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...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about Blogosphere, but were too busy updating your blog to ask

You know a topic has made it to the big time when Charlie Rose talks about it on his Dick Cavett-wannabe PBS show.

It seems blogs have hit critical mass -- which is timely for a highly critical mass known as bloggers.

On his show of Tuesday, 15 February 2005, he had on these now legendary bloggers, the Lewis and Clark of the genre:

- Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette.
- Glenn Reynolds, better known as Instapundit.
- Andrew Sullivan, who shuns a cutesy blogger nickname.
- Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Gov. Dr. Howard Dean in the US Presidential elections.

Of these four, one is a full-time journalist, Andrew Sullivan; one has now become a full-time media pundit, Joe Trippi; and the last two are political blogging legends, Instapundit and Wonkette.

I was especially intrigued by the latter two, since I've seen Andrew Sullivan on telly before, and I stood this close to Joe Trippi when he came with the media vultures to the University of Miami for the first Presidential debate. So they were old hat. But I had never seen the acid-tongued Wonkette, and the withering Instapundit in my life. They were so human! They even smiled at me, and gave me a little wave at the end.

Although Charlie Rose can never be accused of asking too penetrating questions, because he's just too damn nice and oozing Southern molasses, his piece on blogosphere really did break it down for people unused to the topic -- like, say, my parents.

We finally have a piece of the pie

Here are my further thoughts on the topic.

Blogs are the new "wave" of the internet:

Instant online journals which contain a person's (ideally, but often several people's if you so allow) thoughts on any topic under the sun. They can be themed-blogs, like a political blog, or they can be themed but flexible, or they can be multi-formatted, like I hope my blog always will be. That's why it's called Sundries, after all. Now you know.

Blogs are changing how media cover stories:

Incremental changes, perhaps, but changes. Blogs have already famously been credited with bringing down Dan Rather and Eason Jordan with their constant hammering against these two powerful leaders of US media. It's interesting that Harold Raines was also mentioned by one of the guests as having been a victim of blogging pressure, although I cannot remember if that was the case as much as these two others.

Anyone can blog -- you don't need a fancy-schmancy degree to blog:

The birth of Citizen Media, as it's sometimes called, is truly astounding in its rapidity and strength. The bloggers are the new Pamphleteers of the 18th century: where anyone with an opinion and access to a cheap printing press could diffuse his ideas. Surely, there is a John Locke lurking amongst the lot.

Mainstream media (or MSM, as it's known in Blogosphere) veer from hostile to dismissive to grudgingly accepting of blogs:

What a shock that is! ESPECIALLY since Watergate, MSM have positioned themselves as the watchdogs of the public interest. Now the watchdogs have watchdogs. If I were an elite little club, I wouldn't like it either -- no sir, not one bit. It's only a matter of time before there is a talk show blog. Watch out Charlie Rose.

And finally, blogs go one over the immediacy of satellite television, if such a thing is possible:

MSM have their sponsors to appease, and target audiences which to erm, target -- whereas bloggers have no one to curry favour with. They are the fastest, most honest expressions of free speech available on the Wild West known as the internet. And these honest opinions are generated via computer, a browser, and an internet connexion. It doesn't get any cheaper and faster than that. And these days, video web logs are all the rage too. Soon "Reporting from Baghdad" will mean another face on the monitor than Christiane Amanpour's. And instead of one reporter on scene, there will be hundreds, because there already are -- dozens of Rony Abovitzes in the making.

There are other observations I could mention regarding the advent of blogs.

One thing that has always puzzled me which really shouldn't, given its bureaucratic nature, is how the main three networks in the US, namely, ABC, CBS, NBC, have been so slow to reacting to the CNN revolution, that their nightly newscasts and newsmagazine shows have gone from informative to repetitive, and even 60 Minutes, formerly a type of consumer advocate, now merely is a talk show without paternity tests, and a political critic, without the least show of balance.

In other words, MSM haven't even begun to adapt themselves to a changing time after the first Gulf War, when CNN ate them up for dinner. Then came the advent of Fox News, who in turn has destroyed single-handedly the hegemony of CNN. And MSM really have never recovered from either.

(Hmm. Three US wars, three different forms of media irretrievably tied to them: Vietnam War and network television, Gulf War I and CNN, Gulf War II and blogging. I wonder what the next major war will consecrate...)

How on earth then, did we expect them to be on top of things when bloggers and their blunt ways, came unasked to the media dinner party? And yet again, they will have little reaction to the communication revolution but snidely call bloggers "lynch mobs" and sneer that they are not real journalists, and consequently, are not to be taken seriously. And don't try to palm off MSNBC'S blog sop as anything but the tokenism that it is. When they invite bloggers to comment on topics as regularly as they do Ron Reagan Jr., then I'll sit up and notice.

Obviously, it has escaped no one's notice that many political bloggers are right-of-centre. Coupled with Fox News and AM talk radio, it must be a nightmare for MSM who never before had to deal with a concerted opinion, all feeding off of each other, as irreverent, intelligent, and articulate as many of the Vietnam-era cadre of journalists took themselves to be.

The worry here is that MSM will make blogging into some kind of neo-con bastion, where it's anything but that. And yet, one already sees that slant happening. Why is it that politically-conscious progressives are called "activists", but conservative ones are dismissed as "lobbies", "special interest groups", or as mentioned above, "lynch mobs"? Makes one wonder.

And of course, the United States is again at the forefront of this blogging revolution, like it was with 24-hour cable news and with the growth of the internet. Now, this is is not to say that other nationals are not blogging, far from it, there are excellent blogs from all around the world, in a Babel blog of languages. But one gets the sense that blogging would never bring down a respected journalist equivalent of Dan Rather in Italy, or would even make a dent in the political world of France. That's the difference.

Further, international bloggers seem as blindsided by this new state-of-affairs in the US, as many journalists are, though surely they are part of the wave, rather than under it. One British-Israeli blogger noted in his Tuesday piece, regarding the blogger-led Easongate, "I'm not sure what to make of all this".

So...what is that threatening about blogs?

Well, in blogging, you don't have to work yourself up any ranks, toeing the accepted company line and you don't even have to get a chance to be published: it's available with a click of a mouse, under "create blog".

That's direct democracy, that's power, that's a good 2 hours wasted per day composing posts!

Bismarck once called the press "that necessary evil". It only follows then that blogs are that "unnecessary good".

Long may they continue or until the next revolution arrives.

UPDATE: On Saturday the 19 February, the BBC finally weighed in about the "blog revolution", of which below is an excerpt.

Weblogs are just a part of the digital, internet-driven revolution that is sweeping over journalism, Jay Rosen, New York University journalism professor and the blogger behind PressThink, told the BBC.

Suddenly, the tools of mass media are in the hands of the public, he said.

"There is a change in the balance of power," he said. "The ideas and assumptions that journalists held for a long time are up for grabs, open to questions, falling by the wayside."



  • God, not more Wonkette. She's an entirely manufactured creation; plug anyone photogenic into the Denton blog empire and, voila, hits and exposure. Does Charlie Rose really want to pimp someone best known for "discovering" a sex non-scandal and making anal sex jokes about politicians?

    Now Jeff Jarvis is a pioneer. But incubating stuff like native Arabic and Farsi blogging tools is, of course, less interesting than filling out a blouse...

    By Blogger JSU, at Wed Feb 16, 06:40:00 pm GMT-5  

  • First, wow, Blogger has updated comment format just like JSU said in his blog. That's the last time I don't pay attention to you, JSU!

    Second, listen, I don't like Wonkette, but this thing about people considering her an anal whore, and what-not (I stopped clicking on the links after I saw her in a Girls-Gone-Wild pose with an East Asian-looking woman) is not my thing.

    I wouldn't pay attention to the many who think Matt Drudge is gay, so I sure as heck won't about Wonkette.

    I'd much rather giggle at her Valley-Girl accent, which was sharply in contrast to the elegance and simplicity of Glenn Reynolds on Charlie Rose.

    I felt embarrassed hearing that patter of hers, and realised, that person sounds nothing like her blog voice. Can it be she has long abandoned her blog, and just guest-stars on it from time-to-time? Hmm. Manufactured, you said right? Yep.

    And it was great seeing how even the normally brown-nosing Rose ignored her vain attempts to be heard.

    But that still isn't enough for me to dismiss her as a blogger of note.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Feb 16, 09:43:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Update: Hehe. Jerry Brown launched his blog today.

    Even my first blog effort was more polished than that!

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Feb 16, 10:12:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I enjoyed this post. Thanks for putting it out there.

    Want to read the views of a conservative high school teacher in California? Come check out my blog!

    By Blogger Darren, at Fri Feb 18, 04:07:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Hey Darren, welcome to my blog!

    I'm glad you liked the piece, but almost felt scared you might assign it to your class -- thank goodness your mathematics students won't have to traipse thru' the piece as assigned reading.

    And for anyone who wants the link to Darren's Blog there you go. It gives one hope about the fruit loops in California. ;)

    Best of luck to you and hope to see you around Blogosphere.

    (And thanks to your fave book "Democracy in America" -- one of mine too -- I found a great site in Spanish which I've put in my links section. Quirky and thoughtful, just like I like 'em)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Feb 18, 11:16:00 pm GMT-5  

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