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So I guess I’m an “underwear guy”

Dec 29, 2011, 8:29 AM EDT

Captain Underpants

George Vecsey wrote for the New York Times for 43 years. He’s retiring now. Unlike some others of his generation, he pretty much kept his fastball until the end and even when I disagreed with him I thought he was a great writer who really understood the game and the context in which it existed.

He’d get cranky sometimes, but rarely if ever do I call him pulling the “back in my day” baloney some older columnists use to disparage younger players, and that is probably one of the harder things to do in that business, what with your memory and experience becoming more valuable as you progress in your career.

Sadly, however,  in an interview about his life and career over at The Morning Delivery blog, Vecsey decided to employ that approach to disparage new media:

Q. How optimistic are you for the future of the U.S. Newspaper Industry?

A: Not. Newspapers are the engines that drive the Web. Without editors planning assignments and copy editors fixing mistakes, reporters quickly deteriorate into Underwear Guys writing blogs from their den. The sad thing is that everybody knows it—even politicians and business people know they need some source of actual information, even if they get whacked once in a while. But the economics and timidity of the newspaper business are working against that future. And the bloggers brag about knowing how things work from the sanctity of their dens.

I’ll have Mr. Vecsey know that, while I happen to be writing from my den, I am not writing this in my underwear. I am wearing pajama pants, slippers and a San Francisco Seals shirt.  But hey, at least I’m not assumed to be in my mother’s basement anymore. Guess we Underwear Guys are moving up in the world.

More seriously, I defy Mr. Vecsey or anyone else who buys what he’s selling here to find any blogger worth a damn who thinks that real reporters doing real reporting are somehow obsolete.  Yes, the medium of actual printed newspapers may be dying, but the business of gathering and disseminating information is not. Even if it can be done from a den as opposed to a newsroom.

Oh well. Maybe someday “Underwear Guys” and similar smears will die out. Guess it won’t be today.

  1. Ari Collins - Dec 29, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    There are, of course, people doing investigative reporting still. But that was killed by the news’ move towards entertainment and away from providing a public service. That started long ago, and, in fact, one could argue that online media, often less beholden to corporate sponsors, has been better with true investigative reporting than the dead tree establishment.

  2. aomage - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    Just because it is in newspaper print it doesn’t make everything that one writes professional or legitimate either contrary to what Vecsey might believe.

    It is not like all “blogs” lack peer review from editors as he states nor do they just type falsehoods. What has changed from newspapers to the internet asides from the medium itself is the amount of information one is able to gather through the internet, while raw at times it can be pretty powerful indeed.

    • protius - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:54 AM

      aomage, you desperately need a copy editor. Your first paragraph is barely intelligible, and your second paragraph lacks necessary punctuation. You give me the impression that you have a tenuous grip on the obvious, but that you struggle to express yourself.

      • b7p19 - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:29 AM

        Ouch, brutal.

      • woodenulykteneau - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:40 AM

        Indeed. Always nice to see Skitt’s law proven.

      • protius - Dec 29, 2011 at 11:21 AM

        Woody, always nice to see the top of your head.

  3. sdelmonte - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    The sad fact is that there are a lot of people who are not you, Craig, and who really don’t apply any sort of journalistic standards to what they do in their blogs. I would like to think that as we move along, such blogs lose a lot of their relevance and power and readership. But we aren’t there yet.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:15 AM

      Will Leitch made that comment back on Costas’s show when he was being eviscerated by Bissinger. There is a meritocracy among blogs which is why the good ones stick around and the bad ones die.

      Also, I’d have a lot more faith in the MSM going forward if they dropped the entertainment aspect as Ari mentioned and reported the news. The fact that Deadspin does more investigative reporting than espn is a shame.

  4. Old Gator - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    Hard to imagine the Times sports section without him. I’ve been reading that guy since I still needed t carry condoms around in my school lunchbox. Enjoy retirement, George.

    • yankeesfanlen - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:02 AM

      Vecsey is a classic. Then again, I’m biased because the Times is a Yankees newspaper (and mouthpiece).

      • bigharold - Dec 29, 2011 at 2:56 PM

        “…the Times is a Yankees newspaper (and mouthpiece).”

        You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      • Old Gator - Dec 29, 2011 at 4:15 PM

        Not at all. I’d put it in the same category as, oh, Heyman and Boras….

  5. dwrek5 - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Its a dang shame people can work from home now. They would be much more productive clogging highways, wasting gas, and not at all available for their household. Stupid innernets.

  6. nicosamuelson2 - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    I read this site in my underwear. In fact, I’m in bed right now.

    • Old Gator - Dec 29, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      Me too – but only when my neoprene wetsuit is at the dry cleaner’s.

  7. phukyouk - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    not that i have ever put one minute of thought into it, but, if i had to guess craig, i would have made you out for a boxers guy.

  8. acdc363 - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    Wow captain underpants flashback to 5th grade

  9. Francisco (FC) - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Without editors planning assignments and copy editors fixing mistakes, reporters quickly deteriorate into Underwear Guys writing blogs from their den.

    Hey, hey, hey, a little more respect! It’s a LAIR, not a den…

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:15 AM

      It’s a command center!

    • cur68 - Dec 29, 2011 at 1:05 PM

      Bunker, over here. In times of need, doubles as a redoubt. Mom says I can get leather furniture if I get a paper route to pay for it.

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 29, 2011 at 3:20 PM

        And the plastic slip covers come off when you’re potty trained?

      • Old Gator - Dec 29, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        Doodlebug funnel, here.

  10. trevorb06 - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    Craig, in his defense I think he is under the false illusion that all bloggers are freelance and therefore have no accountability for what they post if, say, they post something not fully accurate. He probably doesn’t realize that legitimate news and reporting companies such as NBC, CBS and I’ll even say FOX employ bloggers and hold them to standards. I’m sure if you made some inaccurate posts about a few big stories you’d be getting an email or phone call from your superiors. Had you made that same post on Shyster though nobody would truly be able to hold you accountable. Regardless, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and just assuming age is catching up with him. I hope he enjoys retirement and telling the kiddos to get off his damn lawn. :-)

    • jwbiii - Dec 29, 2011 at 3:44 PM

      The venerable Old Gray Lady employs bloggers as well. You may remember Nate Silver from hi Baseball Prospectus days:

      http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/

  11. tuftsb - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Two items:

    The Times skidded downhill rapidly after Dan Okrent’s term as public editor. He properly called out all reporters that had problems with the facts, including the editorial writers. A majority of the writers complained and made Okrent’s task impossible to do.

    The entertainment/investigative issue is key to the decline of MSM. To think that I could write something on October 12th connecting MLB security head Bill Bordley to Monica Lewinsky and the Starr Report and it took 75 days for the Washington Post to do the same story…….

  12. nolanwiffle - Dec 29, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Craig- judging from the picture accompanying the post, I’d say you went a tad too heavy on the figgy pudding over the Christmas season.

  13. protius - Dec 29, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Mr. Calcaterra, I think you’ve missed Vecsey’s point. He’s not playing the “back-in-the-day” card at all. In fact, he’s accusing bloggers of being lazy blowhards, who seldom gather and publish primary information.

    He argues that generally, bloggers marginalize the contributions that the newspaper industry makes to the Web. He explains that without lead editors and copy editors, et. al., to plan, develop and edit articles for publication, field reporters would just take their stories to the public in whatever shape they’re in (aomage’s post is a perfect example), which is like dumping raw sewerage into New York City’s drinking water reservoir.

    Vecsey asserts that if the bloggers truly believe that they don’t need the editors, then they must be satisfied with sitting home in their underwear, and publishing second-hand news. Apparently, he believes that this state of affairs is leading the U.S. Newspaper Industry into decline.

    • tuftsb - Dec 29, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      Thomas Jefferson – “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all avenues of the truth”.

      John Stuart Mill – “If we silence an opinion, we may silence the truth. The individual freedom of expression is therefore essential to the well-being of society. ”

      Let all information be aired in the public forum, to be attacked, supported and vetted.

      • protius - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        Jimi Hendrix – Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

      • cur68 - Dec 29, 2011 at 1:24 PM

        protius: a definition.
        – internet grammar cop and possessing a limited sense of who’s a “poster” vs “commenter”.
        -comments here about once a month and acts like its his job to correct some random person about how to spell and punctuate. Did anyone ask his opinion? No.
        -We happen to have a retired English professor commenting here. He rarely corrects anyone’s grammar or spelling.
        Now, since I’ve parsed my way through whatever point it was protius there was making and we’ve gone all “quotey” this AM, allow me to join the fray, and express my opinion of protius’s thoughts. I shall employ these few simple words from some fly-by-night named Benjamin Disraeli:

        “A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself.”

        Is all that a compliment or in fact a commentary on the push-up-bra-for-his-ego statement that Mr. Protius put forth? Dunno. Does Jimi Hendrix have a quote that would cover that?

      • JBerardi - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:21 PM

        “inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity”

        Wow, pot to kettle much?

      • cur68 - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:38 PM

        er, um…my pot to protius’s kettle or Disraeli’s to Gladstone’s? Bit hard to tell from the lack of clarity in your comment there JB. If the former: that’s the point, eh? If the latter: like totally, I know. Whatever you meant: happy holidays.

  14. protius - Dec 29, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    cur68: A study in how to manipulate a meathead, and teach him to write with some degree of intelligence on the Internet.

    When I first read cur’s inane drivel; he began every sentence with a lower case letter; he didn’t punctuate; he didn’t even bother to separate his paragraphs; he didn’t capitalize I’s, It was as if he was sending us a text message; he even had trouble expressing a complete thought, it was really pathetic. I felt sorry for the poor fool and tried to help him out, but he responded with the same little girl-like hissy fit that you see above. So, I decided to try a different approach……I’d use child psychology on him.

    Every time he posted a text message comment, I’d take him to task for it, and each time, his reply to my jibes showed a noticeable improvement in his composition. In short, what I did was to humiliate him into writing better. Now look at him, he’s “parsing” and quoting Disraeli. I’m so proud of him.

    Maybe in a couple of years, he’ll be able to write like a high school freshman, and his mom will let him wear big-boy pants.

    Oh, and as far as the retired English prof. not feeling the need to correct “anyone’s grammar or spelling” is concerned: All I’m gonna do is just go on and do what I feel. (Jimi Hendrix)

    Suck it cur

    • Old Gator - Dec 29, 2011 at 8:02 PM

      Who are you really – the ghost of Edwin Newman, speaking through a Ouija Scrabble planchette someone left on a keyboard?

    • cur68 - Dec 29, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      Well I’m just tickled. Look at that wall of text I got you to write, Mr. P! Well, since you kindly obliged my trolling by allowing yourself to be trolled, lets give you some feedback like you gave aomage.

      So lets see..failure to capitalize, misuse of colon, misuse of semi-colon, misuse of ellipses, misuse of commas (hell, let’s just call it a general failure to punctuate correctly shall we?) failure to cite correctly, stooping to ad hominem statements, and finishing up without a period. Nice.

      Yup, you’re the guy who should get one here and criticize the harmless remarks of others (not just once, but twice on the same post) and proclaim yourself the “educator” of another. I’m sure I won’t stop you from doing it again, but I like to think that somewhere aomage is sitting there reading this and having a laugh. Worth it, like, totally.

      • protius - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:28 AM

        His name is cur68, and he’s the defender of Internet dolts. Take a look at yourself cur; you’ve become aomage’s champion. Can you be any more pathetic then this?

        You just don’t get it do you? Absolute perfection in writing on the Web is unnecessary and unobtainable. Writing with clarity and insight should be everyone’s goal. Hell, before I humiliated you into improving your writing, you thought a colon was something your crap passed through. What I can’t understand is why you’re willing to come out in favor of dumbing down the conversation here.

        Please explain to us what is the point of posting a comment that leaves the readers scratching their heads, and asking themselves: Is this guy illiterate? Here’s a good example of what I’m mean: “Yup, you’re the guy who should get one here and criticize the harmless remarks of others (not just once, but twice on the same post) and proclaim yourself the “educator” of another”. Duh, which way did he go George?

        I argue: If you can’t make yourself understood, and at least try to punctuate like an adult, then what’s the point in posting a comment? I’ve read comments by posters who use English as their second language, and they’ve managed to make themselves better understood than some of the claptrap I’ve read here.

        I sincerely hope that somewhere aomage is reading this, and is laughing his ass off at your short-sighted stupidity.

      • Old Gator - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:18 AM

        Cur: they say you judge a man by the virulence of the enemies he makes. With a splenetic, histrionic jackass like this for an antagonist, you would have had a good chance of making the cover of Time this year if not for the Arab Spring protesters.

        Happy New Year to ya, and be careful of them marinated beavers if you’re planning to drive home up an icy incline.

      • cur68 - Dec 30, 2011 at 12:37 PM

        Thanks Gator, and righbackatya, in all respects.

  15. protius - Dec 30, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear” (Socrates). lmao

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