False Dichotomies

Glenn Fleishman wrote an insightful piece recently about how the major media cover blogging. It’s very good overall, but it does have one problem that jumped out at me:

Blogs are all about individuals and the millions of separate opinions. In representing blogs to a non-blogging audience, reporters seem drawn to sweep them into a single heap… Why? Either because you can’t become an expert on blogging in the couple of hours a reporter has to write a story, or because a given reporters spends a lot of time in their single blog niche that they become obsessed with and write about blogs as if that niche is all there is.

I think there’s a simpler explanation for this tendency — it’s how journos cover everything else these days. They bend over backwards to boil down every story into a simple conflict with two sides. In this case, they know one of the sides is Real Journalism, so the other side is Blogs. Never mind that there’s no universal “blog” any more than there is a universal “Web site”, or “newspaper”, and so on — “blog” is just another medium, within which there are publications all across the spectrum. The story’s gotta be about two sides in conflict, though, so together go all the blogs.

Don’t believe me? Do a critical reading of your local paper sometime — or, even better, your local TV news. Watch how the stories are presented and you’ll see what I mean — whether it’s business (“Microsoft vs. Justice Department”), international affairs (“Bush vs. Hussein”), or any other topic, they do their darndest to strip away inconvenient complexity, even if the final result is a story that describes the truth only in abstract. This kind of lazy journalism is one reason why the fourth estate is in such bad shape today. It’s no surprise to me to see it turn up on this topic too.