A Bit of Cultural/Literary Criticism – Why do you even read this blog??

In light of Purchasing Magazine's recent demise, Jason and I had a conversation about the difference between blogging and straight-up cold, hard facts journalism. "Should I include a journalism aspect in my blog, now that Purchasing isn't around to provide one anymore?" he pondered.

Should he?

Sven Birkerts, an essayist, literary critic and author of The Gutenberg Elegies recently published this article, pitting The Internet against Novels. He spends some time writing about what everyone already knows: these days we're taking in a lot more information on a higher surface level, i.e. we now know a little about a lot of things versus a lot about one subject. "Information comes to seem like an environment. If anything 'important' happens anywhere, we will be informed. The effect of this is to pull the world in close. Nothing penetrates, or punctures. The real, which used to be defined by sensory immediacy, is redefined," he says.

For the purpose of this piece, I clarify "journalism" by the definition we can only hope it lives up to (sorry, I'm a huge cynic in regards to this): informational reporting that is factual, objective, and provided by a credible source. In a world where ten news stories stream across television screens at once and we're constantly checking our RSS feeds, where do we go for this "real" that Birkets mentions? My answer: blogs. People read blogs because it gives them an aspect of that narrative, of that analytical opinion that they still crave, despite their incessant Googling (and in my case, Google Reader-ing). Blogs blur the line between the cold news and pleasure reading: they invite our comments and our counter opinions, allowing us to sneak in a bit of that old analyzation and critical thought that we used to apply to most of our thinking.

They're essentially an online book club, if you will. Birkerts further states, "According to the logic of transitive thought, information is a means, its increments mainly building blocks toward some synthesis or explanation. In that thought-world it's clearly desirable to have a powerful machine that can gather and sort material in order to isolate the needed facts."

For readers that come back for more, Spend Matters becomes your own powerful machine, churning out a combination of analysis, research and commentary. Cold, hard information is filtered through experts like Jason and our other contributors -- you choose them as your credible narrators who provide you with handily pre-digested thoughts so that you can further digest and analyze them at your will. And if you want "reporting," you can always read the deeper Compass research pieces. Like choosing the novels you read, blogs are a form of media that allow for an interaction that journalism does not.

To answer Jason's above question, I have to say "no." I think that what we (and other prominent and successful blogs) provide is better than "journalism." After all, Birkerts says, "Concentration is no longer a given; it has to be strategized, fought for. But when it is achieved it can yield experiences that are more rewarding for being singular and hard-won."

By offering you essentially, filtered news, we grab your concentration for a specific topic. And we like that. I'm curious though -- what do you, as our readers, think? We live in a world where language is our most powerful weapon; it's the only outlet that we criticize in the same medium we create it in. Do you want to see journalism, the cold hard facts, or do you prefer the blog the way it is?

Sheena Moore

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