December 29, 2004

Blog vs. World

I'm confused.

First, context: I clicked on Instapundit this morning only to find a gigantic kerfluffle. Some columnist for some Minnesota paper wrote a column attacking PowerLineBlog. The PowerLine dudes wrote back and got the better of the argument, though it wasn't much more than a silly little schoolyard fight.

So far, so good. But then we're treated to reams of pondering over the meaning of it all. Some Instapundit reader says the whole thing shows "how 'out-of-market msm has become in its methodology of reporting." Another reader marks it as a "milestone for how far the Internet has come." And more, indeed.

What I'm confused about is why this has any special meaning. Seems to me that some guy has a forum for writing stuff, so he wrote stuff, other people had a forum for writing stuff, so they wrote stuff in response, and one argument happened to be better than the other. There's no reason the roles couldn't have been reversed. It's true that the print columnist gets paid for his output, but bloggers are starting to get paid for their output too—it's just a newer and less-developed market.

Meanwhile, there are huge barriers to entry to writing a print column, but barriers to entry are cropping up around blogs, too. It's not entirely true that anyone who's good can rise to the top—the fact that praktike and nadezhda, Joshua Landis and Andrew Samwick get fewer readers than the wholly banal Betsy's Page—and fewer by orders of magnitude—means something less than meritocratic is afoot. Much of this is capricious—Instapundit links to Betsy's Page a lot while none of the big bloggers happen to have the same special fondness for praktike/nadezhda. (Though they should!)

Speaking personally, my blog happens to have more than 10 readers because a big, established blogger (Ezra Klein) was kind enough to link here a few months ago; but if, say, he had happened to find my text formatting hard to read, he might never have linked. Tough luck! But I don't think that would make me more or less interesting or witty or charming or what have you.

Then there's the whole editing business. It's true that mainstream journalism is edited and blogs are not. But that doesn't really mean anything. Some people need a lot of editing—I certainly do—and some people are more or less fine without it. Editing doesn't automatically make someone a better or worse writer. It depends. So this whole spat is very silly, but it's ultimately a spat between writers who happen to work in two different media, not a battle between the media themselves.
-- Brad Plumer 5:33 PM || ||