Thursday, October 14, 2004

The future is now

Just last weekend one of my bosses, Carlos Sanchez, wrote a column where he talked about getting rid of the Opinion page because it "seemed to do no more than stir up anger and resentment among readers." I'll be the first to admit that politics has become more jaded and more about bad-mouthing the other guy than discussing the merits of a particular issue. To that I respond with "so what?" Blogging is probably the best example of yelling to the choir, but it began as an answer to a perceived flaw in modern journalism. If you'll permit me, this article in The Nation has a good passage:

Mass political consciousness does not pertain to the actual environment but to an intermediary "pseudo-environment." To complicate matters, this pseudo-environment is further corrupted by the manner in which it is perceived. Citizens have only limited time and attention to devote to issues of public concern. News is designed for mass consumption; hence, the media must employ a relatively simple vocabulary and linear story line to discuss highly complex and decidedly nonlinear situations. The competition for readership (and advertising dollars) drives the press to present news reports in ways that sensationalize and oversimplify, while more significant information goes unreported and unremarked upon. Given both the economic and professional limitations of the practice of journalism, [Walter] Lippmann argued, news "comes [to us] helter-skelter." This is fine for a baseball box score, a transatlantic flight or the death of a monarch. But where the picture is more nuanced, "as for example, in the matter of a success of a policy or the social conditions among a foreign people--where the real answer is neither yes nor no, but subtle and a matter of balanced evidence," then journalism "causes no end of derangement, misunderstanding and even misinterpretation." Here Lippmann was identifying a problem that has since increased in both time and scope, as media sensationalism and public apathy have increased exponentially since the publication of his prophetic work.
And I think Lippmann is right. Objectivity is sometimes its own bias and the modern form of journalism can't really distill what lies behind modern politics for the average reader. I think it is precisely because it is written for the masses. Blogs are written however, for a particular group who wants to read something with a certain bias. While not objective, they do find more facts and faster than traditional media could ever hope to acomplish o their own. They get to the heart of a story and give the most relelvant parts along with commetnary. This, of course, shapes opinion, but usually based on facts that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Joe Trippi, writing for Hardblogger after the second presidential debate, said
Keith Olbermann’s round-by-round scoring of the Presidential Debate in St. Louis in real time was one of those moments that demonstrated what can happen if television and the Internet are combined for a different approach to covering an event. ... But what was really interesting was how the blogosphere then contributed to the call in round 13. Proving that Bush had gotten it wrong— and that Kerry was right—and altering the final scorer’s table call—John Kerry the clear winner on points.
Joe is the guy behind the awesome Dean Internet campaign, and one of the first to really understand the blogosphere's impact. He points out something, the combining of a mainstream media organization (MSNBC) being used to add credibility to a blog post. That kind of combination, I think, represents the future of journalism. Tthat brings us back to Carlos' column. Has the Internet contributed to the shouting and partisanship? Yes. Has Big Media? Yes. But in all of that shouting, there is a way to get at the facts and shape opinions based on facts. It's not a perfect system, but it is one that gets debate going in what was once an apathetic electorate. And the personal attacks reflect how more and more people view politics as personally affecting their lives. The ultimate extension of that lies in personalized media, of which the blogosphere is now king.


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