Nooners takes up the issue of blogging today. I join others (Dave, Matt) in generally praising the column. Nooners can't bring herself to actually mention a blogger that doesn't share in her ideology, but what is one to expect from opinion pages of the WSJ? I do find amusing the dogged attempts by Peggy and Hewitt to pretend that the only blogs in existence are the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. Kos, Atrios, Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, the list of elephants in the room goes on, but — ever the good WASP — Peggy will ignore them.
Noonan sees blogging through the lens of journalism and thus shapes her discussion around blogging versus traditional media. I don't find the blogging vs. journalism discussion particularly compelling since the media have always had scandals and always will and, as Roger Ailes so eloquently put it
I have no interest in collectively building a culture online where we figure out norms for people who both consult and write online so that readers can have the tools to be skeptical, active participants.
If blogging can have any effect on the media, my hope is that it will prod the press to stop the he-said she-said nonsense that Brad DeLong regularly derides. It takes courage to report the facts because the facts are not balanced, the facts are not evenhanded and the facts can destroy people. Often simply bearing witness to an event is the most devastating action one can take. Bad people like to do things in the shadows. If blogging can force the media to shine a light on those shadows and report what is happening (rather than what the participants say is happening), that will be a public service. This is not to say that blogging cannot ever be journalism. Many in the ranks have already proven to be effective journalists; but blogging is not about journalism. If all blogging can claim, in the end, is that it slapped the media around a bit, blogging will have failed. What is happening now is an attempt by specialists of all stripes to pigeon-hole blogging. To define it and have it stacked in the appropriate place in the hall closet. That way it can be safely ignored on all issues except for those to which blogging has been assigned relevance. This effort must be resisted.
Blogging has the potential to assist in redefining the way we as people relate to our public sphere. Media are a part of that sphere, but so are government and commerce. Blogging will not destroy any of these, but it's greatest contribution would be to cause us to force them open. For to do that it will have become a great tool of connectivity. It will allow me, on my terms, to connect with you, on your terms. It will allow us both to clarify, to expand, to prod and to react. Jason, today, harkens back to 2000 when I started this blogging thing:
How's that for a bit of nostalgia? Back in the early days of weblogs, a lot of folks had webcams...it was part of the package. Posts, a list of links to your friends' sites, a webcam, link to your Amazon wishlist, maybe a link to your Epinions page, an about page, a guestbook or little chat widget in the sidebar, etc. It was a social space to move around in. Now that everyone is reading everything in RSS readers, a lot of that sort of thing has been lost. RSS readers are not that social, even with so-called "next gen" newsreaders that recommend sites based on what you already read. It's mostly just information in, information out...little time or opportunity for play. Thank God for sites like Flickr, LiveJournal, and Fark, where people can still go to hang out and play around with the web and their friends a bit.
Connections. And, if blogging is successful, those connections will bring change for the better. Much to the chagrin of Nooners, Instapundit and all the Little Green Footballs.
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