"Anyone from anywhere can cover anything..." Matt Drudge exclaims in his book "Drudge Report." "Anything from anywhere out to everyone."
It's his way of saying the dinosaur he calls AssociatedPressCNN60MinutesNewYorkTimesWashingtonPostFoxNews is on the verge of extinction.
Who will replace the dinosaur? Citizen-journalists like him, who cover anything from anywhere.
And Drudge doesn't just talk the talk.
On his website, he offers over 150 permanent links to various news outlets -- and only a scant 140 of them or so are actually employed by traditional media companies. The rest are just guys in boxers and fedoras, dishing it and dismissing it from the comfort of their living rooms, just like he does...
If that's not enough evidence to convince you that news-blogging has achieved critical mass, consider Andrew Sullivan's latest piece. Writing in a new blog called The Sunday Times of London, he reveals, in three easy steps, how to turn your blog into a media sensation almost overnight:
1. Write articles for major print publications and include your blog URL in your byline note.
2. Appear "on television a lot to have the site's name...put prominently on the screen."
3. Let your readers do the rest.
In no time at all, Sullivan explains, your blog will be more influential than The New Republic.
Now, even before blogging was called blogging, I've been skeptical about its potential to replace traditional journalism. After all, almost every journalistic failure and shortcoming can essentially be traced to a single problem: lack of money. Stories don't get the amount of space they deserve because the number of pages a publication can devote to editorial hinges on the amount of advertising it sells. Freelancers cover stories in sectors they know nothing about because publications don't have the money to keep full-time staffers devoted to specific beats. And because they're not getting paid that much, those freelancers only spend a certain amount of time on a story. Full-time staffers who do cover specific beats have to churn out many stories each week, so they don't spend much time on them either. And the same holds true for columnists: while some bloggers insist that research and reporting falls outside their province because they're simply offering commentary and opinion, do they not understand that commentary and opinion is better when bolstered by the occasional phone interview or first-hand reporting?
Because chronic under-funding undermines so much journalism, I've never quite grasped how replacing professional journalists who don't get paid much with citizen-journalists who don't get paid anything will radically transform journalism into a better-reported, better-written, more accurate discipline. Indeed, except for pornography, where the amateurs almost always turn in livelier and more nuanced performances than their professional brethren, I cannot think of one industry or pastime whose best practitioners refuse to be paid.
But let's face it: I am dummy. As Andrew Sullivan reveals, bloggers can make money. Indeed, according to Sullivan, he raked in $27,000 in donations in 2001. And while he says that "almost all of it went to pay for design and bandwidth costs," he also explains that "the genius of the blogging model, after all, is the lack of overhead. Unlike loss-making online magazines, bloggers tend to have no offices to rent, and no staff to pay. After start-up costs for even snazzy sites, most income is profit. So even small amounts can make a difference."
In other words, after that first $27,000, it's all gravy, baby!
Now, some grumps in the audience might say, "Sure, your expenses totalled only $27,000, Andrew, but you got all that free promotion from the big newspapers you write for and the big TV networks you appear on. But what's it gonna cost me to blog?"
But those grumps clearly don't know about a revolutionary new blogging tool called Foxnews.com.
Unlike Blogger, which you now have to pay for to use, Foxnews.com actually pays you to post.
It also maintains a cable TV channel to help build an audience for your work.
Not surprisingly, Foxnews.com has taken the blogosphere by storm. And it's not the only new blogging tool stealing market share from Blogger. Techcentralstation.com is proving popular with bloggers too, and there's even rumors that Microsoft, in characteristic embrace-and-extend fashion, may attempt to dominate the market with a new blogging application called Slate.
With this new generation of blogging tools empowering an already-powerful lot, it doesn't look good for traditional media. By 2003, I predict, CNN will be gone. In 2004, 60 Minutes goes, then the New York Times.
And what's going to happen then? Tens of thousands of traditional journalists are going to start blogging too. Competition for donation dollars is going to get fierce. To attract contributions, stay-at-home bloggers who have already stopped buying clothes in an effort to reduce loss-making overhead will hook up web-cams to their computers and pioneer a new trend: nude-blogging. At first, only the newest, most innovative bloggers (Geraldo Rivera, Andy Rooney) will engage in the practice. But thanks to their overwhelming success, even the old guard will adopt the technique.
For far too long, of course, traditional naked news has been
dominated by staid, lifeless, left-leaning, error-prone ideologues. But it's only a matter
of time before all that changes. After all, nude-blogging is completely new - and cannot be
replicated in any other medium. It's somewhere between hanging around your apartment
nude and talk radio. And it harnesses the web's real genius - the ability to distribute nude
imagery of people who would never make it in the world of commercial pornography. Stayed
tuned as Andrew Sullivan and all the other bloggers start shedding their clothes!
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