Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Bloggers Crow

Bloggers --especially conservative bloggers-- are crowing that blogs, in questioning the authenticity of the Killian memos have brought down, have even killed, the power of old media/big media. Andrew Sullivan's written a piece on this for Time Magazine.

I was going to write that bloggers should temper that crow with some humble pie, that the blogosphere would be only one, big self referencing pool of opiners were it not for the fact that broadcast outlets, often starting with talk radio and cablenews, give their views air time.

Except that this would be wrong. I think broadcast attention helps, but really what we're seeing is not so much the death of big media like CBS, NBC, and ABC, as we are the diffusion of media outlets and means. That is, certain well trod blogs are part of a new universe of more diverse news, or unewsiverse. The shift isn't so much about blogs as it is about fiber optics. The growth of cable television and the growth of the Internet happened pretty much at the same time.

We're at the point where slightly more than half of Internet users now have broadband access. As that shift continues, we'll see even more growth in people turning to the Internet for news, and a greater merging of the role that blogundrity, analysis, and on rare occasions actual reporting start to play. The reporting will be, most likely, of the kind that we see now in traditional news when reporters interview eye witnesses, first on the scene responders or air "amatuer video" of crashes, beatings, hurricanes, tornadoes and so on.

Often those reports are fairly unfiltered and those interviewed aren't given column inches or air time for any other reason that represent immediacy to the event. News reporters aren't so much filters as conduits, with perhaps the reporter offering more context.

In the new media landscape, the context will be linking and cross referencing. A videoblogger will upload his or her video of some event, an amatuer photographer will get a picture the wire services didn't, and they might give their impressions of what they saw in a supporting text entry or audionote. Other bloggers will notice and opine. Broadcasters will go to the WWW site for the video, or report on the bloggers analysis.

And so things will merge even further.

What's at risk is the slow and patient vetting of news, the investigatory story, the deep and patient reporting that takes time and money and sustained access.

Update: This piece by the Philadelphia Inquirer nails it (link found via Romensko's MediaNews) . Here's a key quote:

Writers for Web logs - or blogs - began the questioning of the bogus documents. Bravo to the "blogosphere" for that. But other "old media" such as newspapers nailed the story down and drove it home.

The blogosphere is citizen dialogue in action, which is great. If bloggers' watchdogging makes journalists more careful, that's also great. The real lesson for the mainstream media is a very old one: Get the facts right. Speed without accuracy is no good.

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