Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Those Crazy Kids and their Blogs

The NEO 'sphere is buzzing about a pair of overtly anti-blog editorials recently appearing in the PD. Dick Feagler and Ted Diadiun each have pieces that conflate Wikipedia with the blogosphere. The Feagler piece in particular has been subject of much, much, much, much blogging. I can't add a lot, except to say that the Feagler piece really has to be read to be believed. Feagler has been running the same "Old Fogey out of touch and proud of it" schtick for at least 30 years now. Still, his piece is far more ignorant, far more condescending, far more wrong that you'd think possible. If you've just read the blog critiques, you still Have No Idea.

All this comes on the heels of the PeeDee's well-documented squeamishness about the URL "faggotyassfaggot.com" (now that would be a Feagler column worth reading) and a self-appointed blog expert showing up on Diane Rehm last week. So we seem to be in a new "Blogs vs. MSM" cycle.

I'm not a die-hard MSM basher nor a blog triumphalist. Bloggers frankly need the MSM both to provide the first draft and offer a door to push against. The MSM should embrace the blogosphere as an extended conversation about their product. Both are battling for attention from a world that just doesn't read much any more; both can bring people back into civic engagement.

Here in Akron, the attitude of the local paper is not one of contempt but of co-optation. The Beacon website is lousy with new blogs. In addition to Libertarian cartoonist Chip Bok's blog, we have blogs by sports writers, the movie reviewer and the TV critic. The latest addition is Steve Hoffman 's politics blog Road to Bexley. I've held off on commenting on it to give Steve some time to get aclimated to the form. Now it's time.

Road to Bexley is basically a collection of web-only Hoffman columns. What you get is his take on information from either media outlets or campaign websites. He does not in any way engage the blogosphere. Thus far I haven't seen a single link to either a national or Ohio blog. He hasn't even acknowledged MSM-linked blogs like The Fix at the Washinton Post or Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly. Nor did he acknowledge recently getting love from HypoSpeak. The internet outside Ohio.com and its cousins seems not to exist.

He also doesn't do much reporting. That is to say, he doesn't report on calls with campaigns, inside dirt from sources or background from his experience in the business. All in all, Hoffman's blog, like the BJ blogs before it, are geared toward middle-class, middle-aged, middlebrow users of the website.

All of this makes me feel like the BJ is saying "don't pay attention to that crazy blogosphere. If you want to be hip to this blogging culture, just stay here within the cozy confines of safe, stable paper you've always known."

Which is a pity. As I said, blogs can help re-engage people into civic life -- to the benefit of both blogs and mainstream media outlets. But Hoffman's project won't grow legs in the blogosphere as long as he pretends the blogosphere doesn't exist.

Now it may sound like I'm whining about The Akron Pages getting no respect. I'm not. I'm not talking about this blog. I know my place in the world and own it.

But the Ohio blog world includes well-connected operators like Tim Russo, Michael Meckler and Hypothetically Speaking; experts sharing insights borne of years of experience like Bill Callahan and Mary Beth Matthews; and writers of craft and vision like Jeff Hess and John Ettorre. Mainstream outlets ignore blogs like these to their peril.

In Hoffman's case, he has missed all the information on Meet the Bloggers. He missed yesterday's discussion about Sherrod Brown's internal poll (a story either broken by bloggers or planted with bloggers, depending on your level of cynicism.) The information appearing in blogs is neither insubstantial nor unreliable. But so far Hoffman won't go there.

Steve, if run across this, come on over to Brewed Fresh Daily and have a cup. You will be a better blogger and newspaper man for it.


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