Sunday, December 07, 2008

Those Damn Bloggers

Welcome to Season 2 of Common Nonsense.

The traditional media has long held that the job of the news is not just to inform people of facts but to help them understand them in the broader context by constructing a coherent narrative out of events -- as if reality was a tightly plotted television show. Shoehorning the chaos of existence into story lines means that ill-fitting facts are massaged and ignored. Major news outlets assured us that McCain was "honorable" even as his campaign engaged in gutter politics because that was what the imagined script called for.

When the traditional media reports on bloggers the narrative is always that bloggers are bad. Rude, uncouth, inaccurate, not beholden to the awesome standards of journalism that brought us Wen Ho Lee. They are the upstart youth threatening their respected elders. As the traditional media shifts resources away from investigative reporting and more towards online efforts that narrative has become increasingly disjointed. The message is that bloggers suck and are not to be trusted -- and oh, by the way, check out our awesome new blogs!

Case in point: A Senior Fellow at the Institute of Nonexistence. The piece is about an invented expert who has widely appeared in the news. The lynch pin of the story is this:

Mr. Gorlin and Mr. Mirvish say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.

This fake expert was quoted by MSNBC, The New Republic and the LA Times. But the real problem is that he was also quoted on some blogs. Which blogs?

Mother Jones. The LA Times. The New Republic.

That's "the blogosphere."

The central conceit of the piece is that while the traditional media was fooled the "blogosphere" was fooled worse -- yet all the example blogs are from corporate media outlets. The piece masquerades as a comparison between corporate outlets and independent venues, but it's really a comparison between two different pages on the same corporate website. Not a single non-corporate blog is named and the distinction drawn between news and blogs under the same LA Times logo is truly a distinction without a difference.

And oh, by the way, it was William K. Wolfrum who spent considerable time and effort exposing the invented political expert. The same William K. Wolfrum who blogs at Shakesville, a decidedly non-corporate blog, which is not mentioned by name and is the only blog in the piece that can honestly be called part of "the blogosphere."

1 comment:

Autumnal Harvest said...

Welcome back! Although I must respectfully disagree with your post. Blog reporting has been unreliable, and is not to be trusted. Remember 2003, when the blogosphere mindlessly repeated false claims about an Iraqi WMD program, leading us into a disastrous war? Huh? Remember that? Traditional news outlets would never have been so irresponsible.