Photo: Jay Yarow
A few days ago, a journalism professor at the University of Tampa, Dan Reimold, wrote a public letter to his students urging them not to admire the success and work ethic of our Deputy Editor, Joe Weisenthal.One of the problems with Joe Weisenthal, Professor Reimold said, is that he works too hard.
Professor Reimold seemed to suggest that Joe Weisenthal works hard because he’s forced to by evil sweat-shop slave masters (e.g., me). So I felt compelled to point out that the reason Joe Weisenthal works hard is because he loves his work.
Professor Reimold also had complaints about the style of work that Joe Weisenthal does. Professor Reimold appears to admire long magazine articles crafted over several months, whereas Joe Weisenthal often writes short posts crafted in a few minutes. (Joe also writes a lot of longer articles, like this one, but Professor Reimold did not mention those.)
So I felt compelled to explain that the medium that Joe Weisenthal works in–real-time digital–is a very different medium than magazines and that digital readers love to consume short posts in addition to the occasional longer feature or article. (If readers didn’t like the short posts, we wouldn’t write them). I also pointed out that the professor chose to ignore the other 90% of what we publish at Business Insider, which includes hundreds of more traditional articles each month (our own and syndicated) as well as long, detailed investigative reports like this and long, beautiful original features like this.
I thought that would end the conversation.
But Professor Reimold regarded my post as an “attack” on him and has now written another saying that I am “wrong.”
The new post starts off with, you guessed it, another observation that Joe Weisenthal works very hard.
It is mystifying to me why Professor Reimold regards Joe Weisenthal’s personal work ethic as a flaw in the sort of journalism and storytelling that we do, but he apparently does. So, on that point, let me make one additional observation:
- People who love their jobs often work very hard. This is true in many, many professions, from journalism to banking to software to acting to politics. They often work harder than people who don’t love their jobs think is healthy. I, personally, do worry that Joe Weisenthal occasionally works too hard, and I want to make sure that he understands the risks inherent in that and doesn’t burn himself out. On the other hand, I also don’t want to babysit Joe Weisenthal, who is a responsible adult. And I can sympathize with Joe Weisenthal’s passion, because I have often worked 14-16 hour days myself. For years. (Why? Because in addition to spending time with my family and hitting tennis balls, that’s what I love to do. I realise that this does not make me a candidate for “most interesting man in the world,” but life’s too short to do things you merely like.)
Professor Reimold also has one additional complaint in his second letter that I want to address.
Specifically, he describes Joe Weisenthal’s work as “inaccurate, rush-job, air-and-sugar journalism.”
For reasons I hope Professor Reimold will understand, that’s a seriously insulting thing to say, especially given that Joe Weisenthal was named the top finance journalist in 2011. It’s also insulting to our entire company, which is one of the largest and fastest-growing digital news organisations in the world. (Especially when the professor doesn’t then point out all the other non-real-time news work we do, including the aforementioned investigative reports, features, photo essays, video, and so forth. Focusing on just our real-time news posts is like evaluating a magazine based only on the briefs at the front of the book.)
I suspect that Professor Reimold’s definition of “air and sugar journalism” is any journalism that is produced quickly and is short and conversational in tone. Based on this, I presume Professor Reimold snickers at TV and radio journalists, too. I personally love great conversational radio, TV, and digital journalism, just as I love great print journalism, and I have huge respect for the folks who are good at producing it. (It’s all hard).
But regardless of whether Professor Reimold can ever be convinced to put his magazines down long enough to visit our site once in a while and catch up on the world (we hope he can!), it’s time to push back on his “inaccurate” comment.
When I read Professor Reimold’s first note to his students, I thought he was referring to market or economic forecasts that occasionally turn out to be wrong. Like many economic commentators and economists, Joe Weisenthal is occasionally wrong about the future. (Our prediction about a monthly Jobs Report a couple of months ago, for example, was off by a hundred thousand jobs or so, as were the forecasts of most economists).
But based on his most recent letter, Professor Reimold appears to be suggesting that Joe Weisenthal’s posts are often factually inaccurate.
And that’s a charge that I and we take very seriously.
We try very hard to be accurate at Business Insider. Like all journalists, we occasionally make mistakes. When we make mistakes, we correct them as quickly as we can. And when/if they are important mistakes, we apologise for them.
Furthermore, unlike most legacy news organisations, we go out of our way to tell readers what we don’t know, and to carefully qualify the type of information that we are reporting. If we’re reporting a rumour, we say it’s a rumour (our readers are adults: They can handle the concept that some things are rumours). If something is an unconfirmed report, we say it’s an unconfirmed report. And so on. We don’t refuse to report information that the whole world is frantically discussing and debating on Twitter just because our “White House sources” have not yet allowed us to report it, the way some legacy news organisations did when Bin Laden was shot.
In short, we try to be completely honest and straightforward with our readers about what we do and don’t know. And we try to do to get that information to them as quickly as we can, so they can evaluate it for themselves.
I read a lot of Joe Weisenthal’s work, and I rarely see factual errors. This is in part because Joe knows his subject matter cold, and in part because he doesn’t like to get things wrong (another very positive trait in a journalist).
So I really don’t know where Professor Reimold’s insult is coming from.
But accuracy and fairness are extremely important to me (and Joe, and the rest of the team).
So If Professor Reimold would be so kind as to send me the examples of these inaccuracies that he’s basing his comment on, we will immediately correct them.
UPDATE: Awesome! In my initial response to Professor Reimold, I said that Joe Weisenthal’s job was much more difficult than he thought and suggested that, if he were to try to do it for a day, he would fail miserably. And now, in a new post, his third instalment in this series, the professor is offering to take us up on that challenge! So, we’re on, professor! Let us know when you’ll be here (we can help with the place to stay). We’ll give you a desk right near Joe Weisenthal and you can crank for as long as you like. And we’ll also document the whole thing–our readers will love it. Can’t wait!
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