Friday, September 23, 2005

In Defense of the Buggy Whip

In recent comments (here and here) two readers have taken issue with my continuing defense of the Old Media in general and the New Yorker in particular. John Veccione writes:
Your constant plumping for the old media reminds me of those guys who said "with the high quality of today's buggy whips, the noisy combustion engine will never rise to the use and majesty of old dobbin. In fact, the Old Media may roar around Pangeria making quite a show but there's a chill in the air and something small, furry and scurrying is eating its eggs!

And then anonymous writes:
What are YOUR fucking suggestions on how to deal with this problem? You sit around and throw shit at the President on issue after issue without ONCE giving a constructive thought or suggestion as to how such a smart guy like you would handle these problems.
I guess when one of your favorite magazines is The New Yorker, your concept of serious critical thinking is fucked.

My first reaction, of course, is that I don't know what conservatism means, if it isn't a serious defense of buggy whips.

But kidding aside, I'm quite open to the possibility that Veccione is right and that the New Media will destroy and supplant the Old Media. I'm not convinced that this is going to happen, but it certainly isn't out of the realm of the possible. My concern has always been, should the New Media supplant the Old Media, would that be good for us? I don't think so.

Which brings us to Anonymous, who--I hope she doesn't mind the paraphrasing here--believes that the New Yorker is not a serious home for writing and ideas.

To address both these comments I'd urge readers to dig out a copy of the September 19, 2005 issue and read David Grann's "The Lost City of Z." (For reasons that probably have to do with writers' guild lawsuits, Grann's pieces aren't on Nexis or the web.) My words cannot convey what a feat of reporting and writing this piece is.

It is conceivable that the blogosphere will someday produce something approaching the greatness of this Grann story. But I doubt it.

If the Old Media really is going the way of the buggy whip, if "The Lost City of Z" really is going to be replaced by "Heh. Indeed.", then I think we will all be incomparably poorer for it. Even serious people like Ms. Anonymous.


Anonymous said...

"replaced by 'Hed. Indeed.'"

Also, the Old Media would know it is "heh" and not "hed".

Anonymous said...

Blogs are good for Texas Air National Guard scandals, i.e., how much shit do you think MSM got away with in the 50 years before blogs?

However, it's a stupid notion to claim that you "stick up" for the MSM if you don't agree that blogs are like the Huns pushing the central European tribes into the Western Roman Empire.

Also, before employing the buggy whip analogy, think for a second about the many differences between the internet's "challenge" to the MSM and the Ford Model T.

Put it this way: I don't see any internet Henry Fords and John D. Rockefellers and Charles Goodyears cooperating to create a system of complementary products to wholesale replace the way we currently gather and process news.

Jason O.

Anonymous said...

The old media versus new media debate springs back to life. Jon you are not alone in your defense of old media, or the press. I was educated as a journalist, from one of the typical left wing journalism schools. So there is a certain bias I hold and a romatic appreciation of the ink stained scribes who tucked their press pass in their hats and rolled up their sleeves to type up the days story. I also am cognizant that those old days are gone.

So what to do with old media and what to make of new media. The biggest problem with old media is how little they understand the marketplace in which they are. And while I would not encourage them to alter their philosophies to match the market, so much of old media preens to be accepted by certain people, it just seems phony to me. So many publications dumb themselves down (perhaps an acknowledgement of declinign literacy) instead of publishing intelligent and thought provoking material settle for dull and cliched garbage. This is why I take it the New Yorker is a prived publication, Jon. They tend to be intelligent and thought provoking.

But how many publications have dumbed down content or spiced up design to chase readers, but choose not to be honest brokers, or Plain Dealers if you are in Cleveland.

One of my professors remarked that objectivity is impossible, but you must strive for Fairness, Evenhandedness, Accuracy and Thoroughness. He called it a journalistic FEAT. More of that, plus more intelligence would make old media less the pariah it is. As for new media, let us hope that providing a modicum of fairness and balance (in addition to the sublime and the ridiculous, the banal and the blather and everything in between) can prod old media into being less stodgy.

Anonymous said...

The problem with saying blogs and the internet are going to supplant the old MSM is that they are really symbiotic. Blogs work better as fact checkers than front line news reporters. they just don't have the resources to ferret out the stories on their own.

Anonymous said...

The main problem with the old media - in my view - is not that it is biased to the left (of course it is). The larger problem is that old media journalists are, well, dumb.

Anonymous said...

The problem with buggy whip comment is that it’s the wrong lesson to draw from that era- a better lesson would be people calling the first cars “horseless carriages.” It seems we always fall back on the crutch of describing innovations in terms of current frame of reference.

It is mistake, a snarky one full of conceit and hubris, to compare the old media to the new media as currently composed and decide the old media is better. First does anybody think the old media as currently composed can hold its ground? Newspapers and network news still act like the information monopolies they were back in the 1970s; what blogs have done is act like shock troops to expose how opinionated their news gathering and editing are. All of that destroys the old media as the sole arbiter of truth and what is important. Can they reform? I doubt it, old monopolies and regulated companies don’t do well in newly competitive environments- ask AT&T or Delta Airlines

Old media provided its customers with 3 important products: what is happening, what is important, and what does it all mean. All bundled up in one package for your convenience. No matter what happens to the papers and TV news, there will always be a demand for those 3 products- the question is who serves it and in what sort of organizational form. To date, I don’t know if anyone has built a commercial proposition based on the hive mind exhibited in the blogosphere or if one is feasible but that’s where innovative billionaires like Henry Ford are made right Jason O?

If I want to know what is happening in Iraq I can either read the abortion in Time magazine this past week combined with horrid military analysis in the Post or I can read Michael Yon, Belmont Club, and Adventures of Chester and get great analysis and on-the-spot war reporting. If I can find some way of packaging it all together and systemizing this, what advantage does old media have again?

Trying to compare Instapundit of today to the New Yorker is like comparing a beautiful 1900 horse and buggy to the first car, Version 1.0 is always a bit ugly especially in retrospect. All I know is that there is no 2006 version of the buggy whip, seems to be a lot of those horseless carriages though.


Anonymous said...

I like coming here to Galley Slaves and I appreciate defense of Old Media. But what I don't understand is the proprietor's insistence of throwing snark at the blogosphere. Jon, what exactly is your problem with Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan and Jonah Goldberg? Are you jealous of them? It detracts, it really does.

Look, in the old days, if you didn't like what you read in the paper, saw on TV or heard on the radio, you had one choice: write a letter and hope to be heard. Blogging changes that. That's all; it's not the Messiah and it never claimed to be.

How many stories go like this in the old media?: "Problem X is really, really bad. Expert Y says problem X is bad. Expert Z says Expert Y is full of baloney and Problem X is overblown. Time will tell if Problem X will get worse. Back to you, Joan." Blogging (and the internet, in general) offers you the opportunity to delve into minute detail (bandwidth is infinitely cheap compared to program time) and offers context and the opportunity to interact. Old media mostly chooses to gloss over this. Good magazines like The New Yorker are rare counterexamples.

Anonymous said...

I don't think JVL has any problem with Jonah. I would be surprised to learn that he does. Lots of people dislike insta-ego and Andy Sullivan because their egos are gigantic and they make everything about them. When pundit-insta is talking about his car, his wife, his blogging conferences, his workout regiment, etc, it gets to be tiresome. Nobody cares that people send him books for free and that he doesn't have time to read or that lots of people ask him his opinions about whatever. Nobody cares about his MSNBC blog or his tech central station columns or when he's going to be on TV or Radio or the Central TN public blog symposium. Yet he believes that these are terribly important items that he must link to. Sullivan is the same way. He internalizes everything, he sees homophobia in everything, and it's quite annoying.

Anonymous said...

Let me say something that I think supports J. V. Last. It's pretty obvious to me that the argument, "Blogs have done good thing X, therefore any insinuation that the [soi-disant] 'M.S.M.' has on balance and at large done more good things than the blog o'sphere means that one wants the blogs to vanish" is fallacious. But that gets bandied about quite a lot unfortunately: "Oh, so you LIKE Dan Rather, huh?"

As a conservative, I see this faulty logic flowing from a general reluctance to make value judgments. Conservatives, I take it, should not be afraid and actually seek out opportunities to judge, and separate the wheat from the chaff. Various derisions lobbed against the New Yorker in favor of the blog-throng evidences our paucity of judgment. Today's cons are so up in arms to take on the elites, but they don't seem to realize that civilization depends on them to, you know, write good books and stuff. And if the most bodacious standard-bearers of the (flinch) "conservative movement" are writing, "Heh. Indeed" after comic strips, then the right people aren't being privileged by many. I’m convinced that the populist undercurrents of today’s conservatism could destroy it. And the problem could very well be the medium: everyone, and I mean everyone, reads stupider on a blog than in their print writing.

Print journalism, essays, etc. are TEXT as in logos, The Word (see the Gospel of John), and their singular feature is permanence. They are able, based on the quality of the writing, to endure and transcend petty disputes due to their profound insights, which come about as a result of deep, probably slow reflection by the author. Certainly, 99.9% of the printed word utterly fails at this. But blogs seem only to peddle transient, flying-about scraps of self-propagating meme. (The irony of my posting this anonymously is not lost on me, thank you.) That’s cool—you can check facts. You can take out your anger. You can cultivate charismatic personae. If you’re a compulsive writer, you can get your kicks by writing fun, admittedly more frivolous stuff when you don’t have an opportunity to do so in a magazine. You can also find clearinghouses for really great articles and essays, most of them from print journals. But this means that, when it comes down to it, blogs are talk, and writing is writing. And writing is better than talking. Remember “better”?

Anonymous said...

That's fine if you don't think people should blog about "personal" things like Instapundit often does. But if you strip away that stuff from his site, you still have *the* blogging clearinghouse on the Web. And for that, his site is important (and successful).

When people do make snarky comments about him, I think it's usually rooted in one or two specific areas of disagreement. Bloggers on this site, and probably many of the readers (like me), appreciate the "Culture of Life." If you believe in that, then you will disagree with the Instapundit on a few issues ("Right to Die," abortion, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I don't understand the objection that Instapundit is "too personal". Blogs are single person endeavors -- they are INEVITABLY personal.

Moreover, doesn't JVL write a "Casual" from time to time? What is a "Casual" if not a full page of NOTHING BUT personal matters? Hell, if Vic Matus can write a full page about his addiction to Civilization, why can't Reynolds write about his wife's movie or heart problem?

Anonymous said...

It's not that Reynolds is too personal, it's how he phrases his personal comments. "lots of people have asked me what I think about X" rather than "I think X is...". Just several days ago he had the nerve to actually write "I was prophetic in 2003..." Who the hell talks like that? Nobody cares that "lots of people have asked..." him about anything. Some times we care about what he has to say, not how many people have asked him about it. Similarly, the guy is clearly an incredibly intelligent legal mind, but why does it matter that he's also a TN Volunteer or whatever group he belongs to. Most everyone goes to his site for links and quick commentary on current events. Nobody cares about his Nikon WD-40 camera that can take awesome pictures of UT campus (ever notice how his campus pics always include pretty girls?). I for one get the feeling that his links to his other columns are subtle ways of saying "readers, I am bigger than this site, the MSM has accepted me by giving me an MSNBC blog, but I will continue to run this site because the uninformed masses need me". I'm not the only person who think that about it. In fact, I know several people who've met Reynolds and know him and they all agree the guy's ego barely fits in the state of TN that he loves so much.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you why I hate Glenn Reynolds. I don't know what UT is paying him, but I'm betting its north of 100k. For this he does what? Does he teach? What? The UT law school works him so hard he has time to write an MSNBC blog, a Techcentralstation column and several hundred Hehs a day.

Indeed a waste of the taxpayers money. Put your porkbusters on that, Glenn.

Plus, I ain't never met nobody from Tennessee worth a damn.

Don't get me started on guys from Philly.

Finally, I agree with anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous that is referred to in the post. You will note that my original post had nothing to do with print v. bloggers, it had to do with the opinion by Last that The New Yorker was, like, OMG, the best magazine in the world. Look, fine, you have an opinion. My opinion is that it is not a great magazine - it is pretty conventional with the same old tired left-leaning worldview. You know, the kind of magazine written by and for people who believe that if you voted for Bush or, God forbid, are actually pro-life, you must be some kind of wacky christian or some other mouth breather who wants to keep down woman and blacks.
That is the way that I see it and I bet more conservatives agree with me than Last. I never said that bloggers are better than print - that is Last's fantasy and a cheap way to try to make his point.
Finally, I really like this blog and think that what the guys do is very useful and entertaining. I just think that in the past few months all we get from Last is bashing of the Pres and I think it is bogus, particularly since he provides no analysis as to why he would do things differently. OK - granted, there is a shame associated with Dafur. OK, not something that this Adminstration can brag on, but there are reasons and it is not as simple as saying that Bush is at fault.
PS - Nice use of the pronoun. Very mature. Do you do that on the court? I bet you don't since you might get your ass kicked. And guys who love The New Yorker are usually not the toughest guys around.