From Steve Sailer's
column this morning:To reach a high position in American life, it doesn't pay to waste time associating with a wide range of your fellow human beings. You are much better off spending as much time as possible schmoozing other ambitious people who can help you out. It pays to adopt whatever conventions they exhibit in terms of what you are supposed to talk and write about. And, for highly verbal people like journalists, it's safest if you train yourself never to even think about anything you aren't supposed to express.
Somewhat similarly, I once noticed when talking to a famous scientist who had decided to write academic articles about race that this person essentially never noticed anything about reality that didn't appear in a refereed academic journal (i.e., something that could be cited in one's own papers). This is an extremely efficient attitude for generating papers of one's own, but it seemed a tad limiting.
This observation isn't fresh, of course; any honest look at careerism and tenure reaches the same conclusion. It's especially bad in academe, where a graduate student quickly understands that he has two choices: enslave every synapse of his brain to his advisor's thinking, or waste 15 years of his life.
Sailer's observation suddenly illuminates a trend I've been half-consciously noticing. Blogs haven't been doing their job lately; they haven't caught any big liars or cheats since Dan Rather.
We caught Dan because we came from a wide variety of backgrounds and mindsets, and brought our varied expertise to bear on one target.
Now the blogworld is dividing into the 'killer apps' and the private journals read only by spybots. The big dogs, the killer apps, are mostly written by folks who started as professional journalists. They are mavericks to be sure, but they still had the same 'professional deformation' as a Katie Couric or a Shep Smith.
Addendum: This trend is completely understandable in hindsight, though I don't think it was predicted beforehand. The essential qualities of a newspaper have evolved over 300 years in response to reader desires. Those essentials remain constant whether the text is set by Linotype and printed on a Heidelberg Rotary, or set by Wordpad and printed on your CRT. A mix of hard news, human interest, humor, and philosophy, united by a recognizable and sympathetic voice. Ink newspapers lost that combination over the years as they became pure carriers for Leninist orthodoxy. Because readers still longed for the original set of qualities, something
was bound to fill the niche. So it's hardly surprising that the folks who do it best are those who have learned the tricks and disciplines of the craft.