Roger L. Simon

May the "circle jerk" be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by

Excuse the outré reference. I just downloaded the Statler Brothers version of this song for my iPod and had been planning on adding the Carter Family’s, so the lyrics were on my mind when I read Thomas Lifson’s story this morning at American Thinker. Thomas wrote about the latest editorial gaffe at The New York Times, perhaps over-heatedly comparing it to Rathergate.

But never mind. It’s bad enough without the R-word. Some “reporter” (ooo… scare quotes!) for their Magazine named Jack Hitt, in a wildly over-zealous pro-choice article, completely misstated some key facts in a story on the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador. As PJM Barcelona editor Jos&eacute Guardia put it: “The main character was a woman who the Gray Lady said was in prison for an abortion, but was there for killing her newborn baby. The paper had defended the article without bothering to check the readily available court documents.”

Now that was back in April ’06. The Times itself finally fully acknowledged this tawdry business in what appears to be a thorough and honest piece of reporting by its public editor Byron Calame yesterday. Not exactly blog speed, is it? [Isn’t it interesting how embarrassing stories suddenly appear on December 31?-ed. You’re not talking about John Conyers, are you?]

Which brings me back to “circle jerks.” Some of you may recall that my amigo the NYT’s executive editor Bill Keller – in what I assume was an intemperate moment – once called the blogs CJs. I suggested at the time that there might be a bit of projection in this. That suggestion appears ratified and then some by yesterday’s belated disclosure.

But are blogs any better, you might ask? No, in a lot of ways. To begin with, we don’t have the facilities of the NYT – yet. But that will come in time. Organizations like Pajamas Media and, yes, the Huff Post are just the very early fledgling forms of an emerging new media. The trick is to make that media an improvement on the past (other than in the obvious area of speed). Not an easy thing. Interactivity helps, but that too is filled with obvious traps. In any case, it’s going to be an interesting year at Pajamas Media. We are going to welcome, indeed need, your input.

As for the “circle jerk” reference, we all know what that is about. Money, honey. The NYTimes are a-changin’ and the ghost of Milton Friedman is floating above our heads. All of ours.

UPDATE: Shrinkwrapped continues the discussion (on the couch?).