Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Op-ed Equality in the Blog Era

Our friends across the pond don't normally get mention in this blog, but in a recent conference, BBC College of Journalism editor Kevin Marsh said bloggers are phasing out newspaper op-ed writers.

"The days are numbered for those journalists who fill their columns with the contents of their spleen and bile-duct rather than the contents of their notebooks. Blogs on the really contentious stuff are already better written, more timely, more authentic, more argumentative, more partial ...more thought provoking than the majority of op-ed pages."

Though this blog often trumpets the emergence of grassroots journalism and blogging, I think occasionally journalists become overzealous (and over analytical) about the future of the craft. In the case of bloggers and op-ed writers, I don't see one replacing the other. What I do see, however, is op-ed writers embracing the blog medium.

Bloggers, while strongly opinionated, often merely attack with sarcasm and without fact, base, or even-handedness. In a proper op-ed column - that is, one that has been as thoroughly researched as a news article, as New York Times columnist Dan Barry once told me - the author looks at both sides and picks one, backs both sides up with fact and figure, and writes eloquently.

Can a blogger do that? Well, sure. But that's not the majority of bloggers, and likely not the type of blogger that Marsh is referring to.

Of course, there are columnists out there that often read as if they do not follow any of the guidelines above. Many of them straddle the line between columnist and celebrity. But there is a certain level of writing and a certain level of drafting necessary for a proper op-ed piece. After all, most blog posts aren't given more than five minutes of thought.

So are the bile-spitters at Gawker going to relegate Slate's Jack Shafer to a spitoon?

I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

Dan Barry does not write op-eds. He writes a features column.

The Editorialiste said...

Thanks for the comment, if only as anonymous.

If you notice above, I simply said 'columnist.' Just because this post is about op-eds doesn't mean Dan Barry can't have a (qualified) opinion on it.