Thursday, September 23, 2004

Blogs and Mainstream Media

Wednesday September 22, 2004
The Guardian

CBS's admission that its story of George Bush's special treatment when with the Texas air national guard was deeply flawed is being seen as a key victory for the new "blogging" community of the internet against old media.

...the retraction would not have happened when it did but for the efforts of an army of bloggers - writers of online journals - in exposing the documents as fraudulent, including some who authoritatively questioned the authenticity of the documents almost as they were released.

CBS was doubly at fault. It failed to appreciate the force of the thousands of voluntary fact-checkers out there on the web (let alone trying to harness their power in advance), while also failing to interview bloggers after the event as part of an ongoing story.

Newspapers often claim superiority because their stories go through a time-established filtration plant - professional writers, skilled subeditors, revise subs and expensive lawyers. This compares with the web's more anarchic processes, where brews of unfiltered stories, some highly speculative, are put into circulation, and cream sometimes rises to the top.

In fact, bloggers are often people very expert in their own fields who attract other experts when issues in their domain are newsworthy. Stories in old media can be fact-checked instantaneously and the journalists and their newspapers held to account.

....There is no doubt that the tectonic plates of journalism are moving. There is awesome potential in the internet as a gatherer, distributor and checker of news - not least through instant delivery channels such as mobile phones. This does not mean old media will die. But it will have to adapt quickly to what has so far been an asymmetrical relationship.

Blogs have battened off newspapers and many newspapers, including the Guardian, have launched their own blogs. But most newspapers, let alone TV stations, have not embraced the blogging revolution as an essential part of the future rather than an irritant in the background. The CBS saga may prove to be the wake-up call they needed.

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