Sunday, March 02, 2003

Commentary: Blog Power

The Blogsphere has a high signal-to-noise ratio. Most blogs fall in the same category as Kiss and Tell, Slave of Depression, or notorious sexer. It’s the exploits of some angst filled teen or young adult providing to the world a daily play by play of boyfriends, girlfriends, show’s they’ve seen, and who they are hanging out with.

There are, however, some standouts that are using the blog tool for a true purpose. The most notable example of this is This isn’t me, Kelly. This is the journal of a woman watching her grandmother die of Alzheimer's. It’s sad, it’s honest, and it’s real.

The rest fall into a category for which the blog is most famous for: politics. When Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) made his now infamous speech at Strom Thurman’s birthday bash, the mainstream media dropped the ball. They missed the context of Lott’s comments, and nothing much came of it.

The speech was not lost on the web journalists, however. Josh Marshall’s talking points memo site was the first to dig into the story, followed by Atrios. Conservative blogs got in on the action as well, and the debates that ensued were too big for the mainstream media to miss. The rest of the story, you probably already know.

I’ve had the pleasure of working in two newsrooms during my career. I’ve seen how stories go from design, to print or air. I was never truly happy with the way it was done. To be fair of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, I only worked the sports desk, so I’ll keep my comments strictly to WJAC-TV.

If it was decided in the morning meeting that we were going to do a story involving the Johnstown Police Department, this meant that we had to, of course, talk to the police chief. We would speak to the chief, put his comments down on tape, but never really “dig” into them. The reason behind that is that if we were to show that he was omitting the truth, lying, or obscuring details, he would not do another interview with us in the future. Because of that, we allowed ourselves to be force-fed the “party line” and in the interest of not making waves, we let it at that.

I do not think it would be much of a stretch to think that other newsrooms around the country have a similar dilemma. America needs a true news source that is not afraid to burn bridges. Amateur journalists do not rely on their work to make the house payment. They have no vested interest in becoming “buddy-buddy” with officials. They are truly independent.

With that comes a price. The writers tend to be more biased (either to the left, or right) and, more often than not, produce more commentary than journalism. It’s something the reader must remember when digesting the information.

It’s my goal to create content, not noise. If my words help someone with a computer problem, or if I cause someone to think about something happening in the world around them, then I’m doing my job. It is very easy, however, to fall into that first category of blog. It’s simple to hop on daily, give you an update to how my day has been, how I’m jamming to some new tune, or how much kibble my dog ate today. Although those blogs have a place in the web, that place isn’t here.

That being said, I won’t publish daily as usually expected with a blog. I don’t have that much fresh content to bear. And, really, who the Hell is interested in dog food, anyhow.


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