Ezra’s hubris?

So, Ezra is leaving Wonkblog.  My biggest concern about this?  One more website to keep up with every day.  I presume that Wonkblog will keep bringing me very solid analysis of policy in the news and that Ezra’s new venture will feature his nearly-always insightful analysis of news and politics.  I’m just entirely not sold by the idea that Ezra is going to bring me something new and wonderful.  David Carr:

“It is not as simple as journalists going to a digital site and doubling their salary,” said Jim Bankoff, chief executive of Vox. “Many of these people, including Ezra, have a vision of creating something remarkable. There is a better way of doing things and we like to think that we are using technology in service of creativity, journalism and storytelling.”

Yeah, whatever.  I don’t think most Wonkblog readers are after something “remarkable.”  Rather, we really like Ezra’s insightful analysis of politics and policy.  That would still be good on old-fashioned newsprint.  Ezra’s comparative advantage is not that he’s some great technology/journalism visionary.  His comparative advantage is that he writes about politics and policy as intelligently as anybody out there.  So, he wants his own site that will be more comprehensive.  Fine, but enough with the earth-shattering implications.  Ezra:

New information is not always — and perhaps not even usually — the most important information for understanding a topic. The overriding focus on the new made sense when the dominant technology was newsprint: limited space forces hard choices. You can’t print a newspaper telling readers everything they need to know about the world, day after day. But you can print a newspaper telling them what they need to know about what happened on Monday. The constraint of newness was crucial.

The web has no such limits. There’s space to tell people both what happened today and what happened that led to today. But the software newsrooms have adopted in the digital age has too often reinforced a workflow built around the old medium. We’ve made the news faster, more beautiful, and more accessible. But in doing we’ve carried the constraints of an old technology over to a new one.

Today, we are better than ever at telling people what’s happening, but not nearly good enough at giving them the crucial contextual information necessary to understand what’s happened. We treat the emphasis on the newness of information as an important virtue rather than a painful compromise.

Good points.  But if you are a Wonkblog reader, you know it already does this!  It does dig deep and provide critical context on key issues.  It doesn’t just follow the rhythms of the day’s news and attacks important policy issues even when they are being ignored by the news.

Look, this new site may very well be great, but I refuse to believe that it will somehow be anything revolutionary with regards to news/journalism and technology.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to Ezra’s hubris?

  1. John F. says:

    I’m not worried, it’s not like Ezra is going to put something together like Politico, the biggest waste of 1s and 0s on the internet. I’m actually pretty excited at the prospects of someone I respect having the opportunity to put together a team of his choosing.

  2. sdresser32 says:

    I couldn’t agree more on most of your points. Ezra was by far my favorite writer on Wonkblog, and he will be badly missed there. Also agree that I’m not excited to just have ONE MORE website I need to visit to keep up on the news now. That’s what was so good about Wonkbook!

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