Old media backlash

Saturday 26 February 2005

Seems like everywhere I turn these days, there’s some old-media establishment breathlessly trash-talking online colleagues: Newspapers against Meetup, librarians against bloggers, and encyclopediasts against each other.

Just last week, the Boston Globe ran an editorial making fun of the narrow nature of Meetup-organized gatherings. Somehow they felt that alumni gatherings and Rotary clubs were “loosely-themed”, while Meetup groups are “narrowly defined”.

I fail to see how an alumni gathering is loosely-themed. In fact, it is so narrowly defined (only those who graduated a particular year from a particular institution), that participants are forced to find other connections to escape the tedium of conversations like “Do you remember Becky Whats-her-name?”

The true irony of the Boston Globe editorial is that it followed on the heels of another Boston Globe story (now lost in the depths of the for-pay archive) that described a Boston Weblogger Meetup meeting in fawning terms.

On another front, Kevin Dangoor dissects a screed by Michael Gorman, the president-elect of the American Library Association. Mr. Gorman believes bloggers (derisively referred to as Blog People) should shut up:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of “web log.”)

Considering that Mr. Gorman is going to lead an association devoted to bringing information to people, I would have hoped he’d have a broader view of blogging. Clearly he divides people into those who should be allowed to write, and those who should only be allowed to read. Next he’ll want to take away our pencils!

Oh, and by the way, he doesn’t like Google either:

Speed is of the essence to the Google boosters, just as it is to consumers of fast “food,” but, as with fast food, rubbish is rubbish, no matter how speedily it is delivered.

Mr. Gorman defends himself and his information sharing credentials:

I have spent a lot of my long professional life working on aspects of the noble aim of Universal Bibliographic Control—a mechanism by which all the world’s recorded knowledge would be known, and available, to the people of the world.

Of course, by “recorded knowledge” he means printed books, hardly Universal.

And finally, back in November, Tim Bray tut-tutted over a Encyclopedia Britannica editor’s apoplectic disparaging of the Wikipedia.

I guess the online movements are gaining enough ground that the old-world media are beginning to feel the heat.

What I don’t understand is why there’s so much animosity? Librarians aren’t in competition with blogs, Meetup is undercutting the Rotarians, and Wikipedia and Britannica can exist side-by-side. Aren’t we all for the same things? Sharing information and connecting people? The old ways are good at certain things, as are the new ways.

The new-world people are as much to blame here. Too many bloggers think that somehow blogging is going to bring down the New York Times. The Times (and CBS News, for another example) have suffered some blows to their dignity, but if anyone thinks these institutions are going away, they are wrong.

The world is getting richer, with more ways for information to flow and people to find each other. The new world will change the old world, hopefully for the better. That’s a good thing. Let’s be happy about it.


A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. -- Max Planck

See http://tmp.i.am/2005/02/26.html for where I took that ...
Well put. Blogging is not only a form of communication, but also a place where blogging ties are formed. However, it doesn't replace librarians, the media, etc. It is true that there are some blogs that have atrocious grammar, etc, but that may well have been the case back in the days where snail mail was a main source of communication. How may editors proofread those? And there are published and publishable authors who blog...it's a mixed bag. There was a piece in the latest issue of Writer's Digest magazine that discussed blogs and the internet as ways to promote print books. Published authors can now do virtual tours for a fraction of the cost of a real tour, which is great for new authors. Just think of all the fuel emissions that are saved by this...
good thoughts, Ned... shame, shame on all of these institutions that are WOEfully late in figuring out how to distribute their content in the digital age. Record companies, movie studios, book publishers and more, whine and fine, while being too slow, too large too out of touch to understand the ways that people access content. If those ways do not fit their economic model about how their content is distributed, they stand pat.
What's a blog?

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