Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blogger Brawn

More mass media mavens make malicious mouthings. Quite a few columnists, TV talking heads and reporters enjoy the new Kick the Bloggers game.

That's understandable and often quite amusing. It's the Wack-A-Mole of the moment.

We'll see how it goes in a couple of weeks at the Media Giraffe conference -- Democracy and Independence: Sharing News and Politics in a Connected World. Big shot real journalists will convene in Amherst to think deep thoughts and voice them. Bloggers are an add-on for one day.

There will be much on how folks can work together. There's certainly nothing about the grandeur of Daily Kos (or Blue Mass Group) nor some snarky stupid-blogger presentations.

Ink in the Veins

Having come out of journalism school and worked newspapers, I'm filled with the poison of print. I love paper, still read rags daily and numerous magazines in my very hands. I am a big clicker of online news and opinion, and have been from bulletin board days -- that's pre-Web Internet, by cracky.

From my jaundiced view, the flutter and pomp of mass media dissecting, dissing, and duplicating (poorly) blogs is too damned funny.
  • Newspapers don blog beanies. Many, including the Boston Globe list several or dozens of their own blogs where they used to link to useful ones. It seems every professional hack on the reporting and editing staff has orders to blog like they know what it is. Lame and worse. Get it not, they do, Jedi knights.
  • Puffer fish TV and radio pundits pronounce on -- and pounce on -- bloggers.
  • Online maggies, like Slate and Salon, feign sophisticated analysis of these nascent media.

Why All the Attention?

First, media types can't let their competitors outdo them. They rarely report on something really new or undefined. Damn it though, when it's in Newsweek or the New York Times, they're going to do something on it.

Many are threatened. It's not so much that blogs are going to cut into their advertising revenue much, but they just don't understand.

For an alter kaker -- probably around my age -- Channel 4's Jon Keller tries. He picks topics only a few weeks or months behind the curve and puts a little snark in his comments, just to show that he's a hep cat. Do wop.

His recent commentary on bloggers reflects that. He never avoids or runs out of clich├ęs and uses such as tin-foil hats in this one. The gist is that there are bloggers of substance and others just off on tangents.

Isn't it nice that TV is so sophisticated, balanced and intellectually solid.

New and Scary

For those who remember the pre-blogger days of desktop publishing, think back. When the tools first let us do the paper equivalent of blogging -- newsletters. Much as the embarrassing proponderance of blogs later, these were often trivial and garish display of family pictures and personal trivialities -- boring at best, wailing cats at night too often.

In fairness, we must say that many of us bloggers love to talk about and aggrandize ourselves. Most of us are enthusiastic about our particular concerns.

I remember from my newspaper days the catharsis of being able to leave with a copy of my work for that day in my hand. When I did a good job or better, there it was. If I goofed up, I knew I could fix it the next day.

Later when I worked business or trade magazines, that changed. Articles were on the sked months in advance and the joy of your work lessened as the weeks passed before the paper was in your hand. The passion paled -- you were onto a half dozen other things by then.

It was worse when I edited a major business book for McGraw-Hill. It was many months from completion until the bound copies arrived. It was closer to meeting the kid you left on someone's doormat six years earlier. The immediacy was long past.

It's back with blogs. You can see it immediately, revise it on the fly, add new stuff to your emotional and intellectual satisfaction, and get reader feedback just as soon.

A handful of blogs are businesses. They promote themselves constantly, compete with each other in every way, and whore for publicity. There aren't many of those, but they are the ones that the mass media target.

Lefter than Thou

A few years ago, the mass media didn't make much of the Republican and other right-wingers making such excellent use of the Web. They raised money, spread lies and innuendo, and in generally made the most of the technology.

Recently though, the allegedly liberal media does make much of the liberal concentration among bloggers. It's almost like they're saying, "Don't call us liberal. It's those damned bloggers. They're the pinkos."

Being pretty pink myself, I don't see a problem with the left coming on strong with blogs. It sort of begins to compensate for the bloated concentration of conservatives on radio, TV and the Web. Then too, I think that the more you know, the more likely you are to be liberal. History and economics have a way of screaming about the inequities past and present. You can turn that off or say this needs fixing.

Even the best of our locals will pose with a celebrity blogger.

It's exciting to us rabble, frustrated by the blandness of the mass media and suddenly able to publish our brilliant or pathetic or even bland offering. Particularly in political area and with campaigns underway, we have dozens or hundreds or thousands of daily readers. That's nothing like what the sports section of the Globe on paper or online gets during baseball season, but its real and consistent and measurable.

Those simple pleasures seem to rile some big-media insiders. Particularly as the mass media have taken to calling the rich press Old Media, they get testy.

One example is behind the Times Select moat -- one way or another, you'd have to pay the Times to read Maureen Dowd's Bloggers Double Down. However, you can get a recap and commentary at Slate in John Dickerson's The Markos Regime.

He's still belittling, but not as toxic as Dowd. She concludes that the head of Daily Kos and the orginal Wonkette really aspire to be her, a real journalist, with a salary. As she wrote, "Even as Old Media is cowed by New Media, New Media is tryuing to become, rather than upend, Old Media."

Dickerson spits and wipes. "I hope Moulitsas doesn't let go of his snotty arrogance too easily. One of the healthiest things about the left-wing blogosphere is its confrontational dislike of the mainstream media."

While admitting that DK and other blogs are politically influential to greater or lesser degrees, he feigns detachment. Bloggers are too in love with themselves and big media reports are suckers for trends. He ends up calling for bloggers to downplay their influence to modulate expectations. He figures that the new truth after the mid-term elections will be big media piling on stories of how little influence blogs had in the election.

As for Dowd, she's off her nut and will likely rue such pronouncements.

I do love newspapers, but they don't get it and are not likely to until it's too late for many of them. Their circulation plunges, their ad revenues go South, and they don't know what to do. They have had centuries of being cash rich and asset poor, selling without maintaining inventory. They are kids in the playground waiting for enough to play baseball, while the soccer fields are full.

Rubbing Ideas Together

So over in Amherst, far from the sights, sounds and smells of the Charles, big media and a smattering of we pretenders and upstarts -- with attitude -- gather. As the organizers put it:
Hundreds of traditional and citizen journalists, political strategists, educators, bloggers, developers, technology and media researchers are expected to convene. The Media Giraffe Project, a non-partisan, interdisciplinary research effort of the UMass journalism program, is hosting the roundtable summit and how-to sessions designed to:
  • Consider and recommend answers to changes to the financing and practice of journalism
  • Bridge the gap between new and traditional media
  • Show and consider the impact of new media technologies on journalism and the "public sphere"
  • Spotlight emerging business models
  • Create new networks of media innovators which bridge traditional carriers among journalism, education, politics and technology
  • Watch and share innovations in media-literacy education.
We blogging sorts get in one day, at a much reduced rate. We may be the kids invited in to greet the older, more dignified relatives. A pat on the head, an ice-cream social (literally in this case), and go back out to play.

It looks like some good sessions.
Some of us will be live blogging and chatting it up afterward. Hey, it's easy PR.
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1 comment:

Peter Porcupine said...

Y'know - until I opened the link I thought you were posing with Pat Guerriro!

Isn't there a 'seperated at birth' thing going on with those two?