No Syrup In This Butterworth

“Blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence.” -Trevor Butterworth
Mainstream journalist, Trevor Butterworth, delivered a thought provoking but ultimately dismissive article on blogs called “Time for the last post” for the weekend edition of Financial Times. In an ironic twist, FT set up a blog, where readers can chime in on the story.
One of the more interesting aspects in the piece is commentary from Choire Sicha and Ana Marie Cox, two bloggers who’ve cashed in.
Sicha, senior editor at The New York Observer, who Butterworth describes as, “dressed in a pink shirt and blue jeans, and unshaven to the point of looking like a young Bee Gee gone preppy,” said:

The word blogosphere has no meaning. There is no sphere; these people aren’t connected; they dont have anything to do with each other. The democratic promise of blogs, he explained, has just produced more fragmentation and segregation at a time when seeing the totality of things – the purview of old media – is arguably much more important.
As for blogs taking over big media in the next five years? Fine, sure, he added. But where are the beginnings of that? Where is the reporting? Where is the reliability? The world of blogs is like an entire newspaper composed of op-eds and letters and wire service feeds.

Cox, former editor of Wonkette, who left Gawker Media’s politcal gossip rag to write books full time said:

There’s always going to be a New York Times. As a culture, we like to have a narrative that we kind of agree on. You and your cohorts may believe that its liberal elitist propaganda – or you may think its corporate, conservative hegemony. But theres a sense in which its good to have The New York Times because we need to know that this is the dominant storyline right now. Cable news has the same function.

Butterworth also checks in on Madison Avenue, for their take:

There is a certain loss of control when it comes to advertising on blogs, said Mark Wnek, chairman and chief creative officer of Lowe New York. The connection the most popular citizen journalists cultivate with their devotees is through an honest, uncensored, raw freedom of expression, and that can be quite uncomfortable territory for a traditional marketer.

We all pass what we do and think through a given lens or filter. Butterworth is a Columbia J-School educated writer and editor. He’s looking at the bloatosphere as a flimsy cretin, when compared side by side with mainstream news. The problem with that framework is blogs and mainstream media are an an apples-to-oranges comparison. Very few bloggers break news on their site. What blogs can do is push a story in new directions. Blogs can also add depth to a story via the comment string and hyperlinking.
Then there’s the ever-looming question, “What will corporations (and their brand managers) make of blogs?” A few have begun to find out. I have no doubt many more will endeavor to discover how social media can be a successful component of their overall communications plan.
[UPDATE] Former Gawker.com editor, Choire Sicha, reports that he’s been called a sell-out in response to his comments in the article above. He goes on to say Gawker Media now pays four times what it did in his time.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan in the Pacific Northwest. Brand builder at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Believer in Gossage, Bernbach and Clow. Doer of the things written about herein.

  • http://www.trevorbutterworth.com Trevor Butterworth

    Hi – thanks for taking the time to read my piece and offer such detailed comment. A couple of points, yes I am a grad of Columbia’s J-School – and an award-winning one too (It’s the only thing I’ve EVER won, so I am rather proud of it) – but, after J-School I went to work for an internet start up, a non-profit website called NewsWatch.org that produced daily media criticism. Think of it as pre-blogging (if you can imagine such a benighted virtual world LOL!). Anyway, when it went kaplooey, Ken Layne wrote in the Online Journalism Review.
    “The truth is there are few places to get real media criticism… NewsWatch.org, the site published by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, has been an exception: a daily, reliably objective look into the many missteps of the American press. From West Nile encephalitis hysteria to bogus reports on the drug Ecstasy, NewsWatch called B.S. on the media.”
    So I’m not a gullible “newsprint forever” hack. And if you go to STATS.org, which I helped to recreate after the previous staff left or were fired (one ostensibly for blogging on the job!), you’ll see more heterodox hard-core criticism. I can tell you more about Perflurooctanoic Acid and why Teflon isn’t a health risk than the entire mainstream media put together.
    I merely add this information so that your filter doesn’t distort anyone who strays upon this post.
    Best –
    T

  • http://adpulp.com David Burn

    Hi Trevor,
    Thanks for coming this way in such timely fashion and telling us more about yourself.
    You did a bang up job on the article, let me be clear about that. Sure, I’m a blog advocate, but as a writer who writes more than blog posts, I can certainly see the limitations of the form. Every form has them.

  • http://www.lipsticking.com Yvonne DiVita

    Oh please…will the last msm reporter please pack his bags and go home. Will the last blogger please turn out the lights and lock up.
    Here’s the truth, folks…blogging is writing, in the exact same way reporting is writing. That we do it online does not make us any less valuable or less worth reading, than Butterworth.
    To the uninitiated: blogs are where the kids go today – blogs are increasingly important to the women’s market (we trust each other far more than the likes of Trevor Butterworth or The NY Times – talk reliable: we don’t rely on YOU, we rely on each other, word of mouth rules!), blogs can be a collective voice in a corner of the Universe – open to discussion and frank exposition; all in all, blogs are exciting, blogs are fun, blogs build connections…in two-way conversations. Mainstream media is boring, boring, boring.
    Do I expect MSM to disappear, in favor of blogs? Hmmm…yes. Though not in my lifetime. Is this a good thing? Change is always good.
    Thing is…eventually, after we bury MSM in its shallow grave, blogs and wikis and whatever they morph into, will become MSM…and the cycle will begin again, with some other form of communication – mental telepathy, perhaps???

  • Nancy

    Change is not always good.
    Changing underwear: good
    Staying Size 10 for the last 10 years: better.
    Staying on top of changing things: best?