Blogs and the "Political Tone"
by Virginia Postrel • Sep 22, 2004 at 9:31 pm
Glenn Reynolds has a long, link-filled, and a bit defensive post on how blogs are affecting the political debate:
It's true that many bloggers, including Glenn, do a lot of media criticism. Media criticism is relatively easy, and Web links are ideally suited to it. But it's hardly true that "the political blogosphere isto a large degree about media criticism." Many of the best policy blogs have almost no media criticism, nor do they go looking for political scalps. They don't even constantly write about the superiority of blogs. That's why you almost never read about them. Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.
Hence, newspapers don't writes stories about how blogs like Volokh Conspiracy elevate the debate over legal issues or how blogs like Marginal Revolution improve the public's understanding of economic scholarship. You won't read any articles about comparing the military policy discussions on Intel Dump and Belmont Club. Education blogs, science blogs, and foreign-policy blogs all engage in excellent issue discussions, but you'll never, ever hear them held up as examples of the blogosphere at work. Even Glenn forgets they exist.
Elevating the debate is not a story. News reporters do not write about the growth of good, analytical or explanatory journalism. Media critics do not praise such work. It does not get attention, and rarely wins the praise it deserves. That doesn't mean it's unimportant, however. Serious discussion does change people's minds and improve their understanding over time, and blogging has proven a marvelous source of "elevated" discourse. Fortunately, there are some great bloggers out there (many of them scholars using blogs to popularize otherwise academic debates) who don't seem to care whether they ever get invited to go on TV or whether Howard Kurtz ever writes about them.
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