Long-time readers of this blog know that I have very rarely posted anything here on the "bloggers versus mainstream journalism" debate, largely because the market for good ideas on this topic has long been saturated, in my opinion. But Nicholas Lemann's piece in the New Yorker this week has finally pushed me over the edge. Don't get me wrong -- Lemann is a superb journalist, and I agree with just about everything he says in the article. But that's the problem. I think everyone agrees with just about everything he says in the article. Jay Rosen tried to kill off this kind of discussion a year or two ago with his smart essay, Bloggers Versus Journalists Is Over, but obviously it didn't stick. So let me propose a slightly more blunt approach. Does anyone disagree with the following concepts:
1. Mainstream, top-down, professional journalism will continue to play a vital role in covering news events, and in shaping our interpretation of those events, as it should.
2. Bloggers will grow increasingly adept at covering certain kinds of news events, but not all. They will play an increasingly important role in the interpretation of all kinds of news.
3. The majority of bloggers won't be concerned with traditional news at all.
4. Professional, edited journalism will have a much higher signal-to-noise ratio than blogging; examples of sloppy, offensive, factually incorrect, or tedious writing will be abundant in the blogosphere. But diamonds in that rough will be abundant as well.
5. Blogs -- like all modes of contemporary media -- are not historically unique; they draw upon and resemble a number of past traditions and forms, depending on their focus.
So here's my proposal: if you're writing an article or a blog post about this issue, and your argument revolves around one or more of these points -- and doesn't add anything else of substance -- STOP WRITING. Pick a new topic. Move on. There's nothing to see here.
POSTSCRIPT, added a few hours later: I changed the line where I say that I agreed with "everything" in Lemann's article so that it now reads "just about everything," since obviously I disagree with the opening premise: "On the Internet, everyone is a millenarian." I'd be very surprised if even the most impassioned champions of the blogosphere disagree with any of my five points, which are all explicitly anti-millenarian in spirit, if not in letter as well.