All the News That's Fit to Blog

by Jon Schroeder | 5/16/02 5:00am

If you're holding this column in your hands, the words you are reading are already dead. And when I say dead, I mean there's a salad fork sticking out of it the size of post-coke addiction Matthew Perry. The Dartmouth already gets more individual user hits on its web site per day than it prints issues. More alumni and current students read thedartmouth.com than well, I'm sure you get the point -- you're all smart enough. Print is dead. Curse technology for killing our culture and reducing human experience to inhumane pixels and bytes, right?

Wrong. Online journalism will trump print, as it offers a closer connection to the readers and kills the bureaucracies that rule major metropolitan papers. Just imagine -- writers who assume that you're as intelligent as they are because they are "posting" as individuals and not the media. These online journalists are already drawing the ire of their stepfather journalists-in-print for the very fact that these new writers destroy many of the ancient divisions. Witness the treatment of Matt Drudge (www.drudgereport.com) by people like the New York Times' Frank Rich, a reliable barometer of bien-pensant liberalism, who is afraid that Drudge will change the tenor of journalism with his "apocalyptic bulletins."

Indeed, journalists criticize people like Drudge, a high-school dropout and former 7-Eleven clerk, because they fear the power he wields just because he has a computer and a modem. They are afraid that without the all-powerful influence of editing, the entire realm of journalism will disintegrate into hearsay and conjecture. This fear simply isn't logical, as print already divides itself into the believable and unbelievable, the well-reported and the obviously tabloid. People continue to read Drudge because he was right about Monica Lewinsky and he'll be right again. This isn't a zero-sum game we're talking about -- these are sites that receive 25-30,000 hits per day, with many repeat users. A move to online journalism will blur the well-established boundaries between news, op-ed, arts and sports, allowing for more creativity and a wider variety of content. Readers who feel they need the most factual source will quickly learn who can and cannot be trusted.

The web logs (blogs, for short) of many of these journalists are spreading over the Internet so fast that even Dartmouth's underspoken conservatives have their own. I say good for them, because, really, is there anything more boring than opening up the New York Times to read the op-ed page? I'd take the writing of a good blog any day. When I read an op-ed or a newspaper article, I want to see something that doesn't pretend to be divorced from the political and social context of its production. I don't want the crap that's bound to the skeleton of analysis, commentary and opinion that are as formulaic as they are technologically obsolete. Respected columnists like Andrew Sullivan (andrewsullivan.com) and Glenn Reynolds (instapundit.com) have already made the move online, and their influence has increased exponentially ever since, as they enjoy popularity because they update their sites upwards of 20 times a day and have the flexibility to speak their minds. Also, the last time I checked, I heard that reporters were not uninfluenced drones -- they too have hidden agendas, they too are driven by ideological missions, however covert. Wasn't it Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson that taught us that the "truth" wasn't out there? Weren't they supposed to have upset the Times' love of the "fact," which they clung to so preciously after the '50s? Am I going insane here?

But the revolution of the blog is not solely in the political field. I much prefer the truly original sites that mix high and lowbrow culture. When I look for a site, I want to find The Sports Guy. If you don't know The Sports Guy, perhaps the greatest columnist ever to come out of Boston, Mass. (present company excepted, of course), then you probably don't read much of Page 2 on ESPN.com. Without the power of the online column, Bill Simmons, AKA the Sports Guy, would never have risen from his humble beginnings at www.sportsguy.net through the ranks to international stardom OK, maybe only in my eyes. Simmons is so good because he consistently blends pop culture with sports, testing the boundaries between entertainment and sports. Where else can you find someone who spent two columns attributing "Godfather" quotes to the 2001 Boston Red Sox? Or where would we find a stream of consciousness, minute by minute account of Game 7 of the Arizona-New York World Series last November ("The D-Backs scored off Rivera! Just like that scene in 'Rocky 4' when Rocky cuts Ivan Drago -- 'He's cut! The Russian is cut!'").

To conclude with a Simmons theory, print journalism exemplifies the Ewing theory. This idea was created when a friend of Simmons' became convinced that Patrick Ewing's teams (both at Georgetown and with New York) "inexplicably played better when Ewing was either injured or missing extended stretches because of foul trouble." The conditions necessary to satisfy the theory are as follows:

  1. A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).

  2. Said athlete leaves team (either by injury, trade, graduation, free agency or retirement). Media and fans immediately write off the team for the following season.

And, of course, the team immediately starts winning.

When these two conditions clash, you collide the best theory to hit pro sports since the four-three defense or the pick and roll. What I now propose is to extend the Ewing theory to the very thing that helps create it: the media. Under this new order, the media moguls that be (Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch et al.) would dump the major newspapers in favor of Internet hosts (the equivalent of the Raptors trading Vince Carter and then rolling off a title-winning season). As a result, people become more enlightened and enjoy themselves more, and the thousand journalist-monkeys roam free, away from their computers. This is the Ewing theory at its best. In the words of the immortal Bill Simmons, "Somebody has to make this happen."