Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bloggers & Gonzo Journalism

Dotty Lynch has a decent article at about how bloggers should be taken seriously.
Gonzo journalism rules cyberspace. And, as Martha Stewart used to say, that’s a good thing.

The passion, energy, anger, paranoia, obsessive focus, innovation and sophistication of the blogs on the left, right and in between are shaking up the MSM. Frank Mankiewicz has referred to "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," Thompson's book on the McGovern-Nixon presidential race, as "the most accurate and least factual" account of the campaign." That insight also applies, for good and ill, to many of today's blogs.

There has been lots of babble in journalism circles about the war between bloggers and journalists, but what is clear is that change is in the air. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote a paper for a Harvard conference on "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility" in January declaring the war over and suggesting five interesting points for discussion, which I've summarized here:

  • 1. "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one and blogging means that practically anyone can own one. That's why bloggers matter."
  • 2. The issue of trust is paramount in journalism. Credibility and ethics emanate from there. As trust in the msm declines (Pew found the number who said there was "no bias in political reporting" dropping from 58 percent in 1988 to 38 percent in 2004) bloggers are building their reputations from the ground up.
  • 3. "Bloggers partake in a resurgent sprit of amateurism now showing in many fields earlier colonized by professionals."
  • 4. "If news as 'lecture' could yield to news as 'conversation'… it might transform the credibility puzzle and enhance the trust."
  • 5. Blogging isn't just about conveying information – it is about communication. Stand-alone bloggers may be easier to trust than corporate providers.[..]
But, as Rosen says, bloggers are more than information providers. Their anger toward and distrust of the traditional media and the political establishment are palpable. After the Gannon column ran, I received hundreds of e-mails demanding to know why the msm was ignoring the story.

One of the ways the mainstream has dissed the blogs has been to label them as having agendas and not being "objective." But that doesn't make their information wrong or their points of view irrelevant. Many bloggers are people who care passionately about public issues and who are frustrated that their viewpoints aren't expressed in public debate. The frustration became so great on the right that The Washington Times and Fox News were created and found a readymade audience.
The only disappoint ing part of this article is that Lynch spends more time repeated the tired claims of Zephyr Teachout than focusing on the real reason why bloggers have become such a palable force as of late: because the "msm" isn't doing it's job.

The Gonzo journalism, the spirit of Woodward & Bernstein, that loyalty to the truth rather to ratings has slowly faded away from the national scene. Thus, bloggers had to step in to fill the void. Someone had to keep talking about Abu Ghraib, long after the morning shows stopped covering it. There's been no mention of Rumsfeld being sued for war crimes, so yeah, the blogs have to step in and report it.

But perhaps the most compelling argument for why blogs have become such a force is because they not only step in and hold the government accountable, as the Fourth Estate should be doing, but they also hold the Fourth Estate itself accountable. Not only do we do the research which exposes government propaganda, but we challenge the media to report on it. And when they don't...well, that just further proves that it may be the blogs, rather than the media, which have the true interests of the American people at heart.



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