Swimming out here in the blogosphere, it’s easy for us to forget how threatening blogs can seem to traditional media. CJR Daily has a lot of respect for the ever-maligned “MSM” — no doubt, bloggers wouldn’t have much to do unless reporters were out finding the stories — but every once in a while some respected journalist will lash out at blogs and expose what seems like an almost primal fear of being upstaged or overthrown.
The latest swipe comes in a column posted yesterday by David Weidner of MarketWatch, who lets loose on business blogs, pretty much writing off the whole concept and mocking the very notion that a blogging revolution is underway. “When someone creates editing software that keeps bloggers from spewing what you wouldn’t bother telling your dog, that, folks, is going to be a revolution,” Weidner writes.
To which we respond: when someone creates editors who keep columnists from bloviating on subjects they spend little time exploring, we will help lead that revolution.
Weidner believes that bloggers are wasting their time “in their jammies writing about Wall Street from their parents’ basement,” but the Web sites he refers to are hardly written by bored fifteen-year-olds. As Weidner himself reports, the blog Rarely Right is created by a financial advisor, and Wall Street Folly by “a New York-based trader with a hedge fund background.”
Weidner says that even the best of these sites is “rarely read,” a judgment that seems to contradict every statistic we’ve ever seen. Moreover, he says, business blogs do little more than “direct their smart-alecky barbs at institutions and people, so-called big swinging bankers. Though they break news on occasion, they mainly rely on major business news orgs for subject matter.”
It might be correct that many blogs rely on reporting by the mainstream media, but most blogs are not, as Weidner suggests, simply having a good time at someone else’s expense. Visit any of the blogs we have listed (to see our blog roll, click “The Audit” icon above), and you will find some very sophisticated business analysis that complements, and sometimes exceeds, the work of the Wall Street Journal or BusinessWeek. In the hands of bloggers, anodyne news is digested, dissected, critiqued, and regurgitated as entertaining, incisive and informative commentary.
And, in the future, we will see far more bloggers actually breaking the news — especially the business news. Many business bloggers are insiders with real, if sometimes biased, knowledge of companies and industries. Moreover, the democracy of the blogosphere gives voice to genuine experts, many of them in esoteric fields that receive little attention from the mainstream media. For the first time, these people have an opportunity to share their world with us, and that adds up to a better informed public.
If you don’t want to read blogs, don’t. But a lot of people, we imagine, neither find them boring, nor share Weidner’s opinion that blogs make “the stock tables in the back of the newspaper read like poetry.”
Weidner concludes by advising bloggers to “develop some shame.” This seems the height of hypocrisy given that his own employer, MarketWatch, uses the same medium. And what it delivers is not so much news or journalism as highly opinioned stock analysis relevant only to a small pool of short-term traders. With more mainstream business “news” going down this path, we will rely more and more on the blogosphere to help us understand that a measure of a corporation is not its stock price today, but its long-term financial prospects and the role it plays in society at large.
Clearly, Weidner wants exclusive access to the Internet. But if the Internet is to be dominated by the mainstream media, what is the use of having a World Wide Web? One purpose, we’d suggest, is to find information that helps us to decipher and contextualize the business media’s notoriously cryptic writing and reporting.