Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bloggers Rule, Columnists Drool

It's very gratifying to see all this attention paid by the MSM to our humble local blogosphere in light of PittGirl's departure.

Some may have found it too fanciful or grandiose, but if anything less than Dennis Roddey's epic tribute had run to mark the occasion, I'd have been pretty upset. Less heralded but no less appropriate was Eric Heyl's straighter obituary.

Ruth Ann Daily chimed in with personal reflections and admonitions yesterday, and today Tony Norman shouts out not only to PittGirl but to Pierre 4 Pittsburgh and the gang at Carbolic. It's nice even to have haters like Mike Seate feel compelled to pipe up.

But so as long as we have your attention:

Getting back to T-Noble's column today, on the topic of Mayor Ravenstahl's surfeit of campaign cash and dearth of opposition:

In today's economy, who has $500 burning such pigeon-sized holes in their pocket that they're willing to throw it at a mayoral campaign that faces no tangible opposition beyond a few feisty blogs?

Which got us thinking for about the trillionth time: why must it be this way? Or more precisely, why are we "feisty blogs" so rarely joined by any feisty columnists?

Editorials are well and good, but there can be no doubt that a newspaper columnist commands the requisite space, prominence, and artistic license to really reach out and grab readers, invite them to think about something, make it fun and make it edifying at the same time. Sometimes, our columnists do this (brilliantly) on a matter of local substance. But soooo rarely!

Let's put it this way. How often does Maureen Dowd devote one of her columns to the joys of gardening or the frustrations of modern technology? When was the last time Paul Krugman marked the changing of the seasons or the sheer passage of time? Can any of us recall Joe Klein muse that election season is upon us once again, and gosh it will be interesting to watch the pageantry unfold? Can any of us recall Robert Novak leading us to the crux of an important issue, and then breaking out into song?

These national figures grab readers right in the frontal cortex, forcing them to examine complex issues of great moment at almost every opportunity. No punches are pulled towards Presidential or Congressional bogeyman. Specific advice is offered perpetually on economics, matters of justice and political strategy -- along with withering ridicule as necessary.

Most importantly, it is all done with a sense of fierce urgency, of emergency: if I don't let them know, who will? We can't let this message, this ideology, this potential compromise, this perspective stay unknown for another moment. In fact, we can't let it fade into the recesses of last week -- we need to keep repeating it, refining it, expanding upon it. Events are upon us.

The national columnists we enjoy seem to regard their columns as mighty weapons, precious national resources. Too often -- and at the Comet we try to point out every occasion on which the opposite is true -- Pittsburgh's columnists seem to regard their own as something to fill with pleasantries, equivocations, sighs, shrugs and meandering meditations. Polemic Muzak. At least when it comes to local politics.

Is it any wonder mere blogs are left to lead the charge toward a more prosperous and hopeful civic future? Is it any wonder that future remains stubbornly on the horizon? Is it a coincidence our politicians have nobody to run against?

5 comments:

  1. "Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool?"

    David Bowie
    Fame

    www.MacYapper.blogspot.com

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  2. Before you head explodes, Post-Gazette has some awesome reporters who show a lot of integrity on tough subjects without any fear of pissing anyone off....namely Rich Lord whose articles have been quoted often on blogs. I loved that after he wrote several articles not showing a particular PGH "developer" in a good light, but yet had the balls to walk straight into his offices to interview him...gotta like reporters with balls.

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  3. I always thought of my blog posts as more or less equivilent to letters to the editor. Sure, I am commenting on the same thing reporters are writing about and columnists are opining about, but obviously I am not in the same league; I'm not getting paid for my writing. Duh. People read blogs because they want to, because they like the subject, the writing not having to pay for it, or all of the above.

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  4. I never had any quarrels with the P-G or Trib news departments -- except on those infrequent occasions when the sports desk seems to take control over development stories. I'm talking columnists.

    And there are obviously exceptions -- notably back when the URA was melting (are they off the hook, now? Buy out the director, promote his deputy, kibitz about transparency for 36 hours and move forward?) -- but these are exceptions rather than the rule.

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