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Y’all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?


Since I run a political website, I am required to make the obligatory comments about Sunday’s New York Times magazine cover story on “bloggers.”
Not bad.
I agree with Andrew Sullivan’s take. Matthew Klam, the Times reporter, like most Big Media folks, doesn’t get the implications of all this stand-alone journalism. I got a sense that he doesn’t really understand the technology that most folks writing on the web use every day. The average reader sitting at home with an RSS reader, Google news alerts, and a little bit of sense learns in a few clicks of the mouse what an experienced reporter used to need a newsroom of machines to discover. This is lost on most Big Media editors and writers; they haven’t changed their old habits. They haven’t had to.

They think, “Oh, these bloggers are just doing this to get jobs – jobs like the ones we have!” Most Big Media reporters, working for constantly consolidating companies count themselves lucky to have the jobs they do. And, they say, again, mostly to comfort themselves, blogging doesn’t pay. But it will. Stand-alone journalism can only grow in popularity. There’s already too much demand for what’s being done on various websites and there’s too little interest in what’s in newspapers and on TV. Eventually this new form of reporting and writing will support itself financially.
Clearly this first wave of bloggers to move away from the hardcore tech aspects – particularly the folks who are slaving away for Rude and Naughty Nicky Denton – are going to get better jobs, probably writing jobs, off their blogging appearances. But most of the folks who are hot blooded partisans and political consultants are going to go back to their day jobs. The fervor of the debate on their sites can’t be maintained in a non-election year. Besides, much of the revenue that most of these sites take in from BlogAds is going to go away after the election. No money, no enthusiasm, no audience: not exactly a rewarding situation for someone who’s working alone in his pajamas.
I’m looking forward to the “end of a fad” stories comparing blogging to the Internet Bubble and talking about how foolish everyone was to pay attention to websites. I’ll bet the first story runs in the NYTimes’ business section on or about Nov. 15 with plenty of color and commentary from BloggerCon the Standford conference scheduled right after the election. It’ll be a relief. As soon as it runs, the rest of us can get down to the business of creating a business.
UPDATE: Someone I know and like – Newsweek’s Steve Levy – and someone I don’t know and normally disagree with – David Frum – weigh in on blogging and, indirectly in Levy’s case, the NYTimes story from Sunday.
I like both these stories because they pretty much validate the course that I’ve laid out here for stand-alone journalism: biased but not shrill, open to ideas and comments from both sides.
TV journalism isn’t. It’s low-class punditry done at high volume. For the sake of popularity — see Va. Postrel’s comments on what makes a good site — blogs have decided to imitate the worst qualities of TV political coverage. They post often, the shot from the hip and they, frequently don’t say very much that’s new or important. It’s just like CapitalHardballWeekInsideWashington, or whatever those TV shows are called.
Now, web sites don’t have to be ratings based unless you want to slavishly follow the broadcast TV business model. And that’s probably not a good idea for everyone who’s working on the web. After all the miracle of this Internet thing is that it lets one person reach many other people for very little money, with very little overhead. So why the screaming? It takes time and patience to build an audience.
Along the same lines, there’s a story up on Salon, a rather unimaginative take on how the Internet changes politics. It’s a dumb story that, again, jumps over why blogs have been able to rise up and challenge Big Media. It’s because the tools available to the average newspaper reporter sitting in your average newsroom are now available to anyone with an email account and a web browser, that’s why. And many, many people don’t know how to use these tools (hence all the boring and dumb debates about what polling numbers mean). Fewer people understand that state of affairs.
I’m still struck by the role that Instapundit Glen Reynolds played on the Rathergate story. For all intents and purposes, he functioned as the daily news editor, bringing together insights, comments and news from a variety of sources, making sure everyone was up-to-date, had the latest information so they could make their own judgments. That’s what made the CBS stuff a tipping point, as Andrew Sullivan has pointed out.
Okay. Enough of this. I’ve said again and again how boring it is for journalist to talk about what they do. It is. And bloggers aren’t much different in this respect either. This site will be here after all thise nonsense has died down, after the election, providing smart, well-written comments and insights. If all goes well, I won’t be writing by myself, either. So, stick around. The fun’s starting.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:30 AM | Permalink

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