In the summer of 2003 The Washington Post ran an article ridiculing former Vermont governor Howard Dean's plans to raise money and support for his 2004 presidential campaign over the internet. Also in for criticism was Dr. Dean's reliance on bloggers for support as well as for position dissemination. The article, and its placement in the establishment beltway newspaper, was an attempt to downplay and ultimately squash the idea that the political discourse could be taken out of the hands of the top-down media. It was the beginning of a campaign against the emergence of a wider political community of interest that would have to be dealt with directly, through blogs and other new media, rather than business as usual.
We know how that turned out--newspapers and other old-line top-down media are struggling to adapt to the new, open source, world of contemporary politics. The citizen's media as broken through in the world of politics, and the genie will not go back in the bottle.
Which brings us to Norman Lebrecht.
In this column, Mr. Lebrecht writes that "[c]lassical blogs are spreading but their nutritional value is lower than a bag of crisps" and that "[u]ntil bloggers deliver hard facts and estate agents [Mr. Lebrecht earlier refers to a blogger who is a 'New York estate agent'] turn into credible critics, paid-for newspapers will continue to set the standard as only show in town". The body of the column is devoted to praise for some blogs, which praise is accepted, but not without reservation.
Bob Shingleton, of On An Overgrown Path, responds to criticisms of him in Mr. Lebrecht's column here. The errors Mr. Shingleton points out in Mr. Lebrecht's piece about the unreliability of blogs reminds me of Atrios' refrain when the top-down media make inaccurate attacks on political bloggers: Time for another panel on blogger ethics!
What does this have to do with the Washington Post article I started off with? That article came at a time when political blogs were on the cusp of breaking out into the mainstream and becoming the important part of politics that they are today, and the Post saw its revenue and prestige streams threatened and responded accordingly. Could it be that the same thing may be coming in classical music and the Norman Lebrechts of the world see their positions threatened?
What it would take would be a pushback against a musical institution from the blogs, a pushback that is covered in the top-down musical press. There was some pushback earlier this year from blogs when the musical establishment declared teen sensation Jay Greenberg the Next Big Thing. Very little of the establishment press (Alan Rich being a notable exception) offered a differing view, but many blogs did. The pushback was not covered, though. There will eventually be another flavor-of-the-month, either in composition or performance, that music bloggers are not sold on, and when the pushback is covered it will be a sign of the growing prominence of blogs in musical journalism.
(h/t to Stirling Newberry for some background and context for this post.)