A Peak Into the Public Mailbox: Debate on state of journalism runs from very supportive to, well, very not–with an entertaining dash of the amusing and odd.
Maybe the North Korean Ministry of Agitation and Propaganda are on to Something
By Nate Thayer
April 13, 2013
In the last few weeks I can’t help but to have the thought that this mass adulation of free speech, critical thinking, debate-the-issues-important-to-the-common-good-in- the-public-square shtick, might be a bit over-hyped.
I confess to fleeting feelings of sympathy for the approach taken by, say, the authorities of North Korea, whose citizens enjoy the warm serenity protected in the womb of The Mother Party, where the destabilizing consequences to the public order of expressing an opinion have been cleverly addressed by not allowing the Proletariat to say, well, just about anything. The masses are not burdened with such tangential tasks and can just concentrate on basking in the bounty of opportunity and human dignity provided for them by those in their halls of power.
Some elements of the entrenched Free Press would appear to better serve the interests of society under the benevolent supervision and guidance of the Ministry of Agitation and Propaganda.
But that sentiment I enjoy only in my fleeting twisted Walter Mitty moments.
There is nothing like a healthy, vigorous discussion on issues of merit and import to the common good. Even the collateral unpleasantness, when the bonehead and junior high school set chimes in, is well worth the price of admission to live where, when people have something to say, they can and do.
But at least in the Worker’s Paradise, there are rarely the tedious distractions that undermine meeting production quotas (a side demerit which has been true in my case in recent weeks). And, protected by the bosom of the Great Leader, there is none of the inevitable ruckus kicked up by a contrarian peasant disputing the visionary wisdom of the “Father of the Neighbor’s Children”, “Bright Sun of the 21st Century”, and the “Great Man, Who Descended From Heaven.”
Part of the arrangement is everyone is prohibited from excersizing their opinions on just about anything to keep everything running smoothly.
The other official titles of the sequentially incumbent Kim Family Boys include: “Dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have”; “Great Leader”; “Father of the People”; “Sun of the Communist Future”; “Shining Star of Paektu Mountain”; “Guiding Sun Ray”; “Guarantee of the Fatherland’s Unification”; “Symbol of the Fatherland’s Unification”; “Fate of the Nation”; “Beloved Father”; “Great Leader of our Party and of our Nation”; “Great General”; “Beloved and Respected General”; “Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander”; “Sun of Socialism”; “Sun of the Nation”; ”The Great Sun of Life”; “Great Sun of The Nation”; “Father of the Neighbor’s Children”; “World Leader of The 21st Century”; “Peerless Leader”; “Bright Sun of the 21st Century”; “Great Sun of the 21st Century”; “Leader of the 21st Century”; “Amazing politician”; “Great Man, Who Descended From Heaven”; “Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven”; “Supreme Leader of the Nation”; “Bright Sun of Juche”; “Leader of the Party and the People”; Great Marshal”; “Invincible and Ever-triumphant General”; “Dear Father”; “Guiding Star of the 21st Century”; “Great Man, Who Is a Man of Deeds”; “Great Defender: “Savior”; “Mastermind of the Revolution”;
And my personal favorite: “Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love.”
There have been a few moments, in recent weeks, when I could have used a little of that. And an equal number of moments when I was grateful to be on the receiving end.
And regardless of whether they have been darts or laurels, the entertainment value has proved more than adequate, and life would have been strikingly more mundane and uninteresting otherwise.
Here is a small sampling of the range of public comments over the few days (via my living room for reasons that remain entirely unclear to me) pertaining to the issue of writers being compensated with cash money by the people who sell for profit the product we produce—words (or photographs, or art, or music and son etc etc).
While most who have thrown in their two cents (which was, not incidentally, more than I was offered by the Atlantic) have been alarmingly firm in their conclusions, and all have been from people who I don’t know, have never met, and never spoken with. For many I hope that status will change, and others, in all candor, I am inclined to relegate to the undecided category.
I will start with the grouchy stuff:
“Hope Nate Thayer learns how to monetize a blog and his 31 followers because nobody will ever ask him to write again.”–Nicholas Jackson @nbj914 Digital director of Pacific Standard. Formerly w/ The Atlantic, Outside, Slate, Atlas Obscura. IALJS officer. IMSA & NU/Medill alum. Tweeting all things media.
“Nate-thayer-is-plagiarist.html …”–T.J. Ortenzi @tjortenzi @WashingtonPost senior social media producer. Hershey native, pug owner, occasional runner. http://wapo.st/aItzLT 11 Apr
“Was anyone in doubt about Nate Thayer’s temperament after he publicly fucked over a editor over a money spat?”–Justin Miller, Editor at New York magazine, former staff journalist at Atlantic Magazine @justinjm1 11 Apr Justin Miller http://nymag.com @NYMag editor. @TheAtlantic alumnus. Work in progress.
“So @nate_thayer, who hates it when sites re-pub his work for free, does the same thing on his blog: http://natethayer.wordpress.com “Shooters Have Power: Freelance Photographers organize Over Fair Pay “–Sara Morrison @SaraMorrison “Assistant editor Columbia Journalism Review, Friday night writer @TheAtlanticWire. Mouthy broad often. . saramorrison[at]http://gmail.com “
“If @nate_thayer is such a great & valuable journalist, why didn’t he seek official @TheAtlantic comment before publishing editor’s emails?”— Max Fisher Washington Post chief Foreign Policy blogger; former Staff Writer The Atlantic 8:02 PM Mar 5th Twitter
“That @nate_thayer piece bears an uncanny resemblance to a 2006 San Diego Union-Tribune story. Sources, anecdotes, etc.”—Max Fischer Mar 5th
“This article about Nate Thayer’s journalistic sloppiness is pretty damning. http://t.co/v6YIUnnlfZ”–Matt Schiavenza @MattSchiavenza, editor the China Channel @TheAtlantic @TheAtlanticCHN Washington, DC · theatlantic.com/china/
“Sensible @mattyglesias blog post on the idiotic @nate_thayer controversy”—Matt Schiavenza @TheAtlantic
“Minor details [email protected]: Nate Thayer is a plagiarist”-–Matt Yglesias @mattyglesias Slate Economics Blogger Washington, http://www.matthewyglesias.net
“It’s simply that our business model isn’t suitable for all types of contributors- which is fine! You seem to think that the Thayer incident was common, but in fact it was quite exceptional.”–Matt Schiavenza @TheAtlantic
“Rather than complain about us, why not direct your ire to people who write, willingly, for free? They’re the ones who have undermined the freelance journalism market, not magazines”—Matt Schiavenza @TheAtlantic
“Man, this Nate Thayer thing is getting really post-modern”–Jeffrey Goldberg @JeffreyGoldberg National Correspondent, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/jeffrey-goldberg
Guy who invoked 13th Amendment when asked to write for free continues to say really rational things… HT @jaredbkeller”—Mark Berman @themarkberman , Washington Post Staff correspondent , “also produces videos, discussions and other projects, manages multiple social media channels and regularly contributes to or works with other departments and sections” @washingtonpost, http://themarkberman.com”
Mr. Berman was quite prolific:
“Also, I know he’s super busy comparing his life to that of a slave, but has Nate Thayer ever responded to this? http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/nate-thayer-atlantic-charged-with-plagiarism.html …”–Mark Berman Washington Post @themarkberman 11 April
“He made a 13th Amendment reference last time people were paying attention to him, too: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/nate-thayer-vs-the-atlantic-writing-for-free.html …”–Mark Berman @themarkberman Washington Post 11 Apr
“Nate Thayer seems like he’d react to his cable being out by complaining to the company, publishing the emails and comparing it to slavery”–Mark Berman @themarkberman Washington Post11 Apr
“Nate Thayer should take an assignment. He seems to have a lot of time on his hands to (freely) complain about not working for free.”–Odd Hack @Odd_Hack 11 Apr
“What is with this guy? … We get it. You won’t work for free! Shut up!”–Odd Hack @Odd_Hack 11 Apr
“This dick is way out of bounds.”—Walter Hickey @WaltHickey 11 Apr
So @nate_thayer, who hates it when sites re-pub his work for free, does the same thing on his blog: http://natethayer.wordpress.com “Shooters Have Power: Freelance Photographers organize Over Fair Pay”--Sara Morrison @SaraMorrison, Assistant Editor Columbia Journalism Review, writer TheAtlanticWire saramorrison[at]http://gmail.com http://about.me/saramorrison
A few people got a bit worked up over the “House Negro” allusion:
“Straw man/hyperbole much? Nate Thayer compares blogging for free at HuffPo to slavery:”–Mathew Ingram @mathewi, senior writer at GigaOm, former columnist with the Globe and Mail and co-founder of the mesh conference in Toronto.
“As a general life lesson never use the phrase “house negro” to describe literally anything that is not actual slavery …”--Jon Eiseman @Jon_Eiseman 11 Apr
“In which Nate Thayer completely misrepresents American slavery in a spat with HuffPo:”–Jarrod Dicker @jarroddicker Director of social, content & mobile ad products @Time_Inc. Former head of social marketing @HuffingtonPost. I tweet about advertising, but mostly PHISH. http://about.me/jarroddicker
“RT @mathewi straw man/hyperbole much? Nate Thayer compares blogging for free at HuffPo to slavery…via @jaredbkeller”–Jarrod Dicker @jarroddicker 11 Apr
“In which Nate Thayer completely misrepresents American slavery in a spat with HuffPo (via @jaredbkeller)”—Matt Ford @HemlockMartinis 11 Apr
“You have crossed the line. To equate the practice of Huff Post of not paying their bloggers to antebellum slavery is one of the most asinine and intellectuality bankrupt comments I have heard. Then you invoked the civil war, the emancipation proclamation, and the 13th amendment to the Constitution as a part of your argument. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! I’m sorry the big bad wolf Huff Post won’t pay you for your work or other bloggers. Last I check Huff Post is not dishing out 30 lashes or selling your children and/or wife. FIND SOMEONE THAT WILL PAY YOU! You are FREE to do so! That is a far cry from being uprooted from your home, forced to march for miles tied together by the neck then chained together in a slave ship under horrific conditions. If you were lucky to survive, you were then subjugated and dehumanized. And this went on for 246 years with another 100 years of de facto slavery! How many years has Huff Post been around? Where was a blog in the 1700’s when a brother needed one? So I am sorry, you lost me when you tried to channel your internal Quentin Tarantino with your house slave, field slave diatribe. Look if you think Huff Post is undermining journalism and destroying the journalism business model, say that. Otherwise find a more worthy analogy to make your point without the sophomoric hyperbole. Sorry Nate, in 2013, you are not a slave, field or house. You can do as you please, simply put you are FREE! Your blog kinda proves that in case you were wondering. Free to say what you want, free to work for anyone that employs you or for yourself and even refuse to work for those that don’t pay you. To use the slave analogy shows that you are either; A. don’t have a basic understanding of history, B. are a narcissist looking to show how cool you are by using a narrative that diminishes the significance of a painful time in history C. stepped in it when trying to make a point. I believe it is C. Clean your shoe and think next time, you are free to do that to—David Walker commenting on my blog post “Robot Sex Poll Reveals How I Got Invited–Then Uninvited–As Guest on Huffington Post Live TV Show”
This next fellow I am guessing is British with his stealth, perfected by centuries of honing and tweaking, combo of politeness and derision, where you don’t realize you have just been slapped upside the head until some time later in the week:
“Always interesting to get insights on the inner workings of modern media companies, and congrats of getting this issue heard around the world, but I am far from convinced by the use of ‘house negro’ here. Was it intended as a self-mocking use of an ostensibly attention gathering headline which has little to do with the story? (If so, it’s still a little cheap, no?)”—Mark Turner April 11, 2013 at 5:14 am
“Writing for free = slavery, apparently…”–Jared Keller @jaredbkeller 11 Apr
“WTF: “You Are Lucky to be Our “House Negro” or You’d be Picking Cotton in the Fields Like the Rest of the Slaves” …”–Jared Keller @jaredbkeller 11 Apr
“Straw man/hyperbole much? Nate Thayer compares blogging for free at HuffPo to slavery”– Mathew Ingram @mathewi 11 Apr
“RT For a moment I was worried about over reach…@jaredbkeller: Writing for free = slavery, apparently”–Stephen Grange @maricopacourt 11 Apr