Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bloggers or reporters?

Jack Shafer writes in Slate.com on the burning question: "What Can Bloggers Do That Reporters Can't? And vice versa."

When it comes to opinion pieces, bloggers have an edge over the pros. I'm not saying that bloggers are necessarily better writers than full-time members of the commentariat, but Daily Kos, Joshua Marshall, Daniel Drezner, Daily Howler, Volokh Conspiracy, Brad DeLong, et al., produce more immediate and succinct copy than their mainstream colleagues...

What the Web has done is remove the barriers to entry from opinion journalism, much to the benefit of readers. If told that I had to forgo the editorial and op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times or lose my blog bookmarks, I'd say hands off my browser!

Professional journalists have it all over bloggers when it comes to reporting. The first generation of bloggers tends to resist taking off their PJs and donning hip-waders to report the news from the swamp. Reporting is a learned skill, and experience counts for something. Also, professional news organizations pay for airplane tickets, hotel accommodations, car rentals, libel insurance, editing, and other resources to make reporting happen. How many unpaid bloggers will cover a war from the shrapneled front? A handful. Maybe.

As many critics have remarked, blogs will never replace the mainstream media because without the mainstream media to feed on they can't exist. Blogs are parasites, they say. Oddly, when the mainstreamers sup from the trough set out for them by the National Security Archive, the Center for Public Integrity, the GAO, and other institutions, nobody calls them parasites.

Writer for writer, mainstream journalists possess more talent than bloggers, and talent matters when you're competing for an audience. It's no accident the several of the best bloggers, Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan, James Wolcott, and Joshua Marshall, honed their interpretive, narrative, and reportorial skills in mainstream media.

What can bloggers do that professional journalists can't? Because bloggers answer to no one, they need not worry if their dispatches cause the chairman of the board of General Motors to stop talking to the publisher—or placing ads. Their independence gives them a subversive strength, one that undermines the cozy relationship the press has with its corporate cousins and government. The unmediated nature of blogs, which frightens so many professional journalists, is really a plus. With so many bloggers writing outside the bounds of authority, they've become impossible to silence or censor, and their provocations help keep the national debate going at full tilt. Too bad constructive recklessness can't be taught.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


Post a Comment

<< Home