One of the first of these often great anti-classics was the April 2002 column by Alex Beam of the Boston Globe, in which Beam parachuted into the Blogosphere on 4/1/2002, confused an April Fools Joke of a Weblog with serious content, and wrote:
Another cloying attribute of bloggers is their intense admiration for other bloggers. Many of their Web sites link to one another’s, which serves to build collective audience. But clicking beyond the above-mentioned writers, or the likes of Virginia Postrel and Mickey Kaus (both too smart to write every day), lands you in the remote wilds of Lower Blogovia very quickly. Over the weekend, for instance, Postrel posted a link to Norwegian revolutionary (!) Bjorn Staerk ‘s bizarre recommitment to left-wing raving: ”This new blog is dedicated to the coming revolution, and the age of peace and equality it heralds.” (More Staerk: ”Noam Chomsky is a brave man, and how he escapes imprisonment in that horrible police state he lives in is beyond me.”) It goes without saying that Staerk includes a link to Postrel’s site, www.dynamist.com, in blogland’s infinite echo chamber of self-regard.
Of course, that echo chamber has its own rewards: having been ridiculed endlessly by the Blogosphere for unwittingly becoming the butt of Staerk’s April Fool’s Joke, that column of Beam’s now 404s. Fortunately, big swatches of it are still online at various blogs, including this one.
Back then, the big beef about Weblogs was that its writers were nothing but “navel gazers”, which has its origins in blogging’s early days, back when the first bloggers wrote about day-in-the-life events like discovering new boyfriends, girlfriends, and the like. And of course, as Nick Stewart noted earlier today, that’s still the raison d’etre of millions of bloggers.
But the navel gazing line was frequently used as a crack against bloggers who were actually busy correcting Beam and the rest of the mainstream media. One example of this genre was contained in an otherwise balanced piece in Wired News back in December of 2002:
“Bloggers are navel-gazers,” said Elizabeth Osder, a visiting professor at The University of Southern California’s School of Journalism. “And they’re about as interesting as friends who make you look at their scrap books.”She added, “There’s an overfascination here with self-expression, with opinion. This is opinion without expertise, without resources, without reporting.”
Tell that to Trent Lott, John Kerry, Dan Rather, and Eason Jordan, all of whom would later have their lunch handed to them by those same navel gazers. And of course, tell that to the dozens of professional journalists who have their own Weblogs as a sideline (err, like me).
With the exception of Trent Lott being sent to the backbenches of the Senate, those stories above happened in 2004 and 2005. 2004 was the year the public as a whole began to discover Weblogs, first via their being interviewed during the Democrat and Republican conventions, and then through their role in making known Dan Rather built a news story based on forged documents.