Joe Rago of the Wall Street Journal got a lot of scorn for his sesquipedalian column bashing the blogosphere, probably the best example of which was this pitch-perfect Iowahawk parody. Now he’s subjected himself to Hugh Hewitt’s methodical probing, with predictable results.
When I first read his rather pretentious stylings to Mrs. See-Dubya, she said “I’ll bet that writer is under twenty-five”. Hugh had the same idea:
HH: And what’s your expertise in blogs?
JR: The expertise, in this case, is criticism. It’s the exercise of judgment and taste.
HH: Joe, you’re 23.
HH: Can you be expert in anything? And I’m serious here.
JR: I think I can write a thoughtful article, even though I’m 23.
HH: That wasn’t…the question is, can you be expert in anything at 23?
JR: No, I don’t think so.
HH: Do you read Lileks?
JR: From time to time.
HH: Is his humor cringe making?
JR: I mean, we’re having a semantic argument here.
HH: No, we’re having an argument about youth, actually.
Some (ahem!) notable omissions in Hugh’s list of 25 serious blogs, but worth a quick read or listen. Transcript and audio both at this link.
Under Hugh’s questioning, Rago seems to be describing a “Lake Wobegone Effect” in the blogosphere. Blogs are terrible in the aggregate, especially the ones other people read. But as for the good ones he reads, the bloggers are strong, the reporting is fair, and all the posts are well above average.
UPDATE: I don’t think the excerpt I gave is quite fair to Hewitt’s line of questioning. I don’t think HH, someone who is all about harnessing the unconventional distributed intelligence of the blogosphere, meant that because Rago is young, he doesn’t deserve to be listened to. Instead he was asking Rago about his own claim that journalists need expertise. Here’s an earlier exchange from the same interview:
JR: Right. I don’t think it takes any sort of special talent to be a journalist. Well, that’s not right. I don’t think you have to go to J school, or anything like that. But I think to be a journalist, you have to have a certain seriousness, a comprehensiveness of what you cover, your beat. You have to have sources, and you have to develop a certain expertise on a topic.
HH: You have to have sources?
JR: I think so, certainly.
HH: Okay. We’ll come back to that.
It’s a fair question: if you believe you have to have expertise to be a journalist, Mr. Rago, what are you an expert in?