It is widely accepted as common knowledge that the blogging phenomenon will kill off the newspapers. That axiom has been rolling around the Internets since day 1. There’s only one thing wrong with unquestioning adherence to that old saw: it doesn’t make one damn bit of sense. Anyone who has ever watched the staff of a newspaper work furiously to cover a breaking story knows that thinking that one lone eagle blogger can match the effort of a team of professionals is an example of daft thinking raied to the tenth power.
Let’s use the example of . . . oh, let’s say that Santa Monica has a newspaper called the Outlook and let’s say that a two engine private airplane on landing approach to the local airport has an accident and slams into a home and a fire is started. Some people get killed, and ambulances take others to a nearby emergency room..
A photographer will be sent to the scene to get some photo coverage. A reporter will go along with him to talk to witnesses. Another reporter will be sent to get a statement and some damage estimates from the spokesperson from the Santa Monica Fire Department. Yet another reporter will try to get a statement and some facts and damage estimates from the top policeman at the scene of the accident. A reporter will call the local FAA tower to see if they can find out just exactly what kind of airplane it was that crashed. Another reporter calls around to the local hospitals to find out where precisely the injured were taken and how many were there and how badly were they injured.
The city desk will coordinate the scheduling of getting the pages ready and to the press on time. Perhaps, they can arrange to send the business and comics pages out earlier than usual and shuffle the items on the production line in “the shop.”
While all that is going on they send word to the guy in the newspaper library (AKA “the morgue”) that they want clips about any similar accidents that may have happened in the past.
The city desk will coordinate all these efforts into one big story or one news story and a few side-bar stories plus the photos, and redo the front page layout. The story will include the time it happened, the kind of plane it was, the names of those killed, the number and description of injuries of those taken to the hospital, an estimation of the dollar amount for the fire damage and perhaps the summer inter will churn out a quick sidebar about a similar accident that happened in the area, ten years ago. Oh – did someone take a moment to call the AP and advise them about what was happening and what photo coverage will be available?
Sometimes police officials seem a bit reluctant to give information to reporters with an LAPD issued press pass, but the wide eyed optimists think that somehow, they will, in the future, be more than glad to tell some blogger the name of a person who got killed. They are also assuming that fire department and hospital spokespersons will follow suit.
There may be a time when some blogger posts a scoop about such an airplane accident on L. A.’s Westside, but this “replace” misconception also assumes that when a blog posts something, the whole world sees it. If a well read, news oriented, L. A blog (such as <a href =http://www.laobserved.com/>L. A. Observed</a>) were to post such an item, it would be widely known very quickly, but if a blog that gets very little readership scores a scoop, won’t the people in the area who want to know the details about what happened, have to go to a newspaper or a radio station or a TV news report?
What about the times when people with an LAPD press credential have to apply several days ahead of time with the Secret Service to get approval to cover a scheduled appearance by either the President or the Vice-President? Do you really foresee bloggers getting clearance to cover such an event? If bloggers are going to replace newspapers, isn’t that going to be how things will be done in the future?
Not bloody well likely you say? If you do not believe this wonderful “triumph of the underdog” scenario, then shouldn’t you skedaddle over to your computer and type up a skeptical debunking of “Bloggers Revolutionizing Journalism” misconception and send it off to the Oped Editor of the New York Times? Wouldn’t they just love to turn the tide and reverse the commonly held perception that such amazing online efforts are being churned out routinely and have put the management of the various big newspapers in a tizzy? Heck, if you can turn the tide for this misconception, maybe the Newspaper Publishers Association will make you the guest of honor at their next convention.
If someone used an extremely sincere voice and tried to convince this columnist that he could do better than the staff of the local daily newspaper, it would seem to indicate one of two possibilities: either the person was trying to use flattery to manipulate the columnist (how much money did you want to “borrow”?) or that the person was very, very stupid.
If you think that the effort done by a professional team can outscore an amateur’s best attempts almost every time, then why are you repeating the crap about bloggers hammering the nails into (a collective) coffin for newspapers?
If the odds for the bloggers dominating next year’s Pulitzer Prize competition seem anemic to you, then your next offering to the Oped Page Editor should be your conjecture about who is spreading that misconception and why are they doing it? Aren’t they always looking for a logical, eloquent, well reasoned, rebuttal of a common misperception?
Once the skeptical voices of Bush bashing newspaper pundits disappear from contemporary American culture, won’t Fox New TV be very happy to fill the void? Could they “sell” America on the idea of restoring the Bush dynasty and giving Jeb a win in the following Presidential election? We won’t know unless they give it their best try.
When the founding fathers were working to establish a king-less democracy weren’t they adamant about providing the voters with concise, accurate information about political issues? Who (other than one particular TV news network) would want to disseminate bogus information? Who would want to stifle the process of duplicating the miracle of the loaves and fishes with a commodity called “the truth”? Do the conservatives seem fanatical about eliminating “pro-liberal” newspapers from the cultural scene? Why do you suppose they would want to do that? Do they really care about “accuracy” in journalism or are they just seeking control over what you know before an election is held?
If you do write a myth-busting outrageous freelance effort to send off to the New York Times Oped Page Editor, please wear a flack jacket because, if it gets accepted and printed, the conservatives are going to fill the airwaves with the assertion that you are a “conspiracy theory lunatic” and that your assertion is unworthy of any amount of attention at all.
So you better pepper your effort with plenty of quotes and experts’ opinions (one trouble – if they back a liberals’ contention then automatically, for the conservatives, they become unacceptable as a scholarly source) but what the heck, if a lone blogger can put the city desk of (hypothetically) the Santa Monica Outlook to shame, after an airplane crashes in Mar Vista, then you can write an Oped piece and get a wonderful check for your effort with no problems.
What if “they” have infiltrated the ranks of management at the New York Times and “they” refuse to accept your efforts because “they” don’t want to refute the assertion that bloggers will put them out of business some day soon.
Yes, bloggers will keep newspaper reporters “on their toes” by catching fact checking errors, and while they may occasionally scoop news organizations with a brief about a breaking story, a one man operation will never be able to outperform a team effort.
The freelance fact checking will not replace the criticism (it may augment it) done by folks such as the Columbia Review of Journalism, because the CRJ folks know much more about quality journalism than most bloggers and so the CRJ people will be able to criticize reporters job performances much more knowledgably than Joe the Blogger. One or two good gotcha examples of fact-checking don’t make someone a journalism critic.
Ken Kesey wrote: “You get your visions through whatever gate you’re granted.”
Now, the disk jockey will have the Mills Brothers urge blogers to “be sure it’s true when you say . . .” and we will do our imitation of the Cheshire Cat. Have a “Blogger scoops the New York Times!” type week.