Slate’s Ron Rosenbaum Calls Jeff Jarvis ‘The Sarah Palin of Gurus’; Jarvis Calls Rosenbaum A ‘Third Grader’

Call it the Rumble in the RSS Reader: Ron Rosenbaum, former Edgy Enthusiast for The Observer and current Slate ‘Spectator’

Call it the Rumble in the RSS Reader: Ron Rosenbaum, former Edgy Enthusiast for The Observer and current Slate ‘Spectator’ columnist, took a sharp pin and attempted to pop the increasingly inflated ego of Jeff Jarvis, the former print journalist-turned-New Media guru at

Here’s a blow-by-blow, so far:

In his Nov. 11 column published last night, Mr. Rosenbaum throws the first crustless PB & J sandwich at Mr. Jarvis by saying he’s running for "New Media Pontificator in Chief" and becoming "increasingly heartless about the reporters, writers, and other ‘content providers’ who have been put out on the street by the changes in the industry," he wrote.

"Sometimes it sounds as if he’s virtually dancing on their graves."

Mr. Jarvis used to be a friend of print journalism. He was former television critic for TV Guide and People magazine, and associate publisher of The New York Daily News. And, as he’s so fond of reminding readers, he created Entertainment Weekly.

Mr. Jarvis left print to join the bright New Media world. "He took to blogging and—eventually—blogging about blogging," Mr. Rosenbaum wrote. "Recently he has even begun to host international forums and self-proclaimed new-media summits, when not directing J-school programs focused on new media (at the City University of New York) or raking in consulting fees from old-media giants like The New York Times and Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast."

And now, as print journalists fall, Mr. Rosenbaum argues, Mr. Jarvis is kicking ’em while their down.

Mr. Rosenbaum quotes Mr. Jarvis’ response to an American Journalism Review essay by Paul Farhi, in which he said, "The fall of journalism is, indeed, journalists’ fault. It is our fault that we did not see the change coming soon enough and ready our craft for the transition."

Mr. Rosenbaum writes:

I have a strong feeling that when he says ‘we’ and ‘ours,’ he really means everyone but him and his fellow new-media gurus. Not all reporters had the prescience to become new-media consultants. A lot of good, dedicated people who have done actual writing and reporting, as opposed to writing about writing and reporting, have been caught up in this great upheaval, and many of them may have been too deeply involved in, you know, content—’subjects,’ writing about real peoples’ lives—to figure out that reporting just isn’t where it’s at, that the smart thing to do is get a consulting gig.

He even attacks Mr. Jarvis’ new book, What Would Google Do?, in which he doesn’t speak with anyone who actually works for Google.


"It makes you wonder," Mr. Rosenbaum writes, "whether Jarvis has actually done any, you know, reporting. Particularly when he tells you that in doing his book on the total wonderfulness of Google, he decided it would be better not to speak to anyone who works at Google, that instead he’s written about the idea of Google, as he construes it, rather than finding out how they—the actual Google people—construe it."

Mr. Jarvis responded around high noon on Buzzmachine:

Because of my opinion, he says he doesn’t ‘like’ me anymore. Take that, Jarvis! You can’t sit at my lunch table ever again! He reminds me of that same third grader who, when he doesn’t study for a test and sees the results of his inattention, whines, cries, and stomps his little feet, declaring, ‘It’s not fair.’ No, kid, life ain’t.

Mr. Jarvis claims Mr. Rosenbaum’s criticism doesn’t solve any of the immediate problems in journalism. "Sadly, Rosenbaum doesn’t debate the idea and history and fate of journalism, which might be productive or at least provocative. Instead, like a pissy third grader, he attacks me."

Mr. Jarvis then gives tons of evidence of all the meetings and croissants he’s shared with newspaper editors and owners, trying to hack out how to solve all of journalism’s problems.

Defending his research for his book, he writes, "I interviewed many people like [Paulo] Coelho. I chose not to seek official and controlled access to Google and in my acknowledgments in the book," choosing instead to "listening to the market."

I say at some level, if you don’t trust the market—the people, us—then you don’t value democracy, capitalism, education, art … or journalism (for why trust, empower, enable, ennoble, and inform the people if we all a bunch of idiots?). ‘He’s the Sarah Palin of gurus,’ Rosenbaum says. ‘The crowd is always right.’ Don’tcha know, it’s often more right than we give it credit for.

Mr. Jarvis also tries to steer the blame:

If Rosenbaum really wants to dislike someone, he might turn his spitballs toward my friends Scott Karp and Seth Godin, who declare that ‘the market and the internet don’t care if you make money.’ There is no divine right for newsroom jobs. Nor is printing and trucking an eternal verity of the field. There is, instead, a need for journalism. That’s the problem to solve. That’s the opportunity to follow.

Mr. Jarvis’ comrade, Mr. Godin, responded in the comments section:

Jeff, it’s pretty common for people to blame their bad news on a visible someone if they can. It’s a shame that he chose you, instead of seeing the opportunity that’s written on the wall in ten foot tall letters.

If radio make the music business work, we’ve just entered an era where the internet is radio for ideas. And who better to report and make those ideas than the very people just freed up on jobs in a declining industry.

Hang in there, buddy. The world needs to hear you, most especially those who don’t see the opportunities yet.

Another commenter, “joe O” had this to say:

That we’re too busy with character assassination attempts rather than an open discussion of ideas shows we’re still not ready to lose the wounded puppy act and get shit done. Neither Ron nor your response has added anything to what’s really important – changing our industry for the better. So to continue your school analogy, I hope to hell you both get pulled by the ears and scolded by the principal – us – as we tell you to grow up.

Slate’s Ron Rosenbaum Calls Jeff Jarvis ‘The Sarah Palin of Gurus’; Jarvis Calls Rosenbaum A ‘Third Grader’