Monday, April 25, 2005

Deep Thoughts on Tim Porter

Tim Porter's Friday blogpost, "The Mood of the Newsroom," was uniformly praised by some of my favorite people in New Media. Plus, I consider myself a Tim Porter fan.

So why did I feel the urge to talk back to it? Am I one of the defensive newsroom people he describes? Am I really reacting to Porter's ideas, or to my emotions on the subject? Am I simply that much of a knee-jerk contrarian? God I hope not, but I certainly can't dismiss the possibility. Not with my track record.

I spent much of the weekend thinking about it, and wrote him a response this morning. But I still don't feel resolved on the matter.

If I'm to be very honest about it, I have to admit a certain resentment. It's like the way some military people feel about Ralph Peters: It's not that they don't agree with much of what he says, but it's frustrating for them to watch him tell those truths from the outside. I always sided with Peters -- look, somebody has to speak candidly about the strengths and weaknesses of our professional officer class, and Peters does that as well as anyone. But it's not so easy when the tables are turned on me and the people telling hard truths about MY profession are people who left it.

To be one of the people who criticizes from the inside is to be eternally uncomfortable, I think.

That said, I don't think it's all just personal psychology. I think the "blow up the newsroom" folks need to do some serious thinking about what happens when you create a vacuum in the spot the press has filled in our society. I'm not convinced that the forces of good will be the first to rush in and colonize that cleared ground.

It's too easy to make sweeping statements, and journalism has taught me to be suspicious of them. I guess that makes me a lousy revolutionary, but in my own defense, I've been doing this for 15 years now, I've been beaten down time and again, and I'm still alive and working on new ideas and concepts.

I still believe there are things worth defending about my profession. Does that make me a part of the defensive culture? That's an obvious conclusion... if one always believes in obvious conclusions...