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Old Media wants to make “blogger” a dirty word just like conservatives want to demonize “liberal”

June 4, 2010

If there’s one thing Old Media curmudgeons want to make clear, it’s that there’s a distinct line between bloggers and journalists. “Blogger” is to them what “liberal” is to a conservative: a joke, a put-down—something to suggest that the person being labeled deserves a spot a the little kids table while the grown-ups get some real work done.

If you lay claim to either of those viewpoints, you’re a jackass. So’s Old Media-sympathizer Steve Jobs:

“I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever.” […] “what we have to do is figure out a way to get people to start paying for this hard-earned content.”

(Wait, Steve Jobs—the guy who gave us the iPhone and the iPad—is an Old Media sympathizer? Yeah: Jobs has a vested interest in helping Old Media outlets—they supply the content, he supplies the platform. Besides that, bloggers are arguably way more critical of Apple and Jobs than the mainstream press.)

Of course, this is about the stupidest thing ever because saying “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers” is exactly like saying “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of people who use pens.” A blog is a tool and it’s as informative or vapid as the person using it. If Steve Jobs and the curmudgeons of the world have a problem with blogs, maybe the problem is that they don’t know how to find good ones.

The attitude that newspapers=good, blogs=bad is also lazy. Sure, it’s easy and maybe even tempting to say because we’d all rather “know” that what we’re reading is true than have to research the research and decide for ourselves. But there’s no such comfort. What you read in The New York Times is just as likely to be complete crap as what you read on a blog. (Incidentally, it was bloggers who came up with the idea of linking to their research so people could decide if they were being fair.)

So the next time you hear some smug journalist bash blogging, ask him—since he’s a journalist, who believes in being objective and getting the facts straight—what evidence he has to support his air of superiority.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric permalink
    June 4, 2010 9:18 pm

    I think he’s still upset about the fake Steve Jobs.

  2. Cynthia Mitchell permalink
    June 7, 2010 11:53 pm

    So, Paul, I loved your comment equating everyone having a blog — and that being a bad thing — with it being bad that everyone has a pen. Love that! What’s not to love about everyone having a voice? But you went too far for me when you said it was JUST AS LIKELY that the NYT and a random blog are full of crap. I’m pretty sure without doing a content analysis — including all the plagiarists and fabulists at the NYT and in the msm — that the odds there aren’t even. But that’s not really the point I want to make. I think the real problem is that it’s all set up as a false dichotomy. Rather than newspapers/”real journalism” (old media) vs. bloggers/blogging (new media), I think what Jobs and others, including you, really mean, is to pit opinionating vs. real newsgathering. And if all we get are opinions based on others’ reporting (with the original reporting getting scarcer and scarcer), than I’m with Jobs, I don’t want a nation of opinionators. But what his blanket “nation of bloggers” misses is that there’s plenty of great journalism getting done and distributed by way of blogs; the world’s certainly more knowledgeable thanks to folks like Josh Marshall and Talking Points Memo or Tracy Record and West Seattle Blog. They are real newsgatherers who happen to distribute what they find via blogs….I’d say at this stage in the game, there’s more opinionating based on others’ reporting done on blogs, but lawd knows there’s no shortage of opinion in the old media. (Heck, that’s about all you can find on cable news these days.) I probably need my own blog to explain this better, but let me know if I’m making any sense at all. It’s pretty late and it’s the end of a loooong school year! (It all reminds me of the way newspapers have long been lumped in w/ the likes of Fox, MSNBC and the crap on cable, under the banner of “main stream media,” when they are entirely different beasts. In a similar vein, the proverbial “blogger in his jammies” and even the high profile opinionators on Huffpo get lumped in with Marshall and Record, and Marshall and Record deserve better.)

  3. June 8, 2010 10:03 am

    @Cynthia- I think what Steve Jobs and a lot of Old Media—by which I mean institutionalized media—types are talking about is opinionating vs. real newsgathering, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t think there’s a newspapers vs. blogs “fight” going on; I think there are just people who see the current media landscape for what it is and work with it/around it and there are those who go against the grain, who think we were better off when we had a controlled flow of information (to be fair, it was a hell of a lot easier that way). The problem, of course, is that we’re never going back to the way things were, so it’s counterproductive to operate as an “Old Media” organization in 2010 and beyond.

    Where opinion comes in to that whole fight seems to be in how we define it. Old Media would define objectivity as, at least partially, speaking from a neutral point-of-view—the old third-person “voice of god.” But news consumers are savvy enough to know that that’s B.S.:

    Indeed, news orgs are adjusting to an uncomfortable reality: More and more readers want to get political news from sources that don’t disguise their sympathies, rather than through more traditionally “objective” filters that too often place a premium on fake even-handedness at the expense of taking a stand on what’s right and true.

    Murrow once said that not every story has two equally valid sides to it—so goes this train of thought.

    When I say that what you read in the NYT is just as likely to be crap as what you read on a blog, I’m generalizing. I’m saying that if we look at all the traditional news orgs and compare them to all the online-only news orgs, we’re probably looking at the same margin of error with regard to accuracy.

    Also, to be fair, I didn’t say that it was just as likely that bloggers and The NYT are full of crap, I said you were just as likely to read complete crap in either. I did link to two instances of plagiarism (perhaps unintentionally pigeonholing my argument), but I’ll clarify here: Journalism doesn’t have to be untrue to be crappy.

    To sum all of this up, and maybe this is a post in and of itself, I think what myself and a lot of other people are clamoring for is a MSM that is more focused on useful facts than knee-jerk reporting (i.e. Jay Rosen’s “he said/she said”). Blogs and social streams have already beat out Old Media in terms of breaking news quickly and efficiently…therefore MSM should stop spinning its wheels and focus more on the “what does this all mean?” part of the story. I want an MSM that isn’t just going to tell me “here’s one side of the story and here’s another”—especially when the “other” is a small handful of nutjobs waving signs. I want to know “this side is right and this other opinion is wrong” and if there isn’t enough evidence to draw conclusions I want to be told why. Instead, I’m left with this “objective” view of everything—which, to quote Rosen again, is a “view from nowhere.”

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