The World Is One Big Blog, that's what the panel was called that I went to today. Here was the idea of the panel, articulated by moderator Ken Auletta: "Some say blogs are a way to democratize the media.... Others say they may rob democracy of a common sense of ..." something or other. I don't know what that something or other was, because I can't read my notes and all I can hear on my tape recorder are some indistinct voices and the sound of someone coughing. Actually, it's me coughing. I could call Ken Auletta and ask him what it was he said exactly, but that would involve reporting, and I learned this morning at the panel on blogs that when you are a blogger, you are so busy blogging that you don't have time to report.
Anyway, you get the idea of the panel, and as with all panels the moderator framed the question beautifully, and then the panel went on to other things. We never really did find out about the effect of blogs on democracy. (I don't think we did anyway.)
On the panel were Ana Marie Cox, Wonkette herself, and Jason Calacanis, co-founder of Weblogs, dressed perfectly in a pair of ripped jeans (I am not one of you) and a blazer (on the other hand, I am one of you). Arianna Huffington was supposed to be on the panel too, but had to cancel and was replaced by her Huffington Post business partner Ken Lerer. They spoke at Conde Nast to a room full of (mostly) men, (mostly) in blazers, all this sponsored by the New Yorker Magazine and the Newhouse School.
We establish from the beginning that the best thing about being a blogger, besides not having to do reporting, is that you never actually have to get dressed -- you can work in your pajamas (Wonkette) or your bathrobe (Calacanis). "Blogging is ridiculously easy to do," Wonkette says. "My cat could do it." We also learn almost immediately that Calacanis is flirting with a number of companies that apparently are going to buy him out for (I guess) millions of dollars. He gives us a list of the companies that are in the bidding for Weblogs, this too lost in the ether of my tape recorder; my memory is that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is at the top of the list.
Calacanis is very impressive and confident, reeling off endless thrilling acronyms and technical terms that are Greek to me. He says that what blogs are really good at is getting to the truth. He says that if Jayson Blair's fraudulent articles had appeared on the Internet instead of in the New York Times, he would have been nailed immediately. I guess this is the case, although I can't help but think Calacanis is missing the delicious point about truth and blogs. It's not that the blogosphere doesn't care about the truth, but that truth is a very limited. overrated concept, and nowhere is this more clear than on the Internet. It's true, for example, that there was a panel discussion about blogs this morning at Conde Nast moderated by Ken Auletta, and it's also true that certain things were said at it, much of them not picked up by my tape recorder. But what actually happened this morning? Nothing? Anything? Something? Everything? That depends on how you look at it. Which, by the way, is, to me, the point of blogs, and it's what makes their relationship to the truth so interesting.
My favorite thing Calacannis said is that he thought the New York Times was idiotic to charge people to read Op-Ed material, that the paper was putting up a wall around part of their product and as a result, the Times' columnists wouldn't even be Google-able. Apparently the worst thing that can happen to you in the history of the world if you are a blogger is not to be easily accessible on Google. By the way, Calacannis told everyone to buy Google stock.
Wonkette spent some time drawing a distinction between bloggers and journalists. I think she said you could be a journalist but not write journalism, or else she said you could be in journalism but not be a journalist. She definitely said a blogger could perform an act of journalism without being a journalist exactly. It was sort of existential and reminded me of the question, "Is a play a play if it isn't being performed?" She also spoke eloquently about drinking, being drunk, being hung over, and never being anywhere without a miniature bottle of Jim Beam. She was fantastically fast and funny, and if I were a straight man or a gay woman I would have gotten a huge, pathetic crush on her. She has written a novel and showed me the manuscript, which was in her tote bag. Her tote bag was pretty messy, and so was mine, so that made things even more exciting. I don't have a clue how she has had time to write a novel, what with the blogging and the drinking, but I guess you save a lot of time not having to do any reporting.
As for Ken Lerer, he said that the Internet and the explosion of blogs isn't really new, it's just the next new thing to evolve, sort of like what happened two hundred years ago when people first started writing broadsides and pamphlets. I completely disagree with this, although I didn't raise my hand during the question period to say so for fear that I would start coughing again. But I happen to think the Internet is a cosmic, seismic, amazing change, unlike anything that's gone before. Way more than television, it's changing the culture, it's changing the way people think, it's changing the way their brains work, it's changing pretty much everything. Although it doesn't seem to have changed panel discussions.