A lovely little thinker

As usual, Tom Matrullo has one of the simplest and best expressed observations to contribute to the blogosphere debate du jour. In this case, the nattering surrounding Nicholas Lemann's now-infamous New Yorker piece.

Quick précis, in case you've been up at the cottage for the last few weeks: Lemann, the Dean of Columbia Journalism School, wrote a thing in the New Yorker, headlined "AMATEUR HOUR. Journalism without journalists".

The piece did little more than warm over many of the threadbare and well-rehearsed points in the seemingly immortal "professional journalism vs. blogging" debate. It was (IMHO, of course) a disappointing, ill-conceived, lazily argued article - all the more disappointing because of its provenance. Had it appeared in some minor regional rag, penned by a mid-rank ink-stained wretch, perhaps one wouldn't have been surprised to encounter such moth-eaten piffle. But coming from the Dean of such a well-respected school, it's really rather discouraging.

Many voices of dissent have already been raised, but we can always depend on Tom to find the most apposite quotation to illustrate the contrast between the old media mindset and the new -- from Plato's Phaedrus:

I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

As Tom adds: "...blogs are the speaking voice, alive and self-present. Lemann's article belongs to the world of print..."

Yes. I think I've already said, on a number of occasions, just about all I really care to say on this ongoing "journalism vs. blogging" issue. It's a non-issue. Most of the time, I just can't buy into it simply because the "vs." part is just so fundamentally wrong. It's AND logic, again. Not OR or NOT.

Tom's right, in that the old school mindset which informs Lemann's piece is worrying mainly because it ignores the idea of evolution (of either old or new media modes) - it's the established, rigid establishment vs. the fuzzy, flexible future. But again, the debate is essentially unnecessary. AND not OR: now move on.

I know Tom gets that, implicitly -- and he makes some very important points about the notional independence of the "professional" media. The depressing thing here is that we're having to attack the same bloody strawman all over again. Feh.

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