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RIP, Library Journal

One of the nice things about reaching a certain point in life is the ability in any given situation to hoist the bullshit flag, wave it around a minute, and move on.

So when I saw that Library Journal had hired an anonymous blogger, that’s what I did. I said my piece to several people in and out of LJ. I told friends who write there that they are not bettering their careers by associating themselves with a magazine that can’t decide what it stands for — real journalism or page hits — but they are still my friends (even though I won’t be citing them any more). I expressed myself on Twitter and Friendfeed.

Then I took LJ off my list of magazines I read (I’ve never worked anywhere that I saw the print edition in a timely fashion, so this really means no longer scanning their discombobulated website).

Because if there’s anything really important on LJ, someone will push it my way. And once a member of the fourth estate loses its footing, I don’t have any reason to read it on a regular basis.  I get enough claptrap in my life. I thought LJ was a North Star.  But it is now an asteroid crashing to earth, pulled to its doom by its hunger for Google-juice at all costs.

In the past, LJ stood out as a significant “outside voice” to American Libraries. I respect AL, I loved writing for them, and I believe its editorial policy is far more “fair and balanced” than people realize. But it still comes from ALA and that makes it a house organ, if only by association.

I didn’t read LJ to hear the cowardly natterings of some anonymous blogger. I read it for straight-up reporting I could believe in, and opinion from people who had the balls to put their bylines on their posts. John Berry could be outrageous, but I could pick up the phone and talk to him.

I admit that as a professional, with each action over the years I have alternately feared and anticipated Norm Oder’s cocked eyebrow, his pen poised over pad.  If I can’t explain what I’m doing to Norm in a way that feels good to me, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it.

And that is what the press is for. It is why they are the Fourth Estate. It is why librarians and journalists get along so well — because in the end, at our best, we are about the astringent cleansing power of sunshine.

LJ can do what it wants.  Hire anonymous bloggers.  Or hey, start a column by Jerome Corsi — he’s a well-spoken attention-getter, which seems to be what LJ wants. It’s a free world and they have control over their decisions. And I can do what I want, which is ignore them the way I ignore Fox News.

But LJ, you have jumped the shark. LJ, I hardly knew ye.

How brief the good things are. When I was stationed in England in 1984, I went to Southend-on-Sea one weekend and in the grand English tradition, bought some hilariously bawdy postcards. My favorite postcard featured stern women in Salvation Army uniforms, marching in a circle, with picket signs aloft that said, “Ladies! An hour of pleasure is not worth a lifetime of regret!” And on the sidelines a Pretty Young Thing was asking, “Cor, how do you make it last an hour?”

LJ made it last for much longer than an hour… but when it ends, it will seem as if it were gone in a flash.

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