I have a lot left to write about from ONA but it just wasn’t a live blogging kind of day. To boot, I was late to the last panel of the weekend — traditionally dubbed a “super session — and will have to listen to a recording to fill in the gap. (The conference recording crew has made that possible.) Still, from people I checked with I gather I caught enough of the sturm und drang … The largeish room was packed but I couldn’t quite gauge the energy. Making it a little more difficult, the Web 2.0 panel — Jeff Jarvis, Mike Arrington, Newsvine’s Mike Davidson and Current correspondent Adam Yamaguchi, moderated by Leslie Walker — was in a well at the bottom of the room. The pattern was set quickly — comment, comment, Arrington lob at journalists, comment, Arrington lob, and repeat. One sequence: he accused an NYT reporter of going in the tank on a story, then apologized when confronted directly by the NYT’s Jim Roberts, who challenged him to provide facts or back down. His reply: “I apologize. I have no facts to support my statement.” He stuck with the description of the article as dumb and a few other adjectives but nothing wrong with that. despite his belief otherwise, the concern among the people I heard wasn’t about criticizing a journalist; it was about making an accusation without backup. At another point, he urged mid-level journalists “slogging it out” to leave their jobs for blogging where they easily could triple their income. When the issue of the new NYTimes Reader was raised, he dismissed it out of hand with some harsh words and came close to a “Jane, you ignorant slut” routine with Mike Davidson, who said he could see value in experimentation. Asked what he would do if he ran the online sites for nytimes.com and washingtonpost.com, Arrington replied quickly: “I would dissolve the company and return what’s left to the shareholders.” He admitted that was a bit over the top but added, “I’m just disdainful of the entire process.” That last part was quite clear.
During his quasi-Oprah moment, Arrington offered a rationale: He was “being purposefully controversial to liven things up a bit.”
The challenge from Roberts came right after I made a trip to the microphone to let people know that swapping a staff job for blogging isn’t an instant get-rich scheme, offer some words about the potential behind the Times Reader, and to suggest that monolithic views (and knee-jerk responses) aren’t going to get us anywhere. I asked the panel about offline digital reading. The instant reply: Why would I need offline when wireless soon would be ubiquitous in the air and on the ground? Because promises of the if-come can’t replace the needs of here and now.
There were some bright spots, the brightest being an admission from Jeff Jarvis that, despite the atmosphere in the room during that panel, there is less polarization, more common ground, more excitement. Whew.
Update: As I mentioned at the end of my first file, it wasn’t all noise. In the comments, Matthew Sims rightly points out that “Jeff Jarvis was respectful and diplomatic in his ideas for what big media needs to do to get back on track. Mike Davidson showed that small media and big media can complement each other quite well if they just accept each other. And Adam Yamaguchi gave us an interesting look at the differences between what makes it on the web and what makes it on TV.” If you were in the room, what did you hear beyond the noise? Please add to the comments.
One humorous note: A paraphrase of a comment at the ONA dinner that night: Who’d have thought that Michael Arrington could make Jeff Jarvis and Mark Cuban seem calm?