And That’s The Way It Is…Dangerous, For Bloggers Too

In Clyde Haberman’s column in the New York Times today, “And That’s The Way It Is…Dangerous,” he ends his lionization of the brave men and women of the Armoured Press Division by distinguishing them from the contemptible fools of the blogosphere.

Journalists. There’s a word that has been stretched almost beyond elasticity. It now extends to the fact-free bloggers offering little more than attitude.

As both a blogger and a journalist, I took exception to the characterization and told him so in an email.

I think you do a disservice to both bloggers and journalists when you indict the former, in whole-cloth, as “fact-free.” Further, I’m reasonably certain that the governments who have interrogated, tortured, lashed and imprisoned these bloggers don’t think of them as having “little more than attitude.”

Certainly among bloggers there are plenty of boobs. However, having worked as a journalist (as a “real” journalist — I have a piece coming out in the LA Times on the 12th) off and on for over a decade, I’m quite certain that the boob-free newsroom has yet to see the light of day. I’ve endured my share of under-educated, talentless nits (with valid SPJ cards!) who offer little more than their own exaggerated sense of self-regard to a public they serve with increasing contempt. Nevertheless, as irritating and omnipresent as these sorts are, I hesitate to tar all journalists with the same brush.

In an era of decreasing foreign coverage by traditional news sources I think we can legitimately “stretch” the definition of journalist to include, for instance, The Zimbabwean Pundit, who gathers information, presents it (along with occasional analysis) to a mass audience in a country with no free press and no resident foreign journalists. That sounds like journalism to me, or pretty close anyway, close enough not to reduce the “elasticity” of the definition.

Also, please note that Mr. Vincent was a blogger in addition to being a journalist. Another blogger, Bob Zangas was killed in Iraq in March of 2004. Among the bloggers covering that conflict is Christopher Allbritton. You probably know him as Time magazine’s correspondent. I knew him first as a blogger.

Haberman responded:

I was referring only to those bloggers who are indeed fact-free and all-attitude. This was in no way an indictment of everyone, except in the eyes of those who choose to see it that way.

If I understand Mr. Haberman’s statement correctly (and it’s so strangely phrased I’m not sure I do), I, by merely seeing an indictment, have inexplicably chosen to do so. In other words, it was the reader who was in error, not the writer.

I think Mr. Haberman’s contemptuous flick of the wrist toward bloggers and dramatic praise of journalists speaks for itself, and is a fair degree clearer than his explanation.

Again, as a journalist and a blogger I get fairly impatient with the poo-flingers from either side. Not every journalist is an arrogant idiot–some prevail against fairly difficult circumstances in today’s media world–and not every blogger is an unreasoning fulminator. But that’s a more difficult story for both sides to write.

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