Towards A Better Media: Blogging and Op-Ed

Instead of making grand pronouncements about how the Internet and technology are changing the way we take in and use information, perhaps we should recognize that there is a humility in specialization.

For to specialize could mean that one becomes supremely arrogant (*ahem*), but it also means one can hold off on pronouncing on a topic one knows nothing about.

With that in mind, what is the great virtue of blogging?

I propose that blogging has one and only one virtue: it allows people to instantly publish.

We can conjecture that such people aren’t afraid to be heard, and in some cases actually want to hear others, and maybe in some cases want to even discuss! And learn!

If that’s the case, then what blogging specializes in is Op-Ed. And I think that’s exactly right: except for a few really good writers, like Mark Steyn and Jonah Goldberg, a good number of people blogging online are providing more to think about than the mainstream pundits. The gloves are off, and they’re more than willing to provide sources and engage their readership (for better or worse) openly.

Getting people’s honest opinions is not a small thing – it’s momentous, actually. It can actually be harnessed immediately not by having the MSM come on TV and tell all the rest of us what “blogs” say, which is an artificial separation, but by inviting better bloggers to participate in MSM moderated forums.

Why not have good bloggers contribute for a special issue of a Sunday Magazine part of a newspaper? Get bloggers following the war to write on questions that would be their expertise, for example: Where is the war headed? What could be done better? What complaints do we hear that are legitimate, that aren’t? Now I know this is being done already to some degree, so I have a more radical proposal below:

The thing that is hardest to relinquish control over is how and what questions are asked. That’s where bloggers really are antagonistic to the MSM. So why not let them set the agenda for debate or investigation once in a while? Now granted, this proposal is going to favor bloggers that aren’t political, ones like Steve Rubel, who are interested in where things are going less than where things ought to be.

I realize that a lot of what I’m saying has been tried, but it isn’t happening fast enough. Not nearly fast enough, actually – it feels like everything is compartmentalized. There’s a huge audience out here on the Internet, and it’s disconnected from the audience that watches the nightly news, and unaware of how seriously it ought to take itself in some ways. I think anyone who has the patience to get through my work on Macbeth or Heidegger should stick their nose in the air – I may be wrong, but there are serious reading and serious questions being raised. Granted, it’s not being introduced by Katie Couric as a topic for discussion, and it shouldn’t be. (I know my audience is more humble, far more humble, than I am.)

But that’s exactly the problem: news up to this point has depended on a divorce between higher sorts of learning and a day-to-day flow of events. As I’ve noted before, one person who hated this state of affairs was no less than Thomas Jefferson. If the MSM can commit to an organizing/aggregating function regarding online media – finding the voices that are informed and thoughtful and interesting – and bring them to a wider audience, it will be doing something small and at the same time huge: it’ll be giving credit where credit is due, which is not only a smart thing for them, but a just and useful thing for the rest of us.

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1 Comment

  1. Ashok, your weblog turned up in Google’s search results as I was searching for information on Seth Benardete’s articles on Plato’s Parmenides. I see that we have somethong of a shared background at the University of Dallas and, partly as a result of such good upbringing :-), some shared political and philosophical interests. I’ve left my blog’s address in the metadata for this comment, and I see that your blog’s software has already formed a link to one of my recent posts.

    As for Mark Steyn, whom you name and praise in this post of yours, I have a review of his After America, which if you like, you’ll be able to find easily using my blog’s search feature.

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