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Another stupid article about blogs

In the LA Times, journalism prof Michael Skube writes a meaningless and silly article that argues… well nothing really … or sort of that bloggers are all opinion, no fact, and that’s a waste of everyone’s time. Title? “Blogs: All the noise that fits: The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters.”

His conclusion is:

The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.

Which I agree with, except the implication that bloggers provide top-of-the-head, but not reasoned, argument. Some do, some don’t.

But check out this outstanding logical leap:

Moulitsas [of KOS] foresees bloggers becoming the watchdogs that watch the watchdog: “We need to keep the media honest, but as an institution, it’s important that they exist and do their job well.” The tone is telling: breezy, confident, self-congratulatory. Subtly, it implies bloggers have all the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations.

How do you get from the quote, which says, “someone needs to keep the professional media honest” to the conclusion, “bloggers want to be called journalists but don’t want the obligations” ??

The point is, professional journalists have done a dismal job of covering important issues (eg, WMD in Iraq) in the past, say, 5 years. And blogging has given us new mechanisms to call journalists to account for their failures. This is not breezy or self-congradulatory. It’s reality. And if anyone wants to see substantial political debates, it’s the bloggers at KOS who, so far, have hosted the best example, see: Yearly KOS Presidential Forum for a substantive understanding of how the Dem field is positioning itself.

The best part is that the Skube article mentions Josh Marshall’s TalkingPointsMemo as an example of an all-opinion/no-fact blog. TMP does tons of original reporting, and in fact Skube says he’s never read the site! (It’s in the top 5 of political/news blogs on the net, you’d think he would have read it at least once before writing an op-ed about what a waste political/news blogs are). Apparently, an editor added TPM to the piece, which Skube signed. Ha! Nice patient sifting of fact, Mr. Journalism Professor, what an excellent acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence.

Perhaps he was being ironic?

See more commentary chez TPM.

UPDATE: letter sent to LA Times:

Dear Sirs:

Re: “Blogs: All the noise that fits: The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters,” by Michael Skube, if you replace the word “blog” with “op-ed,” and the word “blogger” with “blowhard op-ed writers like me,” Skube might be on to something.


Hugh McGuire
Montreal, Canada.


  1. zura zura 2007-08-21

    You know, I think some people (i.e. twits) have somehow decided that blogging is some New Potentially Evil Thing that may or may not be a threat to themselves and their professions. And so it must be taken down. Why not target fiction writers for indulging in fantasy and yet not wanting to be confined to the “obligations” of non-fiction writers? Please.

  2. Hugh Hugh 2007-08-21

    yeah it’s just a bunch of tiresome noise. you could strip out the word “blogger” if you wanted and add instead “blowhard op-ed writers like me” and it would make more sense.

    but as vonnegut writes, slightly paraphrased, you might as well write an anti-glacier article. (tho that metaphor is melting quickly with global warming).

  3. Dan Parsons Dan Parsons 2007-08-21

    I agree, these articles are popping up because the House of Traditional Journalism feels threatened. They don’t seem to consider the reasons why blogging is *good*, however – they only look for its flaws.

    One of the big things blogging does, that mainstream media doesn’t do at all, is involve the reader/consumer. That makes for more honest reporting whether it’s considered “journalism” or not. Yes, some bloggers are jackasses and some aren’t. But the jackasses get pointed out all over the ‘net. You can’t write something on your blog and not have it be flamed, if you’re important enough that people read you. This is why honest bloggers leave comments enabled.

    Mr. Skube isn’t used to writing in a medium where any reader can respond with criticism with little difficulty.

  4. Dan Parsons Dan Parsons 2007-08-21

    Sorry, posting again so I can subscribe to followups

  5. Hugh Hugh 2007-08-22

    @dan: funny it seems much of the criticism of blogger/blogging sites turns on anonymous comments (for instance you often hear commenters cited as proof that a left-wing blog is crazy). which of course has little to do with the blog itself.

    but in general i think this kind of noise – say, anti-wikipedia, anti-blogging, the old-way-was-better – is just farting in a hurricane. wikipedia wins because it is the most useful to people. it is available and it is free and it is accurate enough that it serves the need most people use it for. britannica is neither free nor available, so it loses, tho i’d bet that britannica will win in the long run on accuracy (and quality of writing) – notwithstanding the nature study.

    if you want to criticize blogging you might as well criticize talking. it is nothing more than a means of communication; and like conversations in a bar, sometimes you sit beside an idiot who shouts in your ear, and sometimes you sit beside a prophet who changes your life.

    and anyway, anyone in the mainstream media who claims they’ve done a good job in the past 5-10 years is an idiot – especially if they are not interested in exploring how blogging can help them get better (and maybe how mainstream media can help bloggers get better), which is the only conversation that makes any sense, because both are here to stay.

  6. Alexandre Alexandre 2007-09-06

    Looking forward to what Yulblog members have answered to the question about traditional media and blogs. Some bloggers present are also part of traditional media, including print journalism. Chances are that, though very playful, many of the answers to the question will be more insightful than Skube’s rant.
    Of course, there are many journalists and media scholars who really understand the implications of blogging. Siva Vaidhyanathan is a good example, IMHO.
    Members of tech-related media often “grok” bloggers and are usually quite sympathetic to blogging. The main point made by many of them is that blogging is a technology, not a type of writing. The most recent protections for bloggers in the U.S. do bring some bloggers closer to journalism. There are issues to discuss about the journalistic responsibilities some bloggers may have.
    What seems to me to be the most important effect of blogging, in terms of journalism, is that it shows that non-journalists are often better trained at understanding what’s happening around them than are many journalists. Many people are also better writers than many journalists.
    To think that I was naïve enough to think that journalists were trained to think critically…

  7. dafodilkemmy dafodilkemmy 2007-10-30

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