Get the New Fear, Same as the Old Fear

By | January 8, 2007

It’s early January, the first post of the year and already I’m feeling a bit weary of Web 2.0 and blogging. My ennui is really fear: fear that journalists don’t get blogging, that bloggers don’t get journalism, and that all of us are covering something that isn’t half as exciting as it was looked a year or so ago.

First off, the sense the that Web 2.0 isn’t quite what it was cracked up to be. Word is out that more dot.coms are hitting the dust, or at least sniffing it: TechCrunch and VentureBeat both have something to say on the subject. My sense? Amidst all the money, the cute (and samey) logos and cute (and samey) names, we’ve kind of forgotten what Web 2.0 is about. It’s about doing things that make sense online, not doing things online for the sake of it.

But then there’s the bigger worry, at least for me: is my job about to be taken over by bloggers who can’t write and have PR cards up their sleeve? Nick Carr thinks so, laying in less than subtly to Andy Abramson, pointing to what he says is poor grammar, sloppy spelling and half-baked sentences masquerading as New Journalism. I declare an interest here: I know and personally like Andy, so I’m not going to join in what is to me in any case a tad too personal. Suffice to say that we need this year to get sorted out the ethics of being a blogger before we a) start calling blogging journalism and b) start seriously alienating both reader and traditional journalist. My rule of thumb is: If you’re hawking something other than the objective unvarnished truth, declare it and leave the building. Let’s not muddy the waters further.

Finally, let’s not confuse being nice with being honest and being straightforward. I count Steve Rubel among those I personally like in this terrain, but it shouldn’t stop me saying what I think. Steve makes a strong argument in favor of ignoring ‘mean people’; he’s struck dozens of ‘mean-spirited blogs’ off his reader list this year. Steve is of course free to do what he likes and read who he likes. And I am certainly not crazy about some of the pettiness and personal attacks that the technorati blogosphere seems to mistake for trenchant writing of late. But here’s my suggestion for Steve and others: be careful to distinguish snark from critical writing. The two aren’t always the same. Sometimes there’s stuff we don’t like to read but we should.

My new year’s resolution is to try to keep remembering that the only person we should be writing for is the person who wants to know the truth, and wants to know that we don’t carry any extra baggage — either for or against the subject — when we write it. Have a good year.

9 thoughts on “Get the New Fear, Same as the Old Fear

  1. Andy Abramson


    Thanks for taking the high road that a class act like always does.

    I admit, I was having a bad typing day yesterday, I fixed the post and that’s it.

    The typos, less than perfect language did nothing to weaken the understanding of many of my point about a new era of news coverage which is now upon us.

  2. Dick Dixon

    Honestly: The masses really *can* discriminate between good and not-so-good journalism when they read it, and good writing will win, every time, regardless of content. Fortunately, Natural Selection is alive and working well in the blogsphere, so even an occasional typo in the 1st paragraph won’t prevent your reader’s from coming back. Thanks for the excellent writing *and* content!

  3. Lars

    Hello Jeremy:

    Sorry, coming late to this thread. I noticed Andys original post and the edit he noted as a result of Nicks comment. It’s easy to see both sides of the discussion; Andy made the point however messy his ‘shoot from the hip’ original was.. no doubt he will run future draft posts through a quick spell-check. Nicks angle was somewhat blunt to be sure, clearly some MSM is feeling frustrated by the blogsphere heat/hype and pointing out the difference between pro vs. indie product offering.

    I lurk through alot of content everyday and seldom comment.. this would be my first submission on your site. It was not Andys original post that caught my eye so much – video online was obvious to me when we got the first video-link domain back in ’98 – but one of the comments from David Spark (see links below) who posted his own thoughts about the article.

    There’s the rub. Having the tools (a computer keyboard or dv-camera) does not mean that the production skills are automatically included out of the box. I do think that these are obviously interesting times as the distribution platform has opened up to more ‘potential’ players.. but in the end raw talent will always show through.

    I have always enjoyed your work and wholly agree with the spirit of your New Years resolution.. 😎



  4. Jeremy Wagstaff

    Lars, thanks for the interesting comment. (I’ve converted your links to TinyURLs so they’re easier to access). It’s a valid point (as I understand it) that just because the medium’s there doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best medium to get your point across. There’s been some great video snippets from CES but the best ones are not guys doing stand-ups but videos of the products themselves…

  5. Nate Westheimer

    I like your spirit behind the blog and this post. Frankly, I wish more “main-stream” writers would do this. For me, as a blogger and blog-reader, it’s like meeting the study abroad student. Everything you say here will sound a little weird to “us”, but those open enough will take it as a special opportunity to know a new reality, a reality based in older customs and more a more disciplined upbringing.
    As the “domestics” we can be proud of our “rock and roll” (TechCrunch parties? NY Tech Meetups?) and still be open enough to enjoy and learn from your “folksiness” (a “column?”). I think we can also be kind enough to tell you when you haven’t quite assimilated enough (shave your pits! get rid of your skinny jeans!)…

    Obviously, I don’t need to sit here and tell you how to blog. For me, it’s just fun to read your stuff and see how different, fun, quirky, legit the style is.
    Best wishes,

    Nate Westheimer


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