Friday, January 28, 2005

Blah Blah Blogs- Why Blogs won't change the world as promised

I've been thinking of writing a blog for a while, wondering what to do with stray brain drippings that might be of interest to others and I finally broke down. Now I'm wondering if I'll actually have the time to do this- definitely a major deterrent to start with.

So, I thought I'd start out with something nicely contrary by explaining what's wrong with blogs and take some shots at the very medium I'm exploiting here. At a recent conference of bloggers and 'regular journalists' (Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility), the questions were flying about who the bathrobbed denizens of the Net were going to change the face of journalism. No surprise that the blogistas were touting their own fame and power while the trad news people weren't hearing it. Needless to say, both sides had a little bit of truth on their side.

How soon we forget the online pubs who boldly told TV reporters doing stories on them that "Our job is to put you out of business." What happened is that the online pubs mostly went down, with Slate and Salon still surviving but neither of them providing a usable model for any industrious sort out there.

The common mistake that bloggers and people who write about them forget is that blogs are almost never a news gathering source (unless you'd like to count Drudge) but instead they're usually amateur opinion columns. Obviously, that works better in the entertainment realm 'cause what better place than a blog for a reviewer to spout off about opinions?

Since the politic blogs (and music ones too) are usually read by other people in the same field, it seems to me that their function is basically as a means of conversation within that realm. If there's some kind of controversy or juicy gossip that gets echoed, it seems likely that the 'traditional' media might take it seriously enough to try to investigate it (something else that divides trad news and bloggers). You've seen examples of this with Dan Rather's Memo Gate and elsewhere.

What fascinates me about this medium is its porous nature. Most bloggers want nothing more out of their work than to be eventually scooped up into the arms of print publication which will grant them a regular job. For print journos, the blog is a way for them to express their thoughts, ideas and opinions that otherwise don't have an outlet in their regular work. In a sense, each side here is jealous of the other, trying to exploit blogs to achieve part of the power that the other has.

Obviously, blogs are going to replace trad news only in the age of winged bovines. What is happening and will continue to happen is that blogs will SUPPLEMENT or compliment trad news. Most of all, I'm struck by this quote from UNC professor Phil Meyers about what blogs really provide: "more messages to smaller numbers of people."

And so, that's exactly what I'll be doing here. I'll try to make it worth you time when you stop by and also actually try to think about what I post for a moment before I do, practicing what Slate's Jack Shafer calls "slow blogging" (which is his funny way of describing what he does as a columnist).

Let the blather begin!


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