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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Blogging and Self Importance

posted by Jazz at 2/14/2005 04:00:00 PM


As a follow-up to the earlier post on partial defense of MSM blog bashing, I've been reading further into Jeff Jarvis' post on this subject. (Which, in fact, spurred the entire thing.) Also, it's worth taking a look at the comments sections in Jarvis' post, mine, and the others linked in that article.

Jarvis is one of your more level headed bloggers at most times, but there are points where his enthusiasm for and belief in the raw power of this new "citizen's media" gets in his way, I think. On some of the more rabid blogs, I constantly see references to how blogs are going to "take down the old media and bury it!" RAAARGH! (Insert scream of your choice here.) Jeff isn't in that camp, but some of his points in the referenced post lean in that direction. It's very important to remember that if all of the MSM were to suddenly disappear overnight, 99% of the political blogosphere would fold up the next day. We would have nothing to talk about because, like it or not, that hated, dreadful MSM is where all of the "regular" bloggers get their information. And yes, that includes Atrios, Captain's Quarters, Kos and Powerline.

Right up front, let's remember something - Jarvis isn't some pajama mujahadeen blogger sitting in his basement posting items in between taking pictures of his cat. He's an experienced, credentialed, professional journalist who still appears regularly on CNN, MSNBC, and other venues. He still works in publication, though in newer, different formats. He's a pro. It's pretty easy for him to talk about the "power of bloggers" and to make suggestions for how the MSM can work together with bloggers for a newer, brighter future if all the experience he has to go on is how his blog is treated by the MSM.

Let me give you a hypothetical example. Jarvis works down around the Big Apple, but I live in the wilds of Upstate New York, a few hours away. We have some influential, national political figures in our state. George Pataki is one who comes to mind, and he travels around the state quite often. Let's just say for a moment that he showed up in Binghamton, New York and gave a quick speech to a small group of GOP supporters here. When things like this happen in my area, I tend to show up, and certainly I'll blog about it. Imagine for a moment that Pataki said something truly outrageous... for example, "You upstaters have to realize that the only way we're going to get real school reform in New York is if we get rid of most of these blacks." (Obviously he'd never say that... this is just an example of something that would cause a media feeding frenzy.)

Trust me... if I'm there, the local paper is going to be there. They would run like hell to go to press with that story. It would also get picked up (eventually) on the wires, and find its way to the Times, the Post, LA Times, etc. (There's an outside chance that the NY Post and the Washington Times might print it, but it looks bad for the GOP so they might pass.) The point is, if I run straight home and write up a blog entry about this, and the NY Times is using this "new media" and see the story, are they just going to print it? Can you picture the Times running with a front page story on a controversial Pataki quote just on my say so? No... they'll dispatch reporters to the scene, call the local papers, look for other witnesses and, you know... the usual "professional journalism" stuff. Even if I'm correct, what happens to them the first time they run a huge front page story based on an account by some blogger without vetting it first and it turns out to be partisan hackery? They're screwed. Now if Jarvis blogged it, they would very likely already be working on the lede. Why? He's a journalist. There's a difference.

Jarvis has some specific complaints about the Times piece linked in the last post. One of them is how the Captain's Quarters blog author is described.
This being The Times, many of the slaps are subtle. When they quote Edward Morrissey of Captains Quarter, who stayed on top of the Jordan story, they make a point of saying he is "a call center manager who lives near Minneapolis" Read: "He's not one of us. He's not a real journalist."
I'm sorry, but... this is an insult somehow? The guy IS a call center manager from Minneapolis. Is he supposed to be ashamed of that? Or is it that the Times is pointing out, by way of identifying the source of the quotes, that Ed Morrissey isn't a professional journalist? Because guess what, Jeff? He's not. He's a call center manager with a blog.

I just read a piece in our local paper this week where the reporter was asking a number of local residents what they thought about a new helicopter contract which a Lockheed Martin received in our area. One of them was answered by, "Linda M. Grocery clerk at Giant supermarket." Was that an insult to Linda? No... they asked her what her job was, and she told them. The story identified where the opinion was coming from. If they had not done that, the reader might be thinking, "Hrmmm... Linda M.... is she from the Department of Defense?" No. She's giving an opinion, just like Ed Morrissey and most all other non-professional-journalist bloggers do.
I'm simply not getting this criticism of the Times at all. They are identifying the sources of quotes. If Jarvis' point is that anyone with a blog should be taken, de facto, as a "member of the media" and treated as such by the MSM, that's a bit too much aggrandizing of the blogosphere for me.