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DEAR JAY,

 Like most good young journalists interested in not starving to death, I follow you—an NYU journalism prof who tries to “grok new media”—on Twitter. I look up to you as the cranky Moses who is leading the children of journalism, forced as we are by the rigid dogmatism of journalism’s high priests, to wander the wilderness of new media during a time of famine—all of which we can easily do, but perhaps not without starving to death. 

All of us are trying to “grok”—understand, become part of, blend, merge and grow with—new media. Well, not the curmudgeons of journalism, who are more interested in short-term profitability than long-term survival of a thriving press, which you call the “ghost of democracy.” Not the high priests, whose rigid dogmatism holds journalism back. But you are and I am, “the nervous but excited” kid who is looking for old people who think forward to guide the way.

You’re mean. You were mean to a Tweeter: “Congrats @stuedal You are the 1,279th person in my writing career to inform me that what I'm observing is ‘nothing new’ or ‘not surprising.’” You’re cruel to people who don’t know what they’re talking about, like Neil Henry, who sniffed, “I can’t help but fear a future, increasingly barren of skilled journalists, in which Google ‘news’ searches turn up not news, but the latest snarky rants from basement bloggers.” You snapped, “He’s right: he can’t help, except in the fear department.”

I love the way you use hip pop culture references to chasten the upstarts: “Buzzword criticism? I’m just not that into you. If you're a writer you'll figure out what a good term SHOULD mean and use it only for that.” I like that you slice at Mother Jones and Sarah Palin and all the people still stuck replaying the 1990s pre-blog whine about media bias.

Cranky cerebrality is the sexiest. The nerdy glasses? Give me chills. The surliness? Intriguing. It’s like a challenge. Can you warm him up? Can you make him smile? You do smile sometimes. Yes, you deign to use emoticons—usually sarcastically like when you chastened young GOP new-media whippersnapper Jon Henke, but still.

Beneath that cranky exterior, a warm heart beats. Once in a moment of grudging niceness, you said: “I criticize the press. Some people think too much. I am hard on the curmudgeons and the priests. Journalists, as a class, are people I like.” You overshared! You emoted! You lifecasted! Aww.

You’re also a born New Yorker. This explains everything: the surly exterior, the tough heart beneath, the ability to body-slam new challenges, the dexterity to adapt and survive, the desire to grok the new and discarded the outdated, and the ability to cut through the drivel. This is inspiring, too.

You give me hope that my jaunt in the media wilderness won’t last 40 years and that I’ll come to the Promised Land—maybe not with a bottomless Condé Nast expense account but with the opportunity  to do what I love and serve the public and still maybe eat every once in a while.

Love,

Alisa

 
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Alisa Harris

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