Sunday, September 27, 2009

Me, Moe Lane and Malkin vs. the MSM: The Media Elite's Strange Priorities and Misallocation of Scarce Resources

"I don’t actually want to see newspapers go away, seeing as they’ve got structural advantages on news gathering that I envy. Like actual budgets: when someone like Robert Stacy McCain decides that he’s going to go down to Kentucky and cover the Bill Sparkman murder, he has to shake the tip jar, write a few posts highlighting the issue, and hope that somebody comes through for his expenses. The equivalent NYT editor simply calls up the relevant department and has somebody set it up. The ability to follow stories that easily is a powerful ability; would that the NYT was willing to take advantage of it.
-- Moe Lane of Red State
My good friend Moe (we're like this, Moe and me) was addressing Michelle Malkin's criticism of the New York Times, criticism that might be applied more generally to all the elite media.

Speaking of which, if the NYT desires a token conservative presence on its op-ed page, why hire another "meritocrat" pundit like Ross Douthat, who can't be bothered to pick up a phone, much less get in his car and go talk to sources in person?

The NYT would have done much better to (a) spend that money on actual reporting, and (b) fill the designated "conservative" spot on its op-ed page with rotating freelance submissions from actual conservatives. You know: People like Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, Mark Steyn, Mary Katharine Ham, Rush Limbaugh . . .

Yet the same criticism about misallocation of resources might be extended far beyond the Times building on West 43 Street, to encompass much of the blogosphere and even the conservative movement. My good friend J.P. Friere, formerly of The American Spectator and now with the Washington Examiner, likes to say that conservatives don't need more Bill Buckleys, we need more Bob Novaks, and he's right. (Although Hannah Giles in a thong is a lot easier on the eyes than Novak ever was.)

Nowadays, every 22-year-old with a laptop and a Wordpress account wants to play the pundit, give us The Big Picture, and lecture us with their own ill-informed answers to that eternal question, "Whither Conservatism?"

Here's your answer: Shut up, kid, I've got T-shirts older than you.

Today, down in rural Virginia, Al Regnery's throwing a big barbecue. All the big shots will be there and I'm invited. I'll be running late, and I'm worried about what economists call the opportunity costs of attending the annual shindig, rather than staying here to work, work, work.

There's only one of me and I'm a freelancer. I don't have an AmEx card for travel expenses like the big shots at the networks do. It takes a couple of business days for PayPal transactions to be processed, and until that tip-jar cash clears the bank, I'll be pushing it to the limit just to get to Clay County, Kentucky, by Monday, and only hope I can avoid my checks don't start bouncing before those payments clear.

Meanwhile, I've promised the American Spectator a column that's already half-written and has to be turned in before I try to get some sleep, then depart before dawn in my 2004 KIA, so I can try to file something -- at least a brief report -- with a Kentucky dateline by noon Monday. Never mind that we're a one-car household and my wife's steamed because she'll have to improvise her own transportation for a few days. (A rental car might cost $60 a day, nudge, nudge.)

Considering all my disadvantages, then, perhaps you understand my resentment of the media elite's overprivileged journalistic inertia. When I think of the elite, with their Harvard educations and their fat salaries, sitting around pontificating about the Big Picture . . . well, I'm not ashamed to rattle the tip jar, because I think I'm not the only one who's sick and tired of the MSM's better-than-thou attitude.

When I started blogging full-time in March 2008, it was only a time-waster between freelance gigs. Also, I had at least one prospect for a staff position at a publication I won't name. But then those guys started jerking me around, asking me to contribute some freelance work for them, just as a kind of tryout.

Screw that. As if I couldn't hustle up freelance opportunities without trying out for a job like some unknown grass-green rookie. I'd rather freelance for the Spectator and Pajamas Media -- people who treat me with some respect and appreciate my efforts.

So, as always when faced with such a problem, I asked myself: What Would Hunter S. Thompson Do?

Double down. Bet on myself. Spend out my 401(k) to pay the bills until I could turn this crazy gonzo thing into a revenue stream sufficient to establish my financial independence. And then, next time they're looking to hire an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of newspaper experience who also does HTML and digital photography, knows his way around the blogosphere and Web 2.0, has mad skilz with Final Cut Pro and PhotoShop, my answer will be a question:
"What's it worth to you, buddy? If you want me, do you want me with or without that blog where I can say anything that crosses my mind? Do you want me to give up that wild fun and all those loyal tip-jar hitters, or do you want me to bring them along with me? I can go either way here, but I've got to know if you're serious about wanting me, because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. You're not going to push me around like some kid fresh out of J-school. Been there, done that, ain't going back for more. But I'm a reasonable man, and am willing to entertain any reasonable offers. So give me a number here, and I'll tell you whether it's too low. I write for money."

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. And things are looking pretty weird right about now. My wife's worried sick about the bills. She's also worried sick about me getting into trouble in Kentucky, but I told her it's nothing. If they'd didn't kill me in Kampala, they won't kill me in Clay County.

BTW, I just got off the phone with Track-a-'Crat, who seems to be coming down with Appalachian Swine Flu. He's got all the symptoms, so he'll probably be too sick to go to his day-job Monday. He'll have to be rushed to see a specialist, and I told him I know just the man to see: The world-renowned Dr. Raoul Duke of Louisville, Ky.

Rent a convertive, Track-a-'Crat, and leave the rest to me. Sometimes, the cure for Appalachian Swine Flu is worse than the disease . . .

Just keep hitting that tip jar, you ungrateful bastards. Baby, it's about to be showtime!


  1. Have a good time and take care.

    Great post (I know, I know - that's lame)

  2. Hang in there your time will come I guarantee it. Come on people rattle his jar for Gods sake!

  3. Malkin or McCain or the lovely Mary Katherine would be a wonderful choice to see on the pages of the Times but Moe Lane belongs on Fish Wrap.

  4. "every 22-year-old with a laptop and a Wordpress account wants to play the pundit, give us The Big Picture, and lecture us with their own ill-informed answers"

    Yes I do.

    And don't listen to the (sept?)uagenarian and his ageist agenda; Sunday Afternoon Matlock was canceled and his time slot is thus more open than the Canadian border on New Year's Eve.

  5. Hey now... I run Wordpress, Self hosting TUVM! and I'm 37.

    So, bite me! ;-P

  6. Further more, Blogger Blows and it is subject to review by Google.

    There's REAL freedom in a self hosted Blog.

    Get some dude.

  7. Geeze, sounds like lunch ladies don't make a lot of money. But I thought maybe you were living for free at least at the academy since you listed it as your legal address for all those tickets. Who would have ever thought a 04 KIA could move like that?

  8. Stacy,

    You are mostly correct about much of this. You ignore something very important, though: competence. Look at the Powerline blog, for example.

    NOT newspaper guys.

    Not even close.

    Though I've given up reading that blog regularly (due to its squishiness when it comes to folks like Governor Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and I'd imagine, you), their impact and value as information sources is undeniable.

    (Yeah, that's an absolute, and folks can disagree, but clearly the sane would prevail in such an argument.)

    The MSM will continue to lose revenue. In a desktop publishing world, the byline is the brand, not the organization. I'll read your blog, but I have a long-standing policy against reading that moony paper you worked for. You, I trust.

    Individuals and smaller groups will continue to take market share from big, powerful news-gathering agencies. For a total underline of that point, just say the phrase "Associated Press." If the AP told me it was raining, I'd go outside to check. Some in big media get it, and will find a way to survive. But so will independents. Many will do very well. But let's be realistic. The MSM is shrinking, and many outlets are dying.

    Watching you trying to tell the MSM how to fix their problem is annoying. You might next consider telling buggy whip makers how to improve their market share of auto owners. Let them die. It's the honorable thing to do.

    As for the power of citizen journalism, it's no more bizarre a concept than becoming a best-selling novelist. The odds are stacked greatly against one who starts their own web-based publishing venture; that does not mean none will succeed.

    Which brings me to the last part of it. "Journalism." I respect your experience and credentials as an information gatherer and writer. I do not respect journalism as either an "art" or a "profession." It has become nothing more than people saying, writing, and filming stuff, and putting it on the web. The sad thing is the j-school graduates, who come out knowing little about any particular subject, and knowing less about how to inform.

    So help the good writers, and let the bad ones know it. But expect more independents. That's where things are headed.

  9. You have pictures of Bob Novak in a thong!!! That's something worth seeing.

  10. No, it's not. I really don't want to see Bob Novak in a thong. Really I don't...

  11. buzzz52490 said... Malkin or McCain or the lovely Mary Katherine would be a wonderful choice to see on the pages of the Times but Moe Lane belongs on Fish Wrap.

    Well, I don't know about Malkin or MK, but I've sworn a vow never even to seek publication in the NYT until Sulzberger is forced to sell, David Brooks is laid off, they return Duranty's Pulitzer and apologize for Herbert Matthews' pro-Castro propaganda.

    Until those conditions are met, the NYT lacks integrity, and I could not allow my name to be associated with such a disreputable operation.

    Also: Don't diss Moe Lane. You may be confusing him with Moe Green.

  12. Per the Riehl World post...the child predator angle is not out of line.

    In Detroit...and I've known a few Detroit cops, one in the family, and whenever a mutilated male corpse is found, the usual assumption is street justice for an offense against a child.

  13. In the first 12 hours since this was posted, at least $65 in tip-jar contributions came with messages begging me not to publish the photos of Bob Novak in a thong.

    BELIEVE IT . . . OR DON'T!

  14. You will be going to where I lived most of my life. Enjoy Kentucky, and do not go door to door like that poor sap did. In Eastern Kentucky that can be... well - life threatening. Enjoy the trip!

  15. More Novaks, not more Buckleys? What? My first, and subsequent, reaction(s) are: that's stupid. We need more of both, not one or the other. DUH!

    Novak was a journalist, not a force for conservatism, according to my limited viewings of Crossfire at least. Roger Ailes brought up this point when noticing two attack hacks against Tucker and The Journo. I do have a ton of respect for Novak's fresh, insightful reportage of new information. The Limbaugh Letter had a great interview of Bob years ago and it was amazing to see a pic of young Bob in a white suit, thin and ready to win.

    But Buckley was a force for conservatism. A hugely influential force that ushered in Reagan.

    Novak was reporting the effects of Buckley, not creating the zeitgeist Buckley so monumentally and stylishly bestowed.

  16. Buckley's "Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith" has the L.A. Times' blub "Most like Augustine in its intellectual breadth and sweep... Firm and resolute, Buckely movingly explores the implications of a faith he has questioned, but never doubted."

    I wonder if Bob Novak wrote as devotedly about his Catholic faith, which he acquired much later in life.

    I don't bother to search on the internet this wonder, as I would rather focus on what Bill fucking Buckley did rather than what Mr. Novak did not.


    So, free association forthwith (and free bandwith and free-of-time-constraints and free of humor --unforgivable no matter the plea later when sober or not-- and free of wisdom) I must add to Mr. Freire's bold proclamation that Rush Limbaugh is a leader: HOLY FUCKING SHIT RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A LEADER!!!!

    If I had not been told that, by Mr. Freire, I can only hope it would only take me five senses, not the fabled sixth, to figure it out.

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