Let’s look at Steve Jobs’ comment last night at his onstage interview at the Wall Street Journal’s D conference and see how many mistaken assumptions and fallacies we can mine from it:
“”I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. We need editorial more than ever right now.”
First, there’s a condescending assumption here that bloggers are some sort of inferior order. This is the sort of ressentiment we often hear from laid-off newsroom denizens who blame legions of bloggers for the business troubles of their former employers. But it’s funny to hear it from one-time rebel and industry-disrupter Jobs. Jobs has his own beef with the tech-news blogosphere, which relentlessly struggles to break the cone of silence he imposes on Apple news. But here he lets the chip on his shoulder place him on the wrong side of history. The media institutions he praised at D (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal) have all been leading the charge to embrace blogging themselves.
Next, there’s this strange notion that blogs aren’t, or can’t be, “editorial.” If an editor is someone who makes choices about what to cover, then any good blogger is also an editor. If an editor is someone who reviews someone else’s copy for mistakes or quality control, then most bloggers have an army of editors — their readers. Yes, blogging has largely discarded the old model of editing as bureaucratic workflow, and that has pros and cons. But to suggest that blogs are somehow bad because they aren’t “editorial” — and that the traditional newsroom’s editing process guarantees something better — betrays a real ignorance of how journalism really works.
Most important, there’s Jobs’ implicit belief in a zero-sum, either-or media world, in which either bloggers prosper at the expense of the old-fashioned newsroom, or traditional media prospers and bloggers are put in their place. Such views have always been wrong-headed, and never more so than today. We are in the middle of a full-throttle reinvention of the news industry, as old-line journalism rushes to figure out how to bring its skills and traditions to bear in the new realities of online news and throngs of hard-working, imaginative bloggers are experimenting with new styles and techniques of journalism that technology has enabled. It is not a time for handwringing about the prospect of a “nation of bloggers.” We are already a nation of bloggers. The only question is, how do we make sure we get the news and information we need now that we are?
Given all this, it seems a shame that — when it comes to media, at least — Jobs, who once encouraged his Macintosh team with a war-cry about how much better it was to be a pirate than to join the navy, has chosen to side so visibly with the fleet.