In an effort to satirize Glenn Reynolds and his brand of "Weblogger Triumphalism," I have sometimes strayed from the strictly factual in this essay. In my opinion, it's pretty clear where I do this, but in case anyone has questions, I have compiled these notes.
1. Throughout most of the piece, I refer to Glenn Harlan Reynolds as Glenn Harlan Roberts. I do this as a tribute to John F. Burns, the wretched Big Media devil who made the mistake in the first place.
2. All quotes attributed to Reynolds/Roberts are genuine.
3. Joanne Jacobs did not invent the Internet, nor did she invent a content management application called Blog It! She is also not working on a new invention called "email." Finally, as far as I know she has never used her blog to agitate for an airstrike against Canada.
4. While Glenn Reynolds has appeared on Larry King Live, there's no real evidence (other than the remarkable prose similarities) that he ever sought Larry King's advice on web-logging. The photo that depicts their association is not actually a photo; it's an illustration. Also, Larry King is probably younger than 106.
5. The actual A.J. Liebling quote is "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."
6. Salon.com does not have a hundred-year legacy in print and TV, nor does it have thousands of employees worldwide.
7. Foxnews.com may in fact employ editors and layout people. It does not employ Salon editor-in-chief David Talbot.
8. To give credit where credit is due, Reynolds gamely answered the questions I sent him, even after I introduced myself to him via the following email: "Hello Glenn, I am one of those lower-tier writers you mentioned the other day in one of your posts, and just as you predicted might happen, I have decided to write a hit-piece about you. That's the good news. The bad news is that instead of trying to pitch it to some glamorous Big Media dinousaur, I'm simply going to publish it on my own personal site, soundbitten.com. I know that makes the whole prospect much less exciting, but I'm hoping you'll cooperate anyway. When I'm not spinning facts and quotes like a Harlem Globetrotter I will probably be making them up completely: to ensure that the story has at least a faint patina of truth, I am hoping that you will answer the following questions..."
9. A final note, not related to any question of fact, but rather to answer why I bothered to write this piece: it's not because I hate blogging and bloggers, or think that journalism and media criticism should be left to paid professionals. Instead, it's because I have great expectations for bloggers and blogging, and hold them to their own ideals. Which are what exactly? Well, consider some of these statements:
The trouble is encapsulated in Ken Layne's now-famous statement, "this is the Internet, and we can fact-check your ass." Where before journalists and pundits could bloviate at leisure, offering illogical analysis or citing "facts" that were in fact false, now the Sunday morning op-eds have already been dissected on Saturday night, within hours of their appearing on newspapers' websites.
-- Glenn Reynolds, Techcentralstation.com, January 9th, 2002
What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not? I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s, unchecked joy at discovering clever people, a readiness to admit error, tendency to write with passion and emotion, a radar attuned to personal responsibility, a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review…I think the list is long, and most of the qualities stand apart from what you expect on the local op-ed page, or on the cable teevee show.
-- Matt Welch, mattwelch.com, December 9th, 2001
INTELLECTUAL HONESTY, SKEPTICAL INQUIRY, RATIONAL DISCOURSE, CULTURAL EPHEMERA
-- Motto of Jay Zilber's blog, "Mind Over What Matters"
Like Jay Zilber, I am all for intellectual honesty and skeptical inquiry, and even a little rational discourse if it's not too boring. And who can argue with fact-checking, critical thinking, a sense of humor, a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review, a tendency to write with passion and emotion, and perhaps most of all, a readiness to admit error? Because, frankly, journalism has never been, nor will it ever be, a particularly accurate discipline. Journalists get facts wrong. They oversimplify complicated issues.
But error isn't endemic only to Big Media or professional journalists who just don't get blogging. Bloggers get facts wrong too. And they oversimplify complicated issues.
Look at Joanne Jacobs' contention that she, along with Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan, and Virginia Postrel invented blogging: ten minutes of skeptical inquiry on her part would have probably been more than enough to dissuade herself of that notion.
Look at how Glenn Reynolds wrote a piece for Foxnews.com on the way traditional media outlets pass off "press releases and written-to-order opinion pieces [as] apparently objective accounts" without once mentioning that (a) corporations and the government (specifically the U.S. Committee on Public Information) pioneered the discipline of public relations, (b) huge amounts of corporate publicity appears in the media as objective reporting and op-ed pieces, and (c) corporations have far more resources to finance such endeavours than do the "left-leaning" advocacy groups that Reynolds implies are the primary practitioners of such flimflammery.
Perhaps some future version of Blogger will include tools that ensure the intellectual honesty, skeptical inquiry, scrupulous fact-checking, critical thinking, literary panache, and sense of humor that bloggers attribute to themselves, but so far, it remains the burden of bloggers to provide those things themselves. And just like their Big Media brethren, they don't always do it.
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