Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The year of the blog, or another over-reaction?

There are so many overstatements and empirically unsupportable claims made every day in the news that it almost seems like they are an integral part of it. Many columnists peddle only generalizations: you might read an entire op-ed piece about 'liberals' and 'conservatives' doing or believing this or that without a single one of the perpetrators cited. So that I do not tar and feather myself right now, I will cite a few examples.

A recent John Leo column was titled: LIBERALISM, NOW ADRIFT, LACKS VOCABULARY OF RIGHT AND WRONG. In a recent Ann Coulter column, she wrote "In response to the public disgrace and ruin of New York Times editor Howell Raines, CBS anchor Dan Rather and CNN news director Eason Jordan, liberals are directing their fury at the blogs." Paul Roberts writes that "AMERICA'S SUPERPOWER STATUS COMING TO AN END ."

Gerald Sieb of the Wall Street Journal said the following during a lecture at the University of Kansas:

"Briefly put," he said, "I fear that 2004 became the year when many Americans decided they could go out and get the news not as it is, but as they want it to be. Technology and the proliferation of pseudo news outlets on the Internet and cable TV have made this possible. Our country's intense political polarization has fed the urge. Mainstream journalism's own failings have fueled it."

Is he right?


At 8:21 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I'd hate to criticize blogs with any of those same generalizations you so cogently avoid. Blogs span most every view-point spectrum. There are intellectual and newsworthy blogs and their are news-worthless ones. There are politically driven ones and political watchdog ones. Some blogs have done a great job at keeping the media accountable and not letting the giant news corporations pull the wool over anyone's eyes. Others have done the opposite. Blogs aren't something to complain about...they're here, and they're not going anywhere, and we'd be better off to figure out how to re-interpret news, media and information reception in light of this new tool rather than complain about it's misuse.

Upset about blogs? Then start an "I Love CBS, and we never lie" sort of a blog to get your voice heard. People would read it.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

Redhurt, it seems like your suggestion just perpetuates the problem of the "everybody has a voice and an outlet" media that have developed in the last twenty years. It seems to me that one's perception of blogs (and chain letters, and cable news, etc.) is directly related to one's understanding of what "news" is all about. If it is about entertainment or business, then “alternative media outlets” don’t seem to be a problem - the invisible hand of the market with shake out the undesirables. Even if one thinks the "news" is about simple information dissemination, then one could hold a market-driven notion of worthiness. If, however, the “news” is a means of creating consistent (or common) public narratives that further civic processes and provide an account to which all can appeal during deliberative politics, then the market is actually a negative force. In fact, I think that news worthiness ought to be measured by it’s ability to tell that common narrative firstly and it’s truthfulness (in the correspondence sense) secondly. Of course, it would be nearly impossible to achieve the former unless you were successful with the latter, but that doesn't mean it should be the focus. If we are just telling people what happened in the world and allowing their tastes to determine their media consumption, then we aren’t furthering public, deliberative democracy. So, in general, I agree with Sieb, although, his characterization of mainstream media as representing news “as it is” is (self-consciously?) naive.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I suppose I can't argue with that, j morgan svelte. I get a little lost in your esoteric references to things like "common narrative", which I'm a little too unfamiliar with to quite grasp what you mean.

It seems to me that the market factors of media and the news aren't up for discussion. Whether it's news corporations competing against each other or against the blogs, the market force is there. The News Media has had and will continue to have a high degree of marketing and entertainment mixed into their discussion of world events. Maybe that's what you're referring to as "common narrative".

I suppose I should restate my perspective as being not necessarily that everyone SHOULD start blogs, but that blogs and other forms of distributed, un-organized internet media are a reality in the 21st century and the news media needs to shift paradigms along with the technology rather than getting upset about it. Blogs aren't inherently detrimental or complimentary to our system - they simply are, and we need to learn how to responsibly incorporate them into our media.

Blogs have already proven their value by helping to keep the media accountable and prevent absolute fabrication from being presented as truth to the public. They're helping to create a better "common narrative" by making the ivory tower media assocations feel the pressure of the common man's desire to be treated respectfully.

Blogs can be misused as abused also, but so what? I suppose I'd argue that the detrimental blogs inherently force themselves to be as irrelevant and useless as the rest of the irresponsible factions of the media, and so at the absolute worst we're no worse than where we started. I don't understand why "everybody has a voice and an outlet" is such a problem.

Sorry these thoughts aren't more focused, and it's ironic that after stating that I don't understand what you mean by "common narrative", I cited it at least 3 times. :)

At 12:08 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Here's my salient point: blogs are here to stay, and that big corporations can't dominate the news media the way they have in the past. They can either roll with it, learn to work with blogs, or fight it, but the blogs aren't going to disappear just because they're upset about the increased scrutiny.

I disagree that blogs are a polarizing or fragmentizing force, and I'd be interested to hear why this opinion is out there. I think blogs bring us closer together by letting us, individuals, regular people, hear each others opinions and perspectives, while the mass media dehumanizes us into couch potato entertainees subject to whatever whimsical opinion (sometimes justified and intellectual, other times irresponsible and niave) the media moguls want to throw at us.

This very blog is a great example. It's lead us to this and other discussions, which creates more community, communication and involvement in each others lives and perspectives than we'd have without it.


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