Hewitt v. Rago

Don’t miss Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Joseph Rago, the young Wall Street Journal editor who thinks blogs are “written by fools to be read by imbeciles.” Hugh walks Rago through some of the major news stories of the year and, without much resistance, shows how blogs helped drive them, often outdoing traditional media. Rago’s one counterexample — a story as to which he thinks the MSM clearly outdid the blogs — is Iraq. But when Hugh mentions the top bloggers on Iraq, the ones who are on-the-ground there, Rago dismisses them as exceptions to the rule which, in Rago’s view, is unrealistically optimistic blog commentary about Iraq.
Rago’s problem is that he’s comparing apples — MSM on-the-ground coverage from Iraq — with oranges — blog opinion writing on the war. The proper comparisons are, first, between mainstream journalists and bloggers who are reporting from Iraq and, second, between MSM and blog commentators. As to the first comparision, the MSM certainly has more boots on the ground, but Rago apparently has no problem with the quality of the work done by the bloggers Hugh cites who are in Iraq or otherwise close to the situation. As to the second comparision, Rago has not shown that, for example, MSM conservative opinion writers as a group have provided more “realistic” commentary about the war than leading conservative bloggers.
The other main point Rago makes during the interview is that the blogosphere is chaotic. However, the chaos is easily overcome by reasonably intelligent news consumers, who are able (as Rago himself seems to be) to figure out which online sources are worth reading on various subjects, which bloggers can direct them to good sources when new areas become hot, and which online opinion mongers (if any) are worth reading. In this age, the process isn’t qualitatively very different than figuring out which parts of the newspaper and which columnists on the op-ed page to read.

Responses