In a typically astute post about the McCain camp's crocodile tears over Sarah Palin's post-facto media vetting, Josh Marshall observes that for all the McCain campaign's complaints, few stories were written about the more scurrilous rumors swirling around Sarah Palin.
It's also notable that while virtually all the aggressive questioning of Palin has been on her troopergate scandal, her manifest lack of qualifications, ties to a political party that embraces secession, etc. Schmidt focused on stories that if you look closely were actually never written. Yes, there was a storm of speculation on blogs. And maybe reporters followed up with inquiries. But who published any of it? Think about that for a second.
It's interesting that Josh's definition of "stories" and "published" is at odds with "blogs." He may be one of the kings of new media, but his orientation is still solidly in the established print world from whence he came. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. I was a voracious reader of The New Republic in the late eighties and early nineties, and while you couldn't pay me to read it today, TNR alums Michael Kinsley and Josh Marshall are on my short list of essential writers.
This leads to another point. The evolution of blogs and online media arguably began with Slate.com, a Microsoft property given insta-gravitas by Michael Kinsley. But it blossomed with people like Glenn Reynolds (give the devil his due), Josh Marshall, and Eric Alterman's blogs. In part because it was not shaped by traditional media powerhouses like the New York Times, the online blogosphere has always been more wry, more knowing, and more inside baseball. Even though Marshall, Kinsley, and Alterman were trained journalists, their journalistic background was in detail rich long form articles in magazines with sophisticated readership. This is also, of course, a function of the readership of blogs. Although blog readership is becoming more heterogeneous, it is still the province of the well-educated.
A month or two ago, I was at a friend's house with some time to kill and picked up a copy of Time. I flipped to a story on Obama. After a steady online diet of sophisticated analysis about politics, the article was almost unreadable. The article was fawning and as an Obama head, I was fine with that. But the detail selection made me alternate between "yeah, of course" and "that's bullshit."
I felt the same way today when I read a New York Times article on Apple's recent coy announcement of possible Ipod news. The Times saw fit to observe "Apple, which also makes iPhone devices. . ."
I can summarize my feelings in the words of Louis C. K. when he is in the post office and an old lady tells him that she was there on Wednesday and there was also a line, "Oh my god, you fucking old [Grey] lady, that's amazing!" (Watch at 2:00) I mean, really NYT? Why not explain that telephonic devices use the miracle of sound traveling across wires to allow people to have conversations with other people who are as far away as Kansas!?
The readership of the New York Times is perfectly well educated. So I guess what I am getting at is that there is a serious cultural divide emerging between old and new media. Though Rachel Sklar recently observed in her report from the HuffPo Luncheon:
Though at the beginning it seemed in danger of being mired in questions of blogger ethics (which, honestly, seems a little superfluous at this point. Kit Seelye blogs, and no one believed the National Equirer about John Edwards, even though it was a dead-tree newspaper. Voila! Platforms are just where you go to park your copy. Move on, nothing to see here, etc.), the panel eventually moved on to questions about what the migration to new platforms actually meant -- to the discourse, to the election, to the participants, to the gatekeepers and to the gates themselves.
if the new media savvy Josh Marshalls of the world still think of strict distinctions between blog posting and establishment papers, where you brush off a blog posting but something published in newsprint is a big deal, we may be a little fashion forward in declaring the death of old media.