In the ring: bloggers vs. mainstream media

Mike Arrington

Mike Arrington sounds like he went a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. Weary, punched, but feeling good that he didn’t back down.

An old mentor of mine made sure that I understood early on that “if you’re delivering your radically different point of view and are interested in persuading, presenting something difficult needs to be done in a way that causes people to stop, think, and examine their status quo vs. bitch-slapping them with it.” Maybe Mike bitch-slapped them?

In a time of accelerating change, status quo won’t cut it and boy-oh-boy…are we in that time! Journalism has so many faults dragging them down as things accelerate: walled gardens; timidity; lots of process caused by imperative but laborious fact-checking; but all are intended to get the story as objectively as humans can deliver it and to get the story right (Sometimes? Usually? Never? Maybe all three?). Mike’s point about mainstream media’s non-disclosure of their incentives is, in my view, a huge problem but the overriding issue is reporting vs. opinion, speculation and group-think.

Arrington mentioned Digg in his remarks. While I find Digg entertaining, sometimes enlightening and often illuminating to know what the masses think are interesting, that’s NOT where I turn to get my news, balanced coverage or ESPECIALLY not where I go to deeply examine an issue. Even TechMeme, while useful, is too limiting about anything but what’s happening in the moment.

When a bunch of bloggers pounce on a story fueling each other’s non-critical thinking about an issue and makes it a big deal…is that reporting?

People have a lot going on in their lives and thus don’t think critically. That’s why the US population is still scared of a threat of terrorism that’s miniscule (I’m not minimizing tragedy, but rather realize that out of a country of nearly 300M people, the chances that any of us will experience terrorism is remote). This lack of critical thinking is why it’s trivial to deliver propaganda that facilitates people being deluded into thinking Saddam Hussein and 9/11 were linked (and polls STILL show an overwhelming number of people believe there WAS a link!). Why an incident five states away makes them frightened at home in their neighborhood.

Someone has to report. Be paid to dig in for the long haul. Act as a check to the power that attempts to play journalists like a violin. For example, the Washington Post pays Bob Woodward to follow a story FOR YEARS which showed him delivering two benign Bush Administration books and the recent “State of Denial” that is scathing in its characterization of the Administration. Would a blogger even be granted access to the White House? Be able to sustain reporting for several years?

On the flip side I read most interesting stories in techdom within blogger’s posts well before those same stories are delivered in mainstream publications like InfoWorld, Computerworld, CIO Insight, eWeek, or any of the other so-called leading edge tech publications. Same thing seems true with many other blogging categories, but I still think critically about everything I read in a blog…every blog…and more so than I do when reading a mainstream publication like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist.

Imagine that blogging was joined with journalistic process. That, for example, a New York Times article was NOT behind a walled garden and some passionate blogger could follow a story for years and have at his or her disposal fact-checked, well reported, and balanced articles?

I often spew opinion that is, admittedly, not fully fact-checked. Often I have to force myself to actually read a proposed bill that’s in front of Congress, examine both sides of a case (and I’m not a lawyer), and try to get comfortable enough with my perspective to blog about something. I rely upon mainstream media for much of my citations (though use Wikipedia alot…go figure) and would love nothing better than to have access to people, learned opinions and the time to actually report.

I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that bloggers are pushing against the membrane of the future trying to burst through…while mainstream media is focused on how to manage the transition from current status to future status. It’s not going to be pretty or easy…

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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