Monday, October 03, 2005

Journalists As Bloggers - are they any good?

Colin McEnroe, in his blogging class, is urging his students to take a look at some of the real-life journalists who are also bloggers. His suggestions include James Wolcott, Roger Ailes, Eric Alterman and Andrew Sullivan, as well as Huffington Post as a place at which some journalists also show up to blog. Interestingly, the students who have commented so far appear not to like Wolcott, mainly because the comments are closed and he comes accross as haughty, preachy and agry, while avoiding conversation. That is why I also don't like Wolcott, although it is indisputable that he is an excellent writer.

Of course, I started thinking who else is a journalist and is now a blogger.

Josh Marshall first came to mind - closed comments make him equally unappetizing as Wolcott.

Matt Yglesias, a professional journalists (American Prosepect) also blogs on TPM Cafe and on Tapped.

Ezra Klein is a free-lancer, but very influential on Progressive blogs.

Mickey Kaus is official blogger for Slate and is quite influential.

Salon has real journalists blogging, including Peter Daou.

The New Republic has an official blog. They used to have four going on simultaneously last year, with Ryan Lizza, Greg Easterbrook and others doing an excellent job covering the election '04, Iraq etc.

MSNBC blogs are so-so, with the exception of Keith Olberman who is excellent on his Bloggerman.

David Niewert is a professional journalist, specializing in White-supremacist groups and other internal terrorist organisations.

Ed Cone writes for Greensboro News & Record, where there are many blogs, including the Editor's Log and blog written by Lex Alexander who also has a "private" blog: Blog on the Run.

If I remember correctly, both Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmore are (or were) journalists.

Jay Rosen and Paul Jones are professors in schools of journalism.

Carl Zimmer is NYTimes science reporter and Chris Mooney is a free agent, publishing about the intersection between science and politics in numerous venues. I believe he got a more permanent position recently for the Seed magazine.

Viewfinder Blues is a cameraman for the local TV station and is wonderful at bringing to life the actualy reporting work on the ground.

Finally, after a post-Katrina trip to New Orleans as a blogger, Lindsay Beyerstein decided to become a journalist for real. Anybody else I forgot? I assume that many of them also have other journalists' bloggers on their blogrolls.

All these people are good bloggers. But are they better than bloggers with no journalistic training and experience? Definitely no. With the exception of "specialists", e.g., Zimmer, Mooney and Neiwert, these guys are mostly generalists - they know a little bit about everything and a lot about nothing - just like most bloggers.

The ins and outs of Washington gossip do not require any expertise. Blogging about blogging (or about the interaction between blogs and MSM) is numbingly boring (I know, I do it sometimes myself!) in a navel-gazing kind of way.

In blogs, just like in MSM, it is expertise that matters. Experts provide a valuable service.

For instance, if there is an important legal decision (e.g,. on the Supreme Court), you need to check what Publius has to say because nobody is as good at explaining the key aspects of the case to lay readers. Brad DeLong does the same for economics.

If foreign policy and Iraq are your interest, you will not be mistaken if you regularly check Total Information Awareness, though the real expert here is Juan Cole.

For the news from the Balkans, see East Ethnia and for the rest of Europe, go to the European Tribune or Crooked Timber.

You check Brian Leiter for all thing philosophical and Education Wonks is the teachers' hub. Billy will lead you to the world of blogging poets.

For biology, especially evolution, and lately the fight against irrationality, the first place to go is Pharyngula, where PZ Myers explains the science to lay people and skewers the Creationist morons with wonderfully ascerbic tone. Especially valuable is the collection of super-smart and super-educated commenters there.

For more on the Intelligent Design Debate you can also check Panda's Thumb, Evolutionblog, Thoughts From Kansas or Mike The Mad Biologist. Transitions is the source of high-school level essays on evolutionary biology. Unscrewing the Inscrutable collects the reality-based community in its own way and with a characteristic voice.

If you are interested in cognitive science, you go to Cognitive Daily and Mixing Memory. If you are interested in sleep, I hope you check out Circadiana. Effect Measure is the place to see what is new on the Avian Flu.

Respectful Insolence destroys medical quacks, pseudoscientists and Holocaust deniers. Animal Crackers keeps up with the shenannigans of animal rights terrorists. Slacktivist reads and reviews the "Left Behind" books.

Common Ills reads the newspapers so you don't have to, and Crooks Amd Liars provide you with all the latest photo-, audio- and video- files you may want to import to your blog.

For some real political journalism, see AmericaBlog, and to check the latest political actions you may want to participate in, go to Big Brass Blog. You cannot do much better if you decide to start your day with a political blog other than Shakespeare's Sister.

Feministe, a wonderful blogger on her own, is also a web designer who helped several other bloggers spiffy up their sites, most recently the unique Bitch PhD. Speaking of feminists, your ears will get red and hot once you read Amanda Marcotte. Still not had enough? Try Echidne of the Snakes.

Most of us don't have thick enough skin to wade through the slimy bogs of the Freeperland. Instead, we go to Pam for a sanitized sample, as well as the news from the Religious Right and the trenches of the gender wars.

Billmon writes better than any professional journalist. You will never forget you have tried reading the distinct (and very funny) voices of Jesus' General, Fafblog and Rude Pundit.

Best links, but even more importantly, best satirical photoshopping can be found on the Heretic. Jeffrey Feldman dissects the language of the GOP talking points at the Frameshop and suggests counter-points. Contrary Brin looks at the biggest picture of all.

Finally, if you just look at the quality of writing, no journalist can match, for instance, Creek Running North or Michael Berube. And Lance Mannion is the best writer of them all - with beautiful command of English, he slices away the unneccessary details, cuts to the chase and cuts to the bone.

I could live without most (if not all - Neiwert, Zimmer, Mooney, Beyerstein again) of the journalist-bloggers listed on top, but I cannot live without the daily read of the bloggers listed in the bottom half of the post (and many more, too many to list here).

Writing skills, a strong personal voice, and a definitive expertise definitely trump any journalistic training and experience. Remember, blogging is NOT journalism - it is conversation.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:49 AM | permalink | (10 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink