Reading Jeff Jarvis' response to Bill Keller's speech on the Decline and Fall of the Newspaper in the Age of Blogging made me think of the arguments I used to have with evangelical Christians back in high school. It started out fun because it felt like Big Ideas were crashing another, like Titans doing battle in the Arena of Argument. Only the strongest survive.
But after a while I realized we were talking past each other, and essentially arguing to hear own tongues rattle. We were speaking different languages; the only thing we had in common was a passion for our position.
Similarly, Jarvis and Keller at first appear to be opponents until one takes a closer look. (Indeed, Keller even makes this point himself in a response to the response to the speech.)
To me, Jarvis plays the part of the intelligent, busy body neighbor who regularly walks the sidewalks, knows everyone's name and organizes the neighborhood watch program to help improve safety and assist the police. It's laudable that Jarvis wants to encourage a more informed citizenry that uses the Internet for constructive purposes and to assist journalists (and others) by pointing a million flashlights into the darkness.
And, like that busy body neighbor, Jarvis has a bit of the gadfly in him. Even when Keller restates his case to show the two aren't really at odds, Jarvis looks for a way to salvage the argument so he can keep speaking. Ironic.
Keller makes the point that professional journalism is suffering because readers - and, more dangerously, media owners - increasingly confuse/blur the act of transmitting information with the act of reporting. He is saying that the promise that the Internet holds for new ways of connecting should not be used as a tool to bludgeon journalists - no matter who is wielding the bludgeon.
In the end, I hope bloggers and other online evangelicals find peace in doing what they're doing and learn to see journalism as a specialized field that, as I've said before, anyone is welcome to join.
Which reminds me: Dan Kennedy over at Media Nation took umbrage at my unoriginal idea of polling a cross section of the nation's political reporters to develop questions for a presidential debate as a way to avoid the goofiness and conflict of CNN-YouTube. I think he and I simply have different goals. His appears to be an effort to harness the populist power of the Internet to change politics whereas and I want to hold the fuckers accountable (especially in this freakishly truncated primary season).