June 12, 2002
Cheesy Metabloggage

Andrea Harris of Ye Olde Blogge has come up with yet another analogy illustrating the relationship between old journalists and bloggers:

. . . I'd say that blogs are like any number of musical styles, all either independent (like garage bands) or underfunded (like most symphony orchestras these days from what I hear). . . . . As for journalism, the closest musical comparison is Top 40 MOR "lite" rock.

That inspires me to come up with one more:

journalism : blogging :: processed cheese : Zabar's cheese

By 'Zabar's cheese' I mean the 200+ varieties sold at Zabar's in New York City. Other large cities will have similar sources.

Parallels are for the most part obvious:

  1. There are dozens of varieties of processed cheese and old journalism, but hundreds of varieties of Zabar's cheese and thousands of blogs.
  2. It hardly matters which processed cheese or newspaper you consume: they all taste pretty much the same.
  3. In each case there are broad overall differences in flavor and texture between the two sides. Blogs tend to be more libertarian/conservative than old journalism, while Zabar's cheeses are on the average stronger-flavored (and smellier) than Velveeta or Cheez Whiz. Zabar's cheeses also cover a much wider range of texture, from the very hard to the very squishy.
  4. Processed cheese and old journalism are full of artificial additives. A dollop of sinistric oxide here, a squirt of rallic acid there: all to "retard spoilage", as they say -- the list is endless. Like Zabar's cheese -- and perhaps even more so -- blogs are made of all natural ingredients.
  5. Journalism and processed cheese are produced in huge soulless factories by teams of cog-like humans working together to produce a lowest-common-denominator product, then shipped out to consumers on 18-wheelers. Blogs and good cheeses are cottage industries (sometimes literally so), often family businesses, and usually made from a secret recipe. The cheese recipes have often been handed down from one generation to the next for a century or more. Each cheese (or blog) is the product of one or two individual minds with strong ideas about what makes a good blog (or cheese). This means that processed cheese is inherently socialist, while Zabar's cheese is libertarian-conservative, even when (as is often the case) it's produced by Frenchmen and consumed by Upper West Side lefties.
  6. Journalism and processed cheese are huge money-makers for their parent corporations. It is possible to make a modest living from supplying a niche market with cheese or bloggage, but no one will ever get rich that way. Manufacturers are motivated less by money than by pride in their own workmanship and the praise of satisfied customers. That is what inspires them to the single-minded pursuit of the perfect cheese (or blog).
  7. Many uninformed consumers can't really tell the difference, but once you start reading blogs and eating good cheese, you will never go back. That is because . . .
  8. Old journalism, like cellophane-wrapped factory-processed homogenized cheese food, is boring.

After Friday's Blogapalooza, I intend to stop by Zabar's on Saturday and stock up on cheeses. While I'm there, I will see whether they carry Velveeta and Cheez Whiz. Somehow I doubt it.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 12, 2002 09:48 PM

Now you make me wich I had bought that expensive, tapenade-crusted cheese tonight. But no, I wasn't hungry... And I am nowhere near Zabar's. Pout.

Posted by: Andrea Harris on June 12, 2002 11:42 PM

May I choose my own cheese, please? You may call me Parmegiano-Reggiano from now on.

Posted by: Stephen Green on June 13, 2002 02:30 AM

Let us not forget Borden's Cheese-like product (cooks way better than Velveeta), although it does go better with cheap frozen burritos than the crumbly cheddar that I prefer for other uses...

Posted by: John S Allison on June 13, 2002 11:10 AM

Along the same lines,
Journalists:Bloggers as Anheiser-Busch:Microbrews

The same argument, but couched in terms that might be more generally understood. At least by people like me who drink lots of beer and have never heard of Zabar's.

Posted by: Doug Turnbull on June 13, 2002 12:41 PM

Conventional Wisdom cheese is also pre-packaged for consumer protection -- passing all government regulations for blandness and hygiene, and its price is non-negotiable.

Blogosphere cheese can be readily sampled before buying into it, and it can be savored in small bits or whole wheels if one prefers, but it is almost always cut from a larger whole. Generally speaking, the only price for Blogosphere cheese is your time.

It is also worth noting that Conventional Wisdom cheese is largely indistinguishable from Government cheese without its wrapper. Blogosphere cheesemakers don't spend a dime on packaging.

Posted by: Charles Austin on June 13, 2002 02:24 PM

Come to think of it, where are the Wisconsin bloggers?

Posted by: Janis Gore on June 13, 2002 04:05 PM

Doc, you're a genius!

But when you're in town, you should hike about blocks south of Zabar's to the Fairway cheese department. FAR superior in my opinion, and the staff is friendlier. And I love the little descriptive signs on the cheeses.

HEY!! I propose a round of post-Blooza cheese-shopping! Who's with me?

Posted by: Sasha on June 13, 2002 04:37 PM

I'm a month late, but I'll add my comment, anyway.

Very good illustration; I think it's a pretty basic tendency in human interactions. A lot of good things can be done by joining together into a big group, but it's pretty hard not to lose the quality, the personable nature of small groups...and the individuality.

Of course there are cases (not journalism or blogging; I'm talking about other things in the world) where you want the efficiency and strength of a corporation, minimizing work (at least, that's what they're supposed to do), etc.

Of course perhaps usually the best thing is when you can combine the best qualities of both.

I've strayed from the subject of blogging vs. journalism. Sorry.

Too interesting, tho. I'll quit now. :)

Posted by: pk the opaque on August 22, 2002 05:10 PM