Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Do We Create or Regurgitate News As Bloggers?
This ongoing investigation regarding the racist attacks against Dr. Yolanda Pierce at Princeton Seminary begs the question how blogs - especially those hosted by female bloggers with empowerment themes - have evaluated their processes for generating posts and in discussing this. What do we consider newsworthy? Who do we use as sources for stories? Why do some bloggers base their posts on things they read in the newspaper or watch on the television almost exclusively? Why are those sources considered "credible" when we know the information we get is tainted and controlled by conglomerates with an agenda? What others sources are we reviewing for inclusion as a story idea generator? Do we even need to do so as "non-professionals" and push any limitations? After all, I heard a failed Vice Presidential candidate say that bloggers are 'liars' who live in their mother's basement.
Prosecutors have tried murder cases on circumstantial evidence or even without a body when they believe a crime has been committed. In a local case Hans Reiser eventually took a plea deal after such a conviction in exchange for revealing the location of his mudered wife's remains. He had claimed his innocence the entire investigation and trial. People don't demand "proof" from children who tell an adult they've been sexually abused. They are questioned of course, but the general consensus is that they are credible witnesses to their own abuse and telling the truth. Why should someone who claims a racial attack against a Black woman has occurred have to jump through hoops to establish their claim beyond a shadow of a doubt to those that would deny them no matter what? Why does someone need conditions met when a distinguished witness first brought it to the blogosphere's attention before believing such a claim and/or taking action? Are we less likely to take someone's word if they are non-white and female?
Some of those in the blogosphere consider themselves activists against social injustices, while others want to strictly report on celebrity happenings. Blog posts can be very personal. Others talk politics and choose to focus on local or national issues. Still more just want a catalog of their personal journeys through life or swap recipes and baby pictures. Each blog has its own voice, can capture a particular audience and encourages active participation from a variety of readers. They can also face the scorn of those that oppose their voice and will argue with them ad nauseum.
It can certainly be productive to hear many sides to an issue but the boundaries have to be drawn somewhere. People tend to forget these are public forums and can lose all methods of decorum when they post anonymously or with a nickname. A fly in the soup can derail a conversation quickly if the blog administrator doesn't control who they allow in their space or set the rules for engagement.
I find many so-called progressive blogs (kos, Open Left, etc) just as caustic an environment as the staunchest of right-wing sites because I feel the same level of intolerance, sense of entitlement and exclusionary attitudes from those that claim to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum and stick to their viewpoint. The readers easily fall into group-think and try to police out dissent - even if it's coming from those who offer constructive criticism.
Running a blog requires that you put a bit of yourself out for public consumption - that is if you are to have any impact or level of authenticity. The purpose and intent behind starting a blog of course has as many reasons as there are people running them. Not everyone who blogs is a so-called journalist and those with prior media careers have steadily switched to blogging in addition to their traditional work. There are many excellent writers who've used this form of technology to bypass the gatekeeper walls of exclusion. Corporate media has seen a 15% decrease in non-white journalists just this year alone when they were already underrepresented to begin with.
The only caveat with blogging is that anyone can start a blog. That is the great equalizer but there are certain skills those trained in journalism/writing use to investigate stories and produce content. They're also paid to do it. For most of us blogging is a side gig and labor of love. As Web 2.0 continues to offer new technology and people gain access to and comfort with the internet we need to look at ways of combining our collective voices into sustainable ways and increase our audience - and influence over the narrative.
We need to start looking outside the 'mainstream' white middle class Americuh for Americans corporate media where George Bush is just misunderstood and the United States never does anything wrong. Depending on the impact of media coverage that day I can go to several blogs for their perspective on the same news story. Now that perspective may certainly be vital and interesting but it isn't exclusive - especially if you're like me and you read several blogs more than once per day. Telling lesser known stories certainly has value and can positively shed light on issues ignored by corporate media. We just need to decide if we - as bloggers and readers of blogs - will continue to wait for others to deem them worthy before we do.