July 16, 2005

Journalists are "sick with anxiety about the Death of Print."

A HUGE WaPo piece fretting about bloggers (with lots and lots and lots about Betsy Newmark and Barbara O'Brien):
Currently, we [journalists a]re worried about bloggers....

[We're] wringing our hands in countless articles about blogging, wiping our brows through endless panels devoted to blogging, scrying through bottomless poll data about blogging, and launching blogs of our own. If you are reading these words in a publication called The Washington Post Magazine, then the bloggers have not entirely overtaken the so-called mainstream media -- yet.
But you're not reading these words in a publication called The Washington Post Magazine, are you?



Ron said...

Ann: Your Maniacal Villain Laugh needs more Christopher Lee, less Woody Woodpecker!

You need the photo with outraised arms (with fists!) and the head thrown back...

Villains are always so happy and laughing...

Matt Barker said...

I thought von Drehle was pretty insightful here:

Bloggers scan for bits of evidence that fit into their existing views and then generalize from there. For example, supporters of the Iraq war will notice an article that seems to suggest some progress -- an insurgent leader captured, a new school opened -- and infer a universe of good news from that piece. Elsewhere on the same day, opponents of the war might find a piece of discouraging news -- an interview with a gloomy Iraqi leader, another suicide bombing -- and infer a mirror-image universe.

The supply of raw material for these creations is virtually infinite. The Internet contains billions -- trillions? -- of discrete tiles of information, from which a diligent network of bloggers can create any mosaic they choose. Somewhere, there's sure to be a quotation from Goebbels or Goering to cast a dark tinge over the latest from Bush. And you can count on the left blogosphere to find it. Just as surely, there will be an equally apposite quote from Lincoln or Churchill with which the right bloggers can respond.

He follows this with some careful phrasing:

Professional columnists have always been choosing tiles and creating pictures of the world.

Now I know bloggers are usually most analogous to columnists in traditional media, but I'd love to hear Von Drehle explain how journalists in general—and not just columnists—avoid this kind of mosaic-buiding. I'd argue they don't avoid it, by mere virtue of limited time and space. Their choices will inevitably result in a "news mosaic" that reflects their outlook.

Nothing new about this, I just thought his description of the process was a good one—but it needs a wider application.

Contributors said...

I'm a "heh heh heh" fan personally.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with Matthew. I have seen too many times when "journalists" do exactly the same thing that they are blaming the blogosphere for.

Sure, the better ones keep this sort of thing more under control than do either columnists or bloggers. But it is still there.

I think the theory is that you first realize what your world view is, and then try to remove this filter when you are reporting news. But the reality is that in the heat of getting a story out, this step seems to be missed a lot these days.