Monday, February 14, 2005

Apparently this post is "citizens' media"

I don't have much to say about Eason Jordan quitting CNN, since to be honest I haven't followed the story intensely and don't care much.

But I'm always fascinated by the tension between bloggers and the professional media they obsess over like Lord of the Rings devotees on a fan fiction website.

I'm particulary interested in the arrogance of some bloggers. One blogger I read occassionally who does some worthwhile work but is also one of the most arrogant and pretentious online is Jeff Jarvis. A term he used in responding to the New York Times' catch-up story on Jordan that was mainly about the role of blogs was particularly interesting to me:

This morning's story by Katharine Q. Seelye, Jacques Steinberg, and David F. Gallagher -- under the headline, "Bloggers as News Media Trophy Hunters" -- is another example of the disdain in which many quarters of The Times -- not all -- hold citizens' media.


Now I happen to find the Times story primarly lame since it had little original reporting and consisted of alot of copying and pasting from blogs, which any moron can do. Surely the journalists at the NY Times should be able to give us more.

But, ummm, "citizens' media"?? Since when did blogs become citizens' media? When I think of the term "citizens' media," I think of a media that has the interests of citizens as its core mission. It actually sounds like some kind of socialist-esque news operation (which, if it was done the right way, might not necessarily be a bad thing; but that's a whole separate issue).

Blogs, however, are just an outlet where anybody can write their thoughts. Some bloggers are, as CJR Daily editor Steve Lovelady so tactlessly put it in an email, "salivating morons." Others provide interesting insight on the news. A few even do some original reporting. But many -- I would say most -- don't even qualify as news media (yes they are "media," in the same way all communication is "media" by definition). They're just random people spouting their opinions.

These blog triumphalists like Jordan and so many others drive me crazy when they tout themselves so highly. Yes, they sometimes move the "national conversation." Yes they are a great way to find interesting stories or get a new interpretation on stories. And as we argued at the end of All the President's Spin, they can be a great tool for fact-checking the "mainstream media."

But are they "media" in the way we coloquially use the term to refer to the Washington Post or local news station or Salon.com? To me there's a simple way to answer that question. If blogs disappeared, would the professional media manage? They'd have less fodder for stupid articles like the one about Jordan from today's NY Times; they might miss a few important stories blogs have helped push like Trent Lott and Eason Jordan; they might feel less pressure to avoid offending people who have a loud mouthpiece online. In other words, they would be slightly worse off, but they'd certainly survive and do well.

Where would this alleged "citizens' media" be without the dreaded MSM (mainstream media)? Nowhere. Where would they learn news to comment on? Whose articles would they fact check? What outlets would they disparage as having a political bias? Who would they constantly accuse of just not getting it?

This topic of people who confuse commentary with actual journalism -- a phenomenom we even see in the professional media (*cough* Slate *cough*) -- is one I'll return to in the future, as it really drives me crazy.

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