A prime example of an irrelevant editorial page
At the start of the year, we tossed out some suggestions by which the Chronicle might improve a product clearly in decline (not to mention a business doing so poorly that it had to resort to massive layoffs and other downsizing in 2004).
A common theme of those suggestions was that the newspaper should embrace many of the concepts of open-source journalism inherent in blogging, and should focus resources on improving its local and state coverage. Specifically, we suggested that its out-of-touch editorial board should adopt a blog, in order to bring transparency to the newspaper and to head off ill-informed editorials that never should be printed by a quality newspaper.
Today, the Chronicle's "interim editorial page editor" James Howard Gibbons provides his response in the snide, dismissive, and ill-informed manner that characterizes too many staff editorials that appear in the newspaper:
Web logs, or blogs, are the hot new medium for commentary. So many have sprung up that one can only tend to a narrow selection or a digest of highlights.
I have sampled a few blogs, but enjoyed fewer. Though reluctant to do anyone an injustice, I find that most blogs lack the elegance, wit and insight one looks for in magazine commentary and editorial pages in their ideal state.
Mr. Gibbons then goes on to post what he considers a "Webless log, or slog." His "slog posts" are, frankly, embarrassing. One feels for the dinosaur, thrashing about in his last days, painfully oblivious to the changing world around him.
As for the phrase, "editorial pages in their ideal state," it would be really great if Mr. Gibbons could point to one of those in the Chronicle. Surely he is not speaking of incoherent, petulant editorials that get the names of prominent Texas political figures wrong, or the ramblings of one editorial board member who doesn't understand why her neighbors are not interested in eating her leftovers, or the boring observations of one of the printing press managers who went driving around Houston, or editorials that make up non-existent treaties to go with a non-existent train of thought, or editorials that completely misstate conservative thought on stories nearly a week old (or, in the case of Mr. Gibbons himself, in general), or editorials that paper over the Chronicle's abdication of a watchdog role while the Brown Administration made numerous bad pension-plan decisions. Those are just a few recent examples to make the point.
And surely in an "ideal state," an editorial board wouldn't have to follow a SAFEclear debate on talk radio and blogs (!) for a whole week before finally venturing an opinion, or four days to weigh in on a local TAKS testing scandal first broken by that newspaper from up the road.
In short, it seems like Mr. Gibbons should have plenty of work to do on his own house without descending into the cave to lecture us webloggers on Platonic ideals of journalism.
The Chronicle editorial page is something far short of an "ideal state." It's largely irrelevant, and growing more irrelevant by the day. Letting Gibbons run the page -- even on what we can only hope is a short-lived interim basis -- is obviously a step in the wrong direction for the newspaper.