Lowest Common Denominocracy?


    A “news” media phenomenon: bloggers embraced. If you can’t impress your audience with journalistic standards, lower them. The Virginian Pilot featured comments from local bloggers for years. Now The Daily Press has them on board. Vivian Paige, Jim Hoeft, and Brian Kirwin are Hampton Roads regulars. Worth every red cent.

    The Daily Press is launching a new feature in which two Hampton Roads residents will address local, state and regional issues – and the occasional national issue from a local twist – from a conservative perspective.

    Check back here for their columns, which will run each Wednesday on an alternating basis.  — The Daily Press

    I am reminded of criticism by a favorite economics professor, Dr. John Kuhlman, regarding the Journalism School at Mizzou. “There was a time,” he would complain, “when expertise in your field and writing ability made you publishable. Now it takes a gift of gab, casual observations, and a four year English course.” Well, Doc, apparently that great educational philosopher Meat Loaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” is the adjusted accomplishment curve; or maybe Kaplan opened a new Ann Landers School of Journalism offering a borrowed ECPI curriculum: “zero to bachelor’s in 2.5 years.”

    It is not only local media attempting to pander to the potential audience:

    CNN announced Friday that it has teamed up with the Tea Party Express to host what it is calling a “first-of-its-kind Tea Party presidential primary debate” in September 2011.

    The Republican debate will be held during the Labor Day week in Tampa, Florida. In a statement, CNN said the debate will place special emphasis on issues that the Tea Party has been “vocal in advocating,” including less government spending, lower taxes and a smaller deficit. – Huffington Post

    (“Tea Party presidential primary debate.” Bet you can’t find all the oxymoron combinations in that phrase.)

    But concentrating on the three local Hampton Roads bloggers, I can tell you that having met them all, they all have that gift of gab. Brian and Vivian regularly appear with Cathy Lewis on WHRO (you know, public broadcasting, the part of the media Brian’s followers would defund) and they are engaging. No doubt the two have sources and connections, as does Jim Hoeft who can also talk your leg off. Vivian is an accomplished businesswoman, Brian an actor/artist and public relations professional who has been involved in many Republican campaigns, and Jim, who minimizes his navy experience in his Daily Press biography, is a blogosphere pioneer. Fine, looks like they’ve met the Meat Loaf journalistic standard.

    They also may serve their traditional media promoters’ purposes if they draw a following. That is difficult to measure. They are trying to help generate an audience with a little self-promotion. Vivian announced her blog is ranked on a generic looking website called Guide to Online Schools adding a qualifier that this is not the same as “for-profit.” Well in the category for “Don’t Look a Gift Horse In the Mouth,” she brushes by one of our favorites, Kaplan, with some 10 links in just one location. A rose by any other name … can one so easily dismiss “bait and switch?” And, our friends at Bearing Drift, sans such an honor as Vivian’s, simply list their blog among their own top 10 Virginia political stories of the year. To adapt from the math: The lowest common motivator of two vulgar factions can be found by calculating the least common interest of their motivations.

    It’s all good. Really. The mass media features bloggers who are more akin to gossip columnists or sycophantic mouthpieces than journalists because that draws an audience. It teams up with niche political groups to leverage their followership into reader and viewership. It allows them to feed collective observations from the respective echo chambers regardless of the veracity because there is an audience for them. Critical analysis? Well, as Meat Loaf sums it up:

    Baby we can talk all night

    But that ain’t gettin us nowhere

    I told you everything I possibly can

    There’s nothing left inside of here

    The part that is good? Well, the media is, in its own way, legitimizing the blogosphere. It stands a chance of providing a bit of rigor. After all, there will be a more public record of the lunacy that abounds out here; maybe some accountability will follow. Of course there is the chance that it will do what I observed occurring in the United Nations where no one is allowed to fail. The standard of performance becomes that of the lowest common denominator. Instead, let’s hope this signals a rising tide and that it will lift all boats, to coin a phrase of those great supply side economic philosophers of the right; heirs to the Soviet maxim:

    (“We will bury you”).


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