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The Jeff Jarvis conundrum

I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ron Rosenbaum's post about Jeff Jarvis. Like Ron, I used to be an avid reader of Jeff's blog, and liked it a lot. And, like Ron, I've become disillusioned by Jeff and his arguments over the past year.

Let's make this clear from the start: a lot of what Jeff says is right.I have absolutely no need for Jeff to "save" me. I have no idea how long exactly Jeff has been involved in online publishing, but I doubt that he could describe me as a print zealot. I first worked as an online-only journalist around 1998 (when I was first dedicated online editor for MacUser) and although I've moved back to print a couple of times (follow the money!) since then, I'm currently, again, only working day-to-day online.

However, as Ron says, somewhere over the past year Jeff has become increasing reluctant to accept criticism, instead concentrating on smearing anyone who criticises him. Arguments which are still in play are dismissed out of hand as "old hat", and anyone who raises them as a "curmudgeon".

I think that one of the commentors on Jeff's supposed-rebuttal, "Chris", puts the way I feel about it best:

"It is possible to simultaneously believe …

1) That Jeff always has a lot of sharp insights and has kept coming up with them for many years;

2) That Jeff has become progressively more infatuated with his

stature and that his opinion of his own brilliance and deep

significance just keeps growing;

3) That print journalists need to hear the tough insights Jeff offers; and

4) That Jeff hasn’t come close to a coherent answer to the question

of where revenue is going to be found to sustain anything close to the

level of journalistic thoroughness to which we’ve grown accustomed.

I live in California, a megastate with an extremely poorly run state

government that has grown steadily more dysfunctional. Nevertheless,

over the past five years, the print journalists covering Sacramento

have been cut by at least half. At important hearings on things like

overcrowded prisons or failing schools, hearings where the future of

the state is being shaped, sometimes there are no journos in sight.

Before long, the Sacramento Bee, the L.A. Times and AP may be the only

ones with regularly staffed bureaus in the capital of the nation’s

largest, richest state.

This is not healthy. For all Jeff’s smarts, I’ve never seen him

offer a single insight into how this sort of common journalistic

decline will be addressed — or at least a single insight that I thought

had a practical chance of success."

Chris is completely right – and unfortunately, Jeff has spent a lot of time not answering this question, and accusing anyone who raises it of being "a curmudgeon". While Jeff has been happy to dish out the rhetoric, it appears that when someone uses the same tools against him, he gets more than a little thin skinned.

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