The Dog That Didn't Bark
My hometown of Greensboro, NC, is not one of the smoking craters of the mortage meltdown, nor is it immune to the problems facing the larger economy. It's so much in the mainstream, in fact, that the New York Times chose to feature our real estate market as a kind of anytown example of trends across the United States.
It's always interesting to see yourself as others see you. I thought the NYT's Nelson Schwartz did a good job, although (a detail important only around here) his preconceptions about North Carolina may have led him imagine tobacco heirs living in a swanky neighborhood; Greensboro was more of a textile, consumer products, and insurance town.
Anyway, the major media have been all over the nation's economic woes since last summer -- but only a few lonely voices, including Times opinion writer Paul Krugman, sounded the alarm before the real problems began.
This was the kind of gap into which blogs were supposed to step. There's been a lot of good blog coverage over the last year -- here's one interesting site, and another -- even I caught on after a while -- and local blogs have helped out, too. But bloggers by and large don't seem to have been out in front of this huge story, either.
Not to say that nobody was sounding the alarm -- I'm sure there are numerous examples out there -- but bubble warnings certainly were not burning up the blogosphere before last summer. Whatever talk there was did not become pervasive and influential.
I wonder why that is, and what it says about our media culture.
It's easy to blast the major media for focusing on fluff (so good to see Chandra Levy back in the Washington Post this week; as political blogger Atrios put it, "Look over there! OJ's riding a shark!").
But so-called citizen media shoulders some of the blame, too, or at least some of the shame for not getting the job done. Blogging is supposed to be the ear-to-the-ground network, but in this case, the new-media watchdog failed.