How Long Does The Whip Snap?
Ever-eager to solidify my standing as a "Whippersnapper who's kind of Fogeyish," I'll take Mickey Kaus' assignment on the whippersnapper factor in the blogosphere. And, even better, I'll do it bullet-point style:
- It's a mistake to underplay the value of experience. I think I do better work than I did two years ago, and hopefully will do work that's better still ten years further in the future.
- That said, it's a bit hard to see the harm in permitting less-experienced people to publish things knowing that this happens in a media climate where they (we) aren't squeezing other people out.
- It's also a mistake to overestimate the youthfullness of blogging. There are no really old people blogging, but the bulk of the prominent bloggers are people in their thirties and forties. You would think people wouldn't want to get the bulk of their information from smart-ass 25 year-olds and, as it happens, they don't do this in practice.
- What I think you do need to worry about is this. It used to be that the closest thing to a reliable way to get glamorous pundit work was to pay your dues as a reporter. Perhaps kids graduating from college in the Class of 2008 will decide that the best thing to do is start a blog. Thus, maybe our pool of serious, hardworking reporters and administrative work-doers will dry up as everyone says "fuck dues-paying, I wanna be like Matt Yglesias." But someone needs to do the work!
- The good news / bad news is that I suspect the whippersnapper window is closing.
- When I started blogging in January 2002, writing a blog about politics on the internet was a very easy thing to break into. Between January 2002 and May 2007, the social and economic value of having a well-regarded political blog has skyrocketed. A 20 year-old college junior with little in the way of reporting skills to offer simply couldn't break into the blogosphere these days.
- Thus, I think you'll find that folks like me, Ezra Klein, Julian Sanchez, etc. are blazing a trail that nobody will follow.
- A more likely model is Andrew Golis who used a blog he started in college to help get a job as an Associate Editor at TPM Media where he's essentially paying his dues (and, of course, doing some writing) much as young people looking to break into the business have always done.
Long story short, I don't think Fogeyish concerns are totally wrong on the merits, but I don't think they actually have a great deal to worry about. New technology subverted traditional career paths but just because it was "new" not because of anything intrinsic to the technology. Now that it's not so new, a more traditional pattern is reasserting itself.