MSM vs. Online Publishing

    June 25, 2007

It annoys me to no end that people in popular MSM publications who know almost nothing about the internet feel they are qualified to comment on some aspect of it.

For example, I recently happened upon an article in the Sunday times by columnist David Bullard.

Here’s a sample of what can be found:

“Most blog sites are the air guitars of journalism. They’re cobbled together by people who wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism, mainly because they have very little to say. It’s rather sad how many people think the tedious minutiae of their lives will be of any interest to anyone else. It’s even sadder when someone reads them. Many bloggers prefer to remain anonymous and with good reason. The content of their sites is so moronic that even their best friends would disown them if they knew they were the authors.”

Instead of a well-written, informed op-ed piece looking objectively at the flaws and beauty of the blogosphere we have someone who is mostly out of touch with what the blogosphere represents and doesn’t have a clue what its all about.

Talk about ignorance.

Sadly, this attitude is simply indicative of a larger attitude towards blogging and bloggers in general that is entrenched in the minds of those who don’t understand the internet and those who are scared of it.

The article appeared to be about “shameful” and “offensive” bloggers, but on a deeper level focused on the general idiocy the author seems to find in the blogosphere.

Yeah, there are a lot of bad, pointless blogs, but that’s not the point; the point is that the blogosphere creates a rich, vibrant ever-changing community where a Muslim girl in Afghanistan can report on what’s going on in her country, a soldier can show us videos of the realities of war, a search engine marketing company can offer tips on how to improve a website and a stay-at-home-mom can make it big as a columnist.

It is a world that is self-moderating, where the flow of information is continually updated and analyzed and people have the freedom to express themselves however they want.

And that’s what he misses. No, there aren’t enforced standards; perhaps journalistic standards should be set, I’ll agree with that; however, what would be the point in policing a world where freedom of expression is one of the most highly valued commodities? The beauty of a blog is that anyone can say whatever they want and people can read it if they choose to. Information is free and it is up to the reader to do the research and form educated opinions. It is the user community who organically chooses which sites to give their time to and which to leave in the dust.

If you don’t want to read about X’s new adventures in being a mommy or why A hates B, don’t. It’s that simple.

He says, “are there really 70 million bloggers out there hoping that their writing talents will be recognized, or is this just another example of modern narcissism?”

The world is shades of gray, not black and white. The reasons people create blogs,the way they use them and what they do with them are so varied a statement like that above prompts me shake my head, bemused. People make such large generalizations about blogging and other online publishing media (e.g. video) without realizing the potential of this vast online community is far more powerful than mainstream media is even capable of anymore.

Not to mention the fact that “print standards” and journalistic ethics are often tossed aside by mainstream media (MSM). Look at Michael Finkel, Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass. These are just some of the more well-known journalistic “sinners” of MSM; there are plenty of others.

Additionally, its rather hypocritical to point fingers at bloggers while writing for a paper that, like most print publications today, takes a wealth of information from the blogoshpere.