The proliferation of Olympic blogging strikes the Globe & Mail’s Christie Blatchford as a depressing, dumbed-down proposition. “On The Globe website, our slogan is “Join the Conversation,” but in the blogosphere, what follows isn’t usually a conversation but a brief, ungrammatical shouting match,” sighs Blatchford, who isn’t merely bummed out over the death of intelligent discourse, but she’s despondent over the increased workload for her and her colleagues. Surely Christie’s heard of doing more with less?
Michael Phelps’s last swim, as with all swim finals thanks to NBC, took place in the morning here, prime time back home. It meant that most Canadian papers could just barely squeak into the next day’s editions the news of his record eighth gold. Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star was poolside; she had five whole minutes to write and file the story. It does not make for thoughtful copy.
Ms. DiManno’s work ethic is legendary. When I remarked to her colleague Doug Smith that she had written five stories one day last week, he grinned and said, “Well, the paper has five sections.” On one of those multistory days, Ms. DiManno got a snarky comment about one of them on the Star website, “comments” being the remarks Web readers are encouraged to post about the stories they read.
“This feels more like a blog post, Rosie. A good blog, but a lame article,” wrote someone identified only as HEC30.
You see? Everyone’s a writer now. Everyone’s an editor. It’s as if the College of Physicians and Surgeons not only encouraged patients to read all the medical websites, but also to do their own diagnoses.
It is not true that anyone can write. It is not true that anyone can write on deadline. It is not true that anyone can do an interview. It is not true that anyone can edit themselves and sort wheat from chaff. It is not true that even great productive writers like The Globe’s Jim Christie or Ms. DiManno can hit a home run every time they sit before the laptop. But the odds of them doing it are greatly increased if they haven’t already filed 1,200 words to the Web, shot a video, done a podcast and blogged ferociously all day long.
Journalism wasn’t meant to be a conversation, anyway. It was maybe a monologue, at its most democratic a carefully constructed dialogue. If readers didn’t like or agree with the monologues in paper A, they bought paper B. What was most important about their opinions was that they thought enough to spend the coin.