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    Why Can’t Journalists Handle Public Criticism?

    by Scott Rosenberg
    June 17, 2010

    Why do so many journalists find it so hard to handle public criticism? If you’re an athlete, you’re used to it. If you’re an artist, critics will regularly take you down. If you are in government, the pundits and now the bloggers will show no mercy. If you’re in business, the market will punish you.

    In all these cases, the seasoned professional learns to deal with it. But over and over today, we encounter the sorry spectacle of distinguished reporters losing it when their work is publicly attacked — or columnists sneering at the feedback they get in poorly moderated web comments.

    Clark Hoyt recently concluded his tenure as the New York Times’ “public editor” (a.k.a. ombudsman) with a farewell column that described the reactions of Times journalists to his work. It seems the process of being critiqued in public in their own paper continues to be alienating and dispiriting to them. Journalists typically, and rightly, see themselves as bearers of public accountability — holding the feet of government officials, business leaders and other public figures to the fire of their inquiries. Yet, remarkably, a surprising number of journalists still find it hard to accept being held to account themselves.

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    One passage in Hoyt’s column jumped out at me as a fascinating window onto the psyche of the working journalist today:

    Times journalists have been astonishingly candid, even when facing painful questions any of us would want to duck. Of course, journalists don’t relish being criticized in public any more than anyone else. A writer shaken by a conclusion I was reaching told me, if you say that, I’ll have to kill myself. I said, no, you won’t. Well, the writer said, I’ll have to go in the hospital. I wrote what I intended, with no ill consequences for anyone’s health.

    “If you say that, I’ll have to kill myself”? Even in jest, the line suggests a thinness of skin entirely inappropriate to any public figure. “Journalists don’t relish being criticized in public any more than anyone else,” according to Hoyt. Yet the work of journalists so often involves criticizing others in public that it is something they must expect in return. Surely they, of all professionals, ought to be able to take what they readily dish out.

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    A Culture Problem

    I would argue that the difficulty American journalists have with hearing or responding to criticism lies in the profession’s pathological heritage of self-abnegation. We say, “To err is human,” right? But journalists too often work inside an institutional culture which says to them, “Be inhuman.” Do not have opinions — and if you do, for God’s sake don’t share them. Do not attend protests or take stands on issues. Do not vote; or, if you do, don’t tell anyone whom you voted for.

    The “good soldier” journalists buy into this acculturation. They suppress their own individuality and perspectives. They subsume their own work into the larger editorial “we,” and learn to refer to themselves as “this reporter” instead of using the personal pronoun. When something goes wrong with the system they are a part of, when the little piece of journalism they have added to the larger edifice comes under attack for some flaw, they count on the edifice to protect them.

    But no longer. Reasonable criticism of news coverage can now be published as easily online as the original reports, and the public expects media outlets to respond. Many editors and reporters understand that a new approach to accountability simply makes sense. So the institutions have begun, haltingly but significantly, to open up.

    But many individual journalists find themselves at sea when called upon to explain mistakes, defend choices and engage in discussions with their readers and critics. Nothing in their professional lives has prepared them for this. In fact, a lot of their professional training explicitly taught them that all of this was dangerous, unprofessional, bad. They grew up thinking — and some still think — that the professional thing to do, when questioned in public, is (a) don’t respond at all; (b) respond with “no comment — we stand by our story”; or if things get really bad © your editor will do the talking.

    Unfortunately, this means that the typical blogger has more experience dealing with criticism — measuring a reasonable response, managing trolls and restraining the urge to flame — than the typical newsroom journalist. That, I think, is why we regularly see the kind of journalist freakout that the New York Times’ James Risen visited upon us (and very quickly apologized for).

    The syndrome I am describing here, of course, is already a relic of a previous era. Most young journalists entering the field today have a very different relationship to their own work and the public. And many of the older generation, which I am definitely a part of now, have either learned to make their way through new waters, or kept their own steady course and even keel in rough seas.

    But every newsroom has some ticking time-bombs, people ready to explode in a torrent of ill-considered invective. When they do, I think we can try to show some understanding. The next time you see some seasoned journalist lose his bearings when called upon to discuss or defend his work, chalk it up to inexperience, not stupidity or rudeness.

    Tagged: clark hoyt criticism errors james risen journalism new york times newsroom culture
    • Cynthia Spurling

      It seems that news organizations are hiring more for the journalists point of view on the issues than being a good reporter. If you send them information, they ignore it as they have no time to research any issues just regurgitating what someone else says. Watergate took a great deal but more seem unwilling to look as dead to find ther real answers.

    • Spot on, Scott. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Stefan Stern

      Journalists are much happier asking questions rather than answering them. We are not used to it. But the days of lofty superiority are over for us hacks. If we are going to dish out criticism we have to be able to take it.

    • I wouldn’t disagree that some journalists can be thin skinned. But the categories of folks you mention at the start all hire armies of public relations people and spend huge sums of money to counter any negative portrayals and massage their reputations with buckets of spin. They hardly take criticism in stride.

      On the other hand, the press is one of the most self-flagellating industries I know.

    • Great piece. Matches my experience in working with journalists, mostly.

      And I think it also explains why journalists have so much trouble changing with the times — taking on new technologies and processes in their work. Because change requires you first admit either there’s something wrong or inadequate with what you’re doing now, or there’s something better you could be doing.

      When you’re the expert, the sage, the fact-finder, the civic hero, the guardian of democracy, why should you need to change?

    • Chris, you’re right as far as the top of the ladder — the CEOs, major celebrities, star athletes, and other standouts. But every field also has its much more heavily populated middle class — all the actors and authors and musicians who don’t make a ton of money but still suffer the indignity of being reviewed, sometimes fairly, often not; all the middle managers and small-business founders whose companies get covered in passing; and so forth. These folks don’t have PR armies or spinmeisters but they still generally seem to comport themselves with professionalism. They don’t often call up reporters and rant at them. At least not as often as journalists themselves seem to be doing these days….

    • While it’s going to take some getting used to, I see the rise of direct criticism of individual journalists and our decisions as a positive thing that could elevate the craft.

      After much debate, we have begun responding to our readers in the comments following stories here at The Plain Dealer, and many of our columnists have regular online debates with their critics.

      When I receive criticism from readers, I often explain my reasoning in the comments. Readers often still disagree with my reasoning, but it’s an informed disagreement. Not commenting at all opens up the conspiracy theories and cheapens the overall debate. I’ve found that the most successful aspect of our commenting experiment is that the level of discourse in our comments has increased dramatically.

      Sure, I don’t like being called and idiot. But if I can engage someone instead of ignorning them, I have a chance to keep people reading and thinking about the topics that I cover.

    • Troy Segal

      Very interesting thoughts about thin-skinned journalists. But when it comes to the Times, I think you nailed it in your early line, “It seems the process of being critiqued in public in their own paper continues to be alienating and dispiriting to them.” Many writers are ready to respond to heat from the outside about a story, especially a critical one. It’s when they get second-guessed and criticized after-the-fact from the folks at home that they feel betrayed — and hence defensive. Especially when their work already went through layers of editing and revising (a fact that’s often conveniently ignored when the finger-pointing begins).

    • Rosie

      I think American journalists can’t handle criticism is that this society puts them on a pedestal.
      Shortly after I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, I started hearing from non-Americans that “journalists” in the USA are “showered” with un-
      earned heroic status. The comments
      went like this:
      “In my country a journalist is not
      a respected career,” In my country
      a journalist is the lowest of the low.” You get my drift. So today,
      journalists are finally being more
      scrutinized than in the past. And
      as a former newspaper reporter, I
      think that’s a good thing. Why?
      They need to earn that layer of
      tough skin my professors told me
      about…

    • Belchin

      Why pay journalists who can’t intake reasonable feedback and constructive instructions? If an employee has attitude problems and doesn’t cope with criticism, and doesn’t adjust, when their contract is about to renewed, why retain them?

      Some points of views do belong in the unemployment line, and, lesser quality venues. They can go on whining about divas and indemnity, and protest passive aggressively with intentionally mediocre effort, threaten to write trashie tell-alls but at least they won’t do it on salaried time. These downers are not the majority, thus there’s nothing like a good kick in the misfit’s derriere to get a team to behave.

    • Ed Morales

      Although the column probably didn’t mean to brush all journalists with a wide stroke, it comes across as lumping anyone who gathers news and sends it out to the world as an ivory tower know-it-all who refuses to listen to those who disagree. No one likes criticism, for sure, but how often do bloggers write corrections? Corrections are part of every daily newspaper existence, I don’t think anyone really believes journalists are inhuman – how can it be said journalists live in an inhuman world? Of course, the same may not apply to New York Times writers, they may actually think they are inhuman, and infallible . . .
      As for criticism when it comes in the guise of anonymous comments, these are to be ignored and openly ridiculed. Anyone without the courage to put a name to what they write does not deserve anything from anyone. It is refreshing to see the people commenting here have their name assigned to their comments, it makes for real and meaningful conversation.

    • Comcast Subpoena

      When Limbaugh’s minions use their easily dismissable intimidation methodology, is that criticism? No. Only Opera, Sherri, and the screechy and replaceable TV dolls bow to that kind of thing.
      Legitimate criticism, regardless of where it comes from, if ignored, can be delegitimizing. And, sure, a dose has different effects on different bodies, but why is it the same bodies who can’t handle anything that doesn’t sound like a cheer or a compliment, no matter how gently and rationally packaged? Anonymous comments don’t impact your monthly paycheck or show you the door, you (the journalist) do.

    • Harris Meyer

      One thing Rosenberg doesn’t point out is that many reporters don’t like being edited either. That’s another form of “criticism” they don’t relish. Beyond that, though, I’m not sure journalists’ response to criticism is all that different from the response to criticism of doctors, lawyers, business executives, politicians, actors, etc. etc. Unfortunately, it’s a small percentage of human beings who can accept criticism confidently and without getting defensive. In my years as a reporter and editor, however, I’ve found that individual journalists and news organizations gain greatly in credibility from fielding criticism non-defensively and responding openly and constructively.

    • A.M.

      …And maybe it’s because they’ve crystallized in an unmerited self-righteousness.

      Please look at the comments above, about journalists being “put on a pedestal” and being “the expert, the sage, the fact-finder, the civic hero, the guardian of democracy.”

      Nobody thinks of you that way except you, yourselves. And you’re finding that out. Please, get over yourselves.

      And yes, I am a journalist, and distressed to see my profession destroyed by its own pig-headedness and refusal to face reality.

    • Bot Roam

      Companies spend a lot hiring consultants to get the kind of criticism that prima donna types can subordinate to, and often, let’s face it, it is a lose-lose situation for the client company. In fact, it’s a joy to trip the hired expert to abolish a corporation, just make the hire look like an authority, and see who bends over backwards for the paid advice. Now give a far more competent analysis coming from the voice of, say, a brown or dark-skinned female, and watch the receivers tank. But, realistically, who has the time and will to bring such damnation on to media figures, last we checked, such possibilities were negated by the unaware.

    • Summer Rogers

      I just graduated CSUF, majoring in communications, with an emphasis in print journalism. I may not have any “real” field experience yet, but the older journalists, the professors, are still teaching us everything you said, so it just made me laugh.

    • Perajur Djiri

      And when idiots get defensive, they amp up flaws, feign ignorance, use stalling tactics, throw spin tantrums, pick on the innocent, defame the best, and all for nothing, while serving at the pleasure of the few, and unbeknownst to the masses as an illustration of the tragic downfall.
      And who is easily triggered into the idiotic defense pose? Really, who, over and over and over looks and acts like an idiot thinking they’re getting away being cute or heroic or whatever. Ultimately as spring deadlines give way to a new season, the who isn’t funny and always in wide supply, and the why they got that way, is definitely no mind control or conspiracy, it is as simple as punctuation, it is called being an idiot in print.

    • Great article. As a former New York Times copyeditor, I set out to answer some of these questions myself. That is why I presented the idea of documenting the state of the newspaper industry withing a film titled “Fit to Print”.

      I presented the idea to various NYT staffers (many reporters, editors, photogs, and designers). Not one of them turned me down for an interview. BUT, in gaining permission to actually sit and chat with them on camera, I had to get permission with the company …from one person…a PR woman by the name of Catherine Mathis who was very rude in responding back by stating “I don’t want you speaking to anyone within The New York Times” regarding the transition period in journalism right now.

      It wasn’t even as if I was asking to film inside the Times or get them to divulge info on what the company was doing financially or otherwise. I just wanted to chat with reporters about how they feel about the state of the industry.

      needless to say …I went against their wishes and recruited NYT staffers to speak on camera outside the office.

      for more info on the project, please visit:

      http://www.fittoprintfilm.com

      cheers!
      Adam

    • RK

      Do you really believe Murray, Cronkite, etc., never voted? I don’t recall ever hearing that one even as a sub-cultural affect.

      Thin skin is not isolated to Journalism, and I think it’s all about the ‘entitlement to self-esteem as inviolable right’ value held by the cultural left.

      Most leftists I know spend gaudy, absurd amounts of time and effort propping up each other’s sense of acceptance and self worth. These same folks control the education realm from K to grad school. If you never leave those safe, loving arms until you’re employed in the industry, reality IS going to come as a shock.

      And let’s face it, how many people with a truly diverse–and emotionally tougher–cultural experience land on a payroll in the dinosaur media?

    • Hudin Geflafel

      Just cuz a bloated appendix calls you a sissy, doesn’t mean you have to go rambo on the mary next door to prove toughness. It only makes you prone to not being taken seriously.

      Likewise, just cuz a one-hit wonder whitewasher locks you out of turf by fixing up backroom abuse of power understandings, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bypass the suspect and demand fair share. Retaliation and discrimination in the workplace aren’t negotiable, so instead of acting up ‘on stage’, take your ‘fights’ where they belong, do your jobs and make news.

    • While I think that traditional journalists do need to learn how to more effectively respond to public criticism in the blogosphere, I have to take issue with several points in this piece. The most bothersome aspect is that Scott took the case of one NYT journalist — an example that even the author of the piece he got the excerpt from says is “extreme and unique” — and turned it into a broad representation of journalists. If Scott had included this next sentence, which directly follows the passage he cited, it would’ve told another story, one different than the narrative he’s presenting:

      “Those histrionics were extreme and unique. The rule was thoughtful engagement.”

      I have more thoughts on this subject, but they got lengthy, so I turned it into a post on my blog instead:

      http://www.john-zhu.com/blog/2010/06/18/journalists-and-criticism/

    • L.Higgs

      To paraphrase my sainted Mother, you have to “consider the source” when it comes to criticism.
      As a working journalist, I’ve been subject to public criticism by public officials for an article when they’ve been caught doing something they shouldn’t have.
      Rather than owning up to it, they decide to “kill the messenger” by denouncing the paper for “bad press” rather than addressing the real issue of what they did or failed to do.
      If there is a factual error that can be substanciated, that is a different story and we a have a duty to correct it, so that error is not accepted as fact.
      But when criticism is merely a tool to spin the story or mantipulate the reporter into not writing a follow story, that’s different. And we don’t have to take it.
      To paraphrase the sign many court clerks have hanging on the window where people pay their fines for traffic summons” I didn’t park the car, I didn’t drive the car and I won’t take your grief.”
      Interesting footnote. When criticized about a story “for bad press” by a council president, it was residents at the meeting who publically chastised him and the government for violating the very rules that residents have to follow. I never had to say a word.

    • MnemonicMike

      This comment:
      “Journalists typically, and rightly, see themselves as bearers of public accountability — holding the feet of government officials, business leaders and other public figures to the fire of their inquiries.”…… if journalists still see themselves somehow associated with “accountability” after they’ve been caught so many times in information manipulation, non-reportage of stories negative to liberals, gate-keeping, and so forth, then journalists are either dumb, as a class, or dishonest. Look how the print-version of the NYTimes wouldn’t report the Bob Etheridge assault, for example. I’d go with dishonest as a tag…. and ‘thinskinned’ would be exactly what you’d expect from dishonest people.

    • Poulet

      Still don’t get the Etheridge misdemeanor. But even private owned media gets paved.
      Just look at Newhouse’s mistress mags or It’s all liberals apologizing for their insecurities, why they can’t help being dishonest… Thin-skinned and chalkbrain.

    • Bob C

      Uh, journalists ‘don’t have opinions’??? Not sure what color the sky is in your world, but next time you read a piece, think about what terms such as “critics say” and “some have said”, and other masks for the reporter’s own opinions. Journalists don’t like criticism because they actually believe that theirs is a “profession”, like a doctor, or a lawyer, or a soldier. It isn’t. Anyone who is halfway good a pushing a noun against a verb can be a “journalist”, or in the case of television, who has good hair, nice legs, and can read a teleprompter. They believe they are expert at the subjects on which they write, and they are not, sometimes laughingly not.

    • JTHC

      @Chris O’Brien:
      “But the categories of folks you mention at the start all hire armies of public relations people and spend huge sums of money to counter any negative portrayals and massage their reputations with buckets of spin”

      Riiiight. And a newspaper has… a newspaper. Why would they need to hire PR people when they already own a press?

    • Journo Hater

      Journalist have been exposed to an old axiom.
      “Opinions are like a**holes everybody’s got one.”

      What’s truly funny or particularly frightening is journalist think they are opinion-less. That’s where the crack starts. What brings down the damn is that Americans have recognized and accurately perceived just how biased journalist truly are.

      America is a right leaning nation being fed information from left leaning, no real world experience idealistic college students. Now that Americans are awake to this you’ve in essence become the enemy. Or the lap dog of the enemy, I’m not sure which but neither is good.

      You’ll most likely never be trusted again, you’ve been outed as no better than Pravda.

      Couple of examples:

      Green Jobs…..what are those again and how do they make money? Didn’t Spain try something along those lines and it didn’t work out.

      Global Warming…… It’s Russian for snake oil. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for that one.

      Honduras……We sided with the enemy of democracy. Our president supported the constitution shredder Zelaya. When Castro agrees with the US you know something is terribly wrong……wait do journalist realize that. Or in Journo world is Cuba the best place to live evah.

      Dangerous Environmentalist…..Drilling in 5,000 ft of water when we could be drilling on land. Where we wouldn’t need robots and a lot of good luck to try and stop an accidental malfunction.

      Nope we’ll have to leave those stories to the Blogger’s. Which Americans are turning to in droves because journalist start their careers with a major delusion that delusion is that they are unbiased.

    • Jasper

      It depends on the infraction, and the degree. And how big a defensive wall editors are willing to build around their reporters. Journalists are, in general, a lot that think highly of themselves because they think they’re working for the greater public good. Criticism calls that into question. Moreover, in our highly politicized age of the Internet, no error–whether it be poor reporting or even plagiarism–can be tolerated. There’s no such thing as an “unintentional” error. A journalist’s integrity is always in question.

    • Kurt Tonsil

      Does the press hire PR or sell PR? Don’t get it. Are the nice legs to mask the fact that it was Geffen or Kissinger or the Pizza Guy fabricating the story written by the sacrificial lamb that whips for her, rather than dare otherwise? Don’t get it.

      In any case PR deflects attn from the negative bank account.

    • LAG

      They’re children with inflated opinions of themselves and their “life’s mission.”

    • Glenn Gallup

      From the news consumer side here’s something that happened to me. Several years ago there was an ecliple of the moon visible in my city. The reporter who wrote the story in our lical paper got two easily checkable scientific facts about eclipses wrong. This was 7th grade astronomy class stuff. Five minutes with google would have given hin accurate info. No politics involved, no opinions involved and an opportunity to present accurate info to his readership. I sent him a very mild e-mail pointing out the errors and suggesting that he dig in a little before writing any more science stories. His response was personal, dismissive, abusive and arrogant. Then he reminded me that his paper had layers of factcheckers and editors to make sure that what they printed was accurate. I hit the delete key. Problem is when you can’t believe anything the paper prints unless you fact check it yourself what do you need the newspaper for in the first place.

    • Liblab

      All the riot gear in the world shouldn’t have to be deployed to make a point. An editor should have hierarchical pull w/o giving seizures, should be reliable enough to take bias out b4 publication, and the writer should just say no problem.

    • Nelson

      I think Martin Peretz said it best when he observed that journalists alternately view themselves as heroes and victims.

      When they’re inclined to view themselves as indispensable guardians of the public weal, they invariably resent criticism as an unwarranted attack on their avowed sacred duty. And when they see themselves as victims they come to view criticism as an injustice perpetrated on an already set-upon community — one that is morally superior by virtue of its oppression.

      Both delusions are predicated on a single conceit: that journalism is the highest form of professional endeavor, and by extension that journalists themselves are a kind of priestly order deserving of veneration. That’s the issue at hand: Journalists have a ridiculously inflated view of themselves and their profession. Until recently they’ve enjoyed a monopoly on the means to promote this narrative.

      As a former newspaper reporter and editor in the days before the Internet, I can’t tell you the number of times I saw and heard colleagues contemptuously dismiss concerns by members of the public that didn’t conform to a particular narrative cherished by the journalists themselves. Now that the business model for most metro dailies has gone to pot (and network news divisions aren’t far behind) we’re seeing reporters lash out over their declining fortunes. Do you really think a NY Times reporter would have felt compelled to defend a page 1 story in such a fashion 35 years ago? Of course not. Now such push-back is regarded as an essential survival strategy — a way to protect status and media brand equity. They realize the Visigoths are at the gate …

    • cheskamartinez

      The diagnosis is correct but the causes identified still smack of the self-delusion that journalists are publicly criticized for in the first place. Yes, there is a culture problem. But rather than the impossibly high standards that journalists supposedly buy into, public criticisms are in fact calls for a return to those standards in journalism. In other words, the public doesn’t buy into the journalist pretense of a culture of high professionalism. Studies tracking political self-identification in the professional media or their political contributions such as those undertaken by UCLA and Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center and Project for Excellence in Journalism do not show an inhuman, impartial, apolitical media. To the contrary they show that journalists are in fact very human, partisan, and ideological. Journalists rather than not voting, do vote. Rather than simply report, do join protests and political fundraisers as active participants. Journalism’s inability to take criticism isn’t a function of its sense of professional territorialism. Rather, it is one of the very assumptions that public criticisms are puncturing and rejecting.

    • RHB

      …and these journalists, for whom every “no comment” is a capital offense, are the first to scream “no comment” when THEY are the story.

    • Adnam Yard

      Journalists have different comfort levels and different reads of ‘what’s in it for me’ to put out a challenging story. Some risks are unnecessary, like misunderstanding a gag order, or underestimating a real threat on national security, others can be navigated with expertise, but I’m sorry, who is he to the expert and the expert to him to know when to dare, and how to care. It’s all rhyme and tricks until the you press enter.

    • Journo Hater

      It’s really rather simple, when you live in an ideological bubble it can be pretty painful to find out that everyone out side of it is looking in and laughing at you.

      That’s what the comment section is for and probably why it’s painful now to find out that we don’t look up to journalist we look down on most of them. We can now question their motives, point out inconsistencies in logic. We can point out bias every time we see it, which is regularly.

      Unless journalist actually do some real in depth investigation of worth their words are no more important than my words in this comment section. Granted that’s my opinion and I’m pretty biased towards myself. That’s the difference though at least I’m not so deluded as to believe I’m incapable of being biased.

      What are Journalist standing up against? What totalitarian regime have a majority of journalist ever stood up against? Hitler…Man of the Year.
      Stalin…..American Journalists lied for him. Castro……to this day some useful idiots go on about how great Cuba is. What about the Ahmadinejad? Oh the list goes on and on. Journalist can’t take criticism because their entire reality is a farce and a dangerous farce at that. Sorry I forgot Mussolini, who couldn’t get enough of that guy back in the day……besides the Italians?

      Why can’t journalist take criticism…….what a silly question. You should be asking why more journalist aren’t being tarred and feathered for such outrageous and dangerous lies that they keep trying to foist upon the American public at large.

      Here’s the real question you should be asking; Why are so many journalist actively trying to undermine America at every turn. That’s no friend of America that’s the enemy.

      Tokyo Rose would have had a hard time taking criticism too had there been a comment section during WWII.

    • John E.

      “Reasonableness is readiness to listen to criticism” Karl Popper tells us. When this principle is not observed what you get may be described as “psuedo-rationalism” or “intellectual authoritarianism.” Popper rightly observes that objectivity is not achievable by an individual. It is only approached in social interaction where criticism is valued and exchanged. The school of journalism has made a fundamental mistake.

    • dave

      “…chalk it up to inexperience, not stupidity or rudeness.”

      Oh, really? Few of them could get a degree in any rigorous course of study, hence, Journalism School. Of course they are stupid.

    • Kent

      Sometimes a correction is all that is needed to put an end to a thread, and if the correction is timely, though it need not be in print, then the idealist’s message can be better approximated, for ex., if minimizing collateral damage and valuing life are ideals that make you partisan, you have the right to materialize your beliefs effectively without having to say a word, it’s hard, but it’s worth the life saved in the process.

      BTW, pointing out how lovely the sands of Cayo largo r, is not to undermine America, Haters only defeat their purpose, but keep humming like a hamster you are.

    • MattW

      cheskamartinez and RHB have got it entirely correct. When you live and work in an ideological echo chamber, you just aren’t equipped to deal with facts and logic that obviously prove everything that you, your friends and acquaintances, and your co-workers build your world-view on. So, you either retreat in shame and defeat, or you attack the messenger – in this case the member, or members, of the reading public that pointed out the errors in your article.

      It’s not just a problem with journalists. Acadamecians are some of the most thin-skinned group of people in the world – look at their response to criticism over issues like global warming. And you have to add politicians to that list, especially left-wingers and politicians that work for international organizations.

      See the trend here? Organizations that are dominated by left-wing, ideoligical members can not handle criticism and questions of logical errors. So many of them grow up from day one in a cocoon of orthodoxy where the prevailing left-wing view is never, and can never be, questioned. When they get out in the real world they don’t have the rhetorical chops to make their cases, so they attack the messengers. On the other hand, conservatives and libertarians have to continuously argue and defend their ideas from the minute they enter kindergarten. They are trained by the real world to deal in facts and logic and rhetoric.

    • Daniel

      I can believe that journalists tend to be thin skinned, but find it absurd to attribute that to their self abnegating impartiality.
      In fact most journalists seem to write in highly partisan ways, ignoring facts that disappoint their world views and distorting other facts to fit them.
      It seems to me that they occasionally feel guilt about their own dishonesty and get angry and defensive as a reaction to their own guilt feelings.
      At the New York Times many journalists feel that their jobs depend on their being politically tendentious, so that arguing with criticism based on logic facts and reason is unavailable to them lest they ruin their own careers. Lashing out is all that is left to them.
      For example, if a journalist at the Times ranted against the current administration the way Carville or Olberman recently have, they could reasonably expect to have to look for new jobs.
      What do you expect of them?

    • The thin skin in the newsrooms comes from the era before citizen journalism. It comes from the day when the editor could always have the last word, the word that carried the day.

      I recall the Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee declaring to a radio reporter that he stood by Janet Cooke’s story after Washington’s mayor had his social services department scour their files to find anything remotely resembling the Jimmy’s World story and came up with nothing. No other new organization sought to challenge the Post. They were after all the Washington Post of Watergate fame. But the Post did come under scrutiny after Bradlee submitted Cooke’s story for a Pulitzer and won it. Only then did the AP start checking her credentials and her resume about her college years and found it a phony. As was her story. And it had never been checked by either her direct editor, Bob Woodward nor Bradlee.

      Many years later Dan Rather discovered documents with an “unbroken chain of custody” that proved President Bush received favored treatment in the Texas Air National Guard. Problem was they had been provided by an individual with a deep personal grudge against the President. Unlike the Cooke fiasco, citizen journalism did instant fact checking and utterly destroyed Rather’s contention of the validity of the documents. So bad was the damage, he was out of his anchor chair six months after the story broke. Rather had relied on the credibility of the Tiffany network, a practice that worked in more protected times.

      Never having to say one is wrong was a privilege of bygone days. Loosing that comfort is a shock. There are many sharpshooters who are looking for an opportunity to catch the big names of journalism. Lexis Nexis and Google are devastating tools for the citizen journalist. The legacy media journalist better get used to it.

    • James Geluso

      I am surprised that you ignored that many newspapers have paperwork requirements any time a correction is issued, and many also count corrections and use them as part of the evaluation and discipline process. Once the mistake has been made, the reporter then feels compelled to avoid the correction, because it’s corrections, not mistakes, that are counted.

      That’s far from the whole story, but it’s part.

    • betheweb

      What a load of BS. Journalists’ tender psyches strained by the cognitive dissonance of not being perfect? Gimme a break. What is actually happening is that boatloads of these hacks are being exposed as little more than deputy assistant PR account managers for various Left constituencies who explode when their frequent dissembling is exposed. The cognitive dissonance is when they recognize the difference between the stated ideal and their lying selves. BTW, James Risen is, IMHO, a traitor who has cost American lives. But, he is a proud traitor.

    • JB

      This is the worst piece of journalism I’ve ever….oh wait. Nevermind. :) </irony>

    • Nate Whilk

      Troy Segal said, “It’s when they get second-guessed and criticized after-the-fact from the folks at home that they feel betrayed — and hence defensive.”

      But that’s what reporters themselves do. They can dish it out; why can’t they take it?

      “Especially when their work already went through layers of editing and revising (a fact that’s often conveniently ignored when the finger-pointing begins).”

      The reporter can write whatever he/she wants, and the editor’s completely responsible for catching errors? That’s not a very flattering appraisal of reporters.

      Rosie said, “I think American journalists can’t handle criticism is that this society puts them on a pedestal.”

      Yeah, the part of society that includes journalists.

      Knoll’s Law of Media Accuracy: Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge. Knoll was the editor of “The Progressive” magazine.

      There will never be another Walter Cronkite (thank goodness). The days when people trusted the media that much are gone forever. The media had feet of clay all along; it’s just that people can see that now. The only path for reporters is to do their job a lot better now. They have to live up to the reputation they themselves have promoted.

    • Journo Hater

      Sorry I just realized that this is a PBS site, it all makes sense now why you don’t understand.

      It’s really kind of embarrassing that you guys don’t get it…..that’s why most of your comrades are looking for jobs. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say.

      Nobody gives a sh** about your opinion…why should they. Real world vs intellectual world is no contest intellectuals lose every time. What’s funny is the super smart are not smart enough to understand why. It’s because those dummies, like myself, know how the real world works….you journalist just write about how it SHOULD work…because you’re blind….to real life. You’ve clearly never actually had to live it.

      I couldn’t help but notice that this column is the only one that is receiving any comments….is that typical…yeah it probably is. I’m sure you get some pseudo intellectuals around here that listen to NPR. How do you keep your eyes open listening to that drivel? “I’m trying to sound important by being monotone and boring about everything because nothing makes me excited except for hating America, I wish it could be more like Russia or China or please please more like Cuba that would be great.” Oh yeah watching paint dry does sound more interesting. I hope you’re feeling what I’m throwing down because in the real world that I live in I’m being nice about this. You should really look into this because when all hell breaks loose and thanks to progressive stupidity it’s about to and you’re not going to be able to rely on pseudo anything. You’ll have to bring the street smarts and clearly that is your Achilles heel.

      Only government money could keep something this dumb going. You journalists should be embarrassed constantly. You’re nothing more than gossip columnists on a good day and Aunt Cleo on every other day. Sometimes journalist don’t even have to be at the scene to write about it….. What a joke journalist are. Now that I’m done with you I’m going after the next teacher to write and essay as to why they are being attacked for doing such a great job of educating.

      Do you get it yet….do you finally understand why no one respects you except those living in the same echo chamber as yourself. You’ve done nothing to earn anyone’s respect except pat yourself on the back by carrying water for every lefty outfit out there. Thanks Sierra Club for the Gulf Disaster and all the other environmentalist whack jobs that made the moment of dumb zen possible.

      Yep you guys are really smart….clearly….really really smart.

      Oh and Kent my pseudo intellectual something hum hum hum just like a hamster because hamsters are known for humming apparently….I’m no animal expert nor have I ever owned a hamster but I guess…. they hum. Are you sure you’re not actually referring to a humming bird. What you should actually be hearing is the crunch, crunch, crunch of glass under my foot as you’re glass palace of make believe crumbles.

      Better it happens here in the comment section as opposed to real life…oh never mind when it happens you’ll suddenly get it right before you cease to exist….I take that back you’ll still not get it at that point….best of luck to you anyhow.

    • Trimegistus

      People who are confident in their abilities and knowledge can take criticism.

      People who are pretending to have knowledge they lack, or who are being consciously dishonest, get defensive when challenged.

      QED

    • Alan

      Intrusive journalists should get their lights punched out. I am astonished at the unanimity of reaction against Etheridge. I support him all the way.

    • john mackay

      The Internet has brazenly shocked most journalists into reality, i.e., they are now subject to criticism, a novelty rarely before seen inside the “profession”.

    • Crinky Crunk

      Watergate changed journalism, making it a career that attracts narcissists trying to find their fame. Narcissists have very thin skins and are prone to envy and therefore leftism. Newspapers could return to profitability by removing the narcissistic bylines from every story and go back to hiring blue collar reporters without fancy journalism degrees. The maximum pay should be about twice minimum wage. Gathering and writing the who, what, when, where and why is a job that does not require a college degree, and most of the best news reporters did not have them. News reporters of the past were not narcissistic “protectors of democracy”, they were news reporters.

    • Russell Mueller

      But every newsroom has some ticking time-bombs, people ready to explode in a torrent of ill-considered invective. When they do, I think we can try to show some understanding.
      How sweet. I think we can try to show it on YouTube. There’s something wonderful about afflicting the comfortable, don’t you agree?
      The next time you see some seasoned journalist lose his bearings when called upon to discuss or defend his work, chalk it up to inexperience, not stupidity or rudeness.
      Do any of your subjects ever get this level of consideration? If a common citizen at a tea party ‘looses his bearings’ we expect you to edit out the provocation and trumpet the fellow’s response. Ah, right, if a fellow in SEIU purple ‘looses his bearings’ we expect you to see no news value at all in the event.

      There’s no truth in The News and there’s no news in The Truth. Goodbye already, go.

    • zevgoldman

      As a nation we lost much when reporters ceased to be reporters and became journalists. Of greater loss was the disregard for who, what, where, when and why and their replacement by the flourish, the back story, the opinion and the distortion, all offered as objective news.
      Journalists, in many cases, no longer seem, to represent the fourth estate so much as they do a fifth column.
      Perhaps these are some of the reasons that journalists seem so thin skinned–they’re exposed.

    • I think it is because journalists do a lot of research and thinking work before they publish the work. During this process, they get “attached” to their work and develop some kind of emotional linkage. Traditionally, those expert views were not questioned but now it is changing with web2.0 style publishing. So, journalists are learning handle criticism now.

    • r. schmitt

      hey, scott —
      i am old media so probably not an even-handed (objective?) source on this. but u outta cut risen some slack. and not just because many of us consider him a great, courageous journalist. the guy has shown himself capable of handling far more serious scrutiny than that dished up by mr. cook and others — witness all the DOJ leak investigations into his work since 9/11. one recent subpoena raises the prospect of him having to blow a source or go to jail — to protect the rights of news folk, old and new. venture to say he has been under pressure u and i can only imagine. best, rbs

    • Corey McKenna

      Thank you for this! I wish it was easier to find writing on this topic of turning the light on journalists.

    • Journalistic arrogance, and journalists’ inbred sense of infallibility and their disbelieving outrage at being called to account by anyone have always been a fact of life. I myself suffered from the attitude when I worked at the Miami Herald. This blog is amazing to me because it actually purports to tell us something “new”: journalists are arrogant. Well, this is news to who? What it actually does is point out the disparity between the typical journalists’ self-image of “self-abnegation” and the reality of the self-absorption that the profession breeds. I should know. PS, I got over it.

    • I WOULD DREAD SILENCE much more THAN CRITICISM WHICH INDICATES THAT SOMEONE IS ACTUALLY READING MY COLUMNS.

      The saddest question directed to a writer would be “Who are you?’, not, “I disagree with your point of view.”

    • Very interesting and keenly observed – the NYT is the last news organization that still sees itself as fully “objective” – as they all used to, when there was less competition and little chance for consumer input. Second, journalists have become public figures without having to press the flesh or otherwise physically encounter the fan base. Even journalists who become TV pundits are not known faces. Re Risen, each time he did a defensive interview, he revealed more reasons that criticisms of his Afghan Mineral story were justified!

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