Professional journalists, even those who do a solid job of covering the Net industry, can’t help occasionally spraying droplets of disdain at the explosion of blogging, self-publishing and uploaded photos and videos that marks the Web’s current phase. Consider this passage from a piece by Brad Stone in today’s Times about MySpace’s new video service:
The company’s plan underscores its particular emphasis on professional video, as opposed to the homemade depictions of wrestling dogs and cats — the genre known as user-generated content — that are more prominent on most video sites.
There you have the dichotomy: video is either professional stuff, or it’s “wrestling dogs and cats.”
If you’ve spent any time on YouTube — or with any other popular “user-generated content” service — you know how narrow and inadequate that description is. Sure, you got your wrestling dogs and cats. But they no more devalue the wide spectrum of material on YouTube than, say, the daily crossword puzzle in the Times reduces the rest of the paper to mere pastime. The reality of “user-generated content” (itself a reductive media-biz term for a phenomenon that is bigger and richer than the media-biz understands) does not justify the dismissive hand-wave this passage signifies.
It’s particularly ironic to read this on the very same day that the Times unveils its new group tech blog, Bits. The newspaper’s senior Valley correspondent, John Markoff, has long made a practice of telling people who ask why he doesn’t start a blog that he already has one — “it’s called the New York Times.” So of course the first thing I did was to find his byline on the blog.
In a post introducing the new feature, Saul Hansell was smart enough to include that anecdote as his lead — inoculating Bits from any mockery on that basis from the peanut gallery (mine or any one else’s). So far it looks like a good effort: the reporters are linking out and writing a little informally and beginning to get into the spirit. (There’s no point in blogging if the prose reads like wire-service copy.) I still think they need to let their hair down a bit more. But it’s a start.
[tags]new york times, john markoff, user generated content[/tags]
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