A couple of years ago, The Daily Banter was getting shout-outs in stellar publications like examiner.com. “Some site called The Daily Banter, whatever that is,” wrote one of the unpaid conservative columnists, after laying into us for some perceived slight.
At that point, we’d take what we could get.
Fast forward to today, and we’re getting written up by the likes of Frank Bruni in The New York Times. After years of toiling away in obscurity, it was nice to get some recognition by the most respected newspaper in America. On Sunday, Bruni gave Chez Pazienza a shout out for accurately depicting the media frenzy surrounding the Elliot Rodger massacre and everyone’s desire to project their own political ideology onto the tragedy.
But after quoting Chez, Bruni quickly dismissed us as a grandstanding “Hamburger Helper” site with no “beef”. He wrote:
Rodger became “the Rosetta Stone that can make all your previous pseudo-intellectual grandstanding fall neatly into place,” in the words of Chez Pazienza on The Daily Banter website, which is in fact one of the many relatively new vessels for such grandstanding.
Grandstanding is booming as traditional news gathering struggles to survive: It’s more easily summoned, more cheaply produced. It doesn’t require opening bureaus around the country or picking up correspondents’ travel expenses or paying them for weeks on end just to dig. So it fills publications, websites and television airtime the way noodles stretch out a casserole, until we’re looking at a media meal that’s almost all Hamburger Helper and no beef.
It is ironic that Bruni chose that weekend to rip into us. No more than 36 hours before Bruni’s piece was published Chez Pazienza had just helped hunt down the Sandy Hook memorial sign thief with some incredibly thorough and careful journalism.
Perhaps more ironic though is that Bruni himself gets paid to do nothing more than grandstand.
In fact, the last thing resembling non-grandstanding writing Bruni did was to report on swanky restaurants for the Times. His reporting included hits like “4 Lisbon Restaurants Not to Miss“, and “Worshiping at the Altar of Ramen“.
Very. Serious. Journalism.
This isn’t to bash Bruni’s writing; I like it, and I’d certainly take his restaurant recommendations when visiting New York. But what I don’t like is Bruni’s high-handed and astonishingly hypocritical dismissal of a site he knows nothing about, simply because he writes for the Times.
I have gone broke several times over getting The Daily Banter off the ground. I sold my apartment to make sure my writers got paid, begged and borrowed from family members to keep it going, did considerable damage to my personal life, and took risks Bruni will never truly understand.
Chez Pazienza and Bob Cesca have taken similar risks, having been with me from the start. They helped build this site, and as a team, we have steadfastly refused to follow the click-bait nonsense churned out by the likes of BuzzFeed and EliteDaily, despite it being the surest way to succeed.
The site has motored along on a shoe-string budget and is growing rapidly because of the content we put out. Much of it is grandstanding (we’re pretty good at it), but we also do serious reporting despite how expensive and time consuming it is. I’ve always believed you need a mixture to succeed in this game – the attitude creates the name, then that allows us to do real work once we get the recognition.
And we’re doing it.
The New York Times does not make money off of its reporting. It makes money peddling opinion pieces crapped out by the likes of Tom Friedman and Frank Bruni. The Op Ed writers amass audiences by making clever analogies between broken Vases and civil war in Iraq, and huge generalizations about America being in decline because of a conversation they had with a friend (“one of the smartest men I know”!). That’s how publishing works, and Bruni is an integral part of the stretched out casserole.
Bruni did preface his argument with a moment of self-awareness regarding the culture of commentary over news. “The economy of contemporary journalism encourages this,” he wrote. “It favors riffing over reportage, and it’s lousy with opinions, including the one expressed here. I sin whereof I speak. I also present this as a confession and a penance.”
In other words, I don’t like opinion pieces, but I write for The New York Times, so I can do them.
Thanks for the write up Frank, but a little less of the grandstanding please. Remember, you’re a noodle, not a piece of meat.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.