The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, January 17, 2005  

Skeptical About a New Entrant

I know there are exceptions -- most notably Pulitzer Prize-winner Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News and also of the outstanding and soon-to-be-renamed weblog, Campaign Extra -- but in general it became clear long ago that few newspaper and magazine reporters are unsuited, constitutionally or otherwise, to the art and science of blogging.

Still, it’s no surprise, despite these failures, to see so-called mainstream publications continuing to assign their own reporters, people with no experience whatsoever in the field, to launch proprietary weblogs. (Just yesterday I cited the lame attempt by “interim” Houston Chronicle editor James Howard Gibbons to replicate, just for fun, I think, an ersatz weblog as part of that venerable, in name only, paper’s regular “Editorial Journal” feature.)

And just tonight I learned -- and this is a scoop -- the Philadelphia Inquirer this week will launch its own institutionally and site-sponsored weblog, one to be authored by Frank Wilson, the paper’s books editor, and the author of Sunday’s review essay, “By Swarming, Bloggers Turned the Internet Into Influence,”, a highly sympathetic -- and unusally uninformed -- review of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World, by one Hugh Hewitt.

Wilson’s review, dated January 16, 2005, comes just days before the editor will enter the blogosphere, a debut about which Wilson -- and his editors -- cared not one whit to share with readers.

With Wilson entering this new genre, one in which many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of his colleagues have failed, and miserably so, I think it’s fair, given Wilson's sorry performance on Sunday, to question his prospects. But Wilson already has proved one, if only one, thing, likely to work to his advantage, honest or otherwise, in the next few years weeks: the ability to suck up to right-wing bloggers, and at just the right pre-launch moment.

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