blogenlust
1.31.2005

Jack v. Jay?


Something I've been following closely during the past week is the fallout from Jack Shafer's Blog Overkill article. As I wrote earlier, I think Shafer's piece is solid because it recognizes both blogging's promise and limitations--Yes, blogs have tremendous influence on the mainstream media, but no, blogging will never replace it. Seems obvious to me, but the article spawned a fairly substantial debate on exactly who it is that claims blogs will take over the world of journalism. Shafer made it pretty clear that he thought it was people like Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis, and Jay Rosen--and, if you're like me, and didn't attend the Conference, but read Shafer's account, it would be easy to walk away thinking the same thing. According to Jay Rosen, though, this is a gross mischaracterization of his position. I can't vouch for Winer or Jarvis because I don't regularly read their blogs, but I can vouch for Rosen, whose excellent Blogging vs. Journalism Is Over clearly articulates the same point (blogs have influence-yes, replace?-no) Shafer makes in Slate. So why is Rosen upset? Maybe because Blogging vs. Journalism Is Over was given at the same conference Shafer attended! Rosen's justifiably annoyed that Shafer had to knock-down the blogging triumphalist strawman in order to make the same point many attendees were making. I'm not sure why Shafer chose to do this, but maybe it was because he thought it would be better for the article he intended to write if he didn't come across as repeating what people have been saying all along. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate that the discussion surrounding the article has become a distraction from the less dramatic point that Shafer and Rosen actually agree. Just a thought: It seems that the desire to tear down blog triumphalism hinges on the use of the world "revolutionize" to describe blogging's impact on journalism. There's something about that word, which puts even blog sympathizers on the defensive because they're wary of the connotation "revolutionary" can carry. I think when people like Rosen use the word "revolutionize" to describe blogging's influence on journalism, what they mean is that it's having a functional impact on the field. That is, the way journalism is being done, is changing because of media like blogs. Misunderstandings have arisen, though, because people have misinterpreted "revolutionize" to mean "over-throw." When these people hear that "blogs have revolutionized journalism" they're thinking of "revolutionize" in terms of blogs replacing traditional journalism. But that isn't the case. Blogging's impact on journalism is more "revolutionary" in the sense of the Industrial Revolution, than the Islamic Revolution. For the purposes of the debate, it might be less distracting and more practical for people to start finding another way to characterize blogging's influence.