Ah, the irony. Ana Marie Cox, AKA Wonkette, will no longer be blogging for Wonkette . So that’s the end of Wonkette? You’d think.
But no. It turns out a blog can exist without the blogger. The Wall Street Journal’s new blog(!) revealed that Wonkette will continue to be published — by a Wonk (sort of). The new Wonkette is (how richly appropriate) none other than David Lat, the now defrocked, former cross-writing, former Assistant U.S. Attorney behind Underneath Their Robes. (Toobin’s New Yorker article on Lat, for anyone who missed it.)
So Ana Marie Cox departs. And Wonkette lives. Gawker Media has apparently figured out what mainstream media (MSM) has known for decades (although has recently forgotten) — at the end of the day, it’s all about the brand, and the community that coheres around that brand. Blogging and citizen journalism is undoubtedly a revolution, but (capitalized) Media, AKA the Institution, is still greater than the (lowercase) individual.
But why is this so? Weren’t blogs supposed to be the antidote to institutionalized media?
It’s because Wonkette became a brand and a community. So it’s still Wonkette even without the wonkette. More importantly, as a successful brand, Wonkette became a successful business, and it’s still a business without Ana Marie. (Why didn’t Lat go back under the robes? Because Wonkette is a better brand, and a better business.)
So the first solo blog to be institutionalized turns out to be one created by one of the most distinctive voices in the blogosphere. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just dripping with irony — but from the irony-drenched blogosphere, silence on the subject.
Which is not say there were no commentators on the case:
The Post’s Reliable Source winks at “Wonkette’s Sex Change” and quips “Wonkette is dead — long live Wonkette,” but then blithely reports that Ana Marie will “hand off” the blog to Lat, as if it were the most normal process.
MetroBlogging DC admitted to being “a bit confused about the whole gender/suffix thing,” but then “welcomed” David Lat to the Fray.
Talk Left is worried that Lat will swing Wonkette to the right, but is willing to give him a chance.
mediaistro’s DCFishbowl says Ana Marie’s “namesake site will be taken over,” as if namesake sites are taken over everyday.
UPDATE: According to Ana Marie’s oped in todays Times, she is (was) the “editor” of Wonkete. Since when did bloggers become editors? How MSM…
It’s really no surprise, though, that the blogosphere is not up in arms over the notion of Wonkette without wonkette. The blogosphere thrives on the conceit that it’s the anti-MSM, so you can’t expect bloggers to get worked up when it’s revealed that New Media lives (and can die) by the same rules as Old Media. Like a corporation that takes on a life of its own (and may even oust its founder), Wonkette became a profitable media brand, and so the business, i.e. the Institution, can and will carry on.
Traditional publishers, and all owners of valued content brands (including blogs, of course), should take heart and pray for the continued success of Wonkette.
Bloggers may be an antidote to real problems with institutional journalism. But when it comes to the business of publishing, it’s not about the blogger, or the distribution channel, or the editor, or the journalist. It’s the about brand. Repeat: It’s the brand.
(Oh, and who broke the story? The new blog of WSJ, icon of mainstream media! Jonathan Swift, or even Jon Stewart, couldn’t make this up.)