Lotus finds "an interesting case of show and tell" in the sloppy transcription of a Jonathan Alter piece on the demise of reporting. It made me think of this:
[Glenn] Reynolds heralds an era in which "[m]illions of Americans who were in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff." No, they can't. Millions of American can't even pronounce "pundit," or spell it for that matter. On the Internet and on the other form of "alternative media," talk radio, a disliked pundit has roughly a 50-50 chance of being derided as a "pundint," if my eyes and ears are any indication. The type of person who can't even keep track of the number of times the letter "N" appears in a two-syllable word is not the type of person who is going to offer great insight into complex issues. But the democratic urge expressed by Mr. Reynolds is not new. Someone is always heralding the rise of "the intellectual declaration of independence of the American people," as H.L. Mencken once put it. Paul Mulshine WSJ
Eager rejection of professional journalism seems tied to a widespread assumption that almost anyone can do a better job than talented journalists who’ve devoted years to developing and honing their skills.
I have profound respect for the work that journalists do, so it troubles me greatly that many bloggers believe that they represent a vast improvement over the work done by professional journalists. What explains their attitude? Accumulating evidence suggests that the least competent individuals overestimate their own competence the most. The least competent are also least apt to recognize the capabilities and skills of a highly competent person. So, we might expect that it is often the worst blogging hacks who devote the most keystrokes to denigrating professional journalists.
Extreme partisanship also accounts for a good deal of the criticism. We know, for example, that partisans of every stripe have the greatest difficulty rationally processing information that contradicts their partisan views. Should we be surprised, then, by their chronic beef with the messenger?
I'm not suggesting that ignorance, incompetence and partisanship are behind every criticism of journalists. Sometimes criticism is warranted. Biases are an inevitable fact of life. But we should also remember that biases are not all created equal. There is a world of difference between a professional reporter with editorial supervision trying to get it right and the world according to partisan hacks.
And while any expert in a particular field will notice flaws in journalistic reporting about their own field, that doesn't imply that journalistic amateurs do a better job than professionals when they discuss subjects outside their own areas of competence. I'll take John Tierney's science reporting over a non-scientist's amateur blogging any day of the week. Good reporting is really hard work, requiring skills that don't just randomly alight on anyone with a keyboard and a Wordpress template.
That's not to say that there isn't some really fine blogging out there. Some of it comes from experts covering their own areas of expertise and some of it comes from serious writers and professional journalists. But a lot of what is out there is cranky noise coming from bloggers who overvalue their own views and overestimate their own relative comprehension of a complicated world.
Oh, and for the record, I consider myself a rank amateur. I dread the thought of a world with all news processed through the likes of me. My own blogging is sort of a diary of things that catch my interest. Maybe some of it will interest my readers or provoke some additional thought, but comments outside my own little professional sphere are just thoughts, no better than the next guy's.