Monday, April 24, 2006

Bloglines - Here’s Yer ‘Blog, Humbug,’ Pal

Bloglines user has sent this item to you.

Suburban Guerrilla
Keeping a jaundiced eye on the corporate media.

Here’s Yer ‘Blog, Humbug,’ Pal

By Susie on Blogosphere

While waiting for my clothes to dry, I did something I do much less often these days: Read the Sunday Inquirer - on paper. The front page of the Currents section (the former News & Views, I think) is themed “Can we live without newspapers?” and includes the piece Jeff Jarvis did on the norgs conference, something from Hugh Hewitt and from Rick Stengel, CEO of the National Constitution Center.

Inside was this snippy little piece from staffer Jonathan Last.

If I were his editor, I would have made him rewrite it. (But then, I always was conscientious that way.)

But the biggest evil of blogs is that first flaw, blogging’s original sin: the discounting of news-gathering in favor of news analysis. Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is, yet very few of them have ever really practiced it. Sure, they may have written opinion pieces that compare favorably to the work of Molly Ivins or Ann Coulter, but opinion writing is a tiny - and let’s be honest, inconsequential - corner of the journalism world. Real journalism - the practice of adding to the store of public knowledge by reporting news - is a difficult, thankless, and often unpleasant task. Bloggers want no part of it. Everyone wants E.J. Dionne’s job; no one wants to be Michael Dobbs.

There is really no excuse for this kind of “straw man” silliness, and part of the problem is that Last makes no distinction whatsoever between the left and right blogosphere. This is akin to confusing professional wrestling with the Olympic event.

Plus, it’s such lazy, half-assed writing. (Maybe his laundramat has wifi, too. Maybe he had one eye out for an open dryer as he wrote this extended pout.) “Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is”? Which bloggers, Mr. Last? How many? When? Can you find any on the left side of the top-ranked blogsphere who say journalism is easy? (I know I’ve pointed out how a story should be done on many occasions - but then again, I’m an award-winning journalist with 20 years’ experience.)

Another worry is that, as a medium, the blog does not value well-crafted writing. Except for Mark Steyn and James Lileks, it’s hard to pick out even three beautiful writers from the millions of bloggers.

And here’s where we figure it out. Mark Steyn? James Lilek? (Yes, that James Lileks.)

Don’t get out and around the liberal blogosphere too often, do you, Jonathan? (Which bolsters my perpetual argument about the sheer laziness of reporters. It’s been a few years since conservative blogs truly dominated the landscape, and yet some journalists are still referring to the same old bookmarks. See, once you’re in their Rolodex, virtual or otherwise, that’s it.)

Again, the fault here lies with the medium: Being a good writer helps a blogger about as much as a good singing voice helps a broadcast anchor.

Well, Jonathan, say what you will in light of your apparently limited experience, but I find some of the writing here in Koufaxville absolutely stunning. Since you haven’t read or perhaps even heard of Michael Berube, James Wolcott, Fred Clark, The Fat Lady Sings or Neddie - let alone Will Bunch, your downstairs neighbor, I’ll assume you’re one of those opinion writers you mention who don’t like to do the hard work of actually reporting and “adding to the store of public knowledge,” as you put it.

If you really don’t believe well-written words have power to move the debate, perhaps you should look into another line of work.

And besides, you have so thoroughly missed the point, probably because you are unconversant with the liberal blogsophere. As I pointed out at the conference of which Jeff Jarvis wrote today, the guiding principles of liberal bloggers are much closer to those of ethical journalism - as opposed to the right wing blogworld, where they don’t think twice about fabricating “truthiness” to support their politics.

Lefty blogs don’t even pretend to think blogs should supplant journalism - it’s the nuts on the other side who claim Captain Ed is more credible than Dan Rather. But we do supplement what journalists do, much in the same way a movie critic tells readers what may be a waste of their time and money.

One of the guiding tenets of Koufaxville is that we are the readers’ guide, the antidote, as it were - to the 24/7 cable news feeding frenzy. It wasn’t liberal blogs (well, okay, there were a few, but not many) who were urging us to attack Iraq in light of the propaganda being spoon-fed to the American public - by your beloved media establishment, as I recall. Isn’t that right, Jonathan?

There is no war between liberal blogs and principled journalism. We’re the ones fighting against the corporate statism that puts profits so far above principles because of our deep respect for what journalism can accomplish.

And if you read more than the same handful of blogs, you’d know that.

No comments: