Tim McGuire should consider following his own advice to media critics. Point No. 2 in his post on media criticism is good advice for any opinion writer: “Keep the focus of your criticism narrow and manageable. Words like “always” and “never” cheapen most arguments. Those words tend to make you seem silly and painfully uninformed. Allow wiggle room.”
So what does he do in his own piece? He does exactly what he complains bugs him about today’s media critics. He says, “I have found it mighty maddening lately that everybody who talks about newspapers, media and the future of said media is so damned certain about just about everything.”
Really, Tim? “Everybody?” Come on. Taking this approach makes him sound like a thin-skinned journalist flinching at the beating the profession he loves is taking from many in the new rough and tumble environment of the Internet. I can understand why he might think that of Michael Wolff or Jeff Jarvis. But how about David Carr or Howard Kurtz, Jack Shafer or Alan Mutter?
I, too, am one who promotes the value of civil conversation. I started a web site for the E.W. Scripps Co., RedBlueAmerica.com, dedicated to that idea in the areas of culture, politics and religion. (By the way, it failed.) And I think McGuire makes some excellent suggestions. But frankly, in the end, I don’t think journalists come off well telling others how to criticize us. There have to be times when a blunt instrument is applied. Sometimes we deserve just that. Take the Los Angeles Times and the Staples arena section. Or the Chicago Tribune and its test-marketing of stories. Or in the case of my former paper, the Rocky Mountain News, when we got lashed from twittering from the funeral of a child. If editors don’t like it, they can fight back. They should. And I did.
Don't get me wrong. I agree in general with McGuire’s remarks applied to critical writing. But doesn’t it strike anybody else as odd that a journalist whose work is protected by the First Amendment is arguing that it would be better if people didn’t use all the space afforded them under the same guarantee of freedoms?
McGuire’s conclusion seems more directed at making the lives of the subjects of criticism easier and more pleasant – who cares? – than in encouraging a robust and incisive dialogue.
“I simply offer the possibility that civil criticism and constructive ideas will make improving the media a more pleasant and a more satisfying intellectual undertaking,” he writes.
For whom? It seems to me that the critics are having a ball. It’s the journalists who aren’t enjoying themselves. How many people, other than them, care?