Monday, January 17, 2005

Weblogs and the Mainstream Media

I'm one of those who absolutely loves the utility of weblogs. My own personal weblog is a way of communicating my opinion and feeling about something to friends, family, and the world at large. However, I'm also very conscious of the fact that whatever goes into my weblog is something I've put there for my own reasons. It's something that is my opinion. It's not my journalistic tool. I am personally under no obligation (except perhaps a personal ethical one) to vet the information in it. Though I forget it at times, neither is anyone else under that obligation. Blogs are personal soapboxes and everyone has their axes to grind.

I don't believe all webloggers have nefarious ulterior motives all the time, but it's somewhat shocking to me that some weblogs have been catapulted from "personal squawkbox" to "respected journalistic outlet." To use the example of The Drudge Report ... many many times I have heard of a story on the Drudge site causing a stir and therefore getting news coverage. More often than not it's coverage that I find hurts "my side" on certain political issues. I had absolutely no idea that The Drudge Report was a weblog until my teacher mentioned it in class. That actually made the extreme right-leaning tendencies of the site far more understandable. It was bothersome to me that a "news site" could be so obviously biased, but news channels like Fox News already seemed to bend that "Fair and Balanced" idea anyway.

These days it seems like news organizations keep a careful watch on certain weblogs. They've become a source of possible stories, if not the front line in getting stories wholecloth. The problem I see coming with this trend is that sometimes respectable news sources might skimp on their own work or ethics. The fact that webloggers aren't really held to the same standards and practices of "real" journalists may mean that they can engage in less-than-savory tactics to get their story. Once a "story" is out there actual news stations could take the 'blog information and just run with it from there. It blurs the line.

I think that, in all, weblogging can be a positive force in the reporting of the news (and the policing of the accuracy of those news reports). It can provide a widely available countering voice to the "juggernaut" of the media companies. However, if the public operates under the assumption that one "can't trust everything you see on the news" then they should also keep that in mind about the news 'blogs.

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