Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blogging and Journalism

It seems there are two new fads f0r journalists. One is for the writer to start his own blog--Joe Posnanski has a great new one--and the other is for him to openly deride bloggers, labeling them not good enough for newspaper work, or in one instance, even comparing them to the homeless.

Now, to an extent I understand the stance taken by major newspaper columnists. After all, they had to work for many years to get where they are, and now much of their audience is being taken away by amateur writers or professionals who have only been writing for a short period of time.

However, what I really see is a group that is upset because:

- the barriers to entry have been removed from their profession
- "inferior" writers are taking their jobs, even though their work is superior
- in the internet age, the daily paper is often obsolete by the time it hits newsstands

The fact is, blogging encourages an open competition in which the cream rises to the top. If someone starts a blog and it sucks, no one is going to read it, but the good blogs will develop a strong following. In other words, you're much more likely to get a better final product by picking the best blog out of a thousand candidates rather than the best local reporter out of five.

The readers of a local newspaper often have no choice; they often must choose between reading a particular writer's work or not following the local team at all. Does this system really reward quality at all? There's no doubt in my mind that some journalists, like Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, would never make it in blogging because their columns can't cut it.

These stubborn journalists who dismiss blogging as a hobby of the homeless remind me in many ways of the men who defended the color barrier in the face of Jackie Robinson's arrival in 1947. They viewed blacks and Latinos as inferior players who should stay in the Negro Leagues and not take the jobs of the whites who had worked so "hard" to get them. They believed in keeping the barriers to entry and not encouraging an open competition--the same open competition that has raised the level of play in baseball to its highest point in history.

I'm not trying to compare the trivial matter of blogging to the landmark achievements of the Civil Rights movement, but it's the same idea. Competition is a good thing for everyone involved except those who can't keep up. If a blog is doing a better job reporting on your local team than you are, do something different until you re-establish yourself as the primary source for all things Boston. But don't complain that you're losing your audience to an author who's more eloquent or better understands baseball statistics, just because he writes for U.S.S Mariner instead of the Post-Intelligencer.

If you work for a newspaper and are upset about blogging, chances are your anger is fueled more by envy than disdain.

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