I learned a few things from Judith Miller’s speech at the OSM launch on Wednesday. More precisely I relearned something important from Judith’s affect at one particular moment in her remarks. She was describing what it was like to be in jail without internet connection or even much access to newspapers. Friends and family would bring her printouts of news articles and blog posts, which they would hold up to the dividing glass in the visitor room for her to read. It was like in a B-movie.
Some of those blog posts, she said, were attacks on her private life and on her family from people who quite obviously would know little or nothing about it. At that point, I thought I detected tears welling up in Judith’s eyes. I felt stricken, suddenly recalling a derisive post I had written about her several weeks ago, implying she had gone to jail in a weight-loss scheme. Of course, prison is no spa and I damn well knew it. That post may have been mild compared to some, but it was still out of line. And, no, I’m not linking to it – and please don’t Google it – because my point is we all owe each other a lot more courtesy. I’m fully aware of Truman’s immortal words about heat and the kitchen, but there are limits.
Recently my OSM colleagues and I have been subjected to all kinds of criticism, much of it well intentioned and warranted. But a fair amount has been surprisingly personal, bordering on the abusive. (My wife and I were about to allow our precocious daughter to have an internet connection, but now we think we’ll postpone it.) Some of this criticism came from people my colleagues and I thought were friends who did not even give us the common courtesy of querying us on why we did a certain thing. Besides being rude, that’s not very good reporting from an MSM or blog perspective.
Of course, we at OSM are making all kinds of mistakes. This is something brand new and we’re going to be flopping around for some time, much like a kid learning to ride a bicycle. And even when we learn to ride, we’re going to run into plenty of brick walls. But frankly I’ve been rather upset by some of the more personal criticisms and listening to Judith reminded me of what my words could do. I don’t know if she read them at the time through that glass partition. I didn’t have the guts to ask her and, if she had, she was too gracious to say so. But in the future I’m going to try to be more careful about how I phrase things when they impinge on the personal. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to see the karma in that.
UPDATE: In the opposite direction, in the chaos of recent events (with 2000 emails in my inbox), I missed this post. My heartfelt thanks.
And the funniest guy around puts it all in perspective.
MORE: My thanks for all the input on OSM. More to come from our side and from me personally over the weekend.