Mainstream journalism is running scared. It's watching its
audience numbers decline and its public trust numbers drop.
Newspapers, magazines, and network television news have been shaken
by major scandals. The media have seen the future and it is
Or at least that's the story this year. "Mainstream journalism,"
however you want to define it, has been under siege so long it's
hard to keep track of all the people, things, and outlets that were
or are still going to destroy it.
Blogs, or weblogs - websites on which a person or a group of
people opines about events, reports what's been heard, or simply
links to other sites (many of which are also blogs) - are the latest
concern among journalists who look at them with curiosity and fear.
Many believe blogs are a dangerous direct competitor to
mainstream journalism - a way for individuals and interest groups to
reach around the gatekeeper function that newspapers, magazines, TV,
and radio have traditionally held. Some even see them as the future
of journalism; an army of citizen journalists bringing the
unfiltered news to a public hungry for the inside dope.
"The latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic
establishment is the blog," Richard Posner wrote last week in The
New York Times Book Review. Actually Mr. Posner wrote about a lot of
challenges the media faced, but gave blogs a lot of space as he
spelled out their advantages. They bring expertise. They bring flair
and opinion. They bring more checks and balances than the mainstream
"It's as if the Associated Press or Reuters had millions of
reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free
newspapers that carried no advertising," he explained.
Ah, yes, in the future news will be bountiful and free with no
advertising. Can't beat that. If they throw in complimentary ice
cream we've really got something here.
Let me just say for the record, I have nothing against blogs. I
actually like them. Their formula of opinion, links, and reportage
can be refreshing - though they are often short on the last part of
that mix. And the voices they enter into the media dialogue
sometimes offer perspectives that otherwise might never be heard.
But if you really look closely, all this "and in the future ..."
talk seems a bit far-fetched for a number of reasons.
For all the bloggers' victories (like raising questions about
memos in CBS's Bush/National Guard story) there are numerous
failures (gossiping about John Kerry's affair that never happened or
how the presidential election was rigged in Ohio). …