September 15, 2004

Dinosaur in a Suit

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, manages to be both an elitist and a reactionary at the same time.

This takes us to another important on-line phenomenon, the rise of bloggers. These individuals publish web logs that offer an ongoing narrative of their thoughts and observations. Some are professional journalists, but the vast majority of them are just folks with something on their minds.

While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we're in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all.

Bloggers contribute to the sense that we’re in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all? But we are in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all. This is America. Sulzberger can try to feed his opinions to us on a spoon, but he can’t actually do it. Not in this country.

The end of old media as we know it will arrive when the majority of editors come to respect the blogosphere for what it is instead of sniffing at those of us who contribute to it like we’re a bunch of gap-toothed peasants raising pitchforks at the palace.

Yesterday I quoted Nelson Ascher who pointed out that his daily paper in Sao Paolo, Brazil, beat The Washington Post on the Rathergate story for no other reason than that he reads blogs. (He also writes a blog, but it’s the fact that he is a professional journalist who reads blogs that gave his paper an edge.)

Some editors get the blogosphere already. Nick Shulz, editor of Tech Central Station, reads blogs. He also has a blog of his own. He recruits writers out of the blogosphere. (Writers like me, for instance.) The pieces he publishes link to writers in the blogosphere. And a panel on the right side of the main page consists of links to both blog posts and “old media” articles of note.

Nick doesn’t run a daily newspaper, but he gets it.

Sulzberger doesn’t get it. If only he could understand that the blogosphere can work for him instead of against him. Bloggers do a great deal of work for the mainstream media, and they do it for free. Not only can editors use the blogosphere as a talent pool, they can use it to find stories and angles their own reporters and opinion writers often miss. (I would miss all kinds of things if I didn’t read blogs. My own would be hopelessly behind everyone else’s.) More important, they can use the blogosphere to beat their competition by publishing the good stuff first.

That is what will bring old media down. Or, I should say, that is what will transform old media into something better. If editors and publishers like Sulzberger are too isolated from the new media reality, they will lose their prestige to whichever competitor figures it out first.

Come on, editors. You have an enormous new resource, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to use it. How much longer are you going to sit there in your suits and scoff at those in pajamas who keep kicking your asses?

(Hat tip: Kaus)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2004 3:22 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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