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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Blogs: A Collective Force For Change, Or Parasites?

Richard Posner has a long, thoughtful article in The New York Times Magazine that analyzes the news media in the United States, with specific reference to the "liberal vs right" bias. He ends on an optimistic note, asserting that "the increased polarization of the media provides a richer fare than ever before."

Inevitably, he touches upon blogs and their influence:

"The latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic establishment is the blog. Journalists accuse bloggers of having lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded - it is the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional journalists and their principal employers, the conventional news media....with its reputation heavily invested in accuracy, so that every serious error is a potential scandal, a newspaper not only has to delay publication of many stories to permit adequate checking but also has to institute rules for avoiding error - like requiring more than a single source for a story or limiting its reporters' reliance on anonymous sources - that cost it many scoops.

"...What really sticks in the craw of conventional journalists is that although individual blogs have no warrant of accuracy, the blogosphere as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the conventional media do. The rapidity with which vast masses of information are pooled and sifted leaves the conventional media in the dust. Not only are there millions of blogs, and thousands of bloggers who specialize, but, what is more, readers post comments that augment the blogs, and the information in those comments, as in the blogs themselves, zips around blogland at the speed of electronic transmission.

"...In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise - not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It's as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising."

However:

"The bloggers are parasitical on the conventional media. They copy the news and opinion generated by the conventional media, often at considerable expense, without picking up any of the tab. The degree of parasitism is striking in the case of those blogs that provide their readers with links to newspaper articles. The links enable the audience to read the articles without buying the newspaper. The legitimate gripe of the conventional media is not that bloggers undermine the overall accuracy of news reporting, but that they are free riders who may in the long run undermine the ability of the conventional media to finance the very reporting on which bloggers depend."

2 Comments:

  • i think they'll necessarily start out being parasitical, but soon enough they'll become a force for change... it's not as if the msm media is changing anything veyr much, hmmm? :))

    By Blogger uma, at 7:40 PM  

  • Perhaps conventional media feels threatened, but imagine eating breakfast/drinking your morning cuppa over your laptop. Not happening. Also, blogs can't be folded thisway and thatway while you're travelling.
    No, I suppose blogs will be the new "watchdogs" of society. Or watchdogs of the erring Fourth Estate atleast.

    By Blogger chamique, at 3:28 PM  

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