Sunday: 09/08/02

Sloppy Second-Guessing
Comrade Reynolds is bitch-slapping the press again. His counsel? "My advice to those who read this article and want to know how to improve the press's image: read a lot of weblogs…you become a weblogger because, fundamentally, you think the press is important, and you love what it does enough to hate to see sloppy and biased work -- which unfortunately, you see a lot of even in the elite media…the public doesn't disrespect you because you're 'too tough' and raise troubling questions they don't want to think about. The public disrespects you because you are, far too often, sloppy, superficial, and biased. You want more respect, do something about that."

I'm two-thirds of the way with Reynolds on this one -- who wants more sloppy, superficial journalism? That's what I read blogs for! Where we part company, however, is on the matter of bias -- I think biased journalism is at least as valuable as "objective" journalism, and maybe even objective journalism -- if you spend all your time covering a specific subject and you don't even have an opinion about it, how interested can you really be in what you're doing? In the end, it's pretty hard to decouple bias from engagement -- why not let journalists write what they think, and put the burden of providing "balance" on readers? Journalistic objectivity is in large part a business-driven value, arising out of a quest for market-share and a desire to create a climate that's friendly to advertisers: if you don't take an opinion on anything, you can potentially appeal to everyone, or at least not piss anyone off. That works for monopoly newspapers, but on cable and the web it has less efficacy, as those realms are all about aggregating highly targeted groups of people. There, bias is a business virtue, which is good news for news media, because bias can also be a journalistic virtue.

As for Comrade Reynolds himself, I can't help but think of the old canard, "Big Education bon vivant, heal thyself!"

Indeed, is a bustling factory of sloppiness and superficiality. Comrade Reynolds isn't dumb, and I'm not sure he's even willfully deceitful -- he just thinks so fast his analyses often outrun the facts. And thus hardly a day passes at without some facile take on something or other; my recent favorite was this post about Aimee Mann: "AIMEE MANN is making all the songs from her new CD available for free on the web. Funny, the RIAA says that artists will lose money doing this. What can she be thinking? Maybe that the RIAA doesn't know what it's doing?"

Well, it could be that, but on the other hand, when you visit Aimee Mann's site, what you find is that she's making her songs available not as downloadable MP3s, but rather in various 96 kbps streaming formats. Which is pretty much what every major label site does now too (albeit on a singles basis rather than an album one). So, basically both Aimee Mann (whose site is very nicely done) and the RIAA both know what they're doing: they're trying to give fans ways to sample new music without cannibalizing potential sales. Aimee Mann takes it a step further by making her entire album available for free, rather than just a track or two, but it seems pretty important to note that the "availability" she's offering is a fairly limited kind of availability -- the same kind of availabity, in fact, that the major labels have shown they're already pretty comfortable with. But Reynolds fails to note this. Whether this failure is due to sloppy superficiality or a deliberate desire to mislead I can't say, but either way, it results in a post that was less informative than it should have been.

-- G. Beato

09/06/02: Friday Follow-ups
09/05/02: Bury Them Deep
09/04/02: White Gold
09/02/02: 24 Hour Party People
08/29/02: Slender: Liberal Lies About Ann Coulter
08/19/02: The Blogosphere in Action
08/07/02: The Bleat Goes On

Also recommended:
Cooking With Bigfoot

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