There is, writes Virginia Postrel in her Forbes column,
something about blogs [that] makes a lot of respectable journalists hyperventilate. News pros seem terribly threatened by online amateurs. Blogging is a “solipsistic, self-aggrandizing, journalist-wannabe genre,” writes David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times. Shaw, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for his media criticism, declares that bloggers are “practitioners of what is at best pseudo-journalism” and that “many bloggers — not all, perhaps not even most — don’t seem to worry much about being accurate.” (Emphasis added.)
Virginia goes on to point out that Shaw omits to provide any links to Blogs which illustrate his claims.
But that’s par for this course. Non-journalists who are dismissive of Blogs behave similarly — and in my experience those who are most critical have rarely actually seen any Blogs, and certainly have not read any serious ones. But in fact the view that “all blogs are x” (where x = ‘self-indulgent’, ‘vanity publishing’, ‘solipsistic’ or whatever other term of abuse comes to mind) is as absurd as the view that “all books are x” or “all newspapers are x”. Blogs (like books and newspapers) come in every conceivable type and quality. There are thoughtful blogs, silly blogs, truthful blogs, fanatical blogs, ideological blogs, biased blogs — just as there are thoughtful, silly, fanatical, ideological, biased books (and newspapers).
Just after reading the Postrel column, I came on Steven Johnson’s Blog, in which he discusses some of the responses to his new book, Everything Bad is Good for You: how today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter. This is a vigorous defence of the value of contemporary culture in which he challenges conventional claims that American popular culture is vile and debased, appeals to the lowest common denominator, is all about sensationalistic exploitation and dumbing down, etc. This is a tough argument to make, and I haven’t read the book yet, but Johnson is a fine writer and I’m looking forward to seeing how he does it.
In the meantime, I followed some of the links Johnson provides to comments on his book. One of them is a really fine essay by Steven Shaviro which is as erudite and thoughtful as anything you’d find in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books or any other reputable literary journal. But it appears on … a blog.