Wall Street Journal assistant editorial features editor Joseph Rago today publishes a dissent on blogs. He says blogs display many of the same faults of newspaper reporting plus a few new ones. Rago’s opinion column is worth reading, and may be somewhat ironic because the Journal hosts one of the most widely read daily contributions to the blogosphere.
We use the occasion of Rago’s column to reiterate what Neutral Source is about, and suggest how we are different from most blogs.
Rago makes the following criticisms of blogs:
- Bloggers produce minimal reportage (i.e., primary news) and tend to be reactive (“rid[ing] along with the [mainstream media] like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps”).
- Blogs produce a lot of low-quality material. (“Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.”)
- Blogs are poorly written, suffering from “careless informality,” “oscillat[ing] between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic.” “[C]omplexity and complication are eschewed, the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion…”
- The very instantaneity of blogs undermines quality. “Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor.”
- Blogs use hyperlinks primarily to interrelate sites, not to provide documentary support for statements and opinions.
The Neutral Source blog is different.
First, the Neutral Source blog is not an opinion blog. We strive to avoid opinioneering. The site has been re-engineered to a useful and growing library of reference documents. Some of these documents are available elsewhere on the Web, but many are not. Some that are available on the web are hard to find. By putting relevant documents in one place, our library provides a public service to those readers who bookmark our site. (Hint, hint.)
Second, Neutral Source is focused on a small set of issues: regulatiory science, regulatory economics, peer review and information quality. We don’t do foreign policy, politics, entertainment, culture. or cooking. Our domain is already too broad for us to manage and we don’t need more work.
Third, Neutral Source does analysis, not reporting. At the same time, we may be devoting too much attention to reacting and responding to news reported elsewhere. Our plan for 2007 is to perform more original analysis. Our recent series on OIRA administrator-nominee Susan Dudley and the series we began on the minimum wageare part of this effort.
Fourth, we take pride in the quality of our material. We struggle through multiple drafts before we post. We are responsible for our own editing (a defect), but we take that responsibility seriously. For that reason, many of our analyses are not posted promptly enough to catch the wave of the issue-attention cycle before it falls. We would rather be late than wrong.
Fifth, we try to write carefully and clearly. Sometimes our posts are long, but we don’t believe they are logorrheic. (In any case, that’s a matter of opinion. )
Finally, we use hyperlinks primarily to provide references, not to inflate our rankings. We follow the practice of scholarly journals in that we seek to increase the number of citations to our published work, not the number of blogs that include us in the blog rolls.
For those who are interested in the issues we cover, Neutral Source provides a unique service found nowhere else on the Web. We encourage Rago and other editors of theWall Street Journal to read it instead of apparently wasting time elsewhere.