Merholz on the Panel

· Weblog Concepts

In petermemes, Peter Merholz captures his impressions of the panel and dinner afterward, finding much of the discussion old hat and the journalists jaded about their own profession, except for Rosenberg:

He was possibly the first “journalist” to write about weblogs, and definitely the first to do so intelligently. Scott “gets” the formal quality of weblogs, which surprisingly few do.

I’m trying not nitpick, but I do disagree with some of the specifics of peterme’s comments and I detect a touch of world-weariness, along the lines of “Haven’t we been through all this before?” Well, of course you have o pioneer of this sub-new-mid-early-late-new medium, but the greater polis is still just getting up to speed on the conversation. So a few comments
Best part of the entry, a must-read clarification of types:

In these kinds of discussions, the question, “Are weblogs journalism?” inevitably comes up, demonstrating how people confuse form and content. Weblogs are a form (not a medium… the Web is a medium), and journalism is a practice. Journalism can be practiced in many media and forms. The two are, at best orthogonal. One definitely doesn’t replace the other.

Bravo!
But the idea of firsties is slippery:

Scott pointed out how weblogs are something that, simply, couldn’t appear in any other medium, and that’s what makes them special. Andrew Dillon posited that home pages were the first uniquely digital genre, and I would argue that weblogs are the second.

I guess if you narrowly constrain the idea of first to mean first widely practiced and understood digital to also mean internetworked and interactive, then yes home pages were the first, and weblogs the second, more or less. I think after the precision about, peterme should have stuck to “form” and eschewed “genre,’ but that is nitpicking.
I absolutely agee with:

I find discussions of the “impact” of weblogs on journalism kind of non-starters. There’s inevitably a tension or dichotomy set up that I don’t believe is really there.

Merholz tars the professional journalists as bitter apparently because they do not see journalism as out of reach of most webloggers and do not limit their idea of journalism to its late 20th century mass-broadcast media form. I’m not sure this is fair. Perhaps they are less romantic about their own profession (and more romantic about weblogs) than the webloggers are?
I’ve noticed more discussion lately of early newspapers and how they were often run by one person, or published by someone on the side because they owned a printing business, with parallels to early webloggers being web-design/publishing/hosting literate.
Also lost in the entry is the journalist’s awareness of the idea that webloggers en masse contribute to a media soup or compost, not necessarily any diagreement about the role of blogger and journo being about to be conflated in anybody’s mind.
The feeling that someone is pissing in your pool could occur to journalists seeing a new tinge to their media broth or to webloggers seeing journalists step in and try to define something that they may or may not understand. (By way of analogy, read jazz musicians all last century complaining about journalists giving their music names like jazz, and even then you don’t have the closeness of two activies involving writing).
We are all writing each other. Pros and amateurs. This is powerful. In the written world, language is magic and power expresses itself. Many journalists have been able to import a readership into the blogosphere that dwarfs what a good-to-middlin’ blog can accumulate from the ground up.
When professional journalists chatted about blogs in Slate a few weeks ago they said most of the same things most people in or on the edges of blogistan say and have said. Mostly nothing new. But still a lot of webloggers felt annoyed that their chitchat was given the imprimatur of “what to think about blogs” by the fame, media, corporate, publishing, capitalist, democratic, whatever world we live in.
Anyway.