September 12, 2002

WARNING -- This Next Post i...

WARNING -- This Next Post is Too Long, and Utterly Irrelevent to the Key Issues We Face in These Crucial Times: Worst of all, it's about an article on blogging in today's L.A. Times. You are free to leave the room, screaming.

Imagine for a moment that you are an editor for a million-circulation newspaper in tUsing the Dow Jones Interactive Library, the un-hyphenated version of the word beats Times' style by 23 to 1 (the lone citation of "blog-o-sphere," in fact, is by the L.A. Times). A small detail, surely, but if you are attempting to portray a new phenomenon and use the names it has invented for itself (such as graf 2's "the quirky world known as the blog-o-sphere"), getting it spelled wrong in the lede is an excellent way to announce that the story below might not be taken seriously. Also, for what it's worth, I have seen absolutely zero online discussion of the UC Berkeley class in question in which people fret about, as this paragraph claims, the "radical extension of the blog-o-sphere itself, one that would include ... traditional journalists." Many bloggers, like me, are journalists, though whether the word "traditional" applies to us may be another matter.

Hence, the latest angst-filled question: Whither the blog-o-sphere, not to mention the future of the news media as we know it?
For what it's worth, most of the "whither blogs" discussion I've seen recently has had to do with the half-dozen new revenue-generating blogging models that have been launched in the several months after the Berkeley class was announced. I'm not sure the writer has earned the omniscient authority to state flatly what the "latest angst-filled question" is.
Recently, there have been unmistakable signs that blogs are seeping into the popular consciousness. In July, for instance, New York Times language watcher William Safire wrote a column on the use of the word "blog," noting that the term came into vogue three years ago.
Today is Sept. 12. July is not "recent," or at least it shouldn't be to a daily newspaper, especially one confidently identifying trends within a rapidly evolving and impossible-to-pigeonhole 24/7 publishing phenomenon.
Others have themes -- for instance, www.popculturejunkmail.com, which covers "trashy TV, British royalty, the 1980s, toys" and more, is written as an independent undertaking by MSNBC's travel editor.
The hyper-text link is mine, not the Times'. That url is the only other one mentioned in the article. The site in question is based in Seattle, and the author is Gael Fashingbauer Cooper (neither detail is mentioned in the story).
[E]-mails are posted instantly in a forum that has been likened to an infinite and unedited letters-to-the-editor page.
When reader comments are posted "instantly," that usually means they are "comments," and not "e-mails." A detail, yes, but it's a detail the writer got wrong. Also, many very prominent sites do not have comments, and many of those who do actually excerise editing rights when, for instance, hostile anonymous fanatics hurl crazy and unsubstantiated insults at people.
And these days, universities and colleges are giving the blog-o-sphere the sort of widespread legitimacy that bloggers are so very fond of dissing.
This is only my hunch and my prejudice, but I'm guessing many people who publish websites do not equate attention from universities and colleges with "widespread legitimacy." Also, you might consider inserting the word "some" in front of "bloggers," since I can't really think of many in my narrow little corner who are indeed "so very fond of dissing" the concept of "widespread legitimacy."
"Just when it was getting good," wrote a reader on the Daily Pundit blog, "the academics show up to suck the marrow from an infant art and bind its feet so that it limps about like some rich man's bride from China." Added another reader in an English-challenged entry: "Berkely J-school ... looks like the parties over."
Bill Quick -- who was not named, and didn't have his url mentioned -- noted today that one of the two reprinted comments-quotes omitted a comma.
"Web logs are now a very important form of communication," said Pryor, a former Los Angeles Times journalist. "The only question is, are they all journalism? I'm not going to answer that one.... I think our Web log, onlinejournalism.com, is clearly journalism. It's done by students. They receive training. It's edited before it goes up. It's timely. It's objective and informative."
Larry's my old editor, so I won't be mean, other to suggest that I don't necessarily agree with his characterization of what is indeed "the only question" about blogs. There are many many questions that I find interesting and relevant, though not the tired saw about whether X or Y should be called "journalism."

This marks the third time in 12 months that the Times has mentioned the word "blog." Renee Tawa, the same woman who authored today's story, published a 2,175-word piece last October 14 focusing on the personal-reaction/description angle (and also failing to mention a single L.A. website, though it made a hell of a lot more sense then). This June 21, "Regarding Media" columnist Tim Rutten ran a sneering and factually inaccurate diss of Mickey Kaus (Rutten, incidentally, is the same guy who wrote the last-one-on-the-block-to-cover-it article April 26 on the Riordan newspaper story).

Does any of this matter, in the scheme of things? Of course not, and I'm almost sorry to bring it up. I'm probably nitpicking, and the last thing in the world I want to be is the guy who busts people's chops for not adequately grokking the difference between the "Internet" and "World Wide Web," or whatever. I don't lay awake at night shoving pins through the eyeballs of John Carroll voodoo dolls.

But. One way great publications win you over is by writing convincingly on the few topics you happen to know a few things about. The first time I was mentioned in the Times, back in 1992, they misspelled my name, misspelled my partner's name, got both our ages wrong, printed a libelous statement from our bitter competitor (she says she was misquoted) without checking its veracity with us, and misattributed two separate quotes to the wrong people. The second time, some words I never spoke were edited with many that I did in what was presented, inaccurately, as a verbatim transcript. They've got many things right, as well, but their overall record on topics intimate to me does not inspire confidence. There is an interesting story to be written about weblogs in Southern California. This wasn't it.

Posted by at September 12, 2002 03:23 PM
Comments

Thanks for the positive mention. I certainly don't belong with the company named, but it's appreciated. :)

Also, I was wondering how long it would be before you commented on the article. I'm no journalist or media critic, but even I could tell that the article was sorely ... um, "lacking."

All I can figure about the "blog-o-sphere" terminology is that perhaps they were afraid of having to pay Bill Quick for the use of "blogosphere." I have never seen the hyphenated use of the term before. For some reason, the hyphenated term serves to trivialize.

And no disrespect to Ms. Tawa, but to the extent that I pay attention, her stories tend to be more fluffy. My guess is that it has nothing to do with her talent and all to do with her editor. But still...

Why do I get the feeling that the Long Beach Press Telegram would have done a better and more thorough job?

Posted by: Ann at September 12, 2002 04:56 PM

You're really cute when you get angry...


I was going to sh*t on that article when I saw it, but I figured I'd just wait until the pros got to it. Nicely done....

Posted by: Martin at September 12, 2002 05:36 PM

I figure the next step is to label those artificially processed lines of text soylent-blogs, or smur first thing I thought of.

Posted by: inkgrrl at September 12, 2002 05:38 PM

Someone should start a blog about newspaper articles about blogs. Now that all the biggies have got their first piece, you know the dam is going to burst. Look for the Dallas Morning Snooze to do their schtick in, oh, February, as a lifestyle piece on what to do to chase away winter blues.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at September 12, 2002 05:42 PM

Just wait 'til A.Beam gets hold of this.

Posted by: Ken Layne at September 12, 2002 05:44 PM

I have a blog-o-sphere in my com-pu-ter! You type on the key-board and the words show up on the mon-i-tor!

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 12, 2002 07:35 PM

Matt,
The post maybe was; "too long"
but it was not; "irrelevent to the key issues we face in these crucial times:"

Blogs are rocking the world!

Mainstream media is having a real hard time with so rapidly losing the bloom off of their rose and the resultant loss of attention.

This from the Fountain of Baloney [Hack writer not a journalist.]:
"There really is a renewed political awakening in America today, indeed, in the world. It is a result of the internet. The internet does provide a new forum for freedom and democracy. It is not a flash in the pan medium. It is a manifestation of a very concrete stage in the evolution of the aggregate intelligence of humankind that is here to stay (until another in the future replaces it). It is the exponential increase in the speed of moving information, and the rapidly increasing, interactive access to that information, that makes the internet such a powerful agent for change.

The evolution of this aggregate intelligence of humankind will not stand still for old ideologies and obsolescent technologies (read; toady suck-up, corrupt, main stream infomercial media and control of the broadcast spectrum) that favor the few and are counterproductive to advancing the spirit of humanity. Like a scab that has healed and sluffed off of the skin, these old fashioned ideas and methods are now being replaced by newer and more beneficial ideas and methods. [Blogs, for the moment.] The internet is now center stage."

A lot of these mainstream editors and writers, especially the one's that write these blog-o-sphere articles, really need grief counselors.

Next big blogger iteration; Audio video streaming combined with FlashMX type software for interactivity, all on an easily accessed platform.
Find that old hat and get your singing voice tuned up.

Posted by: Warren Celli at September 12, 2002 07:49 PM

Who are you going to believe on the spelling of blog-o-sphere? 12,200 idiot jack-a-napes, or T. Herman Zweibel?

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at September 12, 2002 08:27 PM

Darn you Floyd for getting here first. Soon as I saw "blog-o-sphere," I thought of the Onion.

I didn't realize LA had five bloggers that I read daily. I wouldn't have guessed that Kaus, Johnson and Simberg were all from L.A. Considering that I learned about each in totally different ways gives you some idea of the diversity of L.A. blogging.

By the way, Matt, Tony's right. You needed some more "motherfuckers" in there, or else you might be mistaken for a journalist.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at September 12, 2002 08:47 PM

The way I see the world of blogdom, "widespread legitimacy" follows more from being linked by Prof. Reynolds than from some university (or a newspaper) deciding it wants to appear hip and cool by playing the blogging angle while it's still hot. But I don't suppose that such a radical notion would ever occur to a "real" journalist - like one who writes for the Times.

Posted by: The Dodd at September 12, 2002 09:21 PM

dammit, jim already said it -- their delivery is very "and the kids call it a 'la-ser'!"

Posted by: dan truly at September 12, 2002 10:24 PM

"Hence, the latest angst-filled question: Whither the blog-o-sphere, not to mention the future of the news media as we know it?"

This seems to me to be the money passage, the whole lack of links, names, facts, and changing of terms that would make a regular readers further investigation into blogs flawed from the start is rather telling.

Posted by: John at September 12, 2002 10:26 PM

Warren -- I loved that bit about grief counseling ...

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 13, 2002 01:22 AM

Let me be rude about Larry Pryor, if Matt feels unable to.

It's a smug, prissy, po-faced quote in support of a blog that would push me over the edge if I was forced to read it every day.

"It's done by students. They receive training. We've sucked the life out of it - and them," would have been a more accurate statement.

Posted by: David Steven at September 13, 2002 01:57 AM

Matt:

You characterize "blogosphere v. blog-o-sphere" as maybe a minor detail.

As a young writer I was taught that details matter. In fact, getting the details right is the only thing that matters.

A writer wants to be believed. If you don't get the details right (the small things) no one will believe anything you write (the big things).

Posted by: Chris Howell at September 13, 2002 05:40 AM

I have one question: How in the world do you misspell "Matt Welch"? I mean, I could understand if you were actually "Mat Weltsche", but I've just gotta think that "Matt Welch" would be the default don't-know-any-better spelling. I find that impressive in a bizarre way.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner at September 13, 2002 05:49 AM

Charles -- It was "Matt Welsh" (my business partner, Laura Pitter, was described as "Laura Ritter"). The Wall Street Journal once called me "Welsh" as well. Of course, it was a story about our newspaper, which had a staff box ...

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 13, 2002 11:09 AM

Of course a journ-o-list is going to write blog-o-sphere.

http://www.blogroots.com/comments.blog/170#1297

Posted by: Andy Freeman at September 14, 2002 11:36 AM

I for one rely very little on newspapers or TV to explain weblogs to me. I first learned of them via James Taranto's Best of the Web daily feature at opinionjournal.com He frequently linked to posts at instapundit.com. It was only later that I realized that, technically, Taranto's own feature was a weblog.

I've really appreciated this new medium, and have drawn many hours of enjoyment and education from the best ones.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at September 19, 2002 10:23 AM
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;id=1000">David Steven at September 13, 2002 01:57 AM

Matt:

You characterize "blogosphere v. blog-o-sphere" as maybe a minor detail.

As a young writer I was taught that details matter. In fact, getting the details right is the only thing that matters.

A writer wants to be believed. If you don't get the details right (the small things) no one will believe anything you write (the big things).

Posted by: Chris Howell at September 13, 2002 05:40 AM

I have one question: How in the world do you misspell "Matt Welch"? I mean, I could understand if you were actually "Mat Weltsche", but I've just gotta think that "Matt Welch" would be the default don't-know-any-better spelling. I find that impressive in a bizarre way.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner at September 13, 2002 05:49 AM

Charles -- It was "Matt Welsh" (my business partner, Laura Pitter, was described as "Laura Ritter"). The Wall Street Journal once called me "Welsh" as well. Of course, it was a story about our newspaper, which had a staff box ...

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 13, 2002 11:09 AM

Of course a journ-o-list is going to write blog-o-sphere.

http://www.blogroots.com/comments.blog/170#1297

Posted by: Andy Freeman at September 14, 2002 11:36 AM

I for one rely very little on newspapers or TV to explain weblogs to me. I first learned of them via James Taranto's Best of the Web daily feature at opinionjournal.com He frequently linked to posts at instapundit.com. It was only later that I realized that, technically, Taranto's own feature was a weblog.

I've really appreciated this new medium, and have drawn many hours of enjoyment and education from the best ones.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at September 19, 2002 10:23 AM
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