Here’s how to do criticism

It’s clear from this Washington Post review that the National Children’s Museum has issues. The reviewer makes the case firmly and with candor.

But not with snark. And not without research. And not without fairness.

See, Gawker blogs? This is how you do it.


The apocalyptic cycle

The BBC reports that the Doomsday deadline has passed:

Some said it would end at midnight on Thursday, while others gave the deadline of just after 11:00 GMT on Friday. Both predictions have failed to materialise.

Another group of followers said they were waiting for Friday’s dawn, but that has also come and gone.

The BBC’s excellent magazine looks back at other apocalypses not, including the one last year. Remember Harold Camping and Family Radio?

Some of their info is still online. But most of it has been purged.

Yet Family Radio has some news for Dec. 21:

Family Radio is very pleased to announce that beginning in the evening of Friday, December 21 the programming of Family Radio will again, Lord willing, be heard in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ!

So is that what the Mayans were warning us about?


Hey, remember the apocalypse?

So we’re three days away from needing to put up our new Mayan calendars. (I’m not sure whether to go with the Day-By-Day Human Genome or the Lindsay Lohan Arrests version.)

But remember all the other 2012 talk? The History Channel documentaries? The History Channel does indeed load up with 2012 programming, including a new Brad Meltzer special, on Dec. 20, and they continue with more apocalyptic programs Dec. 21, but Dec. 22 seems quite normal. By Dec. 24, we have a Pawn Stars marathon.

The Discovery Channel also dipped its toes in the 2012 waters. They’ll air the 2012 Apocalypse shows twice this week, and they’ll have some apocalyptic fare Dec. 21, but only in the afternoon. Some of it curiously repeats Dec. 22, along with something about zombies. By Dec. 23, the zombie thing is the only doomsday-ish program on the air.

We also haven’t heard much from Porter Stansberry, the guy who ran ads all through 2011 insisting that the world might survive, but America wasn’t. He is apparently peddling something about Obama declaring Islamosocialist martial law and taking a third term.

But the lamestream media isn’t covering any of this! Though we were warned to prepare for a “full year of hooey,” everyone has moved on to other news. I’ve heard more about the New York Jets today than I have about our imminent doom!


24/7 media — how’s that working out for you?

ImageToday is a day to mourn, to wonder why, to search for strength … and to shake our heads at the state of journalism in the era of the 24/7 news cycle.

Sure, law enforcement should get the blame for releasing the name Ryan Lanza to the media rather than Adam Lanza, but the police weren’t the ones passing along lurid, unsourced details and sticking microphones in the faces of 8-year-olds who just lost nearly 20 of their schoolmates.

The harsh truth of disasters, natural and man-made, is that we don’t know many details right away. It’s not sports, which lends itself to live-blogging. (And if you’ve read my MMA live-blogs, you know we sometimes need to correct those as well.) You can have hours go by with no new details. As they said repeatedly on NewsRadio: “Still no news on that disabled train.”

When CNN ushered in the era of 24/7 news, it had a bit of variety. The network would use its time for explanatory journalism, something that may be officially dead if Ann Curry replaces Anderson Cooper in prime time. It wasn’t just a rundown and repeat of the latest tragedy. If something like this happened, sure, it would focus on that. But I don’t recall the frenzy, the need to dig up details and present them as newsworthy simply because the media abhor a vacuum.

Now we have several 24/7 networks and a nearly infinite number of websites. And most of them judge themselves on speed. Not accuracy. Not the newsworthiness of the details they’re dredging up.

I first learned of today’s tragedy while walking past a TGIFridays in a mall. They had several screens hovering over the lunch crowd.

How do we eat while these images are replaying constantly in our line of sight? Are we somehow helping the victims and their families by ensuring that people can’t grab a bite to eat without seeing intrusive pictures of children and their parents on their darkest day?

We can’t pull the plug, of course. The cable networks could all go out of business tomorrow, and we’d still have people hounding every “Ryan Lanza” on Facebook or Twitter.

But we should allow ourselves some restraint. No amount of fretting over the latest incremental, unconfirmed reports on Friday is going to bring anyone back, heal anyone’s pain or prevent tragedies in the future. To gain true perspective, we’ll have to be patient.


The Oatmeal, unfair critics and ink by the barrel

“Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

That’s the old saying, which MediaBistro tried to update for the digital age. And it applies to people today who have popular sites — or worse, a lot of enablers. Hope Solo can just mention “haters” without being specific, and thousands of Twitter followers will mobilize against … someone.

That’s fine, as long as that power isn’t abused. With any form of power comes a line between proper use and abuse.

Now walking gingerly up to that fine line: The Oatmeal (Matt Inman), who has produced some of the funniest and most insightful comics on the web. Or before the web. Some hit me on a personal level — “Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web” is every web content creator’s life in a comic, and I’m walking proof that he nailed it with “Why working from home is both awesome and terrible.”

And you have to admire someone who not only writes and draws so well about cats and dogs but also produces a “Grammar Pack,” wonderfully illustrating the ways we literally misuse the English language.

When he faced a nuisance suit, he cleverly turned the tables on the lawyer pursuing him, seeking tens of thousands of dollars for charity but ending up with hundreds of thousands. of dollars for charity

The Oatmeal has stumbled into another controversy, this time over gratuitous use of the word “rape.” That led to a clumsy hit piece at Buzzfeed, which found an alleged profile page of Inman’s and ran with it. Oops. He’s not married, and he has no kids. (Also, Buzzfeed writer Jack Stuef somehow thought Inman was a Republican.)

So Inman, in the same style as his lawsuit response, shredded Stuef’s piece and Stuef himself on his blog, again proving that no one should make an enemy of Inman.

Roughly 90 percent of Inman’s piece is wholly justified, and most of the reaction on Twitter is along the lines of “Huh, yeah, take that, you stupid Buzzfeed writer.”

But is Inman going to get a complex from his two takedowns of his critics? And couldn’t he offer a more sincere mea culpa for the initial rape joke? Inman knows the Internet — he surely knows people have been excoriated (or fired) for better-intentioned rape comments than that. (Right, UFC fans?) You just don’t compare everyday things to rape. If you do, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy — it just means you need to learn not to do that.

Betabeat and Salon have questioned Inman’s response. So far, their comments sections haven’t exploded.

We’ve seen one talented comic artist, Scott Adams, go down a bad road. Dilbert is, by any measure, a terrific comic strip. Unfortunately, Adams decided that his success with Dilbert meant he was some sort of guru. He began to pontificate about things with which he had passing knowledge (the workplace) and things with which he had no knowledge (intelligent design, “men’s rights.”) Now Adams is pretty much at war with academics like PZ Myers.

Inman probably won’t go down that road. He seems to have a firmer grasp of life outside an office cubicle. But a little dose of humility never hurt anyone, even when you’re answering critics who haven’t done the slightest bit of accurate research. Others’ imperfections don’t make you perfect.