Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Joe Rago was right

Joe Rago wrote a disparaging op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying that blogs are predominantly poorly written and that the best actual reporting comes from the main stream media. He didn’t point to any specific blogs and Hugh Hewitt took him to task for not using the idea of exceptions in a radio interview.
Predictably, bloggers responded by burning a Joe Rago doll in effigy and storming the palace of the main stream media. For some reason many bloggers decided to take off one glove, and metaphorically slap Joe across the face like Bugs Bunny used to do in my favorite cartoons and say, “Of course you know, this means war.”
Clearly some of what Rago said is true: Many blogs are poorly written, very few blogs do any actual “reportage,” the speed with which blogs respond to events almost necessarily limits the amount of time that can go into a thoughtful analysis, and commentary blogs are predictable with right wing and left wing talking points hashed out in a never ending echo chamber. See this blog: I am writing a post about an editorial that has already been written about by thousands upon thousands of others.
Proponents of blogs often cite “A-List” blogs is their great examples and hold them up as the standard of blogging when the reality is that very few blogs are great “A-List” material read by millions. Most blogs are crappy cat-blogs like mine with nothing to offer. But since there is no barrier to entry I can offer nothing and be read by no one and it doesn’t matter it didn’t cost me anything. If you don’t believe me, consider the fact that there are more than 50 million blogs, with 7200 new ones created every hour. Now if only 1% of these blogs were great that would mean that there are over 500,000 great blogs. There are not. But for some reason, bloggers will not concede that most blogs are crap even though more than 99% of them are crap. It’s as if admitting the obvious will somehow diminish the power of the all-mighty blog.
When critiquing MSM we don’t point out that most MSM outlets incessantly focus on entertainment, celebrity, and simply follow what the larger outlets are printing so that every newspaper in the country looks like it was written by the same few correspondents and reporters. We don’t take an article from the National Enquirer or People or Parade and hold it up as the gold standard of journalism, even though there is plenty of that type of reporting. Similarly we should not hold up 20 of the best blogs and claim they are representative of the entire blogosphere.
The MSM would prefer that everyone agree that the only thing they produce is hard hitting investigative reporting a la Woodward and Bernstein so we should leave the hard-hitting reporting to the professionals. The blogosphere would like everyone to agree that blogging is a revolution that has democratized the conversation and is doing a better job than the MSM. They would reference the few times in all of human history where “the bloggers” got the story right and the MSM completely missed it as proof of their prowess.
In the end, both parties are wrong. You can’t have it both ways. You can argue that blogs are better than MSM only if you ignore the fact that 50+ million blogs are a complete waste of time and effort and maintain that because you can rattle off 30 “blogs” of highly educated, tech savvy, professional experts in their respective fields that those exceptions are not extraordinary but representative of blogging as a whole. You can also argue that the MSM is the best instrument of professional journalism only if you ignore all of the tabloids, infotainment programs, and talk radio that blur the line of journalism and use their bully pulpit to spread their version of reality and using the mantle of objectivity in new and perverse ways.
Blogging is a tool, it is not a revolution, it is not a fundamental change in human history, it is not the democratization of anything, it’s just a tool like a phone is a tool, or a pencil is a tool. It can be used for good, bad, and indifferent. It can be used eloquently by geniuses or moronically by fools and read by imbeciles.


Anonymous JW said...

I'll say this for the blogosphere. KC Buzz Blog and the CDT political blog have been doing great coverage of the filibuster going on the Senate right now. You can't get that kind of coverage anywhere else.

8:26 PM  

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