March 29, 2005

Instead of not updating this blog, I could be collecting a salary from the New York Times

As I explained earlier, the silence here is because I've been too busy recently to say anything coherent. However, this is hardly a requirement for blogging. Many blogs, this one included, feature random links to unconnected things on other Web sites.

And now, so does the New York Times, thanks to the increasingly desperate work of newly-annointed web-beater Sarah Boxer. As Kevin pointed out in an email to me, it is almost impossible to say what Boxer's latest article is even about. Apparently there are Web sites about reviews, and also museums, and lists too.

I've mentioned many times before that the NYT, along with much of the MSM, still has this idea that the Internet is some kind of crazy novelty, and that pointing this out counts as astute observation. One wonders what it would be like if other Times critics were allowed Boxer's leeway.

Isn't physical space crazy? Instead of looking at paintings over an artist's shoulder, people go to museums to look at them. And they also watch television, or moving "paintings." And then they read newspapers whose purpose is to review those same moving images that they've just watched. Sometimes they only read the reviews, and never even watch the images. And there's also movies. And sometimes newspaper ads for movies, which are a kind of painting themselves, will have short excerpts of reviews that previously appeared in other newspapers, adding another layer of distancing. Also, people make lists! And play Pictionary!

Yesterday, the Times ran another story with the word 'blog' in the headline, which is always a red flag. And here's the foul: "Gone too are the days when columnists had individual identities. Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who created their own celebrity brands with their trademark chapeaux, have been replaced by interchangeable mass market magazines and faceless blogs."

Holy crap, if blogs have accomplished anything it's to revive the personality in gossip that mass market magazines have leeched away. Quick: what defines the personality of the gossip in Star, Us, People...? I read all those magazines and can't come up with a single thing. Now, what about Matt Drudge, Gawker, Wonkette, Whatevs, Go Fug Yourself? Could anything be more celebrity brandy and less faceless than those (or whatever your personal faves are)? But in the Times view, blogs are faceless because they're on the Internet, and the defining feature of the Internet (and this is the most up-to-date cultural touchstone the paper has), is that no one knows you're a dog. That one throwaway line, stuck in there probably to show that at least the writer is aware that there are gossipy blogs, reflects the exact same attitude that led to Boxer's outrageous nonsense about Iraqi bloggers a while back.

By the way, you'll notice that I've mentioned a bunch of sites above. I'm not going to link to them partly because I'm lazy and also as a tribute to the Times Web site, which, you'll notice in Boxer's piece, contains links to sites which has the .com suffix appended, but not to those that don't, as if they're just webby enough to have some software that automatically generates links when it sees '.com,' but not so webby that they're going to actually start mucking around with html.

Anyway, you have all those sites bookmarked anyway. If you don't, they're on my blogroll -- hey, that's a list! Somebody write a think piece!

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Maybe this is Boxer's punishment for that thing on Iraqi bloggers.

I think my favorite thing about Boxer's rant is the fact that she inadvertently detonates her own argument with the "celebrity brands with their trademark chapeaux" line, given that there's precisely one gossip columnist today who's managed to brand himself with his headgear, and it's Matt Drudge.

The print edition of the Times (and the non-printer-friendly version of the website) have a sidebar with a list of all the links. Not the best way to handle this, but then, I think this is the first time the Times has included the URLs for the websites they're writing about.

It'll probably take them another year to realize that putting the links in the article itself is a good idea, and another year after that to hire someone who will actually do the work.

To be fair, it's Katharine Seelye who trots out the "trademark chapeaux" line.

That story struck me much more as the Times meeting some imagined obligation to cover the fact that they and the Post are losing the gossip wars. Leiby was certainly willing to give it up for Wonkette - although the story rather mysteriously never mentions the name of the woman associated with the site.

My software does links automatically wherever I type an address. Not just the ones with .com either! But I ain't afraid of mucking around with html. Just push me in the right direction, and I'll kick its ass!

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