Why would you duplicate the worst aspects of the medium?

I need somebody to explain the appeal of PJTV and Bloggingheads.tv.  I thought this whole “citizen journalism” thing was about bringing greater depth, detail and context to the news the major media cranks out into the airwaves.  Taking the time to write from a specialist’s perspective, to fill in the background that a beat reporter would not even realise they are missing.  And all of that married to the ability to receive and remark upon news stories and opinion, anywhere there is a wired or wireless net connection.

The move to try and push this discourse into video from text is ridiculously misguided.  The most compelling video isn’t watching two talking heads debate the issues of the day; if it were, the local candidates debates during elections would rival strip clubs for popularity and revenue-generating possibilities.  Compelling video is watching the events occur, unfiltered; not having a vacuous talking head try to interpret the events long after they have actually occurred.

Seems to me that the move to erect bloggers as ersatz newsmagazine talking heads is capitalising on a weakness of the medium, not its strength. The annoying thing about the major media is that they often choose to strip away most of the valuable contextual information and leave behind only the most sensational and attention-grabbing aspects, giving us a very warped interpretation of events.  Making the medium of transmission web-based rather than radio/TV broadcast-based doesn’t diminish the fact that video is always the poorer medium for imparting detailed information; it will always take twice as long for a blogger in a suit to read a piece than it does for a reader to digest that piece in its text form.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to trade one variety of newsreader or puff-headed pundit for another; the newsreading—having another human being decide what issues and concerns ought to be put in front of you with the mass-media focus—is the problem, not the solution.  Surely the first, best destiny of the blogger is not to replicate the tired forms and functions of the old mass medium, but to capitalise on the strengths of the new.  To fill out stories and background that are ill-served and under-exposed; to do it at length and in a thoughtful way, as befits a subject matter expert.  To engage author and reader in dialogue—not have us revert to watching somebody else have that dialogue, and then commenting after the fact.

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4 Responses
  1. I can’t speak for pj.tv, but what appeals about Bloggingheads is, well, the people there are actually real experts. (Not the “the week in blog” episodes, but the ones with academics and policy wonks. Which is about half of them.)

    That’s what works. It’s not a replacement for anything — well, it did replace Hardball. I don’t watch any cable news shows anymore except for Morning Joe and the At Issue stuff from the National…

    • Chris Taylor says:

      I agree having real experts helps, although they don’t always get into the sort of detail an interested amateur might want. Another area of Bloggingheads superiority is the ability to skip to the portion of the discussion that might interest you, as opposed to having to wade through all 10 or 15 minutes.

      That’s where PJTV and regular talk shows fall down. 95% of the stuff is not interesting, but to get through the 5% that is, you have to waste a big chunk of time watching the 95% that you don’t care about.

  2. Nathan B. says:

    I agree! I never watch PTV clips, but I see them linked to by Instapundit, and the initial screenshots look like unbelievably cheesy propaganda. As far as I’m concerned, Reynolds is showing his age; his generation, and not ours, is the TV generation after all.