In the past couple of days I’ve blasted T.J. Simers and Murray Chass for writing pieces that, in my view, were low-rent, unprofessional hit jobs. This is not new territory for me. I have a combative streak and, like a lot of blogger boys, I engage in a healthy amount of media criticism. And whenever I do, I usually get comments from readers, friends and peers to the effect of “hey, why don’t you just ignore the guy? You’re just giving him attention, and that’s what he wants.”
It’s a valid point, and one I have wrestled with for a long time. But it’s a notion that I simply can’t abide.
On a very basic level I can’t abide it because people who traffic in this nonsense do so for major daily publications read by thousands upon thousands of people. They shape people’s opinions by virtue of their presumed authority and station and, in the case of Hall of Fame and awards voting, actually shape news and history through their own words and deeds. Well, Chass doesn’t anymore, but his little blogging hobby is but a blip; his obituary will refer to him as “Noted New York Times columnist, Murray Chass.” But Simers certainly does, as do the other guys I go after from time to time. They are the professional sporting press, that still means something, and they can’t be dismissed like some crank on a message board.
More deeply, I can’t abide it because I simply don’t believe that ignorance and idiocy are best combated by silence. People generally take silence as tacit approval. The cranky, crusty out-of-touch columnist got that way because for years he isolated himself from dissenting voices, took drinks at the press club among friendly colleagues and only took notice of reader dissent if it was brought to his attention by the legal department (if he truly crossed a line) or the circulation desk (if someone threatened to cancel their subscription). And it’s not just newspaper writers. It’s anyone. To those who consider themselves influential, no news is good news. Silence is golden.
It’s a different world now. Everything is interactive. Readers have voices. The good reporters out there — which is most of them, thankfully — engage with the audience and hold themselves accountable. Those who don’t have even less of an excuse than they ever did before, and deserve to be called out.
Yes, we’re in a business where page views and circulation numbers matter. But, at the risk of sounding like a naive idealist, truth and integrity matter more. I’ll gladly send Murray Chass or T.J. Simers a few thousand clicks if by doing so their baloney is exposed for what it is.