Posted Friday, July 8, 7:00 p.m. Just a few years ago, the word “blog” was known only to those on the cutting edge of technology, or in other words, a bunch of computer nerds with the desire to chronicle their existence in glorified electronic diaries. In no time, however, like most technologies that start out either too trendy or too difficult for the masses to produce or consume, blogging went mainstream.
Blogging went so mainstream that there is now a daily segment devoted to the phenomenon on CNN called “Inside the Blogs.”
Basically, two really cute 20-something reporters, one of them particularly sexy because of her Australian accent, sit around a table with multiple computers surfing to various blogs across the Web and discussing the hot “blogging” topics of the day (Note: When a word emerges as both a noun and a verb in the span of only a few years, it’s obvious that our language and other traditional institutions are not equipped to handle the speed of technology’s proliferation). The segment tries to retain the hip counter-culture nature of blogging by utilizing abnormal and jittery camera angles that often include the other cameramen in the shot.
My first interaction with the “blogosphere” and CNN’s pitiful attempt to capture its essence on cable news was through my favorite nightly indulgence and CNN archrival, Jon Stewart. “The Daily Show” featured a piece mocking the wacky camera angles and super-hot reporters assigned the task of checking the blogs each day. As does most of his commentary, Stewart’s opinions on the “Inside the Blogs” prompted a few chuckles on my part. At the same time, the absurdity of CNN’s attempt to incorporate blogging into mainstream media in this manner left me pondering the future of the media’s role in domestic and global issues.
Cable news and CNN itself are actual early incarnations of the evolution of information that has led to the explosion of blogging and alternative media. As barriers to publication and broadcast continue to diminish during this evolution, more people enter the world of “journalism,” reporting on whatever they see, hear or feel. The problem lies in the fact that the bloggers and other alternative media sources aren’t held to the same journalistic standards of the traditional media. This new journalism blurs the lines between editorial and news writing, both opining and reporting simultaneously. On the other hand, the traditional media’s lack of hard-hitting investigative journalism in the face of an increasingly secretive presidential administration leaves the average citizen desiring more information in whatever form they can get it.
CNN and other media outlets have missed the fundamental reason for the explosion of the blog. Blogs are prevalent because the proliferation of technology has made digital publication available for all, but they are only popular because traditional media outlets have failed the public. In an age when journalism has gone corporate, people have fewer and fewer resources they can trust.
Case in point: Last week, even though reporter Matthew Cooper refused to testify before a grand jury in order to protect his confidential sources, his employer – Time Magazine – undermined his protest by releasing confidential documents to the grand jury. Luckily, one of the last bastions of respectable traditional media – the daily newspaper – maintained its integrity when New York Times reporter Judith Miller, under intense pressure from the same grand jury to reveal confidential sources, chose to serve a jail sentence rather than testify.
It seems, however, that there are few on the cable news channels or even broadcast news that exhibit the same tenacity for integrity that was displayed this week by Judith Miller.
CNN is missing the point. Politically minded news-watchers don’t want to see a recap of the blogs that they are savvy enough to read for themselves. They want to see cable and broadcast news that does such a great job investigating and reporting the news that blogs are irrelevant. Until that happens, filling the news void with the ruminations of random bloggers across the Internet is the only bridge between what we want from the media and what it currently provides.
This article appeared in the July 8, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.