Foer On the Floor

I knew I should have given up reading CJRDaily. I popped in Tuesday evening and ran across an interview by Paul McLeary of The New Republic editor Franklin Foer, who wrote an article last month about how liberal bloggers were hurting the media. An excerpt from the interview:

PM: It seems from some of the responses to your article and subsequent posts [on TNR’s blog, “The Plank”] that some on the Left don’t see that the effect of their critique — even though it’s coming from a different place [than people like Rush Limbaugh] — is essentially the same.

FF: The rhetoric is the same, I don’t think that the intent is the same. To me, it’s part of what makes the blogosphere annoying, is that there’s so little emphasis on argumentative and rhetorical precision. It’s so easy to attack — and I’m all for attacking — but when attacks become so unhinged and so imprecise, they actually become dangerous.

PM: The issue of objectivity has been batted about by many bloggers, with the Left complaining that the media’s obsession with being objective clouds a commitment to the truth, and the Right complaining about “liberal bias.” How can reporters win in this tug-of-war?

FF: I think that working within the rules of objectivity it’s possible to be tougher and be more of an annoyance to power. But I don’t think we need to abandon objectivity to accomplish those goals.

PM: Kos the other day wrote that it’s time to drop the derisive “MSM” [“mainstream media”] moniker because blogs have now joined the ranks of the mainstream media. He mentioned that if Kos were a daily newspaper, it would be the fifth-largest in the country.

FF: That’s laughable. I actually like Kos’s site — there’s actual substance on Kos’s site — not all of it I agree with, but he’s not a charlatan. I think he’s inflating his own importance, but I think that’s kind of part of the whole blogopshere’s game; that the blogosphere hates the so-called mainstream media so much that they view themselves being in some kind of zero-sum competition with the mainstream media. They view their own credibility and readership as coming directly at the expense of newspapers and television, and that mindset, I think, subconsciously causes them to be so vociferous in their attacks. They have some kind of self-interested motive in trying to destroy “that horrible MSM.”

PM: I think what gets lost in many bloggers’ critiques of the media is that without newspapers, magazines and television news programs to complain about, they wouldn’t have any news to digest.

FF: The smarter bloggers understand that. Digby has made this point, and Kevin Drum has made that point. Blogs are parasitic. With a few notable exceptions like [Josh] Marshall’s blog, bloggers analyze information, they don’t generate it. That said, I think a big logical flaw in the bloggers attack is that they want to destroy a system, but they really don’t have a viable model for replacing it.

I posted a couple of comments:

The sweeping generalization that “blogs are parasitic” is especially ludicrous coming from an editor of The New Republic. I read TNR for a quarter-century until I finally let my subscription lapse last year, and while there are certainly some articles that consist of original reporting, a significant portion of the magazine is simply opinion and that has always been the case. Anyone remember the last big story broken by TNR?

Foer’s piece on bloggers isn’t substantially different than the type of blog-based media criticism he’s complaining about. There are no citations. There are three unsourced quotes attributed to The Huffington Post, with no indication as to whether they come from named bloggers or anonymous comments. Unlike many bloggers, there aren’t even any links in the online version of the article to the posts Foer references.

The quote Foer attributes to Atrios (“If idiots destroy institutions there’s no reason to continue to respect them”) can’t be found in a Google search of his site (even in cached versions). Where’s it come from? Was it fact-checked? I seem to remember TNR having a problem with that in the past.

And what the heck is the stuff you guys were making up about “objectivity”? What blogger on the left has advocated that the press shouldn’t be objective? Can you actually point to an example where someone influential in the progressive blogosphere has called for the press to be less objective? I’ve seen a lot of people calling for the press to be less obsequious and more willing to ask questions, but how is that less objective?