Saturday, February 19, 2005

Bloggers vs. MSM - And the Winner is...

...capitalism. The true beneficiary of the somewhat contrived Texas Death Match between the upstart blogs and the established media titans is the consumer. By adopting the totally arbitrary convention of a top ten list, I intend to show you how. Starting with:
  • Number Ten: the MSM's bias problems, and solutions, lie inside their own organizations. Despite our (often valid) complaints of liberal media bias, the networks and newspapers of our nation are staffed with intelligent, discerning professionals who share a love for their professions and a devotion to performing their jobs to the utmost of their abilities. The job of the journalist has remained remarkably consistent over time: get at the truth, and report it, and no one can perform such a job without being affected by his own biases as to what the 'truth' might be. Put another way, there is only one truth, but many ways of perceiving it. It is the role of the editor to shape the resulting piece in such a way as to (a) strip out the bias, (b) proclaim it and present opposing viewpoints, or (c) leave it in and label it analysis or opinion, rather than news. The executives and editors are largely failing us, not the grunts in the trenches, as witnessed by the refusal of the CBS Three to leave without an admission of guilt by the top dogs at CBS, and the quite proper forced removal of a Chief News Executive who had such a craven opionion of the U.S. military that he felt safe accusing them of murder in a public setting without offering a shred of proof.
  • Number Nine: If the MSM falls, it will be cable that slays the dragon. In its own way, cable television was as remarkable a paradigm shift as the Internet. No longer would it be possible for a nation to listen to an anchor as respectfully as it once had Ed Murrow or Walter Cronkite, for the market had put choice in front of the consumer, and the consumer wisely used it. This is a most welcome development, as the recent rantings of Cronkite and Bill Moyers suggest our trust may have been gravely misplaced. To achieve ratings in the cable era, a network must retain viewers who want to watch that station, not viewers who watch in the absence of alternatives.
  • Number Eight: Large news organizations provide a service even the best blog cannot. Because of their large budgets and staff, the MSM can cover a story with state-of-the-art cameras, satellites, and professional journalists with decades of experience. They can also afford to pay top dollar to obtain the services of journalists with proven investigatory experience (surely a different animal that merely writting well, or else many bloggers would have Pulitzers on our shelves already).
  • Number Seven: Blogs are a democratic medium by nature. As one who has engaged in the fruitless endeavor of watching tracking sites obsessively, I can state with authority that no blogger has the power to decide he will have a large audience for any piece, or more to the point, for any particular piece. In their lifetimes, most blogs will see days with only dozens of visitors, others with thousands, a lucky few with tens and hundreds of thousands, but not even the Daily Kos or the Instapundit can predict with any accuracy what particular post will garner the large audience. It is only by writing well, with originality and consistency, on topics that fulfill a need of the audience, that a blog will succeed.
  • Number Six: Blogs both serve and flush out the 'niche'. Take a comprehensive look at the blogosphere and you will be dazzled at its diversity. There are religious blogs, thousands of political blogs, blogs on skateboarding, bodybuilding, economics, law, philosophy - any activity that humans enjoy is sure to have its blog(s). Equally importantly, there are blogs that have sprung up to serve needs that didn't exist prior to blogs, i.e. blogs on blogging, blogging directories, blogging tools, a veritable calvacade of Godelian self-reference available at the click of a link. A cable franchise with thousands of available slots couldn't begin to identify, let alone service, the niches that feed traffic to the blogoshere in a never-ending stream.
  • Number Five: Blogs and the MSM both correct, and feed, one another. Until recently, the watchdog function was pretty much a one-way street, with blogs obsessing over every word of the MSM, and the MSM pretending there was no such thing as a blog, for the most part. With Eason Jordan's resignation, that has changed in a pretty significant way. I think the future will see the evolution of the watchdog function in all four channels; (1) bloggers correcting MSM, (2), MSM correcting blogs, (3) blogs correcting other blogs, and (4) MSM outlets correcting other MSM outlets. How can the consumer possibly lose from such an arrangement, if the truth is the item he wishes to consume?
  • Number Four: Both blogs and the MSM have strong incentives to get it right. Many have noted the self-correcting nature of the blogosphere, but it applies no less to any other enterprise that seeks credibility. Ultimately, the only way to have credibility with an audience is to, first, try with all your might to get it right the first time, and second, when you get it wrong, say so at least as loudly and proudly as you did the first time.
  • Number Three: Blogs provide a forum for discussing issues at great length. One inherent flaw with the nightly news format is the inability to provide any sort of context or true debate in a thirty-minute format, a third of which is commercials. Blogs and MSM websites can and do serve as a corrective to this marginalization of national discourse to the soundbite size. If you want to delve into the arcana of Social Security reform, you will need a month to digest what's out there already.
  • Number Two: Blogs provide an outlet for otherwise silent voices to be heard. I wonder how little we would know about such things as the yearning of ordinary Iraqis for freedom without Arthur Chrenkoff, Iraq the Model, and similar sites. How many geniunely talented writers would have no audience but their small group of friends? How many people have taken up a blog for fun and grew into great writers, just by exercising the skill daily? There's no way of knowing, but every one of the above leads to a healthier, better informed world.
  • Number One: By providing an outlet for minority voices, blogs are as democratic a medium as we have (yet) devised. Our number one point is really a summation of much of the above. I love blogs because I love to read, I love to be challenged, I love to be enlightened, I love to be outraged, and I love freedom and democracy. Some bloggers make money, but very few; and even for the ones that do, in the end, the blog remains a labor of love, and for once, that which should be, is - and what could be wrong with that?

No comments: