The Mainstream Media

Matt Haughey is sick of the singling out of the monolithic MSM, and he’s right:

I’m usually not one to throw around ultimatums, but here’s a new personal rule: If you use the term “MSM” in a unironic way to denote the “Mainstream Media” I will write you off as a quack, unsubscribe from your RSS, and stop reading your blog.

There is no “mainstream” media that is well-defined as Them, nor are webloggers suddenly Us. The term “The Media” is so nebulous that it includes us all. The line between the imagined “Us” bloggers and “Them” media outlets is so gray that it can’t be drawn.

A few things to note here in relation to my last post on weblogs. I used the term “mainstream media” in that post (and have used it before as well) because it seems to be a common term that separates professional, broadcasted (i.e. mainstream) media (i.e. newspapers, television, radio) from informal, on-demand media (i.e. blogs). However, Haughey has a point: the line between is blurring by the second. Blogs are becoming mainstream, so the term is losing value.

As such, Haughey is essentially calling bullshit on me and everyone else who uses that term, which demonstrates another point I was trying to make:

It is true that some blogging proponents are preaching triumphalism, but that’s part of the charm. They’re allowed to be wrong and if you look closely at what happens when someone makes such a comment, you see that for every exaggerated claim, there are 10 counters in other blogs that call bullshit.

I haven’t actually looked into it, but I’m positive that there are tons of other blogs out there that have expressed distaste at the use of the term “mainstream media.” And they’re right, to a degree. I was being lazy. It’s easier to say “mainstream media” than it is to write a few extra paragraphs explaining what I mean, just as it’s easier to issue arbitrary ultimatums than it is to make a comprehensive value judgement of a blog.

3 thoughts on “The Mainstream Media”

  1. “The line between the imagined “Us” bloggers and “Them” media outlets is so gray that it can’t be drawn.”

    I am in violent disagreement. There is nothing gray about it. The NYTimes LATimes CBS NBC ABC PBS uniformly present a left viewpoint (WaPo a little less so). These are large, well-funded, well-known, influential entities with swarms of employees and global reach. Their news product is read or viewed and then taken as TRUTH by tens of millions of people. The entire blogosphere is so far a rock in the shoe of this Goliath. It is a THEM. MSM is a useful term that captures this reality. I plan on continuing to use it since it is a good and clear shorthand for something that actually exists.

  2. I’m not in “violent” disagreement, but I agree with Lex. The only weblog I read that contains information other than a person’s personal life is yours, tallman. I’ve read a few posts from various weblogs in the past two years or so, and even though many of them are interesting and well-written, I can not invest enough time in reading blogs. They contain lots of news, but the news is wrapped up in commentary, which is great, except that I don’t have time or desire to read 10 essays everyday.

    The MSM delivers a butt-load of news quickly. That can be bad in that what is reported doesn’t do justice to the true depth of events. I’m aware of that though, and as long as I am aware of the limitations of the media, then I can read its news with a critical eye. Similarily, blogs and the MSM will both be full of subjectivity, but I’m quite capable of recognizing an author’s biases. The MSM has one main advantage, to me at least, over blogs, and that’s short and “sweet” news stories.

  3. To play devil’s advocate, I can see some blurring going on… As Haughey pointed out, blogging and bloggers are starting to show up on television regularly. Then you see Jason Kottke quitting his job and blogging full time, relying on donations for income. Andrew Sullivan has made more money blogging than I’ve made in the past few years. Bloggers are being given press credentials and covering big political events. Writers who start a blog have instant high readership. Chris Anderson is blogging his thoughts about his Long Tail book. Barnett’s got a blog. Lessig’s got a blog. More and more, we’re starting to see “official” blogs published by the MSM types. Google owns Blogger, Six Apart swallowed LiveJournal. Blogs are becoming more mainstream…

    I wouldn’t say that it’s as gray as Haughey, but the line’s not as sharp as it used to be, and it’s clear that it’s only going to continue to blur as time goes on. In 5 years, what will the relationship between blogs and MSM be? Where will the line be then? Will there be a line? Opeds are a natural place to transition to blogging.

    I do think Haughey’s overreacting (hence my crack on “arbitrary ultimatums”), but he has a point. Then again, using the term MSM does get a point across quickly and concisely, and I’m lazy, so I’m going to continue using it:P

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