Friday, December 17, 2004

In Defense of the Blog

I have a friend who I have been back and forth on recently about politics and Iraq. He is fairly liberal and very Democrat. I am generally conservative, with some liberal leanings, but not very Republican. In one of his letters he lambasted me for using a link to a blog, as if I was linking to the National Enquirer or something. Many articles and posts have defended the blog over time. I even had one with a link to a great article in Foreign Policy online.
Here is his diatribe:
OK. . . I'm sending you a longer response before the weekend is out. . . but I would like to propose a really important GROUND RULE in all future conversations:
NO F***ING BLOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Blogs are not reliable sources of information. I don't consider them evidence of anything other than somebody having access to the internet. I want sources with some credentials and a way of verifying what they say. Admittedly, major journalistic outlets fall down on this front sometimes, but at least they try.
Here is my answer to him. Although I now think that it is sooo incomplete.
1. I do read the news, mostly Google, but often Yahoo, Oregonian, Wall Street Journal, but reading the news will only get you part of the way to understanding. For one thing articles are generally written these days to give you a snapshot into what's going on, not the broader context. Also, a lot of the time the articles leave out very important information, be it on purpose or not. I don't think that this is a particularly new development, but rather has been more transparent, partially due to all the independent journalists and writers of the blog world.
I find that blogs, when used properly (and discerningly) are pretty much like reading any columnist in the op-ed. They are not there necessarily to find all the fact and present them, as journalists are supposed to do, but they are there to collect them all and provide context and perspective. I don't find big media columnists any more reasonable or accurate in giving perspective to the situation than most of the bloggers that I read.
2. I don't just listen to any hack (please excuse the Vodkapundit reference, it was an interesting perspective, but I don't read him regularly). Most of the guys I listen to are either journalists (like James Taranto of WSJ, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus at Slate, Michael Totten writes for Tech Cen station, and sometimes Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly just for Dem perspective), law professors (Glenn Reynolds is a law prof at U of Tenn. Eugene Volokh is a constitutional prof at UCLA), or political gurus and economists (Dan Drezner is prof of political science at U of Chicago). Please don't think that I'm listening to jethro in his Wi-Fi enabled outhouse.
Again, there's so much more to be said about that, and I'm sure I will. In the mean time, if you didn't read the Foreign Policy essay, take the time.

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