November 8, 2010

Binding Ambinder.

Marc Ambinder is ending his blog (which has published very prominently on The Atlantic website). He wants to be a journalist again, and not a blogger. He draws the distinction:
Really good print journalism is ego-free... Blogging is an ego-intensive process. Even in straight news stories, the format always requires you to put yourself into narrative. You are expected to not only have a point of view and reveal it, but be confident that it is the correct point of view. There is nothing wrong with this. As much as a writer can fabricate a detachment, or a "view from nowhere," as Jay Rosen has put it, the writer can also also fabricate a view from somewhere. You can't really be a reporter without it. I don't care whether people know how I feel about particular political issues; it's no secret where I stand on gay marriage, or on the science of climate change, and I wouldn't have it any other way. What I hope I will find refreshing about the change of formats is that I will no longer be compelled to turn every piece of prose into a personal, conclusive argument, to try and fit it into a coherent framework that belongs to a web-based personality called "Marc Ambinder" that people read because it's "Marc Ambinder," rather than because it's good or interesting.
Maybe some day I will wake up and feel that I want to be what I might conceive of as some sort exalted and pure beast that would properly bear the name "Law Professor." I'll realize I've had it with this crazy game – this weighty, daily task — of playing the part of the web-based personality called "Ann Althouse."
I loved the freedom to write about whatever I wished, but I missed the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written. I loved the light editorial touch of blogging , but I missed the heavy hand of an editor who tells you when something sucks and tells you to go back and rewrite it. 
You wake up one day and think: Man, what I really want is some heavy-handed discipline. This freedom, this individuality... it's too much. I want some restraint. Some structure. I want somebody who isn't just another web-based personality to tell me I suck.

44 comments:

shoutingthomas said...

You might want to take a look at this.

The New York Times top of the website story:

The Nation!

Yes, the Times has pinned its hopes for a liberal comeback on that old Stalinist rag.

The Crack Emcee said...

Blogging is an ego-intensive process. Even in straight news stories, the format always requires you to put yourself into narrative. You are expected to not only have a point of view and reveal it, but be confident that it is the correct point of view. There is nothing wrong with this.

Whew! Had me worried there for a moment.

MadisonMan said...

I don't read his blog or The Atlantic.

I guess Mr. Ambinder can do just about anything he wants to, and I won't notice.

AllenS said...

Mark Ambinder was one of those at Journolist. He should always be viewed with skepticism. In other words, don't believe a fucking thing that he says.

Scott M said...

I never ready him much, but what you've clipped there, AA, is pretty well said. Good luck to him.

The Crack Emcee said...

What I hope I will find refreshing about the change of formats is that I will no longer be compelled to turn every piece of prose into a personal, conclusive argument, to try and fit it into a coherent framework that belongs to a web-based personality called "Marc Ambinder" that people read because it's "Marc Ambinder," rather than because it's good or interesting.

Oh, I get it: he was doing it wrong.

AJ Lynch said...

It nust be hard to find a different way to say "Progressives rock, Republicans suck" seven days a week.

IOW another liberal bites the dust.

chr1 said...

Well, he's at Andrew Sullivan's project over there, and I can't think of any blogger who's more "ego-intensive."

edutcher said...

I know what a reporter does for a living, but it would appear that a journalist is an ego-intensive, intellectually and morally corrupt Left-wing hack who is happy to be a stooge for the World Socialist Revolution.

Ann Althouse said...

I loved the freedom to write about whatever I wished, but I missed the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written. I loved the light editorial touch of blogging , but I missed the heavy hand of an editor who tells you when something sucks and tells you to go back and rewrite it. You wake up one day and think: Man, what I really want is some heavy-handed discipline. This freedom, this individuality... it's too much. I want some restraint. Some structure.

So does Meade bend you over his knee periodically and just spank you or does he take you down to the dungeon and flail you with one of those cats o' nine tails with feathers at the end?

Moose said...

Meh.

chuckR said...

Maybe some day I will wake up and feel that I want to be what I might conceive of as some sort exalted and pure beast that would properly bear the name "Law Professor."

You could take to wearing your (graduation day processional) doctoral robes - accessorized with a nice ermine trim on the cape.

I guess it would be OK if you still wore some of those shoes you so frequently photograph.

This would help place you on an Apollonian plane of discourse with Mr. Armbinder.

Moose said...

Actually, now that I think about it, it's more like:

"Thank you sir! May I have another!"

Christopher said...

I loved the freedom to write about whatever I wished, but I missed the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written.

That's all on him. I guess he's saying that in this scary blog world, he chose not to write about what needed to be written. Okay then, bye.

t-man said...

Ambinder's "distinctive voice" was as a partisan shill. Mickey Kaus should have a good collection of Ambinder "spinning like a top."

Who is forcing any blogger to force all of his writings into a "conclusive argument?" No one. The posts I prefer are those that actually work through arguments, identifying uncertainty and admitting lack of conclusiveness.

MayBee said...

I will no longer be compelled to turn every piece of prose into a personal, conclusive argument, to try and fit it into a coherent framework that belongs to a web-based personality called "Marc Ambinder" that people read because it's "Marc Ambinder," rather than because it's good or interesting.

I never thought he was writing something that fit the personality of "Marc Ambinder". It always read like it fit the personality of "The Obama Whitehouse".

I don't believe he's going to get rid of that. It's strong in him.

traditionalguy said...

Ambinder is a spell binder. Working on his Blog opens him to "push back", and that chills his use of made up facts to put a given subject under the spell of a total alternate reality. That is holding back his propagandist abilities as a writer of News Fiction.

Michael said...

Although the self-regard in this is pretty awe-inspiring ("I'm tired of talking about myself, I'm going to a higher calling! Look upon me, ye bloggers, and weep!"), I can see his point. Especially at The Atlantic, home of the relentlessly self-promotional and self-regarding Sulliphant. I imagine there are a lot of reporters who would just like to report, and not have to worry about tending a personal brand. I'm not sure you can entirely do that any more, but if he wants to try, it may well be better for him and curb some of the tendencies the announcement unfortunately perpetuates.

sonicfrog said...

I loved the freedom to write about whatever I wished, but I missed the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written.

??? What does that last statement even mean? And who decides what need to be written about? Isn't the hallmark of a great reporter the ability to find the story that no-one else is writing about? Blogging has flaws, sure, but the beauty of blogging is that you can pursue a story that no one else is paying attention to, or would never be allowed to pursue in the strapped down world of "proper" journalism.

Andrea said...

A blog is whatever you want it to be. It doesn't have to be some sort of self-insert-non-fic pretend news reporting; it could just be a diary of your life, or you could use it to show off photos of your cat, or links to things you think are interesting. Ambinder sounds like the typical up-himself liberal who thinks the world shakes whenever he has a difficult bowel movement.

wv: fload -- float off and die?

Meade said...

@edutcher
I say let her continue having her private doubts about whether or not "Meade" is "somebody who isn't just another web-based personality to tell [her she sucks]." You know - keep her on a pedestal, on her dainty toes, in irons, bound.

Lem said...

Marc Ambinder called blogging the Lindsay Lohan of journalism.

Roger Sweeny said...

Structure--being forced to do things a certain way--often feels better than freedom, and often gets better results. Compare sonnets to free verse.

Of course, one of the things that Armbinder didn't like about his blogging gig at the Atlantic was that he felt it forced him into a structure he was finding tiresome. He felt he had to make everything fit together neatly. Perhaps he realized that that had turned into "us good them bad" and it was bothering his integrity. If so, I salute him, and wish him well in his new structure.

Joe said...

You missed the boat on your comment about the heavy hand of editing. Even the best writers need a good and brutal editor.

This isn't about control, but about someone with genuine talent giving you an honest opinion and guidance. (For example, an editor may see that you've used three paragraphs instead on one; a good editor may see that the reason you did this is to simply say something clever--inserting yourself into the story.)

One of the big problems I've seen with established authors is that they become self-indulgent and their editors become scared to actually edit. In some cases, the writers fire their editors and replace them with a sycophant. Stephen King comes to mind. J.K. Rowling and Tom Clancy could also have used a more brutal editor after their first few books.

I agree with him that blogging is incredibly egotistical, as is twittering. Bloggers also tend to be repetitive in their arguments or go off on tangents and miss the argument entirely because, well, they don't have an editor telling them otherwise (just readers who snipe, but aren't taken seriously.)

Trooper York said...

Everybody knows how to blog the right way. You play to your audience.

(Men in shorts)

Jim said...

1) Is there anyone left who actually Ambinder was channeling anything other than the latest Obama talking points?

2) I think this move was designed for one reason: the give the veneer of additional credibility when he starts spinning Obama talking points into supposedly straight news piece during the run-up to the 2012 election.

Lefties will cite his "articles" as PROOF of the truth of those talking points. "But it's in the NEWS!!!" they'll proclaim.

Obama needs more friendly journalists now that so many have either been laid off or speaking out of turn and openly laughing at the latest lame spin attempts by this White House.

It's no different than Soros buying 100 NPR reporters. It's a transparent attempt to ensure that stories are "reported" in a way most favorable to Leftists.

Ambinder has no credibility other than as a conduit into the latest White House thinking. If he ever had any independently, he long ago surrendered that. He's not going to be any more independent as a "journalist" than he has been as a blogger.

Too many jims said...

To be a great blogger is inherently right wing. A great blogger like Kaus, Reynolds, Sullivan or Althouse may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for her place in the world and focusing on that.

Perhaps Mr. Ambinder did not want to focus or take responsibility for his place in the world.

MayBee said...

2) I think this move was designed for one reason: the give the veneer of additional credibility when he starts spinning Obama talking points into supposedly straight news piece during the run-up to the 2012 election.

This.

Lex said...

Seventy-four instances of the words, "I", "me" or "my" in a document of 1351 words.

Maybe it was time?

dave in boca said...

Here's hoping most of the JournoList All-Stars get the same sense of contrition---which is what I read between the lines of Ambinder's elaborate apologia pro vita sua.

Jim said...

Here's hoping most of the JournoList All-Stars get the same sense of contrition---which is what I read between the lines of Ambinder's elaborate apologia pro vita sua.

If you thought that was contrition, then I respectfully suggest that you read it again.

It was an elaborate justification for allowing his bias to color the stories that he's planning to write as a "journalist." Nothing i there suggests contrition.

I will add that I don't think he owes any contrition. He's an Obama lap dog, and has been for as long as Obama's been on the scene. As a blogger, he's entitled to have whatever point of view he wants. He doesn't need to feel sorry for serving the scraps off his master's table and passing them off as gourmet cuisine to a willingly gullible audience: they're getting what they want when they read his posts.

However, any story in the future which carries his byline should be read with this post in mind. He assures us over and over again that it's perfectly fine to tell the story from his biased perspective, and let there be no doubt that it is exactly what he intends to do for at least the next 2 years.

MayBee said...

Jim is right.

Ambinder says:
I would like nothing better than to spend a month at National Journal without a single byline. That will not happen, of course, but the more I spend contributing reporting to stories written by others, the less I spend thinking about how to distinguish myself (versus my reporting) from the rest of the pack, the better. A byline of course conveys authority and print journalists (and print journalists who write for the web and don't blog) have voices and identities. But they are not primarily known for their identities. They are primarily known for their work. And it's not work that flows predictability down one side of the mountain. It is a type of work that justifies itself because it tells you, the audience, something you did not know about something that is important.

Which is a long way of saying, "I can't wait to spin anonymously. Too many people have caught on to the Marc Ambinder pro-White House spin for it to be effective anymore."

MikeDC said...

As tepid and lame as Ambinder is, I'll give him credit for recognizing his own mediocrity and doing something about it.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he were simply gracefully exiting when in reality he's been canned as a blogger for sucking.

Ann Althouse said...

@ Too many jims LOL.

SWWBO said...

Marc who?

M. Simon said...

Blogging fits me so well? Why? You can't do good engineering with out a point of view.

This is the right way to do it for the following reasons:

1. Cost
2. Time
3. Available Resources
4. Elegance
etc.

But being an engineer I can be swayed by a better argument.

And don't let anyone tell you engineering is not subjective. i.e. this feature will cost more but it will increase the number of customers and attract a higher sale price. Oh Yeah? Prove it.

gutless said...

I had never heard of Mr. Ambinder before but a quick Wikipedia review disclosed that he has a background in news as well as blogging and apparently he is a nutsy wutsy little tyke in the bargain. All the best to you, Sir.

M. Simon said...

The subjectiveness of engineering:

Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

====

Question: what are the tradeoffs?

i.e. I can make it 10¢ cheaper - but it will halve the life.

WV: theatic - I guess they lost their lant.

Fen said...

Marc Ambinder: As for the Journolist project itself, I found it to be a great resource. Extremely smart people engaging in policy debates on the stories of the day. There was no plotting and very little rah-rah rally-the-crowd cheerleading. Debate among members was often quite vigorous, and occasionally even personal. It was not a conspiracy. It was a forum. A members-only coffee shop where people who take ideas seriously, who want access to people who take ideas seriously, could test their own ideas before they refined and presented them to the public. As a reporter, I learned a lot about a lot of subjects. It was an enormous resource, and I'll miss it.

So Mark, whats the name of the latest cabal? When will you begin pushing the directed narrative again?

And why should we trust you as an information broker ever again?

RebeccaH said...

Who's Marc Ambinder?

Milwaukee said...

Sometimes I read stuff and say to myself "That really is stupid." Other times I feel the egotistical need to share my opinions. Gee Althouse, has anybody ever posted a comment that your writing sucked? Ever? Really? I hope they were heavy handed enough for you to understand where they were coming from so you could do it right the next time. Or write right the next time. Or write lefty the next time. What a blow hard.

We read to find what others think: we write so others can know what we think. Unless we're journaling, some things need to be kept private. You know what somebody said: Confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation.

You do alright Althouse. Worth reading once in a while. We should keep you around. Oh wait, that's not our call. Well, I don't care what anybody says, you are o.k. Keep it up, and maybe somebody in the Midwest will give you some praise. Not too much, because we don't want to ruin your creativity by giving you a fat head.

M. Simon said...

Milwaukee,

The very worst complaint I ever got was: you write in sentence fragments.

I quashed that immediately with: it's my style.

orbicularioculi said...

The only comment I have is that I do enjoy the commentary on Althouse's blog.

Marty said...

Mark who????

('nuff said)

Bryan C said...

"...the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written..."

Sadly that kind of learning is something most journalists do very poorly. As noticed by anyone who's read a wildly inaccurate article touching on their own personal areas of expertise.

I can't remember ever reading anything by Ambinder, so I can't speak to him in particular. In general, however, I'd really prefer it if journalists didn't imagine themselves to be instant Renaissance Men qualified to explain the world to their readers because they read some stuff yesterday.