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Denby vs. Wonkette vs. Denby


Is this a case of the media snake swallowing its own tail, another example of how mainstream media just don't get new media, or simply bad fact-checking?

In one corner: David Denby, New Yorker film critic and author of "Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation." Snark, as Denby defines it, is the "nasty, insidious, rug-pulling, teasing insult, which makes reference to some generally understood shared prejudice or distaste." Among the offenders he notes is Wonkette, the Washington gossip blog.

And in the opposing corner, coming out swinging: Wonkette, the Washington gossip blog, not offended for being called snarky but by "the crucial, objective and lazy factual errors Denby makes." Let it be said that Associate Editor Jim Newell bought the book only to find said errors — and he wouldn't mind getting that $15.95 back.

Denby was asked by Jacket Copy which of his nine principles of snark he thought was the worst. He answered:

No. 5. Total disregard of routine journalism. No phone calls, no checking things out. Journalism should try not to slander people.

The other one, No. 3. The trashiness of the jokes. The laziness. Just grabbing something off the rotting heap.

Whatever their tolerance of trashiness, Wonkette's editors take greatest issue with the "not checking things out." Denby refers to a few Wonkette posts in his book, including a satiric one about Chelsea Clinton, written, he maintains, by "young women" in the grips of "jealousy" — the "women" in question being Jim Newell, whose byline was easy enough to spot. Wonkette explains the satire — Denby didn't get, or wasn't amused by, their "Mircale Worker" parody. They also explain that his comments on their coverage of Ted Kennedy use mixed-up timing to misrepresent what they'd posted when he fell ill.

Speaking of bad timing, Denby is in the middle of doing NPR call-in shows, including one this morning in Texas and Patt Morrison's today on KPCC-FM. Wonkette fans are calling in and trying to press him on the facts, when he really just wants to promote his book.

Oh, and a note to our rabid, repeated-effort commentor yesterday on this issue: You can use all the different pseudonyms you want, but your comments, sadly, were too snarky for publication.

—Carolyn Kellogg

David Denby photo: Casey Kelbaugh / Simon & Schuster

Comments () | Archives (3)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I could be very snarky about that photo of Denby, but it would be too easy.

As an American expat, I read Wonkette, primarily because it provides an accurate, yet humourous take on American politics. Wonkette often re-posts news from mainstream news sources and provides 'snarky' commentary that makes it digestible. In today's world, the utter disdain felt during the Bush administration and now the grim, humourless diatribes put forth by Fox News, the Corner, and other GOP sites are much easier to digest when laughing. I feel that the ability to laugh at oneself, and to see humour in the horrible are symptomatic of an enlightened individual. Unfortunately, David Denby seems to be lacking the intellectual insight to see this. Also unfortunate is the fact that many authors and reporters (like Denby) fail to see the importance of fact-checking before publishing their own point of view, entering into public discourse and positing skewed views intended to incite outrage in a particular demographic. Good on Wonkette for calling him out on it! More people should speak out and insist on accuracy in the media.

Could we have a post of the snarky comments? That sounds really funny.
Also, Denby is always railing primly against the content of movies these days and sometimes just seems too delicate for this world. That said, he has something of a pont about the everything-is-a-joke world of the modern internet. I just wish he would a) get his facts right and b) stop being such a priss.


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