I have been blogging for nearly a year. So I thought I’d opine a bit on the subject. First, something general:
Relations between blogs and the MSM remain tense, as these links from Glenn Reynolds and Roger Simon clearly indicate. I have myself heard in the newsroom comments about blogs that actually did sound, in Michelle Malkin’s phrase, “thoroughly unhinged.”
But it really isn’t blogging in general that bothers the MSM. It’s only the political blogs. The MSM doesn’t care about lit blogs or cooking blogs or knitting blogs — or even tech blogs or science blogs (except to the extent they might be useful in advancing some editorial viewpoint).
Blogs have challenged the MSM’s self-designated right to shape political debate by choosing what to cover and how to cover it. The MSM claims it has resources not available to bloggers — and it does. So how explain the disparity between what was reported in the papers and on TV during Hurricane Katrina and what we have since determined was actually the case? This was, after all, the demonstration case for the superiority of the MSM.
Amanda Bennett, editor of The Inquirer, wrote a column that ran on Christmas about surveys of our readers’ likes and dislikes. The finding I thought most interesting was this: “More than half our readers weren't even aware that we had endorsed a presidential candidate!” This really seems remarkable, considering that we had gone to the trouble of endorsing John Kerry for 21 straight days.
But maybe not. Lots of people may go into journalism because they’re interested in politics, but it doesn’t follow from that the people who read newspapers share that interest. A good many do, of course — and they are precisely the ones likely to read blogs as well and to blog themselves.
I suspect that the MSM’s role in shaping political debate is going to steadily decline. There will be plenty for it to cover. But from now on the agenda, increasingly, is going to be set by others. The blogs are here to stay. Political debate now takes place in an electronic agora. Get used to it.
But it’s the rest of the readers that interest me, the people who didn’t even know we had endorsed a candidate for president. Now if you think the be-all and end-all of existence is politics, then you will probably dismiss such people as boobs. I suspect they’re people who have better things to do than be preoccupied day in and day out by matters over which the only control they have involves entering a booth and casting a vote every now and again.
Reporters and editors ought to start visiting the rest of the blogosphere. It might give them some idea of what that large chunk of readers uninterested in the editorial board’s orotund pronouncements really is interested in. Plenty of potential stories there. Plenty of potential readers, too.