The idea is to enhance the media’s standing. But we don’t want our standing enhanced. Things are getting way too respectable as it is. Journalists should pride themselves on their lowly status as scoundrels and junkyard dogs, only a yard or two ahead of the gendarmes and with prison or the stocks the reward for doing a job properly.
Taibbi’s dispute with his bosses instead centered on differences in management style and the extent to which First Look would influence the organizational and corporate aspects of his role as editor-in-chief. Those conflicts were rooted in a larger and more fundamental culture clash that has plagued the project from the start: A collision between the First Look executives, who by and large come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment, and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain. That divide is a regular feature in many newsrooms, but it was exacerbated by First Look’s avowed strategy of hiring exactly those journalists who had cultivated reputations as anti-authoritarian iconoclasts.
Twas ever thus in a newsroom: Hire a bunch of half-feral paranoids with bullshit detectors as sharp as a sushi chef’s favorite knife, encourage them to compete viciously and relentlessly with outside organizations and one another, and then act all offended when they turn the very skills and habits that make them effective on you.
Like how dare we question your annual report or make up mocking nicknames for your new corporate initiatives or decline to attend a dinner that features a “flash mob” to a song popular 12 years ago. As if that’s not the world’s most predictable outcome.