“I don’t really understand the beastly internet”

Ah hem. I think I’ll be calling it the “beastly internet” from now on.

The quote comes from The Observer where there’s a smart and interesting opinion piece by Jay Rayner on the differences between blog v newspaper critics, which basically comes down on the side of saying they both have their place. However, while the article talks about the diversity and varying standards of bloggery, it doesn’t mention that there are professional old-media critics who do not have the thirty years of knowledge and expertise of the critics interviewed for the article.

For instance, I cannot read a certain critic who writes the science fiction column for a certain newspaper because I know more about the subject than they do. Now admittedly I was a scholar of science fiction, and have two books on the subject, but frankly most average science fiction readers have a better knowledge base than that critic. There are hundreds of blogs out there that do a much better job of covering contemporary science fiction. Possibly thousands.

Moving away from critics for the moment, my biggest problem with journalism is that almost every time I know anything about the subject being covered it gets stuff wrong. Coverage of the young adult publishing boom has been astonishingly wrong-headed and stupid. The few journalists who’ve approached me for comments have asked questions so far off base that it was impossible to engage. I’d explain the wrong-headedness and they’d say, “Um, sure, but I’m on a deadline so could you tell me how you really wish you wrote adult books?”

Sigh. Old media is not a haven from bad writing and shoddy research. I approach it as a reader the same way I approach blogs: if the writer knows what they’re talking about and writes well, I read them. If they don’t, I don’t. I do read Josh Micah Marshall; I don’t read Maureen Dowd. I do read Bob Herbert; I don’t read Michelle Malkin. Kathi Maio is one of my favourite writers on film and the gofugyourself girls my favourites on fashion (even though they are frequently wrong about what’s fab). I often prefer Crikey to the Sydney Morning Herald. My favourite book reporting comes from the ABC’s Book Show. It’s a big ole mess of new and old media.

The article does mention one of the main pleasures of blogging: that it is amateur.

In my case doubly amateur: I blog because I love it and I do it without being paid. As it happens, I have been asked to review for some newspapers and various genre publications. I have said no because—despite the wider exposure—I wouldn’t enjoy it. There are enough deadlines in my life, thank you very much. Also I have zero interest in conforming to house style and curbing or expanding my word count.

On my own blog I can crap on about a given book or movie or whatever for as long or as little as I like. I can be as shallow or as deep as I want. I is the only boss of this blog. No one tells me what to write or how.

I can also introduce paragraph breaks whenever I want.

And that’s the way I like it.


  1. cuileann on #


  2. Brent on #

    Traditional media generally has editors, where blogs and (increasingly) internet news sites do not. I’ve never known any journalistic publication to let facts get in the way of their stories. But internet journalism is sloppy at best. Misspellings are common, and cut & paste updates often repeat the exact same sentences two or three times in a 250-word article. An example of the kind of sloppiness I see every time I browse MSN news:

    “The new multi-floor facility being built will cover 22 sq. ft. and is expected to bring up to 100 jobs to Michigan.”

    Oh really? How many hamsters do you think are looking for work?

    Blogs tend to be even worse. One thing I like about blogs is that at least the authors generally admit that they’re voicing their own opinions. Traditional journalists like to pretend that they’re being objective. But objectivity aside, how accurate is the research and facts presented in an article if the editing misses something blatant like the above example?

    That’s why your blog is one of three on my list that I read regularly. You pay attention to what you say. That means it’s worth my time to pay attention to what you say too. 🙂

  3. Julia Rios on #

    I have to respectfully disagree with Brent. In my experience there are many blogs worth reading, and there are many printed publications with typos in. I do enjoy print articles, but I tend to feel more connected to the authors of blogs. This glorious “beastly internet” encourages both self-examination and conversation. One could argue that letters to the editor fill that need in print, but they aren’t as immediately open to mass participation as, say, this comment thread.

  4. Caroline on #

    I once had an environmental chemistry professor who said he’d only ever found one newspaper story about environmental science that didn’t have any mistakes. I think he cut it out and saved it.

  5. Justine on #

    Brent: Absolutely. But increasingly there are new media sites—like Talking Points Memo—that do what the old media does only faster—complete with decent editing.

    It’s totally true that the majority of blogs are unreadable. So, like you, I only read the good ones. But the notion, which the article I was referencing was putting forward, that old media critics are all knowledgable experts is—particularly in the US and Australia—laughter inducing. Sure there are wonderful ones, but there are too many like the science fiction critic I mentioned, who knows so little about the genre that the only reason for employing them must be because the publication actively hates science fiction.

    To restate my point I like both kinds of media. There is wonderful work to be found in both worlds. I do not want old media to disappear.

    Frankly, though, I expect much much more of old media precisely because it has editors and other resources and I am very often disappointed. Every year there’s the story about how someone sent in a Jane Austen (or some other classic book) to publishers and they rejected it. And every year the debunking of this exercise in stupidity and ignorance of how publishing works comes from blogs not the mainstream media.

  6. Mark on #

    Journalists are increasingly fighting the popularity of bloggers with the one thing they think they have – experience, however they are part of corporate cultures who are more interested in ratings/share than integrity and expertise. They are also legally allowed to lie (http://news.propeller.com/story/2006/10/10/fox-news-sued-for-the-right-to-lie-and-won)

    Frankly I don’t believe much of what I read by anybody. The best you can do is to get several different viewpoints (a tedious process) and try and garner some truth from them.

  7. Desdemona on #

    Justine- This has nothing to do with your post whatsoever so sorry about that in advance. You mentioned a book called The Opposite of Life and said it was only being published in Australia and to try Galaxy books. I searched for it and could not find it there. Nor on UK Amazon.com. Do you know anywhere I could find this book??? Thanks.

  8. Brent on #

    Julia Rios: I guess I haven’t come across many blogs I find worth my time. Some blogs may be wonderfully written, thoroughly researched, and excellently edited but simply not on a topic that interests me. 🙂

    Justine: Perhaps I set my expectations too high online. I expect the same quality in online media as I do print media. I expect a blog to be as good as a “Letter to the Editor” or op-ed piece.

    But you’re right that neither old media nor new blogs earn much respect in the accuracy area.

    Mark: Beware the fallacy of the grey when seeking out your viewpoints. Most people assume that if they read two opposing opinions; the truth is somewhere in the middle. I keep meaning to write a story about that…

    Also, I can’t help think that Scott Westerfeld’s* novel Extras is pertinent to the discussion.

    * Perhaps some of you have heard of him? 🙂

  9. Alex on #

    -Slow Golf Clap- That Was Very Well Written. Bravo!!

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