...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

March 09, 2005

Some Thoughts On Nightline

Here are some thoughts that occurred to me while watching last night's Nighline special on bloggers, which was very well done, in my opinion.

One might get the impression that bloggers are all frustrated journalists. In fact, many bloggers probably think of themselves that way. Speaking only for myself however, i am most definitely not a frustrated journalist.* To me, the very word "journalist" would be an insult if i ever heard it applied to me.

Don't get me started on journalists. A journalism degree is nothing more than a four year general education degree plus a couple of courses on how to meet a deadline. The vast majority of journalists are complete idiots. Trouble is, they don't realize it.

Bloggers are modern pamphleteers. One of the bloggers in the Nightline report expressed a hope that the blogosphere might mature as time goes on. Nonsense. That's not only an impossibility, it's antithetical to the nature of the medium.

We're supposed to rant. We're supposed to shoot from the hip. The blogosphere is the essence of free speech. That Virginia politician who got upset because some liberal blogger didn't follow journalistic standards by contacting him before publication needs to get his head out of his ass. The politician wrote a stupid bill, and that particular blogger called him on it. Good for her. The politician didn't like the strong language in the emails he got, but guess what? He pulled the bill, didn't he? Welcome to Dan Rather's world.

No we're not journalists, we are activists. Unpredictable, uncontrollable anarchists. May we always be.

* Frustrated comedienne, maybe.

Posted by annika, Mar. 9, 2005 |
Rubric: On The Blogosphere


The pamphleteering analogy is a good one. I explain blogging -- my style of blogging, anyway, and that of most of the bloggers I read -- to those unfamiliar with it by telling them it's much like writing letters to the editor, but better. (It's not a perfect analogy, but it gets the idea across.) The advantages of blogging are that publication is guaranteed, there are no word limits, no editors with opposing political axes to grind or moribund senses of humor, and few limits on the number of people you can reach. (The latter is theoretically true of newspapers with online editions, too, of course.)

Another way we're different from traditional journalists -- the MSM -- is that we're a true meritocracy. People don't pay attention to our stuff because we occupy a bully pulpit at NYT or WaPo or NBC, by virtue of having successfully played footsy with the right people at the paper or network. (And while the MSM and blogginb both reward political slant, at least blogging rewards all political slants.) People read us, if at all, because they think our stuff is worthwhile -- funny, insightful, informed, or whatever. The TTLB ecosystem is littered with the corpses of failed blogs that maybe five people read -- although, like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, many of them don't yet realize they're dead. Heck, I'm very nearly in that category! But the point is that a blogger with any serious readership has achieved it purely on the strength of talent and work.

Posted by: Matt on Mar. 9, 2005

Hey, I'M a "journalist." Or at least that's what my bosses tell me. And I think "activist" is a much dirtier word. That said, you don't need a J-degree to become a journalist (and I think J school actually has hurt journalism a good deal). I've taken one journalism class in my life.

Also, I think a lot of times, especially these days, people are too quick to lump in reporters with columnists with pundits. Remember: an article is NOT a column is NOT an editorial. That is one of my biggest peeves, when people mix those up.

But the idea that bloggers are frustrated journalists is something that journalists probably tell themselves to hold onto that warm special feeling they get when they say the word ... journalism. The truth of the matter is that there is no rocket science to reporting and a minimum amount of art (there is SOME, but it's minimal). Many of the best bloggers end up being scooped up as columnists or whatever by other media outlets... which is the best way to do it. You don't have to bust your ass reporting forever and don't have to play the kiss-up game. Blogging also allows you to mouth off and voice your opinion. Reporters aren't allowed to do that most of the time ... not if they expect to attach their names to the pieces and not piss of their sources and their bosses.
And, as we've seen with the Rather issue, science, legal issues and a host of other things, in the blogosphere, people writing about those things are actually professionals in those arenas--which makes reporters very very nervous. Why? Because most of the time, at the end of the day, you're expecting someone who majored in English to write an in-depth story about, say, Global Warming.

Hell, I think a lot of reporters are slightly jealous of bloggers. Then again, reporters do get that HUGE paycheck and the most-excellent benefits media companies are known to provide. (That's a joke.)

Posted by: ken on Mar. 9, 2005

There are quite a few bloggers who make *much* more money in their day jobs than all but the top tier of journalists in theirs. So, why in the world would anyone think they (the bloggers) would want to be journalists?

Posted by: David Foster on Mar. 9, 2005

Some portions of the blogosphere have, ahem, "matured." I wish I could remember the link or the company, but at least one major corporation set up a fake blog as part of an advertising campaign.

Just as the printed medium has a variety of offerings, from the New York Post to the old scandal sheet I posted in my college dorm years ago, so the blogosphere has everything from the aforementioned advertising to the "name" bloggers to...well, everything.

Within a few months, blogging will no longer be trendy, and then we'll see what happens.

Posted by: Ontario Emperor on Mar. 9, 2005

"A journalism degree is nothing more than a four year general education degree plus a couple of courses on how to meet a deadline. The vast majority of journalists are complete idiots. Trouble is, they don't realize it."

Ahhhh, finally, someone who agrees with me. I'm in love.

Posted by: Mark on Mar. 9, 2005