From the ‘Department of Supreme Irony’ comes a statement by Howell Raines (the former Executive Editor of the New York Times) that blogging is ‘unsourced ranting’ (the link is to a News.com article that links to an Atlantic Monthly article that you have to subscribe to in order to view).
First of all, Raines’ statement is so completely ludicrous as to be laughable. Weblogs have a lot of shortcomings, but lack of sourcing isn’t one of them. In fact, if you want to criticize weblogs you would do better to complain about the excess of linking to other sources and the dearth of original material. But the more important point is the one filled with irony. Here is Howell Raines, who lost his job at the NYT because he was at the helm during the Jayson Blair scandal, complaining about problems with ‘sourcing.’ You remember the Jayson Blair scandal don’t you? He was a young rising star reporter who was Raines’ ‘golden boy’ at the Times. It turned that the way that he rose quickly was by not wasting time doing the usual investigative grunt work; instead he completely fabricated stories and sources.
But that’s an old media story. The new media story is that weblogs have emerged and they seem to use a lot of hyperlinks as their source material. One nice thing about a hyperlink on the Internet: if you are making up non-existent links the world will figure it out pretty quickly.
One last thing about the claim that ‘blogging is unsourced ranting.’ There is definitely lots of ranting in the blogosphere, but anyone who really follows what’s going on knows that very little of it is unsourced. Another thing that is largely absent from the blogosphere are stuffy, well-coiffed anchor-droids reading news from teleprompters in stentorian tones whilst speaking at an eighth grade level of understanding. Call me crazy, but this lack of ‘varnished professionalism’ is what I find so appealing about weblogs.
Oh, and as an example of what you find on weblogs here is an interesting post about John Kerry’s boastful war experiences that has far more depth than anything you’d be likely to get in the mainstream press –at least for now. Maybe the press will figure out that this is something that people might want to hear about. Then again, maybe not.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that I misstated Mr. Raines’ first name. It is Howell, not Howard. I have made the correction. And if someone would bring this mistake to his attention as soon as possible perhaps he can amend his criticism of bloggers to complain about the problem of ‘unedited rantings.’