Help Wanted

This being an experiment in participatory journalism, (warning: Tom Sawyeresque pitch to follow) I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts to add to the pile as I divert a bit from blogging today and start reporting a piece for Saturday's Tuesday's dead-tree space to be headlined "The Year In Blogs."

Some sort of wrap-up that explores the developments - the enormous growth, the buddying-up of bloggers at the Huffington Post and Pajamas Media, the mainstream-media co-opting of the form, pr blogs, spam blogs - the usual suspects.

William Young
Posted 12/14/2005 10:04:39 AM

Well, I think you nailed the trends right there, though you'd have to find someone to answer the BIG question, which is: When will will the mainstream media understand the blogosphere. And by understand, I mean philosophically, not mechanically. Sure, the MSM understands that bloggers write about stuff, link to other stuff, blah blah blah, and that sometimes generates heat and light. Philosophically, though, when will the MSM realize that the blogosphere represents the true thoughts and opinions and interests of the readership newspapers want and the viewers that TV wants? At the moment, the mass media thinks the blogosphere is just some bit of bother that doesn't mean much, but anyone who participates in the blogosphere knows that it's the divining rod of the nation. Sure, I understand that newspaper reporters and TV producers read blogs, but I don't get the feeling that they understand the "physics" behind what they're reading. If they did, the news narrative would be different -instead of outright insultingly combative and wrong - and we'd have more decent TV shows and movies. It's not a very big leap, but it is a leap of faith, and that's for the producers of news and entertainment to believe that the folks on the receiving end know what they want ... and what's really going on. Now that the blogosphere's here, the media can't fool the world any more. And that's true if you're a tinfoil-hat wearing lefty or a high-dudgeon theocon righty.

Unemployed Pope
Posted 12/14/2005 10:08:34 AM

Dan, OH! OH! PICK ME PICK ME!!! I WANT TO BLOG, I WANT TO SOOOOOOOOOOOOO BADLY!!!! Seriously, what does a guy have to do to get considered?

Posted 12/14/2005 10:08:41 AM

--The Paul Hackett race in Ohio, and the left blogosphere's leadership in making the race a priority. --Pajamas Media is a non-story for now, unless you want to talk about how little impact they've made. --SCOTUS confirmation ad wars over the Internet --As the Times noted last week, increased use of the blogosphere by Republican interests to leak info untraceably so it can get picked up by more "official" media outlets.

Citizen Mom
Posted 12/14/2005 12:01:00 PM

Crikey, where to me the biggest thing about this year in the blog world is the continued emergence of a blog heirarchy, categorization, etc., created by MSM to give themselves a better handle on what's out there and decide who's an "official voice" and who's just some schmoe with a keyboard. There is a definite tier system, dominated by political and watchdog bloggers, meanwhile Joe and Jane Sixpack continue blogging along for their own little audiences and for their own edification.

Posted 12/14/2005 12:18:24 PM

One interesting issue is the frightening ease with which bloggers can distribute harmful and/or incorrect information (cf. Google bombing). Perhaps, William, that's why the mainstream media doesn't (and shouldn't) take blogging very seriously, and why they may never do so. There are too many careless amateurs out there who can't be bothered with details like ethics or fact-checking — and that assumes that bloggers are writing about something fairly worthwhile in the first place. I'm very curious to see where this phenomenon is headed. But at the same time, I'm not betting that it's going to unseat other forms of communication any time soon.

Posted 12/14/2005 12:23:33 PM

I hate blogging about blogging. But...given the impact blogs has in the '04 elections, the most interesting thing about blogging was how the media reacted to it in '05. Annoyed, mainly. Except for the Inquirer/DN for some reason, which has done their own blogging. Stinks to have a bunch of fact checkers, doesn't it? You used to have to wait until the media reported on something you knew about before you figured out they aren't incredibly smart. Blogs let you know that much faster in this age.

Tacony Lou
Posted 12/14/2005 12:26:37 PM

William Young, you NAILED IT with the notion if MSM understood blog physics "the news narrative would be different -instead of outright insultingly combative and wrong - and we'd have more decent TV shows and movies." I'm still incredulous after being told by not one, but many MSM newspaper editors that the reason they don't afford local third party candidates equal space during election season was because they "didn't have a chance to win." Guess why. Not only do most municipalities have cookie-cutter candidates, they have cookie-cutter media. Until recently -- at least as far as the media is concerned. Dan, the biggest story about blogging is the fulfillment of the prophesy that newspapers would one day die. How can you call something a "paper" that soon will be primarily electronic? Moreover, why would people pay to read a news website that, as Mr. Young points out, is "insultingly combative and wrong?"

Posted 12/14/2005 01:04:34 PM

Getting "dooced", and on the flip side, getting hired because of your blog. Also, I regularly read a site whose author just married a guy who was at first just a reader. This little 'hobby' may have life-altering effects for some writers.

William Young
Posted 12/14/2005 02:51:39 PM

Monorail, Remember Dan Rather, Steven Glass, Jayson Blair, or Howard Cronkite? Careless professionals, perhaps, or malignant journalists bent to a task? You can't take the MSM seriously anymore as a "neutral" force, and that's thanks to the blogosphere, which the dead tree formats ignore at their own peril. Newspaper circulation is declining steadily from year to year, and part of the reason is that every time you read a story about guns, abortion, religion, the conservative political agenda, war, terrorism and the UN, just for starters, you know you're being lied to and short-sheeted. The worry about bloggers circulating phony information is overinflated to the point where it's almost ridiculous to mention, since the blogosphere is a million-billion tentacled creature with many alternative data streams pointing out and correcting the false information. That ain't the case with the MSM.

Posted 12/14/2005 03:35:23 PM

"The Year in Blogs" is an unwieldy concept. You wouldn't say "The Year in Print." After all, the print world is comprised of newspapers, association and organizational newsletters, flyers on bulletin boards, dairies and letters (both those meant for private viewing and those intended for public consumption), magazines and journals. Trying to review all of them would be an enormous task. The same may be true for blogs. There are journals, corporate blogs, special interest and association blogs, political blogs, newspaper blogs, team blogs, individual blogs, and so on. I see the blog as a tech tool and perhaps what is interesting about it this year is that it has made far greater inroads into the general population. Just as tv and home computers and! even telephones took years to infiltrate the lives of the masses, so now are blogs beginning to make that transition. The theory that blogs have disseminated false information is a valid one but I recently saw the Howard Dean "scream" for the first time and, honestly, it wasn't anything to make such a fuss over. What was the MSM thinking? (That being said I tend not to post anything I can find in what I consider a verifiable source first, and that usually means print or the online equivalent thereof.) I could see two distinct angles to take on the topic. One would be the evolving social norms around blogging. Here would be the stories of people hired and fired, marriages made and broken. Late in November I had a posting on privacy and the social norms of blogging, and linked to a really meaty online journal (reputable) article on the topic. Do people really understand what it means to post a blog and what t! he long-term ramifications are of making private lives public? Personally, I don't think so. What goes into an individual blogger's unwritten guidelines on what is blogable and what isn't? Are there schools of thought on this and are there demographic breakdowns on it? The other angle would be on the development of the local blogosphere. Granted, I am biased here. However, think back to the LaToya Figueroa blog push, the Missing Monday campaign. There are restaurant reviews, some wonderful photographs of the city available (and what has that meant for tourism?). Look at one of the early group political efforts -- the Seth Williams campaign and how that initial togetherness has gradually moved apart for things like the senate race. Philly Future has provided regional bloggers with a wonderful way to interact with each other, a town square, or perhaps a blog library, with cheesy bestsellers and bodice ripper! s as well and news sources, biographies, and nonfiction.

Posted 12/14/2005 03:52:27 PM

To add on to William's comments about blogs and their relationship with the MSM, I think the media also needs to learn to not be threatened by blogs because ultimately, we are all dependent on the original source material that comes overwhelmingly from mainstream outfits. Without the big news houses investing in the mechanics of journalism, there would be nothing for most of us to complain about. The Washington Post has been the best paper in understanding what's going on with their partnership with Technorati. It's still underutilized, but a symbiotic relationship with newspapers and blogs, is inevitable and will ultimately be positive for both. I guess I'm talking about Bunch's "norgs" concept. And the whole issue of fact checking in the blogosphere, or lack thereof, is poppycock. Printing on paper does not automatically mean that an article is fact. News consumers just need to learn how to evaluate different sources and adjust their level of trust accordingly. This is true of print journalism and blogs.

Tacony Lou
Posted 12/14/2005 04:20:24 PM

Josh, Good point about "adusting levels of trust." For instance, how could you believe Dan Rather after he couldn't answer the muggers' question, "What is the frequency, Kenneth?" A blog's credibility probably will work like a meat market. You'll pay more for filet mignon than top round. Aside from the obvious access issues -- such as acquiring media credentials -- the capital investment a blogger needs is minimal compared to the groaning dinosaur of print.

Posted 12/14/2005 04:24:46 PM

William, your argument seems to be: Blogs = democratic, neutral, inherently good. MSM = autocratic, biased, inherently bad. And we both know that your equation is far too simplistic. Some blogs are riddled with lies, and many MSM outlets are completely ethical. I doubt that many people "take the MSM seriously anymore as a 'neutral' force" to begin with. Every source of news has some degree of bias — for example, most people would probably interpret a story from the New York Times much differently than one that airs on Fox News. And circulating incorrect information is a big problem, William. How many urban legends do you receive in your inbox? I see them all the time, and the falsehoods persist on blogs, too. Too often, people read about a story online, quickly assume it's true, and immediately post about it. The big challenge, as Citizen Mom correctly points out, is how to discern the informed blogger from the conspiracy theorist in his pajamas.

Citizen Mom
Posted 12/14/2005 05:20:22 PM

Hey, what do you know about my pajamas???

Posted 12/14/2005 08:34:33 PM

Conservatives and a good debate, pro and con, about Harriet Miers on the blogosphere. Eventually led to her withdrawl.

Sally Swift
Posted 12/16/2005 07:40:27 PM

Blinq's usual suspects have pretty much covered mainstream blogomania. Is anyone aware of a newish trend called Blog Carnivals? Could be the next step in viral outreach. Welcome to the Blog Carnival Index

A change is coming to commenting on
Watch for our new commenting platform on April 25.
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments