Why Ron Rosenbaum Really Resents Jeff Jarvis
By his own admission, journalist Ron Rosenbaum "used to like Jeff Jarvis."
But on November 11th, in a scathing piece on Slate, Rosenbaum shows he has clearly soured on the new media guru. Accusing Jarvis of "acting like a prophet" in his digital era pronunciations, Rosenbaum angrily denounces Jarvis' irreverence to traditional journalism. His frustration is palpable in the closing paragraph, which reads:
it's the callous contempt for working journalists that grates. It's a contempt for the beautiful losers who actually made journalism an honorable profession for a brief shining moment—well, longer than that—before it became a platform for "reverse engineering."
In due blogger form, Jarvis responded to the "hatchet job" on his blog BuzzMachine in a post titled 'There, there Ron," saying of Rosenbaum "like a pissy third grader, he attacks me." Finally, the New York Observer ran with all of this fodder, patching together a weak attempt at sensationalism in their piece The Web Guru. In fact, the article's author John Koblin contacted me to comment on the piece.
Why was the story weak? I'm guessing it's because Jarvis, a friend, is a genuinely nice, respectful man. Ultimately Koblin seemed forced to pull a quote out of context to create tension in his piece, falsely pitting Jarvis against New York Times editor Bill Keller.
The Rosenbaum-Jarvis feud proves too weak to carry the piece. But is it really that personal?
I think not. In Robert S. Boynton's book The New New Journalism, Rosenbaum explains his general dislike of, well, know-it-alls. Boynton's transcripted interview with Rosenbaum reads:
"In the mid-eighties, a magazine editor suggested to me that I get angry when I come across people who act as if they've "figured it all out." I think he was right. I struggle so hard to figure things out--and find so many questions unanswerable--that I'm allergic to people who overstate their claims of certitude."
"I resent--and am fascinated by--people's overconfidence in their theories...Time after time I'd find each debate dominated by people who were convinced of their own truth, when in fact there were a half-dozen conflicting truths. So I...try to see what the agendas behind these theories are."
So is that it? Not Jarvis' actual declarations, but the certainty and confidence with which he delivers them?
It appears to be part of the puzzle, and if so, apparently an integral part of Rosenbaum's writing process, a motivator that eggs him on to keep going.
In which case, Mr. Rosenbaum owes Mr. Jarvis a thank you. The third graders may share lunch after all.
Tags: Ron Rosenbaum , Jeff Jarvis , Jay Rosen
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