Lady C's InfoNapsterizer

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8.11.2004

Blogging and journalism - 2 -- The commenters comment

Atrios' readers have some interesting angles on the "blogs and journalism" topic discussed below.

From veritas 20001, on the quality and levels of analysis found on blogs, highlighting the "self-disciplining" feature of blogs:

I have been a recent guest to this blog and others. I guess this was for a reason: I used to think of blogs as self-indulgences promoting a certain opinion -- and we all know that opinions are like . . . Then, I tried a few.

What I found was intelligence, lucidity, attention to detail that is sorely missing from the "professional journalists" who constantly confuse the world's oldest profession with the world's second oldest profession.

I am impressed with both the quality, reasonableness, and the attention to details that many fine blogs represent. Atrios and Kos and JMM and Kevin Drum and Corrente and Juan Cole and the rest do an excellent job. They have to, if they start speaking BS, many people will tell them so.

So, this is a mea culpa from a former news elitist. In truth, the quality of the journalism on these sites far exceeds the meaningless and deferential "parroting" being done by our media. Blogs: I salute you!

On quality and indepth knowledge or understanding of a matter, Alan8 adds:

Also people with a diverse set of backgrounds read and respond to blog articles. Often someone with rare, specialized knowledge and experience will clarify a point for the rest of us. There's no way TJ [traditional journalism] can match this massive, collective experience.

Kryptic thinks the pros expect us just to take what they give us on faith or, because the reporter presents "both sides" of a story, that somewhere the truth can be found. This is superficial and misses important facts and analysis, it's not just leaving out "opinion" or "bias".

I think the problem with current journalism is that in all their search for balance, they fail to search for actual facts, instead leaving it all to be a matter of opinion or trust. Either, 'well, that's just what they seem to say', or 'hey, trust us, this happened/is happening!'.

It's only in editorials (at least the decent ones) nowadays that do any sort of analysis (biased of course, but that's the nature of editorializing), while news is 'as is'. And despite what some in the business might think, leaving news 'as is' isn't the best thing to do, when there's likely so much more beneath the surface that the report.

In otherwords, Journalism lacks the one thing it needs most: SKEPTICISM.

The "Jon Stewart" theme that reporting that uses the "balanced" approach doesn't ensure that it's objective is echoed by jac, who notes that two spins don't make the truth:

I think the problem with current journalism is that in all their search for balance, they fail to search for actual facts, instead leaving it all to be a matter of opinion or trust.

My take is close to this. "Balance" has replaced "objectivity" in reporting, and the two are NOT the same.

Putting Democratic lies and spin (yes, it exists) one paragraph after Republican lies and spin is balanced, but it's not objective.

Case in point, the "deulling headlines about productivity posted earlier today. Both headlines contained analysis "best increase since Pabst Blue Ribbon was first brewed" - an "objective" headline would have said "Productivity Up" or "Productivity Rises N%."

It's not subjective to report that what the President said contradicts the known facts. Neither is it analysis or commentary (the other two components of "journalism").

Some commenters opined on "what's the matter with news these days." Carter stressed two reinforcing problems: "journalism" has shifted from "hard" to "soft" stories, led by TV which works for those type of features. And he sees this exacerbated by the poor preparation of journalists to deal with complex issues.

Journalism has veered away from hard news into the realm of character portrayals & asocial behavior events, exs. Kobie Bryant, OJ, the Utah child kidnapper etc. TV news is the greatest culprit but newspapers have followed.

A major part of the problem is that newsreporters have neither the historical nor a technical knowledge of things. Basically, the prime value is fire truck chasing. It is obvious, from my interactions with reporters, that they have, at best, superficial knowledge of the important policy areas that affect ordinary people's lives. They know nothing about health policy, economics, foreign affairs, military policy, environmental issues, poverty dynamics etc. These are all very complex matters that take years to really get a handle on. So instead they report on verbal gaffes, personal failings, character. Of course, these are things that are completed disconnected from the important things that affect people's lives but its the best reporters can do.

Great one-liner by anonymous in nc:

Modern journalism reports the facts of what people are saying, rather than whether what they are saying is factual.

That is, if Scottie says 'The president has made it clear that the sky is green', it gets reported as 'White House: Sky Is Green', with an additional 'the Kerry campaign asserted, in contrast, that the sky is blue.' There's no room for reporting that the sky, in fact, is blue.

And now for what blogging is that journalism isn't. Karmakin makes the claim, quite seriously, that blogging can extend beyond "information' to put together the political with the substantive policy.

Blogging is the "renaissance" of journalism. Now I don't mean that as the rebirth, or anything like that.

What I mean, is the bloggers, working together basically form a "renaissance man/woman" type infrastructure that can basically put the political together with the policy.

It's pretty much right that most field reporters, whatever, either don't have the time or the inclination to really get knowledgable..even from a layman standpoint about the wide variety of subjects...that all link together mind you...that make the world we live in, and how things affect the average person.

However, for bloggers, commentators and lurkers, it's almost a given that you are expected to get that knowledge in order to follow along. If you don't know something. Ask a question. Someone will help you out or give you a link to a place you can go to learn.

Education, information and learning are the currency. And it's very refreshing.

To go back a step, the other major factor is that it links the diciplins together into a more coherent vision. One of the problems with the liberal/left side of things in the past was that it relied on a variety of mostly single-issue based advocacy groups to push for specific legislation/change/education whatever. The problem with this is when bad priorities are set, and two heads end up butting against one another. (Think enviromentalism. It might push up prices which drives the consumer advocates nuts, or drive wages down which labour doesn't like)

In reality, the coherent vision you're seeing from the Democrats now, is pretty much that was born, brought up and being raised here, where you're sitting.

So in a nutshell, political blogging is....political blogging. And it's a powerful and wonderful thing in and of itself. Why lower yourself to call yourself a "journalist"?

You don't have to buy Karmakin's entire claims for blogging's power to produce a coherent platform for the Democratic party to grasp his notion of a some-thing that's not journalism because it's collective in some sort of way (his "renaissance man/woman"), and that collective can be quite powerful.

Anonymous picks up on the special things the collective nature of blogging can do that any one journalist can't achieve:

TO me journalism would be:

  • -reporting fact
    -checking fact
    -contextualize the fact.

In traditional newspaper/TV. it's done by one person and happen only at one point.

IN Blogging, the task is seperated:one person doing the reporting, another fact check, yet another contextualize it (link, connect disseminate)

A blog report become far bettr than newspaper reporting once it is commented and contextualized. (ie. everybody jump in the reporting and text it)

It's the whole system that is journalism, hence a properly done blogging is more powerfull than newspaper print or TV.

The theme of the collective is extended by Chris, who emphasizes the "conversation" and "community-building" aspects of blogging are tied to the voice or perspective of the blogger.

Thank goodness someone mentioned the likes of Amy Goodman and Greg Palast.

Journalism is alive and well, though perhaps not thriving if viewed solely through the myopic lens of broadcast TV and cable news networks.

The key to blogging - what makes them unique and powerful, is a combination of immediacy and interactivity. A blog without comments is basically churning out the digital equivalent of press releases. Blogs can empahsise content and substance over flash because a small thread of an idea is constantly chirned through and added to by a variety of commenters. But it is directed commentary, by the original post itself and the norms imposed by the site it is contained in, the voice behind the writing, and even the links to other sites.

Blogs are a more intimate form of communication, breaking down the more formal one to many mode of news broadcasting, and bringing it back to the community-defining role that news is designed to serve.

And that was just a tiny fraction of the comments posted in the first HOUR of the thread!

More highlights to come.

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