Tweeting with CHE

by zunguzungu

The Chronicle of Higher Education has done the sensible thing and fired Naomi Schaefer Riley:

We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.

As many have noted, the CHE did not exactly shower themselves with glory in all of this, though of course, it was hiring her in the first place for which they deserve the real ignominy.

Anyway, one little side note was CHE’s “Editorial Promotions Manager” Amy Lynn Alexander, who had some illuminatingly obnoxious exchanges with several people on twitter (as @Chronicle_Amy), most notably with @tressiemcphd, one of the first people to flag CHE’s blog post as indefensibly stupid-racist. Student Activist covered that exchange, which was truly ugly. The pretense of good faith would have been a little more effective if it hadn’t been applied with intense condescension and a really random and idiosyncratic set of punctuation choices (she likes to capitalize Important Words, it seems). But anyway; it’s always interesting — and illuminating — when people like her actually try to use social media in this way. As Lili once documented, these kinds of media can be really unforgiving to people who don’t realize what they look like when they actually allow themselves to show their true feelings, people who obviously feel that their job is to explain things to people, not take their voices seriously.

For my part, I tried to follow Lili’s example, in one particular way: persistently ask Alexander the same question, which was “did she think the piece followed basic standards?” She actually responded, twice, and was much more civil with me — showing, in fact, the way civility can become a fetish in these kinds of conversations, for people who think they can avoid actually addressing what’s at stake — but eventually she just shut down; she could respond to other kinds of attacks with deflections and (fairly wild) changes of subject. But a simple question is hard to spin; either they had standards which could be referenced or they didn’t, and she either felt that Riley met them, or she didn’t. None of those answers take the conversation into a confortable place for her, so she shut down.

May 4th

@zunguzungu, 7:04 am: Are you defending NSR’s piece on its merits — arguing that it has merit — or CHE’s right to publish stuff without merit?

@zunguzungu, 7:05 am: You’re being vague on that question, to my mind, fudging what is, to my mind, a pretty important distinction.

@zunguzungu, 7:06 am: The question isn’t whether we “like” it; problem is it doesn’t meet even most minimal standards for academic good faith. (in response to her earlier tweet “Actually, NRS’s piece is Opinion not an “article.” Folks aren’t going to like all Opinions.#FirstAmendment #MediaLiteracy”)

@zunguzungu, 7:08 am: I ask because the real question is this: does CHE have any standards at all for what it pays people to write on their blog?

@Chronicle_Amy, 7:14: Now that is fair, well stated critique. We are mindful of QualityofIdeas.

@zunguzungu, 7:18 am: That’s not a critique, it’s a question. Does the CHE have standards? “Quality of Ideas” is almost meaninglessly vague.

@zunguzungu, 7:24 am: It’s a simple question; does CHE have standards for what it will publish on its blog? What does “Quality of Ideas” mean?

@zunguzungu, 7:37 am: At stake in my question — which you haven’t answered — is whether CHE holds itself to academic standards of discourse.

@Chronicle_Amy, 7:40 am: Bloggers adhere to Guidelines, yes. CHE tho doesn’t police philosophy.

@zunguzungu, 7:43 am: OK, that’s something, but what *are* those guidelines?

@zunguzungu, 7:46 am: Do you think that condemning the quality of dissertations that you haven’t read meets scholarly standards for rigor?

@zunguzungu, 8:26 am: So, does condemning the quality of dissertations that you haven’t actually read meet the CHE’s “guidelines” for bloggers?

@zunguzungu, 9:57 am: Has @Chronicle_Amy decided that the conversation is over? She still hasn’t answered the question I’ve been putting to her.

@zunguzungu, 9:58 am: Which is: Does CHE have standards for what constitutes acceptable scholarly practice for bloggers? What are they?

May 5th:

@zunguzungu, 12:07 pm: One of the things twitter makes visible is the moment when a person like @Chronicle_Amy decides the conversation is over.

@zunguzungu, 12:08 pm: Or that she’ll answer certain kinds of tweets, but can refuse to answer the ones for which she apparently lacks answers.