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Posted at 05:49 PM ET, 10/27/2011

Gene Weingarten on ONA: Did he get it wrong?

Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten takes on “modern journalism” in his column this week, offering his take on the Online News Association’s recent convention in Boston, which he did not attend.

Citing a convention recap on ONA’s Web site, Weingarten writes: “I am broadly summarizing, but near as I can tell, the main message given to the conferees was that, journalistically, to attract reader eyeballs, you want to publish more pictures of bacon taped to cats. Give readers what they want, whatever it is.”

Weingarten concedes that the column is likely to cause young journalists to call him “a dyspeptic old codger resisting necessary and healthful change.”

ONA’s executive director, Jane McDonnell (as jmcd52) has weighed in on Weingarten’s take in the column’s comments, inviting him to actually attend the next conference and offering a response, which we’ve excerpted below. You can read the full response and other comments here.

Irony abounds here, Gene. A quick phone call to me as exec. director (or a click on that Internet to our program at http://ona11.journalists.org/sessions/) probably wouldn't have produced as funny a column, but might have made the facts a little less, what's the word, shabby? I'll just go ahead and list a couple of those here and hope they make it into a column update, something I've heard most serious journalists take seriously:  
 
We actually had four keynotes at the conference. Opening was Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the Obama administration, who talked about using open data sources to help keep government accountable; lunch was a panel featuring 3 highly respected journalists from Egypt and Syria, discussing their experiences covering the Arab Spring (as well as Andy Carvin from NPR, admittedly one of those upstart young journalists, covering the protests from the start thru Twitter), followed by a panel featuring two US journalists who were held captive in the Mideast; and a panel on diversity in new media, with leading African American, Hispanic and Asian American journalists and thinkers. Ben Huh was actually our Friday night networking speaker, providing some comic relief, yes, but also giving the crowd some painless lessons on how to build sites that actually make money -- no LOLcats in sight.  
 

McDonnell wasn’t the only one to offer a rebuttal. The Post’s Alexandra Petri took to her ComPost blog to call Weingarten a “cantankerous old fud” (as he predicted young journalists would.)

It isn’t the first time, Weingarten has addressed evolving journalistic practices in his column. In June, he maintained that an emphasis on “branding” was ruining journalism.

Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement and Social Media for Journal Register Co., responded to the June column on his blog, The Buttry Diary, yielding a spirited debate and a few responses from Weingarten in the comments.

Buttry also left a comment (as stevebuttry1) on Weingarten’s latest column, noting that Weingarten “missed a great ONA, both by not attending and by missing by a mile in your second-hand account of the event.”

Weingarten also is responding to comments on his column.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below or on Twitter using the hash tag #askthepost. We will continue to update this post as the conversation continues.

Update: Cheezburger’s Ben Huh, who was mentioned in Weingarten’s column, has written a response for Ask The Post.

Full coverage:

Gene Weingarten: Modern journalism meets LOLcats

Alexandra Petri: Gene Weingarten is wrong about bacon cats and journalism

Ben Huh: Gene Weingarten is confusing journalism with the business of newspapers

By Washington Post editors  |  05:49 PM ET, 10/27/2011

Tags:  Daily Roundup

 
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