President Obama openly insulted blogosphere denizens while discussing a plan to "rescue" the traditional news industry. We had a few thoughts.
Dear President Obama,
We, the blogosphere, feel that in general, it's rather irritating that U.S. Presidents seem fond of generalizing, generally, when talking about matters in general, matters that you generally know nothing about. Like your recent comments to newspaper journalists about the problems facing the traditional print media.
You said, "I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding." Next time, may we suggest to your speechwriters that they conclude comments like this with a resounding "Kids, get off my lawn."
We know the Presidency ages a guy and each day must seem like a year, but can you remember back when people thought you were cool? The basketball-playing, BlackBerry-addicted dude? The first social media President? The guy who invited—and called on—bloggers from Huffington Post at televised press conferences? We think it was about six months ago, but we can’t remember either. Now you’re like the MySpace of presidents.
You’re right that it would be truly terrible if all news moved in the direction of blogs: Fast, constantly updated, and featuring distinctive voices and engaged users who advance the conversation and help make corrections when errors occur. And you know those underlined words in a different color on the Web pages your staff prints out for you? They’re called "links." We only wish they offered hidden pointers for where you can play golf. (Your recent embrace of the game is yet another sign that you’re not as cool as we once thought.) Alas, they merely provide context to whatever we’re writing about.
But let’s get back to generalizing about newspapers. They are all fabulous institutions, aren't they? They never get things wrongly out of context, lie, deliberately obscure the truth or engage in scurrilous un-fact-checked rumor-mongering? Nope. They're wonderful mouthpieces of sanity, from the government to its people. Those well-reported "Weapons of Mass Destruction" stories all turned out to be perfectly true, of course.
The Internet did come as a bit of a shock to the old newspapers, kind of the way investment bankers were shocked to learn that housing prices weren’t going to go up forever. Oh, and the way U.S. auto makers were shocked to learn that people don’t much care for cars that get 12 mpg when gas is $4 a gallon. But one can't, in general, expect rapid acceptance of new, shiny things from old people. Ever take an iPhone into an assisted living center? It’s like you’re Tron or something.