Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fear and Loathing

Reader_I_Am noted something in her post and commentary on the latest progressive thug to self-indice verbal vomiting at Jeff Goldstein. As this incident transpires to the public via the "MSM," it will acquire a spin message of "bloggers are wild-eyed unreliable nutjobs."

I think that's been a pretty consistent quality in most MSM coverage of blogging -- and its application to both right-side and left-side bloggers is telling. This isn't a political agenda; it's a professional grudge.

It can flourish within the bounds of journalistic ethics by an old trick of the trade: You want to write interesting stories. Flamboyant and eccentric people make good copy; people who hold intense and unambiguous views can sum them up and give you the quotes and color you need to represent them in print.

So when you go out to cover a topic, you look for the most vivid raw material to give you the liveliest copy. When you go for quotes, you go to people who will give you the juciest and pithiest.

As a result, all anti-gay-marriage Americans get represented by the bigot with the bullhorn, all liberal bloggers are summed up by the woman who hates Bush so much she scares her own children, all animal-rights activists throw blood at fur-wearers, and so forth.

Why do I suspect there's an element of vindictiveness about the coverage as it applies to bloggers? Just from watching it on a small scale in my newsroom. People here read Common Dreams and loathe Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter (I was under a lot of pressure to give prominent play to his Viagra issues and the trumped-up plagiarism charge against her).

But since the reporters here stick to local issues, it's the local bloggers who fascinate them. They know them all, they follow them religiously. They envy them -- bloggers can write with a freedom reporters wish they had. They are addicted to them -- bloggers critique the reporters' work and get wind of rumors before the news staff does. And they deeply resent them. It's a lethal mix.

The most amusing part is, whenever a new local blogger turns up who has a savvy take on what's happening in the community, all the reporters instantly suspect it is someone inside the newspaper and start speculating on which one of them it is.

So, correctly or not, I extrapolate that to the national scene, and I seem to recognize the malady.