BLOGS V. BIG JOURNALISM

Kathleen Parker writes about the power of blogging in her latest column.

I’m not an expert on blogging, but I am a fan. As a regular visitor to a dozen or so news and opinion blogs, I’m riveted by the implications for my profession. Bloggers are making life interesting for reluctant mainstreamers like myself and for the public, whose access to information until now has been relatively controlled by traditional media.

I say “reluctant mainstreamer” because what I once loved about journalism went missing some time ago and seems to have resurfaced as the driving force of the blogosphere: a high-spirited, irreverent, swashbuckling, lances-to-the-ready assault on the status quo. While mainstream journalists are tucked inside their newsroom cubicles deciphering management’s latest “tidy desk” memo, bloggers are building bonfires and handing out virtual leaflets along America’s Information Highway.

In some areas, bloggers are beating the knickers off mainstream reporters and commentators. Bloggers are credited, for instance, with ramping up interest in Trent Lott’s suicidal praise of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist history. Bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, former editor-in-chief of The New Republic magazine and author of andrewsullivan.com, was riding herd on Raines and The New York Times long before Jayson Blair became synonymous with criminal journalism. He was insisting on Raines’ dismissal while everyone else was tapping the snooze button.

And of course Matt Drudge of “Drudge Report” escorted Monica Lewinsky onto the stage.

During the Iraq war, “warbloggers” often posted new developments far ahead of the mainstream. Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, slept maybe 4.5 hours the entire three weeks as she posted on the site’s group blog, “The Corner.” Put it this way, as you were waking up, Lopez was on her third Diet Coke.

The best bloggers, who are generous in linking to one another — alien behavior to journalists accustomed to careerist, shark-tank newsrooms — are like smart, hip gunslingers come to make trouble for the local good ol’ boys. The heat they pack includes an arsenal of intellectual artillery, crisp prose, sharp insights and a gimlet eye for mainstream media’s flaws.

Glenn Reynolds, the blogosphere’s Rowdy Yates (Instapundit.com), as well as a University of Tennessee law professor, last year wrote, “Big journalism is in trouble,” and proclaimed “the end of the power of Big Media.”

This is both interesting and overstated. Matt Drudge, for instance, is acting as a reporter when he breaks stories. He has connections that, in the Lewinsky case, allowed him to get advance copy of a Newsweek story and leak it. Otherwise, he’s just a link service, putting outrageous headlines on stories that are already coming out.

Occasionally, the blogosphere breaks a real news story, as when Laurence Simon did some digging into Orrin Hatch’s website. But these things are rather rare. For the most part, the blogosphere is just a giant echo chamber, where news junkies go through stories they find in the mainstream press, via their web pages, and point out their take.

The main value of blogs is spreading the word on stories that might otherwise get swept away as the mainstream press, with a notoriously short attention span, goes onto something else. Still, it’s not as if blogs are about to replace the New York Times or Washington Post. What would we replace them with? Our opinions about stuff? Based on what? We have to get our news from someplace and most of us don’t generate our own.

(Hat tip: Jeff Quinton)

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kevin Drum says:

    Yeah, blogs can help you get a quick read on what the chattering classes are talking about, so it’s useful for that. It can also help keep stories alive.

    But where does she get this stuff about blogs speeding up the news cycle? Blogs are faster compared to radio and TV? That’s just crazy.