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miércoles, mayo 28, 2008

Reason #487 Why Blogs Are Thriving And Print Is Dying

Guess what. The traditional media have discovered the earth shaking news that their op-ed pages are too male and too white. Doh. Like most readers didn't realize that?

Nicholas Kristof today reports that the Washington Post's ombudsperson has written that op-ed pages are too male and too white:
Deborah Howell, the ombudsman of The Washington Post, has an interesting column looking at the diversity — or, rather, lack of diversity — on the op-ed page of the Post. She begins:
The Post’s op-ed page is too male and too white. And there aren’t a lot of youthful opinions, either.

I have nothing against older white men; I’m married to one. And the nation’s power structure, often represented in Post op-eds, is white, male and at least middle-aged. But a 21st-century op-ed page needs more diversity.

The 2008 numbers as of Wednesday: 654 op-ed pieces — 575 by men, 79 by women and about 80 by minorities. The lack of diversity is partly a matter of tradition; The Post’s longtime stable of regular columnists consists overwhelmingly of older white men.
Kristof extends the observation to the punditocracy as a whole:
This lack of diversity is, frankly, a broader problem with American punditry in general, from newspaper columnists to television talking heads to writers of letters to the editor.
Wouldn't I have noticed this from watching traditional television, cable television, reading the Grey Lady? Of course. It's so obvious that you don't need an actuarial analysis of who's saying what to agree that there is little diversity, not just of gender and race and age, but of point of view as well.

That's just another reason why print media are moribund. They're dying because they're predictable. Close your eyes, pick an issue, and see if you cannot imagine what one of the op-ed writers will write about it.

You'll notice that Kristof didn't list blogs as suffering from lack of diversity. And that's because in Blogistan, particularly Left Blogistan, if you want to express your opinions, or be a pundit, or post your chiding of the dullards who are presently in charge, you can. Period. You don't have to get past hiring managing editors, the publisher, the advertisers, the board of directors, the CEO. You don't have to submit a resume or be interviewed. You don't have to feel their inquiring eyes over your shoulder as you type. All you do is sit down at the keyboard and let it rip. If you don't have your own keyboard, you go to the public library, like prize winner Yoanni Sanchez.

Is it necessary to point out that the blogs are democratic and that admission is free? Is it required to point out that in the millions of blogs, there are tons of excellent and also tons of horrible opinions? There are too many opinions for any one person to sift. The idea for readers is to find opinions and points of view they like, and to discard the chaff. Linking helps. And a blog with high quality writing beats one that's sloppily written or researched.

That are some very small blogs I love. Mine only gets about 25 hits on a good day. It doesn't matter. It says what I want it to say. Nobody influences that. Many of its readers return regularly. Group blogs, like this one, get far more hits and have much more material to sift, but again, access to writing the content has few significant barriers. And the sifting is actually done by the readers and their recommendations, not by the ownership.

Put simply, blogs are democratic and the op-ed, well, it's not. People who have access to computers can have their say by blogging. And that in turn brings open access and diversity.

The op-ed can never be as open and diverse. Attempts to make it so have to fail because of the physical limitations on the size of a newsprint page. And that's why, if we really want diversity of opinions, we look to the blogs and not to traditional media. The suggestion that a better selection of op-ed writers will solve the problem is just more tokenism.

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