Speaking in the inevitable journalistic tone at once so propre and so banal, so grotesque...the blog-time does seem ripe for some self-criticism. For instance (speaking now as the esteemed, old and wizened curator of a museum full of quotations) Waggish has been doing a fantastic, patient series on genre, which seems to be culminating with, Thoughts on Genre: Blogs:
Blogs are not content-focused, in that the content rolls by too quickly to be lasting. (Yes, they provide content, but when it's so subject to being missed or disorganized, the structural integrity of the content is not the focus.) But nor are they personality-focused. If Josh Marshall started writing exclusively about Andrei Tarkovsky tomorrow, he would lose much of his audience, who would nonetheless stick with Kevin Drum. Not to say that they're the same, but they are not unique in the way that novelists are. They can be replaced.
Blogs, then, are topic-focused. (And by topic I effectively mean the definable gestalt of the blog.) Individual content matters less in a blog than sticking to a consistent topic over time. And this is where the analogy to 30s romantic comedy seems apropos; these movies too stuck to a remarkably consistent topic, and the individual variations were practically indistinct. To put it another way, it was up to the individual to distinguish what variations they preferred, because the level of homogeneity was so high.
Yes. A return to the 30s then, and not just the 50s, in some sense.
To risk belaboring the obvious, there are also certain dangers unique to blogging, are there not? How strong is the (not unrelated) drive to pigeonhole one's audience, or in any case one's perceived audience? Blog posts so often responding to so many things at once lose their sense of urgency, their responsibility to be precise, altogether. Or (not quite conversely) they risk giving the impression of a gated community (perhaps many are more like cloisters). Sometimes, this sort of community founded on topicality is not gated so much as cared for, but this seems rare enough. People of course have this impression that the Internet is there just for their own personal therapy, a nodding drunk in every corner, eager for your redundant stories, each time more nuanced still (the Internet after all is where Freedom reigns--freedom to Troll away the hours, put off your dreams and their trembling hints of responsibility). Emptying the contents. The Happy Blogger is she who has just completed a lenghty post and is now free to walk away, a drunk in Dionysia. Or just "sit back," as Mark says, "and enjoy the chortle chorus" (Mark, is this a Teagleton line by any chance?). But the responsible blogger must also first respond, and in the comments section especially. Failing to respond to legitimate criticism, or what is worse merely providing a romping ground for trolls, is no solution either, however perversely flattered with attention it may make one feel.
Indeed, the words, "glib" and "blog" seem almost to be joined at the hip. All the glaring failures of a corporate lacky press notwithstanding (and should they even come as any kind of surprise, really? when we've been heading in such a direction for more than a few decades?), there is still something vaguely dishonest in the near continuous blame heaped by blogs upon the MSM. In fact, it's a bit as if the bloggers see themselves superior not just to the mainstream media but also to humanity in general! That will be (and is) the backlash line, in any case, as predictable and, lamentably, quite effective as ever. For bloggers, again predictably enough, this is already a tired line of inquiry. They see themselves as having defended against such attacks long ago. But the impression persists, and it is a dangerous one: blogs are written only for other bloggers, which also means primarily white, relatively well-off, vaguely resentful, and with too much time on your hands. Well surely that's an impression worth disproving.