September 04, 2003

Comments

Your comparison to alt weeklies ignores a compelling advantage held by blogs: No ads for outcall prostitution or "laser vaginal rejuvenation." (And by the way, HUH? You're going to shine a superfocused beam of phased light WHERE?)

Yes all the sex stuff is happening online, and those economics may well be sustaining the internet. But when I read Reynolds in the morning, I'm not troubled by fears that his financial model is propelled by appeals to social fear, loneliness, and darkness. His sidebars have no before and after photos of middle-aged abdomens in bikinis.

Hard to read blogs eating sushi though.

Posted by: Cridland at September 4, 2003 07:44 AM

Your comparison to alt weeklies ignores a compelling advantage held by blogs: No ads for outcall prostitution or "laser vaginal rejuvenation." (And by the way, HUH? You're going to shine a superfocused beam of phased light WHERE?)

Yes all the sex stuff is happening online, and those economics may well be sustaining the internet. But when I read Reynolds in the morning, I'm not troubled by fears that his financial model is propelled by appeals to social fear, loneliness, and darkness. His sidebars have no before and after photos of middle-aged abdomens in bikinis.

Hard to read blogs eating sushi though.

Posted by: Cridland at September 4, 2003 07:45 AM

Also, weeklies never publish the same lettor to the editor twice in a row!

Hate that.

Posted by: Cridland at September 4, 2003 08:02 AM

Matt, what a readable piece.

Posted by: Janis Gore at September 4, 2003 08:58 AM

Matt--your piece on blogging and the newspaper tradition in the recent CJR is one of the best pieces I have ever read about journalism and blogging. As a journalist who embraced the web--and blogging--to the point that I don't see myself as a traditional journalist anymore--I admire how well you have articulated some new ideas.
Thank you for such an articulate and through piece of work.

Posted by: susan mernit at September 4, 2003 09:46 AM

Matt, I'm still reading your piece, and I'll post more substantive comments later, but one quick thought just occurred to me as I encountered a particular sentence: after the publication and circulation of this thing, how many people are going to scramble for "joesixpack.blogspot.com"?! The response may very well illustrate the power of the new emerging alternative!

Posted by: Robert Tagorda at September 4, 2003 10:35 AM

"For those with time to notice, blogs are also a great cheap farm system for talent."

I remember hearing that somewhere before...can't remember where.

"Are bloggers journalists? Will they soon replace newspapers?

The best answer to those two questions is: those are two really dumb questions; enough hot air has been expended in their name already."

That's probably the perfect thought of the article.

Posted by: Paul at September 4, 2003 11:51 AM

Matt:

Excellent article. I worry that it will fall mostly on deaf ears, though. Journalists seem to be a hard-headed lot, and they will not easily succumb to the reality that with every passing day they are regarded less as the oracles they once were and more as objects of curiosity and, too often, disdain and scorn.

Posted by: Brant at September 4, 2003 12:54 PM

Matt, good piece ... I think it struck the right balance between blogging as something earth shattering and revolutionary and the fact that it really isn't likely to replace traditional journalism, ever.

Posted by: Howard Owens at September 4, 2003 02:14 PM

Dude!
How could you forget sports bloggers? Like maybe PuckUpdate?
Nice article, though.

Posted by: Steve at September 4, 2003 02:48 PM

Thanks, everyone!

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 4, 2003 03:21 PM

Matt, to save your other readers grief, I just posted my comments here. Again, good work.

Posted by: Robert Tagorda at September 4, 2003 04:33 PM

The best thing, Matt, is that the CJR editors solicited and published it. Who would have thought?

No, it didn't seem pedantic. Not a problem.

Posted by: old maltese at September 4, 2003 04:54 PM

Old Maltese is right -- This was totally the CJR's idea.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 4, 2003 05:10 PM

I thought conspicuously missing was any mention of Slashdot; its influence is hard to ignore! also, Robotwisdom coined the term "weblog" and Peterme its contraction "blog," for the record :D

Posted by: Bradley S. Felton at September 4, 2003 07:28 PM

Good read!!!

Posted by: Warren Celli at September 4, 2003 07:48 PM

Bradley -- I actually meant to mention Jorn Barger & Slashdot (or Metafilter), but I didn't manage to work them in.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 4, 2003 09:22 PM

Matt Welch:
"Which is not to say that 90 percent of news-related blogs aren't crap. First of all, 90 percent of any new form of expression tends to be mediocre (think of band demos, or the cringe-inducing underground papers of years gone by), ..."

You did know that you were alluding to Sturgeon's Law, right?

Posted by: Bill Woods at September 5, 2003 01:00 AM

FYI: Media Bistro picked up your column Friday in its daily newsfeed:

BLOGWORLD AND ITS GRAVITY
Matt Welch: Blogging technology has begun to deliver on some of the wild promises about the internet that were heard in the 1990s.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at September 5, 2003 06:13 AM

from a committed blogger: editors do still come in handy...one should have caught and fixed your statement that the printing press led to the Renaissance, for example.

Posted by: ed cone at September 5, 2003 07:49 AM

...fixed your statement that the printing press led to the Renaissance, for example

The printing press did lead to the Renaissance, so what needs to be fixed, Mr. Cone?

Great piece, Matt.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at September 5, 2003 08:39 AM

Good piece. I thought you'd need a little pedantry to get professional journalists to read it, but I didn't find it pedantic at all (maybe just because it's less pedantic than my own stuff).

"Farm system" is a good analogy. For now, blogs are more like the pre-Branch Rickey minor leagues, when star players could still be found laboring in some out of the way independent league.

Posted by: Crank at September 5, 2003 09:43 AM

well, first of all the quote in question was that the Gutenberg bible led to the Renaissance, and that is not so. in that case, the word he's looking for is clearly "Reformation." the point of my post is not to dis Welch or printing presses (I'm a fan of both) but to show that editors have a role in the blogging era.

but since you brought it up, the printing press did not lead to the Renaissance, either, that is, the rebirth of European high culture after the middle ages. that began in Italy in the 14th century, and is strongly associated in popular imagination with the great strides in art made in that era. The Renaissance spread more slowly to northern Europe, and certainly the printing press helped accelerate the progress of ideas that marked the period (e.g. the rediscovery of classical knowledge), but it can't be said to have "begat" the Renaissance.

Posted by: ed cone at September 5, 2003 10:56 AM

Yeah, yeah, Matt...you're da bomb. But you still owe me that Coke.

Posted by: Cathy Seipp at September 5, 2003 12:08 PM

And Cathy, weren't you also supposed to dunk ice water over Matt's head until he promised to jumpstart LAExaminer.com, or something like that?

Posted by: Mike S. at September 5, 2003 04:11 PM

You're probably right, Mr. Cone. But this was published by the Columbia Journal Review. Why didn't they catch it?

Posted by: JanisGore at September 5, 2003 05:39 PM

janis, that's my point exactly -- that at a moment when all of us are excited by weblogs and the freedom they bring us as writers, a good editor is still sometimes useful to have around. the irony here is that this howler was allowed to go to press by the editors of a prestigous journal...in weblogs, we have peer editing, which in this case seems to have worked better than professional editing...

Posted by: ed cone at September 5, 2003 06:18 PM

Mr. Cone, my name is Ms. Gore to you. I base my opinion on a book currently in my house, The Renaissance of the 12th Century, by Charles Homer Haskins. We don't know. We are looking back seven hundred years.

Posted by: Janis Gore at September 5, 2003 07:46 PM

"Pedantic"? What the hell, I even liked the article. One of these days, someone is going to write about how the area in and around Los Angeles suddenly produced most of the important writers in the blogosphere, and your name will be mentioned somewhere.

Posted by: Steve Smith at September 5, 2003 10:17 PM

Steve -- Cathy Seipp actually wrote that article for the American Journalism Review last year....

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 5, 2003 10:55 PM

Oh great, we'll all be treated to documentaries about the Young Turks who took over a financially troubled, near-dead publishing industry and revitalized it with their gritty realism and homages to past authors.

Yes, there was Layne, the bearded genius whose journey to Nevada and attempt to create a single CD drove him to the brink of madness.

And there was Welch, the man with the movie-star good looks who preferred to stay behind the scenes and pen colorful, yet understated works which were popular only with the coffeehouse crowd at first. His breakthrough novel, Barfights! propelled him to super-stardom and independence from the major publishers, but also left him alienated from the small crowd who felt he had abandoned art in favor of mass paperback fiction. Nevertheless, his Barfights! trilogy changed the way books were made and transformed the publishing industry forever.

And how can we forget Tony Pierce, whose fantastic tales appealed to the kid in all of us and made us remember what it was like to dream again? Though often criticized for tacking-on happy endings and portraying the world in less-than-realistic fashion, his ability to tell compelling stories captivated audiences worldwide and established him as one of L.A.'s most influential and bankable authors. Critical acclaim from his peers would continue to elude him, though, as he would lose out to undeserving authors for the Pulitzer year after year.

Indeed, that entire community of authors, including Cathy (Miss Seipp if you're nasty) to Moxie turned the publishing world upside down and revolutionized the industry, for awhile at least. The years immediately following the inmate's takeover of the asylum saw some of the most provacative, interesting and powerful work seen in decades. But years of excess and self-indulgence took their toll on the Young Turks and the quality of their work. Their fire would eventually cool as they settled in and became the establishment themselves, often producing uneven and mediocre work.

It'll all be in the cult favorite book, Easy Writers, Raging Bullshit.

Posted by: Paul at September 5, 2003 11:09 PM

Matt,

This is just another great article from you espousing the wonderful new world of blogging. My own venture into the blogosphere began after reading your "Death of Dissent" column in the National Post last year. I had no idea so many great ideas were being tossed about from so many different minds. To be honest, I'm a little pissed off I never heard of it before. Now, the first thing I do in the morning is check out Little Green Footballs, InstaPundit, and the rest in order to get my fix. I'm also going to start my own blog very soon, with content intending to cover important topics such as anti-Americanism in Canada, politics in the Canadian oil patch, and the upcoming NHL season. I'm excited about getting my thoughts out into the world and possibly receiving even a little bit of feedback from others.

But I don't know if I would have been in this position if you hadn't written that article in the Post. Therefore, I must implore you to continue to preach to the masses of this brilliant medium. You will undoubtedly convince others of the merits of independent journalism, and some of them may turn out to be the proverbial diamonds in the rough. Who knows? It might even change the world, if only a little bit.


Keep it up. You're doing great!

Posted by: Huck at September 5, 2003 11:57 PM

Ms.Gore, terribly sorry for the impertinent use of your first name.

The statement in the article that the Gutenberg Bible begat the Renaissance is incorrect. This is not a matter of opinion. Nor did the Gutenberg press beget the Renaissance.

Long ago though it was, we do know when the Gutenberg press was invented. We do know when the Gutenberg Bible was printed. And we do know that the Renaissance began well before either event.

Thus, we do know that Gutenberg Bible did not beget the Renaissance, nor did the printing press.

The editors of CJR should have caught the error. Peer editing by weblog did catch the error.

Now, if anyone wants to debate the statement Matt Welch probably meant to make -- that the Gutenberg Bible begatn -- that could be interesting.

Posted by: ed cone at September 6, 2003 06:43 AM

It has been so far!

Posted by: JFT at September 6, 2003 06:55 AM

Thank you, Mr. Cone. We are on proper terms now. And I still think you are right.

Posted by: Janis Gore at September 6, 2003 08:21 AM

The Catherine Seipp article is here. A bit dated, though; it seems to have been written back in some ancient time when only white conservative men blogged. Also, it makes reference to "P.C.", a term that seems more descriptive of the right (ie., Bustamante and MeChA) than the left nowadays.

Posted by: Steve Smith at September 6, 2003 09:21 AM

Dammit, StrykPosted by: Janis Gore at September 6, 2003 09:29 AM

Seipp, excuse me, please.

Posted by: Janis Gore at September 6, 2003 09:44 AM

Ed -- Thanks for demonstrating my point!

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 6, 2003 10:22 AM

aw, gee, Matt, it was the editors at the CJR who did all the heavy lifting.

peer editing really is powerful stuff...and it can be done in a way that is respectful, postive and even, as Ms. Gore has demonstrated, downright decorous.

here in Greensboro, NC, a blogging candidate for the city council and a reader at my site just traded comments in a respectful way that moved the issue under discussion forward.
http://radio.weblogs.com/0107946/2003/09/05.html#a768

and by thay, Matt, congrats on having readers so loyal that they'll dispute the basic chronology of Western Civ to defend against a (wrongly) perceived slight to your honor.

Posted by: ed cone at September 6, 2003 12:54 PM

Amen!

Six months ago, I was depressed about the future of the Internet. I couldn't get excited about anybody's new website anymore, my e-mail discussion groups were dying off, and it just seemed like the bloom was off the rose. I was even having trouble getting people to read my e-mailed activist newsletter, which at its height last summer (!) was reaching 50,000 people in 41 countries. This year I could only manage a few hundred readers when I returned to publishing after a six-month hiatus, and that's not even to mention the problems with various spam blockers.

Then the war came on, and suddenly I was reading war blogs, like everybody else. It took me a while, but eventually I figured out how I could convert my e-mailed newser to something that would attract more readers. I was right -- while I'm still not entirely back to the circulation of the past, I'm getting there. What's even better is that I'm finding a whole new group of interested, and interesting people out there. Many of them have skipped the website/discussion group business altogether and have been blogging for some time. The blogging community itself has been so wide-open and friendly it reminds me of my first days online, circa 1995.

I can see all kinds of possibilities! I've been "bucking the Establishment" for years, and now I have a genuine opportunity to be heard; on my own terms and on my own turf. And I really like that feeling.

Posted by: Trudy W. Schuett at September 7, 2003 09:41 AM

To prove just how out of it the traditional alternative press is, (hey, isn't "traditonal alternative" an oxymoron?) go to alexa.com and check out the ranking of NewCity.com

148,000. 148,000! Hell, my crappy little website gets more traffic than that all the time.

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at September 8, 2003 04:18 AM

I thought the first section of Matt's story in CJR, the part where he makes a bunch of dumb generalizations about alternative newspapers, was pretty ridiculous.

Feel free to read my response:

http://aan.org/gbase/Aan/viewArticle?oid=129696

Richard Karpel, Executive Director, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies

Posted by: Richard Karpel at September 9, 2003 08:28 PM

"All the God-and-flag shit disturbs me."

Oh. And people apply to be members of this organization for what, exactly?

Also, could someone point me to where this discussion on hip hop and libertarianism is happening?

On a related note, I'm glad someone is writing about political content in hip hop, because the underground has far, far more intelligent emcees than most people would ever think.

Posted by: Nik at September 10, 2003 04:38 PM
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g that would attract more readers. I was right -- while I'm still not entirely back to the circulation of the past, I'm getting there. What's even better is that I'm finding a whole new group of interested, and interesting people out there. Many of them have skipped the website/discussion group business altogether and have been blogging for some time. The blogging community itself has been so wide-open and friendly it reminds me of my first days online, circa 1995.

I can see all kinds of possibilities! I've been "bucking the Establishment" for years, and now I have a genuine opportunity to be heard; on my own terms and on my own turf. And I really like that feeling.

Posted by: Trudy W. Schuett at September 7, 2003 09:41 AM

To prove just how out of it the traditional alternative press is, (hey, isn't "traditonal alternative" an oxymoron?) go to alexa.com and check out the ranking of NewCity.com

148,000. 148,000! Hell, my crappy little website gets more traffic than that all the time.

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at September 8, 2003 04:18 AM

I thought the first section of Matt's story in CJR, the part where he makes a bunch of dumb generalizations about alternative newspapers, was pretty ridiculous.

Feel free to read my response:

http://aan.org/gbase/Aan/viewArticle?oid=129696

Richard Karpel, Executive Director, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies

Posted by: Richard Karpel at September 9, 2003 08:28 PM

"All the God-and-flag shit disturbs me."

Oh. And people apply to be members of this organization for what, exactly?

Also, could someone point me to where this discussion on hip hop and libertarianism is happening?

On a related note, I'm glad someone is writing about political content in hip hop, because the underground has far, far more intelligent emcees than most people would ever think.

Posted by: Nik at September 10, 2003 04:38 PM
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