Patterico's Pontifications


Self-Promotion Department: Patterico in a Book!

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Patterico @ 9:28 pm

Dan Gillmor, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, has written a book called We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. The title is fairly self-explanatory. Bloggers are among the grassroots journalists covered. And (here the title of this post becomes relevant) Patterico is among the bloggers mentioned.

Gillmor has announced that he has made the entire book available on the Web in .pdf format. You can download a chapter at a time, at this page. Your obedient servant is mentioned in Chapter 6, at pages 119-120. (And the endnotes have my web address at notes 166-167.)

Here is Gillmor’s account of my dealings with the Los Angeles Times over their treatment of Justice Scalia. You can see that Gillmor disagrees with one of the points I made about the Times‘s coverage:

A right-leaning blogger who calls himself “Patterico” has made it one of his missions to critique The Los Angeles Times for what he sees as an assortment of left-leaning sins. In early 2004 he took the Times, which he calls the “Dog Trainer,” to task for its coverage of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s conflicts of interest, including the judge’s hunting vacation with Vice President Dick Cheney, an old friend, when the court was hearing a pivotal case involving Cheney’s Energy Task Force. Patterico observed that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also had a conflict of note, a connection to the National Organization for Women (NOW). His correspondence with the Times got results. On March 11, 2004, he wrote, proudly: “On the one hand, I have to hand it to The Los Angeles Times. They have run a front-page story about Justice Ginsburg’s speech to the NOW Legal Defense Fund. On the other hand, why did I have to be the one to tell them about it?”

For me, this follow-on complaint doesn’t hold up. Journalists find out much of what we print and broadcast from people who tell us things — people like Patterico, who helped make the news.

I understand Gillmor’s point, in the abstract. Newspapers rely on sources to help them come up with stories to put in a newspaper. My complaint — that The Times had not developed the Ginsburg story on its own — failed to fully take that fact into account.

At the same time, I think my point was largely a fair one — when read in the context of the paper’s coverage of Justice Scalia all year long. As I have documented in several posts (all accessible here), the problem is not simply that The Times has reported on controversies regarding Justice Scalia, but rather that The Times taken several cheap shots at Justice Scalia, including printing numerous factually incorrect assertions about the Justice — many of which the paper refused to correct even after being told they were wrong. When you look at the big picture, it gives you a slightly different perspective on why the paper printed several (increasingly petty) stories about Justice Scalia, while missing the identical Ginsburg story until a “right-leaning blogger” stuck the story in their face.

At the same time, Gillmor has a fair point, and I respect his point of view.

In any event, this is a fairly minor quibble. Taking a step back from my own tiny role in grassroots journalism, and looking at the big picture as explained in Gillmor’s book, it seems to me that Gillmor really Gets It. Take, for example, this quote of his, from page 111 (also in Chapter 6):

In an emerging era of multidirectional, digital communications, the audience can be an integral part of the process — and it’s becoming clear that they must be.

It boils down to something simple: readers (or viewers or listeners) collectively know more than media professionals do. This is true by definition: they are many, and we are often just one. We need to recognize and, in the best sense of the word, use their knowledge. If we don’t, our former audience will bolt when they realize they don’t have to settle for half-baked coverage; they can come into the kitchen themselves.

Amen! I couldn’t have put it better. This is a refreshing statement to read anywhere. It’s even more impressive coming from someone in mainstream journalism.

I am putting in my order for Gillmor’s book today. I suggest you get it too.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gillmor for the link.


  1. I think I shall order this book, even though the author thinks “critique” is a verb. The fact is the media are adapting very slowly to new technology that has redifined freedom of the press: we are now all able to become commentators and reporters, as well as monitor the accuracy and bias of the major media. It’s a genuine revolution, and people like Patterico are on the bleeding edge of it, defining it and exploring its evolving potential. What a refreshing and exciting development!

    Comment by L. Barnes (1b54e8) — 8/4/2004 @ 11:26 am

  2. My understanding is that “critique” is often used as a verb, although some (like you) object to this. I don’t think using it that way is clearly wrong, though some grammar experts counsel against this usage.

    Comment by Patterico (4c2e7e) — 8/4/2004 @ 12:29 pm

  3. I use critique as a verb all of the time. What’s wrong with verbing words when it makes sense. It’s an arbitrary distinction that has no place. There are many times when we want to speak of both the action and the effect and so it makes sense to use the same word as a verb and a noun.

    Comment by Peter Wayner (e37f4d) — 8/5/2004 @ 6:26 am

  4. “verbing” words?

    I think you are going to be accused of junking the language — but not in so many words.

    Comment by Patterico (f7b3e5) — 8/5/2004 @ 6:40 am

  5. Heh…you made a funny. Oh, wait…different problem there…

    Comment by Tom (12c633) — 8/5/2004 @ 9:06 am

  6. My undersanding is that when an English teacher announces on national television, “I teaches English,” that she is simply ignorant — though some people talk that way. Fortunately I am not required to. Not yet; political correctness has not advanced that far, though I suspect the enforced use of incorrect language (lest we stigmatize the ignorant) may be around the corner. Just kidding.

    Seriously, though: why discard the perfectly good verb “to criticize” and replace it with a totally unnecessary word that simply demonstrates one’s ignorance? Because of sloth and ignorance.

    Yet we try to shame the news media into accuracy, do we not? Why do we try to expose bias and distortion and omission, when we know that most people are willing to accept them and live by deceitful slogans? Because we know that ignorance is inferior to knowledge and understanding, and that precision in thought and word is a prerequisite to an ethical life.

    For example: the precise language of the law is essential, and only a rigorous education will prepare law students for their intended profession. It is indeed a matter of standards and education; there is no shame in that. By the same token, it strikes me as perverse that the educated use of English should come under attack as somehow negative or churlish. Yet I know that I shall be scorned and mocked for refusing to debase my language by allowing others’ ignorance to pollute it.

    My education is incomplete and my knowledge finite, and I shall not apologize for doing what I can to improve both. Nor shall I beg forgiveness for my elitist attempt to express myself correctly (knowing, even as I assert my resolve, that this message probably contains errors of some sort!). When I point out that someone who makes a living as an author may not know the fundamentals of correct usage, I realize that I touch a nerve. But correct is correct, and ignorance should be removed when possible.

    So: we don’t vote on things like the meaning of “critique.” We go to a good dictionary –yes, there are bad ones — and discover that the word is a noun, and that to use it as a verb is improper and marks one as ignorant. Then we wince when otherwise educated people defend debased usage. Language change that stems from utter ignorance can and should be ignored.

    Comment by L. Barnes (1b54e8) — 8/5/2004 @ 4:55 pm

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