Dissent in the MSM on Edwards.

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 4 2008 3:31 PM

MSM Rebels on Edwards

Oddly, some journalists want to know the truth.

(Continued from Page 62)

Model Two Isn't Everything: I've become sensitive to compliments that have the effect of putting you in your place. ( "I love your writing about cars!") My friend Jon Alter pulled this trick a couple of weeks ago while berating me for not weighing in against Hillary Clinton's proposed gas-tax holiday:

"There were not all of these pundits and bloggers and everything who were all over it. I had to do reporting to find out what was wrong with it. ... If you had last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday even Thursday, if you had written about it you know you could have gotten maybe the thing rolling sooner. ... I wanted you to be ahead of me. You would have saved me some work. I would have linked off your site.  .... I wanted you to be ahead of me.

Translation:, "You bloggers do a great job digging up stories for us in the MSM. Keep it up." Grrr.

There's an implicit model underneath Alter's comments--blogs as the minor leagues, Off Off-Broadway, trying out storylines and scoops that may or may not make it to the Big Show. I have to admit I've embraced this model myself, as "Model Two." I think blogs are (for the moment***) particularly suited to functioning as a sort of intermediate tryout area for burgeoning scandals ("undernews").

But Alter adds a revealing bit of the newsweekly reporter's traditional self-loathing:

Look I write for Newsweek. It doesn't matter if I'm behind you. I rely on you and other great bloggers--you know, Josh Marshall and other people like that to give me links cause you see all kinds of stuff, you're much better at you know being on top of this early.,And it's not a problem for me , because I writer for the MSM, you know, or on television and I can come to it a little later.  

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Exactly. Alter makes big bucks because he's called on to write about the story of the day at the precise moment it breaks out into the mainstream--and not a moment too soor! If the US bombs a Syrian nuclear reactor, the public wants to know about it right then--and Alter more or less has write about it or have a pretty damn good excuse why not.  Newsweek's editors, in effect, can make Alter jump. He's very good at it. I'm not.

The problem with the "minor league" model of the blogosphere, is that it's simply an extension of this "just in time" model of journalism--blogs are a conveyor belt, if you will, delivering news. ideas and angles to the MSM on a precise production schedule.

But I didn't start a blog because I wanted to be yoked, no less than poor Alter, to the story of the moment--certainly not so I could be yoked more firmly but in a subordinate capacity. It's all well and good for blogs to be feeders of the MSM. But it's also desirable to have freedom from the MSM and from the imperative to cover what's hot now--or even the imperative to generate what's going to be hot tomorrow.

P.S.: Of course, the commercial incentive to cover the "story of the day" isn't as bad in the blogosphere as it is in the MSM. It's worse. If Senator X gets hit by a bus, Slate's editors don't want a retrospective by the next day. They want a retrospective in an hour. That's what gets hits--and hits are how Slate makes money. The ideal type here is Christopher Hitchens' appraisal of John F. Kennedy, Jr.--which was probably one of the worst articles Hitchens has ever written, but which made the Web within minutes of the grim news. It got about 18 billion hits, if I recall.

The Web holds out the technological possibility of something better, however, or at least different: People writing about what interests them, when it interests them, maybe writing better for that--and maybe finding an audience. You have the whole planet to troll, after all.

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