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NY Times Magazine On Blogging

I suppose I should link to this thing because everyone else will. But I don't really have much to say about it except that I think they've missed the crucial angle of young college students who've parlayed their blogs into lucrative professional journalism gigs. Seriously, though, one good thing about the piece is that it starts to bring out the extent to which there isn't much to say about blogs per se. It's a kind of technology that's used in wildly variant ways, as demonstrated by the enormous differences between Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, and Wonkette. These sites are united, more or less, only in virtue of being produced by blogging software and by being popular. But we understand that a bestselling cookbook, a National Book Award winning novel, and Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them don't have a great deal to do with each other all in virtue of being books.

September 26, 2004 | Permalink


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As to your specific point, agreed. Bloggers say different things; we don't sit around talking about how we will take over the world because of blogging.

But books are a technological/social etc phenomenon independent of their content. Likewise with blogging, separate from what you and I say in our blogs, the medium is a big message in itself. At least until blogging becomes commonplace, at which the technology will recede into the background.

Posted by: David Sucher | Sep 26, 2004 1:21:22 PM

that story was as dull as most of the blogs it describes.

Posted by: Prince Roy | Sep 26, 2004 1:22:33 PM

The major difference between blogs and books is the vast difference in cost of publication. Blogs can be free to publish, so there are thousands of them, ranging from Juan Cole's very expert news reporting to children's babbling. One similarity though is that just as many books never get read by more than a few dozen readers, many blogs are read only by their authors. My own blog fits very nicely in the latter category.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Sep 26, 2004 1:42:55 PM

I would argue that the massize proliferation and popularity of political blogs may say something about the failure of other mediums to provide completely for the political market. I'm not aware of many sports junkies or entertainment obsessed people who really depend on blogs for their "fix" the way political junkies depend on blogs. The immense popularity of political blogs doesn't say much about political blogs, but it certainly speaks about a failure of the more traditional media to meet the needs of a this market.

More importantly, political blogs allow some people with actual expertise and interest to speak on such issues as the debt or Iraq (I'm thinking of people like Delong and Juan Cole), which contrasts quite a bit with the quality of reporting on Iraq one got from many of the mainstream sources of media (there may have been journals, etc, which provided news of similar quality, but at a much greater cost to the consumer).

Posted by: MDtoMN | Sep 26, 2004 2:02:01 PM

...it certainly speaks about a failure of the more traditional media to meet the needs of a this market.

Agreed, and I would add that it is the failure of traditional media to report 'the truth' that fuels the popularity.

Back at the crest of the .com wave all the buzz was about how brick-and-mortar establishments were dead, and everything was going to be handled on-line. What was missing from that analysis was America's cultural addiction to shopping. Likewise, while blogs rise in popularity, there won't be a substitution of technology (the portability of print is still superior to this clunky WinTel shit) but a further merging of the two technologies. While traditional media will continue to spawn blogs, as they've been doing, sometime soon a hardcopy startup (newspaper or magazine) will launch with blogs as it's main source of information. It's probably happened already. I'd pay to have the best of blog news delivered to my door each day so I can read when and where I wanted.

Posted by: poputonian | Sep 26, 2004 2:23:56 PM

IMO, TalkLeft makes the best use of technology, because they're the only blog I've seen (not widely read here ^^;; ) that kicks a story back to the top of the page if it's been updated/revised/corrected. More people need to do that.

Posted by: Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu | Sep 26, 2004 2:33:30 PM

Some fine blogs don't even use blogging software.
For instance, one of my favorite political blogs, Steve Bates' Yellow Doggerel Democrat doesn't, and neither does my blog.(We both hand-code our blogs.)

So I don't think technology is the common thread behind blogs, so much as the structure (diary and links format plus blogroll) and the community they engender.

Posted by: Mad Kane | Sep 26, 2004 3:05:03 PM

Please note, Matt, that if you had boobs and red hair you'd be a lot more famous now.

Or as far as that goes, if you were thoroughly reactionary instead of semi-reactionary you'd be richer now.

These are all things that are in your power to attain, BTW, in this post-modern age.

I just about died when I read Klam's portrayal of Josh Marshall as an intense, angry guy. Jesus, what does that make ME? Apparently media people really do live in a bubble.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 26, 2004 3:15:48 PM

"I just about died when I read Klam's portrayal of Josh Marshall as an intense, angry guy."

Intense and angry aren't incompatible with well-researched and sane.


And FWIW, I got banned from dKos about a week ago for raising the same conflict of interest situation that Zephyr Teachout raises in the NYT article. Marble statues indeed.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 26, 2004 3:26:35 PM

Pooh-poohing blogs seems to be the thing these days, but they really are significant.

Besides the famous and perhaps overrated fact-checking, blogger's reduce the editor's power, since internet people can take a page from Page 16 to Page One. This is what IF Stone did, but Atrios or Kos can reach hundreds of thousands of people in less than 24 hrs.

Second, the commentator function has lost authority. Everyman is now his own David Broder. (Sounds AWFUL doesn't it! But now the sometimes-fatal Broder effect is dispersed at least, without its monopolist or oligopolist aspect).

Third, a lot of people are doing expert work as internet entities. Josh Marshall, Neuwert at Orcinus, DeLong (and he has a new, even better site in the works), Juan Cole, Laura Rozen, Talkleft, and Bob Somerby are a few.

Fourth, they're a partisan force somewhat independent of the parties. And altogether blogs form an increasingly large parallel universe of discourse mostly independent of the major media spin.

Actual reporting is still done the way it always was done, though. Pure internet research is of limited value I think (and I've tried, too).

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 26, 2004 3:29:21 PM

Petey, you are wrong and stupid. Marshall is not very intense and angry -- but there'd be no problem if he were.

DeLong is getting pretty intense and angry, but of course the wise Petey knows that DeLong has a problem. But anger is often appropriate.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 26, 2004 3:32:51 PM

McLuhan anyone?

Posted by: Ikram | Sep 26, 2004 4:19:33 PM

But anger is often appropriate.
Ah, righteous anger. Think Jesus in the temple with the moneychangers.

Posted by: PG | Sep 26, 2004 4:39:58 PM

"McLuhan anyone?"

Yeah, sure, McLuhan. But just read Lindsay Beyerstein's defense of Quine and I am thinking there has to have been some growth in communication analysis since the sixties. Lakoff is trying to help, but seems like the left is still getting its butt kicked in pomo politics.

The right really believes, that organizationally at least, they are losing the blog wars. Check out RedState sometime, for all the VRWC, they have no commenters and make no money for their candidates.

If the lefty politico/philosophical blogosphere could figure how to grab hold of the discourse...

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Sep 26, 2004 4:44:57 PM

I can't stand DailyKos or Atrios. Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Yglesias, Laura Rozen - these are good blogs.

Posted by: Jeff | Sep 26, 2004 5:13:23 PM

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"Intense and angry aren't incompatible with well-researched and sane."

No, they aren't in the least. In terms of making a political sales pitch, it does help, however, if one doesn't essentially write off all of the opposition as devils incarnate. I've said it before and I'll say it again: sites like this one do far more to sway opinion where it matters the most - amongst the undecided - than places like Atrios and dKos that are positively choking on rage, and I'd as soon read either of those sites as I would Free Republic.
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Posted by: Abiola Lapite | Sep 26, 2004 5:21:04 PM

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"Ah, righteous anger. Think Jesus in the temple with the moneychangers."

And look where *he* ended up: crucified for his troubles and used to spur a new cult that would end up persecuting the very people he thought himself called to save.

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Posted by: Abiola Lapite | Sep 26, 2004 5:23:04 PM

I thought that blogga piece was a bore -- typical Times mush. And what's with AM Cox? What a pretentious, fame-grubbing joke. And that photo of her posing with a drink? Does she find that sexy or provocative? Reminds me of when the Times put Laura Ingraham in a miniskirt . . .

Posted by: santo | Sep 26, 2004 6:01:58 PM

Petey, sorry. I misread your main point. Simple yes-no error.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 26, 2004 6:37:25 PM

"Petey, sorry. I misread your main point. Simple yes-no error."

No problem. But just so there is no confusion, I agree with Klam that JMM is intense and angry. And that's one reason why I like JMM. There's been a lot to be intense and angry about over the past 4 years.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 26, 2004 7:07:03 PM

Petey, everything is relative. JMM is not intense and angry enough, according to me. Bartcop really is the only one who hits the bullseye.

Posted by: Zizka | Sep 26, 2004 7:30:06 PM

Unfortunately the best part of the article, then interview with Alicublog's Roy Edroso, was edited out -- Roy reconstructs this section on his blog yesterday.

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