Even intelligent media elites generally don’t understand the appeal of “the blogs”

3597001560_86894d8b7bDon 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.

12 Responses to “Even intelligent media elites generally don’t understand the appeal of “the blogs””

  1. 1 Dr.Dawg 29 July, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    The truth is that the inkstained wretches are feeling threatened. Even the print media have added chimerical in-house blogs as features, which are, contrary to Newman’s claim, no better than good bloggers out in the ‘sphere.

    The in-house blogs are subject to stringent and sometimes heavy-handed editorial control, as Antonia Zerbisias recently found out and Andrew Potter discovered some time ago. Newman would probably think this is all to the good. But unfettered blogging in the hands of people who love the craft are easily equivalent to, and in many cases better than, your daily newspaper op-ed pieces.

    Just as I reject the foolish notion that blogs will replace the “MSM” (who’s going to do all the reportage?), Newman’s condescending attitude (shared by too many other journos) needs to be smacked down. I hold a PhD and I write and do research for a living. Who the hell is Newman to look down his nose at me?

  2. 2 Dr.Dawg 29 July, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    1st para. “good blogs,” sorry.

  3. 3 Gene 29 July, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    A somewhat more sophisticated point of view.

    I like the part where he says: “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.” I wonder how many times CBC has had people such as this bloke here on. He should talk!

  4. 4 marcel 29 July, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Yep. But as you know, the world is not governed by logic. Big capital must surely want to destroy the present form of the internet.

    If I was a big capitalist, I’d try to make it so people like you had to pay money to blog. More money than you can afford, that is.

  5. 5 A reader 29 July, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    For what it’s worth, Don actually does read the better written blogs. He tried a segment with Kady O’Malley for awhile on what was going on in the political blogs, but the content was pretty thin. You’ve got to admit, there is an awful lot of partisan drek on the liblogs and blogging tories. If I had to guess, I think that’s what he was referring to.

    It’s true that Don is in the mainstream, but he didn’t suffer spinning fools gladly either. He was probably the only mainstream journalist in the first 24 hours pointing out that the coalition was perfectly constitutional, for example, and taking on the government’s spin on it quite directly. His interview with John Baird the morning Harper sought the prorogation should be required viewing in all journalism schools (assuming we have any left in a year or so).

  6. 6 Gene 29 July, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    “His interview with John Baird the morning Harper sought the prorogation should be required viewing in all journalism schools …”

    Absolutely! Perhaps it was because his personal convictions on the issue at hand were strong. As you say, an interesting case study.

  7. 7 Alexandria 1 December, 2013 at 6:04 pm

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