Thursday, November 17, 2005

More thoughts on blogs

Thinking about the last post, I've noticed a fair bit of hostility emanating from old guard journalistic types regarding the blogosphere for at least the last year or so. Obviously, there's the issue that blogs criticize them often and harshly over their cherry-picking of information and apparent inability/unwillingness to do things like fact-check partisan talking points. Yet even beyond that, it seems that these outlets are feeling increasingly threatened as blogs increase in number and readership.

In my opinion, the reason for both the growth and the threatened feeling is that blogs offer two things conventional journalistic outlets can't.

1. Participation: After reading the contents of a blog, one can post comments, in effect discussing the matter with both the poster and other bloggers (many of whom are capable of providing significant insight, being doctors, lawyers, journalists, etc.). Sites such as Kos, MyDD, and others even allow a particularly productive individual to post on the frontpage.

2. Multiple levels of information: Blogging is, in a sense, a more sophisticated form of media than conventional outlets are capable of providing. Conventional news outlets are somewhat confined in their approach: they can only present the facts, without perspective and without commentary. To do otherwise would be a breach of their "objective" journalistic ethics (though some still fudge that part occasionally). "Punditry," that is perspective and commentary, are confined to the op-eds or political shows, and it's nearly always journalists speechifying on them.

Blogs, however, offer people of all professions the ability to present both news and commentary without unduly combining the two. Atrios, for instance, presents an easily corroborated bit of news (where one can find the article and read it for themselves), and then offers insight and perspective. That insight and perspective is considered useful to his readers because of his education and credentials (in Atrios' case, he's a professional economist, or at least was before he started Eschaton). Different bloggers have different areas of expertise, so in the blogosphere one can read the perspectives of not only journalists, but also lawyers, economists, religious leaders, writers, and politicians.

It seems to me that blogs offer a symbiotic relationship with journalists. Journalists go out and report on the information discussed in blogs, and bloggers keep reporters/editors/publications honest by scrutinizing their work, as well as often providing them with leads for new stories (one such case being the latest hoopla over white phosphorus). If the old guard would just wise up to that, there wouldn't be this undue animosity.

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