It seems that a lot of people agree with Freddie that Naomi Schaefer Riley is a bad, bad journalist. But what about her employers?
The last time I looked at a Chronicle of Higher Education was a few years ago, but unless it’s changed, it was a glorified newsletter reflecting the interests, prejudices and foibles of a middle-of-the-road swath of college faculty and administrators. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it is fair to say that the Chronicle should be hiring journalists who at least have a basic acquaintance with the status quo mindset of its readers, and if a journalist does challenge the status quo, they should know enough to do it with facts instead of a bunch of half-baked, unresearched and lazy bluster.
The Chronicle not only hired this bad, bad journalist, they also reflexively defended her at the outset and encouraged readers to engage and debate the issues. When that reflex got slapped down, the editor just canned Riley, which was as lazy a response as her first one. Why not keep Riley around and make her do some research on those theses, and edit her next piece so that her points are backed up with facts instead of bullshit?
”What, if any, responsibilities do digital publishers have? Prior review? Sensitive and speedy postpublishing review? Equal time? All?” I would say: first, you edit for talent. That means hiring onto a group blog only those who can be trusted with clicking “publish.” If you can’t meet your “we need a diverse mix” goals, tough luck. You have to edit for talent with a very high bar. The Chronicle did not do that here. Second, yes: sensitive and speedy postpublishing review. Third: You simply have to abandon the “we stand by our story” reflex when you get a deluge of complaints. The reflex should not be to cave, either. It should be: “let’s look super hard at this, and make it fast.” Fourth: if you’ve blown it, the only possible course is to come clean, do the transparency thing and learn from it.
All good advice. I’ll add this: if you’re a reader of a publication that treats bloggers like second-stringers, meaning they put them in some “opinion” ghetto where what they write is taken less seriously than what’s published in the rest of the site, then you’re the reader of a low-quality publication.
As an academic of long standing, I have never understood The Chronicle of Higher Education. I’ve always felt that for some reason I should be reading it, but attempting to do so always induces deep snoring.
The editor had a Señor Moment.
I have heard it put thusly, if not unfairly: those that can’t write, edit; those that can’t edit, educate; those that can’t educate, administrate; those that can’t administrate, write about administration.
The Chronicle? Just about all I ever see of the Chronicle is the occasional article some administrator has decided to forward down to the rest of us.
I can’t say I know any actual faculty members – at least here – that take the Chronicle too seriously.
Yeah, the Chronicle always struck me like one of those freebie trade journals that pursue you as a glorified vehicle for advertising space. I know one person who reads it but he admits to having a wide tolerance and far-ranging and indiscriminate interests. He said there’s good stuff on the physical plant end of things as well as being mostly admin-oriented. So they’re being utterly clueless about academic standards doesn’t surprise me. MBAland.
Hey, first they all took down the wall between editorial and journalism, and now they’re all talking down the wall between journalist and blogger. They use bloggers for content because they can exploit them for content cheap (if not free).
Or to put it another way: nobody interested in standards and quality anymore, because they’re lazy, and using bloggers helps them be lazy. Until it comes to bite them in the ass, that is.
see also: Psychology Today
I agree with the above assessments of the Chronicle, and have been saying this to my friends in academia. But I think this just shows more of what’s wrong with NSR’s whining: it’s hard to imagine any sort of trade journal for lawyers or doctors hiring a blogger who’s main theme was: “You guy’s are a bunch of quacks/shysters, and should all be fired.” Why do professors have to put up with this kind of abuse, in this venue?
I must say I thought this remark by mistermix:
Why not keep Riley around and make her do some research on those theses, and edit her next piece so that her points are backed up with facts instead of bullshit?
An employer is under no obligation to tell a writer, “change your shtick completely or you’re fired.” It is perfectly acceptable just to let them go.
For god’s sake, the issue with the NSM piece is hardly that it was badly done or “unsourced” or poorly argued or lacking evidence. It’s that it was racist on its face. It’s not like there’s some good case to be made based on a thorough reading of all dissertations produced in a single year from the 11 (!!) black studies doctoral programs in this country that they should all go away. I don’t see how journalistic quality even enters the argument.
That covers one hell of a lot of ground.
But I’m betting you already knew that.
The Chronicle is more a publication for college and university administrators than for faculty. But that’s also why faculty ought to read it more, even though most stories in it are sleep inducing—it’s a good gauge of current administration groupthink. It also carries little stories on the latest silly administrative experiments on various campuses, so it often gives you time to anticipate and prepare for the crazy coming down the pipe.
OT but since there isn’t an open thread, thought people would like to know that Michele and Marcus Bachmann have now received Swiss citizenship. They said they did it for the children, but did not elaborate.
Bachmann is now eligible to run for President of Switzerland. And no, this is not a joke.
I’m wondering if this has anything to do with Swiss bank accounts.
@Dave: Hm, I don’t agree. A thoughtful, well-supported argument that black studies should be eliminated might be just as racist, but there still could be a space for it in light of academic freedom and all that. But a post that is literally nothing more than “look at the dumb titles of these dissertations, hur hur” makes a mockery of the entire publication.
Villago Delenda Est
From my understanding, Marcus already had Swiss citizenship, and Michelle was therefore eligible for it. Also, too, the kids apparently wanted to get it as well.
Of course, if a Democrat did this, there would be howls of treason from the usual suspects on the right.
@Southern Beale: No, I’m sure it’s so they can escape when the Kenyan socialist usurper rounds up all the wingnuts and throws them into FEMA camps. Still, I would have thought Bachman’s imaginary would have run toward joining the armed resistance.
Villago Delenda Est
Well, the fact that she basically said “what, you expect me to actually read this crap before I review it?” sort of shot the entire “Back off, man, I’m a journalist!” angle to smithereens.
@Villago Delenda Est: From my reading of the Swiss citizenship requirements, the kids could have gotten it on the basis of Marcus having it. Michele didn’t need to do this for the kids.
Villago Delenda Est
That would involve, um, work.
Surely you jest.
I’d share in the general sentiment that NSR is hack, full stop. EXCEPT:
The black midwifery crack. It struck me as unapologetically racist.
Which lead me to wonder why she was so dismissive of Black Studies without even reading any of the work.
I smell racist. I’m glad she was canned.
pseudonymous in nc
I think Henry Farrell makes the right call at Crooked Timber:
@Southern Beale: Regardless of the technicalities involved, you would think that Bachmann just might consider, even for a moment, the sheer optics of this. The woman doesn’t have a brain in her head.
When you edit for talent with a very high bar you’re not going to get diversity because we all know that the really talented are white men?
So appreciative of the explanation.
I remember being appalled by something one of their hacks wrote. I don’t remember why anymore.
ETA: it had something to do with black women being unattractive or something, IIRC
Speaking of publishing and lying, Jonah Goldberg, ladies and germs:
They can’t stop lying, can they?
If O’Reilly can claim to be a Peabody award winner…
My wife had an interesting career path from lit grad student to CS grad student (and now CS academic). When she was a lit graduate student, she used to read the Chronicle forums all the time. It would make her sad and miserable.
Now she no longer pays attention to the Chronicle and is much happier for it.
The most persuasive case for eliminating The Chronicle? Just read the articles.*
(By which I mean don’t read the articles but just glance at the titles and then point and laugh at how dumb they all sound.)
@handsmile: Not Kaplan. Ezra Kleinville is wayyyyyyyy better than Hiatt’s rest home for senile warmongers in the paper edition.
I see what you did there.
I’ve read pieces I’ve enjoyed and puff pieces of questionable merit.
I was also dismayed that they seem to avoid covering controversial topics (i.e. interesting) in depth on the whole such as the Norman Finkelstein tenure debate.
“…Naomi Schaefer Riley is a bad, bad journalist”
Certainly, no one here will argue with that statement. Judging from the comments at CHE, most are sad that there is not some law or process which would help individuals like Ms. Riley by reeducating her to think correctly. We are also missing the ability to eliminate other offensive reading material, perhaps by burning, that she produced.
When will technology give us the ability to stop thoughts such as hers before they are written or spoken?
Nothing’s stopping her from reviving the Ron Paul newsletters.
Diversity in this context means “we have to have conservatives or they’ll complain about liberal media bias”, not gender / ethnicity / etc.
Conservatives benefit from massive opinion page affirmative action.
The voices in your head are not necessarily the opinions of others.
Probably around the same time it gives us the ability to teach idiots that “free speech” does not mean “job blogging for The Chronicle of Higher Education.”
She’s on the intelligence committee. If she lifted a finger to apply for or accept foreign citizenship, which it seems like she did from the article, the normal process is to have any level of clearance suspended immediately. As a congresscritter, I can’t imagine what was going on in her head, and I really don’t want to either.
pseudonymous in nc
Seriously: the rules on foreign preference for federal employees seeking a clearance are pretty damn clear. Dual citizenship isn’t necessarily a no-no, but actively seeking it? Eesh.
Reeducating her to do her damn job and actually read the material she’s criticizing before she criticizes it would probably be sufficient.
But, then, I suspect you were one of those kids who reads the blurb on the back of the book you were assigned to read and tried to construct an entire book report out of it, so you really don’t get why people would be upset that Riley would criticize an entire program of study based on the titles of students’ unfinished dissertations.
@pseudonymous in nc:
Dual citizenship itself is not a no-no for most clearance situations, and people can have foreign citizenships through their parents and still not have issues. You do have state that you’re willing to renounce it if necessary, and actively pursing foreign citizenship, getting a foreign passport, or using foreign citizenship in any way is an immediate showstopper.
Personally I have no idea how anyone could attempt to justify themselves the sort of shoddy, unthinking, lazy, made-up shit she did and excuse it by “I iz a journalist”.
I don’t give a fuck what your “career” or at least J-school label was: you don’t get to do lazy, shit work and write stuff which is garbage, badly argued, and factually unsupported and make up bullshit about how you get to do that because of X, Y, or Z.
Rake meet Face.
Naomi Schaefer Riley Is Married to the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley, Who is Black
Or it proves that the most racist right-wingers like Joel Pollak are the ones that marry black people.
Actually, it means that we judge people by their actions rather than appearances. The latter being part of the actual definition of racism.
Have fun with this.
Naturally Sullivan missed Riley’s “defense.”
And as with all other race baiting he misses the point.
At least the Obama gay marriage announcement will make him ignore this for a while
@handsmile: Hear, hear.