After class on Thursday night, I tiredly read the article From Blog to Narrative: Josh Benton Throws Us a Curve. Although it was obvious that Roy Peter Clark found Benton’s Curve to be high on the scale of “interestingness,” I didn’t. So I reread the article later on, thinking maybe I missed something the first time. What I realized is that Benton’s Curve is missing something, not me.
For one thing, “natural reporting” isn’t as innovative as this article makes it out to be. For decades, communication technologies have been used to deliver eyewitness accounts. Edward Murrow became famous for his radio reporting of World War II. Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather changed Americans’ minds about the Vietnam War with their reporting from the front lines. Is the “natural reporting” on blogs today more compelling than the eyewitness reports of yesteryear? I don’t think so. Given the choice between reading a blog that’s being updated with real-time coverage and watching the same news story unfold on live television, most Americans would still opt to watch it on the boob tube.
It’s also clear to me that Benton’s Curve cannot be applied equally to all (or even most) news stories.
Case in point: Benton thought the blog coverage of a live technology presentation was interesting enough that he talked about it in his presentation. Most people would look at the blog posts he mentioned, shrug, and quickly Google a topic that is of higher “interestingness” to them. In this case, Benton’s Curve would actually resemble a flat line, since most people wouldn’t be interested in the topic no matter how it’s being reported.
I also take issue with Benton’s use of the highly subjective term “interestingness.” His curve seems to suggest that live-coverage blogs are more interesting than conventional reporting. While it’s true that conventional reporting is often “neutered” of its point-of-view, there’s a good reason for that – it’s meant for mass consumption. Bloggers, on the other hand, mostly attract readers who agree with their view of the world. Conventional news and blogs are designed for two different audiences – they’re apples and oranges.
To me, getting daily news from a blog instead of through conventional reporting is just another form of selective consumption. I’m sure we’ve all known someone who opens the paper everyday and reads only the comics or sports page, for example. Selective consumption has been going on since the beginning of time – even a Cro-Magnon man wouldn’t have listened to every grunt he heard! Unfortunately, I don’t think Benton’s Curve is as new or innovative as Clark thinks it is and his idea of “interestingness” is much too subjective to be taken seriously.