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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

bloggers, tutored feelings, gatekeepers « Previous | |Next »
January 2, 2007

Many cynical Australian journalists continue to see blogging as an "act of narcissism", mere self-indulgence and self-promotion, rather than blogging---and other "user-generated" sites---as contributing to the growth of the internet. Blogs are witnesses to the erosion of the mass media. This erosion is more figures of stagnant sales, the declining readership of newspapers, or in the shift away away from free-to-air-television. What is in decline is the trust in the media ---we no longer accept its ideology of truth, objectivity, and watchdog for democracy.

I see that Time magazine has challenged the view of "pajama journalists" making noise by making web users "Person of the Year". I haven't been able to read the article, as it is now offline. According to Marcel Berlin's at The Guardian Richard Stengel,Time's editor, commented:

"You, not us, are transforming the information age." [the reason is] "For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game ..."

I hazard a guess that Time recognizes that the internet's information explosion has fostered the "ordinary" person being as important to the dissemination of knowledge, information and opinion as the expert or the professional.This other side of those working for nothing [ie., bloggers]--- "beating the pros at their own game"; is that the quality of some of the work produced by the pros is pretty poor and often not worth reading.

Berlin himself takes exception to Time's argument:

The philosophy I object to, which the internet's information explosion has fostered, is that the "ordinary" person is as - no, even more - important to the dissemination of knowledge, information and opinion as the expert or the professional...Time's assertion that those working for nothing are "beating the pros at their own game" is nonsense. They are providing a different service, an opinion based not on expertise and experience, but on their less tutored feelings.

So my work is based on my personal feelings not on knowledge and experience; and my feelings (emotions) are less tutored than those of the tabloids, cheque book journalism and backbench politicians who work on gut instinct and prejudice. Give me a break. Moreover, you can hardly call the Canberra Press Gallery the experts providing informed comment when they avoid public policy like the plague. The reality is that the printed and broadcasted message has lost its aura. News is now presented and consumed as a commodity with entertainment value.

Leslie Cannold in The Age says that there is an audience wanting to consume informed opinion and analysis. She asks:

Can personal blogs (web diaries or logs) posted free-of-charge on the web meet this demand? Are they doing so already, increasingly cannibalising audiences that currently consume — and pay for, either by subscription or by viewing ads — opinion and analysis moderated by editors on radio, TV, newspapers and news magazines distributed both in hard copy and online (enabling links and interactive reader comments)? With one important caveat, my judgement on both questions is "no".

Those blogs, which interpret the news and current affairs, lack the editorial oversight that prevents the publication of well-packaged pseudo-knowledge that offer deception. We need gatekeepers to ensure informed opinion and enlightening analysis.

Do we? What about the tabloids? Aren't the tabloids more about well-packaged pseudo-knowledge in the form of infotainment? Do their editors ensure enlightened opinion and informed analysis? Do we actually get informed opinion and enlightening analysis from the corporate media in these days of infotainment as Cannold presumes? Isn't this what is being eroded? Isn't there a growing distrust of the output of large commercial news organizations--similar to the distrust of the spin that politicians and their advisers produce. Hence we have questioning the message in spite of the editor's quality filter in the broadsheet press.

Secondly, isn't blogging more about carrying on an ongoing conversation on particular issues than private individuals consuming informed opinion and analysis? Cannold's important caveat is that:

What contemporary blogophiles advance as the benefit of their preferred medium is the weakness of opinion moderated by a handful of mostly pale, male and stale editors. Blogs empower those marginalised or excluded by traditional editorial gatekeeping processes.These include the young, the female, the queer, the non-white and those from non-Christian backgrounds: groups comprising growing minorities — and in some cases outright majorities — in Australian society. In the past, justice was the justificatory principle behind demands by such groups for greater representation in the creative engine room of Australian culture, including among those who interpret the news. In the era of blogs, it may be proprietorial self-interest that finally results in things changing.

So what then happens to the need for editors as gatekeepers to ensure informed opinion and enlightening analysis from the diverse views of the excluded minorities? Do we make an exception of the need for traditional editorial gatekeeping processes?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:39 PM | | Comments (8)
Comments

Comments

'So what happens to the...'

That questions like waving a red flag at a ...

Gadget,
we should wave the red flag at a journalist bull and the conservative academic commentators. There is a lot of good work being produced by bloggers.

I do think that the strength of the blogosphere--the way that it contributes to the development of the internet is the conversation rather than the individual posts. The latter is the approach taken by Ken Parish & Nicholas Gruen ---they emphasise that the "best" posts

needed to be substantial enough to escape the ephemeral nature of much blogging; they had to be well written; and they had to have some independent merit by way of special knowledge, a worthwhile point of view, insight or literary quality.

This quote by Cannold:- 'Blogs empower those marginalised or excluded by traditional editorial gatekeeping processes.These include the young, the female, the queer, the non-white and those from non-Christian backgrounds: groups comprising growing minorities — and in some cases outright majorities — in Australian society. In the past, justice was the justificatory principle behind demands by such groups for greater representation in the creative engine room of Australian culture, including among those who interpret the news. In the era of blogs, it may be proprietorial self-interest that finally results in things changing.' -is a good specualtive theory.

But if you ask me, I would say it doesnt hold water. For the few bloggs that I go to, I have found few in resident. There just doesnt seem to be that many people out there in cyberspace. So my limited experience in the bloggosphere finds that claims of super-posters, mass cyber-critizens, and huge blogg populations is just not credible. What I see is a limited number of persons trying -perhaps genuinely- to make it seem a popular thing.

And I also find that Cannold mis-represents perhaps a substantial number of disingenous cyber-folk. And then there is the 'gatekeeper', the ones with the tutored -yet unclean- mind.

Research may prove me wrong.

Gadget,
I'm not sure what you mean by

For the few bloggs that I go to, I have found few in resident. There just doesnt seem to be that many people out there in cyberspace.

I do agree that the claims of super-posters, mass cyber-critizens, and huge blogg populations are just not credible---it's the optimistic hype of the internet.

The comments on Larvatus Prodeo are fairly extensive and an indication of the vibrancy of the bloggosphere.

Re your comment--- I see is a limited number of persons trying -perhaps genuinely- to make it seem a popular thingThat's probably an accurate account of what is happening in Australia.

But blogging is stil misunderstood. Radio National Breakfast has a spot for a blogger each morning --the "blogger" selected is always a working journalist.

Thanks Gaz;

Yes i see your point. However, as you innocently point out, there is a certain cyber-oligarch site out there. I once suggested its occupants were Predators, exclusionary and seeking political and media based censorship to foster their cyber-hegemony. Perhaps my thoughts were unclean, as per a Lavatory insect. But perhaps not also. Let the public decide.

On another note, the sound of radio has not yet had its final hour; given time it might sing the song of annointing for the Queens and Kings of cyberspace!

All hail Freddy.

Gadget,
one way of looking at the bloggosphere is through the eyes of Hayek: that it is an evolving spontaneous order which develops its own rules by which it regulates itself.

Radio National Breakfast introduced Bob Ellis as a blogger the other morning. He does not have a blog. This morning it was Leslie Cannold as a blogger---her website has no blog at all. She writes op-eds in the Fairfax media. She reckons that bloggers really want to be journalists --to get a paid job. We "amateurs" secretly desire to be "professionals" ie., journalists. Supposedly, we really are hanging out to picked by News Corp.

Do we? How does she know? Well, I don't for onesas I have no desire to be a Canberra Press Gallery journalist.

Paul Barry, the current present Radio National Breakfast summer edition, reckons the blogosphere is a mostly trash and wild emotional opinion that has little reason. It is the journalists and opinion writers in the broadsheet press who stand for quality. The only bloggers that can be trusted are those who write for newspapers because they have been vetted.

One of the many great things is the diversity of opinion in the blogosphere (I hate that term). We can if we wish take in the well researched and edited views of the main stream media if we wish and we can search out a wide variety of writers who provide alternative takes. The part that really adds value is the debate that can take place in the comments sections, where the authors are held to account for their views.

Colin,
yes I also dislike the term 'blogosphere' as well. Is there a better word for what is happening? I also dislike the rhetoric of blogs as citizens' journalism.Nor do I accept the utopian blog philosophy that the mass media are doomed and their role will be taken over by "participatory media".

Something is in formation with blogs--but I'm not sure what it is. As you point out, diversity is a key characteristic of the new formation. It is such a contrast to the corporate media, which boils down to News Corp and Fairfax. That's not much by way of diverse commentary is it? What the newspapers are now doing is to integrate open, interactive messages from their constituencies –using blogs to do that for them. Blogs are witnessing and documenting the diminishing power of mainstream media, but they have consciously not replaced its ideology with an alternative.

According to this article in Eurozine blogs like public opinion are not alternatives to mainstream media---bloggers are underdogs on a mission to beat Goliath. Blogs are often, more precisely described as "feedback channels" or acting as "gatewatching" the corporate media:

More often than not blogging means to quickly point to news fact through a link and a few sentences that explain why the blogger found this or that factoid interesting or remarkable, or is disagrees with it. Blog entries are often hastily written personal musings, sculptured around a link or event. What ordinary blogs create is a dense cloud of "impressions" around a topic. Blogs will tell you if your audience is still awake and receptive. Blogs test. They allow you to see whether your audience is still awake and receptive. In that sense we could also say that blogs are the outsourced, privatized test beds....of the big media.

Geert Lovink, the author of the linked article, says that through blogging, news is being transformed from a lecture into a conversation. Blogs echo rumours and gossip, conversations in cafes and bars, on squares and in corridors.