WAR REPORTING….Mac Diva is disappointed that Matt Yglesias took a job with The American Prospect. Not that she doesn’t wish him well, mind you, but she wishes that he had instead tried to find a job as a mainstream newspaper reporter. But is this a fate worse than death?

Mainstream journalists are not popular in the blogosphere, though there are quite a few of us with that job description under our belts at one time or another. Reporters are perceived as incompetent or sometimes just plain dishonest. The woeful performances of the Washington Post’s Susan Schmidt and Peter Baker last week did nothing to improve the profession’s image in Bloggersville or elsewhere.

Now, I’m quite happy that Matt will be doing advocacy journalism, but Mac is right about the general contempt that TV and newspaper reporters are held in, and it’s too bad. The fact is that newspaper reporters work under enormous constraints: they have to write quickly, they have to write about a lot of different things they are not experts about, and they have to write for an audience with a short attention span. These are all inherent in the job, and it’s quite true that taken together they place practical limits on just how expertly crafted the average newspaper story can be.

Still, even given all that, what’s really remarkable is how good the top newspapers are. I can read blogs and listen to CNN all day, but when I open up the Los Angeles Times the next morning, the view of the war I get is nothing short of phenomenal. There’s good reporting, good analysis, great photos, maps, diagrams, feature stories, and on and on and on. There’s really nothing like it anywhere else.

Sure, sometimes they say battalion when they mean brigade, and their knowledge of military history and practice is less sophisticated than John Keegan’s, but give ’em a break. If you ever try it yourself, you’ll find out just how hard it really is.