A couple of weeks ago, the NYT Magazine profiled Joe Weisenthal, the new breed of media whiz.
Dan Reimold reacts:
According to the piece, “Some of what he writes is air and sugar. Some of it is wrong or incomplete or misleading. But he delivers jolts of sharp, original insight often enough to hold the attention of a high-powered audience.” Is this the standard we’re now holding up for success? Feel free to be “wrong or incomplete or misleading” or sappy or insignificant, as long as you also practice halfway decent journalism often enough to get on people’s radars.
In part, Weisenthal is hamstrung by his chosen field and the writing he is expected to provide– involving lots of predictions and subtle and overt commentary. There is also of course some value in publicly working through new data and breaking news, going back-and-forth on what it all means, and coming to a final solid conclusion. But the simple fact, according to the Times, is that he is inaccurate as often– and possibly more– than he is right.
He is also frequently sensational, again an offshoot of the outlet at which he is employed. One fun irony: He is quoted telling the writer that the stock market is not actually headline-driven, less than 300 words after being described as working for a site that features posts almost always “wrapped with a loud, blunt headline.”
Bottom line: I teach my students to be accurate and thorough much more often than they are wrong or incomplete, almost always in fact– even when overseeing a blog or publishing a bunch. I also teach them to produce journalism that is evenhanded and content-driven, not simply loud, blunt, and headline-driven.
His rant is worth reading in full.