Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Slagging Blogs

So for the National Post's Academy of the Overrated series, I decided to write an article about how blogs are overrated. Here it is: Why the revolution won't be blogged.

The central points -- that blogs do not democratize the media; that their status as journalism is tenuous at best; that they're not nearly as influential as the New York Times Magazine would have you believe -- I will stand by. But I'm sorry to say I didn't argue these points as well as I could have in the article.

If I could do it again, I'd start with an anecdote. This one: Last January, I went to give a talk about blogs to a class of communications students at the University of Toronto. Given the media's non-stop obsession with blogs -- high school students with blogs, pet blogs, political blogs, Howard Dean's blog, blogs about blogs -- I assumed that I could stir up an interesting debate by taking a contrarian attitude about the new medium.

Instead, what I had to start off with was an explanation of what blogs were. About half the class didn't know what a blog was, only a sixth or so had actually visited a blog, and only one student actually had a blog of her own.

And we're talking about a class of young people -- people who have used computers all their lives -- who are studying communications...

So, yeah, don't for a minute think that things have changed all that much over the past nine months. Blogs are fun, blogs are great, I love blogs. But there are people out there saying that blogs are to the 2004 presidential race what television was to the 1960 campaign. (Sidenote: I've never really bought into that whole "TV won the election for JFK" myth, personally.) The fact is that blogs are still only visited by a small segment of the voting public. Stories like Rathergate would have never hit if it wasn't for the back-up of the old media.

Again: I love the blogosphere. But I'd love it even more if it displayed a little more humility...