(UPDATED) Karen K. Ho is the young Toronto hack who almost but not quite committed actionable defamation against me. Through no fault of her own, she got shitcanned by Torstar when it shut down its doomed-from-the-start Mississauga business “vertical.” We’ve never met, and she’s too much of a coward to take up my standing offer for haters. Reading her, I see nothing that would stop me from lumping her in with other downtown-progressive journalists who all know each other, agree on everything hence brook no dissent, and are fundamentally dishonest about their own feelings, which they can’t express even when you pay them to.

They’re also technically incompetent. As I explained in the context of the endless stream of compliant young female editrixen of J-Source, these hacks think Twitter is journalism. It isn’t.

A couple of days ago, Ho went on a tear on Twitter, which had all the effect on the world you would expect, about the structural or institutional failings of mainstream journalism and how those failings result in alienation of and simple refusal to hire young journalists.

  1. Can you find that “essay”? What is the permanent link for the entire article as a unit? If you located it today, could you locate it next week? How about in 2017? How about when Twitter shuts down? Twits have permalinks but are inimical to actual citation. (For a period of many months, individual Twits weren’t just inimical to citation but could not be cited because of an errant decision to use #! addressing. Can you tell me why that was a problem?)

  2. Kids like Ho don’t know what an ordered list is anyway, but, because Twits may not contain markup, Ho chose to manually number her missives – which then obligingly appeared in reverse chronological order. Twitter journalists literally cannot count.

    Once you find the permanent link to Ho’s essay, then, can you read it in actual narrative sequence?

  3. Do you need somebody to come along and save this sequence of Twits in a third-party microservice that will be shut down someday too, which doesn’t use real HTML, and which itself cannot untangle top-posting and does not use canonical permalinks? (If you’re a former compliant editrix of J-Source, you get a promotion and go to work for one of those microservices. Scribd and CoverItLive aren’t journalism, either.) Or do you need someone like me to come along and untangle your words for posterity? If so, does what you wrote exist in any real way?

If Ho wanted to make a credible, long-lasting point, if she wanted her words to have longevity, she would have put up a Web page somewhere (anywhere) containing her essay. She runs a WordPress blog that is a good place to start, unless and until WordPress decides to simply delete her blog or it goes out of business. She didn’t. Even with a stable platform available to her, Ho chose an evanescent medium as the graveyard for her thoughts.

Online journalists, irrespective of age, need a range of technical skills that are an absolute minimum and which none of them have. Hacks don’t use text editors (king of downtown-progressive journos Ivor Tossell writes everything in MS Word); simply do not understand how to create characters not imprinted on their keyboards, hence also do not know what character encoding is and why it matters; and are unable to produce even the simplest page of HTML, of the sort one would need for a journalistic article.

In that last case, hacks are unable to wrap their minds around a tiny subset of HTML elements (not “tags”), let alone produce them. Typical articles need nothing more than h1 through at most h3, p, ol/ul li, blockquote, img with alternate text, a, and some kind of emphasis. If you can’t produce those from scratch, then, pace Capote, you aren’t writing, you’re typing. (But of course you wouldn’t truly “produce those from scratch”; your text editor, which obviously would be BBEdit, would give you templates and keyboard macros to automate the process.) Given a printout of the post you are now reading, there is not a single promising young journalist in Toronto who could type it out and mark it up properly. They couldn’t mark up this paragraph.

Youth and enthusiasm and a claim to be a digital native are null and void when that claim is undone by technical incompetence. Since I’m sure you won’t accept the word of a technically competent journalist because I’m not your kind of people and you’d prefer to just keep making mistakes than take my advice, take Derek Willis’s advice instead.

[T]oo many journalism students and journalists are native users rather than actual natives. The difference is enormous, and has real implications. Actual natives can build in addition to use digital tools, giving themselves many more opportunities to make better journalism. Users can only work within the constraints that other people set.

When I’m teaching classes or looking at r[é]sum[é]s of journalism students, I see a lot of this kind of thing, usually on a hosted WordPress install:

Skills: WordPress, Microsoft Office, social media

Those are useful skills, to a point, but if you’re coming out of journalism school and those are your big technical skills, congratulations: you’ve just joined nearly all of your peers in almost every discipline. You can use TweetDeck? Great. Did you hand-code at least part of your “professional vanity site”? Do you actually know how the Internet works? […]

Maybe the worst moment I’ve had as a journalism teacher is when a graduate student asked me, in the middle of class: “How are we expected to learn if you don’t teach us?” My first thought, which I safely kept unspoken, was: “How did you make it this far?”


Ho probably forgot that I pointed out the observations of an actually credible Asian-American journalist, Jennifer 8 Lee, on the topic of Chinese superstition about the luckiness of the number 8. (I say Asian-American because Ho brags of having joined the Asian American Journalists[’] Association despite not obviously being both of those.) As immune to irony as millennials tend to be, in her Twitter epistle she went on to decry an ancient Chinese tradition that had to die in order for modernity to progress. Now, try to find the where she did that. Hard-hitting stuff, this Twitter journalism.

Four months later, Ho responds

Karen K. Ho mailed me yesterday (2015.01.28) for some reason. Excerpted:

The simple matter of why I did not write the essay on my WordPress blog is I didn’t expect it to become an essay at all

despite numbering its paragraphs.

and writing things in 140 character chunks causes me less anxiety. I should have posted or embedded the collection on my blog afterwards, but it was not a priority of mine at the time.

I learned HTML and CSS back when you needed them to manually modify templates for LiveJournal and OpenDiary. I have rarely ever had to use them during a job. Most hiring editors would prefer I know how to take and process photographs with a DSLR, use InDesign, or be able to read financial statements and earnings reports. Some of those are technical skills, like the ones I learned in television production. But I know not all journalism jobs require them, need them or even find them useful. […]

From my experience talking with other journalists and editors, knowledge of Mandarin or video-editing skills would be seen as more valuable than knowing how to mark up a paragraph, JQuery or have a thorough understanding of Unicode. However, this would be their assessment for a general reporter or business reporter, not a Web producer who may have aspirations or encouragement to develop interactive graphics or intricate parallax digital features [sic].

As someone who you point out is Asian, but not American, I don’t know what the term “your kind of people” implies.

It doesn’t mean what she insinuates it means. It means her social class long ago agreed to despise me. In downtown-progressive fashion, she twists the knife in the next sentence:

There are certainly a lot of white males of similar in age to you I see currently working in Canadian newsrooms.

How many of them are gay, Karen? Gay with technical competence? To downtown progressives, racism is the ur-issue.

A technically competent journalist who gives advice but does so in a demoralizing and patronizing tone is incredibly hard to listen to. You do have an incredible amount of experience and knowledge about a lot of different subjects. However, no one likes feeling like someone is loudly implying or proclaiming they are stupid and/or useless, especially in public forums.

Life is often hard enough as it is, and many people, including myself, would rather not subject themselves to someone else talking down to them if they can avoid it.

And I’m going to stop there, because at the outset she attacked me. I didn’t know her from Adam when she took to Twitter to lambaste me. Elsewhere, Ho proved that she, like others of her generation (Ho tells me she’s 28), does not know what “hack” means. I stipulate she doesn’t like being called a kid. Well, I don’t like the way her peer group treats me.

As I wrote to her last night:

I see rampant ineptitude and inexpertise in the specific fields I address, which are not a zero-sum game with other fields. You can gain the expertise I say you need in no time at all. (First you’d buy BBEdit.) Semantic markup is a foundational skill; the fact none of your bosses, you claim, understand this fact is merely symptomatic. You’ve explained that the entire editorial chain, not just kid hacks, has no idea how the Web works.

Further, I don’t understand why Ho is complaining. Her degree of technical competence and her first-strike nastiness are the absolute norm in Toronto journalism. Nobody likes a sore winner.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2014.09.25 11:58. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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