Sunday, September 28, 2008

Media envy

Bloggers have attracted a bit of teeth-gnashing from some establishment pundits today.

The topic is the recent spate of candidate immolation that has been sparked in some cases by bloggers on the job.

The Ottawa Citizen's national editor, Andrew Potter, and a former speechwriter for Paul Martin, Scott Reid (not to be confused with the Tory MP of that name) are in a snit. Kady O'Malley, bless her, manages to avoid this kind of thing: "[W]hat are the three things you need to be a blogger? Your laptop. Your basement. And your virginity."

That's Scott Reid, setting a new benchmark for lameness.

And here's Potter:

What worries me, though, is that we're seeing the "democratization" of politics, in the most literal sense of the word: The people -- the great idiocratic mass of mouth-breathers out there frantically swiping the drool off their keyboards as they Google around for "dirt" -- are running the campaigns now. There aren't war rooms anymore, directed by parties with smart, educated, responsible adults in charge -- it's Hobbes' state of nature as imagined by Mike Judge.

Yup, democracy is too precious to squander on the people: that "idiocratic mass of mouth-breathers." Heaven forbid that the reign of mainstream journalists be threatened by the rabble. I like that notion of war rooms with "smart, educated, responsible adults in charge," too--the ones who gave us pooping puffins and insults to the family of a dead soldier.

O'Malley makes the glaringly obvious point, in fact, that the press has fallen behind this rabble in nailing down what she calls "candidate eruptions." But her next comment--that, unlike us, journalists need to worry about "boring, grownup stuff like contributory defamation liability, which is so non-Web 2.0"--is simply foolish and uninformed. One needs to ask where she's been lately: bloggers are all-too-aware of the sweep of our defamation laws, as some have found to their cost, and we observe precisely the same standards in this respect as the media hacks who miss so many good scoops.

In fact, speaking of standards, here's Reid piping up again:

I actually think it's A-OK for the media to maintain a few measly standards that separate them from the likes of 'chubbylover69' and the rest of the self-defined blogosphere press gallery. One of my pet peeves is the habit of mainstream media 'reporting' on bloggers who have posted rumours without source or sense of motivation.

Yeah, that must hurt, Scott--not only do the mainstream journalists miss some great stories, but some of the press--in particular the National Post--actually acknowledge the work we do. And that's not based upon rumour-mongering, but on hard facts and solid research that you folks are too lazy, too incompetent or too constrained by deadlines and groupthink to investigate for yourselves.

It wasn't the posting of "rumours without source or sense of motivation" (whatever that latter phrase means) that forced the removal of political candidates like Lesley Hughes: it was a few minutes of research and fact-checking that you were unable or unwilling to do. I never thought I'd say this, but Kate McMillan may be onto something with her "Not Waiting for the Asteroid" series. You folks are just too full of yourselves; you're the voice of an entrenched institution defending your decaying castle.

You've fallen down on the job time after time, and bloggers have had to fill the gap--whether it was police involvement in the Montebello riots, the phoney doctorate of Harper intimate Charles McVety, or the unsavoury comments, behaviour and connections of members of the current candidate pool.

I would suggest, instead of this unseemly moaning and stamping your feet, that we have a symbiotic relationship taking shape, whether we like it or not, and we should all make the best of it. Those who think that bloggers are actually going to replace the so-called "MSM" someday are dreaming in technicolour--the bulk of our material, after all, comes from the media. But not all of it does--nor the connections we are able to make, and the research we are able to do while newsprint waits for the presses and the electronic media processes, cans and delivers information at set times. Nor do we fuss about advertisers and owners, and craft (or spike) our stories accordingly.

And the other thing that rankles the groupthinkers no end, of course, is that we bloggers have a refreshing assortment of intelligent takes on current events, offering a wider variety by far than is what is spoonfed to us by a corporate, lockstep media that serves the status quo so very, very well.

I believe we can help each other in the public interest. But small-minded, petty whining by those who feel their privilege slipping away is not the way to go about it. Truce?

UPDATE: I am reminded that O'Malley and Potter both keep blogs themselves, over at Macleans. Slumming, guys? (H/t reader Ti-Guy)

UPPERDATE: The latest instance of the laziness and incompetence of the "professional" media may be found here. Notorious neo-Nazi warhorse Paul Fromm is introduced to the Global TV audience as--a "civil liberty [sic] advocate." Yes, yes, and Hitler was a "vegetarian," Mengele was a "physician," and David Duke is a "politician." (H/t Firebrand)

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