Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Warren Throckmorton's blog has been 410'd from Patheos--a musing on how hostile sources and editors don't spike stories as fast as publishers and advertisers do

One of the things that happens when you blog and when you do what's colloquially known as watchblogging, is you keep track of when things appear and, more crucially, when things disappear.

So when Warren Throckmorton's blog vanished in the last 24 hours from Patheos that was impossible not to notice.  Throckmorton has a new blog up with a short explanation, as far as one can be provided at the moment.


I hope to have more to say about it soon but for now, I can report that I am blogging here now at wthrockmorton.com.  Patheos leadership informed me yesterday that my blog no longer fit their “strategic objectives.” Since I don’t know what those are, I can’t say how I didn’t fit them.
In any case, thanks to friend J.D. Smith, the blog was quickly migrated with the content to this ad free site. The downside is that I have been unable as yet to find out from Patheos how to get my comments moved along with the posts.

What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.

A temptation former Mars Hill people probably can't resist is to suppose that Mark Driscoll, having a new book coming along later this year, knows people who pull strings.  That seems improbable.  A guy with a church that has, informally reported so far at places like Throckmorton's blog and online boards, got a church that has maxed out in the 300 to 400 range doesn't necessarily have the clout to pull the plug.  Someone else with GFA connections, maybe ... but even in that case it seems that this is thinking to low on the proverbial totem pole. 

Now BeliefNet  (which acquired Patheos) or BN Media Associates, that's another matter.  Perhaps weirdly, anti-virus and web protection software raises up red flags that says the BN Media Associates website is very high risk and are you sure you want to go there?  So we won't link to their website at the moment.


Let me put it this way, when I was a journalism student my journalism professor gave a lecture on censorship and story spiking and said that what she had found in her time as a journalist was that the fastest ways stories got spiked was never from hostile sources.  You could have a genuinely hostile and uncooperative source and if you were studious and scrupulous you could frequently find what you needed to know even if one high-powered but recalcitrant source would never talk to you.  If there's anything that, say, Wenatchee The Hatchet has established as a blog it's that it's possible to write possibly a million words about Mark Driscoll's former church without so much as having a single phone conversation with the guy of any note in a twenty year period?  Why?  Because the guy's stuff has swamped the internet, that's why, ,for one.  For another, so many sources WERE willing to talk and whatever my modest abilities as a blogger I did earn a journalism degree and did spend about a decade in non-profit development support.  So where a lot of people might see annual reports and be tempted to say "all lies" there was fascinating information for the kind of person who got used to audit compliance protocols in a large and healthy non-profit. 

But I digress ...

No, my professor explained, hostile sources are rarely, if ever, what spikes a news story.  Even editorial censorship isn't usually what kills a story.  An editor may strongly dislike where a story is going but may run it even after hostile editing.

What historically HAD led to stories being spiked, my professor said, was furious advertisers or top-down pressure from the publisher.  When ad revenue is on the line or advertising groups whose money pays for ad space want a story spiked that's when stories can get spiked, spiked hard, and without so much as a trace that they could have been stories showing up in the publications in question.

It's trite, but follow the money, but the caveat here would be that you're not necessarily following the money that goes to someone who is some local church pastor.  You might want to go higher up and consider who owns a platform that might decide that someone is not good enough for the advertising revenue or who runs stories that the advertisers or sponsors might be unhappy about.  There is virtually no way the post-resignation Mark Driscoll has that kind of money floating around that a Patheos blogger's blog can be taken away.  Whoever made that call has to be way, way higher up the food chain than Mark Driscoll is apt to be right now.  He's gearing up for the release of his next book but The Trinity Church is still small potatoes compared to what Mars Hill was a few years ago even in its year of precipitous decline. 

Having never really cared for Patheos at one level I'm glad Throckmorton's not blogging at the platform, even if it seems dubious why he should suddenly be kicked off of Patheos recently.  Still, it's something to keep in mind in the age of the blog.  People high up enough with administrative decision-making power can end everything with a few key strokes.  It's something to keep in mind.  A few axiomatic warnings from Ben Bagdikian are coming to mind but I won't bore you with those. 


chris e said...

... perhaps eventually people will start to pause when a new aggregation platform comes along and offers to host their blog.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

like when a Facebook supplants a Myspace, so to speak? ;)

chris e said...

The dynamic was somewhat different. Patheos specifically sought out particular bloggers to build themselves up on the back of a 'wide church' approach.

One could argue that with hindsight a lot of the bloggers would have been better off on their own (some would not - of course).