Journalism prof to students: Don’t model yourselves after Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal

College Media Matters | Business Insider
University of Tampa journalism professor Daniel Reimold has gotten Henry Blodget’s attention by criticizing the work of Business Insider’s lead financial blogger Joe Weisenthal, recently the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile that showed that he’s more prolific than you’ll ever be.

Despite Weisenthal’s productivity, passion, knowledge and reach, Reimold writes, “he is not a role model I would hold up for my own students.” His reasons:

  • “He almost never separates himself from his work.” (The photo says it all.)
  • “He is wrong and sensational a lot.”
  • “He writes too much – and not enough.”

About the last point, Reimold writes:

He writes a ton, but even his longest entries run only a few hundred words. And the piece portrays him as so constantly stressed about being first to post, he races to get something, anything, online, reporting be damned. Think of how powerful his journalism work might be if he channeled his laser-focused-energies on a longer-form piece or took the time to wrangle up a ton of sources before simply rushing to post, post, post.

Bottom line: I certainly teach my students to join the online conversation and to recognize the advantages and expectations of publishing and sharing more. But I also urge them to not lose sight of the fact that time can work for us, not just against us. At least every once in awhile, remove yourself from the rush and use the time you have been given to do your job to build deeper, more impacting stories.

The headline version of Blodget’s response is that Reimold doesn’t get it. The aggregated version is that he thinks Reimold holds magazine-length journalism up as an ideal and doesn’t understand the different skills required of digital journalists.

If students want to work online, Blodget writes, they “would do well to have more respect for Joe Weisenthal’s skill than their professor does”:

Storytelling in the digital medium is very different than storytelling in print or broadcast. In a world in which millions of sources of information are a click away, having a talented journalist monitor and filter and add smart context to that global information fire hose in real time is extremely valuable to readers. Basically, this medium is a hybrid of broadcast and print: That’s why Joe Weisenthal and other talented digital writers write fast and speak conversationally (TV news hosts do the same thing–they just do it on camera). If the professor worked in a profession in which news mattered, he might have more appreciation for that.

One of the posts Blodget cites as an example of Business Insider’s in-depth work is “The Inside Story Of What Happened On The Facebook IPO.” Slate’s Farhad Manjoo cited that post when he wrote, “when there’s fast-breaking business news like the Facebook IPO, BI’s model is hard to beat.”
Reimold and Blodget’s posts are worth reading; this probably isn’t the end of this conversation.

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