Kathleen Parker Vs. The Blogosphere

Kathleen Parker, the foxy and talented columnist, normally does good work. However, for whatever reason, she has a real bee in her bonnet about the blogosphere.

Back in February of this year, she wrote a nasty little piece about the blogosphere which, among other things, said that bloggers can become a cyber-mob that acts, as mobs do, without conscience or restraint.

Apparently, her discontent with the blogosphere has grown since then because her latest column is a borderline irrational, Maureen Dowdish screed about how all of us keyboard assassins in the blogosphere are basically ruining journalism. Here are some of the lowlights from the piece with my comments in (bold):

There’s something frankly creepy (creepy?) about the explosion we now call the Blogosphere – the big-bang “electroniverse” where recently wired squatters set up new camps each day. As I write, the number of “blogs” (Web logs) and “bloggers”(those who blog) is estimated in the tens of millions worldwide.

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Although I’ve been a blog fan since the beginning (Sure you have Kathleen), and have written favorably about the value added to journalism and public knowledge thanks to the new “citizen journalist,” I’m also wary of power untempered by restraint and accountability.

Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right (That’s laughable and if it were really true, there would be no new media to speak of because the public would be largely content with the job done by the old media).

…They play tag team with hyperlinks (“I’ll say you’re important if you’ll say I’m important) and shriek “Gotcha!” when they catch some weary wage earner in a mistake or oversight (Oh yeah, like the old media’s favorite game isn’t “Gotcha!” What the old media hates about bloggers is that we play the same game with them that they play with everyone else and it’s not so much fun when the rabbit has the gun). Plenty smart but lacking in wisdom, they possess the power of a forum, but neither the maturity nor humility that years of experience impose.

Each time I wander into blogdom, I’m reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.” Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure.

What Golding demonstrated – and what we’re witnessing as the Blogosphere’s offspring multiply – is that people tend to abuse power when it is unearned and will bring down others to enhance themselves. Likewise, many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding’s children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow (How dare those “children” apply the same standards to journalists that journalists apply to everyone else? The only proper head to be hoisted on a stick is that of a politician or businessman and it had better be an “adult” in the MSM holding it buster!)

…We can’t silence them, but for civilization’s sake – and the integrity of information by which we all live or die – we can and should ignore them (Isn’t it a bit ironic that Parker wrote a whole column about the blogosphere and then encourages people to ignore bloggers?)

Do you want to know what I suspect this is really all about? Why people like Parker and other old media journalists get so angry about the blogosphere?

In my opinion, it’s because we’re the antithesis of everything they’ve ever done. Most of us didn’t go to journalism school. We didn’t work our way up the ladder by doing crap assignments at small papers. We’ve never had a high opinion of the “legends” of the business like Cronkite, Rather, Jennings or for that matter, of the business as a whole. We don’t think journalists have a “near-pathological allegiance to getting it right.” To the contrary, we think that many of the biggest and most prestigious old media organizations are sloppy with the facts and often mislead their readers because of ideological bias and we delight in pointing that out at every opportunity.

Worse yet, our opinions are becoming the norm. For example, while newspapers are never going to go away, their readerships are slowly dwindling and most people no longer take the news they get from the old media at face value. There was a time when Walter Cronkite was referred to as the, “most trusted man in America.” Today, I don’t know who would hold that title, but it certainly wouldn’t be a journalist.

That’s why so many old media dinosaurs despise us and as bloggers we should wear their contempt as a badge of honor.

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