Comments Have Cooties

The NY Times – especially Bill Leller – just can’t stop throwing rocks at Ariana Huffington and her Post. Jeff Jarvis spends some time analyzing this – a good read – but I can abstract the argument using just one phrase buried in his piece:

Jeff Jarvis, Who’s afraid of Arianna Huffington?

Comments have cooties.

All the tired arguments being kicked about by the Church of Journalism about their reason to exist, why we need them, and why we should pay them to do what is most comfortable for them really don’t address the deep motivations of people online.

We have invented the web to happen to ourselves, and to the extent that the NY Times staff and owners wise up to that, they can benefit from it. We are not here to be informed, or be part of the public that they want to address.

The central problem at work here is not paywalls, but simply that conventional, old school journalism doesn’t want to share the podium with us. They don’t even want us nattering in the comments, really. The leaders of The NY Times – arguably in favor of liberalism – are really not willing to accept the basic premises of the social revolution, and will definitely not reshape what they do to support it.

Comments have cooties because we, the people, have cooties. We have unwashed ideas, dirty minds, and bits of social rhetoric caught between our teeth.

Huffpo is not going to up end the media world, necessarily, but it has accepted more of what is hotting up the social mess online than the NY Times does, and so Huffpo is gaining community while the NY Times is losing readers. There is more of us in Huffpo than in the NY Times, and with the exception of our money, that seems to be the way Bill Keller and company like it.

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