I know! It’s shocking! But then I knew all along that he was smarter than his flirtation with the abhorrent insanity of Nisbetian framing would suggest. He has an article summarizing the George Will nonsense — where Will promoted outright falsehoods in support of his global warming denialism — and Mooney states something in his summary that I agree with entirely. Well, almost entirely.
In this sense, I view the George Will affair with sadness. Sure, I share in the temporary glee of the bloggers. But at the same time, I know there are many kinds of journalism, particularly about science, that bloggers will never replace. They’re extremely well-equipped to pounce and skewer a George Will column, but hardly well equipped to deliver an investigative or narrative feature story. We’re watching the media change before our eyes, the science media in particular–and no one can say, in light of episodes like the latest one involving George Will, that much of old media doesn’t in some sense “deserve” what’s happening to it now. Yet if our only sentiment is joy over the bloggers’ latest trophy, or outrage at the Post, we’re missing something deep indeed.
While I do think that there are many bloggers who can and do deliver good narratives, I think it is fair to say that his larger point is correct: there is an ecosystem of the media, and we each have our niches; blogging is not and should not be the sine qua non of information delivery, and newspapers (and TV and radio and podcasts and magazines and …) have their role to play. The lesson of the George Will episode — and of the last dozen years of politics — is that the news has failed because it hasn’t fulfilled that role. Newspapers are supposed to have more rigor and stricter fact-checking than blogs; they are supposed to bravely dig deeper than the average citizen into the major issues of the day. They don’t. There certainly is no glee in that sad fact, but I think some joy is deserved that somehow and somewhere the failure of the news media is finally getting some exposure.
Let’s hope that someday that means clowns like George Will can get fired for incompetence, and that newspapers like the Washington Post will make changes to enforce accountability. It doesn’t now, of course, which is another reason to temper our happiness.