BLOWS AGAINST THE EMPIRE: Orrin Judd emailed me a link to an excellent profile of Ira Stoll, who runs the Smartertimes Web site, which provides a daily fact checking and skewering of the New York Times.
Smartertimes’ daily attacks on the Times over the past two years have proven that a small Web site can take on a venerable journalism institution. Indeed, with every passing morning, Stoll adds yet more of what he considers incontrovertible evidence to his case against the paper, claiming that “New York’s dominant daily has grown complacent, slow and inaccurate.”
The publication’s simple premise — a point-by-point take-down of the Times each day — has been executed remarkably well by Stoll on his cleanly designed Web site, which is devoid of any graphic or textual excess. Each day’s edition is written in crisp, decorous, sometimes condescending prose; in fact, Smartertimes seems to lampoon what it sees as the Times’ self-importance by using the paper’s own authoritative tone against it.
Stoll spent $1,200 to launch the Web site, which now receives between 1,000 and 1,200 visitors each day. The bulk of the publication’s loyalists, however, are on the Smartertimes mailing list; over 5,500 subscribers now receive Stoll’s free daily critique via e-mail.
Like Matt Drudge, Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan, Stoll demonstrates what one man with a modem can do to both keep an eye on traditional media (funny how they rarely seem to like coming under the same scrutiny that they themselves historically applied to say business, government, the military, etc.). And Stoll’s efforts will really pay off in the coming months, as the New York Sun launches, which Stoll will be managing editor and vice president of. In the meantime…
Smartertimes may simply be one man’s manifesto, read by a small group of like-minded Times detractors. But, if nothing else, it is further evidence that the balance of power has been tipped, however slightly, from the journalism institution to the reader. Stoll’s Web site leads a burgeoning pack of similarly critical forums, devoted to evaluating everything from the San Francisco Chronicle to Dan Rather’s performance behind the anchor desk.
After all, letters to the editor and corrections tucked inside the next day’s issue are often not enough: Independent online outlets like Smartertimes, motivated by perceived media injustice, offer the opportunity for critical information consumers like Stoll to express their inner ombudsmen, providing a public service even their targets can appreciate.