Sunday, January 23, 2005

The credibility gap

My firm belief is that the only thing blogging lacks, really, is the credibility that exists for the mainstream media. If you read something in the NY Times you're going to take it as gospel; if you read something on a blog, you might take it with a grain of salt or dismiss it as political gossip. But this past year, the year of the blog, we've definitely seen a shift in that dynamic. Things like Rathergate have shown us that MSM isn't considered the bedrock of journalism anymore and that people will turn to whatever alternative media gets them the latest news the fastest. Blogs are just such an alternative. But a lot of the new credibility blogs have comes from linking to and referencing the mainstream media. So many of us in the Information Revolution, myself included, think that for both forms to survive, they must adapt and merge to become one new type of information gathering, processing, relaying journalistic animal. That many decided to talk about it this weekend. Harvard hosted the forum on "Blogging, Journalism and Credibility" Friday and Saturday with a host of professionals in the world of journalism discussing both facets in the Revolution. Conspicuously absent were some of the big names in blogging like Duncan Black, Jerome Armstrong and Josh Marshall. But, though it was more an academic excercise, they did discuss what I wanted them to discuss, the relationship between blogging and the mainstream. It was a whole weekend of events, so I'm not going to try and sum it all up in one post, but I will give you a few choice quotes that show how things may be changing in the near future:

Jeff Jarvis: Alex Jones says that one (unfortunate) lesson that mainstream journalism can teach blogging is that credibility is fragile and mainstream journalism has lost too much of it in recent years. : Jay Rosen is presenting his paper. He said the "war should be over between bloggers and journalists, the cartoon dialogue... Even though it makes for good feature stories and great blog posts, bloggers vs. journalists doesn't help us much." He said the tension between them will go on and its necessary and inevitable. But the tsunami story makes it "obvious that blogs have a role in journalism." Jay recalls his first Bloggercon when Len Apcar, editor of NY Times digital, said that in 2002 a majority of NY Times readers are online yet even today a majority of the journalists at The Times think they work for the print product. "Actually, they're working for an online newspaper that has a print edition." Great line. : While on the hit parade of old arguments, we got the argument that bloggers are an echo chamber seeking only their own views. I said that's a red herring. We link to that with which we disagree. Lee Rainie said that Pew found that the 15-20 percent of adult Americans (online or not) who eagerly seek news and information are more informed about views other than their own. : Rick Kaplan, the head of MSNBC -- the biggest blogsmart media outlet there is -- says he and his colleagues in journalism celebrate the growth of blogs and believe that the excitement blogs are stirring up will save news. Jay Rosen: Rick Kaplan, head of MSNBC, explaining that cable news is going to survive: "on people's involvement." That's what will feed their hunger for news and "talk." Look at the the way the ratings soared because of the campaign. It's not just that people were interested; they were involved. Kaplan's thinking: the bloggers are connected to the people who really care about events in the world. That's my core audience. That's the ultimate driver of demand. I made one empassioned plea during the conference, and it was on an issue I didn't know about or care about a year ago: the open archive. Most of the big news combines have, I believe, the wrong pollicy-- wrong for the future of the news industry, wrong for the practice of journalism, and wrong for the public on the Web. They believe in charging for their archive, and they change the urls (or Web address), meaning that all links to the original address go dead.
There is a ton more stuff, but this is what I've caught from the conference. I think essentially the majority agree with me that blogging and mainstream journalism are in more of a relationship than they realize, and both will flourish once they recognize this and embrace it.