Don Newman, the former host of CBC Newsworld’s marquee programme Politics, gave an interview in a recent edition of The Hill Times wherein he touched on the subject of blogs and blog readers. His comments on the phenomenon of blogs are elucidating in part because he is by no means an ignorant man nor does he normally demonstrate any obvious partisan bias toward one of the five big mainstream parties or the other. He is, in short, a living embodiment of the well-meaning yet nevertheless reactionary nature of the mainstream media which, I would argue, makes his opinions highly indicative of the media elite’s overall opinion of blogs.
Newman has generally positive things to say about his own profession in this same interview, but he makes it explicitly clear that he views blogs as either a negative development or at the very least not as a positive development.
What are the reasons, you ask, why he believes this? Newman explains:
“They’re just people’s opinions and some of them are obviously used by political parties or people with political points of view to push.… There are a lot of people who can’t tell the difference between reading The Globe and Mail blog, or CBC.ca and reading a political blog that someone is writing either to entertain themselves or promote a political cause.”
In short, blogs are a negative development because they represent just an ‘ordinary’ person’s opinions as opposed to a paid political operative or professional journalist’s opinions. Furthermore, people can’t differentiate between the real journalists’ opinions (which Newman believes should be listened to) and the opinions of these ‘ordinary’ people.
Now this formulation, as it stands there, isn’t technically an argument since it doesn’t have even the most basic structure of a syllogism. Thus most people who subscribe to this belief, when they put it in the form of an argument, tend to posit that bloggers, unlike real journalists, are generally more ignorant and therefore that the rise of blogs is a negative development.
This, however, is a red herring.
I, for one, am a blogger and I have more education than many if not most journalists. Ignoring my years of ground school and two pilot’s licenses, I graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in political science from one of the top three political science post-secondary institutions in the country and then I went on to obtain a Master’s degree also in political science and also from the same institution. However, the vast majority of readers of this blog probably didn’t know that about me and they (hopefully) don’t care about it either. Blog readers understand that arguments stand or fall on their own merits irrespective of the personal pedigree (or the perceived or actual ignorance) of the author.
And herein lies the crux of why media elites do not get the phenomenon of “the blogs”. Media elites still operate in a profoundly conservative and Burkean worldview that places a high premium on the importance of listening to the ‘right people’. This is obviously so, since the ‘right people’ to listen to according to the media elites — the so-called experts — are themselves.