A few weeks ago the New Yorker published a probing article by Eric Alterman about the fate of American newspapers. These days I can't seem to read three straight paragraphs in the New Yorker, due to juggling multiple books and various other periodicals in my absurdly ambitious collection of reading materials. So I was rather too proud of myself for reading Alterman's entire piece.
The sentence that sticks with me is: "But Huffington (as in Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post) fails to address the parasitical relationship that virtually all Internet news sites and blog commentators enjoy with newspapers." Alterman argues that--for all the talk of "citizen media" and "grass-roots journalism" at HuffPost and elsewhere--bloggers would be nowhere without easy access to the reports that traditional journalists post online.
Alterman makes a strong point. Score one for the mainstream media.
And so things stood, to my mind at least, until I read Ezra Klein's blog post today. Klein points out that being a full-time writer is a privileged position, and that traditional journalists who criticize political bloggers never acknowledge that most bloggers have day jobs (and thus are not able to do original reporting.)
The sentence that strikes me is: "If you've got the gig (as a full time writer), then pat yourself on the back, shut up, outcompete your competition, and be generous to those who steal time out of their workday in order to carve out a small space in the national conversation." (Emphasis mine).
Klein is a bit punchy here, but the point holds: Blogging can never replace full-time journalism (whatever some blog proponents might proclaim), but it does open space for more voices to be heard. Sure--many blogs are uninteresting or absurd; and many good blogs aren't updated often enough to be worthwhile. But there is cream in this crop, just like in anything else.
So score one for the bloggers. Fortunately this isn't a zero sum game.