April 23, 2002
Beastly Bloggers

It seems to me worth thinking about an appropriate animal metaphor to explain and explore the relationship between traditional journalists and bloggers.

Traditional journalists would probably prefer something like this:

blogger : journalist :: flea : dog

Almost everyone loves dogs, and everyone hates fleas. The dog is known for loyalty and, well, doggedness in pursuing a story to the end.

Another possibility, arguably more accurate, although -- or rather because -- it is less complimentary to the journalist:

blogger : journalist :: tick : sheep

Journalists are certainly known for their habit of congregating in flocks and walking in ruts.

Given that bloggers do not actually harm journalists in any significant way, perhaps this would be better:

blogger : journalist :: remora : shark

The blogger-remora hitches a ride from story to story, picking up bits and pieces of the leftovers from the shark's bloody feasts. The shark gets nothing out of the relationship, and in fact is slowed down slightly by the extra burden.

Bloggers would probably prefer a more complimentary analogy with a good philosophical pedigree:

blogger : journalist :: gadfly : horse (and :: Socrates : Athens)

In Plato's Apology, Socrates compares the Athenian city-state to a lazy horse and himself to the gadfly that stings it and keeps it from getting sluggish and flabby.

I prefer this one:

blogger : journalist :: toothpicking bird : crocodile

You know the bird I mean: the one that hops into the crocodile's mouth and picks his teeth for him. The relationship is symbiotic: the bird gets a tasty meal, and the crocodile gets his teeth cleaned. As Thomas Moore put it:

        . . . . Not half so bold
The puny bird that dares, with teasing hum,
Within the crocodile’s stretched jaws to come.

Nominations for better analogies will be gratefully accepted. Please post them as comments.

Update: (4/25, 11:55 PM)

MicroContent News and Henry Copeland (second section) have now taken my argument further.

Update: (5/27, 4:25 PM)

If you've come here from John Hiler's Blogosphere: the emerging Media Ecosystem in MicroContent News, you may also be interested in some of my other metablogging squibs. The most pertinent to Hiler's argument is Bloggers and 'Facts' (May 6th). Others include: Sex, Money, and Blogging (April 22nd) and its sequel Journalistic Whores and Blogger Sluts (April 23rd), Juvenalian Delinquents or Why Blog? (May 6th), and A Mutant Meme Spreads (May 7th). And then there's the ever-popular Blogosphere = Borg Collective? (March 3rd). Feel free to read the non-metabloggage, too. All posts are open for comments.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 23, 2002 11:46 AM