Ed Driscoll

Reactionary Media Redux

Betsy Newmark, Roger L. Simon, and the Pajamas mothership (the Motherpajamaship?) link to this New York Times article by Katharine Q. Seelye on the Times’–and therefore, the rest of the MSM’s–hatred of the Blogosphere. Here’s a sample:

While some say they are learning to accept the new interactivity, they also worry that the view of many bloggers – that reporters should post their raw material because they are filtering it through their own biases – ignores the value of traditional journalistic functions, like casting a wide net for information, coaxing it out of reluctant sources, condensing it and presenting it in an orderly way.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN’s senior correspondent at the Pentagon, said the traditional skills of sifting through information and presenting it in context were especially vital now because there were so many other sources of information.

“With the Internet, with blogs, with text messages, with soldiers writing their own accounts from the front lines, so many people are trying to shape things into their own reality,” he said. “I don’t worry so much anymore about finding out every little detail five minutes before someone else. It’s more important that we take that information and tell you what it means.”

What I find fascinating about articles such as this how reactionary they are, something I noticed back in October:

It’s weirdly ironic–despite the fact that they’re in the news business, the media are often the last to spot a realignment of their own industry. Witness how the Big Three networks never expected cable TV’s rise in the early to mid-1980s, the first in a series of (to borrow Alvin Toffler’s word), demassifications. The next was Rush Limbaugh and talk radio’s rise during the same period the following decade, equally unexpected. Witness how Matt Drudge took newspaper journalists all by surprise, even though he shouldn’t have: the Internet had existed since 1969, the World Wide Web, which runs on it, since the early-1990s, and it was due for a media celebrity of its own. And others were destined to follow, as Weblogs make self-publishing a breeze.

Call ’em what you will– mass media, the liberal media, the MSM–they had literally decades to prepare for an era in which they were no longer the only game in town, but instead, they demonized each new player on the scene, until the new players literally outnumbered the old ones, as I wrote early last year:

And yet, as radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt notes in his new book, Blog, underneath those well-known sites, there are about seven million more weblogs, according to a report done by the Pew Research Center (and also independently by myself, simply by crunching a few numbers). Technorati, the blog-oriented search engine, tracks over five million of them. Surveys show that less than 50,000 of them are updated daily, but as Hewitt observes, that’s “the sleeper fact” of these reports. “From the big bang of blogging”, Hewitt writes, “50,000 new virtual newspapers had been born.”

In comparison, as of 1998, there were 1,489 daily “dead tree” newspapers in the US. Just to get a scope of what 50,000 daily newspapers means in terms of readership, let’s look at a hypothetical weblog that’s riding near the end of the tail. If it only has 100 readers a day, and there are 50,000 blogs with similar quantities of readership, that makes for a whopping 5,000,000 total readers. Five million readers would make weblogs the second largest newspaper group in the nation, behind Gannett, just ahead of Knight-Ridder and with twice the readership of The New York Times Co.

Instead of adopting to this new era, you get more of the same from the increasingly reactionary liberal media–more complaining that they’re no longer the only game in town, and increasingly hostile rhetoric towards their competitors.

Update: Hugh Hewitt looks at the Times article and writes, “Meloncholy is the best way to describe the air of the piece’s pro agenda-journalism slant. Like a buggy maker’s sighs as the cars that first annoyed then disturbed finally became not a nuisance or a challenge but an eclipse”:

I described bloggers as sherpas to Soledad O’Brien a year ago when on a book tour for Blog. A year later and the New York Times still doesn’t seem to udnerstand that while readers/viewers do indeed “want someone who can quickly and succinctly tell you what you need to know,” they don’t want it to be any of the hard left agenda journalists of the Times or its other sisters in elite MSM journalism. Rather, the reliable sherpas of the blogosphere are leading folks through the mountains of new information that build each year.

Perhaps by January 2, 2007 the New York Times will have gotten around to admitting that its reputation as a reliable reporter of facts was lost long before Jason Blair and has never been recovered, that Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman are jokes among most center-right Americans and a good portion of the left as well, that Valerie Plame has always been a non-story, that leaking of top secret surveillance programs of al Qaeda conducting surveillance on it sagents in America etc etc etc was the problem, not the rise of a new information network.

Readers took to the new information highway not because it was there, but because it was better. Until the old roads are repaired, they won’t be coming back except on those occasions where there isn’t any alternative.

Indeed. (As all the cool usurpers of the legacy media are wont to say.)

Another Update: TigerHawk has some related thoughts.

One More: Michael Medved writes that 2005 was the year the public lost confidence in big media–and not coincidentally, big media lost confidence in itself:

Hurricane Katrina highlighted the biggest story of 2005