Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why newspaper columns bug me so

This is something I've been reflecting on recently. Keep in mind that I'm not a newspaper reporter/columnist, and neither am I much of a blogger. This is the perspective of someone who is primarily a consumer of media.

I can't stand newspaper columns and editorials anymore. They feel inherently preachy now. I didn't feel this way before blogs, but now I find myself annoyed at how it can't be commented, it can't be linked. I've become so used to being able to argue back, in a public forum, when someone gets facts wrong, or when I have additional questions about apparent logical fallacies.

It also bugs me when comments are tightly moderated online, though not as much. I understand the need to keep trolls away, and to keep conversations from getting dragged down into certain (usually political) topics that don't add anything to - and often detract from - the original discussion. At least there, I could always post somewhere else (say, here) about it. In print, that's hard to do.

I'm not saying that everything should have a comments section. I think that many editorials, for instance, are better off with no comments section than with a poorly moderated one. And hard news, for instance, definitely shouldn't have comments at the primary source. That's what blogs are for.

In print, though, it feels like the author is TRYING to make it hard to rebut them, or even to engage in a dialogue. I know it's a limitation of the medium, and usually not a direct consideration for the author, but it feels that way to me. Choosing to write in a print medium IS choosing to write in a medium where it will be more difficult to criticize you, and that does have some bearing. If editorial writers and columnists wouldn't get basic facts wrong, this wouldn't bother me so much.

On a somewhat related note, check out Regret The Error - it's a fascinating blog compiling editorial corrections for (mostly print) media.

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