When Bloggers Attack
I don't like doing blogger navel-gazing, mainly because a) neither of my two blogs are all that popular, and b) uh, I have better things to do. But Jim Rutenberg's much-discussed piece
about bloggers criticizing news outlets is kind of silly. Rutenberg lists plenty of examples of bloggers insulting
the media, but no actual criticism. The Daily Howler isn't exactly a model of civility, but Bob Somerby does
make good points and harps on real lapses in media coverage. From the Times
profile, though, you'd think he was nothing more than a little infant hurling insults left and right.
I don't think this is an accident. (And no, it's not because journalists are "scared" of bloggers or whatnot.) The New York Times
has simply never had much interest in looking closely at instances of factual criticism—because that would involve sorting out competing claims and figuring out what's actually true. Within the structure of news reporting, the only way to depict a controversy is by printing competing claims—and there's nothing more controversial than competing claims that are also insulting
. "Criticism" here is exactly equivalent to "charges being bandied about", the harsher the better. Unfortunately, the "blogosphere" really can descend into shouting matches from time to time, but that's not—or it shouldn't be—what's valuable about it.