Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 

A Choice and a Voice

SayUncle links to Vanderleun about fears that the blogosphere is becoming the mainstream media by being held hostage to "gatekeepers” like Instapundit and DailyKos.

From Uncle:
Do a select few of the blog elite (never thought I’d hear that phrase) control the dissemination of information? You betcha.


From Vanderleun:
It was once thought that one of the best things about this medium was that it routed around the gatekeepers in the mainstream media. And it did. It did it so well that it evolved gatekeepers of its own. Human, all too human. It would seem that we are not, in the final analysis, prisoners of our media, but prisoners of ourselves. And, as usual, we hand the keys over to someone else.


Where both of these fine folks go wrong is to neglect what makes the blogosphere so powerful and unique in the history of media.

Choice.

Unlike the MSM, Kos does not control the dissemination of information, nor does Professor Reynolds. If anything, they broaden the discussion by pointing out not only new information but new sources as well. Back in the bad old days, news was passive; we didn't have a choice what stories we read or watched on the TV. We ate whatever Brokaw, Rather, Cronkite, or the New York Times saw fit to serve us. Given the revelations of the past few years of bias, distortion, plagiarism and outright falsification, we have to wonder whether what they served us had even a vague resemblance to reality.

Today, we don't have to wonder. Thanks largely to blogs, we know when we're being fed a line of crap. We have a choice of news sources wider than ever before. When a major story breaks, not only do we get the MSM take on it, we also get local first hand information from bloggers on the scene. For example, during the tsunami, bloggers had first hand information from folks on the scene, faster, more complete, and many times more accurate than that given by the MSM. I can also point to the many Iraqi blogs that provided accounts of the events leading up to and during the war, accounts that were quite often at variance with those provided by the MSM.

Although Vanderleun dismisses cases like Rathergate as the exception rather than the rule, that's missing the point. The exception would not exist without the rule. Without the aggregate of the blogosphere, the Rathergate story would have sunken without a trace. Charles Johnson may have noted that the format of the memo was identical to an MS Word document. Donald Sensing would have known that the terminology used in the memo did not conform with standard military usage. Typographers and other experts would have known that the typeface used and the formatting of the document could not have been produced on any typewriter found in common use in the TANG at the time. All of these people would have known all of this, but their individual knowledge never would have been brought together without the blogosphere, not because the knowledge wasn't out there, but because those with the knowledge did not have a voice.

While the penetration of the blogosphere might not be anything like that of television or the rest of the mainstream media, by its nature it doesn't have to be. Bloggers cut across all former demographic lines, cutting six degrees of separation down to two or three. This means that information from blogs cuts those lines as well. In short, while penetration might not be deep, like multi-level marketing or your standard pyramid scheme, it doesn't have to be.

In a real way, every one of us now has a voice. We can provide our unique combination of knowledge, information, and expertise to a truly global forum, and if our information is relevant, it will be heard. As a small example, after the big blackout a while back, I wrote a post explaining how a power generating network worked, and why an overload in one place could cascade throughout a network. I later found out through my logs that that post had been linked by a radio station somewhere in the Pacific Northwest so their listeners could understand what had happened.

Without the blogosphere, that never would have happened.

The bottom line is this: Reynolds and Kos do not create a bottleneck of information, as does the MSM. Rather, they provide links to alternative sources of news and analysis, by definition expanding the flow of information. While some folks may choose to use them as a filter, I suspect that many others do as I do, and read them as one small part of my efforts to be fully informed.
Posted by Rich
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