Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Teapot: Meet the Tempest

Because I've been trying to catch up on sleep and that which wasn't done while I was sick, I missed the hubbub over Meet the Bloggers. It started when Jill mentioned a prolonged off-the-record conversation between Republican Senate candidate Bill Pierce and a couple MTB participants. Chris Geidner at the usually high quality Law Dork blog fretted that MTB was becoming too clubby, what with the off-the-record and all.

At this point a simple comment should have extinguished the psuedocontroversy. As is made clear on any number of MTB pods and transcripts, George tries to limit the interviews to an hour or so to make them listenable and to keep transcript costs from getting out of hand. Yes, people hang out and talk afterwards. I've blogged about post-MTB conversations with Paul Hackett and Subodh Chandra before without being accused of cabal membership.

Given that MTB is open to anyone with a blog, that bloggers publicize the hell out of the events, that everyone gets a chance to ask at least one question, that readers are encouraged to submit questions, questioning the grassroots authenticity of the enterprise is a stretch. So much moreso given that pretty much no one involved -- least of all George, Tim and Bill -- is making money from this. For everyone involved, their dog in the fight is getting information out.

George posted a plea for responses. Unfortunately, the first responder was Tim Russo whose screaming, stomping comment didn't put out the fire so much as kick it into the brush. Russo attacked Geidner personally, Geidner responded in kind and it was on. Now Henry Gomez and Cindy Zawadzki have weighed in, Tim's friends have lined up behind him, his enemies have lined up on the other side and we have a full-scale blogosphere dustup.

And so it goes in NEO blogland. Too many times legitimate discussions have morphed into referenda on the Love Tim/Hate Tim question. A couple of weeks ago this got truly ugly on all sides, including some offline ugliness that made me seriously contemplate giving up the Pages. If you didn't see it, you're lucky.

Here's the bottom line. Tim is one guy. A flawed guy, but a guy whose talents and passions can't be ignored. Bloggers and their readers should try to evaluate an issue based on something other than 1) whether Tim is for or agin' it and 2) whether they are for or agin' Tim. Looking at the present issue from altitude, the amount of virtual ink spilled looks downright silly.

Meanwhile, MTB marches on. I sincerely hope at some point cooler heads will prevail and people will see the value -- check out this pitch-perfect paean by Scott Bakalar if you need help.

And remember, all bloggers, not just political bloggers, are invited. A law professor of mine once described arguing before the Supreme Court as the most fun you can have for fifteen minutes in public with your clothes on. Stretch it to an hour and MTB is like that.


Eric said...

It was silly, there's no doubt about that.

Jill said...

Pitch perfect as always.

What's really funny - no, I mean, really, as in, I was laughing last night?

Chris's first post - and you can check me on this - was smack dab in the middle of my Tuesday evening shuffle, the night my kids have Hebrew school from 4-6pm, and, what I usually do is some work from 4:15 or so until 5 and then do dinner intermittently with other work so that I can get the table set etc. before I get the kiddies and get home at about 6:15 and finish up the grub. Then, it's on to homework, bedtime and so on and I'm not back in my chair until 9pm or later.

Well - Chris's post went up, according to his blog time-stamp, at 5:36pm and I distinctly remember having my hands in dishes and suds, laughing to myself, saying, What a way to kick a mommy blogger when she's down!

Dead serious. I really thought I was being ambushed, because there's just no way on earth on a Tues. or Thurs. that, if someone writes something that requires my attention, I'm going to be able to give it.

That is why I wasn't the first responder. And I did want to sleep on it anyway and see what others felt.

Still - Chris, if you're reading this, that thought - about you picking on a mommy blogger when she can least defend herself? I don't really expect that you knew that - I just found it to be a funny coincidence.

Next time though...;)

John Ettorre said...

You're indeed right about this being a lot of sound and fury about very little. But I also understand the larger context in which this all got utterly misinterpreted: because some bloggers can instantly jump to conspiracy theories about how traditional media work, mostly out of simple ignorance of some of the mechanics, those critics are then likely to be judged by some with their own fine tooth combs when they set up alternate systems. The MTB folks had perfectly defensible reasons for doing what they did. Critics just have to get used to the fact that they're going to be watched closely for hypocrisy. It comes with the territory. But the fact that Jill was involved told me a lot. Her reputation speaks for itself, INCLUDING an important detail: that she took the time to go to PD editorial meetings to watch and learn how one tiny part of that operation works. She did some reporting, in other words, which always beats jumping to conclusions. We could all (myself included) do with more of the former and less of the latter.

Jill said...

Wow, John. Thanks very, very much. Your comment means a lot to me.

redhorse said...

John, good point about misunderstandings. I thought yesterday that most of the original post's anger was directed at the fact that he either didn't know how reporters interact with their subjects or was willfully ignoring it. So I didn't comment, didn't want to be sucked in. Which doesn't explain why I'm doing this now.

Anyway, all reporters/bloggers that talk to interviewees have off conversations. the key word, I think, was substantive. how it was defined and by whom.

Daniella said...


You did an excellent post on this whole tempest in the tea pot thing. However as I posted on Chris's blog, the rsult from his post is that MTB is now going to be aware that post interview conversations may have a value for the listeners.

I am not thinking that we will do an after the show segment like Oprah did when she realized that some of her guests expressed a willingness to continue the conversation past the show time. We are not quite there yet.

But if there is something of interest we will pay more attention to it. As you know from participating in MTB, it often happens that the interviewee wants to chat and exchange ideas after the mic is off, and maybe some of those ideas would be good to share.

Tim Russo said...

i would really like to know how i made it personal.

everyone needs to watch a little more PTI on ESPN. you know why? because Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon call each other dopes, morons, fools, idiots, bald, etc., they hand out Dap to people they like, and call guys carried on on gurneys at the TWolves game wussies.

it's funny. it's called NOT TAKING YOURSELF ALL THAT SERIOUSLY. we in the political blogosphere need a little of that. we seem to think because wwe blog about politics, nothing is allowed to be funny, silly, outrageous....everything has to be SO serious.

that said, i called chris's post "bizarre" and asked him if he was out of his mind. i invited chris to MTB. i sent him emails inviting him to MTB. the only personalizing of this appears to be in your post scott, where in you decide to make the whole thing a referendum on Tim Russo.

none of this tempest in a teapot was about me, or jill, until chris decided to suggest that BOTH me AND Jill were somehow concocting secret deals with bill pierce, which is, as i called it, bizarre.

now go watch PTI scott, before i give you a little Wilbon style beat down.

John Ettorre said...

To use a newspaper metaphor, some people are tabloid and others broadsheet (though plenty of New Yorkers swear by both the NY Post and the NYTimes, though they obviously get very different experiences from each). Among drinkers, some people like working class dive bars once frequented by stevedores and sailors, others enjoy New Yorkey style clubs where half the fun is people-watching. Everyone to his or her own style (and again, lots of people, me included, enjoy both, at different times, in different moods). The market finds a way to provide what people want, and people are of course free to patronize or not patronize places that suit their style or don't.

Jill said...

Daniella -

I agree that some things might be good to share, but if the conversation is no longer being recorded, and it's a one on one or one on two or three, who makes that decision as to whether the info gets shared? That's the sticking point for me. Are we really saying that because I'm still in a room that hosted an interview and I'm now talking to the interviewee in a side conversation about something I want to emphasize and then the candidate re-states or adds to what they've said, that I should - on behalf of the possible readers blog? of MTB (because I should add that additional material to the MTB website?) - consider whatever is said to be "required blogging"?

I KNOW this is most likely NOT what you are saying - I am saying that it is questions like these that then have to be answered if we are really moving toward holding each person who attends an MTB interview responsible for disseminating the information.

I have to tell you, if I thought that there would be a burden on me to blog about everything I deemed interesting or of possible interest to readers of my blog or MTB, honest? I'd be sure that I was scooting out as quickly as possible - I'm going to gather and review - no question. But I don't want the responsibility of readers believing that I should be disclosing to them all of my conversations.

I do not see that MTB is about that.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I shouldn't be attending. I'm not sure.

Bottom line: I want to decide, as far as an after the interview is over side conversation, as to whether I'm going to blog about it or not. I am not comfortable with being pressured by expectations of fascinated folks (rightly fascinated btw) to brain dump all the extemporanious chatter.

Could you say more about this, because I'm genuinely wanting to know how others feel about that - about opening oneself up to an obligation, incurred simply by being at an MTB interview - before during and after - that whatever conversation that attendee has, others want that attendee to spill.

I do think this is worth talking about - I'm just admitting that I find it to be a very, very slippery and invasive slope that does not, for me, coincide with the idea of MTB. But I know, I may be wrong.

Daniella said...


I never meant by my statement that people should be obligated to report on any MTB even in any way. As far as I know blogging is not mandatory.

I think you maybe over analysing my post.

Jill said...

Guilty, Daniella (I suspect you've seen my comment at BFD). I have a tendency to do that - not so endearing, I know, but definitely a trait that led me to law school (or was developed in law school?).

You've heard me before, so you know that I do prefer some guide to none at all. I'm a bit hardwired that way.