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The Five Stages of MSM Death –Hiltzik and the Anger Stage

Saturday, January 7, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Michael Hiltzik’s blog, like the paper he writes for, has no audience. The paper has circulation, yes, because it has a sports page and a decent comics section. Calender –the Los Angeles Times’ section devoted to the entertainment industry– also has a following. But unlike other major papers in the country, its news operation is largely irrelevant to the issues and people it covers.

Michael Hiltzik has a blog, though if you judge it by the number of comments it generates –it doesn’t have a stand alone visitors counter– not many people are reading it. Like the paper, nobody cares what a lefty Columbia School of Journalism grad thinks. It isn’t like such opinions are in short supply.

When Hiltzik blogged his column on Nokia, zero comments.

When he blogged his column on the Ralph’s strike, he generated about 20 comments, but at least five of them were Hiltzik’s own.

His blog on Calpine, four comments.

His blog on the Xbox launch, about 20 comments.

I think Mr. Hiltzik and his editors were expecting, well, more from their Pulitzer Prize winning lead blogger. In fact, the sound of the tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it was pretty distinct.

Except for the blog when Hiltzik attacked me, and a reader of mine noticed, and prompted me to respond and to invite Mr. Hiltzik on to my show for two hours of fun with the old media. Then I went back to serious things, like Thursday’s show with Mark Steyn on global demographics, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, former editor of the Jerusalem Post on Ariel Sharon, and Father Jospeh Fessio, student and friend of Benedict XVI, on the Pope’s view of Islam and modernity’s impact upon it.

Hiltzik –feeling unloved and lonely, or just the pressure of editors asking where’s the audience?– figured out that he got noticed for the first time when he attacked new media, so he tried it again, this time with a churlish and silly bit of smoke-screening in response to Patterico’s thorough end-of-the-year undressing of the Times’ many errors of 2005. Hiltzik threw in some slams at me for good measure, which, when brought to my attention, I declined to respond to.

I don’t have time to bother with that portion of old media that is already unread. This week I had on the radio the Times’ new columnist Rosa Brooks, from the University of Virginia Law School. Ms. Brooks writes about that interview here. Professor Brooks thinks she made a fool of herself, which she didn’t. She was just unprepared for a serious interview, and may have assumed, as would be correct for most Los Angeles Times’ columnists, that no one read her column closely.

But she was well spoken and affable, unlike Mr. Hiltzik when he appeared on the show. And Professor Brooks’ blog is also snappy though from the left, and will generate an audience unliek Mr. Hiltzik’s. Professor Brooks also has the distinct advantage of having not lived her entire professional life inside of an old media dinosaur, absorbing the now overturned rules of privilege and monopoly. (Professor Brooks also mispells my name repeatedly, but that sort of thing happens and doesn’t much matter.)

Others have responded to Hiltzik, including Patterico, and Hiltzik had the great misforune of attracting the attention of Tom Mcguire (whose name I have often mispelled, though he never cares, because it isn’t about the spelling.) Mcguire has much fun with the easily lampooned Hiltzik, especially with Hiltzik’s use of the phrase “ignorant partisan trope” to refer to those pesky fact checkers who think big journalism ought, among other things, to avoid publishing key quotes from April Fool’s jokes on the front page as though they were real quotes.

But I really don’t feel any need to respond to being labelled an “ignorant partisan trope” by a largely unknown blogger no matter where he has a desk. I have been attacked by much more serious people and for much more serious reasons, and dismissed those slams as similar crys for attention and traffic. If Hiltzik wants attention and traffic, he should earn it, not borrow it from successful bloggers like Patterico who earned their respect, and did so without the tremendous built in advantages of the vast resources of the Tribune Company.

The reason I write about this at all is because it is the latest example of a growing volume of MSM attacks on NM, which don’t matter as to their substance –they have little– but rather do underscore that old media has figured out that are getting flayed daily by new media, and that they are bleeding out circulation and credibility as a result.

We are now in the second of five stages of old media death. First there was denial, and now there is anger, with Hiltzik’s childish tantrum just the most obvious of many similar outbursts. Soon there will be bargaining –I’ll be nice to you if you are nice to me– and then depression and acceptance.

And then, perhaps, MSM will get back to putting out non-agenda driven news from a balanced newsroom, transparent in its ideological biases, and full of young and talented graduates as oppsoed to tenured and bitter time-servers.


Hiltzik appears headed for Colleen Nestler-land with his post yesterday, which while about Arnold Schwarzenegger, manages to throw in this graph:

It’s beyond question that Schwarzenegger’s change in attitude has borne immediate benefits. For one thing, it provoked Hugh Hewitt, a man profoundly in love with the sound of his own voice, momentarily to put a sock in it. (This phenomenon might be enough all by itself to justify voting for Schwarzenegger’s reelection.) Hewitt in his blog ceded the tooth-gnashing duties to one Carol Platt Liebau, who evidently harbors a deep-seated distaste for improved roads, schools, hospitals, public safety, etc. “‘[M]ore, more, more.’ Now that’s an agenda that the Democrats'”and their union masters'”can embrace,” she wrote. Maybe she’ll call me from her cellphone some day when she’s trapped in a traffic jam on her way home to San Marino (median household income, $137,642), and offer some ideas for relieving the congestion. Round up all the illegal immigrants clogging the freeways and ship them home, perhaps.

Some observations:

Hiltzik is unaware that “sound of his own voice” and a blog entry do not appear to be logically connected, but if he thinks so, fine.

“One” Carol Platt Liebau has written for the Times; is, unlike Hiltzik, a very successful blogger; and unlike Hiltzik, as a past President of Harvard Law Review and veteran of the Hill and private practice, actually has credentials above those of having spent almost three decades in and around the same people with the same opinions. (And, as far as I know, CPL has never been disciplined for reading her colleagues e-mails. HT: Cathy Seipp.)

The crack about the median household income speaks volumes about the Times’ business columnist, hinting especially that he is deeply distrustful of wealth and the people who have earned it. Whether or not envy and bitterness play into this, folks more closely associated with Mr. Hiltzik will have to say. But churlishness towards an accomplished woman because of her address does seem, well, less than progressive.

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