Bob Armstrong emails:
Been a long time, but Modern Love did the trick. Here’s my take:
In his e-mail to you, David said he was “kind of taken aback by your bitterness” regarding Amy Klein’s Modern Love piece in The New York Times. I’m with David. In the headline and her opening graph, you are called a “Cyberstalker.” But she draws back from the charge as the story moves along and comes out as a charmer in the end with the “I’ll miss you, too” line.
And I’m astounded you would be upset because you’ve been tagged a cyberstalker in the Times. Besides the fact that all publicity is good publicity, every blogger documenting the lives of other people is in a sense a stalker. Every reporter is a stalker. It’s a matter of degree. How far does the intrusion go? Amy did not suggest you are an on-line rapist trying to track her down. “He’s mostly harmless,” she told her friends.
Overall, I think Amy wrote a good story. That said, to some extent she comes off as a nitpicker and a narcissist. You had the temerity to say she always wore skirts which is “flatly untrue,” she says. Furthermore, she finds that a “strange description.” That’s a winner in the trivia awards. Think of how she would have reacted if you had said she wore pants suits.
The cyberstalking charge falls apart without her even being aware of it when she takes that old road up to the High Standards Journalism station. As a journalist, she says, “you believe you are granted a writer’s type of diplomatic immunity—inured to being written about, reported on, and critiqued yourself. Well, that’s how it used to be, before the internet.”
I can write about others but how dare those lumpen-proletariat bloggers write about me. I am a diplomat, waiter, bring me my tea. It’s a lovely day, I think I’ll go out on the balcony. Good God, look at that mob down there. Why are they screaming at me? Oh well, at least I still matter.
Slamming a reporter on a blog is not cyberstalking, it’s leveling the playing field.
Amy also needs a dose of history. That’s how it used to be before the internet? No, that’s how it has been since the American Revolution when the pamphleteers attacked the crown and frequently each other. Or take a look at the partisan press in the age of Andrew Jackson if you want some truly strange descriptions of reporters going at each other.
In modern times the classic example is twenty years before the internet took hold. Timothy Crouse’s “The Boys on the Bus” covered those who covered the Nixon/McGovern presidential campaign in 1972. In that book, like Amy, a number of reporters bitch about Crouse being out of bounds, writing about them more than the politicians, accusing them, and rightly so, of indulging in “pack journalism.”
But why shouldn’t they complain? After all they were and are the diplomats in the press corps: the White House beat. They are the elite behaving the way elites behave. Poor Luke. He’ll never be a diplomat. And that is why we read him and he get’s a lot of traffic, despite the fact, as he pointed out, traffic didn’t take a bounce after the Modern Love story. That would alarm me, not the charge of cyberstalking.