Potshots from the mainstream

I view blogs as a personal form of media — an extension of all that is the writer. Transparency is our credo, not an institutionalized set of standards and rules. This is something a lot of outsiders don’t understand and can’t begin to appreciate. The hazard for the observer, therefore, is that one post does not a writer make, and this can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings and mischief.

Witness the case of veteran Chicago Tribune editor and correspondent Charlie Madigan, a.k.a. “Madigan.” Mr. Madigan didn’t like what I wrote about the new dean of the Medill School of Journalism, so he left a snarky comment on the post. I appreciate his position and am thankful for his comment. This, after all, is why I welcome comments from readers in the first place. As I’ve said many times before, when you deal in new ideas, feedback is critical, ‘lest you find yourself surrounded by thoughts of your own brilliance.

The problem is that while each idea ought to be able to stand on its own, some don’t. My site is a combination of essays and daily entries, together forming the whole of my positions in a changing world. I don’t blog for readers; I blog to think out loud — to see if the ideas and wild horses that fly through my head make any sense. In the case of the entry about Medill, for example, you’d really have to read a lot more than just those paragraphs to understand my concerns about the current state of journalism. This is something Mr. Madigan didn’t do. The generalizations, stereotypes and sarcasm he directed at me might be justified, if that was the only thing I’d ever written about the subject.

I care deeply about my trade. Anyone who has visited this site with any frequency knows that. But in the world of cut-and-paste links, and aggregators that skim entries for good quotes, I suppose my iconoclastic perspective can come off as shallow and obnoxious. Fair enough.

As for Mr. Madigan, I wrote a biting, angry, defensive and fairly ugly response last night. Fortunately, I had the sense to sleep on it. Instead, I’ll just offer one clarification. When I speak of “everyday people” in the context of an entry about contemporary journalism, I’m speaking of those for whom the institution of professional journalism has failed…those who are voting their feelings by canceling subscriptions and not watching…those who’ve told Gallup that they don’t trust us anymore (while we still assume that they do)…and those who’ve discovered that their voice matters and can be expressed through personal media. When I speak of “everyday people,” I’m talking about the root of the “seismic challenges” that Mr. Lavine doesn’t appear to understand, which is why I wrote the entry about him in the first place.


  1. Terry, I always respected your writing and opinions before — and now even more so after this episode with Mr. Madigan. You displayed far more professionalism than Mr. Madigan, in my opinion. I also agreed with your post about the new Medhill Dean, but then again, I went to j‑school in Missouri, so we Mizzou grads tend to feel superior anyway 🙂

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