It seems standard fare for second-rate columnists to write broadsides against bloggers. It’s particularly ironic for the journalistic community to berate blogs for poor writing. After all, blogs have supplanted journalism for the literary gutter. To then boast displays the arrogance of someone who claims bragging rights for finished in second-to-last place.
It is true; blogs “produce minimal reportage”. However, most blogs don’t claim that they are even trying to report. Many bloggers quite clearly state they are giving their opinion on events. This is in contrast to most journalists who claim to report but merely shroud their opinion journalism in the faux cloak of “objective reporting.”
What blogs do accomplish, at least the few that actually try to be media instead of diary, is fact-check the “objective journalists.” This is where the real contempt for bloggers comes from. Blogs have outted journalistic frauds that would have gone undiscovered despite all the checks and balances in the traditional media.
It is true that our educational system has produced a couple of generations of people wholly intellectually unsuited for intelligent political discourse. That is not a problem of blogs, it is a problem of society. Let’s be honest, it’s not like reductionistic discourse doesn’t have a home in the traditional media too. Before blogs there were sound bites. Before blogs reporting, at least on political matters, was largely receiving faxes from the national parties and repeating their talking points. Fatuity is not unknown to the 24 hour news channels or the nightly news.
Blogs, for their part are quite easily played by the media and politicians alike. All a journalist has to do is criticize blogs and a previously unknown journalist becomes news of the hour on the Internet. Most bloggers do behave like yard apes. The only difference between most bloggers and most journalists is that the later has a sense of elitism about being an ape because they happen to wear a suit while doing it.
Blaming blogs of the “decay” of journalism is more than a little absurd. Journalism was already in a state of decay long before blogs because of their monopolistic attitudes that allowed them to get sloppy. Bloggers took the “journalistic” reigns because of the dramatic failure of the traditional media to (1) report the news effectively and accurately, (2) to be objective or at least honest about their bias, and (3) adapt to the information needs of society.
The free market requires many outlets so that consumers can pick the outlet that meets their needs. If no outlet exists, one will be created and so it was with blogs. That isn’t to say all blogs are worthy outlets, they aren’t. Most of the hundred or so million blogs get trivial amounts of traffic. However, there are serious blogs out there and serious organizations trying to get blogging professionalized (see the Media Bloggers Association which I am a part of).
It’s true that finding a decent blog is like finding a needle in a haystack, but with blogging soon to be on the decline to more serious players will stand out. For those nostalgic for the “good ole days” of journalism, this is decay. For society who wants and need solid, reliable and accurate information and opinion, it is progress. Painful progress, but progress nonetheless.
John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for Blogcritics and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a syndicated columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans and other children in Tanzania to get an education. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.