Friday, April 30, 2021

Alan Jacobs on the Substackification of the net, folks that are on Substack and some thoughts on how the platform differs but the vetting process hasn't (and probably shouldn't) with a side-riff on watchdog blogs

Re: the Substackfication-of-journalism stuff I’ve been writing about lately, this interview with Ted Gioia is fascinating. 

And I now see that the always-smart Megan McArdle has weighed in. One small dissent, though: She writes, “There are some reasons to think that Substack might survive a march of the incumbents” — and by “incumbents” she means (a) the major social-media platforms and (b) the major newspapers and magazines, because both (a) and (b) are getting into the newsletter game. But I’d argue that in relation to paid newsletters, Substack is the chief incumbent. The genre has been around long enough for me to say that, I think. 


Well, yes, Ted Gioia, Freddie deBoer and now John McWhorter all have Substack platforms. Even though I think Gioia is embarrassingly wrong about a variety of things I look forward to reading his Substack posts.  As Bryan Townsend and I discussed over at The Music Salon, Gioia could be, where we disagree with him, someone who could be considered, in Townsend's phrasing "a good faith opponent".

I'm not a Marxist but I read deBoer regularly with interest because, as he has put it, finding actual solutions is more important than feeling we're right about stuff and to the extent that finding musical convergences between "classical" and American vernacular styles has been a adult-lifelong quest of mine I hope readers of this blog can appreciate what I appreciate about these authors.  I have McWhorter to thank for learning about Edward Berlin's thought-provoking and informative work on ragtime in general and Scott Joplin in particular.  I think McWhorter has under-estimated the potential of ragtime for long-work and large-scale development, obviously, but if we both appreciate ragtime as a musical art form then that's the thing I consider more salient.  Though not a formal academic myself what I hope scholarship, whatever form it takes, can help us arrive at musical convergences of the sort Ted Gioia suggests we look for.  I am convinced we will better be able to find those convergences by altogether rejecting what I regard as Gioia's conspiracy-theory approach to music history, but on the seeking convergences across styles part, at least, we agree!

In favor of Jacobs' riffs on Substackification, Gioia has pointed out that the institutions of media are more likely to stymie creativity and innovation, more or less.  On the other hand, in a nod to a more Socratic Gadfly dour take on alternative forms of media, the problem is that all the authors I've mentioned have all had their credentials vetted and demonstrated in traditional media and academic contexts.  I.e. the vetting process for why these people are saying anything whose expertise we should care about to begin with has not really changed and that far it's the old conundrum of qualification to be a source for the record in journalistic terms.  The problem has been acutely notable in the realm of the Christian blogosphere by way of watchdog blogs or "online discernment ministries" and the very live questions as to why any of these are run by people who, as clergy can be swift to ask, the least bit qualified to be doing blogging.  The paradox, ahem, of clergy blogging and wondering why other people are qualified has its own set of questions.  To put it crudely, I don't wonder how or why Jim West knows what he's talking about at his blog  compared to the rebranded Mark Driscoll at Real Faith.

I'm a bit behind on stuff I've meant to blog about so for this post this much will have to do. 

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