Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Blogging, Talk Radio, and Bloggers Who

Talk radio is sometimes criticized for being trivial, and more often criticized for being nothing more than the rantings and ravings of partisan hacks. Certainly a fair amount of talk radio fits that billing.

The folks at the Salem Radio Network, however, are to be commended for the high-quality shows they have assembled. Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and Dennis Prager are three of their standouts. Hewitt is an evangelical, and Medved and Prager are both Jewish. Prager is perhaps the most thoughtful and philosophical--and the one most likely to admit that he's wrong or to criticize his own side when it makes a mistake. Medved is the best on contemporary pop culture, with frequent movie reviews. He is also anyone's top pick for a game of Trivial Pursuit--he has an encyclopedic knowledge of endless array of topics. And Hewitt--a former Emmy-award-winning reporter for PBS--has the best political nose, espousing his principled pragmatism, and more often then not, getting his analysis spot on. Hewitt is the only one of the three that blogs, and is a pioneer in the intersection of blogging and talk radio. He's also considered the Historian of the Blogosphere. He is the author of the forthcoming Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World (due out on Jan. 14). (There will be an audio CD as well, narrated by Hewitt.) If you want to understand the blogging revolution, you'll want to buy this book.

All three--Hewitt, Medved, and Prager--are friendly toward evangelicals, though Hewitt (of course) is the only one who explicitly advocates the Christian worldview. I once heard Hewitt say on his show--which is not about Christianity per se, but is mainly on politics and culture--say in no uncertain terms that if you don't believe in the virgin birth, you are not a Christian. End of story. Quite refreshing!

Well, yesterday Hewitt had Dr. Mark Roberts and Dr. Albert Mohler on his program, discussing the Newsweek cover story: “The Birth of Jesus – Faith and History: How the Story of Christmas Came to Be," by John Meacham. Dr. Roberts is the Senior Pastor at Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California. He has a B.A. in religion, an M.A. in the study of religion, and a Ph.D. in NT studies and Christian origins--all from Harvard. Dr. Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. In addition to his presidential duties, he teaches seminary classes, hosts a one-hour radio program each day, travels, and writes a 1500-word blog column everyday. The date of the Newsweek cover story was December 13. On that very day, Roberts and Mohler--along with others--had thoroughly dismantled Meacham's reporting.

Now Hewitt is hosting a blog symposia, where he is linking to other blogs that are commenting on this story and what it tells us about the MSM (mainstream media). One of the most insightful entries is Joe Carter's Marabouts, Magicians, and Meacham: The Continuing Decline of the Mainstream Media. Money quote:

Throughout history cultural elites like the marabouts have been able to secure their influence by controlling knowledge that is not available to the “common man.” In America that influence has, at least for the past forty years, been wielded by the mainstream media. But the advent of the Internet -- and the blogosphere in particular -- has stripped away the façade that the media possesses specialized information that is unavailable to the masses. . . . The primary problem with Meacham’s article isn’t that it’s unashamedly biased (though it certainly is that) nor even that he “doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.” No, the fatal flaw is in Meacham’s assumption that we don’t know what he doesn’t know. . . .

This is not to say that Meacham (or journalists in general) are not intelligent people. The Newsweek editor appears to be extremely talented and accomplished. But like his colleague Dan Rather, Meacham errs in assuming that his institution’s credibility and prestige imbues him with some form of singular knowledge and insight. His pedantic approach to the nativity story, though, only makes him appear, as Hewitt notes, “hugely silly.” Biblical scholars such as Mark Roberts and Al Mohler have not only revealed Meacham’s naïve understanding of the material but have done so with remarkable speed. Though the story appears in the December 13th issue, it has already been dissected and scrutinized by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of bloggers. The newsweeklies can hardly get their biased pieces onto newsstands nowadays before they're discredited.

Hewitt is to be commended for being the visionary at the center of this. This would not have happened two years ago. But the intersection of blogging, talk radio, and a blogger who promotes other bloggers, is creating a reformation of the way we interact with information. And I, for one, am loving it.