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Hugh McGuire

Hugh McGuire

Posted: August 31, 2007 11:11 PM

Another Stupid Article About Blogs


This is a week or so old, but in the LA Times, journalism prof Michael Skube writes a meaningless and silly article that argues, more or less, that bloggers are all opinion, no fact, and that's a waste of everyone's time. Title? "Blogs: All the noise that fits: The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters."

His conclusion is:

The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.

Which I agree with, except the implication that bloggers provide top- of-the-head, but not reasoned, argument. Some do, some don't.

But check out this outstanding logical leap:

Moulitsas [of KOS] foresees bloggers becoming the watchdogs that watch the watchdog: "We need to keep the media honest, but as an institution, it's important that they exist and do their job well." The tone is telling: breezy, confident, self-congratulatory. Subtly, it implies bloggers have all the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations.

How do you get from the quote, which says, "someone needs to keep the professional media honest" to the conclusion, "bloggers want to be called journalists but don't want the obligations" ??

The point is, professional journalists have done a dismal job of covering important issues (eg, WMD in Iraq) in the past, say, 5 years. And blogging has given us new mechanisms to call journalists to account for their failures. This is not breezy or self- congratulatory. It's reality. And if anyone wants to see substantial political debates, it's the bloggers at KOS who, so far, have hosted the best example, see: Yearly KOS Presidential Forum for a substantive understanding of how the Dem field is positioning itself.

The best part is that the Skube article mentions Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo as an example of an all-opinion/no-fact blog. TMP does tons of original reporting, and in fact Skube says he's never read the site! (It's in the top 5 of political/news blogs on the net, you'd think he would have read it at least once before writing an op-ed about what a waste political/news blogs are). Apparently, an editor added TPM to the piece, which Skube signed. Ha! Nice patient sifting of fact, Mr. Journalism Professor, what an excellent acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence.

Perhaps he was being ironic?

See more commentary chez TPM.

UPDATE: letter sent to LA Times:

Dear Sirs: Re: "Blogs: All the noise that fits: The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters," by Michael Skube, if you replace the word "blog" with "op-ed," and the word "blogger" with "blowhard op-ed writers like me," Skube might be on to something. Best, Hugh McGuire Montreal, Canada.

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