Jack Shafer Pees In the Pool


Shafer doesn't get it.

Over at that that lumbering Old Media Dinosaur (or OMD) Slate, Jack Shafer utters multiple heresies against the new faith of Blogger Self-Congratulation (or BSC), then sits back and basks in the insults. One of several choice bits:

With the exception of the "metro" section reporter covering a 12-car pile-up on the freeway, I think most practicing journalists today are as Webby as any blogger you care to name. Journalists have had access to broadband connections for longer than most civilians, and nearly every story they tackle begins with a Web dump of essential information from Google or a proprietary database such as Nexis or Factiva. They conduct interviews via e-mail, download official documents from .gov sites, check facts, and monitor the competition—including blogs—the whole while. A few even store as a "favorite" the URL from Technorati that takes them directly to what the blogs are saying about them (here's mine) and talk back. When every story starts on the Web, and every story can be stripped to its digital bits and pumped through wires and over the air, we're all Web journalists.

The premature triumphalism of some bloggers indicates that they haven't paid attention to how Webified journalists have become. They also ignore media history. New media technologies almost never replace old media technologies, they merely force old technologies to adapt and find new ways to connect with their audiences. Radio killed the "special edition," but newspapers survived. When television dethroned radio as the hearthside infobox and cratered the Hollywood box office, radio became a mobile medium, and Hollywood devoted itself to spectaculars that the tiny TV set couldn't adequately display. The competitive spiral has continued, with cable TV, VCRs and DVDs, satellite TV and radio broadcasters, and now Internet broadcasters entering the fray. The only extinct mass medium that I can think of is the movie house newsreel.

Other highlights include a very special shoutout to Hit & Run [there, I've done my BSC for the day!], and the first reference to John Perry Barlow's "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" I've seen since Calvin Coolidge was in office (or, more precisely, since Brian Doherty mentioned it in Reason five months ago).

One thing I never see mentioned in these MSM-vs-blogs stories is how completely positive, ecstatic, and fawning the old media coverage of blogs is. The bloggers' own claims that they are transforming the media, empowering the individual, making the old fogies at the newspapers and TV stations quake in their boots, etc., are always taken at face value when newspapers or TV news shows do a blog story (and that kind of perfunctory reporting could itself be seen as a form of condescension if bloggers had a lick of sense). Recently I listened to a radio interview with the people behind Bookslut, who were given a forum to blather without contradiction about how they're covering the books mainstream literary journalism ignores, not gassing on about Philip Roth, etc. I look at this blog from time to time (and, disclosure, occasionally try without success to get them to flog Reason's book stories), and I can tell you this is a load of horse pucky. Every damn day they're jabbering about the National Book Association and the Whitbread awards and what Michiko Kakutani said the day before. I'll know the blogs are making a difference when The New York Times does a blog story about how the blogs are all a bunch of parasites on the old media.