Blogging & journalism, and different takes on the history of reporting

August 10, 2006

A thoughtful piece by Nicholas Lemann from the New Yorker takes another stab at the blogging / journalism divide (as pointed to from Crawford Killian’s blog). 

Of interest to me is that the writer brings a historical contextualization to bear upon our current situation – bloggers are likened to the pamphleteers of other generations, and this comparison suggests that the press has always operated in dialectical relationship with other modes of communication.

A more bizarre claim — and ahistorical — is the assertion that  “[r]eporting—meaning the tradition by which a member of a distinct occupational category gets to cross the usual bounds of geography and class, to go where important things are happening, to ask powerful people blunt and impertinent questions, and to report back, reliably and in plain language, to a general audience—is a distinctive, fairly recent invention.”

I don’t think the early HBC traders or the Étienne Brulés of the world would have agreed with that.  

Since the earliest colonial expansion days people have been dispatched for precisely that purpose in service of mercantalist interests – but it seems that often that part of the equation is denied in theory, even if in practice journalists have to content with that historical memory when reporting in communities that have borne the weight of colonialism.  It’s that kind of denial of the larger historical context of “dispatching” and its relationship to interests and cumulative privilege, I think, that bothers so many bloggers.  

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One Response to “Blogging & journalism, and different takes on the history of reporting”

  1. London Han Says:

    Im obliged for the blog. Great.


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