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December 21, 2006

The blog mob?

WSJ online.gifWall Street Journal assistant editorial features editor Joseph Rago doesn't think much of blogs:

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.[. . .]

[Most blogs] are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion.

Larry Ribstein, who is on the cutting edge of writing on the impact of blogging, responds to Rago here and bores in on what is really going on here -- blogging's dilution of old media's impact on the distribution and shaping of information to the public. Does Rago really believe that the old media's approach to distributing and shaping information examined here, here and here is the best way to present reasonably complex issues to the public?

Moreover, another key utility of blogs is the linking to articles in newspapers, magazines and specialized journals that the reader probably would otherwise miss. For example, corporate law bloggers such as Professor Ribstein and Stephen Bainbridge have greatly facilitated the public and legal profession's understanding and discussion of often misunderstood business law principles that otherwise would have been relegated to rarely-read law review articles and an occasional backpage op-ed. The linking process increases the efficiency of the distribution of information and often refines that information. That such flow of information may be accompanied with a blogger's opinion of the information is really beside the point. Those opinions will be alternately illuminating, worthless or in-between, but the reader does not lose the ability to evaluate the information or the opinion.

Curiously, while a WSJ editor decries the proliferation of blogs, Peter Lattman's WSJ Law Blog is one of the best blogs to emerge during 2006. Go figure.

Posted by Tom at December 21, 2006 4:06 AM |


I had posted this on Ribstein's blog, and hope its worth repeating here:

I too worry about the quality of endlessly multiplying opinions and their flimsy support as the collective conversation splinters, but believe the analogy of the arrogant MSM as a small-brained yet much too powerful shark an apt one. Iíve witnessed and read histories of group think in the MSM and elsewhere, as issues are chosen by the few, simplified to caricature and then amplified to deadening, with a mob often incited. Iím sure the world is much more flat in the MSM, business classes much more greedy and dangerous. Thankfully the world stays gloriously round and the business classes do the world's rarest and most important work nonetheless.

Posted by: Nicholas Author Profile Page at December 21, 2006 5:44 AM

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