Opinion Journal, which, of course, publishes a superb blog-style daily update written by James Taranto, has a screedy, ill-tempered attack on blogs up today written by Joseph Rago, an assistant editorial features editor at Opinion Journal’s parent publication, The Wall Street Journal:
Blogs are very important these days. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has one. The invention of the Web log, we are told, is as transformative as Gutenberg’s press, and has shoved journalism into a reformation, perhaps a revolution.
The ascendancy of Internet technology did bring with it innovations. Information is more conveniently disseminated, and there’s more of it, because anybody can chip in. There’s more “choice”–and in a sense, more democracy. Folks on the WWW, conservatives especially, boast about how the alternative media corrodes the “MSM,” for mainstream media, a term redolent with unfairness and elitism.
The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.
More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren’t much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.
Yes, there’s no escaping Sturgeon’s Law, is there?
What I don’t understand is the attack on the format itself. A Blog simply refers to a Web-based format that allows for instantaneous and automatic uploading of new post; its contents are as varied as can be imagined, from superbly logical 10,000 word essays from Steven Den Beste in the mid-naughts, to the video-oriented content of sites such as Hot Air. (All the way to the day-in-the-life fair that originally inspired the name “Weblog”, of course.)
Surprisingly, Rago is a man who sees bloggers as being virtually identical clones, despite working for a publication such as the Wall Street Journal, which published op-eds from early pioneer Glenn Reynolds during the 2004 election season. Ironically, though, Rago’s piece is little indistinguishable from the the themes that tie together seven years worth of hit pieces on Internet-based journalists that I assembled last year.
Update: Further thoughts on Rago’s piece, media bias in general, and a reminder that diversification isn’t just for mutual funds anymore, from Ed Morrissey.