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.

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Khadija said...

Good Morning, Faith!

I'm so happy you did this post. This is just one of several issues that modern activists need to think through.

I think there are several (sometimes overlapping) things going on with those who want proof beyond a shadow of a doubt before they respond to an attack on a Black woman.

1-Many such people do not value BW and are looking for a plausible-sounding reason not to respond to such attacks.

2-Unfortunately, the modern Black victim of an atrocity often behaves in ways that are NOT helpful, and are inappropriate, to the cause of justice. For examples consider R.Kelly's many victims, including the one that was the subject of his criminal trial. A lot of sincere people don't want to get "burned" because they responded.

Point #2 is the reason why we must rally around principles & NOT individuals. Like I said, this angle is just one of many things that modern activists need to think through.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Khadija: Thanks for your input. Focusing on principles also protects the individual from undue scrutiny. You are correct.

Miriam said...

Hey there. great post. Excellent topic!

I do want to point out -and maybe you did already- that sometimes even reading the same story on several blogs, I get different angles which makes it interesting.

Now if I can only find a place that lists the various "neighborhoods" of blogs to visit...

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Miriam: Hi, I agree that certain bloggers offer a different take and it can make for a very interesting read. By neighborhood of blogs do you mean going to one site and getting a blog roll? There's the Afro sphere, Blogher and others. I use the google blog search engine as well by topic.

Unknown said...

there was a time when I could read blogs and get something that the mainstream media didn't put out.

Since the Obama campaign, I can actually predict what the blogosphere will say..

in essence, we have become bull horns for the mainstream media.

some of us have even become whores for readership.

while it is true that some of us provide a different perspective on the news, a good number of us are not educated to make a significant analysis of a particular event.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Wow Omi! That was a little harsh wasn't it? Shouldn't readers be a bit more discerning? There's a lot of excitement with being of the new fangled technology and I think the wheat will get separated from the chaff as with all things. But with the loss of corporate media sources providing content of importance to Black people we will need to look to new ways to meet the needs of and reach our communities.

Unknown said...

I read your blog because you know what you are talking about..

Here is how I know you are doing the right thing:

you get very few comments.

Lately, there are very few blogs that actually say something that quite a few people read. But the blogs that I find brilliant (such as yours) have few readers.


I hate to say this, but you know what you are talking about and most people don't. A good number of people fail at reading comprehension (ask my babies, I stay on them about reading comp).

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

OMi: Wow what a compliment! I still have a LOT to learn and I'm trying to not beat myself up when I see something I want to change or be stuck in the past. It really is taking one step, one little step at a time while being conscious that leads us on the path to true growth.

Now my ego wants to kick in a bit and state that I've been blogging for less than 5 months and really only hit my stride maybe one month ago and added site meters and other traffic generators. I have a lot of lurkers! Thanks for the kind words and I certainly welcome constructive feedback as well.