Monday, July 6, 2009

Connie Schultz vs. Jeff Jarvis generates lots of heat, not much light

No, just because you raise the hackles of someone or some alleged group, that doesn't mean you must be on to something important or valuable.

That's the specious argument of Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz in response to an attack on her views on tightening copyright laws by uber-blogger Jeff Jarvis.

Here's how she begins her latest column:

"When you write a column and immediately become the target of numerous bloggers, you suspect you're on to something.

"When bloggers resort to personal attacks and distortions, you know you are"

Well, as one of the bloggers who took on Schultz's original column, let me state here that I didn't do so because I thought she was "on to something." I thought she was way off track.

That said, while I sympathize with her criticism of Jarvis' too personal attack on her and her ideas, I think I understand where he was coming from. It's frustrating when the ideas for saving newspapers from traditional journalists seem to boil down to building a wall and condemning new media. And it's disappointing when serious writers like Schultz put so little meat to the bones of their argument. It would be much more encouraging to see so-called mainstream news organizations and journalists embrace the opportunity of the Web and find new ways to grow their audience and business.

Schultz's argument echoes what I often used to hear from reporters and editors when they were criticized for unfair coverage. They'd say, "If I'm taking flack from both sides, I must be doing something right."

Not necessarily so. And that's the problem. It's easy to take pride in being the subject of criticism. But it's better to ask yourself whether in fact the reason your work is under fire is that it's somehow flawed, as I think Schultz's is. So far, at least, she hasn't made her case.

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