On a couple occasions, I have criticized critics of blogs. I don’t do so because this is a media analysis blog, because it’s not. I also don’t do it because I think blogs are above criticism, because they are not. It just seems like every time I see someone smacking blogs around for their lack of journalistic excellence, almost without exception, it comes from a position of ignorance. The critics don’t pick the worst offenders and they almost never take a moment to recognize those doing a good job.
- He starts by suggesting that blogs offer debate over information (often a valid point).
- He paints a portrait of the medium with a broad brush:
- He then goes on to suggest that there’s something really suspect about the fact that many bloggers write without being paid, as if that’s proof of anything.
- He bemoans that many bloggers are such partisans.
- He rejects the concept of bloggers as watchdogs. Bloggers generally don’t do a good job of delivering daily reporting of the news — they don’t have the infrastructure — but do provide a valuable job of pointing out news items and doing analysis, putting things in context. Yet, Skube, a journalism professor, finds this arrogant.
- After noting that some bloggers reject the label of journalist, saying himself that they’re not journalists, calling them activists and partisans, rejecting their role as watchdogs, he complains that blogs offer opinion and not information.
- He offers as an alternative reporters who faced physical violence covering the Civil Rights struggle and the Washington Post‘s coverage of secret overseas prisons and the Walter Reed scandal.
The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.
[Daily Kos' Markos] Moulitsas foresees bloggers becoming the watchdogs that watch the watchdog: “We need to keep the media honest, but as an institution, it’s important that they exist and do their job well.” The tone is telling: breezy, confident, self-congratulatory. Subtly, it implies bloggers have all the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations.
Then he goes for the punchline:
The disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger or, for that matter, an Op-Ed columnist, whose interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently. Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It’s not something one does as a hobby.
The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells.
So, what is it you don’t like about bloggers? Is it because they are opinionated, they don’t get paid, don’t do enough original reporting, they’re argumentative, think they’re better than mainstream journalists, or they’re hobbyists? And what does it mean if you are a professional journalist and you flunk the same test?
But the best part is that Josh Marshall of TPM Media was a little miffed about being described as a mere partisan, especially when Skube is complaining about the lack of shoe-leather reporting — the application of “time, thorough fact-checking and verification” — when TPM is one of the few online organizations doing exactly that. So Marshall contacted Skube to complain and was told that an editor must have inserted the reference, because Skube had never heard of the site.
For good or ill, a blog is a blog, not a book and not a series of newspaper articles. Skube wants a blog that is nonpartisan, objective, provides information instead of analysis, is written by a paid expert, and is the product of hard work and research and is fact-checked and verified. Good enough, but if you want that, who wouldn’t you just read The New Yorker or the Washington Post instead? And why would you pretend that there aren’t any partisans in the mainstream media who sometimes write in a subjective manner? And while I’m all in favor of better information sources, why is Skube so flip about the need for “robust debate”?