George Vecsey wrote for the New York Times for 43 years. He’s retiring now. Unlike some others of his generation, he pretty much kept his fastball until the end and even when I disagreed with him I thought he was a great writer who really understood the game and the context in which it existed.
He’d get cranky sometimes, but rarely if ever do I call him pulling the “back in my day” baloney some older columnists use to disparage younger players, and that is probably one of the harder things to do in that business, what with your memory and experience becoming more valuable as you progress in your career.
Sadly, however, in an interview about his life and career over at The Morning Delivery blog, Vecsey decided to employ that approach to disparage new media:
Q. How optimistic are you for the future of the U.S. Newspaper Industry?
A: Not. Newspapers are the engines that drive the Web. Without editors planning assignments and copy editors fixing mistakes, reporters quickly deteriorate into Underwear Guys writing blogs from their den. The sad thing is that everybody knows it—even politicians and business people know they need some source of actual information, even if they get whacked once in a while. But the economics and timidity of the newspaper business are working against that future. And the bloggers brag about knowing how things work from the sanctity of their dens.
I’ll have Mr. Vecsey know that, while I happen to be writing from my den, I am not writing this in my underwear. I am wearing pajama pants, slippers and a San Francisco Seals shirt. But hey, at least I’m not assumed to be in my mother’s basement anymore. Guess we Underwear Guys are moving up in the world.
More seriously, I defy Mr. Vecsey or anyone else who buys what he’s selling here to find any blogger worth a damn who thinks that real reporters doing real reporting are somehow obsolete. Yes, the medium of actual printed newspapers may be dying, but the business of gathering and disseminating information is not. Even if it can be done from a den as opposed to a newsroom.
Oh well. Maybe someday “Underwear Guys” and similar smears will die out. Guess it won’t be today.