Internet freedom advocates—a group that includes just about every blogger—are up in arms at the revelation that Boing Boing, the incredibly popular this-and-that blog, has purged its archives of all the works of Violet Blue, a blogger who also contributes to Gawker sex site Fleshbot. The reason for the disappearance is unclear; but whatever it is, it can't fit in well with Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow's free speech crusading. But you can file it under one of the great universal truths: Media People (of all stripes) Are Touchier Than Anybody.
It appears that Violet Blue's works were systematically removed from Boing Boing's archives. This was no mistake. So while BB would seem to be a great symbol of the blog revolution—that dreamy ideal of everyone in the world freely expressing themselves to all, with no corporate filter—they're also just another in an endless line of quirky media startups that found success, and then started acting just like the big establishment players to which they were once opposed. It's only natural. Like growing up and deciding that you'd rather work a nine-to-five than be a dirty Phish-following hippie, media outlets take on the trappings and responsibilities of success and find themselves writing rules and editing severely where once they would congratulate themselves on being outrageous.
This effect is more exaggerated in the media world than elsewhere. There are very few media outlets that will happily and openly stand up for the same scrutiny they routinely apply to others. That's because intense public scrutiny is a pain in the ass! Duh. It's also because people who go into the media tend to have an elevated level of narcissism, combined with a thin skin. We all want to be loved and adored, and fear rejection. Love me! Only me! I'm special!
I was a low-level "media reporter" for a couple years after covering several other beats, and I invariably found that, as a group, media people are the most insanely sensitive sources to deal with. Politicians love to talk—they're equally narcissistic, but with far thicker skins. Corporate people tend to have a cold, well-honed, and practical approach to being covered. But many reporters, editors, and media executives are guarded in interviews, reluctant to answer basic questions, and prone to relentless "follow-ups" with you to make absolutely sure they're quoted the way they want to be.
My theory was always that media people assume the rest of the media are like them. If they're a lazy hack, they're terrified of placing their reputation in the hands of another reporter, who they assume is also a lazy hack. If they're unscrupulous, they assume you are too. And if they're used to bending the rules—well, they better check on those quotes with you one more time.
Maybe a third of media people fall into this group. The rest are fine. And you know who the best of all are, as sources? Media reporters! They feel your pain. And hey, at least we're not in England, where newspaper editors routinely sue each other for libel. Christ.
Before you know it, Boing Boing will have lawyers, offices, corporate policies, a softball team, and everything. Just like Gawker Media and other evil corporations! In Autumn of the Moguls, Michael Wolff summed this whole phenomenon up pretty accurately: