When radio was first pioneered, print journalists were quick to dismiss it as inferior. This same scenario repeated itself with the advent of television and again with the rise of technologies that allowed solo journalists to produce their own stories single-handedly. As blogs and other community media become more popular and more relevant, the assault on this new medium continues to grow.
Michael Skube's recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times provides a reasonable critique on the blogosphere but neglects to look at the larger picture. He points out that many blogs are nothing more than commentary and suggests that many of these blogs are "noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined." While I can't argue with this conclusion, his analysis misses the fact that blogs have broken a number of important stories in recent years and fails to mention the non-news that the establishment media finds itself focusing on with alarming frequency.
Skube's article quickly generated a flurry of responses from both the bloggers it mentioned and several others as well. Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo, a model for original reporting, was included in Skube's piece, but when Marshall wrote to him Michael Skube informed him that he was unaware of Marshall's work and "happy to give him benefit of the doubt." Apparently, an editor at the Times added Talking Points Memo to the list without bothering to research its content; it's the sort of behavior that Skube would likely attribute to the blogosphere, but who's keep score?
Jay Rosen at New York University also entered the fracas with a follow-up editorial for the Los Angeles Times that lists a number of important stories that were the result of bloggers' investigative efforts. Rosen also takes Skube to task for writing about blogs while not bothering to read them in order to fully research his subject, "which could be considered odd behavior for a college professor. (We're supposed to read a lot, then write.)"
It's clear that there are two camps on the issue, but it's uncertain what's fueling the debate. The advent of blogs have allowed a much larger segment of the population to fully participate in the marketplace of ideas. If professional journalists are so much better than their renegade counterparts, then it seems like Skube and others would have nothing to fear. On the other hand, if publishers think that the audience can't identify quality work and bloggers are willing to work at rates below press standards, then perhaps a fear that professional journalists will be replaced by bloggers at below-market rates is a rational concern. Of course, this isn't what Skube is saying, and discrediting bloggers is hardly the best way to combat this potential scenario.
Both bloggers and their news-media counterparts have the same basic goal: to inform the public about the world we live in. Their approaches vary and they both make factual errors on a regular basis, but this is a product of being human. What's important is for journalists from both the alternative and establishment camp to unify around our commonalities as opposed to proliferating barbs designed to diminish respect for the other's field.