PAPERBOY EXTRA: The Passion Of The Phawker

From this week’s issue of the Philadelphia Weekly:

Running about an hour late, local blogger Jonathan Valania, a former PW staff writer, blew into a 300-student journalism class at Temple University last week with a devil-may-care attitude and what he thought were a few sly remarks intended to spark debate.

Valania, 41 — founder and editor of a news and culture blog called Phawker — all but sprinted to the front of the room, and without so much as an introduction, asked the class how many students were majoring in journalism.

When the majority of the students in the lecture hall raised their hands, he snapped, “That wasmepw.jpg your first mistake.”

Everyone laughed. He had to be joking. This was, after all, an introductory “journalism and society” course. No way he could be serious.

But apparently he was. Valania went on to trash the choice of journalism as a major. He said you either have writing skills or you don’t, and that students looking to start a career in the field should major in something “useful.”

After about 20 minutes of offensive, outlandish and sometimes tongue-in-cheek commentary — he said reading competitor blog Philebrity, for which he once wrote, was like looking at pictures of his ex-girlfriend naked — he walked out the classroom door and was gone.

Later that day he posted this on Phawker: “Today I saw the future — and it looked at me like a dog shown a card trick.”

Good to know — whatever that means. MORE


Ahem. The following is an email exchange from last week with the author of the above PW story. Most of my answers to her questions didn’t make the cut — apparently to make room for people to refute my comments after they have been taken out of context, but without ever really addressing the substance of my argument, just the superficiality of its delivery. Be that as it may, I’ve included the exchange here in the interest of balance. Lastly, as for Larry Mendte characterizing my intentions as ‘sinister’ I can only say this: I am sure Larry Mendte is a very nice guy, but he works in TV. That’s like asking the tobacco companies how to cure cancer. Just sayin’.

MORGAN A. ZALOT: Some people say that you just said outrageous things to get a reaction, is that true?

ME: Guilty as charged. But it wasn’t just for cheap shock value, I was just trying to get people to think and maybe question some of their assumptions. That, and make people laugh.

MORGAN A. ZALOT: Why, again do you think journalism is a useless major?

ME: Let me be clear, journalism is NOT a useless major, and god help us if we ever run out ofmepwsepia.jpg reliable, objective collectors of the facts. I was just trying to point out that there is more than one way to get there.

MORGAN A. ZALOT: And what made you want to come into a class and risk possibly insulting people?
ME: My intention wasn’t to insult people, it was to get their attention. In that regard, I would say I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. To anyone in your class who was truly insulted by somebody questioning the things they believe to be true, you might want to consider another career. Journalism is all about questioning the things you hold to be true. All day, every day.

MORGAN A. ZALOT: George Miller says you’re dead wrong, what’s your response to that?

ME: I may well be. Look, I don’t pretend to be the guru of Journalism, I don’t even pretend to have the answers to all the questions I raised. I’m just trying to spark a debate.

PREVIOUSLY: Today I Saw…The Future
PREVIOUSLY: The Kids Are All Right
PREVIOUSLY: We Are Watching You


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