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Friday, February 03, 2006

"Blogging, Journalism and Credibility"

After the discussion this morning over journalism v. blogging - I couldn't help but go back to an article I had read in The Nation (April 2005). It's a summary of a conference held at Harvard in late January 2005: "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground."

The read is interesting for the juxtaposition between professor, journalist, blogger, librarian (although not as much). One point that we've been talking about and experiencing is made early on by Jay Rosen, an associate prof. of journalism at NYU. He grounds his argument in the shifting of power, the line between "us and them" is fading quickly. Terms like "audience" and "consumer" and "viewer" and "reader" are not accurate ways to describe "people on the other end of the process." It's something Brand Hijack visits in terms of brands.

Below is the intro and a link to the article that is a collection of excerpts from participants:

"Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground," a conference held in late January at Harvard, featured a group of fifty journalists, bloggers, news executives, media scholars and librarians trying to make sense of the new media environment. The relationship between bloggers and journalists was a particular focus. Since the conference, the resignation of CNN's Eason Jordan and the Jeff Gannon White House scandal have only underscored the power of weblogs as a new form of citizens' media. We are entering an era in which professionals have lost their monopoly over information--not just the reporting of it, but also the framing of what's important for the public to know. Have blogs chipped away at the credibility of mainstream media? How have they influenced the way news is being reported? Is credibility a zero-sum game--in which credibility gained by blogs is lost by mainstream media and vice versa? Conference participants put their minds to these questions, among many others.


Lachlan said...

The problem as I see it is not that it empowers oversight, rebuttle of untruths by established ‘media’ or government and so forth (those are all good things), but rather that it seems to be having at least several detrimental effects on reporting and debate overall:

1) speed over accuracy. In the rush to keep up & not be scooped stuff is being reported without appropriate checks or sourcing. Far from holding media to a higher standard it seems to have made it even worse. A side issue of this is that high speed establishment of de-facto ‘truths’ that now get created on issues make everyone less accountable and the real details of an issue less likely to be truly investigated.

2) many comments = fact. The idea that “if lots of people are saying it it must be true” is very dangerous…or specifically the idea that thousands of bloggers can prove something true or false (or rather create that perception) merely plays into the special interest and activist groups like those that traditionally organized thousands of letter writers to bombard government/media owners on issues. Those with the most extreme views are likely to be most motivated and have the greatest weight. (most people wont be bothered, it’s not really empowering normal people, because normal people don’t give enough of a shit and don’t have the time to invest).

3) OpEd vs news - It further pushes the balance of media towards the directly biased opinion piece rather than considered fact. Now of course journalism always suffers implicit bias (cos we’re humans it can’t be otherwise) but there is a gulf in the standards applied, and in accountability between the old model and were this trend is taking us.

Mnels said...

Having read blogs for a few years now, all of Lachlan's concerns are valid. That said, as a blog reader.. I too have evolved along with the emerging news stream. Blogs are enormously competitive when it comes to having useful knowledge and they self-correct amazingly quickly (credibility is their best/only asset). They have enormous potential to make other media, business and government more accountable. For example, some are asking the congress to publish Congressional spending bills online before voting. Imagine a few million bloggers feverishly scouring these bills for waste before our esteemed politicians are allowed to vote them in. So when one blogger makes a claim, I might think "interesting" but the process doesn't end there. Within a few hours, it has been filtered and fact or logic checked by several thousand other readers or bloggers and it becomes a meme with intertia (or not) depending on the evidence. I think most regular readers figure this out pretty quickly. Blogging is an evolving conversation and needs to be consumed that way.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

1)i think CNN already made SPEED OVER ACCURACY a newsdesk standard since the 80s. Current is the only news channel that spends up to 5 minutes on a story. and "defacto truths" got became a new standard of presidents who stage town forums with actors and plants while "professionals" stand idly by and never ask, who is the new guy asking all the soft questions (bloggers asked those questions and exposed the plants). the old "professional" standard said if Dan Rather said it, it must be completely truthful and well-researched. seems like bloggers were the first to put these "defacto truths" to test.

2)good point. are mobs always right? maybe not, maybe so---but they keep you on your toes, huh? and that is suddenly hard for "professionals" to adjust to. that was all democracy was supposed to assure us anyway. not that mobs will always do right, but mobs have input they deserve and keep you honest. have rupert murdoch and his mysterious "professionals" been so right? at least the masses have legitimate input on asking the president the questions they want answered, no filters to forget the issues that communities want addressed. the mobs just want the "pros" to pass the mic, we'll ask it ourselves. we can define what is "fact" or even "important". someone else has always made that conclusion for us (and none of us know who these decisionmakers are). if one chooses not to participate in the democratic news and lets "extremists" run the issues, ok. but at least mass input is truly actionable now. it's not when rupert murdoch is the only guy making the "professional" decision for us.

3)u prob rite here, too. but your issue with CitizenJournalism supposes that "professional journalism" was doing it so well and these lesser mob standards are replacing it...i think the reality is the professional standards have been gradually lessening, growing ineffective,and worse yet, NOT DRAWING AUDIENCE INTEREST. people aren't always wrong, sometimes the product sucks. Citizen Journalism is evolving as a response to the failure of "professional journalism". if they were doing it right, it wouldn't need so much challenge, nor would it feel so threatened.