Jay Rosen: A lesson in transparent humility

NYU professor and blogger Jay Rosen is well-known and recognized in journalistic circles for his work and thoughts on public journalism, new media, and democracy.

He is also a prolific Twitterer (@jayrosen_nyu) with more than 35,000 followers.

Today, he showcased one of the primary — and these days, underappreciated — journalistic virtues on Twitter: humility.

In this age of punditry, the assertion has become the rhetorical tool of choice. No longer is discussion prized; instead, it’s whether you “win” by talking over the other panelists. If you admit ignorance, you lose.

So color me surprised when Rosen posted a simple query about the World Cup:

Jay Rosen World Cup tweet

My guess is many non-soccer fans have asked this same question (full disclosure: I have wondered about this issue myself). In this case, Rosen did as great journalists past have done.

He asked the question without fear.

From many corners came raised eyebrows and howls. And instead of cowering, he again did what any self-respecting journalist should do: He shared the comments with his followers.

Here’s the full rundown from his stream:

  • Okay, who wants to hear the top answers from my Twitter subscribers to my question about why there are so few goals in international soccer?
  • Okay, here we go… top answers from my subscribers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 1.) The teams haven’t played together (me: and the defense has?)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 2.) At higher levels of skill, the defenses are WAY better. (Me: uh, this just re-states the question.)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 3.) Because scoring goals is HARD, you soccer moron. (Me: whereas preventing goals is easier? But why?)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 4.) Why do you need an article? Just watch the game and you will see (Unstated: you moron!)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 5.) “OMG, the Americans are trying to understand football. Don’t, just… don’t.” (You morons!)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 6.) Because goals basically come from screw-ups and at this level there are fewer screw-ups. (Me: hmmm.)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 7.) Tactical decision to play a certain (cautious) style, popularized by Italy. (Me: okay, makes sense.)
  • Top answers to http://bit.ly/aGC0s5 8.) You are insulting the beauty of the game by asking that question, and no I don’t have a URL for you.
  • Okay, the storm has passed. That concludes my review of the answers I received to my (sincere!) question about goal scoring in int’l soccer.

That exchange is a model more journalists should emulate. Be humble. Be transparent. And for God’s sake, ask the question without fear.

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One thought on “Jay Rosen: A lesson in transparent humility

  1. There’s some truth in many of these responses, but the best answer is that teams are strategically conservative in the first round of the group stages. Better to get one point from a tie than to push too far forward and risk conceding a goal on the counterattack. In the next two rounds of matches, you’ll see teams playing more aggressively as they have a better idea of where they stand in their groups and what they need to advance.

    But to your journalistic point: I’ve done this with Twitter as well. Ask a stupid question — or one you already know the answer to — and hope that someone challenges you to think of an angle you hadn’t considered.

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