Friday, August 08, 2003

Friday Roundup

Take a Bow, Eric. Congratulations to our colleague Eric Olsen on the one-year anniversary of his excellent Blogcritics supersite. In its brief life, it has already garnered a Yahoo! Pick of the Week and been judged among the best media sites by And I especially liked the fact that in a brief entry about the anniversary today, Eric links to my favorite book on writing, William Zinsser's On Writing Well. Take a bow, Mr. Olsen. Now get back to work!

Tony, Will You Join Me? This extraordinary item in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, by way of the excellent blog in Christianity Today, left me feeling the need to visit a black church sometime soon. Perhaps our friend Tony Houston has a suggestion or two for me. Even better yet, maybe he'll join me.

Why I love the Washington Post, Round 1. In coming days, I'll make the case that the WaPo, as its lovingly known in the trade, is very nearly the equal of the arch-rival NYT. And with its well-over half-billion-dollar investment (in accumulated deficits) in its website, I would argue that it's rapidly becoming an equally influential national paper, despite it's having decided against that strategy for the hard copy version. But a case in point for its excellence: in all the interminable coverage over the Californian electoral crack-up, nothing has even come close to this dazzling feature by Post Style feature star Hank Stuever. This great line pretty well sums it up: "California is behaving badly, like a disheveled celebrity gone off her meds," he writes. He goes on to describe the whole scene in a piece of brilliant reporting.

Rage of the Closed-Club Mastodons. I mentioned yesterday how even the Associated Press, the most establishment of media organizations, is slowly evolving in its acceptance of the new media order. But of course that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of mastodons still roaming the earth, equating the Internet with the end of civilization as we know it. Sure enough, today comes this splendid example of old-boy arrogance, from Newsweek columnist Mark Starr. Here is the money quote. When I was growing up in this business, our collective notion of what constituted the media was pretty uniform and certainly finite. It sure as hell didnt include every clown with a Web site and a grudge, every blogger convinced that his daily diary contains breathless prose, every shock jock with toilet tastes and even baser values (notice how he not-so-slyly equates blogs with shock radio?). All those now claim to be part of the media. And maybe they are. But too many practitioners of new media are working relentlessly to drag everyone else down to their subterranean levels. In his raging middle-aged, bespectacled beardedness, Im afraid he sounds and looks for all the world like a tired old academic digging in against pressure from students that he dust off those lecture notes for the droning monologue he's been giving over and over for 30 years and actually engage with the current world in all its raucous, maddening glory. His media pass, alas, no longer automatically confers special insight. The quality of his ideas and reporting, and the language with which he conveys them, have to compete for an audience with lots of new entrants, sorry to say. So dust off those lecture notes, Mr. Starr, and get to it.


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