The media airwaves, newsprint and web pages have been inundated in the last week with the news of and commentary on bloggers being credentialed as press at the ongoing Democratic National Convention in Boston, MA. Pontifs have pontificated, pundits have pundited and commentators have.. well, there’s got to be something that starts with a “p” otherwise my whole scheme is off.
Anyway, the general tone of these is that some great paradigm shift is underway with blogging. There’s also the sense that the DNC is acting so magnanimously by allowing these writers, who more often than not are not associated with an established (read: corporately owned) media outlet into their hallowed hall.
A writer is a writer is a writer. No matter what outlet they may use, be it a newspaper with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands (at least that’s what they tell advertisers) or a lowly web log with a dozen visitors a week. What the DNC has done is not really all that groundbreaking, despite what NPR or the Washington Post may try and tell you. All they have done is give more writers an opportunity to cover the event.
So why are writers whose works appear on privately operated web logs seen as such a brand new dynamic? Because they are not accountable to subscribers or seven layers of corporate management. They need not run their copy past three editors and a legal department in order to espouse their opinions or do any kind of reporting.
Things like this used to be confined to the “Letters to the Editor” or “Voice of the People” sections of the major papers. It’s a measure of how far the faith of a certain demographic has fallen in the major media outlets that they have felt the need to self-publish in order to feel their voice is being heard. Generally, according to various surveys (which I don’t have the time to find the links to), blog writers are fairly affluent with full time jobs and more often than not families. These are not lonely frustrated nihilists. They are the people on the train or on the highways commuting to their jobs and coaching kids sports.
So why the massive differentiation between writers and bloggers in the medias’ eye? I can’t help but feel it’s a good amount of jealousy and snobbery coming into play. If any Cletus, the Slack-Jawed Yokel with an internet connection can report/opine on current events than the sanctity that reporters and editors – as well as the managers who must justify their budgets – wrap themselves in.
The voice of the electorate will be heard this election, if not at the ballot-box then definitely online. Web logs have achieved a kind of cache among the digirati that message boards never really did, despite their inherent similarities. All you need for either is an ISP, some imagination to come up with a title for your post and possibly a User handle and an opinion. Message boards, though, since they were always sub-sections of larger sites, were seen as kind of a playground where the kids could play while the adults did their important work. By offering equal footing for all comers, web logs have truly democratized the writing format and should be noted by all.
What all this means for the future of journalism I can’t and won’t say. If there is one constant in the field it’s that things will change so any prognostication is useless and a waste of space. I write to my blog because it’s fun and free. If you want to know why anyone else does so, visit their blogs and ask them. They’ll probably love to explain it.