Silicon Insider: Letters to the Editor

Welcome to the Letters to the Editor page . . .from Hell.

Much has been written in the last few months about the blogosphere beginning to supplant the Mainstream Media. I suspect most people who read these stories are either (rightly) skeptical, or optimistic about the wrong things.

For example, the chances of amateur bloggers taking over the everyday job of reporting the news are pretty darn slim. For one thing, good reporting typically takes several people -- a reporter in the field, sometimes a researcher or two, a photographer, a copy editor, a section editor and either a city or managing editor -- to report the story, gather supporting information, edit to the right quality and size, take photographs to accompany the piece, write the headlines, pour it into a larger editorial format, run it by the legal department (if necessary) and check it one more time before final sign-off.

That's not to say that everyday folks can't do all of these jobs -- as we saw with the online amateur coverage of the Iraq elections, they certainly can, and they can do it well. But to do this kind of reporting, at a high level of excellence, day in and day out, is very difficult -- requiring reporters with years of training, skilled editors and talented (and fast) photographers -- which is why even the MSM, for all of its resources, still manages to screw it up on a regular basis.

A guy in his pajamas, with a baby crying in the next room, just can't match that kind of professional firepower, and, given the economics of the blogosphere, probably never will. As I've noted in the past, if a consolidation of the blogosphere occurs, and the more successful bloggers begin to band together to pursue larger audiences and real advertisers, they might be able to give newspaper front pages a run for their money. But by then they will have become what they seek to replace.

Replacing the Op-Ed Page?

By comparison, I've never had any doubts that the Web will overrun many of the back sections of daily newspapers and, once broadband becomes pervasive, most of local and national television news as well. Throw in pod-casting and RSS, and we won't much need radio or magazines either. In my own life, I've gone from reading three newspapers per day, and subscribing to 40 magazines per month, to essentially reading none at all …and I'm an old newspaper reporter and magazine editor. But what's the point? I can get the same information I used to get from newspapers much more easily -- not to mention more accurately and more timely -- on the Web, be it Little League game scores, movie times or local real estate prices. Furthermore, I can also get information off the Web that I never could before from any source. Last season I followed the career of a friend playing AAA baseball in Tucson, Ariz., by going to MinorLeagueBaseball.com and following his performance inning by inning, in real time. A decade ago, I would have had to wait a week for the box scores in the Sporting News.

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