January 14, 2009

The worst...! bloggers...! in the woooorld...!!

How the mighty have fallen! [Shut up, S. J. Perelman.] The Los Angeles Times used to be a splendid, not merely solvent but proud and prize-winning newspaper with money to burn and a worldwide staff of excellent reporters. Today the paper is a wan tabloid on the edge of bankruptcy. Most of the journalists are gone. Drifting in their wake: a shuffle of press-release collectors, some of whom love love love animals. Their blog at the Times is called L.A. Unleashed, and it's so horribly, painfully bad that I could beat my head on rocks.

David Foster Wallace describes the phenomenon: "the authority and influence of journalism without the stodgy constraints of fairness, objectivity, and responsibility that make trying to tell the truth such a drag for everyone involved."

Unleashed operates like this: Post a press release. Count comments. Repeat. "What do you think -- is PETA right on or out of line?" I know fourteen-year-olds who can track down facts and ask sharper questions than these people. Blogging doesn't relieve you of the responsibility to be honest and knowledgeable about a subject. Blogging means you should be more honest and more knowledgeable.

Is Unleashed the worst blog on earth? It's quite possibly the worst blog published under the aegis of a major newspaper, or what used to be a major newspaper. I suspect the bloggers are paid per comment and poked with sharp sticks for attempting what reporters in the old days called "research." They are that fact-averse.

Bill Fosher:
[I]t seems that the approach is to do one-source, non-critical stories. If anything, the approach to blunting this seems to be to do a follow up story that provides the same level of credulity and obsequiousness to the opposing view a day or two later.

Efforts at synthesizing information, critical analysis, and good old fashioned truth squadding are down the toilet...
Can you imagine Jim Murray as an Unleashed blogger? OMG, I have to go scrub my brain with bleach now. Rest in peace, L.A. Times. I knew you when you were a real newspaper [weeps].


Anonymous said...

What about the extinction of newspaper proofreaders, copyreaders and editors? In reading through online news stories from major papers I am floored by the grade school writing that gets published. Crap that my 8th grade teachers would have berated me for is, apparently, now acceptable to put in print.

Whassup with that?

Luisa said...

Dude, totally.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This sad trend is being called "citizen journalism" and I think it is a tragedy.

Newspapers are not the only casualty either--I forgot why I stopped watching television and the other day I attempted to watch network news and promptly turned it off for the same reason...it is not news but commentary and pop culture interest stories.

Caveat said...

Since a certain faction of the media culture believes that blogs are inferior, that bloggers are dingbats, that they focus on trivialities, etc, it's almost inevitable that their 'blogs' would reflect that. They think bloggers just broadcast whatever comes to mind in a slapdash manner.

Certainly there are hopelessly bad blogs out there run by people who can't write or have nothing to say but the same applies to news outlets.

I suspect that because they feel threatened by blogs (obvious from all the slurs and slams) they have decided to start 'blogs' in order to compete. Due to the overall disdain for the concept, and the unfounded belief that bloggers and their readers are unworthy, the 'blogs' they start reflect that point of view.

It's insulting and condescending.

It could also be possible that because they are so used to having their point of view scripted and generally have little freedom in their regular jobs, the blog is seen as a way to relax and let it all hang out.

Trouble is, things that hang out aren't always desirable.