On Chris Quinn’s Assertion That NEOMG Video Takedown Criticism is a “Largely Partisan Kind of Attack”

This morning, I watched the entire Sound of Ideas regional roundup segment on the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s (NEOMG) removal of its gubernatorial endorsement interview with Governor John Kasich and challengers. I’ll be writing about it in detail later but this post is an examination of Chris Quinn’s grossly inaccurate description of those who have been bringing awareness to the incident and commenting on it.

Mr. Quinn is practicing a classic, old school form of delegitimization, something we see far more regularly from candidates for elected office. They regularly try to damage an opponent’s viability in this way. Governor Kasich’s explanations for not debating his opponents were in the sweet spot of this technique (i.e., they are such weak candidates, it would be a disservice to voters to lend them any credibility by being in the same room with them and engaging with them).

In this instance, Mr. Quinn wants to delegitimize the sources of the criticism over the takedown of the video and his failure to explain the takedown in a timely manner. If he can portray the sources as not legitimate, and he can persuade readers and listeners that they’re not legit, then his reasoning will be preferred and more acceptable, or at least less challenged.

How does he try to do this?

First, Mr. Quinn singles out bloggers at least three times during the course of the twenty minutes the show spends on the video takedown action. This is way last decade, and given his outlet’s dependence on online-savvy news consumers, it’s also rather uninformed.

The second smear intended to suggest that no one who is making the criticism has any heft to do so comes when he says that the criticism is a “largely partisan kind of attack.”

You be the judge:

Here’s as complete a list as I’ve been able to put together of who has contributed to the discourse about this episode. After you read what they’ve written, judge for yourself how partisan these sources are, something Mr. Quinn doesn’t even offer the chance to do when he makes the assertion because he doesn’t name even one critic’s name. Edited in: He is even facing criticism from two journalists on the radio program with him, and he responds to them, but still, he wants us to see the criticism as making him the victim of partisan hacks – or something, even while being confronted by two completely bona fide journalists.

Neither of his outlets have written about his decision to remove the video, except for the Readers Representative, Ted Diadiun’s column that explains Mr. Quinn’s decision (rather than Mr. Quinn explaining it himself).

  1. Jim Romenesko at Romenesko.com
  2. Jay Rosen, NYU Journalism Professor at PressThink.org
  3. Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize winner, Creators Syndicate and formerly at the Plain Dealer, here and here (she’s posted other items about this but those are a good start)
  4. Columbia Journalism Review
  5. MSNBC
  6. Jan Leach, Kent State University journalism professor in ideastream coverage
  7. Al Tompkins, the Poynter Institute in ideastream coverage
  8. Scott Suttell, Managing Editor, Crain’s Cleveland Business, here and here
  9. Sandusky Register, here, here and here
  10. ideastream, here and here
  11. Rick Jackson, on ideastream’s Sound of Ideas Regional Roundup
  12. M.L. Schultze, digital editor and reporter, WKSU, on the Sound of Ideas Regional Roundup
  13. Cleveland Scene, here, here and here
  14. Ed Esposito, 1590 WAKR, here
  15. Erick Trickey, Cleveland Magazine
  16. Roldo Bartimole, Cleveland Leader, here
  17. Wonkette
  18. TechDirt
  19. Talking Points Memo
  20. Plunderbund
  21. Have Coffee Will Write
  22. Writes Like She Talks
  23. Numerous journalists, including from the Plain Dealer, past and present, on Facebook, Twitter and other online outlets. Though they used their real names in multiple locations, I’m uncomfortable singling them out but am grateful for their speaking up. I would otherwise be able to list between 10 and 15, at a minimum.

So, a few things to consider concerning Mr. Quinn’s delegitimization attempt against the critics:

One of the hallmarks of reliable online content is that it links to the source from which the author of whatever you’re reading got his or her ideas. Yet Mr. Quinn doesn’t name names. He paints all the critics with two strokes: they’re bloggers, and they’re partisan. His portrait is inaccurate as well as tone-deaf.

Second, you would think that Mr. Quinn, being the head of an online outlet, would have seen the news flash that the medium used might be called a blog, but, as Susan Goldberg said years ago, news is now delivered in a platform agnostic way. If Mr. Quinn wants to argue that what appears at the writeslikeshetalks.com or plunderbund.com URL isn’t news, that’s his subjective opinion. But having the people who work for him upload their content to a site with the URL cleveland.com, doesn’t make that content any more objectively news in 2014. Mr. Quinn doesn’t have to share that view, but media literacy today is taught in a platform agnostic way, which means that we all should be judging everything we read online as to accuracy, transparency and thoroughness.

NB: I found this great post from August 2007 by none other than Jeff Jarvis, a journalist and media critic (who worked with the Plain Dealer at Advance Internet years ago and oversaw that era’s version of cleveland.com), in which he re-emphasizes that we toss out every permutation of the “blogs versus mainstream media” argument. The link to WLST in that post is stale, so go here instead. His post sheds more light on how Mr. Quinn’s delegitimizing attempts are so last decade.

NB2: My writing used to appear regularly at the cleveland.com URL. Again, you would think that what challenged the PD leaders back then in getting online content right would be in the past. Not so much.

*Warning re: that last hyperlink: it brings back a lot of memories and will sound as if it could have been written about the current state of affairs. That is not a good thing, at all.

NB3: Consider how Mr. Quinn’s approach squashes the notion that minority opinions matter. And yet, in a democracy, the existence of minority views are why we have federalism and three branches of government. They’re why we review and consider dissenting opinions in U.S. Supreme Court cases. His attempts to disavow disagreement with his positions therefore includes 1) treating disagreement like a minority opinion rather than the majority opinion it actually is, and then 2) trying to persuade people that because it is a minority opinion, it should be given no credence at all (i.e., his comments in the radio program about how his news outlets haven’t lost any credibility or respect). It is fascinating how his arguments are diametrically opposite to how democracy seeks to give voice and value to minority opinions and how the editorial board’s choices bolster one-party rule rather than promote a need for listening to and incorporating minority views into policycrafting and implementation.

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