The WSJ and New York Times have forced my hand. The MSM still has such a painfully miserable grasp of blogs, bloggers, the blogosphere I’m suffering second-hand embarrassment just reading their drivel.
This is some high-level stuff, ignoring for a moment the blog-specific failures and other particular shortcomings from the WSJ and the NYT pieces, so bear with me.
What’s the difference between what someone like Felix Salmon does for Reuters and what someone like Gretchen Morgenson does for the New York Times? (And no, the answer is not “the former knows what he is talking about, while the latter spews-forth nonsense and ignorance,” although that’s an observation with which I’d generally agree.) More generally, I’m curious, what makes a blog a blog (and a blogger a blogger)? Is it the back-end, i.e. a website the content of which is published with WordPress or Typepad? Is it the content itself, the site layout, the writers, or the editorial standards? Is it association with MSM or a pre-existing other media?
I believe the answer to all of these questions is a solid “no;” as far as I can tell, the only thing that differentiates a “blog” (already a vague term in the common vernacular) from an “online magazine” or general “website” is that either the proprietors and/or the general public simply call one a blog and one something else. That it. For example, why is Naked Capitalism a “blog” instead of “the website of Yves Smith?” Is The Atlantic’s Business section of the website a blog? Why (or why not)? Both host several daily posts (or articles, whatever) from a number of (mostly regular) contributors, allow readers to leave comments, etc. Naked Capitalism is powered by Blogger; The Atlantic uses Movable Type.
What I hope you’re starting to realize by now is that the term “blog” (and its derivatives) has became wayyyy too pervasive, to the point that I believe its entirely misused, if not abused with startling regularity. Why, though? We’ve established that neither the site layout nor the back-end publishing system determines whether a particular site is a blog or not, so then it must have something to do with the content and/or the author(s), right? Ok, then tell me how is it that Gretchen is a “columnist” and an “editor” but Felix is referred-to as a far less prestigious sounding “blogger?” Contrary to the claims of some other observers, I think this difference is far more than simply cosmetic; except for the few of us “in the know,” I’m fairly certain the average person thinks Gretchen much more credible than Felix, at least based purely on title alone. This, sense does not make. Judging purely from the content these two create, Felix deserves far more respect than Gretchen, as his posts are not only more frequent, but significantly more technical and nuanced than the predictable, dumbed-down, anti-capitalist rhetoric we get from her.
Of course, not all “blogs” are created equal, but that’s the point; some websites are – or host – what I’ll refer to as “true blogs,” while others are effectively the same as MSM(-esque) websites. The latter often have several full-time contributors, support, and editorial staff. Think Gawker. The former are usually some sort of grossly un-professional hodge-podge of sporadically-created content covering seemingly random topics; think something like myrandomdisorganizedmessofawebsite.blogspot.com.
The point is that many websites that are commonly referred-to as “blogs” really aren’t. Likewise, the authors of said “blogs” should not be considered bloggers, but writers (or analysts, or whatever) and the content they create should be given the respect (and usually, the credibility) given to the works of other professional writers (or analysts, or whatever) of the same/similar caliber.
Its funny, while MSM completely fails to grasp this whole blog thing, their own websites continually devolve into them, for the better.