When the latest issue of The New York Review of Books arrived in Crabby Old Lady’s snailmail box last week, she was surprised to see a big, bold headline on the cover – BLOGS - by Sarah Boxer. The NYRB is more likely to deconstruct Montaigne (again), discuss the death of Susan Sontag or ruminate on evil in postwar Europe (all in this issue) than report on anything as revolutionary as blogs.
Crabby doesn’t mean to get snarky about the NYRB. After all, she reads it. But she doesn't expect depth of coverage or understanding of tech culture and on that point, Ms. Boxer’s story on blogs wasn’t disappointing.
As with all print media stories on blogs, the first 500 words once again defined blogging. Blogs have been around for more than ten years now and with 100 million of them, they need defining these days as much as carrots and Crabby will thank the press to give it up.
Further, the NLRB story leads with an image of Wonkette as though that sums up blogging, which isn’t much different from using People to typify magazines. In addition, the story purports to be a review of ten books about blogging, but they are barely mentioned. Instead, readers are treated to Ms. Boxer’s seemingly willful misunderstanding of blogs (even though she apparently did some measure of research for her own book on blogs due out next month). Some examples:
“Bloggers thrive on fragmented attention and dole it out too – one liners, samples of songs, summary news, and summary judgments. Sometimes they don’t even stop to punctuate.”
“Many bloggers really don't write much at all. They are more like impresarios, curators, or editors, picking and choosing things they find on line, occasionally slapping on a funny headline or adding a snarky (read: snotty and catty) comment.”
Ms. Boxer apparently believes “snarky” is a blog-centric portmanteau word although several dictionaries trace it as far back as 1866, and she also finds “anyhoo,” “haz-mat,” “nutters,” “bejesus” and “babealiciousness” peculiar enough to comment upon. This woman needs to get out more.
The point of her entire story is to put bloggers in their place compared to "real" writers and journalists - like Ms. Boxer. She seems to have surfed the most notorious of the blogs – sex and Superman take up a lot of paragraphs – and she compares English-language blogs unkindly with their Japanese-language counterparts:
“The largest number of blog posts, some 37 percent, are now in Japanese, according to a recent Washington Post article by Blaine Harden, and most of these are polite and self-effacing - karaoke for shy people. Thirty-six percent of posts are in English, and most of them are the opposite of polite and self-effacing.”
Crabby is confused. Does Ms. Boxer mean blog posts or blogs - there is a difference, of course, and Crabby knows of at least two blogs that publish in both languages.
Somehow, in Ms. Boxer’s world, bloggers who have out-reported mainstream media are nothing more than link whores. She dismisses Little Green Footballs for pointing out a doctored Reuters news photo and Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo for reporting Trent Lott’s racist remarks (which led to his resignation as Senate majority leader) as nothing more than attempts to pimp their stats by "bring[ing] down a big-time politician or journalist.”
It’s the style of blog writing that most gets under Ms. Boxer’s skin. After unequivocably stating, “If people wrote like this for publication, they'd be fired,” she attempts to punch up her skewed view with the help of academe, quoting Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg from an ancient (2004) NPR interview:
"’I don't quite have the hang of the form,’ [said Nunberg]. And, he added, many journalists who get called upon by their editors to keep blogs are similarly stumped: ‘They fashion engaging ledes, they develop their arguments methodically, they give context and background, and tack helpful IDs onto the names they introduce.’ Guess what? [writes Ms. Boxer] They read like journalists, not bloggers.”
You wouldn’t know it from Ms. Boxer’s story, but there are thousands of well-crafted, cited and source-linked blogs informing and entertaining readers. Crabby Old Lady wouldn’t be nearly as well informed if she didn’t rely on blogs and alternative media at least as much as the mainstream press.
Ms. Boxer may have written a book about blogs but Crabby doubts its depth or value. Boxer treats blogging both too superficially and too seriously. Blogs run the gamut from the likes of The New York Review of Books to People magazine in as many styles and levels of professionalism as other media. It’s time for the print press to get over their provincialism and report on how blogs are changing the media landscape.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, David Wolfe recounts how a high school English teacher falsely accused him of plagiarism and what he did about it in I Never Got to Show Her.]