KingMidget's Ramblings

Pull up a chair. Let's talk.


For about a dozen years, one of the political blogs I’ve checked out on almost a daily basis has been Talking Points Memo.  Way back then, it had a lot of really good analysis.  It was good for a left-of-center political junkie like me, particularly during national elections.  Sadly, it has gone the way of most such websites these days.  I call it the HuffPo effect.  The website has gone from simple to cluttered.  Most articles are snarky and insubstantial.  Recently, the website has undergone an improvement, which has just made worse all of the things I don’t like about it.  So, I decided to write an email:

Seriously?  Your lead article today is an article that’s been on your site since January 19, six days ago.  Your look is so cluttered, I can only conclude you’re taking lessons from HuffPo.  Your articles are filled with typos and frequently your headlines promise far more than the underlying article actually delivers.  And then there are the times when the same article is “headlined” two or three times within mere inches of each other on the main page.

Years ago, Talking Points Memo was my first political blog.  Years ago.  It had high quality analysis of a whole range of political issues — national and international.  And it was simple to navigate and find what I was interested in reading.  Not anymore.  Rather than quality analysis, your articles have become snark-filled, superficial and generally meaningless.  Rarely is there the type of thoughtful commentary that once drew me to Talking Points.  And the new look is so cluttered it’s impossible to find that thoughtful commentary if it even exists anymore on your site.

Count me out.  You’ve lost me.  It’s a shame that you had to fall for the modern push for ever greater options and complexity rather than keeping mind a better alternative — keep it simple, stupid.

To which, the blog’s founder and current “Editor and Publisher”, Josh Marshall, responded thusly, almost immediately:


I think this is called an email from an asshole. Maybe not an asshole in real life. But at least one playing one on TV. I’ll start with some advice, using “Huffpo” as a one size fits all morality play about all things in digital journalism tells me your lazy. As for a 6 day old article, we reprise longer features pieces on the weekends when people have more time to read longer pieces and our staff does not work. So this is not shocking and not a sign of moral failure or the fall of the Roman Empire either. With your point about the same article showing up in different places – if you’re really a regular reader you know that we intentionally have different pathways into the site – a news section, a chronological livewire feed, the editor’s blog. Very straightforward; may or may not be your cup of team. This isn’t even a critique. It’s more like a primal scream.
There is just as much penetrating analysis on the site as there ever was. Indeed, quite a bit more. But you’re too focused on silly points to read it apparently. There’s a lengthy post in my series on the Israeli election that apparently you did not notice. In any case, yes, there is other stuff we publish now that you don’t like. That’s fine. Not every publication is for everyone. No need to dress it up with all the puffery.

Well, you know me.  Never let a good opportunity like this go to waste:

Wow … that you respond this way to what are legitimate criticisms from a long-time reader is stunning.  I didn’t call you names — the keep it simple, stupid reference was not meant to refer to you as stupid, but to refer to a commonly understood design principle in technology — apparently, one you are unfamiliar with.  Let me help you learn about the concept …  If you think I was calling you stupid, my apologies.

I pointed out that, from my perspective, the changes you’ve undergone has taken you far from what I’m interested in reading.  And, yes, I read your piece on the Israeli elections.  It’s good.  The problem is that kind of analysis constitutes a tiny fraction of what is on your website these days.  And, yes, I am a regular reader … just about every day for the last dozen years.  So, I know about the different pathways.  But the problem is that all of those pathways just create massive clutter on your main page.  And they don’t show up in different places.  They show up on your main page right next to each other.  Maybe you don’t realize that.  I notice it on an almost daily basis.  Maybe you like the clutter and the repetitive links to the same articles right next to each other.  Good for you.  Maybe many of your readers do.  It doesn’t work for me.  And I get to say that without being called an asshole.

That you equate my criticisms of what your website has become with some kind of morality play suggests you are far too grandiose for your own good.  There’s no morality here.  It’s kind of simple — in your efforts to become something for everybody, you’ve lost me.  Shouldn’t I get to tell you that without you calling me names?

Asshole?  Seriously.  You need to look in the mirror.

P.S.  Instead of wasting time calling a long-time reader an asshole, you should really find an editor for your pieces.  The ones you write are frequently the ones with the most typos.  See this is the funny part of you accusing me of being lazy — setting up a website where there are redundant links to the same article right next to each other is lazy.  Pushing publish on a piece that hasn’t been edited so that the typos have been removed is lazy.

P.P.S.  There’s this concept out there called authors behaving badly.  It’s used to describe when authors react inappropriately to criticisms of their works.  I think there’s now a new branch of the concept.  I’ll call it blogger-journalists behaving badly.  You’re the charter member.  Congratulations.

14 responses to “Giggity

  1. MamaMickTerry January 25, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Oh my goodness!! I can’t believe a professional editor would respond this way!
    I’m also cracking up at the typo “your” near the beginning of his reply. I’m not an elitist grammar-monger by any means, but an editor should know the proper use of you’re, right? It’s a pet-peeve for many.
    I’m not sophisticated enough to read anything regular that involves politics, but I certainly enjoyed the way you set this dude in his place. If he’s even savvy enough to realize it 🙂

    • kingmidget January 25, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Oh, that’s not the only typo in his email, either. That’s what drives me crazy about the pieces he’s writing. It would take somebody five minutes to proofread them, but apparently nobody does because every time I read one of his pieces, I find multiple typos like that. To say I was stunned by his response would be an understatement. The guy clearly has ego problems.

  2. sknicholls January 25, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    your lazy or you’re lazy? Noticed that one right away if you copied and pasted, I think he made your point.

    • kingmidget January 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Yep. I keep finding more typos in his email. It’s one of those hallmarks of professionalism that I notice, unfortunately, and it drives me crazy when I see so many typos in published pieces on what is supposed to be a professional and reputable blog/news site.

  3. Trent Lewin January 25, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Ouch! That guy sounds like a total douche! he obviously can’t take criticism and it sounds genuinely like you hit a nerve, Mark. Some people don’t like to be confronted with the truth.

    • kingmidget January 25, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      That’s exactly what I thought … thin-skinned and what I said definitely hit a nerve, which means there may be some truth to it. 😉

      • Trent Lewin January 25, 2015 at 4:35 pm

        I’m sure there is. When people feel they have to react like that, it’s not because it has no truth to it… people who are secure in what they’re doing just ignore the things they know not to be true.

  4. John Callaghan January 25, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Ohhh. I like this. Geez, this guy is touchy.

  5. Kevin Brennan January 25, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    I gave up on TPM a couple of years ago when they decided to go semi-pay. I saw it as a lame attempt to follow Andrew Sullivan’s example, but it didn’t seem right for that site, given the sometimes shabby quality. Also, there was an emerging editorial tone I didn’t like. Like you, I’d been reading them for years, but there’s just a strange, knee-jerk feel to it and the content is bizarrely repetitive. You were perfectly reasonable to speak your mind, and Marshall was a total amateur in the way he responded. This only confirms my thinking about TPM.

    • kingmidget January 26, 2015 at 6:30 am

      Exactly. I’ve actually paid for Sullivan’s blog the last two years because he has a simple interface, has stayed true to what he has been all along, and he writes quality content. TPM is trying too hard to be the cool kid on the block and now it looks like they’re trying to be more like HuffPo than HuffPo is. The biggest problem is with how the level of debate between the right and the left continues to decline. TPM is a great example of that problem on the left. Like you said, it’s knee-jerk. I call it snarky and they just get more and more ridiculous and juvenile as time goes by.

      Thanks for your support.

  6. John W. Howell January 26, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Good on you. Bad situation when you are dealing with arrogance, but congrats on making the points anyway.

  7. Pingback: Today’s Second Disappointment | KingMidget's Ramblings

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