I usually have mixed feelings when bloggers and/or newspaper people get into slap fights. On some level, it’s uncomfortable because usually both sides bring something to the table; while a blogger might have a better sense of number crunching and snarky analysis, a columnist often brings years of experience to his or her writing. That being said, there’s certainly a rubbernecking vibe too; despite the lyrical gore in front of your eyes, it’s hard to look away from the credibility-damaging carnage.
This case started when William Houston, a former Globe & Mail columnist, wrote a column disparaging current Globe & Mail reporter (and blogger pioneer) James Mirtle. Here’s an excerpt from the shocking slam-piece.
The biggest joke in 2009-10, unfortunately, was the spectacle of James Mirtle attempting to function as a Globe and Mail hockey writer. A statistics wonk with limited journalistic skills, poor James struggled, to say the least.
While Mirtle took the high road and chose not to respond, plenty of other bloggers and writers did. Houston responded with a post that was ultimately deleted later on, but like many other mistakes made on the Internet, someone kept a copy of their own. But the Internet tussle took another step toward the absurd when Houston exchanged some rather embarrassing e-mails with Julian from the popular Toronto Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets. Here’s the worst of the lot, with one expletive deleted.
From: William Houston
Oh, I’ve been taking shots at friends of yours. Oh noooo. I feel so badly. Truth is, you’re a pathetic piece of [expletive deleted] who can’t function as a real journalist so you operate that awful blog. Struck a nerve, didn’t I Julian? Because you’re a pathetic hack who can’t write and will never amount anything. By the time I was in my 30s I’d written two best selling books. You? You’re a nothing. Nobody knows who you are or cares. Good luck pal. You’ll need it.
Ultimately, the situation was flat-out uncomfortable and unfortunate. The typical bloggers versus journalists jokes were trotted out (comments about technological confusion lobbed at newspaper veterans, quips about mother’s basements thrown at bloggers). Houston might or might not come out looking the worst, but aside from some cheap Web site hits, does anyone come out better? As time goes on, newspaper people and “basement dwellers” will learn to co-exist. Sure, there are moments that are darkly entertaining, but I dream of a day in which we can all just get along.