11 March 2005

Blogosphere Backlash

It is interesting to watch the increasingly important impact of the blogosphere. There are a couple of intersting articles linked at Real Clear Politics today. These articles deal with the question of whether bloggers are journalists. Websters first definition of a journalist is: the writer of a journal. The second definition is: one whose occupation is journalism: an editor, correspondent, critic, or reporter of a newspaper; a newspaperman.

The process of defining the scope of the blogosphere, like any rapid growth process, will probably involve pain. Just ask Dan Rather or Eason Jordan. Jacob Weisberg points out in his piece in Slate, that the definition of journalism is being blurred.

". . . Even before the advent of blogging, the issue of who qualified as a journalist was a tricky one. Were the pamphleteers of the American Revolution journalists? Was Mark Twain? Is Oprah Winfrey? With the proliferation of new modes of communication online, deciding who is and who isn't a journalist has become pretty much impossible. . . "

Read the whole thing as it is a well written piece on the subject. Also read Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle. His take on it points out that the explosion of the blogosphere has led to a net increase in information available for consumers which is indeed a good thing. He also makes the interesting observation that "...Bloggers are just columnists without newspapers..." This is also a good thing; right? This seems to have produced op-ed commentary that is far more diverse, available, and sometimes far more critical than members of institutional big journalism could ever produce. At the end of his piece Carroll offers to stand and defend the blogosphere, a healthy recognition of reality from a member of the MSM.

A few posts back I pointed out there are rumblings that the blogosphere is about to be regulated. It is more than a little ironic to note that none other than Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold who was the democratic co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold law, the proposed vehicle for such regulation, now appears to be arguing against such a thing. That's odd, as some have made compelling arguments that the McCain-Feingold law served mainly two purposes. One; to further entrench incumbent politicians particularly those in Congress, and two; to encourage the consolidation of media power. Mainstream Media Power. In the piece linked above Feingold cautions "...The FEC must tread carefully in the area of political communications on the Internet..." . With all due respect Senator, your suggestion is impossible for any Federal bureauracracy. The concepts of Federal bureacracy, and treading lightly are mutually exclusive.

I believe the most likely explanation for the explosion of alternative media is to fill the vacuum left by an obviously discernable problem of bias in the MSM. This problem is compounded by pure laziness on the part of many, especially at the local level. But then, where do the "Bigs" recruit their so-called talent from? The local television and print markets. I am not trying to paint with too broad a brush here, as this criticism is not applicable to the whole of the MSM. A competition driven shakeout of the MSM is a good thing for the American body-politic. This is something Thomas Jefferson would have approved of. In a metaphorical sense, this is a refreshing of the tree of Liberty with blood from time to time.

It is important to remember though that the markeplace of ideas is no different from any other marketplace; in that, where there is a demand someone will come along and fill it. Tampering with these powerful market forces through regulation is likely to be ineffective, and more importantly threatens to trample one of our most precious liberties; that of healthy dissent . -SpinDaddy

Update 12MAR05 1135hrs: Ambra Nykol out in Seattle has a great post, this topic. Read it here.