Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bloggers as Reporters

As my father-in-law George Phenix said at our wedding, Annie and I both have "ink in our blood" as children of newspaper publishers. So even though this blog is mostly for yuks, I take journalism seriously. That's why I want to point you to this excellent LA Times article by Jay Rosen about specific examples of bloggers doing the same real, honest, hard, valuable work that historically made journalism so important to our democracy.

Journalists are, at their core, supposed to be adversarial. They're supposed to go out and find the truth, even -- especially! -- when that truth offends those who hold power. Whether it's the local dog catcher abusing his authority to harm animals or the President of the United States lying through his teeth about blowjobs or WMD, reporters are supposed to be the guardians of truth in a democracy.

And yet, reporters at some point gained the mantle of royalty, holding a privileged and exalted position in our culture. We put them on pedestals and made stars out of them. They have become entrenched in the halls of power on which they are supposed to report, and I think something valuable in the profession was lost when that happened.

Making them stars subverts that adversarial positioning they're supposed to have. When our elite political reporters, for instance, hang out at cocktail parties with the politicians they're supposed to be covering, that's a problem.

Over the last ten years, bloggers have begun to fill the void vacated when our journalists became news readers instead of reporters, when they became part of the story rather than investigators of it. And yet most people think of blogging as being a series of high school slam books or open diaries, full of pointless trivia at best and the worst sort of vituperative bile at its worst. In any event, blogging certainly can't fill the same kind of niche that good reporting is supposed to. Right?


As Rosen points out, bloggers at their best can exceed even the best traditional journalism has been able to offer. They don't have the billion dollar budgets or massive news organization, but they have drive and a dogged determination to follow a story to the nitty gritty end, no matter where it leads.

I'm not saying blogging and bloggers will, can, or should replace traditional news agencies. But they absolutely can -- and already have, as Rosen points out -- do at least as well as any professional media outlet. Already they have helped remind our reporters what their job is supposed to be -- to uncover the truth, not parrot talking point memos.

This blog is just for yuks as I said, but others are much, much more serious. Before you casually dismiss all blogging as overhyped nonsense, remember that television news once got the same dismissive treatment from their print brethren. Then "The News Went Live" and nothing was ever the same again. I think we're in the middle of another such revolution, and bloggers are leading the charge.

Check out Rosen's piece. I think it'll really open your eyes to what's possible in the collaborative, interactive world the Internet and blogging software have made possible. Journalism isn't something you learn in an ivory tower, and "Reporter" isn't a title bequeathed by a royal elite. Journalism is what you do, and today, bloggers are doing it better than almost anyone else.


Anonymous said...

Yhanks for the link. I enjoyed insights. The world of informational sources is changing, and we may look back at this era we are living in as being historical. As usual, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times, with Wikipedia being the most visible and obvious example. So much info at so low of a price but is it quality? Most of it is great, but how do we know what is reliable and what is not? So many blogs have so much Wisdom, yet who are these people and do they have an agenda? Futhermore, my prediction is that moderation is at risk of becoming extinct. The old saying is that an intelligent mind can hold two conflicting ideas in their thoughts at the same time. Certainly ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Israelites showed this ability. However, it seems evident that the ability to see both sides if an argument doesn't sell or make headlines. I'm also afraid it doesn't, or won't, become a popular blog. Most of the time people do not want a fresh perspective nor the real truth but instead they want to be affirmed that their origimal opinion is correct. Yet, all in all, I suspect that there is indeed wisdom in the masses, and that TRUTH must, over time, become evident.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't spell check and I was between patients. Pitiful post.
Again, sorry.
Jimmy, aka mr. 2-finger typist