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August 20, 2007

Cluelessly Ironic Blog-Bashing Column of the Week

Seems an odd time for the MSM to lecture bloggers about the need for "the patient fact-finding of reporters."

Blogs: All the noise that fits

The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of reporters.

By Michael Skube
August 19, 2007


...

In our time, the Washington Post's reporting, in late 2005, of the CIA's secret overseas prisons and its painstaking reports this year on problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- both of which won Pulitzer Prizes -- were not exercises in armchair commentary. The disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger or, for that matter, an Op-Ed columnist, whose interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently. Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It's not something one does as a hobby.

The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.

Frank doesn't want to tell Ellie her husband is a liar, dude.

But this entire article is fundamentally dishonest. Few bloggers claim to be able to do the sort of reporting that a newspaper of hundreds, each salaried and only expected to contribute a piece or two a week, can manage. We can''t compete on that ground, and we don't claim to.

What we do is point out mistakes the media makes. Mistakes and deliberate omissions and flat-out dishonestly. And we question the judgment by which the MSM purports to assign stories news-value and by that assignment of priority instruct us upon what the relative value of a story might be. And we also question the assumptions undergirding their worldview -- and their bias.

That's what the media doesn't like, of course. They don't want to simply report facts. That is not nearly a grandiose enough job for them. They want to inform the public, not just factually but philosophically. They demand not merely that their "facts" be accepted without question (though a great many of those are in fact highly questionable), but their judgment and worldview be uncritically accepted as well. They want us not just to take their word as regards their somewhat dubious area of expertise -- reportage of facts -- but they want us to also accept their take, their spin, their belief in how the world works-- and how it should work.

All of these arguments about the need for reporters to report facts are dishonest. No one challenges this notion. No individual blogger could conceivably devote enough hours of his spare time (or his blogging time, if he does this full-time) to develop, confirm, and write a true bit of first-hand journalism once a week or so.

And the MSM knows that. They know their job on that score is secure -- simply because no one but a salaried reporter could put in forty hours a week working on a single story. (Especially because 99% of stories are not terribly important or remarkable, but still need to be reported -- but obviously no blogger could write up the Kalamazoo Crime Blotter three times a week and expect to be read by more than three thousand people as an absolute ceiling.)

What they are worried about is the decline in their influence as to matters not directly related to data-collection and not even remotely related to reportage. They're worried that they're losing their ability to shape (and mislead) public opinion in ways they find best for the public good. These people did not get into journalism, after all, to report on 3M's quarterly earnings advisory. They got into journalism to change things.

And they're desperately scrabbling to hold on tight to that bit of undeserved, undue influence by leveraging their entirely-unrelated qualifications to collect and disseminate raw information into a role they actually desire and feel they are worthy of-- a certified, credentialed priesthood of general wisdom, weighing in expertly on matters of politics, scientific and technological ethical dilemmas, foreign policy and of course military strategy, etc. They conceive themselves as Generic Universal Omniscient All-In-One Experts Without Portfolio, a highly-trained Vanguard of Information which is especially well-equipped to tell the public not only what the facts are, but which facts are important and which should be ignored entirely due to their capacity to "mislead" less highly-trained citizens, and what the public should think of such facts and what conclusions they should draw from them.

No one -- no one -- ever got into the media to report on local car collisions or new and exciting federal farm subsidies.

What they got into the media to do was to tell people how and what to think, and its that prerogative of the Intellectual Aristocracy, and not the unglamorous business of information collection, collation, and dissemination, that they're crying about losing.

Note that they do not dare actually state their belief that they are specially qualified to do the thinking for the American public. They can't say such a thing. The public would laugh at their presumption -- some idiots went to a one year finishing school (and not a particularly academically demanding one besides) and now they have the special privilege of deciding what the public should think about each and every issue?

So instead they have to make the argument dishonestly -- whining about a job that isn't seriously threatened in order to preserve the job they really fret about losing, but a job which no one ever asked them -- let alone beatified them -- to do. How reporters got conflated with analysts and general-purpose experts without portfolio is anyone's guess. But that conflation having been made (at least in the minds of some, particularly their own), they'll be damned if they're going to give that gig up now.

Reporters seem to think they sell the news at 75 cents a copy -- and they tell us all how to interpret and analyze that news at no additional charge.

They think they're being generous by offering us their scary talents in this regard for free.

The rest of don't give a whit how steeply-discounted their dubious expertise is offered -- we didn't subcontract our thinking to them and it will be an unseasonably cold day in hell when America complies with their demands to concede that they alone are capable of doing the intellectual work of democratic governance.

And seriously? Not to harp on this, but really, guys. It's a frigging three semester degree of recent invention and dubious academic rigor. Get over yourselves already, for the love of all that's holy. You're embarrassing yourselves.

You know what you call a guy who couldn't get into med school?

Dentist.

You know what you call a guy who couldn't get into dental school?

Journalist.

I'm sorry, but it's about time you collectively took a more realistic look at yourselves and your ranking in the intellectual/academic pecking order. Graduates of the Kennedy School of Government are dime a dozen in DC, but every single one of them -- every single one -- has more policy-wonkery training and much better policy-analysis credentials than you.

PS, dentists, don't hate me. I'm not an anti-dentite, it's just an old joke I thought could be usefully repurposed.

PPS, I also apologize to the members of the MSM here, too. But you guys know I'm not talking about you.

I mean the other guys. The guys you want to throttle. Those guys.

Anwyn (one of those female bloggers who don't exist) posts on this at Junkyard blog.

I'm really tired of even responding to these idiotic bits of traffic baiting. I don't rise to the bait when a host of nitwit liberal bloggers bait me -- I don't give traffic to goofs -- and yet every time a media twit baits bloggers into giving them traffic, we all dutifully comply.

Maybe it's time to start rebutting them without providing the link.

We're all acting like chumps, easy marks. Dupes ready to give up big traffic to any small-potatoes ninny looking to prove to his editor he can write the sort of columns that get noticed.

Maybe it's about time we stopped giving the MSM a privileged position they didn't earn. Sadly, No! and Tbogg and the other idiots on the left don't deserve a response to their nitwittery; why should the rule be relaxed for some chump just because he writes a column for the LAT?


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posted by Ace at 10:24 PM

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