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Aug 27 2013

The strange disdain for bloggers

I move in circles (socially and at work) where people tend to be politically interested but surprisingly ignorant of many facts. I blame it on the fact that they spend far too much time following a few big name sources of TV and print news that they think are comprehensive and giving them the full picture, but in fact are very narrow. When I discuss politics with them and point out all manner of things that they do not know, they sometimes ask me how I get information that they were unaware of. I tell them that I read a lot of blogs that monitor a wide range of news sources and alert me to news that I would otherwise have missed, in addition to providing valuable insights and commentary.

But it is surprising to see the disdain that the words ‘blogs’ still conjure up in these people as soon as I say it. Some of them proudly say that they never have and never will read blogs. They still cling to the old stereotype of bloggers as unemployed and unemployable young people living in their parents’ basement and ranting at the world, unaware that blogs have long since ceased to fit that image if indeed they ever did. But what is surprising is when similar ideas are expressed by people who really should know better.

Take for example, Aaron Sorkin, creator of TV shows like The West Wing and The Newsroom that are explicitly political. He wrote recently about what he reads and it is completely legacy media and he has contempt for web media sources.

The upside of web-based journalism is that everybody gets a chance. The downside is that everybody gets a chance. I can’t really get on board with the demonization of credentials with phrases like “the media elite” (just like doctors, airline pilots and presidents, I prefer reporters and commentators to be elite) and the glamorization of inexperience with phrases like “citizen journalist.”

When I read the Times or The Wall Street Journal, I know those reporters had to have cleared a very high bar to get the jobs they have. When I read a blog piece from “BobsThoughts.com,” Bob could be the most qualified guy in the world but I have no way of knowing that because all he had to do to get his job was set up a website–something my 10-year-old daughter has been doing for 3 years.

Blogger Kaili Joy Gray deconstructs Sorkin’s article rather well I thought, but since she is a mere blogger who even uses profanity, he likely will not read her piece.

But Sorkin’s piece does explain rather well why the few shows I have seen by this supposedly edgy writer are so predictably within the major media mainstream consensus. That’s all he knows.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    TGAP Dad

    Some of them proudly say that they never have and never will read blogs.

    Whereas I take pride in the fact that I never have and never will watch a “reality” TV show.

  2. 2
    invivoMark

    The problem with blogs is that there is no oversight to ensure accurate reporting. That means that blogs follow Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

    A blog can overcome this shortfall by including plenty of references and links, writing about subjects on which the author is an expert, and having an open comments section and/or an informed commentariat that is not afraid to call out the author (a sort of crude peer-review).

    I think this blog has qualified for all three methods, so I’m happy to continue reading it. I generally avoid blogs that don’t do one or more of the above.

  3. 3
    PZ Myers

    Holy crap. Seriously? He brought up the Wall Street Journal as an example?

  4. 4
    kimbeaux

    When I read/watch news or blogs, I ask whether what is being reported is supported. Are links provided for me to see the source material? Has the reporter/blogger done the work to determine the facts of the case, or defaulting to an “authority”?

    When they devote time to someone making a demonstrably false statement, do they highlight the errors made, or show it as “one side of the argument”?

    When they find they have reported in error, do they acknowledge it and give equal space to correcting the error, hide the correction in a less-trafficked space, or file a brief stating that a requirement of accurate reporting infringes on their freedom of speech.

    Frankly, there are a lot of people employed in the media that don’t meet these criteria as well as some bloggers.

  5. 5
    Randomfactor

    When I read the Times or The Wall Street Journal, I know those reporters had to have cleared a very high bar to get the jobs they have.

    And he knows that because the major media outlets have such high standards. And he knows they have high standards because they only hire highly-advanced reporters. And he knows that because…

    The WSJ used to have top-notch reporting everywhere but its editorial pages. It’s uniformly bad now.

    What distinguishes a news source you can trust? What do they do when they get something wrong. And everybody gets something wrong from time to time. If they double-down or bury it, they care more about their image than the truth.

  6. 6
    Brony

    I also hear that the problem is that blogs basically don’t have the same standards and practices as legacy media.

    What this complaint ignores is that these standards and practices don’t do anything about the flaws of legacy media that lead to the utterly shallow presentation that they collectively settle on. I think of it as a “de facto conspiracy” as human nature makes the legacy media form up into particular ways of presenting information, avoiding certain information, avoiding certain unflattering interpretations, and actively supporting unrealistic portrayals of issues as equal dichotomies. It’s all to get access to politicians so they have the best quality drama to show with their advertisements among other base human needs. The complaint does not matter if the product can’t be found, folks will go elsewhere.

    I’m hopeful that if the skeptic/rationalist community gets into gear people will have better cognitive tools to assess bloggers, and interesting bloggers with interesting, supported posts more consistent with reality will get attention. And advertisement revenue but that bit of society is still in flux…

  7. 7
    wtfwhatever

    If your blogger is Jonathan Turley or EmptyWheel then we can expect expertise, integrity, and original reporting.

    Sad to say, but if your blogger is PZ Myers or 90% of the FTB bloggers we can expect dishonesty, ignorance, stupidity, agendas, and disrespect for everyone.

    Bloggers that whine that the major media hates them have a sadly well deserved high barrier tto earn their credentials.

  8. 8
    Rob Grigjanis

    Is someone forcing you to read and comment at FtB? That would be outrageous.

  9. 9
    gshelley

    If he thinks journalists have cleared a high bar to get where they are and that means something, he probably doesn’t read much science journalism

  10. 10
    2up2down2furious

    I’m actually more dumbfounded that he cites the Times, where Thomas Friedman has been allowed to bloviate away for decades. The “high bar” he’s cleared has involved marrying into a family of billionaires and learning how hype up facile, false ideas.

  11. 11
    Pierce R. Butler

    … those reporters had to have cleared a very high bar to get the jobs they have.

    All but the most talented professionals get washed out before reaching the MSNBC analingus semi-finals.

  12. 12
    Chiroptera

    Really? There’s a high bar to clear to become a mainstream journalist? Is that recent? I have to admit, I haven’t paid much attention to them in the last ten years after I lost interest in them when they were credulously repeating Bush’s Iraq lies in the lead up to the war.

  13. 13
    Brony

    That sounds like an assertion of fact. The last couple of times I chased the evidence trail with respect to such claims about PZ I was not impressed. This outraged and indecisively named person can try us with their evidence.

  14. 14
    invivoMark

    ^Complains about people with an agenda.

    ^Brings up anti-feminist bullshit at every available opportunity, even when it’s totally off-topic.

  15. 15
    MNb

    “a few big name sources of TV and print news”
    Weird – I trust their Dutch counterparts less and less. Too much ideological propaganda. Bloggers have three advantages:
    1. there are many of them, so it’s easy to compare if the facts are presented in a mutual contradictory way;
    2. most of them allow comments, so get quickly corrected if they are wrong;
    3. most them provide links, enabling me to check sources when I have some gut feeling.

    I still very much enjoy my Surinamese newspaper De Ware Tijd though.

  16. 16
    Kimpatsu

    The deceit of mainstream journalist Phillip Glass was exposed by a humble blogger.

  17. 17
    Rob Grigjanis

    Calumny! Philip Glass is the composer (Koyaanisqatsi, etc). You mean Stephen.

  18. 18
    Rutee Katreya

    I’m unsurprised. When he made the Facebook movie, Sorkin was on Colbert, talking about how the internet is basically play theater. Dude’s kind of a crank.

  19. 19
    lanir

    Stumbled across this one a bit late… But I’m kind of surprised when anyone suggests you should just accept news. I tend to glance at news from multiple sources whenever I suspect there’s anything unusual going on. I tend to pick a few sources anytime a story really matters and at least one usually separated by distance or politics from the issue. It’s just rather sad and telling that I have to go across the pond to find a source of conservative news that isn’t total blathering idiocy on display.

  1. 20
    How do you get your information? » Butterflies and Wheels

    […] Mano has a great post on the strange disdain for bloggers. […]

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