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December 12, 2008

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The Tipping Point

Question: Is anybody else on board with the notion that the Atlantic’s blogs have outpaced the mag itself for interestingness? Last month’s issue had a ton of interesting stuff, so I picked it up, and enjoyed it, but kept finding myself going to the respective authors’ spots online to read what they and their commenters wrote about the article. Is it just me?

Posted December 12, 2008 at 2:37 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Media Galaxy


I don't know -- to me it feels like the blogs are less interesting and more noisy now than they were six months to a year ago. (Mostly less interesting because they are more noisy.) So I'm gravitating more to the magazine these days.

OK, well that bats down my theory, which would have needed unanimity to even be interesting.

I agree with Tim, actually. And there's too MUCH of them. I can't keep up with Sullivan, McArdle, Yglesias (he'll always be an Atlantic blogger in my mind)... and it feels like their volume is only *increasing*.

That's why I still like the mag: There's less of it. ;-)

Well, since Tim reminded me of this thought, I'll go ahead and defend the original premise.

First, I don't think you're allowed to cordon off Fallows from the general run of Atlantic bloggers. His pieces on China from the magazine have been typically excellent, but I think his blogging from Beijing has been even better. He uses the blog to give a sense of the texture of life in China that the magazine format isn't really suited for. I think of all the Atlantic bloggers, his blogging complements his magazine reporting best.

Second, Sullivan was always noisy. He's what PostRank was created for. At his best, he thoughtfully engages with a valuable segment of the conservative blogosphere - e.g. Daniel Larison, Rod Dreher, Peter Suderman - that you won't often find just reading Yglesias, Drum, et al. And he focuses on two issues - torture and gay rights - that don't get much exposure at that tier of the blogiverse.

I'll admit I've stopped following McArdle. My econoblogging folder is currently too crowded with Nobel winners and former Treasury Secretaries to admit a lowly former Economist writer. I assume when she's onto something brilliant, the other Atlantic writers will let me know. Ditto for Clive Crook.

No, Robin, Yglesias doesn't count. He only blogged for the Atlantic for like a year! He'll always be an American Prospect blogger in my mind. As an aside, I think he's a better blogger today than he was in his TAPPED days.

I'd happily support Ross as Bill Kristol's replacement. This is a complete surprise to me. He has grown into such a better thinker and writer than he ever was during his days at the Harvard Salient. At one or two posts a day, his blog isn't noisy at all. And he's in this wonderful pox-on-both-your-houses moment right now that I love watching him grapple with. (Yes, this might be schadenfreude. Still makes me enjoy his blog.)

I could take or leave Barbara Wallraff, but her blog comments add at least the potential for some descriptivist mischief to creep into her prescriptivist rants.

It seems to me that every time Jeffrey Goldberg makes a nice contribution to the magazine, e.g. "The Things He Carried," he trumps it with an even better blog post, e.g. "How to stay alive in a terrorized hotel."

Finally, I really can't heap enough praise on the head of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Not only is he writing some of the most original, probing, eloquent posts on race I've seen anywhere, not only does he sample from everyone from Jay-Z to Carolyn Forche to Amiri Baraka without making it seem gimmicky or cute, he also put in the investment to create a fantastic commenting community.

So, nobody else may be on board, but I'm taking my original argument to the bank. Y'all can have the Atlantic in print. I want the bloggers.

Part of my problem is that about a week after the election, I just had to purge my political blogs. It was just too much. I've since re-subscribed to Ambinder's blog, which I think is still indispensable.

I tried Sullivan again, only to see that Patrick Appel was ventriloquizing Sullivan-lite. I liked it better when Andrew had a half-dozen guest bloggers. He could also take an honest-to-goodness vacation, and I would not begrudge one bit.

I like Ta-Nehisi a lot, but frankly, I don't care what Yglesias thinks about basketball or what TNC thinks about football. As someone who drops into sports blogging himself from time-to-time, I honestly don't know why this bothers me so much.

Ross Douthat is fine, but then he will do things like try to nuke guys like Doug Kmiec in uncharacteristically explosive terms. I think Ross is a little perverse, which I like in my bloggers, but is just strangely passive-aggressive in him. Plus, he looks like my landlord.

Look -- I am not really doubting the value of the Atlantic blogs as such, but I do think they were all a lot better for the election, maybe because politics was a lot more interesting before the election.

Given the state of things right now, policy seems to me to matter more than politics. And I think the Atlantic's bloggers are a little bit light on policy; so people like Paul Krugman seem a lot more essential right now than people like Matt Yglesias.

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