Monday, September 27, 2004

How does that re-virgining process work again?

OK. This is speculation but y'all know I'm right.

Wonkette is the blogger of the moment. A high-profile blogger. One of the MSM's favorite examples of the shallowness of blogs, the rumormongering that goes on in the blogosphere, the snarky, sex-drenched essence of the writing found on blogs. She's a cover girl for the NY Times Magazine and an unnamed example of the mess the Chritian Science Monitor sees when it looks at the internet.

But before she was Wonkette, she was a serious journalist. A capital S serious journalist at respectable journals where pajamas are not part of the dress code.

So maybe she proves the point the MSM is making. Maybe the fact that a bad journalist became a popular blogger shows that their standards are higher than the blogosphere's and that editors are better than self-policing.

But what happens when she leverages this blogging gig to reenter the world of serious journalism? Will the CSM write about the scandal of falling journalistic standards at Newsweek? Will the Times editorialize about moral failure at the NYRB? Will Joel Klein scold ABC for putting a shameless, partisan scandal whore on its staff?

I think we know the answer. But it still raises an interesting question. How does the process work? What makes a serious journalist? How can you be one yesterday, not one today, and be restored to grace tomorrow?

There is some sloppy circular reasoning going on here. The NYTimes/CBS/Newsweek are credible because they employ only serious, professional journalists. The journalists who work for the NYTimes/CBS/Newsweek are serious professionals because they were hired by a credible news organization.

Or you have to rely on a form of magical thinking that believes in talismans and the voodoo power of paper, ink, and paid subscriptions. Or maybe there is some sort of baptism or blessing that makes the "journalist" serious and credible no matter how wayward their previous career?

That really must be it. It is a society more secret than Skull and Bones, with rituals, incantations, and secret handshakes. Best of all, it has a special re-virgining process for those who go astray like Wonkette or those who once were partisan flacks like Stephanopolous.

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