The combined blogger/podcasting meetup last night was the best yet. There were so many people there that we broke up into three small groups: one for podcasters, one for bloggers and one for people to discuss with Denise Polverine [who paid for the beer!] how cleveland.com can incorporate more blog content into their site. I didn’t get a chance to browse the Cleveland.com or the podcasting groups because the blogger discussion was so lively. Hopefully others from the other groups will blog about their stuff. I know I’d like to know.
Jay Miller from Crain’s Cleveland started off the night with the topic that would pretty much take up the whole evening. He is not a blogger himself, but was here to find out the state of the blogger [and/or, +/-, vs.] journalist discussion.
As I said before, we had a lively one. Democracy Guy and Virtual Lori both have journalism degrees and Callahan’s Cleveland Diary is a trig cove on just about any subject. Red Wheelbarrow, Your Daily Art and Organic Mechanic provided a good balance to the discussion. Pop Life was there, and another blogger came in a bit later, but I didn’t catch his name. There was also a new blogger named Daniella, but
I foolishly failed to get her contact info [She found me, I’ve spelled her name correctly and linked to her blog]. Roll call ends now.
Red Wheelbarrow offers his own succinct thoughts on our group. Democracy Guy, too.
Jay came in wanting to find out if bloggers are willing to adopt some of the journalistic tricks of the trade into their blogs. It seemed that he was concerned with ensuring that bloggers report things in such a way that the content is accurate enough to avoid getting sued. Everyone had strong feelings on this matter. It came across, at least to me, that Jay felt as if blogs are sloppy or lazy journalism, or that, with no set of guidelines, the medium can’t become a respectable part of The Media. While there is some merit to these ideas, and there are surely a large amount of bloggers who are the web equivalent of dirty-bearded soapbox ranter, our group was of a contrary opinion.
The general consensus of the bloggers present was that if we aren’t comfortable saying something on our blog that we wouldn’t say to someone in person, we don’t write about it. Transparency was a word brought up time and again. I learned a bit about the journalistic process, something called the inverted triangle method which starts out laying out all the facts, and then narrows down to the end by stating the author’s opinion. My immediate reaction to this is that the method can often be disingenuous. As a somewhat typical consumer of mass media, I have been trained to think that hard news is nothing but fact, so “discovering” that a writer has a bias makes people bitch and moan about spin. The transparency comes in when people [or bloggers] say “These are the facts” [with supporting links] and “This is what I think about that” [with comments open for rebuttal or discussion].
The point was then raised that bloggers have no check upon them. I assume this was more along the lines of editorial checks for accuracy than anything else, because just about everyone said that [journalistic] blogs are pretty much always checked by another blog with a dissenting opinion. Then Jay mentioned that people who read blogs are unlikely to search out dissenting opinions. Then someone else said that it is no different than a person who only reads The New York Times for their news. Hooboy. Lively. 🙂
We moved back toward libel territory and were taking that into the direction of free speech, making analogies all over the place. Does linking to a blog post that later turns out to be false make you an accomplice in libel? Shot right back was, if I cut out a newspaper clipping and give it to my friend, and the clipping later turns out to be false, is that complicity in libel? The final conclusion before we ended seemed to be that the larger your audience the more liable you are to be sued for libel. Jay said that he thought that having a bit more knowledge of journalism would allow bloggers to keep their visibility high.
I’m sure I missed something or got something wrong, so feel free to correct me.
I don’t think Jay meant to come across this way, but my back got up almost immediately when he mentioned that bloggers might benefit from a better knowledge and application of journalism. I am under the impression that he feels that the current journalistic process is the best one. Bloggers in some sense are quite counter to that, which is why my hackles rose at the mention of becoming more like a journalist. To me it smacks of allowing yourself to be edited. And while any new method is worthy of examination and new knowledge can be nothing if not helpful, I didn’t like the way it came across.
If anything, I think blogs prevent folks from being just passive consumers of news. Reading blogs is basically the equivalent of talking to thousands of blokes down the pub and then using your own mental faculties to synthesize it. I’d rather have that, with all its accompanying blatherers and trolls and sloppiness, than having to get all of my news, relatively untouchable [until bloggers start working on the case] and accepted as gosepl, from 4 or 5 media conglomerates.
The libel discussion and nascent free speech issues contained within it, and the mention that blogs might fall into obscurity if “journalistic integrity” is not followed, just strike me as scare tactics, even though the intent might be just the opposite.
The blogs falling into obscurity if they are ineffective is a good thing. It is natural selection in a virtual environment. If they can’t stand the heat they get burnt. I kind of get the feeling that non-blog journalism might feel a bit threatened by the possiblity that people would rather listen to opinionated writing on anything under the sun that also allows them to check on the sources, than listen to the faux-objective or ultra-objective dreck that can be found everywhere else.
I’ve tried to be a bit contrary in this post for the hopes of continuing the discussion here. So, discuss folks!
A Panda Driving a Car:
I could hardly sleep last night because I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head as a result of the meetup. One thing that came to mind is that I don’t like the term “framing” when used in discussion. Framing an argument seems to limit it immediately by stuffing it into The Box we’re always supposed to think outside of. It binds a topic and just thinking about it in those terms is reductive instead of expansive. I like saying that you are looking through a lens, because then it is both obvious that you are coming at the topic through a bias [lenses distorty things] but you also allow the topic to remain amorphous and do what it wants.