Howard Kurtz is fascinating on the topic of "Blogs: Good or Evil" but I take exception to this dichotomy:
A better series of questions: What can MSM types learn from blogs, both in terms of criticism of their work and as a more freewheeling form of communication? Should reporters blog, and if so, what are the boundaries? Would blogs be more of a factor in public debate if more of their practitioners did a little research -- say, including the very old-fashioned notion of calling people up -- instead of merely pontificating?
Calling people up instead of pontificating? AHHH! I reject these false choices!
Let me use Google to slide behind the TNR subscription firewall and liberate to argue an alternative vision; his topic was the Democratic convention in Boston and the undue emphasis placed by the MSM on "on-the-spot" reporting:
Conveniently enough, I've developed a theory justifying my opposition to convention reporting. Here it is: Reporting as a whole, while obviously necessary, is overrated. The mania over attending news-free conventions merely epitomizes a mentality that values going places and talking to people above all else. This prevalent ethos was expressed in the ur-journalism movie All The President's Men. Protesting the assignment of the Watergate story to young city-desk reporters, a Washington Post editor notes, "I have some experienced guys sitting around," prompting a devastating rebuke from his fellow editor: "You said it--sitting around."
But what's so bad about sitting around? You can learn a lot sitting behind a desk, mining the papers for interesting factual nuggets, reading political commentary from every perspective, poring through books and reports, and using the Nexis database to compile enormous stacks of newspaper stories. Most journalists scorn this kind of research because they're obsessed with uncovering new facts, not synthesizing them.
... Part of the problem is that journalism terminology glorifies "shoe-leather reporting," whereby you pound the pavement so often you wear out the soles of your shoes. Yet there's no widely used term of approbation for the other kind of reporting. For this very reason, my New Republic colleague Franklin Foer and I decided a few years ago to coin a phrase: ass-welt reporting. It means you've sat in your chair for so long reading books and documents that you've worn a welt the shape of your backside into your chair. I'm not saying that every news story could be reported without leaving one's desk. (Bernstein: "Woodward, look! I found a clip from 1971 in which President Nixon tells the Omaha World-Herald he plans to order his goons to break into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel!" Woodward: "I'll cancel that meeting with Deep Throat.") I'm simply saying that, sometimes, laziness can be the better part of valor.
I'm not worried that reporters currently spend too much time with Google and Nexis.
MORE: Fine, Howard Kurtz did say "...a little research -- say, including... calling people up", (emp. added) but I still dispute the suggestion that there are not plenty of well-researched blogs out there.