Journalism… Jourama

Something that I’ve had to become a little accustomed to since my Prague Zombie series ran in the Washington Square News last semester and was not, shall we say, particularly well-received, is that not everyone is going to be thrilled with my work 24/7. Especially not when I am assailing an entire nation from the comfort of my desk chair, cellulite rolls bubbling over the arms like sweet Cola froth, Cheetos lodged in my throat as I guffaw at LOLcats, and so forth. (Because, you see, blogs.)

Anyway, that much I can handle. But I will forever find myself writhing, I think, when people take the time to comment on my work (or lob well-founded critiques my way) and I am somehow bound by some sort of invisible journalist code not to respond and to let my work speak for itself. It seems pretty ironic that part of what makes eJournalism (iJournalism) such a revolutionary thing is the immense potential for instant discourse, and yet professional writers… aren’t really supposed to participate in that element. Frankly, I will probably believe, forever, that any such claim is a little backwards. At least if we’re dealing with an opinion piece, anyway, as I have been.

NYULocal, typically thought of, for a myriad of what I’d consider pretty silly reasons, as WSN’s big “rival” on campus, recently published a well thought-out response to my column about the gay NYU male and the straight NYU female. My personal belief is that the column was so unabashedly tongue-in-cheek that I risked rupturing my flesh, but nonetheless, accountability must be taken for something that I chose to publish in a campus newspaper that is distributed to thousands upon thousands of students and staff.

And I don’t think it’s inappropriate to take a minute on my personal blog to address the burgeoning “situation.” Realizing that I am, perhaps hypocritically, playing into the online mudslinging that I would like to see less of (why NYULocal has to publish an article that really has no purpose other than to assail another campus publication and myself is sort of beyond me), I want to say first that I actually do appreciate the commentary that writer Annie Werner and the peanut gallery (represented in the comments of her piece) contributed on my column. I would have to say, first, that I do check NYULocal regularly and respect it not just as our “competition,” but as a very good online publication. Writers like Werner, Jessica Roy, Ned Resnikoff, Josh Becker, and Lily Q (to name a few off the top of my head) render a service to all students of our university, just as WSN’s writers do, and to perpetuate any sense of ill-will is not appropriate, in my opinion. Things get especially messy when it comes to my pieces being subjected to such scrutiny on their site, because I happen to know a number of NYULocal’s staff personally (not to mention people in the comments section). As it happens, Annie Werner herself came to several of my opinion meetings at WSN last year, to give you some sense of how small this world, EVEN IN CYBER SPACE (!!!) actually is, but we can all, I’d imagine, appreciate that such relations can be separate from well-reasoned commentary and writing in general.

Sometimes writing can’t really stand for itself, or at least can’t do so very well. It’s probably a mark of a subpar piece, and I might be inclined to say that my piece on the catty female at NYU was such a piece. Ned Resnikoff pretty much brought the whole thing home in his (perhaps slightly too impassioned) comment, reading:

Here’s the takeaway point: If you’re going to write a good op-ed, you don’t need to take the subject you’re writing about terribly seriously. You don’t even need to make your point in a serious manner. But if you’re not taking the act of making that point seriously, then you should probably find a new hobby.

And I think that’s probably something that every writer, especially op-ed writers, should take to heart.

So, while I might wish that I had not been so forcefully targeted by Annie Werner and NYULocal, I can only apologize to those who took the column the wrong way, or even those who took it the right way and still thought it was stupid. I think it’s important to consider how online journalism works, and I think it’s fair that I add my two cents here. For my part, I will endeavor to do better ( I think I did, in yesterday’s column, which is a bit more of a return to form, I’d like to think). I’ll continue to read both NYULocal and WSN, appreciate both of their excellent staffs, and hope that we all have the tacit understanding that the writing doesn’t always make the man. Or something. In any case, thanks to Annie Werner for setting this all off with her piece.

(Kind of. Vicious but fair!)

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2 Responses to “Journalism… Jourama”

  1. Who says professional writers aren’t supposed to engage with their readers online? All the online journalists I respect do it, and WSN’s reluctance to do it is pretty dumb. You’re the first columnist from there I’ve seen who’s made a serious effort to reach out to his critics, and that’s pretty admirable.

    P.S.
    Why did I come off as impassioned? Was it all the italics? Did I over-italicize?

  2. Lucas Pattan Says:

    Damon,

    Your and Ned’s writing is some of the best coming out of NYU, and I look forward to the day when I can look back and say that I knew you both.

    Your dealing with this issue online is wonderful (though I wish you would remark on it within Werner’s comments, as it adds to the discussion that has taken place) and I hope you don’t believe that “legitimate” journalists don’t confront their critics. The old writers, the ones who populate the dying version of the media, do not. The younger ones, those who are gaining readers and expanding their outlets’ influence, do (Sullivan, Manjoo, Klein, Greenwald, Halperin, and, yes, Hilton).

    Keep up the great writing.

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