“Journalist”, heal thyself!

I don’t do a lot of fiskings on this blog, (in fact, I think I’ve done exactly one in the past), but I just read an article that begs to be picked apart, letter by letter, by as many bloggers as set eyes on it.

Name and shame offensive bloggers
David Bullard

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Fred Khumalo and I should feel very flattered indeed.

Erm, sorry. Am I supposed to have heard of you?

Every day there are 120000 new blog sites registered â?? a staggering 43 million a year. According to blog search engine Technorati, there are already 70 million blog sites registered worldwide. Admittedly the majority of the bloggers get bored rather quickly and donâ??t bother to update their sites, but thatâ??s still 70 million people (higher than the population of the UK) who desperately want to be columnists.

The numbers sound about right, so no arguments there, but why do you assume we all want to be columnists? Many blogs are essentially personal diaries, meant for friends and such, not the public at large (though, admittedly, putting it on the Internet is not the best way to remain private….) Many of them are “columns”, if you will, on niche topics that have an interested audience, but not in numbers that can support a dedicated column on dead-tree media in a particular locale. Personally, I just like the outlet. A large audience would be nice, I suppose, but at the rate I post, I’m not at all surprised that I don’t have one.

Itâ??s comforting to know that, should Fred or I decide to take a sabbatical, thereâ??s no shortage of people available to hold the fort. The only snag is the quality, or lack of it.

There’s that old saying that “98% of everything is crap”, but you’ve obviously never spent much time reading blogs if you’re going to try to argue that 100% of blogs are crap.

Allow me to explain what I mean. I used to play air guitar with a band called Deep Purple. My playing was perfect, I had attitude and I even smashed my air guitar at the end of the number. The reason I played air guitar is that I couldnâ??t play real guitar very well so I was forced to dwell in this fantasy world where my guitar playing meant something only to me. I should point out that this was years ago when I was still young and foolish. These days I play air tenor saxophone, which is far more challenging.

You mother must be so proud.

Most blog sites are the air guitars of journalism.

Allow me to explain something back to you. The difference between you playing air guitar and a blogger writing a post is that when you play air guitar, you’re not actually playing any music. Cat blogging notwithstanding, bloggers actually create something. Hell, even pure “linkers” are creating something in that they are essentially editorializing on what they think is worthwhile on other web sites.

Theyâ??re cobbled together by people who wouldnâ??t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism,

This article is more interesting to me for what it says about you than what you say about bloggers. Tell me, do you spend a lot of time railing against people who sing in the Church choir because they’re nothing like Britney Spears (that is, a “pro”)?

My grandmother could have been a professional singer. She got out of the business because (among other reasons) there were too many “fanny patters” for her liking. Her lack of pro status said absolutely nothing about her singing ability.

mainly because they have very little to say. Itâ??s rather sad how many people think the tedious minutiae of their lives will be of any interest to anyone else.

Blogs are a social construct as much as anything else. One thing they have that newspaper columns and editorials will never have is the instant feedback, cross-referencing, and interactivity that blog readers are able to take for granted for their ubiquity.

I read many blogs that are quite far removed from “the tedious minutiae of their lives”, but quite frankly, a good blogger can take even minutiae and turn it into entertaining reading.

Itâ??s even sadder when someone reads them.

It’s far more sad when some thinks that pulling a paycheck is cause to believe that nobody else can possibly do what you do.

Many bloggers prefer to remain anonymous and with good reason. The content of their sites is so moronic that even their best friends would disown them if they knew they were the authors.

Have you looked at a newspaper lately? Unsigned editorials, reviews and articles abound in print. Are these articles unsigned because your “best friends would disown [you] if they knew [you] were the authors”?

As with most things in life, something that costs nothing is usually worth nothing and that puzzles me.

Breathe much?

Okay, cheap shot. Here’s a better example: Roughly 80-90% of all websites are run on a server program called Apache. It’s free. Programmed by volunteers in a methodology that in technological circles is called “open source”. There is open source software out there that rivals the power of such large commercial applications as Microsoft Word (see “OpenOffice”) and Adobe Photoshop (see “Gimp”). All free.

I take it back — my earlier statement was not a cheap shot. Sometime you get what you pay for, but the world is filled with worthwhile things that don’t cost money.

Are there really 70 million bloggers out there hoping that their writing talents will be recognised, or is this just another example of modern narcissism?

Narcissism? Sir, you are the very model of a modern major narcissist.

Unlike the world of newsprint, there are no rules out there in the blogosphere and that makes it a very confusing place for the consumer.

Whose rules are we talking about? Does the government regulate newspaper content?

Pretty much anybody can publish a book if they choose to. Are you confused when you walk into a bookstore? Into a grocery store? Down Main Street?

I have no objection to reading my Sunday Times on the Internet because I know the content has been through the same process as the print edition.

In a world where major network news anchors feel fit to broadcast fake political documents, and major journalists at major national newspapers are caught inventing “news” out of whole cloth, it’s dangerous to assume that the word “journalist” somehow magically imparts you with talent or integrity.

I do, however, object to some anonymous, scrofulous

scro•fu•lous adj.: 1. morally contaminated; 2. having a diseased appearance

Getting a little personal there, are we?

nerd pumping meaningless drivel into cyberspace at all hours of the day and night simply because he canâ??t find a girl to sleep with him.

Heh. Kinda funny considering the biggest blogger on the ‘net also has a podcast with his wife (who in turn has her own blog).

These are the sort of wackos who gun down their fellow students at university.

Fuck you, David.

Sorry — was that rude?

I visited a site the other day that was so hideously racist that it would have qualified its publisher for a long spell in prison if it had appeared in print.

I’ll have to take your word for it. Here in the United States we have this thing called “free speech”, which means people can’t go to prison for spouting off racist, or any other kind of, bullshit.

So whatâ??s the difference? How come newspapers and magazines have to carry the names of their editors and publishers and watch their content and websites donâ??t?

Again I’ll take your word for it. In the USA you can publish any damned thing you want (with extremely limited exceptions) on paper or on the web. You’re not required by law to sign your name to it, either.

You “have to” watch your content because if readers turn against you, your advertisers might not give you money anymore. In that sense, I would say that unpaid bloggers may have more intellectual integrity than newspapers, in that they are speaking their minds instead of biting their tongues over fears of lost advertising. I think bloggers are also more willing to say things that they suspect will be unpopular, whereas, again, newspapers need to stay popular.

Iâ??m told that itâ??s possible to track down the author of any offensive website…

Not if they take steps to prevent it, unless you want to subpoena the Domain Registry…

and perhaps thatâ??s what the government should be doing

Aha! Definitely unfamiliar with the whole “free speech” thing.

instead of looking at legislation to gag legitimate publications.

Well, they shouldn’t be doing that, either.

Better still, maybe itâ??s time the print journalists named and shamed some of the more offensive anonymous bloggers and published their physical addresses.

Okay… One: I bet if some blogger threatened to publish your personal details you’d be the first to get your feathers in a fluff about how terrible a thing it is.

Two: yeah, that whole banning thing works so well with books. Hey everybody, let’s go read the thing that this goofball demands nobody reads!

Then I can start a blog site called printrevenge.com and bore you all with the details.

Zing! Ooh, ow. My sides.

This whole article reminds me of a page on Microsoft’s web site a couple years ago that gave “advice” on buying an MP3 player. It was absolutely hysterical to read (unintentionally), because every single suggestion on the list was somehow a variation of “don’t buy an iPod”. If an iPod had it, it was bad, and if an iPod didn’t have it, it was essential. Helpful suggestions like “Make sure it has an FM tuner. Let a professional pick your music for you.” As though you aren’t qualified to determine what kind of music you like to hear without the aid of some guy with the word “professional” stamped across his forehead. [Update: Microsoft’s page is still there. Apart from the first item on the list, every single point is a swipe at the then-new iPod Shuffle.]

So one last parting shot to David Dullard. Sorry… “Bullard”:
You’re not a journalist. You’re an opinion writer. They have a saying about opinions, you know. Like assholes, everybody’s got one. The fact that somebody is dumb enough to pay you for yours does not make you the only person qualified to state it in public.

There. Now I can go read Ryan’s fisking of the same article.

Update: L’esprit de l’escalier struck as I was rereading this, so I went back in and added the “narcissist” line above.

6 Responses to ““Journalist”, heal thyself!”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Actually, your fisking is probably a bit better than mine. Mine was dashed off without much thought. You take it apart better.

  2. Stephen Rider Says:

    I can see why fiskings are so popular — they can be downright cathartic to write. 🙂

    My writing tends to be pretty cerebral, which is probably why yours is more entertaining. In the end, though, I guess I’m pretty good at slowly ripping apart poorly considered opinion pieces.

  3. Steve B Says:

    Well executed (pun intended). It seems a strange premise that the only reason someone would blog is because they are a frustrated wanna-be journalism that just couldn’t “hack it” in the real world.

    And I also take exception to his assertion that “no one” is interested in the minutae of peoples’ lives. Lileks writes a pretty damn popular blog about silly little daily stuff. Some of the more engaging and fun blogs I read deal with the maddening perversity of daily life and inanimate objects.

    And why is it that so many of this type of dill-weed jump right to the “lets censor what we don’t like/agree with” meme?

    Whatta douchebag.

  4. Stephen Rider Says:

    Two updates: I added in a line towards the middle (look for a pull-quote regarding narcissism), and I added a link to Microsoft’s “don’t buy an iPod” page, which is still on their site.

    Steve B — Yeah, I almost cited Lileks, but I figured Jeffery Harrell is his equal but less known. (Hi Jeff!)

  5. Steve B Says:

    I’d agree, although to date, I don’t know that Lileks has been visited by any corpulent alien research anthropologists.

    Whether that puts him up or down the list is an open question…

  6. Stephen Rider Says:

    LOL. “It’s an organ of elimination!!!!”

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