The NYT’s blogging story reaches for sensation where there isn’t any

Yesterday, I thought about doing a piece on the NYT’s link-bait story on the stresses of blogging, but I thought … “I’m busy today. Why bother?” I knew bloggers would be all over it, and of course they are.

But just now, I read the following quote on Romenesko and it gets me fired up anew. My take on the story is that it demonstrates clearly where big-time Journalism has gone astray, and the quote from Larry Dignan confirms it:

I had doubts about the premise. Yes, blogging is stressful. Yes, it can be insane. But is it any worse than being a corporate lawyer? How many of those folks dropped in the last six months? How about mortgage brokers? Hedge fund traders?

Here’s the thing — the Times could have had a very interesting story about big-name bloggers, and aspiring big-time bloggers, and what some of them go through to achieve and maintain success. The Times could have done that with no sensationalism, no heart attacks, no news peg. The story could have just been interesting and informative. That’s news, too.

Instead, the Times tries desperately to pin two deaths to blogging, but then knowing it has over-reached, still tries to weasel out of it.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

That’s not serious journalism. That’s weasel-word journalism. When you have to write a paragraph apologizing for the angle you’re taking on the story, there is something ethically wrong with your approach to the story.

The poorly chosen angle reminds me of NYT’s botched McCain coverage a few weeks back.

It’s shoddy journalism like this that drives people away from newspapers and reminds them of why they distrust us, why they hate us.

Here and now, I’m nominating Matt Richtel and his editors for a Dart.

McCain coverage: Is Jayson Blair still working for the NYT?

There’s lots of blather all over the web about the New York Times piece on John McCain.  

I could link to something, but you’ve all seen it. Here are my own four comments:

First, the priestly class of reporters and editors in America have forever heaped spite on blogs for being cesspools of rumor and innuendo. So what’s so different about the Times piece? The opening concentration on McCain’s implied sexual affair is nothing but gossip from either unnamed sources or pure speculation. There isn’t a shred of direct evidence to support it, and as Dan Kennedy notes, its probably nobody’s business.

Second, the priestly class of reporters and editors in America routinely bemoan the dumbing down of journalism because of the innumerable stories about Britney Spears. How is the Times piece any different than celebrity gossip? The next time a guy like Jim O’Shea complains about Britney Spears coverage, just point him to the NYT McCain piece. 

Third, anonymous sources. If there is a more cowardly way of reporting than using anonymous sources to create smear articles, I don’t know what it is. If you’re going to use anonymous sources, use them for real scandal — you know, like Watergate.

Fourth, I  chuckled when I read the opening graphs of the story.  The spin reminds me of this piece from the Onion.  You can sensationalize anything if you want a story bad enough.  

Folks, journalism is in serious need of reinvention, if this is what America’s finest paper thinks is news.