Journalism, like any other creative pursuit, has historically appealed to the masses, but been reserved for the few.
Traditionally, journalists have had few outlets for their ideas, relying on restrictive print mediums with high barriers to entry -- primarily, costs associated with publication and distribution. But now, every aspiring journalist (ahem, yours truly) has an easily accessible platform from which to pontificate: the blogosophere. Got a computer and an Internet connection? Welcome to blogging!
Blogging has reformed the way both journalists write and readers interact, enlivening public discourse for the benefit of the masses. Across myriad Internet forums, readers can agree with or directly challenge bloggers in robust comment sections. Journalists, tasked with the policing of the government, are now being acutely policed by their readers. Talk about a democratic process!
But alas, thank god for the readers because, despite the seemingly democratic nature of the blogosophere, it is nothing if not anarchical. Online publications, aiming to produce as much content as possible, have an incentive to grant their bloggers a hefty amount of autonomy. But, when writers have little oversight, well... who's really there to guard the guardians? An editorial board can only comb through so many articles, after all.
The frenzied media status quo makes sense. In our 24/7, fast-paced media cycle, any millisecond delay in posting a story simply cannot be abided. God forbid you be the second outlet to break the news. In fact, I would argue that the fear of being late to the story outweighs the fear of getting the story wrong. Need I reference the fiasco that ensued from the media's rushing to report last summer's health care ruling?
A few weeks ago, Justin Green over at The Daily Beast mused that, as a blogger, "my work is never finished, rarely clean and satisfying like deeply edited pieces, and always missing something... My prose is frequently weak, spelling and grammar vary on the day, and it never feels like I have the time to deeply dive into any subject, let alone those that really matter."
It was Orwell who said, "all writers are vain, selfish and lazy," and damn, if that doesn't ring true in the bell tower of the blogosphere. For instance, this very story that I am writing will be completed in an hour, filed after one or two proofs, and published within the next day. Is that really enough time to develop a deeply explored, well thought-out idea? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But either way, I will be the first to admit that I'm often more preoccupied with getting my story published than making sure all my I's are dotted and T's are crossed. So, it's not surprising that I'm usually kicking myself after publication, wishing I had taken just a little more time to think.
In his essay "Solitude and Leadership," William Deresiewicz, cautions, "Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people's ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts... "
But that is just what we are doing. We are blogging in bursts. We reference this blogger or that blogger, who has broken news or a novel idea. We re-post or re-tweet articles of which we've only read the first half. But, who can blame us, really? We don't have time to do "the deep dive." We are living in David Foster Wallace's Total Noise culture, wherein every outlet, every blogger, every commentator, every tweeter is so often just screaming to make the most noise.