blogs: the cocktail napkin of history

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Friday, 29 July 2005

If journalism is the first draft of history, then blogging is the semi-legible scribbling on the cocktail napkin of history.

Yesterday Bill Hobbs linked to a thought-provoking piece by Bob Cauthorn about blogging.  The gist of it is that because the mainstream media has a “publishing apparatus” and a “broadcasting apparatus” they do not get to blog.  Cauthorn, a former journalist himself, takes the media to task for trying to be “cool” by doing “that blogging thing.”  Cauthorn is largely correct, but let me add to his essay.

The msm does not get to air unedited and uncorroborated scripts.  Bloggers do.  The msm does not get to publish rumors and innuendo.  Bloggers do.  The msm does not get to revise their work after its readers, listeners, and viewers comment.  Bloggers do.  The msm’s job is to be accurate, and when they are not, bloggers get to pounce.

In short, bloggers have the fun, the msm gets the glory.  No one will ever take seriously the blogger like they do the journalist.  However, the journalist who deviates from his assigned role in life—to be accurate and impartial—will find himself taken less seriously than even the blogger who should be beneath him.

Therein lies some of the confusion.  As the likes of CBS and the New York Times rightly see themselves diminished at the hands of bloggers, it’s only natural for the msm to either lash out at their attackers, or to believe that if you can’t beat’em, you must join ‘em.  However, they can’t come down to the level of the blogger without being taken even less seriously.  To do so diminishes them.

The reverse is also true.  Bloggers do not get to be journalists.  That’s not to say that at a certain level a blogger can’t evolve (or devolve, as the case may be) into a journalist.  However, to do so means that he leaves behind the freedom of the blog: the freedom to be partial, the freedom to be wrong, and the freedom to engage interactively in conjecture and analysis.

It’s the interaction that makes a blog a blog.  Everyone comes to the web an equal and anonymous voice.  The power of position is gone.  The blog reduces each individual to the power of his arguments alone.  The blog’s leveling effect can leave the media superstar intellectually naked as it elevates the homeless bum into a philosophical genius. 

Blogger Steven Den Beste said that there are two kinds of bloggers: editors and writers.  Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit is an editor.  He links to a dozen or more interesting sites every day.  The value of his site is that he puts into one convenient location pre-selected material that he gleaned from the day’s web offerings.  This site, however, is more of a writing type of blog.  I prefer to analyze something brought to my attention by an editor.  (This little post is an example of that.)

Cauthorn cites several examples of good msm blogs.  They are all editor-type blogs.   (Nashville is talking is a good local example.)   The major msm attempts at writing blogs are so far failures since all they offer are scraps from the cutting room floor.

That said, there are several good second-tier msm writing blogs that may cause me revise my thinking.  The National Review hosts a blog on it site that is similar to another good local blog hosted by the Nashville Scene.  Perhaps, since both publications are weeklies, the writers get to add to, and revise thoughts between editions.  They offer more than just stale leftovers.  Additionally, though philosophically different, both the Scene and NR have the freedom of not being the register of record.  Instead their articles are more in-depth, more esoteric, and more fun.  That perhaps lends itself better to blogging.

So, am I right or wrong?  Doesn’t matter.  This, being a blog, I’m allowed the freedom to revise my story.

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One Response to “blogs: the cocktail napkin of history”

  1. Nashville Is Talking Says:

    More Blogging About A Blog About News Media Blogging

    Brittney has a post below mentioning that I and Jeff Jarvis have differing opinions about a commentary by Bob Cauthorn on the mainstream media and blogging. After you read the essay and my and Jarvis’ response, be sure to also…