Sunday, January 08, 2006

Spoiled Bloggers

On your left is Kathleen Parker, syndicated pundit. She recently penned a piece titled “Lord of the blogs” that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel. You should read the entire column here.

The Houston Chronicle reprinted it under a different title on January 1. I read it and sent the editor a letter. It appeared this past Friday, January 6, with minor edits. I made several arguments:

In Kathleen Parker's column about blogs, she says we can't silence the ‘Spoiled and undisciplined’ blogs, though we should ignore them not only for the sake of civilization, but for "the integrity of information by which we all live or die."

This is po-faced hooey. Readers of newspapers (her chosen profession) are canceling their subscriptions in significant numbers, not least because many papers have been found guilty of adjusting facts and presenting partisan opinions. Unlike the news/opinions publications of the past 150 years, though, the Internet greatly empowers access to, and creation of, alternative viewpoints – even when sometimes expressed unwisely.

Does her wish to silence the spoiled and undisciplined extend to the celebrity magazines, too? The supermarket tabloids?

As I tried to come to grips with Parker's column, my wife made the most telling point: Unlike the vast majority of bloggers, she gets paid for her opinions. Unlike her ‘new enemies,’ Freedom of the Press appears to apply only to those who earn a salary at it.

I appreciated seeing my letter in print. (PT Barnum said, “I don’t care what they print about me as long as they spell my name correctly.”)

What I genuinely object to, however, is Parker’s apparent presumption that only paid journalists “who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right” are qualified to dispense news and opinions. They can communicate with us – we aren’t qualified to communicate with them.

Yes – this is about communication and (by extension) public relations and advertising. I think the Worldwide Web and the Internet enable more access to information than at any time in human history. Blogs are one new form that lets us communicate more broadly, influence opinions…even promote products and services.

So, does Parker contend that journalism is automatically more worthy? What happens when, say, PR-type communications are used to transmit editorial-style messages? Are the newspaper writers who pick up news releases journalists or flacks? So read her column. Read my letter. Let us both know if I am over-reacting. (E-mail Ms. Parker at kparker@kparker.com.)

Kathleen Parker photograph and column © 2005 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

7 comments:

Richard Laurence Baron said...

PS: Parker also says bloggers “…play tag team with hyperlinks (‘I’ll say you're important if you'll say I'm important’)…” This ignores the conceptual role of hyperlinks: to promote access to additional knowledge. I’ve used a hyperlink or two in posts like this one. Perhaps I’m just crying out for Ms. Parker to say I’m important. On the other hand, hyperlinks don’t work too well on the newspaper page. RLB.

afp763389 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan Kirkland said...

Ms. Parker is just another example of a professional losing control of her domain and employing scare tactics to dismiss a new technology with antiquated thinking. As we all eventually come to realize, technology encourages the free exchange of information--all kinds. This can be self-defeating for those who consider their primary power to emanate from knowledge and it's control. Intellectuals worldwide revel at free access. There will always be small minded control freaks in all disciplines who feel undermined as democratic access to information dispersal increases. It's been a problem for some time now that the media feels parental toward it's readers; overstepping its bounds as a fact provider, not trusting their audience with some level of intellectual discernment.

Hey, great ideas from everybody, not just a recognized sector. Wow, what a concept.

SDK

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Continuing to follow this post? Susan Kirkland also sent along a link to an article by Greg Lindsay at http://www.mediabistro.com/articles/cache/a6584.asp you might find of interest.

Jim Turner said...

A great post Richard and I may even add this to my own thoughts on professional blogging.

Jonathan Trenn said...

One of the things I don't like about bloggers is that they can be vicious, they can be shrill, they can generalize. Parker's diatribe sounds like a nasty blog entry, even though there are some things she says that I strongly agree with.

She shows her elitist bias by writing "I mean no disrespect to the many brilliant people out there - professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, scientists and other journalists who also happen to blog. Again, they know who they are. But we should beware and resist the rest of the ego-gratifying rabble who contribute only snark, sass and destruction."

I guess to Parker, you have to be a degreed professionals to blog legitimately.

newnimproved said...

Ms Parker is feeling insecure.
We in the advertising, PR and marketing world know how newspapers bend over backwards to accomodate advertisers, and their press releases masquerading as editorial content.
The Iraq WMD spin is a recent example of journalists having sold their souls to the devil.
Spare me me your self-righetous rant, Ms Parker.