Monday, September 29, 2003

A critique of pure blogging. I have not been following the Daniel Weintraub saga all that closely, so I appreciated today's New York Times piece on the matter.

Weintraub writes a weblog for the Sacramento Bee. A couple of weeks ago, the Bee announced that Weintraub would be required to submit new posts to his editors before uploading them to his blog, "California Insider." The policy change may or may not be related to the fact that he'd written a post a few overly touchy supporters of Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante may have found racially insensitive. (Oddly enough, the Times article, by Michael Falcone, makes no mention of this angle.)

With the boilerplate out of the way, my question is this: What's the big deal? Some bloggers, particularly Slate's Mickey Kaus, are outraged, but Weintraub himself seems okay with it. Moreover, it strikes me that to the extent there's any controversy, it has to do with the overwrought sense of importance that some bloggers have about themselves and what they're doing.

As best as I can define it, the only pure blog is one that is written independently of any media organization. Folks like Josh Marshall, Bob Somerby, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Reynolds are out there on their own, and God bless them for it.

Those of us who are blogging for our employers are engaged in something different -- essentially, writing something that looks like a blog, reads like a blog, and in many respects is a blog, but that may be more akin to an online column, subject to certain constraints. That's true of Media Log, as well as such fine blogs as Altercation (, Joe Conason's Journal (Salon), and, yes, Kausfiles, whose author gave up his independence in return for Microsoft's filthy lucre. (Hey, Mickey: Good for you!)

Neither fish nor fowl: Danny Schechter, who writes his indispensable "Dissector's Web Log" for, but who is also the boss.

Now, what the Bee's critics seem not to want to acknowledge is that if you're blogging for someone else, you're getting edited somewhere down the line. Here's how it works at Media Log Central: I upload my posts myself, without the intervention of any editor. But my editors and I talk about what works, what doesn't work, and what I might do differently the next time. And were I to write something that never should have seen the light of day, guess what? It will come down.

That's the way it should be. The extra value that a news organization can offer is, after all, editing -- the collective judgment of experienced people, and not just the sensibility of one person.

Blogging for a news organization doesn't have to be a contradiction in terms. Unless you think the words freewheeling and responsible don't belong in the same sentence.

Hannity & Colmes, explained. The most accurate description I have ever read of the Fox News Channel's dreadful Hannity & Colmes program appears in the current New York Press (scroll way, way down, to "Best Rigged Talk Show").

Here's the clincher:

The dynamic and charismatic ultra-conservative [Sean] Hannity squares off nightly against the weak, conciliatory and center-left [Alan] Colmes, who is just about the least effective spokesman for the liberal cause imaginable. If that weren't enough, rightie-tightass fuckhead Dennis Miller was recently added to the show as a weekly commentator.

Be warned: fuckhead is mild compared to some of the other language used to describe this miserable show.

John Carroll, blogger. His "Campaign Journal" is back.

No comments: