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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Where are the Newsblogs?

Back in November, a panel of traditional media journalists and professors gathered to discuss ethics in the wake of the U.S. presidential election. It was a revealing discussion in that it displayed, with pinpoint accuracy, what is wrong with traditional media today.

The blame for all that’s bad with elections, America, media, etc., was laid at the feet of bloggers. One panelist described us as nut-jobs who spew venom in our windowless rooms in the middle of the night. Too bad the organizers of the event didn’t see fit to include a blogger (of which there are many notable contributors to the public discourse in the Cleveland area) to respond to such invective.

More than anything, the comments were an example of the fear that traditional media have about blogging, and how it will choose to remain stagnant, and risk becoming irrelevant, rather than embrace this tool. But since 2005 is the year of the blog, I’d like to offer up some contrary viewpoints.

Jesse Oxfeld in Editor & Publisher’s Newspaper 2.0 column writes that newspapers are trying to figure out how to make their sites more blog-friendly. But then he goes on to discuss the bevy of site redesigns taking place at major online newspapers. The bigger question — how a news organization incorporate blogs — has not been answered.

For proof of how they work well, I suggest you visit the Newsblog at The Guardian. It does a great job of giving some behind-the-scenes of the U.K. news operation, some original content that complements existing stories and some fun stuff that satisfies news junkies (and Anglophiles).

Just today, Neil McIntosh of The Guardian posted this
entry about how the U.S. still largely views blogs as the panelist described above.

McIntosh writes: “For all their impact in the US, however, you could still be forgiven for thinking of (blogs) mainly as tools only for political hacks or technology geeks – until last week. Bizarre stories such as this, published (Monday) in the New York Times (registration required), still suggest blogs did little more than twittering about wacky conspiracy theories in the wake of the (Asian tsunami) disaster. But that story, and the impression it leaves, is dead wrong. The truth is far more interesting than that."

He goes on to describe how this unorganized, decentralized mechanism moved through the story using words, photos, sound and video to tell the human aspect of the story and how anyone could engage with the relief effort.

McIntosh continues: “In short: this wasn’t a few political hacks talking to each other. For the first time, powerful coverage of a huge news event was not brought to you purely by established media. An army of ‘citizen journalists’ played a new role, perhaps all the more vital considering the effect vivid reportage, online and off, has had on the subsequent fundraising efforts.

“It would be obscene to remember this tsunami as anything other than a huge natural disaster, a human tragedy on an unimaginable scale. But for those watching this small, comparatively insignificant world of media, this may also be remembered as a time when citizen reporting, through the force of its huge army of volunteers and their simple type and publish weblog mechanisms, finally found its voice, and delivered in a way the established media simply could not.”

There are signs that some newspapers are becoming enlightened to the idea. Greensboro, North Carolina News-Record blogger Lex Alexander reported to his editor about the need to understand and incorporate blogging in order to survive.

On Jay Rosen’s PressThink, Alexander writes:

“If we are to survive as a business dedicated to producing quality local news, information and dialogue, we need to move, too-- with people and resources. It means understanding the culture of the Internet, and of blogging in particular, and understanding how we can work on and with the Internet (i.e., with users of that medium) to expand the quantity and quality of the local news, information and dialogue we provide.”

Why are Weblogs important? Because, as Jeff Jarvis says: “Weblogs are about human lives.”

And nowhere has that been more clearly seen than in coverage of the tsunami.

1 comment:

Sandy Kristin Piderit said...

Wendy, I'm so glad you've added comments!

I agree with you that a lot of traditional media outlets are still treating blogs as a passing fad, rather than acknowledging that blogging is a social movement that is here to stay and can only be ignored at the peril of blogs' competitors for readers. While I was vacationing in Switzerland, I was in a house without internet access for two weeks, so I relied on television and newspapers to get my news... and yet, when I went over to my sister's house twice during those two weeks, the first thing I did was snag some of her broadband wireless access to check in with my favorite bloggers. Now that I'm home, my primary news sources are NPR and blogs (including some RSS feeds of magazines like Salon and newspapers like the San Jose Mercury News).

I may be ahead of the crowd, but I doubt I will be for long... lots of my students live the same way, getting all their news from the web.

It was great to meet you earlier this week! I'll look forward to reading your book reviews in the PD and your blog entries until we find another chance to connect for live conversation.