Sunday, May 01, 2005


Every day, says the Observer, 10,000 people start new blogs. It looks as though we Word Eaters are about to join the virtual tsunami.

There's a very good reason why newspapers are paying so much attention to the phenomenon: they are themselves becoming high-class blogsheets whose columns are filled, not with reportage, but with a modicum of research and a mass of opinion.

There was a time when major newspapers prided themselves on the number of on-the-spot reporters they had on staff; Colonel McCormick's Chicago Tribune was invincibly reactionary, but it maintained an army of reporters in the world's major and even minor cities who were often allowed to tell the truth, providing it was in code and tucked away somewhere near the bottom of page six.

Today such a staff, even of free-lance stringers, is regarded as an extravagance. News desks are more likely to be exactly that – offices with a few people surfing the net for items to rewrite sufficiently to disguise their second-hand sources. Reporting from Iraq is notoriously carried on by the deaf and blind in solitary fortresses, but even peaceful venues are increasingly covered vicariously by distant Buddha-like eminences offering profound analyses of a few news items they've just retrieved from Google News.

Google News is in itself a media education. It continually scans around 3500 sources, a search of which yields short phrases together with metalinks. I have a daily search emailed to me on "food uk". It's interesting to see how many topics cite dozens or even hundreds of sources which, if you follow them up, prove to be clones of a handful of quasi-original articles with strong family resemblances even among themselves. Soon the last reporter will die and the media will implode.

But be not downhearted! We Word Eaters are a global squad of on-the-spot foodies able to report at first hand what the lifestyle media only gossip about. And there's no Board of Directors to decide that we're a useless extravagance who can be replaced by a search engine.


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