Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What do you think about blogs?

I'm sure that some of you have seen what Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said at the recent Blue Pencil Dinner, an annual Spectator fund-raiser held in Low Rotunda. But for the rest of you, here is what the spec reports:
Keller’s speech focused on the struggle of print journalism to maintain its relevance in the face of constant cable news updates, increased blogging, and failures in credibility.

He noted that, according to a recent opinion poll, the public’s trust in journalists is at its lowest point in decades. He attributed this in part to the increasingly polarized nature of the American public, who look to the press for support of their viewpoints.

“At the moment,” he said, “the major press is under attack from ideologues on the right and left.”

Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man circle jerk.”

“There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices,” he said of blog readers.
He talks about other things as well, but it is mainly this point that interests me -and it is also what other blogs focused on; see here and here. As Daniel Drezner notes,

What's interesting about these different Keller episodes is that the Columbia Spectator reporter probably took just the juiciest bit from Keller's comments regardless of whether they were consistent with the overall tenor of his remarks -- whereas Jarvis ("mediaman by day, blogboy by night") reprinted all of Keller's comments, allowing one to judge Keller's argument in toto.

Oddly enough, this is undoubtedly one trait that good bloggers share with the New York Times. The Times, as the "paper of record," was very good about printing the
full text of important documents and speeches before there was a world wide web.
The best bloggers, through hyperlinks, can engage in a similar practice when parsing out someone's comments.

For some context, Keller has voiced his opinion about blogs before in an email exchange with Jeff Jarvis from buzzmachine. Here's a quote:

Can I just state something for the record? While we probably have our differences on the role of the MSM (btw, I personally favor "elite media," at least as it pertains to the NYT) I would like to make clear that I consider blogs relevant and important. I do not hold them in disdain, as you imply. I won't risk embarrassing my favorite bloggers by identifying them (except to say that buzzmachine is bookmarked in my office and at home) but I find the best of them to be a source of provocative insights, first-hand witness, original analysis, rollicking argument and occasional revelation. As I'm sure you will agree, you can also find bloggers who are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless. (Just like people!)
Which brings me to my question: how do you see and or use blogs? I've got to give Keller credit for his comment; I find it quite amusing and accurate. Personally, I'm not too big into the David vs. Goliath metaphor as applied to bloggers and MSM. I see good blogs as reliable news filters and commentators that, obviously, must be predicated on there being news to be filtered and commented on. This function creates - and allows for - an enormous amount of scrutiny to be applied wherever it is due, something I love. Ultimately, the dialectic between the two is much more interesting than hearing the static banter of either one, be it from the elite media or a loud-mouthed blogger.

UPDATE: I changed the title of this post to get some of you to comment. I am quite curious as to what poeple think.


Anonymous said...

Note how uniquely the blogging venue offers citizens a way to argue simultaneously without drowning out --or even interrupting-- one another's voices. Therefore a salve for the civil relations whose wounds WFB Jr. fretted over when observing the virulence of anti-Bush bloggers after John Kerry's electoral defeat:

"If real progress in Iraq under native rule pivots the scene slightly, but substantially, toward stability, Bush could legitimately profit. In the absence of such developments, however, the anti-Bush diehards are headed for a disillusionment likely to affect the democratic culture. What matters, in democratic elections, is not only submission to the majority, but also civil relations."

civil relative! said...