Monday, August 10, 2009

Why (News) Blogs Suck

I'm not going to bother explaining why "personal blogs" suck. There are a great number of blogs out there that are simply not of interest to anyone. Unless you are famous or having sex with famous people, no one wants to hear about your life. The best thing one can say about "personal blogs" is that they provide a chance for people to vent about their lives while thinking of themselves as "writers." As hobbies go, personal blogging is more social than stamp collecting, less dangerous than rock climbing, and less expensive than golf--and occasionally these blogs get turned into movies. They may suck, but they're hardly worth mentioning.

The blogs I want to refer to are the "new media" blogs, the ones that people mean when they say, "Blogs are going to replace newspapers." Blogs may replace newspapers one day, and that's going to be a sad, sad day for news. Not because blogs are inaccurate or irresponsible, as some reporters and Sarah Palin claim--most of the larger blogs fact-check as rigorously as newspapers--but because of the mentality that comes with blogging.

Here's how the traditional, daily-newspaper news cycle works: something happens (for instance, a church burns to the ground) and the next day an article appears (sample headline: "Hot Cross Buns"). If there are further developments, like it turns out that the pastor started the fire, there will be some follow-up articles ("What Would Jesus Burn Down for the Insurance Money?"), and later on a desperate-for-ideas local columnist may weigh in on the topic ("Burning Down Churches Is a Bad Idea"). But there isn't any news unless the church burns down, i.e. unless something happens.

Blogs can't wait for something to happen. Most of the widely-read political news blogs (Huffington Post, Politico, Redstate, etc.) are updated several times a day. The blog news cycle, much like the 24-hour cable news cycle, needs to be constantly spinning. The problem is there aren't enough actual events for blogs to cover so they have to post entries that are the equivalent of Twinkies--all empty calories.

Let's look around the internet, shall we? Here's a post from last Friday on the popular left-leaning blog Wonkette that references another blog that got it's information from a Facebook note. I'm not saying that the uninformed ramblings of a former half-term governor with a fondness for run-on sentences isn't news--it is news, thanks to all the blog buzz around it--I'm just saying it shouldn't be.

Here are some more blog entries culled from different blogs with different political slants: this one accuses Democrats of "astroturfing" (meaning organizing protests that look like spontaneous grassroots demonstrations, but are actually put together by national, party-affiliated groups--I assume some people somewhere care about this distinction); this one accuses Republicans of doing the same thing. This entry is a picture of a sign. My favorite post is from Politico, a generally thoughtful, mostly-left-of-center blog: it analyzes the cable news coverage of the "birther" movement, an anti-Obama conspiracy theory that exists primarily on the internet.

The Politico article is well-written, doesn't wear its bias on its sleeve, includes unique quotes from experts, and has presumably been fact-checked; it has everything you would want from a publication, online or dead tree. But it suffers from the blogger mentality and the demands of the hyper-accelerated news cycle: it's an article about news coverage of an internet phenomenon based on a false rumor. Fifty years ago, even twenty years ago, no media outlet would publish anything like this, let alone put it on the front page, as Politico did. Hell, twenty years ago we couldn't conceive of this article. The story wouldn't even exist without the over-saturation of constant cable news and blogs.

And to top it off, this blog entry is a post complaining about an article about cable news coverage of an internet phenomenon based on a false rumor. It's turtles all the way down.

1 comment:

  1. i wrote about this in my blog as well! check it out