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Journoblogging: the evolution of blogging and the MSM
Posted by: McQ on Monday, January 30, 2006

Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber makes an intesting observation in the "journalists v. blogs" culture war.
Newspaper articles aspire to presenting a comprehensive, neutral and authoritative judgement regarding the facts at hand in a particular matter. Of course, they don’t always succeed in doing this at all – hence the need for ombudsmen, correction columns etc. But even if this standard is often more honoured in the breach than the observance, it still is the basis for the journalistic claim to authority, and status. Blogposts are quite different – they’re arguments in an ongoing debate. They don’t aspire to any sort of finality or authoritativeness (and indeed they’re often updated in response to new arguments or facts). They comment on, and respond to, what others are saying.
I think he mistakenly says newspapers when he's really talking about "journalism" across the board, in all mediums. What we in the blogosphere refer to as the Main Stream Media (MSM). But I think his observation is spot on.

At this time, the MSM has an entirely different focus than does the blogsophere. On the one hand, the journalists are charged with telling the story. On the other hand, the blogsophere debates, fact checks, updates the story, adds opinion and analysis. Perhaps the MSM takes exception to those outside their profession doing any of those things, but what seems to cheese the MSM off the most is the second of those functions: fact checking.

Part of that is institutional pride. How many times do we have to hear the big wigs in the MSM tell us the numerous levels of editors any story has to pass through before airing or being printed? And yet mistakes, distortions and outright fabrications are constantly found. It's an attitude of arrogance which begs to be punctured, and the blogosphere takes great delight in doing just that. Of course that doesn't lead to very cordial relationships on the whole.

Part of it is because it's new. The MSM hasn't really ever been subjected to outside fact checking. Nor has it seen independent and outside analysis which competed with or contradicted theirs and was rather good. They're just not used to it and aren't sure yet how to respond.

It's not that people didn't want too respond in the past. It's more because they couldn't afford to compete with the entity which bought "ink by the barrel", and so were limited in their ability to do so. Letters to the editor and such.

Of course that's now changed and will continue to change at a breathtaking pace. In Jack Shafer's fascinating and informative Slate article about the changing world of newspapers, he makes the following observation:
This is where blogs come in. The union-destroying technology Neiva describes continued to evolve, reducing newspaper costs. Ultimately, the technology trickled down to individual desktops in the form of affordable personal computers. When the Web arrived in the mid-1990s as an alternative publishing system, big media organizations and other well-funded entities were the only ones that could afford to build high-traffic, fancy Web sites.

As John Battelle points out, the prices of hardware, software, and bandwidth have fallen so dramatically in the last six years that the Web has experienced a "second coming," which he and others call "Web 2.0." Writing in the New York Times (Nov. 18, 2005), Battelle notes that one can "lease a platform that can handle millions of customers for less than $500 a month. In the 90's, such a platform would have run tens of thousands of dollars or more a month." Here's another astonishing marker: The price of one gigabyte of hard-disk storage has dropped from about $9 in October 2000 (nominal terms) to about 45 cents (retail) or less today. And it's not just a matter of falling prices but of who is catching the technology as it falls: individuals and institutions that couldn't afford the spiffy technologies only moneyed corporations could afford previously.

Battelle extols what a new business can accomplish with $200,000 that would have taken millions just six years ago. If you combine Neiva's findings with Battelle's argument, you can make the case that the next entrenched "guild" that technology is likely to bulldoze is the "newspaper guild." I'm not speaking of the union of the same name, but of those who work in the news business—reporters, editors, publishers, radio and TV broadcasters, etc.
That is where we stand today. Technology will continue to evolve, and the bar to entry which was so long held high by the MSM, will continue to get lower and lower. That realization is beginning to strike home in the MSM with a vengence. It can also be found in the dropping circulation numbers of newspapers.

That is part of why we see fairly strident attacks on the blogosphere on the one hand and attempts at accomodation on the other. Some see blogs as a threat. Others see it as an important new and emerging media and are casting around for ways to use it within their traditional framework. But there is certainly no consensus as to what blogs portend for the future or whether they're friends of the MSM or not.
So, when newspaper reporters bellyache about shoot-from-the-hip bloggers who don't fully investigate the paper trail before writing a story or double-check their facts before posting, they're telling a valuable truth. Bad bloggers are almost as bad as bad journalists. But the prospect of a million amateurs doing something akin to their job unsettles the guild, making it feel like Maytag's factory rats whose jobs were poached by low-paid Chinese labor.

It's not just the best of the blogosphere drawing away big audiences that the guild need worry about. If Chris Anderson's Long Tail intuitions are right, the worst of the blogosphere—if it's big enough—presents just as much (or more) competition. Michael Kinsley made me laugh a decade ago when he argued against Web populists replacing professional writers, saying that when he goes to a restaurant, he wants the chef to cook his entree, not the guy sitting at the next table. I'm not laughing anymore: When there are millions of aspiring chefs in the room willing to make your dinner for free, a least a hundred of them are likely to deal a good meal. Mainstream publishers no longer have a lock on the means of production, making the future of reading and viewing anybody's game. To submit a tortured analogy, it's like the Roman Catholic Church after Gutenberg. Soon, everyone starts thinking he's a priest.

I'm not about to predict what the collapsing cost of media creation will ultimately do to the news business, if only because my track record at prophesy is terrible. But this much I know: The newspaper guild (again, reporters, editors, publishers) can't compete by adding a few blogs here, blogging up coverage over there, and setting up "comment" sections. If newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters don't produce spectacular news coverage no blogger can match, they have no right to survive.
It is hard as hell to compete with cheap and good. It's even harder to compete with free and good. As it stands right now, though, without the MSM, blogs haven't much to talk about. Which brings us to the next question — Are blogs now evolving into a direct threat to the MSM?

All one has to do is consider the events of the last two weeks to answer that question. In that time-frame, politicians on both sides of the isle have held blogger conference calls on both sides of the political spectrum such as that which QandO participated in a week or so ago, and that which Ted Kennedy held with liberal blogs on the Alito filibuster this week.

These were reported on first-hand by bloggers. They were reporting news, not disecting it. They were doing the MSM's job. And if you review the concept of the Pajamas Media blog, it's an attempt to network bloggers in such a way that they have some blog(s) in the position to report first hand on emerging stories.
LINK The new twist in this debate is the Web, which in recent election cycles emerged as a powerful political force, one expected to figure even more prominently as more people get high-speed connections and turn to the Internet for news and commentary. Unlike the past, the "pressure is conveyed through a faster, better organized, more insistent medium," said Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist.
I don't think it is even arguable that the top 20 to 50 political blogs are more influential today than they were a year ago. Nor do I think there's much argument about the increasing number of people seeking their news and analysis on the web generally and on blogs specifically.

But one thing is certain: as this confrontation between blogs and the MSM continues and as the influence of blogs continues to grow, we will see a shoving match between the old guy protecting his turf and the new guy trying to take chunks of it.

I would imagine there will always be an "MSM" of some sort. What it will look like in 5, 10 or 15 years, however, is anyone's guess.
 
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But one thing is certain. As this confrontation between blogs and the MSM continues to heat up, it will get even more interesting as we see watch the shoving match between the old guy protecting his turf and the new guy trying to take chunks of it.
Nah.
It will be a long time before blogs develop the muscles to even attempt a nudge at the MSM.

Fact is, “Blogs” are nothing more than computerized talk radio. Don’t get me wrong, I like blogs, especially this one. But until you, Bruce McQuain, and others, put your feet on the ground and actually bring the story to the forefront, you’re nothing more than talk radio on a monitor.
Sure there are exceptions, Smoking Gun and others, who have broken stories that make their way to the common knowledge of everyday Americans. But for the most part, “blogs” are just vehicles for opinion and analysis much like talk radio. And talk radio has been around for decades, and it has not threatened the MSM whatsoever. And like you say, without the MSM, talk radio as well as blogs, would be nonexistent.

And like talk radio, blogs will generally be ignored by the public in general. Even the larger, more popular blogs, like Kos, Drudge, Huffington, and others are discarded as ideological poster board. And like popular talk radio, Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Franken; Blogs are considered borderline propaganda.

You and others may not like NYTimes, CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, USAToday, CBS, NBC, ABC, and on and on… Fact is, that’s where we turn for our news. And blogs, unfortunately, have no real effect.
I don’t think it is even arguable that the top 20 to 50 political blogs are more influential today than they were a year ago. Nor do I think there’s much argument about the increasing number of people seeking their news and analysis on the web generally and on blogs specifically.
Of course. You’re a smart man. You know not to put the cart before the horse. Which is why I like you so much, McQ.

But what’s obvious to me is, that you like your view from where you are. You get a good look at the horse’s ass. And without the smell, what else would you bitch about?
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Fact is, “Blogs” are nothing more than computerized talk radio. Don’t get me wrong, I like blogs, especially this one. But until you, Bruce McQuain, and others, put your feet on the ground and actually bring the story to the forefront, you’re nothing more than talk radio on a monitor.
Couldn’t agree more, Pogue. But, as I note, at least on the political side, that’s happening more and more. QandO has again been invited to participate in a conference call, this time with a Senator. What will come out of that may not be earthshaking news, but it will be news.

But you’re right, until we’re the news gatherers (and not just aggregators) there will always be a traditional MSM. What I was hinting at, however, is technology may indeed make that a reality at sometime in the near future.
And like talk radio, blogs will generally be ignored by the public in general.
Well yeah, but then, if the last election cycle was any indicator we saw our traffic go way up as we built toward the election. So it’s not like blogs aren’t sought out by the general public. And let’s face it ... in that regard, we probably have the opportunity, collectively, to reach more people than talk radio because we’re available on their schedule, not the radio host’s.
Of course. You’re a smart man. You know not to put the cart before the horse. Which is why I like you so much, McQ.
Riiiight.

Be honest, you like me because I give you just enough straight lines so you can appear clever.;)
But what’s obvious to me is, that you like your view from where you are. You get a good look at the horse’s ass. And without the smell, what else would you bitch about?

Hey, sometimes its fun to check out the halitosis as well ... which is what we’ll be doing tomorrow I hope. Either way I can bitch. But I have to admit I prefer the pair of pretty brown eyes on the front occasionally to a steady diet of that one nasty brown eye at the rear.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Be honest, you like me because I give you just enough straight lines so you can appear clever.;)

LOL.
Even Burns had his Gracie...
;)
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Just like GM now. Fat, bloated and over burdened by workers (reporters) who long for the old days. 30 year ladder climb, professional respect based on tenure and a gold watch. Quite a $hit sandwhich for the MSM to swallow, but as they say "pay backs are a bitch". I will enjoy watching them fade as they can no longer filter the news for their misguided tastes.
 
Written By: coaster1
URL: http://
Fact is, “Blogs” are nothing more than computerized talk radio.
That’s a great analogy. More specifically, I think we could say that the media world is becoming flatter, the monologue is becoming a dialogue (or a cacophony), and the distribution model is moving from top-down to a more hierarchal open-source.

Talk radio was the in-between stage, where some degree of back and forth occurred; talk radio was where the delivery changed from the Network/Voice of God Anchor/Newspaper of Record authority model, to a more populist model. The internet—blogging, especially—is the fulfillment of that shift.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Talk radio was the in-between stage, where some degree of back and forth occurred; talk radio was where the delivery changed from the Network/Voice of God Anchor/Newspaper of Record authority model, to a more populist model. The internet—blogging, especially—is the fulfillment of that shift.
I think the biggest advantage blogs have over radio is you can access the info you want anytime - anywhere. If I like to listen to Boortz, I have to know when he’s on and have an AM radio nearby. If I want to get my Dale-John-Bruce fix, I can wait until my little girl is off to sleep. My choices. Much better than radio and much more influential. Another point would be I can read something many times over whereas I can lose track of a discussion on the radio. In fact, much of what I read on blogs I have to digest before commenting on - a luxery I do not have with a radio program.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
I agree to that talkradio analogy as well. But I’d modify it a bit, thus:

I would also agree with the first line, specifically, in Bruce’s post wherein he labels it a ""journalists v. blogs" culture war."

A culture war in reality was what talk radio was all about to limit for started coming on In the late seventies and early eighties. The very worries in the talk radio caught on as quickly as it did was because so many of the people so much of the culture was going under represented in the mainstream media. Talk radio provided a route around that blockade. However; Even talk radio by virtue of sheer numbers ended up being a bit of a blockade as well. There are, after all, only so many radio channels available at any given time, and thereby only a few voices can be heard. The technology for blogging came up and bypass that blockade.

Interestingly enough the numbers of talk radio listeners have not dropped off whilst the number of active bloggers and blog readers have skyrocketed. I see this as a furtherance of the cultural movement against the mainstream media.
It’s been observed numerous times that both talk radio and bloggers have a tendency to lean to the right. It’s been further observed that left wing talk radio shows simply don’t draw. that way lies Air America for example, or Mario Cuomo. and for all the numbers that the left wing bloggers get the bottom line is is in terms of sheer hits in collective total, right wing bloggers tend to rule that day.

So I think Bruce has it right when the labels it a cultural war. It’s not bloggers or talk radio or the MSM. In the end, these are simply the technologies involved with each. In the end, the reason that bloggers and talk radio caught on the way they did was because the ideas expressed therein were closer to the ideas of the people and the culture that live outside the paragraph factory. Do that and you’ll have a hit every time.

Shorter; the war isn’t about technology. The war is about the idea is being expressed within that technology.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
One big advantage that blogs and the internet in general have over the MSM is that they can present supporting documentation or an actual interview, not some journalist’s interpretation and summary of it. This is due to a large extent to the physical limitations of the media; a twenty pound newspaper is neither economical nor comfortable nor deliverable. (The last I can personally attest to as a former newspaper boy(how un PC)). There is also the matter of reliability and credibility. The MSM has been losing in this department too for the last few years now. Not that blogs are individually more reliable/credible, but there are so damned many of them that it is not particularly difficult to find a source that is more reliable than the relatively few members of the MSM.
Even before blogs, there was C-SPAN. This was an omen, and an unheeded warning to the MSM. I can remember watching, for example, the Clarence Thomas and David Souter hearings on CSPAN and then reading/watching newspaper/television reports the next day. I thought I had fallen into some SF alternate universe. I am sure that I am not the only person whose trust in the MSM was somewhat lessened by the ability to see the actual event on CSPAN and compare it to the reporting. The same process is repeating itself(history does that when its lessons are ignored) with the appearance of the internet. Dan Rather’s excellent adventure is an excellent example. The individual blogs were probably not significant, but enough of them got together, each with its own small area of expertise or knowledge, to build a complete and accurate picture of the situation by making available much more documentation and analysis. Even if some of it was wrong, there was enough that the good drove out the bad. Like building the pyramids using only muscle power, if you get enough small contributions, the end result can be amazing.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Even before blogs, there was C-SPAN. This was an omen, and an unheeded warning to the MSM. I can remember watching, for example, the Clarence Thomas and David Souter hearings on CSPAN and then reading/watching newspaper/television reports the next day. I thought I had fallen into some SF alternate universe. I am sure that I am not the only person whose trust in the MSM was somewhat lessened by the ability to see the actual event on CSPAN and compare it to the reporting.
Quite so. And, here again we come to the issue of the battle of cultures. With these alternative channels, it was and is revealed that the mainstream media has attempting to paint a different picture than what was actually happening in reality. account for the would have succeeded in, had the alternative channels not come along.

One more indicator that it’s the content and the culture not the medium is Fox news. look at the derision that FNC gets from the old line media. It’s pretty much of a peice with what the blogs and Limbaugh get. Yet, look at how well they’ve been doing... simply because they routed around the old line media that’s been lying to us.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
Interesting notion just occurred to me;
Odd, how this discussion comes up, in light of the discussion we’re having as regards the tight controls on information in China, isn’t it?

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com

 
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