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February 17, 2005
A Love Note Or An Olive Branch?

Peggy Noonan issues a love note to the blogosphere in today's WSJ/OpinionJournal, one that appears to intend either a counterpoint to the two successive dismissals issued by WSJ editors this past week or as an olive branch:

When you hear name-calling like what we've been hearing from the elite media this week, you know someone must be doing something right. The hysterical edge makes you wonder if writers for newspapers and magazines and professors in J-schools don't have a serious case of freedom envy.

The bloggers have that freedom. They have the still pent-up energy of a liberated citizenry, too. The MSM doesn't. It has lost its old monopoly on information. It is angry.

But MSM criticism of the blogosphere misses the point, or rather points.

Blogging changes how business is done in American journalism. The MSM isn't over. It just can no longer pose as if it is The Guardian of Established Truth. The MSM is just another player now. A big one, but a player.

All of this is true, and if Peggy Noonan isn't the prose laureate of the conservative class, she certainly should be. But the juxtaposition of this entry jars somewhat against the earlier rhetoric issued by the WSJ's editors. Take for example the language used by one of the WSJ's editors in dismissing the blogosphere's interest in Eason Jordan:

There is an Web site, on which more than 1,000 petitioners demand that Mr. Jordan release a transcript of his remarks--made recently in Davos--by Feb. 15 or, in the manner of Saddam Hussein, face serious consequences. Sean Hannity and the usual Internet suspects have all weighed in. So has Michelle Malkin, who sits suspended somewhere between meltdown and release.

That piece received a chorus of boos from the blogosphere, some of it fair, some much less so, including on this site. Characterizing us as "the usual suspects" and Michelle Malkin in demeaning quasi-sexual innuendo without ever addressing the additional information uncovered in our investigations did not create an especially professional atmosphere -- not that that excuses unfairness from myself or anyone else. Nor did they stop there. On Monday, far from issuing love notes like Noonan's, they wrote this:

That may be old-fashioned damage control. But it does not speak well of CNN that it apparently allowed itself to be stampeded by this Internet and talk-show crew. Of course the network must be responsive to its audience and ratings. But it has other obligations, too, chief among them to show the good judgment and sense of proportion that distinguishes professional journalism from the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs.

No doubt this point of view will get us described as part of the "mainstream media." But we'll take that as a compliment since we've long believed that these columns do in fact represent the American mainstream. We hope readers buy our newspaper because we make grown-up decisions about what is newsworthy, and what isn't.

That was no mere entry by a visiting columnist emeritus of any stature, not even the high stature of Noonan; that was the considered, official position of the WSJ editorial board. Far from considering us a "public service," they castigated us as an immature, revenge-minded stampede.

Unfortunately for the WSJ editorial board, what they fail to recognize is that bloggers aren't some third-party creation from ether. Bloggers are media consumers, and in fact should be their target demographic. We're involved, we read voraciously, and we want to interact with the world. Especially for a publication like the Wall Street Journal, which doesn't deliver to the doorstep as a monopoly in a one-paper town, that should be a group to encourage, not one at which to toss dismissive insults. I cannot think of another corporation who thought that implying their customers were too immature to decide for themselves what they need constituted a successful marketing strategy -- except for the federal government and their entitlement programs. Adopting that marketing plan for the bastion of American capitalism seems more than just passingly strange to me.

Hopefully, Noonan's piece intends on smoothing over relations with the bloggers who not only read WSJ/OJ's offerings on a regular basis but normally (speaking for myself) enthusiastically recommend them to their readers. I'd like to feel good about my daily visits to OJ again.

Note: See also Hugh Hewitt's new column in the Weekly Standard on the WSJ/blogosphere debate.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin responds to the Bret Stephens interview with Hugh Hewitt here, including tremendously kind words for me. Michelle notes that she's been waiting by the phone:

I found the following remarks, in which the cheesed-off Stephens contrasts what he considers irresponsible bloggers with their grown-up MSM counterparts, particularly amusing:
If someone is going to get attacked, and attacked really viciously, I think there is an obligation to give the other guy a chance to give his side of the story.

"This is what we here at the Wall Street Journal try to do," Stephens told Hewitt, as opposed to the meanie, non-professional bloggers who raised questions about Stephens' possible conflict of interest in the matter.

Oh, really? Because I didn't get any phone call or e-mail from Stephens before he singled me out by name for a noxious personal attack in his Feb. 10 op-ed, which pooh-poohed the reporting on the Eason Jordan story done by us immature, amateur blogger-types.

She also has a new tagline for her blog, but do not drink a gulp of your beverage before checking it out ...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 17, 2005 7:59 AM

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