Monday, July 11, 2005

A minor contribution to the blogospheric navel-gazing phenomenon

In the past I've commented disdainfully on bloggers' fascination with their own perceived impact. I may have been a bit overbearing there -- I've since found Instapundit writer Glenn Reynolds's TechCentralStation articles on the blogosphere's impact quite enlightening, for example -- and I'd like to weigh in with a proposition of my own:

New Media may be destroying Old Media -- but it isn't replacing it.

New Media brings two new things (aside from the obvious -- accessibility, etc.) to the table:

1) The speed imperative: Journalists have to move fast these days. If they don't, Drudge will beat them to the story.

2) The accuracy imperative: Get sloppy and make a mistake (or, worse, try to put one over), and you're busted.

These two imperatives are difficult to reconcile, and that leaves "traditional" journalists in the dust. If they bust their asses to get the story out ASAP, they make mistakes and get taken to the woodshed. If they take time to get it just so, it breaks on the Internet, even if only in partial form, while they're still checking facts. They lose their scoops and find themselves relegated to the thankless task of elaborating on what everyone already knows.

Naturally, this Scylla/Charibdes position is difficult for the "old school" and they've yet to find a way over, under or around the situation.

Unfortunately, the same people who have created the problem don't have the solution.

Few bloggers, or even regular Internet news-gatherers, are full-timers. Even fewer are possessed of the resources to cover the globe with their own staff of reporters. At best, they rely on stringers who may or may not -- and don't have to -- come through in a crunch. If Old Media disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow morning, bloggers would not be prepared to step into its shoes.

To boot, bloggers don't have either of the problems that "old media" does. They aren't held to a standard of speed -- if bloggers beat the press to a story, they get credit, but if the press beats bloggers to a story, nobody notices. They aren't held to a standard of factual accuracy, either. If they get it wrong, it's down the Memory Hole, because bloggers are far more interested in getting a dig in at the New York Times than at dogging each others' heels. If bloggers had to get it fast -- every time -- and if bloggers had to get it right -- every time -- they'd be in the same pickle as their paper-and-ink competitors.

The solution? Well, hell, I don't have one. I'm just kvetching. Again.

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