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Are Bloggers Really Just "Eyeballs With No Insight" or "Digital Dickweeds"?
Those who run the gigantic news corporations, the accredited news organizations, those who are members of the press gaggle that far too often choose access over practicing investigative journalism---Those who control and work in the media with which we get the majority of our information on news and current events from are seeking to prevent the rise of bloggers in this nation.
Perhaps analogous to the way that the music industry is now in shambles because they did not anticipate that the Internet would lead people to use means of file sharing to get music instead of purchasing CDs or albums, the news industry presumably fears that its power will be infringed upon by lowlife citizens who have taken it upon themselves to pretend they know how to report and discuss the news.
Those in the Rupert Murdoch Empire have been watching closely and have been trying to sow the seeds of Internet news so that people will be prepared to buy news. Murdoch & Co. would like it so that bloggers like you and me have to pay a premium for information and then it would be less possible for us to argue for or against an issue. Pursuing an agenda for a cause or against an individual would be more difficult.
John Hartigan, CEO for News Limited, which RAW STORY reports is “a cog in the Rupert Murdoch empire responsible for the publication of more than fifty newspapers in Australia,” appeared before the National Press Club in Canberra to argue that the newspaper business will adapt and survive.(Full text is posted here.)
While his overview of how the health of news organizations has declined in the past year is worth reading, of particular interest is what he has to say about bloggers.
Hartigan quoted Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur, saying, “Citizen journalists, he says, simply don’t have the resources to bring us reliable news. They lack not only expertise and training but access to decision makers and reliable sources.”
Keen’s quote and Hartigan’s argument would be more valid if The Australian, a national newspaper that Hartigan’s own News Limited owns, wasn’t publishing articles that, in the midst of the Iranian regime’s crackdown on journalists and media, imply and suggest that Iranians are providing reliable news to news organizations around the world.
For example, in an article, “Citizen journalism arises from media’s rubble,” how Iranians have used Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and CNN’s iReport is highlighted. The Australian’s Middle East correspondent, John Lyons, is quoted saying, “"Citizen journalism has its shortcomings but the Iran uprising has shown it is a net benefit.”
Despite the fact that the article includes portions that urge caution when relying on citizen journalism for accurate information, it would seem that most often what is gained from those in the midst of the “news” which is unfolding are telling it like it is. After all, what is the incentive to lie?
Hartigan believes that, “the difference between professionals and amateurs is that bloggers don’t go to jail for their work – they simply aren’t held accountable like real reporters.”
Interestingly enough, his own newspaper in the same article cited above proves his assertion to be foolishly wrong. It acknowledges how Iran currently “surpasses China in the number of journalists and webbloggers behind bars.” Obviously, these bloggers have, contrary to Hartigan's belief, gone to jail for their work.
True, bloggers will not go to jail for libel, most likely. But, how many bloggers do you know who have a successful operation which primarily consists of smearing individuals in politics and the news media? (Drudge Report, maybe.)
Hartigan, forgetting who he is owned by and who his associates are, accused bloggers and a large number of comment sites of practicing “political extremism and personal vilification” in the midst of offering his own personal vilification of bloggers.
“Like Keating’s famous “all tip and no iceberg”, it could be said that the blogosphere is all eyeballs and no insight.
As Robert Thomsen of The Wall Street Journal says: “the blogs and comment sites are basically editorial echo chambers rather than centres of
“And their cynicism about so-called traditional media is only matched by their opportunism in exploiting it”
One of the best known comment sites in Australia matches this identikit.
It started as a moralising soapbox; boasting about its lack of standards. Positioned as an underdog, it lectures mainstream media every day.
In the blogosphere, of course, the mainstream media is always found wanting.
It really is time this myth was blown apart.
Blogs and a large number of comment sites specialise in political extremism and personal vilification.
Radical sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence are common.
One Australian blogger who shoots first and checks facts later is proud to boast that his site is “Not wrong for long”.
Mainstream media understands, most of the time, that comment and opinion is legitimised by evidence.
Opinions, however strongly held, draw their legitimacy from the factual accuracy that underpins them.
Many of these sites and bloggers say their radical new approach is a modern form of participatory democracy.
But as Andrew Keen says, amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate – it degenerates democracy into mob rule and rumour milling.
Most online news and comment sites don’t generate enough revenue to pay for good journalism.
Good journalism is expensive.
I challenge Hartigan’s belief that bloggers with readers do not regularly source their opinions when offering them. Based on experience, the more sources, the more likely it is that readers will care about and consider what you have to say.
I also challenge Keen’s argument that bloggers “degenerate democracy into mob rule and rumor milling.” I have monitored comment sections which seem to get closer and closer to the truth as more and more people comment. Ultimately, those who are trivial and nonsensical lose out to those committed to truth and intelligent debate.
Finally, “good journalism” may be expensive, but there exists many possibilities for those who wish to file reports on shoestring budgets. You don’t have to have millions to share with others what it was like to participate in an antiwar rally and march, what it was like to be at the Inauguration, how a hearing or town hall on health care went, etc.
A person can call up sources and conduct interviews. Of course, it helps to affiliate yourself with an organization, but just saying you are an Internet news writer and asking for some information to put together an article can yield very good results.
Hartigan’s lecture comes just over a week after Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post was heavily vilified by Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and other members of the press corps for being able to ask a question to Obama at a press conference. The anger, of course, stemmed from the fact that Pitney was a blogger for a leftwing Internet news site and he got to ask his question before others who normally would have been called on before any bloggers would.
It also comes a day after CNBC host Dennis Kneale called bloggers “digital dickweeds” and went on a tirade against financial bloggers who don’t think that the recession is over.
The terrain is shifting. Bloggers are getting better and better at what they do. They are becoming more professional and choosing to be less amateurish in the way they present news and information.
The rise of citizen journalism has occurred because of media organizations' failure(s) to report real news, news citizens need to make proper decisions in our democracy and in our world.
Media organizations are running scared. And they should be.