Blogging and Idealism
PS: Today the New York Times ran a story about weblogs and used the word “journalist” to describe people who do what we do. That’s a milestone worth noting and appreciating. Thanks!
Doc Searls pointed out that the NYT story is essentially bullshit, based as it is on a non-existent rift between Techbloggers and Warbloggers:
But this story has no deep truth. It’s just another feature about another transient topic.
Meanwhile, blogs are still out of fucking control. And the fucking they’re out of control from is old fashioned journalism.
Doc still, however, categorizes blogging as “a form of journalism.”
This blogging = journalism equation drives me to distraction. I can better understand why Doc regards blogging as journalism; after all he’s a professional journalist. But why Dave? When he’s built Radio UserLand, one of the tools that allows us to route around the worn-out, corrupt world of mainstream journalism—not replacing it, but offering something else that is infinitely richer, subtler, and more engaging.
I’ve been racking my brains as to why so many bloggers have such a hard-on for journalism when the journalistic product so frequently:
- relies on either non-existent conflict or manufactured outrage;
- recycles press releases and marketing hype;
- exhibits a wafer-thin grasp of the subject under discussion.
I needn’t have been puzzled. Both Dave’s and Doc’s posts provide the answer to my question.
Dave on journalists:
…many, maybe even most, got into journalism for the same reason people start weblogs. Hoping to make a difference. To have an intellectual life. To be where the action is. Idealism.
Doc on journalism:
Now before you go thinking I’m slamming old fashioned journalism here, I’m not. It’s full of ideals, principles and practices that are no less noble and important for blogs than they are for newspapers.
Dave, Doc, and other bloggers who want to be journalists are idealists in that they have faith in the “elevated ideals or conduct” of journalism and they believe that those ideals are worth pursuing.
Whereas I see pursuing ideals in relation to journalism as unrealistic, choosing in this case to define idealism as “impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are.”
If I’m not an idealist, I guess that makes me a realist, at least according to Brecht’s definition:
Realism does not consist in reproducing reality, but in showing how things really are.
I’ve already argued that blogging can offer infinitely more than journalism. What disturbs me about the blogging = journalism movement is the attempt to define a new form of expression in terms of an old one. It doesn’t matter that there are hundreds of thousands of weblogs. It doesn’t matter that people have been blogging since 1996 or 1997 or whenever. We still can’t really grasp the potential of blogging—particularly now, when tools for linking reader comments, building communities, and collaborating threaten to obsolete the traditional cite, link, quote, opine style that forms the heart of most “journalistic” blogs.
To base one’s (albeit idealistic) definition of blogging on a form such as journalism, whose ideals are so deeply compromised, suggests either wilful irrationality, an improbable infatuation, or—worst of all—a craving for mainstream approval. And as Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.