Monday, September 03, 2007

On Blogging, The Tribune and Wearing Really Tight Clothing

I've resisted double-posting Tribune stuff for a number of reasons (1. feels like cheating; 2. different audience; 3. no linking and all that fun, blog stuff), but I'm making an exception since: A. this one is about blogs; and, B. I have tons of grading to do. Keep in mind the Trib may: A. change this significantly (i.e. make it better); B. not even run the thing, I suppose.

A regular disclaimer-fest above, but here's the "column"....oh...another disclaimer, writing 750 words I like...writing 500 words not so much. It's like wearing pants that are far too tight. Finally, here's the damn thing....


To quote Jagger/Richards, please allow me to introduce myself. I may not be a man of wealth and taste, but I am a blogger. In the opinion of some, that might just make me the Devil when it comes to how news is reported and read these days.

Of course, that’s not how I see it. Few envision themselves as Beelzebub, and I’m no exception. Nor do I necessarily think bloggers signal end times for truth, justice and the American Way. Naturally, I bring this up because ideas of news gathering, reporting and distorting are on the minds of many as we deal with the fact that the newspaper, most specifically the one you’re holding right now, seems to be dying.

Now nobody, including me, claims bloggers are powerful enough to kill off newspapers. By and large, the terms “blog” and “powerful” are mutually exclusive. Blogs are simply one small part of the trend away from traditional “objective” news organs (newspapers, broadcast networks) and toward politically/ideologically slanted news analyzers and interpreters, many of which are ‘Net-based.

The above sentence is far too complicated for me, a simple blogger, to explain well, but look around. A significant portion of Americans now rely not on network news but “The Daily Show” as their primary TV news source. Instead of “on the one hand/on the other hand” journalism viewers want “on the one hand, let’s laugh at the other hand” deconstructions of news. Fox News does the same thing, it just bitterly derides instead of laughs at the other side.

The Internet takes this trend toward “post-news” to the nth degree. Anybody who spends significant time on the ‘Net develops a list of websites corresponding to interests, even the most hyper-specialized. Little micro-communities form as people talk over shared loves, hobbies and obsessions. There are millions of these micro-communities now.

Some deal with news/politics, and in every case I’ve encountered the reason for the blog/message-board to exist is not the distribution of news, but the interpretation of what a news item means for people with a shared ideological view.

At the same time, political blogs, from giants like DailyKos and Free Republic, to dinky, little Albuquerque blogs, perform several democratically healthy functions, including expanding on stories missed or underreported by traditional news outlets.

Unfortunately, what’s missing from even the most laudable of blog reporting is: A. a sense of what used to be known as “credibility”; B. a readership that goes beyond the micro-community. All blog news reading is filtered by an assumption of bias, and the fact that nobody is reading anyone from the other political side. It reminds one of the old days where all newspapers were openly one-sided, only with fewer rich wingnuts running fewer newspapers and more geek wingnuts running more blogs.

For me to feel less devilish about the demise of the newspaper, news blogs need to reach out more, politically insulate less and evolve into a credible place where information can be widely shared and believed. In saying this, I also realize the Devil is in the details, for it might be the case that Americans really no longer seek credibility, merely entertainment. If that’s true, I guess we’re all going to Hell.

No comments: