April 28, 2003

Blogging The Newshour

It's been some time since Newshour showed up at Dave & Busters to interview 4 of us bloggers in February. Samara Aberman, Media Reporter for the Newshour, said she had the idea for the story sometime ago. While no longer "new" news, Samara finally got her wish to do the story.

I remember the Meet Up occured shortly after the big snow storm. Only 2 of us, Samara, the camera guy and sound guy were there. We were rapping pretty well and about to get started. The other 2 showed up. While once the tape started rolling, I was the least dominent participant in the conversation (I was overcoming a bad cold, not to mention I rarely dominate a conversation -- just my style), we had a good round table.
Couldn’t do the live blogging. TV wasn’t meant to be blogged with all its sound bites. Even watching PBS. It’s a good thing for VCR’s. I know there are some awful spelling mistakes and no links. Sorry if I butchered anyone's name. I'll fix it up. I wanted to get this out as soon as possible.

Here’s what caught my eye:

“4 guys in a bar. In this case, 4 bloggers in a bar.” I like the start. Things that start in a bar couldn’t be all that bad ;)

James Robertson: “Weblogging is much the same thing as keeping a diary. It is a way of putting up your thoughts of what ever is going through your life that day. Sometimes I’m ranting, sometimes I’m saying this is kind of neat.”

Thomas Bascom: “So I look at blogging as a group of millions of people trying to share their message, writing passionately about what they’re interested in, telling stories.”

Cutting from the bar scene. Moving to the war in Iraq.

Newshour offers analysis:
-Weblogs offer alternative views.
-They are incredibly up-to-date (Command Post)
-Singular person perspectives: Salam Pax, Blogger in Iraq. Last entry the same day as when the power went out.
I think this gives first hand account of situation without the interference of editors and corporate interests.

Soapbox vs. New Interactive form of participatory journalism:
MSNBC Exec. Producer Joan Connell, selects and edits weblogs on MSNBC: Why people blog: “narcissism, creativity and a desire to connect with like-minded people.”

“That is what journalism is all about actually, in some ways. And it’s what creating communities is all about. That’s one of the great challenges to us as news gatherers and journalists. How do we discover information and share it in creative ways with people. Give them the information they need to make decisions in their lives as citizens.”

Newshour: Laced with edge and attitude. Hypertext is often included (and might I add imperative to interesting blogging). Subject matter as diverse as the internet itself. From classic cars to sex to knitting.

But it is the opinion journalism weblogs that can and have made a difference in the public policy arena … bringing down Trent Lott.

Joshua Marshall (Talking Points Memo): Mainstream media largely ignored the situation but bloggers kept the issue afloat. Talks about the status quo of journalism. Blogs kept the issue from dying.

News organization subsequently started covering the controversy. POWER of media.

Joan: The Lott issue gathered momentum – created a buzz through very grassroots movement.

Is weblogging journalism?
Joan: “One of the values we place on our own weblogs is that we edit our webloggers. Out their in the blogosphere often it goes from the mind of the blogger to the mind of the reader. And there’s no back up. And I would submit that that editing factor really is the factor that makes it journalism. Are you making a mistake here? Do you really want to say that? Do you really want to use that word? Is that libelous? All those basic journalism questions that we always ask.”

This is interesting to me because it’s almost exactly what Henry Copeland and I briefly discussed after DC DOT COMM in January …. He said much of the same.

However, this is where I disagree with Joan. Those are the “basic journalism questions that news media always ask?” (paraphrased). I think instead of saying the editor/writer structure makes MSNBC’s blogs real journalism and others not is somewhat of a biased statement to the existing (or shall I say old) hierarchy in the news media.

There are different types of journalism. The journalism that blogging brings to the table is a singular person, gonzo style. In the flesh, without hierarchical control. And to the point of several in the story, blogging is participatory journalism. I would even call it conversational journalism. Conversations do not hold the same characteristics as broadcast communication. I would argue that there is a mutual understanding between reader and writer in much the same way that our real world debates and converses.

Where the news media has its shortcomings, conversational journalism can often times take up the slack. Pressure from advertisers and media monopoly self interests creates a bias in the news media.

John Irons: Blogging is about personal Expression: Try to become a better writer.

Me: Its really what the web is all about …. Each person having their own voice and the democrization of media.

Dick Riley, attorney, is a reader of weblogs. Emailed Joshua Marshal his thoughts on an entry he did on the naming of the department of Homeland Security. This is the participatory nature of blogging and the potential the internet holds. Readers and writers are much more intimately engaged.

Riley: “Sophisticated political commentary in bite-sized chunks….You get the opportunity to correspond in real time with the writers…. It’s an absolute conversation between political and cultural commentators and their readers.”

Weblogs are helping shape opinions and keeping the citizenry more engaged in political discourse.

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