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.
My sense was that he was sucking up to the media types who have pinned their hopes on the iPad.
What was your impression on the floor at the conference, after the talk? Did the attendees you meet have much to say about Jobs’ thoughts, or was your read of the crowd that is talk sort of came and went? Also–mostly out of curiosity because the press photos always seem to focus on the stage–were there that many iPads in hand at the conference? If there were many, were they being used discreetly as tools, or just sort of left conspicuously visible in that hey-guess-what-I-have way?
There are many different types of bloggers. Jobs is most likely referring to the ones who offer little or no original content to the Web, and instead just rip off the professional news media organizations (including other content-generating bloggers) by posting bare-bones links, no commentary and wrapping ads around it.
Using the term “bloggers” to describe both link-gathering SEO scumbags as well as original content-generating blogger journalists is a big mistake. I highly doubt Jobs was referring to the latter.
Most bloggers are terrible writers, most blogs are boring and few posts have any depth beyond the immediate opinion of the writer.
So yes, I think it’s a bad thing when everyone who has an opinion also thinks that it’s a valid one.
Tyler Hurst: Funny, I was going to say the same thing about most OldMedia articles. For example in tech, bloggers have for years talked about things that OldMedia only wake up to anywhere from 6months to 2 years later…
Alex Schleber – I agree that OldMedia is SLOWER, but the quality of their writing isn’t nearly as terrible as most of the bloggers out there.
Do we really have to choose between fast and crappy or slow and quality? Seems there has to a not-quite-real-time-but-still-quality-writing choice out there.
The thing that struck me most about that passage was the reaction of the audience to it. There was a large, spontaneous burst of applause.
Some of it, I suspect, was sycophancy. But it also indicates odd hostility towards “bloggers” from an audience that I would expect to be reasonably aware.
Fascinating, Lance. I’m not hugely surprised — it seems to me that the D audience is pretty heavy on media insiders, and though I’d like to think most of them have realized that bloggers aren’t “the enemy,” I guess we still have a long way to go.
Not that I disagree with you, but it’s worth pointing out that by ‘editorial’, Jobs most probably means editorial the noun, strong independent opinion pieces representing the voice of a major paper, not editorial the adjective as you’ve used it, meaning just the filtering and correction work that editors do.
However he meant it, dumb thing for Jobs to say given how much blogs contribute to his hype.
Yes, Bloggers are inferior. Why are you so defensive?
Have you read any newspapers (in print or online) lately? The quality of writing is about what any junior high student produces, while the content is so poorly researched and referenced that most articles would be an “F” in any college’s English 101 course.
Add that to the overdependence upon wire services for their content, and I see an industry that is committing suicide.
As for Jobs, I didn’t see the speech. But we do have to understand that in many areas, his company *is* the establishment. What else would you expect?
I was gonna reply to Charles and then I realized, no! stop! wait! I already wrote a book-length response to him!
I think the issue here is that training matters. When the barrier to entry is very low, and anyone can refer to themselves as a journalist, we run the risk of not being able to trust our news sources.
Let me explain:
We tend to trust our doctors, because we know that in order to legally practice medicine, a person has to go through an extensive amount of training and become certified. Journalism doesn’t have the sort of rigorous certification process, but it did traditionally (okay the past half century or so) require training, and a person could not get a job at a reputable news organization without being able to demonstrate that they’re aware of the laws and the tenets of journalistic integrity.
Yes, you can cite an example wherein an employee of all the major national news organizations have violated the rules. As revenues and budgets have declined the Major organizations have gotten sloppier over time. I’m not saying the system is flawless.
The system is useful though. The apparatus of a newsroom provides checks, balances, and resources that an individual blogger doesn’t have. Fact checking, archive referencing, copy editing. For instance, in a newsroom, a copy editor would have come to you and asked you if the spelling “ressentiment” was the word you intended to use, being French in origin and uncommonly used by American English speakers; also having a slightly different definition than what the reading audience may understand. You say that every blogger has an army of copy editors in their readers. Do these readers have training? Do they know how to reference a style manual? Do they know how to spot libel? Maybe some do, I don’t know them. Of the people who do know about these things, how many of them speak up and tell the blogger about the mistake? Or do they think, “Oh, the writer made a mistake, oh well, not my job.” We don’t know. We never will.
These things are little, but important. Most news readers do not have the time or the knowledge to fact-check an article on their own. Nor do they want to, they want to be able to trust their news sources. Does ‘Old Media’ guarantee this? Of course not. When you look at the state of Blogging, though, it resembles very much the early years of the press: yellow journalism, no standards, no accountability.
Is there room for both? Yes. Is having both a benefit? Yes. Should bloggers and citizen journalists be afforded the same level of credibility that traditional news organizations have? No. Not yet. Citizen journalism has its benefits, more agile, unencumbered , not beholden to business ties and insider dealings. To become a “nation of bloggers” without the traditional media as well, would be a step backward.
Don’t be a dipshit, blogs are mostly garbage and 99% of bloggers do shoddy work, can’t spell, and can’t even think logically or put together a coherent argument.
We’re also a nation of Facebook and Twitter users, does that mean Facebook and Twitter can replace the news media? The point Jobs was ultimately making, which flew right over your head, is that the shoes of real journalism outfits like the NYT are not going to be filled by a bunch of twitchy internet addicts with WordPress blogs.
If bloggers are going to keep pretending they’re the same thing as journalists, people who know better are going to keep hurting their feelings by pointing out how much they suck and how inferior they are. If they don’t want their feelings to be hurt then they should quit pretending to be something they’re not. A beaver can build a dam but that doesn’t make him Herbert Hoover.
By the way, you should consider not using the word “verbiage” like that in the header. It’s not a neutral word and it’s not a good word, you’re actually insulting yourself. Look it up.
My take is that well established print media has overall done a better job packaging and marketing information on a consistent basis than “bloggers”. NYT would not get in bed with Izea or the like without notifying their readers.
“Sponsored journalism” or even the possibility leaves a bad taste in everyones mouth. I think this was the point he was trying to make.
Fizz, thanks for dropping by. I was going to try to write a detailed response and then I realized that my book chapter on journalists vs. bloggers already serves as one.
As for “verbiage,” you might consider the possibility of intended irony. I do aim for a certain level of humility here.
Robert, yes, established media do a better job packaging and marketing information because most bloggers, motivated by personal passion rather than business considerations, aren’t attempting to package and market information. When blogger go into business and set themselves up as media outlets then, mostly, right, they don’t do as professional a job as the New York Times.
The “cone of silence” is one of the things I like about Steve most. The best most ‘bloggers” can do is guess about what he is doing or steal things when they get a chance and take them apart.
There are good bloggers out there that are good writers and experts in what they are writing about. Finding them is pretty much a fools errand.
Many will have nothing to write about when the mainstream media locks the djinn back in the bottle and the Internet becomes a “pay-as-you-go” world. When people who spend real money to collect and format useful information stop giving it away so Google can get a free ride on it it will be interesting to see what blogging turns into. Hopefully it will shake out and paid bloggers with something useful to say will become the norm. “Live in hope, die in despair,” as my mother used to say . . . . . . or was that Obama said that . . . .
I thought it was clear that the thing he was worrying about was the need to find a way to *pay* for investigative journalism. It’s not enough to just have everyone being a pundit — we need some people who are actually paid to dig up the truth. Otherwise we descend into a world where it’s all just opinion. I don’t think he feels that there’s anything wrong with lots of opinions, as long as that’s not all there is!
You forget the obvious.
Since we are talking about Steve Jobs, it is imperative for him that he promote the Idea that we are not a nation of bloggers, and that the blogging that exists now is somehow distasteful.
That way iBlog can later be launches and Stevo can claim to have ushered in the era of sophisticated blogging to the loud and relentless affirmations of his adoring acolytes.
It’s as simple as that, this follows the pattern of previous iPple endeavors.