My Science Progress column is now up: I try to set the George Will scandal in the broader context of what’s happening in the media:
We often hear that “technology” is what’s killing newspapers–innovations like Craig’s List have destroyed the in-print classified advertising market; people have stopped reading physical papers and turned to online headlines from news aggregators or blogs; and so on. But there are also matters of substance and standards, and if the Post editorial page can’t even print correct facts about global warming (or correct already printed errors), then how to make the case that we still need these hallowed gray newspapers to police our society and discourse?
In this sense, I view the George Will affair with sadness. Sure, I share in the temporary glee of the bloggers. But at the same time, I know there are many kinds of journalism, particularly about science, that bloggers will never replace. They’re extremely well-equipped to pounce and skewer a George Will column, but hardly well equipped to deliver an investigative or narrative feature story. We’re watching the media change before our eyes, the science media in particular–and no one can say, in light of episodes like the latest one involving George Will, that much of old media doesn’t in some sense “deserve” what’s happening to it now. Yet if our only sentiment is joy over the bloggers’ latest trophy, or outrage at the Post, we’re missing something deep indeed.
Some bloggers seem to think this piece is hard on them; precisely the opposite was intended. I think it’s amazing that bloggers have basically destroyed the credibility of both George Will and the Washington Post editorial page. Both seem to deserve it; bloggers gave it to them. Bravo. But I also lament the decline of our newspapers–even though much of it is their own fault, as in this instance–and worry that without them, we won’t be better off.
You can read the full column here.