Monday, July 14, 2008

Musings: On Blogging

The rain came in the very early morning, falling straight, hard, fast and long, soaking the summer-dry earth and cleansing everything. I laid awake and listened to it falling outside my fully open windows, felt its cool freshness drift through the house and smelled its aliveness, mingled with the scent of a mokihana lei, which I’ve noticed always smells more pungent when the air is filled with moisture.

It was all over by the time Koko and I got up, but traces of it were everywhere. Poinsettia leaves held big fat drops, the soil beneath the taro was dark and the mountains that weren’t snuggled up with clouds had that particular stunning clarity that is found the morning after a drenching rain.

Clarity is something I’m always seeking, with mixed success, and lately I’ve been trying to get a little more clear about blogging — specifically, its purpose and pitfalls, value and meaning.

I noticed over on Disappeared News, a blog I read regularly, that Larry Geller has been a bit critical of Doug White's (correx: that's Doug Carlson's) new pro-rail blog, which he is being paid to write. Andy Parx also takes Doug to task for failing to prominently disclose on the site that it’s a paid initiative.

While I personally like to know if a blog is a paid effort — especially an advocacy blog — this discussion raises a bigger issue. The other day, a friend who deals regularly, and warily, with the media asked me: “So just what are the rules of blogging?”

I had to tell him that so far as I can tell, there aren’t any, except those imposed by each blogger. And that’s where I start to get a little bit worried about blogs, just like I get a little bit worried about so-called citizen-journalists, a term that is not only a misnomer, but an insult to every professional journalist. Both are out there operating with a lot of the freedoms of a journalist, but none of the training or responsibility.

If you pull out your kid’s loose front tooth, you’re not a citizen-dentist. If you offer a friend some words of comfort, you’re not a citizen-therapist. If you do a pro se divorce, you’re not a citizen-attorney. Yet just because somebody has written a blog post, or recorded a bit of sound or video and put it up on the net, they think they’re a citizen-journalist.

Worse, newspapers such as the Advertiser pander to this delusion with their “My Advertiser” section in which they encourage people to submit stories. Yet if you look at them, they’re generally press releases, often from marketing firms. What’s of value here?

I have no problem if a person happens to be in the right place at the right time and they get a great shot of something. Sure, go ahead and run it, and give them the credit. But this idea that citizens should, and are able to, report the news alongside the professionals is a false one. Journalists spend time studying and practicing their profession. It has certain codes of behavior and ethics associated with it. There’s a lot more to it than simply regurgitating some “facts” or snapping a photo.

So just as we now have all these supposed citizen-journalists running around just waiting to entrap an unwary politician with a hidden recording or a cell phone photo, we also have an untold number of bloggers regularly churning out news and opinion of widely divergent quality and accuracy.

As a result, we’re got more information than ever before, but it’s also less reliable than ever before. Equally troubling is the way blogs, both left and right, become these weird little outposts of vigilantism.

The most recent example can be found on the liberal Daily Kos, which is all a-twitter about the Obama “New Yorker” cover, with people saying it should be stopped, urging folks to cancel their subscriptions, etc., etc. I mean, hey, wait a minute. What about the First Amendment? And what about the fact that this is a magazine cover that will be on the stand for one week. It’s really no big deal.

And then there’s the viciousness of the comments. Maybe it has something to do with the power to say anything, under the cloak of anonymity, that causes people to say all kinds of really mean and stupid things. I think the low point for me personally came last week, when a person likened the comments section of my blog to a “message board version of Jerry Springer” — a television show that has absolutely no redeeming value.

I must admit, that set me back a bit and got me thinking more about what kind of message I want to be putting out, and why it is that people respond the way they do. Words are such powerful things, and they're spewed about these days with so little thought as to their consequences. It’s a strange little medium, blogging. I can’t help but wonder if we’re creating a monster.

52 comments:

charley foster said...

Actually, it's Doug Carlson who does the Say Yes to the Honolulu Rail System blog. Doug White does Poinography.

Joan said...

Correction noted, Charley.

Katy Rose said...

I generally agree that there has been a cheapening of the concept of journalism, and not just by bloggers but by the whole superstructure of corporate media.

I would never call myself a journalist because, well, I'm not one!

But I think we have to remember that although the internet has rapidly expanded the number of people with access to a "press," underground information sharing has always existed and been administered by the "untrained" rabble. I'm thinking right now about the newspapers put out by the young women who were working and organizing in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts long ago, and other efforts.

I absolutely value rigorous journalism, but I also absolutely value the unchained expression of multiple voices in an anarchist smorgasbord of free speech.

It's easy to worry that readers will mistake wild suppositions ungrounded in fact for solid information. (After all - the New York Times printed the Judith Miller stories!) But at some point we have to trust people's powers of discernment and acknowledge that those who believe anything are always just going to believe anything.

KonaK said...

After a lifetime as a consumer of the media generally, I have a hard time believing in the alleged code of conduct and ethics of professional journalists. Reading press accounts of events I've actually been involved in only reinforces my impression. Maybe it's true that "There’s a lot more to it than simply regurgitating some “facts” or snapping a photo." But modern professional journalists seem to often have trouble even getting basic facts right. Look at the horrible, pathetic coverage of this presidential campaign, dominated, as usual, by "horserace" updates, stupid storylines and trivia, and remarkably free of discussion of issues.
Some bloggers are reliable, some aren't. Some professional journalists are reliable, and some aren't.

Andy Parx said...

I don’t know that it’s really any different on-line than it is in print for “journalists” and credibility- there’s just a lot more of it on-line. There are people who deny being journalists- like Doug “I’m just a blogger” White who have more journalistic integrity than many reporters and certainly PR people who, supposedly, fall under the journalist category.

I don’t know what the term citizen journalist is- perhaps public interest journalist or non-corporate journalist is better- maybe just journalist is enough.

I give people credit enough to determine the reliability of the reporter. But ethics is a problem on-line just as it is in print and video/TV. he on-line medium just has more opportunity for conflation of reporting and something else.

I’ve quite often confronted people who send out packages of “news” items to lists telling them they have a responsibility to follow journalistic standards (checking their story, making sure it isn’t a hoax) because by sending these things out they are functioning as a journalist/publisher. At first they deny it but when they realize they are then it’s a learning curve for them to figure out what is ethical, what is good practice and eventually how to be a good journalist/publisher. In that sense perhaps citizen journalist” is just an entry level position and learning on the job situation

Just like any other profession there are good journalists and bad ones and ones that aren’t even functioning as one but claim they are and ones that are function as one but don’t think they are. It’s a little more difficult to sort out on line but then again there are plenty of printed “newspapers” that have the credibility of print without deserving it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the term "journalist" should be treated as a licensed profession.

Maybe it should be made a crime of some sort to refer to yourself as a "journalist" without objective creditentials, like other regulated professions.

Then "certified journalists" can be bloggers, but not all blogger can be a "journalist"....just someone standing on his/her virtual soapbox and shouting out at the world.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous conflation:

"all a-twitter about the Obama “New Yorker” cover, with people saying it should be stopped, urging folks to cancel their subscriptions, etc., etc. I mean, hey, wait a minute. What about the First Amendment?"

No one is call for the NYer to be censored by the government (what the First protects us against). Only for people who believe the cover to be slanted/biased to vote with their money to punish and offending a commercial operation.

This silly "what about the 1st amendment" shows a basic lack of understanding of the 1st amendment. Pretty scary from a "journalist".

Your overall point is well taken. On most of these blogs, opinion flows into factual reporting and then into nonfactual reporting and then into outright fabrication. But there's no need to regulate the Emily Latellas. They're still fun to read even if they're not always in on the joke.

Anonymous said...

That issue will sell out SO FAST!!!

What a great money-making idea for the mag!

Ed Coll said...

Joan wrote; "If you pull out your kid’s loose front tooth, you’re not a citizen-dentist. If you offer a friend some words of comfort, you’re not a citizen-therapist. If you do a pro se divorce, you’re not a citizen-attorney. Yet just because somebody has written a blog post, or recorded a bit of sound or video and put it up on the net, they think they’re a citizen-journalist."

Your examples of dentist, therapist, and attorney all have one thing in common; they are all "professions" which rely on a standardized system of credentialing. Journalism has no such credentialing criteria.

Sure you can get a degree in journalism but it is not required to be a journalist. There are many degrees that teach the basic research methodology which is the building block from which all good journalism arises.

Must one being classically trained in music to be a composer? As one who worked professionally for years both in documentary film, investigative reporting and TV journalism I've seen my share of people calling themselves "journalist" both classically trained and self-taught.

My conclusion is the same as with composers. There are great composers and jingle writers; their are serious journalists and hacks, but credentials/no credentials is not a legitimate criteria to separate the wheat from the chaf.

Proof of professionalism is not in the paying but the putting.

Years ago I questioned the lamo concept of "TV anchor" and it's role in journalism and in doing so found it to not be journalism, but rather pseudo-psychology to create viewer belief based upon the apparent veracity of an all knowing trustworthy "father figure" to assure viewers the news is accurate (the classic "appeal to authority" logical fallacy).

For more on this subject read "The Well Cooked Journalist: A Traditional Recipe" at http://pranks.com/2007/03/21/the-well-cooked-journalist-a-traditional-recipe-by-joey-skaggs/

Anonymous said...

Jerry Springer having no redeeming value??? An icon of our pop culture???

Think of how much he suports trickle-down economy with the vast movement of money that show causes.

Plus, all the "trailer trash" that get to have their 15 minutes of fame!

It's raises pro wrestling to a higher rung of the intellectual scale.

Plus, it's better when you've been drinking! Kinda like posting comments to blogs.

Joan said...

Anonymous wrote: This silly "what about the 1st amendment" shows a basic lack of understanding of the 1st amendment. Pretty scary from a "journalist".

My reference was to the fact that The New Yorker has a right, under the First Amendment, to print such a cover. Some of those people were calling for pressure to be exerted upon the publisher not to run it. And that's clearly a First Amendment issue, and different than calling for people to make a choice as to how they want to spend their money.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather be the jingle writer who, hopefully, cashed in on the Big Mac jingle, for example, than a classical composer.

Anonymous said...

You bet. I'd rather be the guy how invented the hula hoop and frisbee and started Wham-O corp than the multi-degreed MBA corp type I am now. I do good. He did much better!

Larry said...

Yup, this issue of the New Yorker will sell very quickly. It's already the buzz everywhere. Will it influence the election? Quite possibly.

Professional journalists beat the drums for war, never questioning the government's lies (thank goodness for Helen Thomas and others who did). I think we have false expectations for professional journalists. In the distant past they were far from neutral reporters.

But citizen-dentists is an interesting concept, because I'm willing to bet (without having done any research, of course) that there are more citizen-dentists pulling teeth in the world than licensed dentists.

The "amateur" has always been with us. Same for therapy. There's no prohibition, professional or otherwise, in helping your friend/family/neighbor through a hard time. Just don't claim to be a licensed psychologist. This is for good reason, but I've experienced that someone can be quite good at therapy without the aid of professional study/internship or licensure. Shamanism was/is popular around the world, and I understand it works too.

No, I don't advocate shark cartilage to cure cancer instead of consulting an oncologist. (One of my best friends had this "belief system" that couldn't be trampled on, but he killed himself with it.) I'm just saying that citizen-practitioners have always been with us.

There wasn't the Internet before, so we still have to sort out the ability of anyone to communicate with potentially endless numbers of other human beings, which is one way I think to describe the Internet. We couldn't write letters to lots of people, and even a letter to the editor reached only so many. Now a video on the Web can reach millions.

That's what's changed. The shamans and amateurs and charlatans of all stripes now have a reach beyond their little vicinity.

Anonymous said...

I agree that professional journalism ought to have standardized credentials like CPA's, lawyers, etc.

Just as there are inept CPA's and lawyers, there will still be inept "certified journalists", but I think it would reduce that field,and give rise to sanctioning mechanisms to gag them...ie, no traditional media outlet could hire anyone but a currently in-good-standing member of the "certified journalist" community.

Andrew Cooper said...

I had an opportunity to watch a local TV new broadcast recently, one of the Honolulu stations, at the end I was struck by just how little real news was contained in the half hour. I am not interested in the latest car wreck or robbery. In real effect these sort of stories mean nothing to anyone who was not involved. What about the real issues that affect our daily lives? Politics, impending legislation, community activism, business trends, issues that can affect my life and my community. The local blogs cover these far better than the commercial news outlets.

In many ways the popularity of blogging has been a response to real or perceived lack of content in the mainstream media. I get the feeling that this is particularly true here in Hawai'i where the local media sees little competition and few diverging viewpoints. It is thanks to the efforts of a few "citizen journalists" that these information sources exist.

There do exist a wide range of blogs and other news sources to choose from, many with an extreme bias to one side or another of any issue. I find myself reading from several sources of information, even those I do not agree with, in an attempt to form an informed view on local issues. We can only hope that people recognize decent sources of information, and can judge for themselves what is good information. Unfortunately the opposite often occurs, people naturally use information sources that they agree with, leading to a distorted viewpoint that can be quite harmful.

Joan is certainly on my daily reading list. So is Katy, even if I don't agree all the time.

Anonymous said...

Is KKCR's Dr. Ann West a medical doctor or a journalist?

Andrew Cooper said...

Certification for journalists? A bit absurd and more overreaching government. Call me conservative on this issue, government certification should be required only for professions where public heath or safety is involved. Doctors, civil engineers, dentists, etc. are good examples of this. Let the marketplace and reputation determine who succeeds or fails in anything else.

Reminds me of an effort in one state to have interior decorators state licensed!

Anonymous said...

Joan you are ignorant of what the First Amendment says and does.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The Supreme Court has held that the protection extends down to all government levels.

Read the Wikipedia articles on the First Amendment and Free Speech. The 1st protects us from government interference. Not from individuals using their voices to shout down or intimidate a publisher by withholding their money from his product.

You might find the effect chilling, but it's not a First Amendment issue. You're digging your hole deeper and deeper here.

Anonymous said...

only public health, eh?

how about public accountants and lawyers?

As for interior decorators, the only certification needed there is "GAY". They, after all, have the best fashion sense.

Anonymous said...

oh oh...

I"m stacking the virtual chairs for throwing...

Jerry Springer said...

This blog would bring a tear to a glass eye.

I'm so proud....I need a moment....

Jayson Blair said...

I'm with you Joan! Bloggers don't have the training or responsibility to call themselves "journalists"!

Stephen Glass said...

Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

very good!

i loved that movie!

Anonymous said...

never throw chairs in a Glass house.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers/citizen journalists help to correct the filtering effect of professional journalists. Journalists inevitably filter information. By necessity, journalists decide what information to pass along and what information to omit. Citizen journalists who have witnessed the events reported, or who have some specialized expertise relevant to the story, or who have biases different from those of the journalist which might prevent the journalist from even recognizing the importance of certain omitted elements, can fill in those gaps and correct or broaden or deepen the record. It's predictable that some journalists will chafe, but the democratization of media is on net a benefit to society.

Anonymous said...

Hey it's not like journalism is rocket science

charley foster said...

"Maybe it should be made a crime of some sort to refer to yourself as a "journalist" without objective creditentials"

I'm pretty sure that would run afoul of the First Amendment.

Anonymous said...

Joan wrote:
> Worse, newspapers such as the Advertiser pander to this delusion with their “My Advertiser” section in which they encourage people to submit stories. Yet if you look at them, they’re generally press releases, often from marketing firms. What’s of value here? <

What's of value are eyeballs, which mean money for the Advertiser and its parent company. Traditional journalism is being gradually absorbed by infotainment conglomerates (conflations of content, culture and thought as well as business structure) that pander to their audience with the sole goal of making money. Cable news giants, local TV news departments, national journals and local newspapers all entice their customers' egos with the same instant-gratification techniques: tell us what you think! join our realtime blogs! talk to our on-air personalities online! send us your videos of news events! the most important thing to us is YOU! Time Magazine, in testament to its own selling out to the Me Uber Alles culture, put a mirror on its cover for "Man of the Year."

This era is seeing the rise of self aggrandizement, self entitlement and unbridled competition as valued aspects of American (and Western) culture, and the exploitation of those values by every media mogul to wants a buck, every politician who wants a vote, and every self-styled "citizen journalist" who wants his id in lights.

Me? I'm sixty, and leftish, and horrified.

:(

Anonymous said...

Definition of: citizen journalism

News and commentary from the public at large. Using wiki sites and blogs, anyone can contribute information about a current event. Also known as "collaborative citizen journalism" (CCJ), "grassroots media" and "personal publishing," the concept behind citizen journalism is that many volunteers help to ensure that the information is more accurate than when it is being reported from only one source. See wiki and blog.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sixty, and leftish, and horrified."

Old leftists are so conservative.

Anonymous said...

It is very hard to think or speak without judgment.

Larry said...

"What's of value are eyeballs, which mean money for the Advertiser and its parent company."

Yup, and I keep wondering what will happen when advertisers realize that more and more people are blocking popups and ads, as well as skipping commercials. It's not commonplace yet, but one can imagine the day when the eyeballs rebel. Then what? This will happen in the fullness of time.

Silicon Owl said...

A common practice is for a profession to self police, to offer some sort of certification that a person practicing the profession is competent. This usually takes the form of a membership, possibly with some educational and testing requirements. Once admitted the member may then use that certification to advertise to potential customers as a form of reference.

This sort of scheme is the basis for the AMA, various state bar associations, and thousands of lesser known professional associations.

The potential downside is that once established these organizations often attempt to gain some sort of governmental recognition and an effective monopoly. Sometimes this is helpful, where a minimum of qualifications is a good idea, as in the practice of medicine. Many other times this state granted monopoly is used to stifle competition and dissent.

Even in cases where you would think the issue is clear there have been negative consequences. In the field of medicine state regulations have the effect of driving up medical costs and keeping some professionals, such as midwives, from practicing limited and useful roles in the industry. This is certainly true in the legal industry where lawyers have used their state monopoly to control the profession and costs to their benefit.

I can not see where any sort of regulation of journalists would be useful. Information is too important in our society to allow its dissemination to be regulated to a few, possibly biased or controlled outlets. Thus I fully agree with the poster above, in the "unchained expression of multiple voices in an anarchist smorgasbord of free speech".

In the same light some legal protection of these non-traditional outlets should also be considered. I support much of what is contained in the legislation. We need to encourage public participation, not regulate it.

Doug Carlson said...

Since I'm the subject of much that's written in today's post and comments, let me weigh in.

Anyone who's paid close attention to the transit issue on Oahu since 1990 will know that I've been a consistent supporter of grade-separated transit... almost as visible as Cliff Slater in letters and commentaries, although nobody could be as prolific as Cliff. All of those pieces were written without compensation or connection with a client.

Now comes the Super Fight on Oahu, almost as big as the Superferry fight on Kauai, and I was asked to join the City's team of speakers to give the project's Power Point show to community groups around town. I'm paid a fee to do so, and I told every audience that fact. Nobody got up and left. And as the fight escalated, I was asked two weeks ago to step up my outreach; I decided to write a blog -- http://yes2rail.blogspot.com I have several others, including two on emergency communications; please read them:
http://tsunamilessons.blogspot.com
http://yourchore.blotspot.com

I disclosed my affiliation with the City in the very first Yes2Rail post on June 30 and the next day, too. When Larry Geller asked me about it last week and said he couldn't find my disclosure, I posted a FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT in the largest available type on my blog... in red, at that....and have continued to mention it.

Nothing I'm writing in my blog now is any different than what I wrote over 15+ years as I supported grade-separated transit. But because I'm being paid to give speeches and write about rail, critics conclude that what I'm writing now is tainted.

Sorry. Their logic falls apart. I didn't hide anything and in fact did just the opposite. And I didn't change my position in order to be paid. They're paying me because of my position -- which as an added bonus apparently upsets some people to the point of distraction.

I'm still waiting for the critics to answer this question: What alternative is there to sitting in traffic unless it's grade-separated transit? It's not buses; it's not Lexus Lanes; it's not car pools; it's not jitneys. Only grade-separated transit -- rail or otherwise -- delivers the commuter to his or her destination on time, every time. Nothing else can do that.

Rather than step up to this key issue, critics and the anti-rail crowd create smoke around the distractions, like my fee. I call it the Sideshow.

So be it. There's nothing hidden here, including my name, which is more than can be said for 99% of the posters of comments on the newspapers' sites. I will continue to argue in favor of transit as the logical and only option to avoid traffic. THAT is the Big Tent issue.

irk said...

go on a newsfast and check out on the nanopublishers. you may discover good news within yourself.

"There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are. By invariably discussing the unnecessary, it makes us understand what things are requisite for culture, and what are not."
—Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

Andrew Cooper said...

I love that quote, so true!

Andy Parx said...

You really don’t get it Mr. Carlson.

I could give a rip about Honolulu and rail. But I really hate corrupt practices, especially in government. And the very fact that you have been doing all this (I presume) unpaid work for all these years and putting up public-interest blogs (again presume unpaid) makes it worse. You are trading on journalistic integrity and using the “name” you attained for that work to do a paid PR job, “disclosed” or otherwise

You make a point of how you actually believe in what you’re getting paid to do- is this because usually you’ll sell anything? Boy that’s a real good way to promote your personal integrity.

Yes, money does change everything. This is not a side issue or distraction. I don’t like the anti-rail people’s silly personal attacks any more than I do yours. But please don’t try to BS me with this crap of you and your pro-rail crowd being “above the side show” when you’re just as bad in that department. As private individuals I really don’t care who the anti rail people “are”.

But the connections of government officials to extremely apparent corruption - the same officials who presumably are, along with the corrupt contractors, paying you - ARE the issue that puts THIS rail project in jeopardy and your ignoring that and getting everyone on the happy bandwagon and your not addressing it by calling it a sideshow is as corrupt as you can get.

There are lots of things that are “good” in concept. Rail-transit for Honolulu is probably one. But the devil is always in the details and the institution of this good idea has been fully corrupted and may be useless to anyone but developers and contractors. That is the central issue here.

And that BS about your “financial privacy” is even worse. No one is asking how much you are getting paid, only that you list those paying you.

I’m sure after all these years as a corporate shill you can’t see how money changes the equation and how you are giving public-interest journalism and news reporting a bad name. And that’s the problem. You can’t see it.

Anonymous said...

"what kind of message I want to be putting out, and why it is that people respond the way they do."

Probably because your writing is always so negative. Your blog emits a lot of negative energy. Lots of angry complaining. And that's okay, but it attracts those kinds of comments.

Anonymous said...

> "...why it is that people respond the way they do...."

Probably because your writing is always so negative. Your blog emits a lot of negative energy. Lots of angry complaining. And that's okay, but it attracts those kinds of comments. <


I couldn't disagree more. To me the energy that empowers Joan's writing is positive and hopeful -- just not artificially sugar coated. It is clean and it is clear.

The readers' responses are typical of those posted to the readers' comments section of any community-interest blog or local newspaper's online edition -- a combination of intelligence, wit, snark and terminal dimbulbism. (Human nature and the lure of instant ego gratification being what they are, the snarky and the dim tend to dominate.)

Andy Parx said...

Joan negative? Here I try to offend everyone I can and spout opinions Karl Marx would call too radical and you attack the only person I know who can describe genocide in the same column as a beautiful sunrise and project hope in doing so.

I gotta hand it to ya- that’s some impressive trolling... almost professional. Do you people have a school for this. And which bridge would that be under?

Joan said...

Thanks, Andy and Anon 11:30 a.m. It's always nice to know that when somebody tries to slap me down, somebody else is there to pick me up. Is this that solidarity building Katy is always talking about?

Anonymous said...

You misunderstood me. Joan asked why people respond to her the way they do. There is nothing wrong with angry complaining. There is lots in the world to be angry and complain about. But when you feed into that energy, that is the reality you create. It inevitably brings like comments. It is true. It is not meant as a bring down, Joan.

KonaK said...

Still savoring the fact that you got Carlson's name wrong in the same post where you were bragging about the special training, responsibility and ethics of professional journalists like yourself. Bask in the irony, people!

Katy Rose said...

Anonymous 5:16:
It sounds like you've been reading "The Secret."

I'm wondering what kind of negative vibes those little starving babies in Africa have been feeding into to create that reality and bring such suffering onto themselves - must be some VERY powerful thoughts!

I think that in the case of Joan's blog, it is very simple: she takes strong stands on important and controversial issues, and some people disagree with her. Some do it with wit, camaraderie and intelligence, and others do it with more passion than intelligence.

watchdog said...

Two late observations:

1) Money does change absolutely everything. It means your opinions are no longer your own, even if they match your employer's. Blogs are for debate and people willing to be persuaded. Paid writers are by definition not willing to be persuaded by readers' comments. Plus what happens when your employer's opinions or your opinions change so that they no longer match? Money talks, everything else walks.

2) Joan is not clear which side of the fence she's playing. As a journalist herself, she seems to be ambiguous about which role she has on her blog. Does being a journalist make her blog journalism? I say no: a personal blog is always an opinion. Everyone has an opinion, thus the appeal of riting and reading blogs. So I don't hold Joan to journalistic standards in her blog, it's understood to be her opinion page.

As for bloggers "operating with a lot of the freedoms of a journalist, but none of the training or responsibility," I would add also none of the legitimacy unless built up by reputation, so no problem. As others have commented, blogging is a new media filling a void, not some perversion of old media.

Anonymous said...

since it's not journalism, by your standard with which I agree, it should not be offered the legal protection covering real/traditional/professional journalists.

Andrew Cooper said...

We can argue about the definition of journalism endlessly. The real issue is that blogs do serve a valid public service in this age where information is so critical. Maybe the question should be if blogs deserve a degree of public protection in the eyes of the legal system. I believe they do, certianly the laws and precedents used to attack them are those that apply to publishing, slander, libel, etc.

This is and increasingly will be part of the future social landscape. Blogs are used to disseminate information and to organize community activism. There will be powerful forces, corrupt government or corporations who will use the law to attempt to quash this information when it is their interest.

Why not define their legal status?

watchdog said...

I think Andrew Cooper above echoes my own response. There is no longer a monolithic medium called the press. There are many more nuances now, as seen by the difficulty in defining or pinning down exactly what it means to be a "real/traditional/professional journalist."

However the idea that governments will be bent on repressing blogs applies only in repressive regimes. As seen in this exact example, more savvy governments will jump in the act to sway public opinion. Corporations have already infiltrated the media with their own paid bloggers and reviewers (don't trust everything you see on those review sites). And even though there is a sort of self-policing whereby the shills are exposed, they are not entirely neutralized and in the meantime they pervert the public discourse.

Joan said...

And don't forget corporations and other interests have their own paid people who post comments and act like trolls and do various things to disrupt — and attempt to discredit — sites with which they don't agree.

Katy Rose said...

My main problem with the disruption of comments-sections is that "trolls" by defintion use personalized attacks instead of addressing ideas and opinions. The effect of this is that others, who are thoughtful and prone to engage in intelligent discussion and debate, get turned off because they don't care to be subjected to deragatory personal insults. Who can blame them?

The real shame is that these trolls are intentionally trying to inhibit productive discourse and expression.

Those of us who place a value on free expression refuse to censor them because it goes against our principles, yet they are intentionally discouraging the expression of those with whom they disagree.

What to do?