Monday, May 18, 2009

Goog Glenn Greenwood article: "The Myth of the Parasitical Bloggers"

Having to do with the plagiarism of Josh Marshall by Maureen Dowd, arguing first that bloggers aren't parasitical and that secondly it sometimes goes the other way aroundHere. It's really the first issue that I want to talk about, the notion that bloggers don't contribute anything but are instead just vampires on real journalism. While this may be the case if a blog is simply a collection of one line posts saying "Awesome article! Go Here!" and nothing else, in general this is not the case. There's a term for what bloggers do that has a long and distinguished history: essaying.

The idea that folks have only just recently collected news accounts and commented on current events through them is completely false. Books and books of analysis and reflection have been written based on collected reports on subjects, where the authors weren't necessarily the ones who did all of the collecting. True, there's a continuum between purely writing without referants and doing straight reporting, with many folks establishing a sort of middle path through adding interviews and ideas gleaned from things closer to primary research, but pure essays have always been accepted as having a place, with often the only thing giving them the required 'credibility' being the author cracking a book of local history and reading it, for example.

What makes essays valuable is the analysis, ideas, and perspective that come out of them. One news event might be analyzed from a certain perspective by an essayist that contributes something totally unexpected to the understanding of the story, and that can in turn influence people who are going out in the field and collecting primary source material for the same news that bloggers are supposedly parasites on. In fact, the etymology of "Essay" is illuminating: Essay is essentially the same word as 'Assay'. To assay something, like a mineral, is to apply chemicals to it that break it down into its component parts in order to figure out what the substance is composed of. Essayists assay the news, analyze it, and hopefully achieve some sort of synthesis from the component parts that they've found, turning the substance into a new and unexpected whole.

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