Thursday, April 2, 2009
I also have a vague dislike for the practice you describe. But my problem is that I also have a vague feeling that I can identify what about it really gets you down even though I don't think you have said this yourself ... [snip] ... Here goes:
1. A problem with the MSM is that they are innately compromised by being large organizations. A stock character in literature is the newspaper reporter who can't print all that he knows because the publisher owes things to advertisers, it's bad politics, there's a risk of vehement complaints from the public, etc. Moreover, we have all met reporters who fascinated us by saying things like, "Here's how it really is . . . ," and if you ask why they don't say that in print, they give a lot of answers that are not satisfying. Now the excuse for this always was that a successful newspaper or radio or TV network of necessity had to be a large organization, simply to get heard. A guy with a mimeograph machine in his bedroom can't do that, (except that I. F. Stone did it). This led to a widespread feeling that what a consumer of news got was a sort of second-order reality, the filtered and compromised version. The better the news organization, one hoped, the less the filtering or compromise, but there was no way to eliminate it. This was evil but a necessary evil.
2. That led to the feeling, too, that there was a first order of reality, which was what the reporters said among themselves. But only the informed elite had access to that.
3. Where this is going is obvious. With the Internet, we have thought, it is possible to get an audience without the gargantuan investment in printing presses, broadcast licenses or equipment, or the need to hire a large reporting staff so you can cover the broad range of topics necessary to sell a news product, attract advertisers, and so on. You just need a computer and time. This means no compromises in what is said, no filtering into a second order of reality, and direct address to the readership: exactly what you, the blogger, think is what I, the reader, get. This is not to say you have all the advantages of a newspaper, because you don't. But you can address the public without having the newspaper's disadvantages.
4. Against this background, JournoList is a very disappointing and sort of unsettling development. Just the existence of the list and the fact that broadscale discussions go on inside it suggests that these liberal voices are deliberately and unnecessarily recreating one of the chief disadvantages of the MSM. The suggestion that they have things to discuss privately about what they are doing (I assume they are using the list to discuss "journalism", not which movies to see, books to read, or recipes to cook), re-creates the idea that that, rather than what their consumers see, is the first order of reality. This seems to break one of the promises of, or hopes for, the Internet. It also suggests that these journalists rather liked the cage that their MSM ilk used to be in, because these present day guys are recreating that for themselves. That's a very disappointing discovery also because it diminishes them as people.
5. Robert Wright was correct to say that this sort of thing has been going on for a long time, but the response to that is that this time it was supposed to be different -- and that, indeed, Bloggingheads is supposed to be as close as you can get to being admitted into Frankfurter's[**] living room . ... There is also nothing whatever wrong with meeting in secret in some instances -- it is highly unlikely that we would have a Constitution resembling the masterwork we have if the boys had had to meet in public, and there are plenty of other examples. But because the whole point of journalism is to inform people, the suggestion that its substance ought to be dealt with in sessions that exclude those to be informed is by its nature troubling.
**--I had compared JournoList to the young Felix Frankfurter's "House of Truth" --a good career move for Frankfurter.
Last word on JList? Chris Lehmann ... 12:40 A.M.