Brian Bryan introduced his post on Joe Hallett’s anti-blog outburst by noting that Jill and I have more nuanced views of MSM/blog relations. So probably I should comment on the substance of Hallett’s (not Schultz’s) statements.
Joe Hallett is full of crap.
How’s that for nuance?
I’m not bothered so much by Hallett equating influence with readership. Or his assertion that blogs just render opinion on news. Or his woefully inadequate acknowledgement of the throng of blogs that engage in original reporting. On each of those points he is oversimplifying, but none is the most troubling aspect of his piece.
What bothers me most is the dismissive and condescending tone of his piece and what it means. Of course bloggers get the dismissive and condescending treatment alongside Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz, so maybe we should just be happy to be on that list.
But in dismissing blogs as a part of the political landscape, Hallett becomes yet another MSM figure so thoroughly missing the point. Blogs and traditional media outlets are not fighting against each other. We are fighting the same battle. Our project is, or at least should be, to encourage civic engagement. Our adversaries shouldn’t be each other. Our common adversaries are American Idol and PS2 and Lindsey Lohan’s latest DUI. Or more generally, the apathy, cynicism and distraction that have cut people off from the business of running a polity.
Some time ago Jill ran across a piece in OJR that described blogs as “parasitic.” That’s when it hit me. The “Don’t Get It” crowd in the MSM sees blogs as parasitic. The forward thinking newspeople see the relationship as symbiotic. Each medium has a role and all media benefit from working in close proximity. Without the MSM, blogs would have little to opine on or organize around, and too much untilled ground to do effective original reporting.
Conversely, for all of our bitching about the MSM, we highlight stories they uncover and, at our best, send them readers. Our criticisms of the media can make them better if they listen. Not that every criticism by every blogger is on point, but an atmosphere where the media get feedback of every kind is a healthier atmosphere.
Finally, there’s that civic engagement we help promote. And that’s the real influence of blogs on the political process. Even the blogs that are simply vanity outlets for op-ed pieces, if they have readers, are keeping those readers engaged in with the political process. And people who care about what happens in government, community and the economy are far more likely to read the paper.
That’s why the difference between Connie Schultz’s view of blogs and Joe Hallett’s is so important. Schultz truly wants blogs to be better at reporting information and engaging readers. Hallett just wants us to go away. It’s a short sighted view.