Saturday, March 12, 2005

Fear not

Matt Yglesias has a good post up today about the continuing and nearly-beaten-to-death topic of blogging vs. journalism, what does it all mean, are bloggers journalists?, and will triumphalist bloggers, armed with mighty flashing keyboards and capes fashioned out of pajama pants be THE END of the MSM?
Clearly, bloggers -- amateurs or even professionals acting independently of larger organizations -- are never going to be able to replace the core information-gathering function provided by traditional print or broadcast media. An online-only operation of sufficient scale certainly could, but lone bloggers simply can't conduct long-term investigations, operate foreign bureaus, or even just fly someone to Beirut really quickly to cover some demonstrations. The flipside of this, however, is that the blogosphere tends to cast into relief the extent to which a lot of what the traditional print and broadcast media does isn't really reporting in this sense.
Something I hear a lot when talking to journalist friends and older people who don't really understand blogs is that they are vaguely under the impression that blogs are trying to take over newspapers, TV, other standard information sources, etc. And something I hear (and read) a lot when talking to bloggers is that they indeed are on the verge of taking down the mainstream media, it's the beginning of a revolution, standard journalism can't compete with blogs, and die old media, die! (This is also apparent in the comments to Matt's post.)

Personally, I think "old media" journalists are being too fearful, and bloggers are too flush with power and youth. Why can't anybody see that what we've got going on and will always have going on is a very complementary relationship between standard and new media? I've heard this argument many times before, and agree with it: bloggers need traditional media resources to survive (and the hard info and news gathering that they provide), and if traditional media would suck it up, they could see that there's a lot of potential to blogs for media: buzz, guerilla marketing, a personal touch that audiences enjoy, and topic experts that can explain something specific, like economics or regionalized foreign policy, better than a general reporter can.

Traditional journalists and reporters don't really have too much to fear from bloggers. I don't think most bloggers aspire to be reporters (there are, of course, people who were reporters first, then blog on the side). Haha, can you imagine Instapundit picking up a pen and notepad and working long hours for probably a lot less than what he makes now as a law professor? No, I think most people are content to have blogging as a hobby.

The real people who should be running scared are pundits. Bloggers are experts on paticular subjects - economics, foreign relations, history, hair weaves, whatever - and they can expound on these topics just as well as any high-paid NYTimes opinion page pundit (and they love writing about their topic of choice so much that they do it for free and at the expense of leisure time). As time goes on blogs grow, I think more people will be reading bloggers as opposed to pundits, which is something I am absolutely fine with. Whoever died and decided they were the experts on all things good and interesting, anyway? Nobody.

But hard news writers have little to worry about. And if blogs mean that "traditional media" will be forced to go back to more serious, hard news instead of offering up feckless, meandering pundits and talking heads, that will be totally awesome.