Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The Circus is Falling Down on it's Knees
It takes a lot of energy to read the paper online recently. I love reading the paper, and I have often felt like the transfer of newspapers to the internet has been one of the things that has kept me from turning into a rhesus monkey.
However, the ability to comment on news stories that are published online is perhaps one of the worst things that has happened to the news industry, in my opinion. For reasons ranging from the amateur pop-psychologists who weigh in on Dear Abby articles to the amateur Elizabeth Hasslebecks who litter every non-editorial article written about the election with evidence of their fear and ignorance, article commenting has given readers an easy way to vomit their opinion out and move on.
Let me be perfectly clear - I love every opinion out there for the sake of it being an opinion, no matter how apparently idiotic. I may not agree with you, but I appreciate the aesthetic of evident thought. On the other hand, I feel like the act of self expression should require an effort. No matter how much we tend towards things that are easy and convenient, we are ultimately more satisfied by a challenge. The act of accomplishment, in constant little doses and occasional big doses, satisfies us at our core in ways we don't even realize. One way that we rarely think about is how we assign the term "worth" to such efforts. We frequently rate our efforts on whether or not they were "worth it."
Well, these instant newspaper comments cost maybe a penny or ha'pence, so yeah, to you, depositing a sentence of out-of-context vitrol is worth it because it requires zero effort. On the other hand, writing a blog or a letter requires more time, more thought, maybe some careful editing and revising, so it's definitely worth more to us. You pick and choose the opinions you elect to broadcast publicly because they are the ones that matter most to you, and you take the time to make it's presentation accessible because you want people to read it and consider it carefully.
I anticipate people will say that this is the same argument a lot of legitimate journalists make against bloggers. One crucial difference, though: a blog is an outlet that does not have the filter of a choosy editor. The chasm between instant comments and blogs are more pronounced, however. Instant comments are like vandalism - carelessly tossed off on a surface that doesn't really belong to them in the first place. This blogspace, this address, I own, and you have no obligation to visit if you don't like what you're reading.
Finally, I just want to say that I know there's no going back and I'm really fine with that, what with my fervent support of the first amendment and all. It's just that I'm all nostalgic for the time when I could read an article in a newspaper and not instantly see what a bunch of jackasses thought about it.
All for now.
P.S. Go vote, or I'll send my colonial sheriff after you.