Blogging, like onions, has many layers
Someone in my family is a journalist. Newspaper reporter to be exact. For the purposes of this post, I’ll call her Miss Story. Because of Miss Story, I’ve had an ear to the ground about the decline of newspapers (and by extension mainstream media) for quite awhile with regards to layoffs, buyouts, and other such information that’s come out in recent months as to the hard times facing networks and papers. It’s no secret, mainstream media is suffering. I’m torn about it. I don’t want Miss Story to lose her job. If that happens, the likelihood of her finding another job at a different newspaper is nonexistent. I wrote a post a couple years ago when I was told about the sale of her paper to a conglomerate and her fears of losing her job. At the time, I was saddened by the news. I thought it a step in the wrong direction for media and accountability in journalism, with one major conglomeration owning and controlling the content released under their name.
But a couple years later, I see that what’s happened is that, with the help of the Internet and the explosion in popularity of blogs, the control of content has veered from the hands of mainstream media and into the hands of the consumers of the content, the public; and as a blogger, I’m intensely excited about that. News and social media are changing, evolving the way people become informed. How much more interested are you in the political opinion of a blogger whose website you’ve read for months or years and have the ability to comment on, as opposed to that of a pundit on a talk show whose opinion you haven’t the means to openly debate? I know I take the voices of some of the MOMocrats more seriously than anything on CSPAN. They talk about issues that are close to home for me, and in a way that I can get behind – even though the contributors often have respectfully dissenting opinions – as well as leave my own opinions in the comments. I feel that in the blogosphere I have a chance to voice an opinion in a place where, if the swell of my voice gathers supporters or joins another swell of voices shouting the same things, it’s possible to get issues close to my heart heard by many, and potentially those in positions to actually enact change.
Then there’s the issue of speed. In a world where instantaneous is becoming a reality moreso than a buzz word, the speed at which information becomes available is key. Last week, the first information on the earthquake in Illinois came out on Twitter. It was a number of minutes before the news made the mainstream media airwaves in terms of television special bulletins. But people, individuals, were discussing their experiences and getting a feel for what was going on from the other people experiencing the shaking. Confirmation of the quake came not from a news channel report, but from someone’s (I think Raquita’s) link on Twitter to the U.S. Geological Survey website. Reporters are being scooped by individuals with an internet connection and a desire to tell the world what they see and think about their surroundings, and the world is reading.
We as bloggers actually have the power to shape the way people get their news. Mainstream media isn’t sure how to handle this just yet, and the industry itself is struggling, trying to redefine itself into a workable model that evolves and melds with the way the public receives their information and news. I’ve no doubt such evolution will happen, that we’re going to see a complete restructuring of how mainstream media operates as opposed to the death of mainstream media. Social Media job titles are cropping up all over the place, and blog pages are appearing on newspaper websites as the writers attempt to find the blogging connection so many others I’ve heard tout as their reason for preferring blogs over papers now. This blog post by David Wescott, a specialist in “issues-based online communication and outreach” according to his about page, delves into much of the reaction of the mainstream media to bloggers breaking news. He equates it to the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief.
One portion of his post comes to my attention, mainly because I asked Miss Story what she thought of the post to get a journalist’s perspective. In the Anger stage, Wescott points out that mainstream media is saying we bloggers aren’t journalists. He links to a very interesting opinion piece from a journalist covering the 2004 presidential election, indicating the problems with blogging as journalism.
Miss Story has her own ideas about blogging’s place in the social media scheme of things. Namely, bloggers aren’t always accurate. As a reporter, Miss Story is held accountable to the facts she publishes. She goes to a lot of trouble to make sure her words are true and properly attributed to sources in the stories she writes. She says:
When you’re talking about opinion, yeah, bloggers can compete and have valid opinions same as anyone else. But for news stories, they’re a bit of a problem. I’ve had members of the public call me and ask “why haven’t you written a story about such and such – it was on the [local blog] site” and I’m like “Because it’s not TRUE,” but because they read it, they believe it and don’t take my word for it.
After going to the trouble of getting the story straight, it would be frustrating to see someone else writing about the same thing and getting it wrong, and having that blogger’s readers question your facts that you worked hard to obtain because they have an allegiance to the blogger. It’s a multi-layered issue to be sure, and is bound to be complicated by bloggers questioning the accuracy of the news media as well, such as in the case of the Guild’s very own founder, Dana Loesch, who was, just this week, stung by reporting on a trademark infringement situation with another blogger in California.
Such troubles are bound to happen on both sides of the fence as we bloggers eek out our place in the scheme of things and mainstream media scrambles to redefine itself for more modern times. Personally, if I’m looking for news, I want it to be accurate and objective, as well as timely and unhindered by media spin. I see validity in both sides’ claims. No, we bloggers aren’t journalists. Maybe that can be a good thing in some instances, with the one-on-one feel of blogging and the communities that are spawned from the interaction of comment conversations, the personal level of stories shared that give us the human side of life. On the other hand, I don’t want to be misled by reading Aunt Sally’s blog when she didn’t check before writing about a rumor she heard about Clinton and Obama getting into a fistfight in Pennsylvania.
I guess, no matter the method of information delivery, the old adage still applies: you can’t believe everything that you read, and a healthy dose of skepticism is called for as all forms of media advance.
* This post was written and submitted by Andrea.