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During the past 12 months I've gotten literally thousands of e-mails in response to what I've written in this space. Though I was unable to answer every one, I do (eventually) read every single (non-spam) thing that comes into my inbox, and I'm deeply grateful for the feedback, whether you agree with me or not. To salute my readers, I herewith offer a quick round-up of some of the more interesting and entertaining responses to this column this year -- from my inbox and beyond:
In my column titled ""Hey, Magazines, Are You In or Are You Out?"" (and subtitled "Time to Step Up and Declare Whether You Still Believe in Publishing"), I suggested that the self-destructive, vision-impaired depressives populating the executive suites of a number of American magazine-publishing conglomerates would rather throw in the towel and just drive their brands into the ground than figure out a new business model for the Google Age.
In response, I got a rather wonderful e-mail from Eric Nakamura, the president and publisher of Giant Robot, an Asian-American pop-culture magazine that has long been one of my favorite indie reads. (The Giant Robot Online Store is rather awesome too.) Nakamura simply e-mailed: "I'm in! I'm still publishing. I still believe."
The one column this year that provoked the longest-lasting firestorm: ""Is the Newspaper Ombudsman More or Less Obsolete?"" In it, I played devil's advocate, wondering if so-called readers' advocates were really necessary anymore, given how readers are newly empowered to counter-spin the mainstream-media spin on the news -- thanks, for starters, to blogs and the explosion of online comment boards attached to individual articles. In response, it almost seemed as if just about every working ombudsperson around the world, at papers ranging from the San Antonio Express-News to The Guardian (U.K.), eventually felt compelled to write a spirited defense of the profession -- and/or basically call me an idiot. Among non-ombuds, Phil Bronstein, former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, mostly agreed with me in his Chronicle column, noting "that the public is in a much better position to participate and be heard by newsrooms." Arguably the best-ever ombudsman, Daniel Okrent (the very first so-called public editor at the late-to-the-game New York Times), rather winningly wrote an open letter to Jim Romenesko's media blog to make the point (among others) that "If Dumenco thinks ombuds are inevitably 'boring as hell' and beset by a 'pedantic sensibility,' then he clearly has not been reading Clark Hoyt's superb work in the Times." But I was most charmed by K. Narayanan at The Hindu, India's national newspaper, who wrapped up his pro-ombuds argument with some self-deprecating hedging in direct response to my disses: "Of course," he wrote, "I am elderly, paternal and may be boring!"
Sadly (and tellingly), I didn't get a single e-mail from a non-journalist newspaper reader championing ombudsmen.
Does "High School Musical 3" star Zac Efron read Ad Age? Well, he did at least one time. After my column dissecting the "HSM" phenomenon and the mass marketing of Disney-demographic stars with a lot of help from stalker paparazzi, Efron (whom I've interviewed in the past) e-mailed, "Great column :-) You pretty much summed up my feelings toward the papz these days." (Shortly thereafter, his movie opened, grabbing the top box-office spot in the U.S. and in more than a dozen countries around the world, the biggest global No. 1 opening since "The Dark Knight." "HSM3" has grossed nearly $225 million.)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston took issue with my Sept. 29 column, in which I took to task the "rah-rah financial media" (I singled out Fox Business News) for failing to sufficiently question Wall Street shenanigans during the recent boom years. "Some of us," Johnston e-mailed, "have for years been writing and warning about the risks, including me, in both The [New York] Times and in my bestselling books and hundreds of lectures, and my former colleagues Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris. Various journalists at Fortune, BusinessWeek and The Economist also did solid work, as I am sure did some others." Johnston is absolutely right, and I thank him (by the way, his most recent book, "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You With the Bill," is a must-read) and the colleagues he cites. I only wish there were more of their caliber.
I expected that my "Twitter, R.I.P.? Or Is There Gold Buried in Them Thar Tweets?" column would get some haiku-like responses -- on Twitter. Clearly, a lot of the "conversation" was echo-chamber nonsense by people who can't even properly skim an 800-word column without coming to boneheaded conclusions such as "Dumenco hates Twitter" (not true; I'm a Twitter user myself, but I continue to argue that it's too often used to enable mush-brained narcissism -- i.e., every idiotic little thing I think or do is worth micro-blogging about! -- and I question its long-term business prospects). But I particularly appreciated the tweet of Martin Bosworth (martinboz on Twitter) who summed up my argument thusly: "Twitter can't be made into a money machine, therefore it (like me) is useless." Touché! Or something.