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Mainstream press barely mentions blogs


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April 28, 2005

Mainstream press barely mentions blogs

Stephen Baker

I put on a rented tux last night and walked through a downpour to the annual Overseas Press Club banquet. I expected to hear lots of talk about blogs and their impact on foreign reporting. Hardly a word. This is strange because foreign reporting is one area where bloggers can make a huge impact. Witness the tsunami.

No, no award for me. But BW colleagues scooped one up for their cover story on China's impact on global manufacturing, The China Price.

08:26 AM

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There is a reason for that. Mainstream media's biggest threat is coming from blogs and the longer they can downplay their power the better it is for them. Plus, some of the traditional journalists don't know how to compete with bloggers.

Posted by: iProceed at April 28, 2005 09:07 AM

I'm wondering whether the concern about blogs is more in the executive suites of MSM than in the newsrooms?

I don't think I've ever seen any evidence that professional journalists other than myself post on message boards and blogs, except in those that are aimed at journalists. Journalists, like lawyers, physicians, accountants and other professionals seem to talk to and socialize with each other and not to or with the rest of the world except when they're working.

And, maybe, the awards show wasn't the place to talk about blogs, or even joke about them? And how many journalists read BW, anyway? (I have since the 50s.)

Posted by: Donald E. L. Johnson at April 28, 2005 11:14 AM

As a further datum, that well-known pillar of the MSM, Business Week, recently ran an article on Media Movers & Shakers. I'm looking at the Mar 7 US edition. It includes a table of 25 "up-and-comers" for "the digital age." Guess how bloggy that article is? Well, at least the table commended Kelly Conlin of Primedia for selling About.com...

Posted by: Andrew at April 28, 2005 12:38 PM

I wonder why the msm does not mention blogs? Could it be fear? It seems rather apparent that blogs are to become ubiquitous and ever more powerful in their ability to impact the thoughts and opinions of the traditional msm "clients". I cannot wait until the "mining" process is better defined and made easier to use.

Posted by: Frank Reid at April 28, 2005 02:37 PM

I agree that blogs are a bit of a threat to the mainstream media.

Also, a lot of people, media people included, still don't even know what a blog is. Perhaps they are scared of "new" technological terms. I can't tell you how many people have asked me to explain what a blog is.

-MH

Posted by: Boston's Hidden Restaurants at April 28, 2005 03:32 PM

As a journalist with many MSM colleagues and connections, and as a blogger, it seems to me that many MSM professionals have an odd blind spot when it comes to blogs. First and foremost, I think this comes from a profound, unspoken reticence in MSM to learn or adopt anything new, especially where technology is involved.

Most journalists, in my experience, are surprisingly techno-resistant. Not really techno-phobic, because they don't fear technology per se. They just already feel so overwhelmed with and absorbed by their current tasks that they resist having to learn anything new.

I've trained many journalists and editors in how to use the web, e-mail lists, feeds, and other online basics. I'm consistently astounded how far behind the learning curve journalists (especially print journalists) are on just about every aspect of online technology -- even if technology or the internet is (or could/should be) part of their beat!

Also, MSM professionals have some very rigid but often unspoken assumptions about what constitutes worthwhile information. When I broach the subject of blogs or podcasts with most reporters, they immediately voice skepticism that such venues, which "anyone" can create and publish, might be worthwhile or trustworthy.

I usually counter that with, "Oh yeah? You mean like news releases?"

The value of interactive, audience-create media for journalists often lies in its lead potential, and in its ability to help a journalist gauge context and a diversity of views on nearly any topic. But too many journalists are too hung up on whether the source of information is "official" or "accountable" according to traditional MSM criteria, and thus they miss out on these opportunities for leads and context.

Which means they fall still further behind. I don't see this changing anytime soon, much to my chagrin.

So yes, there's a bit of exclusiveness -- even snobbery -- that's quietly infiltrated our profession. Journalists and editors often perceive themselves as a special class, with unique informational rights and privileges. It seems to me that blogs and other aspects of online, participatory media are devouring those myths. MSM journalists will probably be the last to see this or admit it, however.

I touched on these themes recently in this article: "Journalism: Class, Craft, or Faith?"

http://blog.contentious.com/archives/2005/04/22/journalism-class-craft-faith

- Amy Gahran

Editor, CONTENTIOUS

Posted by: Amy Gahran at April 29, 2005 04:50 PM

I must confess, I agree with the mainstream media on this one. The blog world looks big and important to the bloggers themselves, but much less so to non-bloggers. The value of blogs isn't the technology, but the honesty, and it doesn't take a particular medium to have that honesty. Where is the line between honesty and risk? Where is the line between honesty and editing/quality? Blogs intentionally blur that line, which I think makes established media understandably nervous.

Posted by: Hilary Marsh at May 16, 2005 10:20 PM

A couple points. Amy, I agree that many journalists have a kneejerk reaction toward skepticism. Skeptics are rarely considered dumb. It's an easy role to assume. (And looking back, I can see at least a few times in my career where more skepticism would have helped.) But skepticism is also a defense, because a skeptic is never vulnerable. And making ourselves vulnerable opens us up to new insights and experiences.

Hilary, I think we should take the good from blogs, and not use their weaknesses to subvert them. If they have good ideas, let's entertain them. When it comes to facts and reporting, each of them--like the members of the MSM--has to establish his or her own reputation. Just like friends at a dinner party, many come up short. Still, that doesn't mean that their voices and ideas aren't worth listening to.

Posted by: steve baker at May 16, 2005 10:41 PM


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