New media dialectic…

I’ve not been covering the situation with The New York Times and the Augusta National Golf Club because it is outside the interests of this blog. So I might otherwise have missed this column by Terry Eastland of The Weekly Standard if not for the on-the-ball media coverage of MediaMinded. Eastland argues that the “story of the spiked columns is about more than the Times. In fact, it is a story about the old–i.e., the establishment–media. And the story shows why their influence has waned.” He concludes:

The history of the media since the 1960s may be described as a revolt against the old establishment and its definition of appropriate political discussion. Necessarily, it has employed argument to find out “what we know and what we still need to know.”

At first, the revolt was led by so-called alternative media, including small magazines and weeklies. But with new technology have come the new media of cable news and nationwide talk radio. And now there is the Web with its blogosphere (see, among many, kausfiles.com, andrewsullivan.com, instapundit.com, volokh.blogspot.com, and nationalreview.com). There is a lot of argument out there–some good, some mediocre, some awful. And much of the new media has a conservative (to libertarian) cast, doubtless a response to the liberal tendencies of the old media (see the New York Times).

But the bigger point about the new media is that they have broken the hold the old media had on news for so long. Indeed, they advance stories even the most aggressive newspapers miss and in ways not predictably partisan–the one involving Trent Lott a case in point (see Josh Marshall’s talkingpointsmemo.com).

I think we may certainly agree with the role dialectic plays in new media forms, if for no other reason than the internet and other interactive technologies make it possible to argue back effectively–instead of settling for the moral satisfaction of shaking a newspaper or yelling at the TV screen. I think we must, however, also look at the unique structures of the internet in general or the blogosphere in particular and begin assessing what bias those structures introduce. The structural biases of journalism that I so often allude to are old media structures.

I too often assume a structural correspondence where none may exist because I contend that the internet offers a print-based cognitive system, i.e. propositional content that demands a rational assessment of logical, pathetic, and ethical argument. Just because the internet and The New York Times share a cognitive system, however, does not mean they share other structures of bias.