With the rise of bloggers into the mainstream media, critics of blogging, like Andrew Keen, worry that amateurism is destroying culture and that the blogosphere is a bunch of silly "user-generated nonsense."
The problem with blogs giving voices to otherwise unpublished critics and commentators is that these critics are not working with the same thoroughness as the professional critics working for the mainstream media.
Adam Roberts' The Amateur Gourmet is an entertaining food blog about restaurants and cooking. Roberts even converted the blog into a book deal. But the Amateur Gourmet notes the difference between the amateur restaurant critics and the professionals, Going Back: "Obviously, food bloggers don't have the resources that professional critics do. We don't have a newspaper picking up the tab when we go out to eat, it'd be impossible for most of us to eat our way through a menu without spending half our savings. So we go, our cameras in tow, and snap pictures of the two or three dishes we consume at this one meal and then scurry back to our computers to write it up." After revisiting a restaurant he previously "reviewed," Roberts finds that his initial impression didn't quite capture the inconsistency of one Park Slope eatery.
If he reviewed after each time he went, then Roberts might ahve presented a more complete view of the restaurant. But readers can get this more complete view by using the web to search for multiple amateur and blogger positions.
The problem with Web 2.0/the blogosphere/UGC is not that it gives any idiot a voice. Rather, it shifts the burden of creating an overall final opinion from the publisher to the reader. Reading many reviews of bloggers who each visit a restaurant once may provide a more complete impression of a restaurant than one canonical review by a professional reviewer. Reading a selection of film reviews at Rotten Tomatoes can present a more complete impression than just reading Roger Ebert's review. But the reader has the burden of filtering out idiocy shifts from the editor to the reader.
With readers who know how to properly evaluate the credibility and veracity of reviews, the aggregation of internet reviews can provide a fuller picture than the traditional, Keen-preferred, media. But for those in the media elite, the traditional model gives their voice more weight, and it is preferred.
But even in the blogosphere, a good reviewer carries more weight than some amateur. This is the basis of Google's PageRank-- that Roger Ebert's links are given more weight and authority than Joe Blow movie reviewer. For restaurants, there will always be a need for localism. But will the internet affect off the television and movie reviews in local newspapers? Do readers need to read their local movie critic if they can go on the web and read reviews from Roger Ebert and Elvis MItchell? Or does it help smaller newspapers attract top critics? If Alan Sepinwall has a larger online profile because of his excellent blog as opposed to his work for the Star Ledger, doesn't that help the Star Ledger. Perhaps critics who develop their reputation online are becoming more sought after-- that a small town paper can raise its profile by hiring a top critic or columnist-- and that moving to an outlet that's not the NYT, WSJ or Washington Post might not be detrimental.