Finding our way in a very old saying

Kodak BrownieGlenn Reynolds of Instapundit argues in a post last night that the relationship between blogs and Mainstream Media ought to be viewed as symbiotic rather than competitive or confrontational.

He notes that bloggers who comment on or cover news seem to raise the ire of traditional journalists in a way that Craigslist doesn’t. Yet Craigslist has done far more damage to economic model that underpins their ability to do journalism than anything that ever came out of the blogosphere.

It is ludicrous to suggest —  as people nonetheless have — that either Craig Newmark or Reynolds are out to destroy newspapers. Both are extremely good readers of newspapers either in print or online, and have demonstrated over years a high regard and respect for the practice of journalism wherever they find it.

Both are guilty of being adept and enterprising and lucky in utilizing a new technology in the American spirit of exploring a new frontier.

The companies that popularized digital cameras and later the companies that popularized cameras on cell phones, for example, are never made out as villainous as both Reynolds and Newmark have been despite the hallowed spot of the Brownie in camera history.

Given the choice, however, fewer people bought film cameras than digital cameras once digital models were cheaply available. Given a choice, many people have shown they will get their news from the Internet or advertise on Craigslist. Just get over it.

The challenge for traditional media, of course, is to adapt both newsgathering and economic models.

As far as bloggers and digital-only news organizations go, there can be a symbiotic relationship and a competitive relationship with traditional “Big Media.” may have broken more campaign scoops than any other news organization during the presidential election cycle. HuffingtonPost and Pajamas Media are building powerful media brands.

Even on my local level, there’s a bit of trash talking about who’s been more on top the latest big story, the TVA coal ash spill in Roane County. And that’s OK. Making news coverage more competitive whether it’s from the New York Times or a blogger like Randy Neal is a good thing.

Instead of viewing the blogger-MSM relationship as only symbiotic, which it certainly can be, I like to think about the media gatekeeper as having an open gate, drawing in more views and voices from both small and large, from competitor and contributor and from the uncomfortable as well as the comfortable.

Instead of heavy filtering to fit a physical newshole or time slot, mainstream media has an expanded ability to cultivate community dialogue.

Things that fit into that model would be aggregation of blogger voices, the practice of link journalism, increased transparency, user generated content and the often messy comments on stories. This is, perhaps, an expanded concept of conversation hostess or news media as deejay. I sometimes like to think of it as the “Miracle on 34th Street” theory of just being useful.

That all fits well within that very old media tradition of “Give light and the people will find their own way.”

I think there’s a future for journalists and journalism, both new and traditional, in that.

(Photo is of a Kodak Brownie from around 1910, via Smithsonian Press).

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers!


  1. I love the Brownie analogy. Just right! And the image of the camera itself resonates with layers of half-forgotten truths about the American idea, not to mention the human condition.

  2. The problem with the mainstream media is that it no longer engages in reporting news but left-wing, democratic propaganda. The examples are legion. What value is there to reading propaganda?

  3. Reynolds is a relentless media-basher. If you want to suck up to him, that’s your business — page views and all that — but don’t try to sell anyone on the idea that he likes some kind of “symbiotic” relationship with the media. Unless your idea of symbiosis is having someone constantly stabbing you in the back.

  4. I’d say consistent rather than relentless. I view his criticisms as constructive because I think they are offered in that spirit. He’s not a casual consumer of news as can be easily discerned from looking at his blog. He’s going to notice when the Media comes up short, gets it wrong or either spins or buys spin. He calls BS when he sees it. At the same time, I’ve observed he has a great respect for journalism and journalists he finds to be highly credible.

  5. Mr. Lail:
    I’d be very interested to see examples of where Prof. Reynolds has demonstrated great respect — or any other kind of respect — for “journalism and journalists he finds to be highly credible.”
    Two or three instances, maybe. But the vast, vast majority of his media commentary is that the media are dishonest, duplicitous, shilling for this and that candidate, incorrigibly stupid, arrogant, etc. etc.
    You see it in Reynolds’ own posts. You see it in what he links to. And you especially see it in the obnoxious comments from e-mailers that he reproduces on his blog. If you doubt this, go to the search box on his site and type in the search term, “Burch.” He repeatedly, and nauseatingly, quotes some clown who gives his name as C.J. Burch when “Burch” has something insipid to say about the media.
    On one occasion a few years ago Reynolds posted commentary on a news story that I knew, firsthand, was false. He relied on a link to a blog, a Weekly Standard blog called Galley Slaves, in which the author _ Jonathan V. Last _ had fabricated a news account about an event and then blasted it as being wrong.
    I e-mailed Reynolds several times, saying, this is wrong, the Galley Slaves item is fabricated, and here is the proof. I had access to the source materials and e-mailed them to him. I didn’t have a blog to link to (and don’t now).
    His reply: Well, get your own blog and I’ll link to what you’re saying.
    Nice. Such are the ethics of Blogland and Reynolds. He’ll post every brain fart by C.J. Burch, but if someone tries to debunk something Reynolds has linked to on his blog, they can fuck off.
    Reynolds may be nice to you, Mr. Lail, but damn near everything he posts demonstrates contempt for you and the business you’re in. He puts you and everyone else in the media in the same boat.
    Of course, Reynolds is entitled to his opinions and to post them on his blog. It’s a good blog. I spend a lot of time reading it to pick up bits on nanotechnology, Second Amendment rights, nuclear power, etc. I read it enough to know that Reynolds is no supporter of the press.
    When Reynolds tells you, Mr. Lail, that it is raining, he’s really pissing on your leg.

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