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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Symbiotic Relationships

The title is taken from a line in a piece in today's Washington Post by Jim Brady, who is executive editor of the online edition. It's his very apt description of the blogging/MSM relationship.

The article, Blog Rage, starts by describing the fiasco that was Deborah Howell's January column when she said Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats. We all know what kind of reaction that statement can bring from certain quarters. Be it a minority leader in Congress or a Kosite, the mantra of "It's a Republican Scandal" with varying degrees of vulgarity. It happened here and on many other blogs. (Check Suzie's Assorted Babble for examples, she gets lots of that)

Mr. Brady points out a few things that I've mentioned here about where the problem in the online world lays.

This all raises a question: Why are people so angry? It was a mistake, it was corrected. Part of the explanation may be the extremely partisan times we live in. For all the good things it has brought our society, the Web has also fostered ideological hermits, who only talk to folks who believe exactly what they do. This creates an echo chamber that only further convinces people that they are right, and everyone else is not only wrong, but an idiot or worse. So when an incident like this one arises, it's not enough to point out an error; they must prove that the error had nefarious origins. In some places on the Web, everything happens on a grassy knoll. (emphasis mine)

That paragraph sums things up very well. Since long before Drudge broke the blue stained dress story, and Rather was beaten about the head and shoulders with faked documents, the internet and online mediums have been full of conspiracy theorists and apologists.

When I ran The Politically Incorrect BBS and Net in the early to late 1990's many of my political forums were full of people talking about the black helicopters and blue road signs that Clinton's election were sure to bring. Most are still waiting for the UN commandos to come get them.

The highlighted line shows one of the problems I have with the blogging forum in certain circles. That problem is the folks who refuse to allow comments from people who DON'T think like them. I don't know where Phantom Driver is anymore, he used to comment here frequently, but screamed for me to ban certain commenters because they were "shill's for the left". In fact, I think my refusal to is why he quit visiting.

What is the point of this medium if you are only going to use it to listen to folks who are already convinced? The guys in the editorial room at newspapers don't write op/ed pieces for the converted masses, they write opinion pieces to try and get someone else to see their point of view.

Back on the subject of the title, Jim writes:

Personally, I don't believe there's any such thing as "the blogosphere" as opposed to "the mainstream media." It's silly to assign organizations to one category or the other, pretend that there's uniformity in either grouping, or imagine a battle between the two. According to Technorati, a search engine that tracks the blogosphere, there are 27.6 million blogs on the Web, and they cover countless topics. Blogs are at odds with each other just as often as they're at odds with the media.
That's an opinion most of us who blog instead of writing for major dailies wish would become more pervasive. He continues on to explain the relationship.
Even if you could define the blogosphere and the media as discrete entities, I've never understood why they'd be viewed as competitors. If you want to be positive, you could say blogs and the traditional media have a symbiotic relationship; if you want to be more negative, call it parasitic. Either way, they're connected. They co-exist like this: The media writes articles or files reports, then blogs use them as starting points for discussions. When the blogs do this, they almost always provide links back to media Web sites, and there isn't a news media site on the Web that doesn't receive a good chunk of its traffic from blogs.

I've never been shy about admitting I use the Post, and Newsweek to garner traffic. The Technorati links they provide in their articles are invaluable for getting their online readers to stop by here and get a different perspective on issues.

More and more frequently papers have folks cruising the larger blogs, looking for stories they missed. With 27 million bloggers it's easy to snare something that a newpaper, or TV station would miss.

The beauty of this relationship, as it's growing, is that both sides are finding they have to be more accountable with what they do. CBS was pummeled by "Rathergate", and rightfully so, I'm sure everyone but the producer of the segment now check sources better.

And bloggers have been taken to task by "big media" on a few occasions, like Steve Gilliard's cartoons about Michael Steele. (Steve's blog also has a take on this Washington Post article, and if you need a laugh, go read it, he misses all the content and only bitches about the first 2 paragraphs. )

In summary, Brady is correct we need each other. Bloggers wouldn't exist, or need to, if it wasn't for the "mainstream media" and they on the other hand enjoy the viewers we send their sites, and are starting to appreciate that news comes from many quarters.

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Blogger LargeBill said...

It is obvious that political blogs wouldn't flourish without the MSM. There is nothing wrong with an adversarial relationship as long as people remember that we do need the MSM. It would be awfully hard to criticize the media's extreme biases if the media didn't exist. I think most mature bloggers would realize, if they thought about it, that it is our love for newspapers which drives us crazy when we see obvious errors or biases.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Bill, great comment. I think that along with political bloggers guys and gals who concentrate on sports, and a lot of topics find the newspapers a great source of inspiration, and frustration.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Rebekah said...

That's true. I think - at least for now - we need the media. But if they keep ignoring bloggers and taking themselves way to seriously while stubbornly sticking to liberal bias whatever their ratings are, I predict they'll fade away rather fast.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Rebekah, once bloggers become big enough to replace them we will become them. Easy to think it can't happen, but if the conversation were to become one sided in the bloggers direct, we'd have the same problems we did when the MSM dominated news.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Assorted Babble by Suzie said...

Thank you for the link CP....My mind is not as fresh now as it was when I read the complete article. Excellent post....I really like largebill's comment. (smiling)

2:01 PM  
Blogger Jeff H said...

I beg to differ w/ Brady's assertion that the Web has created "an echo chamber". What evidence does he have that those so-called "ideological hermits" ever spoke to people of differing opinions BEFORE the advent of the Web and its increasingly pervasive use? I would surmise, with every bit as much evidence to support my assertion as Mr. Brady has, that th Web had instead simply given those ideological hermits a wider outlet for their voices. The echo chamber does not reside on the Web, or in cabals of conspirators, or even in NY Times columns--it exists in the heads of the hermits.

2:57 PM  

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