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Blogs Versus Mashups

Josh Chafetz muses on the blogosphere's parasitic dependence on real reporting and analogizes it to the parasitic dependence of mashups on the regular music industry. I think the situations are actually dissimilar in some interesting ways. For one thing, even though it would be a shame if no one ever wrote an original song again, in another sence, we'd all be okay. There are many, many, many millions of hours of recorded music out there already. If people were restricted to exclusively listening to songs recorded before January 1, 2005 it's not as if they would run out of music to listen to. Add into that the possibility of creating quasi-new content out of the old (i.e., mashups) and there's still a lot of room to scratch one's novelty itch. Clearly, this wouldn't be a desirable situation, nor is it one that's going to arise, but life would go on and things would be okay.

Political blogging, however, isn't just dependent on the fact that newspaper articles have been written in the past, but on the fact that they will continue to be written. Just blogging up year-old news stories would be intolerable. No one would read it. If the entire real media shut down tomorrow, we really would have nothing left to blog about.

But perhaps the most important point is this. One of the things that's good about standard songwriting (i.e., it's originality) is intrinsically related to new songs not being mashups. But while, say, newspapers have many virtues that blogs do not, it's not clear that those virtues are actually related to the fact that they're not blogs. What's good about The New York Times and The Washington Post? Well, what's good about them is that they're written by professional journalists who are backed by organizations with significant resources at their disposal. This lets them do original reporting and bring new information to light, along with providing them with access to figures who wouldn't speak to yon blogger or even yon American Prospect writer. The fact that these journalists write articles of such-and-such a length that winds up being published on low-quality paper is neither here nor there. If Dana Priest stopped writing newspaper articles and started writing The Washington Post Intelligence Community Blog instead, I don't think anything very important would be lost. She'd still be a great reporter, backed up non-trivial resources and the clout a major daily newspaper can provide.

If Dexter Filkins just blogged his reporting from Iraq rather than writing NY Times articles, I think things would be much improved. As things stand, he's forced on a daily basis to shoehorn 24 hours worth of content into a quasi-narrative newspaper format whether or not the development warrant it. The actual events in Iraq are better suited to being written about as a series of short, free-standing blurbs. Blog posts, in other words. The strength of Filkins' reporting is that Filkins is a strong reporter, and that the Times backs his work up with the Times's resources. That he's a newspaper writer is merely incidental.

January 16, 2005 | Permalink


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I don't get it Matt. The most important thing about original music is that it's original, not that it's widely distributed on CDs. The most important thing about original reporting is that it's original, not that it's widely distributed on paper. I don't see what's dissimilar or interesting.

Posted by: AF | Jan 16, 2005 1:29:42 PM

Comparing blogging to journalism, frankly is a fool's game anyway. There's no comparison. The general difference, is that journalists are given the resources and payment to do what they need to do to get the information. Theoretically, reporters are raw fact gatherers. Mind you, the crappy journalistic culture these days kinda kills that, mainly because all these journalists want to eventually make it to the Majors.

And that's where the real competition is for. It's the pundits. The opinion makers and shakers. That's what bloggers are competing against. Rookie reporters aspire to it. People who have it for the most part want to hold on to that.

And that's why there's quite a bit of umm..spittle being directed at bloggers. Because the bloggers are coming in, and taking away the majors for these people, or at least splitting it up a little finer.

Posted by: Karmakin | Jan 16, 2005 1:36:51 PM

Eh, the Poor Man seems to be doing just fine without the press.

Posted by: Sven | Jan 16, 2005 2:17:11 PM

My theory is that bloggers replace not only the pundits, but the editors. A large part of what the internet does is to keep a story alive that the commercial media were willing to let die.

Nameless editors highlight or muffle stories by writing headlines, writing lede paragraphs, and by placement within the newspaper (Page 1? Page 16?). Bloggers undo the editors' work and then redo it differently. This is really tremendously important. The reporter is unthreatened, but "the newspaper" ot "the TV news" loses a lot of its arbiter / gatekeeper power. This is not a monot contribution; it completely transforms the way the news process works.

Posted by: John Emerson | Jan 16, 2005 2:42:33 PM

What's a mashup?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 16, 2005 8:26:35 PM

No, if the professional journalistic corps disappeared (I hope they're just on vacation, not in dire straits), bloggers would increase their first-person reportage, and first person accounts of important issues would become consolidated by people interested in drawing together different sides and aspects of events... in other words, the technology now exists for a non-commercial distributed information collection and distribution. And someone would invent a form of subscription protection for really popular blogs, and we'd be back at square one....

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner | Jan 16, 2005 9:36:16 PM

"If people were restricted to exclusively listening to songs recorded before January 1, 2005 it's not as if they would run out of music to listen to."

You'd be surprised.

I was a punk in high school. Then I got to college, took drugs, and predictably became a hippie. Suddenly, the entire world of 60's music was opened to me. As I moved beyond the most obvious 60's bands and discovered more obscure gems, I thought there was enough music recorded during the decade to last me a lifetime. A few years later, I was already starting to hit the law of diminishing returns.

Life is long. The world can always use fresh melodies and beats.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 16, 2005 10:03:39 PM

People give some credence to professional journalists. They're supposed to have training, they're supposed to be competent. If they lie and get caught they're supposed to get drummed out of the profession and their employers look very bad. To the extent that the system works, people believe official reporters more than they believe random bloggers. If I watch the police arrest somebody and say what I see, how does anybody know whether I'm biased. I could be a friend or enemy to the person who got arrested, or a friend or enemy to the police, etc. But if a reporter says what he sees it's more believable, and if he interviews me he'll look for other witnesses to interview and he'll tell you about the biases he suspects.

Bloggers can't replace reporters. Maybe as reporters get increasingly discredited as a profession we'll have to do without them and not replace them.

Bloggers can replace columnists. In a way that's a shame. A prolific blogger can replace thirty columnists, which gives some idea how hard they work for their pay. It's kind of sad to see the economy lose one more well-paying job that isn't actually hard work. How does a columnist justify the money he gets when there are 900 columns just as good on blogs, expressing every hue of the political spectrum.... "I'm special because my column is published by newspapers" won't take you very far when it comes to payment negotiations with the newspapers.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jan 16, 2005 10:34:37 PM

I echo Bob McManus.

What the hell is a mashup?

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | Jan 16, 2005 10:36:44 PM

"What the hell is a mashup?"

Potatoes, cream, tomatos, and paprika baked into a pizza crust.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 16, 2005 10:56:01 PM

I much rather hear from real Iraqi bloggers talking about their real life rather than "journalists" trying to "find a story that sells".

Posted by: Mr. Econotarian | Jan 16, 2005 11:02:28 PM

A mash up is an ensamble of two different songs (typically of very different genres) combined to create a musical effect which is both pleasing and distinct from either of its parts.
The most popular examples are:
DJ Danger Mouse's "The Gray Album" ( a mashup of Jayz's "Black Album" and The beatles' "White Album")
Jayz and Linkin' Park's "Collision Course" ( a mashup of 6 songs from Jayz's Black Album and some Linkin Park hits).

Posted by: WillieStyle | Jan 17, 2005 1:42:51 AM

and Jay-Z and Weezer's "The Black and Blue Album" (a mashup of Jay-Z's Black Album and various Weezer songs), my personal fav of those three.

I gotta say, I don't really like the blog format of "a series of short, free-standing blurbs" (vs. the traditional once-a-day newspaper form of reporting).

What employed person has time to read so much and so often? The newspaper format allows the story to be condensed into something potable, something more manageable in everybody's busy lives.

I find that the bigger problem is not that the newspaper format is constraining in anyway, but that the corporate ownership decides what the coverage will be and how it will be framed. And if a journalist working for any of the major papers isn't complaining about THAT then he isn't doing his job right.

Posted by: Phil | Jan 17, 2005 10:17:15 AM

"I find that the bigger problem is not that the newspaper format is constraining in anyway, but that the corporate ownership decides what the coverage will be and how it will be framed. And if a journalist working for any of the major papers isn't complaining about THAT then he isn't doing his job right."

Lots of employees complain about their bosses. It's just part of being supervised.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jan 17, 2005 10:48:21 AM

true. but most employees aren't entrusted with a journalist's job of providing information that all public political discourse and democratic policymaking are based on.

i have no problem with supervision. unlike some of my more radical friends, i think hierarchy and bureaucracy are great inventions that allow organizations to get things done efficiently.

my problem is with the major shareholders at the top of the hierarchy who use their power for their financial/political interests, by limiting the spectrum of debate and totally disregarding certain subjects (especially in foreign policy. e.g. "drug wars" and coups in latin america).

that kind of supervision is designed to prevent all the Gary Webbs from reporting important news and to destroy them if they manage to let it slip through. and that's no good.

Posted by: Phil | Jan 17, 2005 1:53:22 PM

Yes, that's bad in the same way that industry self-policing is.

I think it may be slowly self-correcting. The more peopler realise they're getting managed news, the less they believe it. My old father watches the news regularly but it isn't because it's actual news, it's because he wants to predict how it will affect the stock market. The official news has an effect on the market whether anybody believes it or not. Partly because investors think it will....

Back during the cold war people used to tell me that "Pravda" meant not "truth", but "official truth". If we don't have a word with that meaning yet, we will soon.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jan 17, 2005 2:19:04 PM

Bob, Bernard, let's face it -- we're old.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Jan 17, 2005 6:22:10 PM

Americans' Future In One Plan
I know that most of you are busy to read my book. As I explained previously that Taman Health Plan (www.trafford.com) takes care of all the health care, Medicare, Medicaid and social security. It will threw away all bureaucracies out of window. Let me explain shortly how it works:
1- there will be no more health care insurance companies, no Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. My plan will take care of all.
2- Basically will be only one Big Health care organization (Taman Health Plan or THP).
3- The center of the plan will be in Washington while the health departments in every state will be the branches.
4- One organized body will be taking care of the Health Care and long term care of all Americans replacing 1500 insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
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6- When you go to any Duncan Donuts branch your expectation is to have a fresh coffee and a donut with no long wait. We will try to provide a similar predictable service everywhere as Duncan Donuts. With having only one body will be able to do that.
7- The Capital of the plan will be the funds of Medicare and Social Security (before the bankruptcy of both systems). The maintenance will be a yearly tax from each of us (will replace our yearly social security and Medicare holding taxes). A percent of each of us go to his account cards and a percent go to THP itself. The money of the plan will be invested by the investing sector of the plan very likely in Wall Street.
8- We will have 5 ATM cards with a corresponding accounts. Card A (children), Card B (working group 18-65years old), Card C (Medicare card >65 years old), Card D (Medicaid card), Card E ( expensive medicines or investigations).We will have the health cards devoted to health care and long term care. Thus we will have: health cards, banks with accounts to each card and credit card machines in outpatients care and hotelling part of hospitals and nursing homes.
9- Cards will pay for the outpatient medical care including doctors, emergency room visits, investigations, medical supplies, pharmacies and the hotelling part of hospitals and nursing homes. While the medical part of hospitals and nursing homes will be budget by the plan itself.
10- In the first year of issuing cards: Card B and C (most of people) will have a bonus it could be a percent of their Medicare and social security withholding (70 % or so). We will try to be fair to every one but every one has to now that most of us already lost a lot of money with the HMO's. For next year new comers to card B at age of 18 when first issued will have a bonus of 50,000 dollars. It will change every year by a percent a according to inflation.
11- every one of us will get a statement every one or two months of his card account. Card B account will phase in card C at the age of 65. If card C account is vanished Card D will be issued (hoteling part will be less luxurious). Only few of Card B will have card D if there account vanish most likely those with severe medical problems.
12- So basically most of us will have our own account Card B then card C. Say you are 45 and you have now in your account $ 200,000 you can take one or more years out of work, you Can retire early if you like and with your card you will control all the medical services and its prices.
13- With this card system we will end all bureaucracies of health care, Medicare and Medicaid. No one will stand between you and any medical or long term service (only your card). Shop around with you card, have early health care security and responsibility and invest in your health.
14- We will not need Social Security since after age of 65 we will be able to use our cards to stay in any nursing home each according to his account in card C or card D. So when you invest well in your health you will be able to enjoy a nicer nursing home when you get old (actually it will be also a kind of tourism).
15- The money in cards do not get inherited when we pass away but recycle in the plan to support the next generations.
16- The plan will have very positive effects not only in simplifying our care, save a lot of waste in health care, give early health care security and responsibility to Americans it will also have a positive effect on the economy, saving billions of dollars to Americans, creating jobs in health care and cutting outsourcing.
Very likely, you figure it out by now I could have sold the plan to one of the presidential candidate before the 2004 election for millions of dollars (they already spent 2 billion dollars). It is my gift to the American people (it will help the healing process of the two worlds America and the Muslim/Arabs).

Maged Taman.

Posted by: maged taman | Feb 21, 2005 11:54:54 AM

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