.

Dick Cheney should understand that if he is going to put out factually inaccurate and retconned statements, that folks can actually call up his own words to use against him. Our Senators should understand this. What stuns me, are when journalists don't seem to understand this. And the question should be: can allowing them to retreat behind a monolithic entity that doesn't publish responses directly be a reasoned response?  I fear that Rosen's choice to leave the Interwebs is an interesting stop-gap, and it still falls upon the shoulders of the public to call journalists to task when they try to spin their own records and their own integrity.

Rosen retreating into a print publishing tower doesn't absolve him from his lack of standards, or his lack of responsibility for his own words. And we cannot let journalists of all folks ignore their own words, if we want them to hold our public figures with theirs.

Originally posted on Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 01:46:17 AM EDT at The Motley Moose

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