Warblog hot zone December 13, 2001 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Is the beast dead? Probably not, but Matt Welch issues a pretty strong condemnation of the "old school" of commentary versus the new, especially the recent outbreak of "warblogs"
posted by owillis to General Weblog-Related at 2:03 AM (12 comments total)

Besides being pretty pointless, this article was excruciating to read because of all the random character junk in it. Does this guy write in Word or something? What did you see in it, owillis?
posted by rodii at 7:12 AM on December 13, 2001


I didn't see any odd characters. I just thought it was an interesting treatise on how "old media" has tied itself into this structure of knowing whats best for the consumer and pushing some agenda vs. actual reportage.
posted by owillis at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2001


It's a good piece, though very hard to read because Welch offers so little structure for the thoughts in it.

Journalists always seem to have a really hard time explaining to the public what they're all about. But it's weird that Welch, a long-time journalist himself, wouldn't know, or would willfully misinterpret their quotes. At least, I don't know how else to figure it.

A newsman (or -woman) will talk about "solving society's problems" because that is the pinnacle of his ambition -- uncovering the story or writing the analysis or printing the opinion piece that reveals the truth to his readers, and that truly helps them. Take TheStreet.com for example. To all of us, it's just a source for business news. But ask a good reporter there why he does it, and he'll talk to you about holding investment banks accountable for their "analysis" and letting Joe Investor in on the game the way the Big Boys play it -- and doing him a real service in the process, since he stands to lose his shirt if he stays out in the cold. (And, yes, all TheStreet's reporters mix their metaphors that way, it's tragic, really.)

Now, do some reporters, like some professors, falsely believe the nobility of their calling rubs off on them? Absolutely. But by no means all. And is journalism suffering from a dearth of talent? Perhaps -- it is indeed a noncompetitive industry, as Welch observes, and all too often a relatively thankless one to work in. But otherwise, Welch seems to be overgeneralizing from the remarks of Reynolds and Balzar.

Welch says he doesn't mean to pick on Balzar, and I believe him, but I think in the end he's doing just that. Journalists are as subject to human tendencies and frailties as anyone, and that inevitably comes through in what the media portrays, and how it portrays it. And it is regrettable that, sometimes, the best they have to go on is what they think the public wants to hear about. But whether or not that is a deep, irreversible failing is not evidenced by a few anecdotal quotes, even if they are from men who purport to speak for journalism as a whole.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2001


A newsman (or -woman) will talk about "solving society's problems" because that is the pinnacle of his ambition -- uncovering the story or writing the analysis or printing the opinion piece that reveals the truth to his readers, and that truly helps them.

As a former reporter and J-school graduate, I would be leery of any reporter who thought his job was to solve society's problems. If nothing else, it shows a pretty amazing amount of hubris.

I enjoy Welch's writing, but he's guilty of a little self-congratulation of his own where weblogs and online writers are concerned. Print pundits were bad before weblogs and will be bad long after they have fallen out of fashion.
posted by rcade at 9:37 AM on December 13, 2001


The problem is that all of these 'warbloggers' are where webloggers were 2 years ago, except these guys have even bigger egos. They all publish interesting sites, and I guess the self-congratulation is par for the course.
posted by cell divide at 9:54 AM on December 13, 2001


I just thought it was an interesting treatise on how "old media" has tied itself into this structure of knowing whats best for the consumer and pushing some agenda vs. actual reportage.

thats what i saw as well...Media vs. Journalism. Journalism isn't supposed to be entertainment, it isn't supposed to be some balm for society...it is supposed to keep us informed.

I started reading Welch from reading OJR.org [which i found through dangerousmonkey.com], Great place...and great articles. I think my holy trinity of weblog news/commentary is Metafilter, Matt Welch, & Ken Layne.

Welch and Layne are journalists. Kick-ass, experienced, talented professionals, who are also blogging. They recognize the power of the web, even to giving props to people we know here like Steven Den Beste....their awareness of the web as a medium makes them as noteworthy as their writing...

i think that is the significance that Owillis saw here, and i have to agree.

posted by th3ph17 at 2:05 PM on December 13, 2001


Journalism isn't ... supposed to be some balm for society...it is supposed to keep us informed.

I think most people in the media believe that too; they're just bad at expressing it. Journalists are notoriously touchy about their perceived integrity, and they seem to defend it by defending why it's so goddamn important to them. And that is because they are serving their readers, not their bosses -- i.e., they're trying to do some good for society at large.

It does seem like some media organizations and people think it's up to them to know what's good for their readers. Business has placed a lot of pressure on them, and it's a real problem. But I didn't get the sense that that's what Welch was talking about; he was writing about the attitudes of journalists themselves, I thought.
posted by mattpfeff at 4:04 PM on December 13, 2001


Welch is Drudge’s mini-me: same lone gunman conceit, same populist rhetoric, similiar hat fetish.

“In your local alt-weekly, is there any non-sex-ad content you’d rather read than, say, a regular feature by Charles Johnson called ‘This Week in the Arab Press’?”

Plenty. A few weeks ago LA Weekly did an expose on the Girls Gone Wild empire (which, more than anything, was a fun read), City Pages published an ex-cult member’s confession and Westword got the Klebold scoop. There are a million news clippers and I’ve never heard of Charles Johnson. If Chalmers Johnson did “This Week” we’d have something. Roger Hodge and the Times already do weekly reviews.

If Welch wants to believe web pundits are better (How is he measuring? Notrietry? Readership?) than paper pundits despite being marginalized, slighted and for free, fine. I’ll pay for the “De gustibus non est disputandum” bumper stickers out of my very own pity kitty.

This is the same lament Drudge coughed up at the National Press Club a couple years ago. It’s used as a rallying cry for indie music mags; Westword has it in for The Denver Post’s Chuck Green for partially the same reason; The SF Bay Guardian pokes the SF Weekly’s publisher. The difference between the Hat Matts and the others is that one group has the charm to see the humor in the situation. If you want to play villify-the-highliner — everybody does at some point — no one can stop you, but we can ask for wit at the cost of whine.

Frankly, I hate “Warblogs”. Nothing says dilletante like “Check out my Afghanistan web log I started on September 12!” People should try to learn about recent events, but passing themselves off as experts on the matter is simply dishonest. It’s just as bad as journalists pretending they know the subject they cover better than the people quoted in their articles.

All the Stufflebeem- and Taliban-come-latelies — which includes everybody, from Chomsky to Jacob Weisberg to George II — are an intellectual hindrance to people who (at least) are trying to feign earnestness on this thing and are (at most) journalistic speed bumbs on the way to impartiality. The only consolation is that hindrances are brushed off and speed bumps run over.

One group sees the entire issue as political problem, another sees it as a human problem.

It’s no surprise the best editorial I’ve read about September 11 and the Taliban was published on September 2. This editorial has sweet experience where every post-9.11 pundit opinion only has dull viscera.

What’s more, every time I go to LA the pollution makes me sick. Kickin’ after hour spots though.
posted by raaka at 6:31 PM on December 13, 2001


Welch and Layne are journalists. Kick-ass, experienced, talented professionals, who are also blogging. They recognize the power of the web, even to giving props to people we know here like Steven Den Beste....their awareness of the web as a medium makes them as noteworthy as their writing...

Bzzzzzt! Wrong! All these guys are pundits. Like all webloggers, they're giving opinions.

Whether or not they have a degree in journalism doesn't change this fact.

The above quote reminds me of all of the breathless, utopian fantasy hype articles about the "power" of the web that we all read in 1996.

It was horse poop then. It is horse poop now.

All in all, this is a rambling and pointless article on a rambling and pointless subject. I hate to remind swollen headed webloggers and the rather incestuous "community" of this, but the average joe has never heard of weblogging.

Don't believe me? Ask ten people at your local WalMart.
posted by zeb vance at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2001


um, zeb, why dontcha go see just how much (or little) of a journalist the good Mr. Welch is. The fact that he's expressing an opinion doesn't hey-presto him into a pundit just like that. He's more than paid his dues, and while I don't agree with him, I certainly respect where he's coming from.
posted by mattpfeff at 7:59 AM on December 15, 2001


Like all webloggers, they're giving opinions.

All webloggers are not pundits. There are notable exceptions, such as James Romanesko's Obscure Store and the late, lamented Orvetti Report.
posted by rcade at 2:38 PM on December 15, 2001


Correction: Orvetti lives.
posted by rcade at 8:19 AM on December 16, 2001


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