Apr 29 2006
Howard Kurtz has an interesting piece on blogging out, at least it was interesting until he started quoting others. Howard needs to let himself out more and do less repeating of what others have to say – at least if he wants to understand blogging! The title of the article is “Blogs, Good or Evil?”. And of course the answer is ‘yes’ because blogs are not standardized or controlled or managed. The Blogs are simply the voices of Americans amplified by way of the Internet.
In our earliest days of discontent we Americans had the Pamphleteers. Those rowdy individuals who felt they had to say something because times were ‘not right’. The reason I and others blog do what we do is we know the times are ‘not right’. We are just simply debating what to do! And with all these large scale debates we get the good, the bad and the ugly. But it is pure Americana! In Europe it is not really considered proper to debate and challenge each other in public – especially superiors. So the debate is not as furious and probing as it is here in the US.
At our nations conception, the street corner speech was amplified by the Pamphlet – a paper that allowed people far and wide to engage in the debate, even if just to listen in. As the times became tumultuous, the Pamphleteers grew in number. Soon newspapers were doing news and opinion.
Modern voices were amplified by radio and TV in the last century. That is when the Murrows and the Rathers held sway. Their voices were the loudest as the medium constricted the broader voice of America. The newspapers that criss-crossed this nation became echoes to the voices on TV and a few larger outlets like the NY Times.
Then came three letters which changed the world as we know it: www. Growing up on the internet has been an experience, I assure you. I was on the internet in the 1980’s when only a few of us knew what it was (and that includes one Senator Gore). The Internet had to come of age with websites and ISPs and tools so that ordinary people like myself could spend a few minutes a day pontificating. But it changed the world because no longer did the news media corporations control the debate. The Internet amplifies my voice world wide (and I see this in the locations of people reading this site). It is stunning to experience.
So Howard had a great subject to discuss, but sort of lost track. He did have some good moments, like this one:
I write again today about blogging because I believe it has become the most vibrant, innovative and controversial form of information delivery in the media world today.
Blogs are controversial because so many people can voice their opinions. It is vibrant and controversial to have opinions of high and low caliber available to the readers. But it also allows for dynamic and shifting alliances. Well known bloggers rally on one matter and erupt into open warfare on others – showing we are not monolithic thinkers (basically sheep at the knees of information masters).
The internet has forced the antique media (because it is rapidly losing its main stream status) to recognize the diversity of reality:
Why are the best blogs sometimes more compelling than the “Senator Jones said yesterday” style of too much newswriting? Because the bloggers have a voice and emotions and are speaking directly to you. Because they’re up front about their biases. Newspaper stories often seem like straitjackets, incremental, dulled-down, written in a sort of insider’s code. Plus, blogs are faster…
The blogs challenge the conventional thinking of reporters, who do little more than glance at a life’s work and attempt to pass judgement. Blogs allow experts in fields or those with experience to point to the flaws and fallacies of the journalists who barely grasp matters they try and report on. The facade has been ripped from reporting, and some are not happy. Take this comment in the Kurtz piece from the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last:
“Blogs can be a real force for good when they act as supra fact-checkers. They can add serious value when they quickly elevate experts in obscure topics to the fore of public discussion (see, for example, the Bush ‘National Guard memo’ fracas). And they have enormous potential to enable on-the-ground reporting when news happens suddenly or in remote locations. We’ve seen some of this potential realized, as in sites such as Iraq the Model, but not nearly so much as one might have hoped.
“Balanced against these goods are the pernicious effects of blogs: They elevate analysis over news-gathering; they value speed over judiciousness; and they encourage the practice of journalism to turn in on itself, to tend ever more toward navel-gazing.
Emphasis mine. I am reminded of why the Weekly Standard has the potential to be overtaken in this new medium. All topics are ‘obscure’ to those who do not make a career out of them. Try fixing your car without a competent mechanic. The insult here is only the Weekly Standard can know what there is to know in the non-obscure. Good luck trying!
The second blunder is analysis over ‘facts’. Anyone naive enough to assume what is printed in newspapers, spoken on TV or presented in the Weekly Standard are facts, and all the facts one needs to understand any subject, is a fool. Analysis is the essence of higher thought. I will toss out some Biological “news gathering” to demonstrate my point.
Reflex actions are responses to stimuli – stimuli being the act of our senses gathering information (news). Response to simple stimuli without analysis and thought is a reflex. Analsysis of facts and development of a measured response or reaction is called ‘thinking’. I can think of many insulting examples of people reacting to news without thinking.Â The idea that thinking is wrong is ludicrous.
The marriage between the blogosphere and the reporter is now one where we bloggers are now the editors and challengers. We come in and say “did it ever occur to you Joe Wilson was working for the Kerry Campaign when he lashed out about Bush using known forgeries to go to war?” We challenge the reporters to dig farther, think beyond their blinders.Â We are not trying to bug them, but do thisÂ because it is so obvious they missed a lot of information which totally changes the story. Some can complain about this role – but it works. Reporters who grasp the concept will become better guardians of ‘facts’ than those that run from the challenges.
The bloggers are simply America’s voices, sometimes screaming in solo but many times in the harmony of a choir, letting the media and the pols know they missed something big. And analysis is our argument to our point. Get used to it – we are here to stay.