Cybernaut 

New media a new kind of media

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A lot of politicos and media pundits are taking potshots at political blogs and bloggers these days, questioning their accuracy, honesty, accountability and journalist credentials — mostly in a dazed response to the unexpected popularity of the blogs themselves. Some of the most viewed web logs get over a million visitors every day.

If you asked the mainstream media (MSM) about blogs, they’d probably tell you that they’re dangerous, because some people are ignoring objective or “real” news in favour of subjective blogs assembled or filtered by someone with views that closely match their own. As a result, the MSM would argue that people relying on blogs for news are not getting all the facts, and in many cases are not even getting the truth.

After all, being exposed to different ideas, as well as the unvarnished facts, is what makes a society democratic — that’s why the freedom of the press is firmly entrenched in any constitution or bill of rights.

But while the mainstream media have a valid point, so do the bloggers. They argue, correctly, that the MSM is no longer independent or objective, but has been folded into the establishment of political parties, media corporations, and larger corporate entities that sometimes have a vested interest in hiding or spinning facts to match their own agendas.

For example, Fox News is regularly accused of being an apparatus of the American Republican Party, influential conservative think tanks, and special corporate interests, and personally I’ve seen nothing on their website in the last several years to make me believe otherwise. In Canada, the National Post and parent company CanWest Global Communications, have a well-known conservative slant that largely dictates content on the editorial page, determines who gets hired to write, and sometimes the content of the news and business sections as well.

Some journalists have also changed the way they present the news. Instead of seeking the truth in stories, the latest format involves finding pundits on both sides of an issue to comment or battle it out on live television to achieve a phony kind of balance — no facts or figures presented by either side are questioned or clarified, or put in any kind of reasonably neutral context for readers, listeners and viewers.

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart railed against this type of so-called balanced journalism on CNN’s Crossfire a year ago (check out the video on YouTube, www.youtube.com ) to provide one of the most memorable television moments in recent history. Stewart is largely credited with the eventual decision to cancel that show.

I’m of the opinion that blogs are not just “new media”, meaning a new twist on traditional media, but rather represent something completely new. For the most part the establishment has always owned all the major newspapers, radio stations and television stations, for the simple reason that it costs a lot of money to print and broadcast.

Blogging, on the other hand, is basically free. A few of the more successful online pundits collect donations, run ads or sell things to be able to blog full time, but even these guys started from zero.

As a result blogs represent the first real opportunity ever for journalists and editorialists outside the mainstream to compete with the MSM on a level playing field. It’s just as easy for a web surfer to go to Buzzflash as it is to go to the New York Times Online, and with some newspapers charging for content or making visitors register sometimes the blogs are even easier.

And there’s no denying that several bloggers are doing real investigative journalism, and to a level that is truly embarrassing for the MSM. There’s nothing like a blogger breaking an important story to show the world that mainstream news is doing a piss-poor job these days, and it seems that a new story gets broken every week.

Bloggers have also become the MSM’s fact checkers, and are always sniffing for hypocrisy and lies from politicians that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

As their popularity and legitimacy of blogs continue to grow, it’s no secret that the MSM is starting to feel threatened. A lot of news organizations slam blogs at every opportunity, but at the same time they are encouraging their own news personalities to start web logs of their own. If you can’t beat them join them, I guess.

A website called Technorati ( www.technorati.com ) ranks all the blogs out there, altogether and in different categories. Technorati also links to all the most downloaded videos and visited websites out there, using a unique engine to measure web traffic. Canadian content can be found at www.blogscanada.ca .

 

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