April 17, 2008
January 25, 2008
December 6, 2007
30 November 2007
When Professor Walker announced on the very first day of class that we would be producing our very own, class-run blog, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d gotten myself into. “Blogging?!” I agonized, “the only people that blog are the type that want everyone to know how miserable their lives are.” Needless to say, I was a bit uncertain about just how well I would agree with the blogosphere. I was actually under the impression that blogging was already becoming a thing of the past. Apparently I was quite mistaken. How was I to know that amateur internet news sources and opinion feeds were quietly, and single handedly taking the media world as we know it by storm? Despite my ignorance of and averseness to the rapidly expanding internet news realm, I (cautiously) took on the task of political blogging. And, while I have truly expanded my understanding of the prevalence of worldwide blogging, and learned quite a bit about the presidential candidates for the 2008 elections, I’m hesitant to say that I have completed reformed, if you will, as far as my opinion of blogging goes.
One article, or pair of articles, that particularly influenced my perspective of internet blogging was Steve Outing’s “What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists,” and “What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers.” Outing’s approach was extremely unbiased and served as a well developed introduction to and assessment of modern
media. He offered a variety of interesting thoughts about the pros and cons of new age blogging and traditional journalism. These thoughts inspired and helped me to make my own evaluations of unconventional journalism and to draw conclusions about its future. One thing that I’ve always felt is crucial to good reporting is a good editor. When I catch mistakes or wild claims in print I am quickly annoyed and often find myself wondering if a monkey would have done a better job. On the same token, I think one of the most intriguing things about blogging is the fact that it is so raw – unaffected by the bureaucratic hand of an editor – and is available to anyone and everyone. Free speech in its most literal form! Outing lightly suggests the idea of blog editors by stating, “[it’s] a brilliant idea […] An extra pair of eyes can certainly help to catch spelling, grammar, and factual errors” (Poynter). These types of errors, among other things, are what I dislike most about blogging. Though I have great appreciation for the expressed opinions and their author’s privilege to provide them candidly, I can’t help but cringe every time I see a careless grammatical error or astronomical fact mistake. These kinds of problems should simply not surface if a person is serious about their blog, and I suppose I agree with Outing. For this reason, I remain hopelessly trapped in my indecisiveness about the legitimacy of blogging.
While I found much of what Outing suggested to be valuable, I couldn’t help but disagree with his persistent plea with the bloggers of the world to find ways to “gain credibility.” I think the strongest motivation for bloggers is a personal want to be expressive, opinionated, and free to be these things. A blogger, in my sense of the term, does not seek a large crowd or following – that’s hardly dissident! Rather, I think the bloggers of the world want to say the dangerous things that they dream of reading in the daily paper, and should they obtain some regular readers along the way, then so be it! I think Outing really missed the mark on the motivation factor, and it affected some of his points in a negative way.
Another perspective that I have taken into consideration is that of Rodger Streitmatter. In Voices of Revolution, Streitmatter includes in his chapter “Dissident Voices/Common Threads” an illustration of the fact that “the dissident press is particularly active during periods of social, economic, and political turbulence” (275). He goes on to stress that said forms of dissident publications “tend to be short lived” (276). This notion called to my attention the dire state in which our nation finds itself: economically, socially, internationally, etc. Could this upheaval of amateur, yet passionate internet publications be the result of our nation’s failing society? Yes, it very well could. This thought called me to question the motivation of bloggers everywhere. Will they cease when the war is over? Or after the 2008 elections? Maybe so, maybe not. But since I feel strongly about the fact that much of internet blogging is considerably “dissident,” I am not certain that blogging will remain extremely prevalent once the nation has less to be opposed to.
One thing I found in writing for our class blog, despite the fact that it was somewhat structured, was that it was surprisingly, and exceedingly liberating. There is no denying the appeal, now that I’ve dipped my toes in uncharted waters. Blogging has, without a doubt, tremendous pros including the fact that it serves as a breeding ground for discussion and debate (even if it gets heated, no one gets hurt!), an implement for expression, and it is readily available to all. I cannot suppress my undeniable affection for all forms of media of the dissident persuasion, and thus am finding it difficult to remain in opposition to the blogosphere. While I am still unsure about where I see the blog’s place in media in the long scheme of things, I believe that it is a powerful instrument for revolution in today’s political and social atmosphere and I hope to see it flourish and stir trouble where trouble should be stirred.
For the class blog project, I was a part of the “Political Candidates” team. This involved regular monitoring of candidates’ positions and statements as well as careful tracking of mainstream media’s opinions of said candidates. For my part, I chose to investigate the candidates (as fairly as I could) on a bipartisan level, despite my partiality to the left end of the spectrum. This included writing about such candidates as John Edwards, Ron Paul, and Hilary Clinton, as well as other prominent political figures. I tried to be as critical of both sides as possible – pointing out flaws and shortcomings of every candidate and discussing ideas of improvement. Similarly, my group members did an excellent job of investigating a large range of candidates, scrutinizing all perspectives, and giving kudos where kudos was due. All in all, I think we did a fairly awesome job of touching on a variety of topics in the political world while remaining as unbiased as was possible. I think we stirred a lot of conversation, and isn’t that the point of dissident media?
Outing, Steve, comp. Poynteronline. Vers. What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists.
Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution: the Dissident Press in
December 2, 2007
Web-logging, sorry, ‘Blogging’ is rapidly becoming the way our society gets it news, information, and entertainment. Gone are the days when the only time to get the news were during the breakfast newspaper reading or the evening news. Here are the days when the internet has turned every average citizen into a certified news journalist. This new title that all citizens have acquired does not site well with everyone however. Those in the journalism community (and by journalism I mean broadcast and print journalists who have formal training and are paid for their work) have taken issue with the unchecked, free-marketization of the news by bloggers.
Is blogging a form of dissident media? Are bloggers treading on journalistic territory? Should bloggers even be taken seriously?
The simple answer to all of these questions is ‘YES’. Blogging is most certainly a form of dissident media because it circumvents traditional news outlets and brings views, ideas, and opinions to the public on issues that the MSM (mainstream media) would normally stay away from. Nothing is off limits in the blogosphere. Yes, bloggers are impeding on traditional journalism by taking news stories and running with them before the MSM has time to filter it down to a package ready for airing, but this is simply the way our society is heading.
“Many of the most active bloggers are insistent partisans in political debate. Some reject the label ‘journalist,’ associating it with what they contemptuously call MSM; just as many, if not more, consider themselves a new kind of ‘citizen journalist’ dedicated to broader democratization (Skube 2007).”
Blogging is a serious medium that is now beginning to be taken very seriously, mainly because of the stories that are being broken by bloggers that greatly impact society. These ‘citizen journalists’ are breaking stories that would have otherwise been left uncovered.
In February of this year, a blogger broke a story about a young NASA scientist who had been highly publicized for his merits and age as a NASA employee who actually had lied on his resume. This was huge because the MSM had reported that the man did in fact do the things that this blogger found to be untrue (Rosen 2007).
Another blogger uncovered the fact that a member of the White House press core was living a double life as a gay male escort. This White House staff member was later dismissed due to the bloggers efforts (digg.com).
Who is to say that these stories would not have been broken by the MSM in the blogger’s absence? The fact of the matter is there are millions of bloggers and only a fraction of traditional news personnel (or MSM). But what is becoming of the dissident underground blogger movement in the face of such a boom in the blogosphere.
“Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose popular blog Daily Kos has been a force among anti-war activists, cautioned bloggers ‘to avoid the right-wing acronym MSM.’ It implies, after all, that bloggers were on the fringe. To the contrary, he wrote, ‘we are representatives of the mainstream, and the country is embracing what we’re selling.’ (Skube 2007).”
The convergence of traditional news media and blogging is ushering in a new wave of news coverage. Many (if not all) of the local news stations and even some national news stations are allowing/forcing their on-air talents to publish their own blogs in an effort to steal viewer-ship from the online blogging community. Print and broadcast journalism are slowly but surely seeing that bloggers actually bring something to the ‘journalistic table’; mainly “four things: personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge (Welch 2003).”
Overall, the blogging community has created a medium for any and everybody to contribute to the news gathering and information sharing network that is the blogosphere. What was once and some stay still is considered dissident, blogging is creeping its way in the mainstream and will soon be the driving force behind the way the average person gets their information.
November 30, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
Let’s do this! At the beginning of my blogging experience I was as enthusiastic as can be – I was watching CNN more frequently, reading about politics on a regular basis, and even subscribed to receive political news alerts via email. I was doing everything I thought was essential to make my blogging experience, well, “blog-worthy,” but I was missing one critical ingredient– passion. When our class embarked on our collaborative mission to Renew Political Debate, we had all the means to make our blog a success – technological resources, large class involvement, even analysis resources such as Google Analytics, yet we came short in truly creating revolutionary change. We lacked the time, technological knowledge and most importantly the passion. Our success, which is arguably debatable, one face remains true –blogs serve as a voice for the dissident minority.
In a brief analysis of the evolving media, Danna Walker, Ph.D. gives “evidence that Big Media are listening, in a development that’s far beyond a business model that converges the way news is delivered” (Walker). We see this all the time; the protest in Burma was able to communicate their cause through cell phone text messages and information rich blogs. Eventually, their cause was so influential that not only did mainstream media take notice, soon, politicians began to realize the importance of this issue. Even the Jena Six protest in Alabama brought dissident issues from a high school to the forefront of national attention through Web 2.0, type-tactics. Facebook groups, notes, images, video and comments were all part of a collaborative online strike against such discrimination. The use of the Internet has provided ordinary citizens the opportunity to become part of the discussion and active participants in sharing information. Yet, one question still remains unanswered, are everyday citizens “true journalists?”
Many have come to disagree. Take a look at Michael Skube, an opinion writer for the Los Angeles Times, he argues that for stories to be considered true forms of journalism, they “demand time, thorough fact-checking and verification, and most of all, perseverance. It’s not something one does as a hobby” (Skube). With my experience, I have come to disagree. If anything, blogging has promoted the most rigorous compilation of fact checking and critics than the mainstream media would ever be capable of presenting. Bloggers have helped bring dissident issues to the forefront, problems and information that are commonly ignored by the “big five.”
Jay Rosen, a New York University professor was able to fight back to Skube’s argument through explicit examples that promote the true journalistic value of blogs. With the help from some friends, Rosen gives examples of journalism developed by bloggers: “Pet-food scandal ignites blogosphere,” “Firedoglake at the Libby trial,” to even “Citizens constructing Katrina timeline”(Rosen). A group of passionate individuals, interested in finding greater information have become one of the most powerful tools in telling our global story. Thankfully, the present digital age provides practically anyone with the potential of becoming a citizen journalist, a participant in the marketplace of ideas.
While I quickly lost interest in the theme of our blog, I plan to use my experience with Internet marketing, blogging and my role as a participant in a dissident issue to begin a new project of communicating such dissident problems. Passion will serve as my critical ingredient, my fuel to promoting an issue that I’m directly affected by and hope to expand to a mainstream issue, similarly to the examples of the Burma protest and the Jena Six.
Mainstream media has, and continues to forget an important issue that has affected this country for the past two decades. In advent of the AIDS crisis, the lack of scientific evidence, ignorance and stereotypes have fostered a breeding ground that continues to plague a movement for equality. With extensive amounts of research, personal investment on this topic and the potential for saving millions of lives, I hope to present a life-saving strategy to the Food & Drug Administration. In 1973, the Food & Drug Administration imposed a lifetime blood donation ban on men who have sex with men and their partners (FDA). After years of being refused to donate blood, I have become inspired to launch a site that will serve an active role in showcasing this dissident issue. My personal experience as a blogger has helped me understand the immense power of blogging, the means in which statistics are compiled together, how facts are repeatedly checked and most importantly the power of passion to create revolutionary change. While there are numerous companies that scientifically and medically refute this ban, a blog movement similar to the one in this class, can rapidly and effectively showcase an issue on the national agenda, a goal I hope to accomplish as a blogger.
"FDA Policy on Blood Donations From Men Who Have Sex with Other Men." Food & Drug Administration. 23 May 2007. 27 Nov. 2007
Rosen, Jay. "The Journalism That Bloggers Actually Do." Los Angeles Times 22 Aug. 2007.
Skube, Michael. "Blogs: All the Noise That Fits." Los Angeles Times 19 Aug. 2007.
Walker, Danna. "Stunning Media Changes in 2006 Have College Journalism Educators' Heads Spinning." Public Eye 4 Jan. 2007.
What stood out in the Dissident Media class blog “Renewing Political Debate” was not, for the most part, journalism, but rather analysis, opinion, and taking existing news from established media sources and compiling it in a useful way. The blogging that took place was indeed a valuable form of the practice. Even if the information was gathered primarily from existing sources, which does not “contest hegemony” as Brookfield says, the analysis and debate among the bloggers that resulted from the information, does.
As I mentioned earlier, when blogging is practiced at its finest, it is journalism. The political blog “The Washington Note” is a source for news and analysis which utilizes the immediacy and personality of blogging and combines that with original reporting and the ethic of accuracy that professional journalists carry. When blogging reaches this high plain I believe that it outmatches other traditional forms of reporting news due to its immediacy.
Good examples of this that occurred over the semester were the live blogging that was done in the classroom when the guest speaker, Newt Gingrich’s press aide, talked about the ongoing effort to renew political debate. Another was the “long blog post” assignment, which required original reporting. In these two instances the full potential of blogging, not only as a dissident media, but as a form of effective journalism, was realized.
There is no question as to blogging’s effectiveness as a dissident media. The way it allows for information to be spread, instantly shared, analyzed, and debated confirms this. In some ways it mirrors the way in which which dissident publications throughout America’s history dealt with ridicule from the mainstream press. Blogging is embraced by many in the mainstream journalism community, but there are also many who view it with extreme skepticism, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Skube. “Bloggers have all the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations,” he writes in his article “Blogs: All The Noise That Fits.” Through working with blogs this semester it is clear to me that they are an invaluable part of today’s dissident media, but at the same time I can’t help but feel some of the skepticism and worry that Skube does. (4)
Many of the specific points about blogging that cause me to feel this way are highlighted in the articles written by Steve Outing about what bloggers and journalists can learn from each other. Outing is right in that the two sides do have room to learn from each other, and need to. However, I feel that bloggers need to take advice from journalism more desperately if their craft is going to develop and maintain the trust of readers. Outing writes: “with so many new people involved in blogging, most of them having no training in journalism practices, ethics, and media law, personal legal liability is a big deal...In the years ahead, I expect to see some solo bloggers get in trouble.” This is a major issue, especially in a blogging world that is highly opinionated and is often quick to make accusations without doing the proper journalistic “legwork.” By that I mean talking to multiple sources, fact-checking, and so on. “Here’s something you frequently see with bloggers that trained journalists usually avoid: Making accusations or strong criticisms without asking the target for reaction,” says Outing (3). It wouldn’t take too many high-profile libel cases of bloggers to put blogging’s reliability and usefulness into question with American readers. I’m well aware that some in the blogging community do practice their craft with journalism’s ethical and accuracy standards, and if there were embraced fully by the blogging world as a whole, than it would be stronger for it.
As stated before, blogging is dissident media’s newest and currently most effective outlet. It successfully contests the hegemony that mainstream journalism tends to enforce, and when blogging is performed at its finest level, it surpasses mainstream modes of journalism with its combination of solid reporting and instant accessibility. Blogging is still, through my experience, a new form of media which still has a lot of growing to do, and responsibility to accept. If the blog world can keep its creativity and accessibility while adopting more of the ethics of professional journalism, it will be not only an excellent form of dissident media, but the primary news and reporting form as well.
Blogging, a free way of expressing ones opinion to others indirectly and without the pressure of facing the people you’re talking to. From what I’ve heard from others on the subject on blogging, those that like to blog feel that it’s a great way to release frustrations or a pressure-less form of communication. Those who are not so fond of blogging think bloggers are a “bunch of pussies that complain about their pathetic lives online because they have no friends.” I feel that this sources’ name is unimportant, no matter how ignorant they may be.
The way that a lot of people view blogging is as an excessive form of writing that just isn’t necessary as people are paid to write opinion pieces in newspapers. However, this is not the case. Blogging is a personal form of writing in which anyone from anywhere can partake. The most important thing I feel to learn about blogging is to “let go of the idea that you must have everything nailed down, organized, and edited before you publish” as Amy Gahran puts it. Gahran also states “A blog post is not (or at least, it shouldn't be) a writing assignment you must prep for and deliver as a finished package.” Blogging is (as I keep saying) a completely personal writing. The most enjoyable part of the blog project was the fact that I did not have to be grammatically correct all the time, and I could put videos in my writing, I could effectively do anything. The freedom that blogging gives its authors is possibly the most rewarding feeling any amateur writer can receive.
However, as much freedom as blogging gives its authors, there are some very important ethical issues and rules. As Steve Outing puts it, “Blogging isn't just a Wild-West free-for-all of publishing with no rules or ethical guidelines.” One issue that is vital to the improvement of blogging in the future is the accuracy of facts. Outing points out that “Some bloggers are too quick to publish anything that falls into their laps -- without bothering to vet the material to determine if it's accurate, or to consider the consequences of publishing it.” Some of the consequences of which Outing speaks contain libel suits. As blogging offers such freedom in speech, emotions often come into play and through those emotions, malicious statements can be formed. However, no matter how emotional a writer maybe about his subject, all facts must be checked as blogs are published and available to the public eye.
One thing a lot of bloggers do not realize is that they are non-professional journalists and that their writing is ready available on the internet just the same as professional journalists articles are. In a democratic society, it is perfectly fine and expected that information is available to the public but as Outing says “This line of thinking suggests that the publisher's responsibility lies in being clear about what's been confirmed and what hasn't been, acknowledging that the information, depending on circumstances, could be accurate or could be groundless.” A blogger can not take any information they hear from a friend and put it straight up on their blog, as this information must be checked for sources and the sources must be credited. For instance, although in a very light-hearted sense, I wrote a post about how attractive Barack Obama is. I heard through a friend that a lot of women found Barack Obama very attractive. So I checked the statement online, and sure enough I found information about women stating publicly that they thought Obama was attractive even “sexy.” Although this is a very-light hearted example, it is important that all bloggers double check their sources.
In conclusion, the most important things that blogging can teach anyone is that blogging is truly a freedom of expression in every sense of the word, and with that freedom comes responsibility to respect its ethical boundaries and legal confines.
Much has been said in recent years about the emergence of the blog. Supposedly, this new form of media can transform the structure of media power, bringing people and news sources close together. Anyone can write a blog and publish it for the world to see, from traditional reporters to politicians to soccer moms to their teenaged children. This accessibility has been said to expand the political and social discourse, closing the gap between the news makers and the news consumers and turning every citizen into a rogue journalist.
However, critics claim that bloggers are an insult to the craft of journalism. They see the “blogosphere” as rife with errors and unsupported opinions, a symptom of bloggings definitive lack of editors or gatekeepers. (Skube) Other bloggers and blog-readers fact-check the sites, which can lead to impressive results. (Welch) But the criticism of the blogosphere, or at least parts of it, as petty and argumentative cannot be denied. Skube asserts that “the blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.” (Skube)
The problem with blogs is not that they are inaccurate; when a blogger makes an error, he or she typically corrects it as soon as a commenter points it out. The problem with blogs is not that they are devoid of investigative, hard journalism; Jay Rosen provides a list of important blogging accomplishments in “The journalism that bloggers actually do.” (Rosen) The problem with blogs is their pompous, egotistical nature that springs from a hatred of and unwillingness to work with and attempt to improve the mainstream media.
While the upper echelon of bloggers, the bloggers who uncover important stories that the MSM misses, offer an important contribution to the media landscape, it is often the lesser bloggers, the columnists, the political commentarians, who tout the possibly overestimated transformative power the blogosphere. “As a rule of thumb, the more disgruntled a blog is, the more vehemently it proclaims its status as the media of the future.” (Tossell)
Blogs such as these increase partisanship instead of seeking actual solutions. Tossell says that it is the partisan political blogs that are quickest to remind their readers that they are outside the filters of mainstream media. But what is it that these readers, made so aware of the alternative nature of the blogs they are reading, really want? Blogs are hurting themselves by building up their own importance. In the end, readers want the same thing from a blog that they want from a newspaper or the evening news: a story. (Tossell)
Bloggers, however, do not talk in terms of stories. Blogging has become not a way to tell a story, not a new medium, but a whole new structure in and of itself. It attempts to define itself as separate from the media, while trying to become the media. “Anyone who thinks that blogs merely enhance and compliment the media world, apparently, just doesn't get it.” (Tossell)
So how can blogs grow and improve, as they certainly have the potential to do? While the blog is still young, only a decade old by some estimates, it is headed down a bad road. By defining themselves as oppositional to the mainstream media and as the new media, bloggers are creating a conflict of interest. If blogging eventually dominates more traditional forms of media, it will become the standard. While mainstream media has its flaws (it can be slow to fact-check, reluctant to correct mistakes prominently and unsure about questioning authority by going deeper; Outing), bloggers are doing themselves a disservice by focusing on their revolutionary position instead of shutting up and doing more of the work they claim they do.
Even the blogs that do work hard to report the news and provide expert commentary are given a bad name by the partisan, mud-slinging, self-important blogs. These blogs waste time fighting with other bloggers and engaging in immature fights, often to the exasperation of readers. Thanks to these bloggers, the very word “blog” has become a loaded word, evoking images of egoists whining away about the latest news item. “The sooner that blogging triumphalism is history, the sooner "blog" will stop being an unfairly loaded word.” (Tossell)
Of course, making such generalizations about the blogosphere is impossible; it is not one cohesive movements and there is no specific trait all bloggers have in common other than the belief that they are somehow contributing to the public body of knowledge.
Perhaps this argument could be refuted by pointing out a few humble, dedicated blogger-reporters; however, that is not the point. Bloggers need to realize that while they are working in a new medium, they are not working in a new world.
Skube, Michael. “Blogs: All the noise that fits.” The Los Angeles Times 19 August 2007.
Welch, Matt. “Blogworld and its gravity.” Columbia Journalism Review Sept/Oct 2003: 20-26.
Rosen, Jay. “The Journalism that Bloggers Actually Do.” The Los Angeles Times 22 August 2007.
Tossell, Ivor. “It’s not the blogs I hate, it’s their fans.” The Globe and Mail 20 July 2007.
Outing, Steve. “What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers.” Poynter Online 20 December 2004.
November 30, 2007
Throughout the course of history there has not been a more effective way to organize people than through the Internet. People can see results within seconds after sending an e-mail, researching a topic, or posting a blog. The speed and efficiency in which this can be done has many people questioning the consequences. However, for dissident press fanatics the Internet has become a sanctuary. Advocacy groups and especially bloggers are using the Internet as a place to get their message out. Once separated by hundreds of miles people who share a common interest are now connected. This capability has made blogging the most powerful and influential form of dissident press.
Many factors contribute to this growing trend. The most important element that has propelled blogging to the top of the dissident world is its availability. “Blogging technology has, for the first time, given the average Jane the ability to write, edit, design, and publish her own editorial product” (Welch). Unlike the dissident press of the 1800s and most of the 1900s, anyone can submit an article. Since authors hide behind users names they do not have to be afraid of posting a controversial statement or going against mainstream thought. However, some people may argue that because posts can be submitted anonymously it does not allow the blogger to be responsible for his or her comment.
Other general criticisms include the notion that most comments are not serious and that the authors do not cite reasons or examples to support their argument. While some of this may be true, I believe, at the core, bloggers are writing to start a conversation. They want their readers to start questioning and thinking about the world around them. Blogging allows the average person to contribute who would otherwise not have written a letter to the editor. It also allows people to be updated by the minute instead of waiting for the paper in the morning. The fact that people can blog at work or in school contributes to a constant flow of information. Thus it is becoming more difficult for a “news organization to sit on a big story and publish it at a set time” (Outing). This development is an example of the emerging role of blogging as a dissident media source.
Along with their emerging role is the question of whether or not bloggers are true journalist. Dissent press has evolved to an easy and inexpensive practice. Stories can be posted within minutes of an incident. Again, I believe this is good and begins the conversation. In this “on the go” society people are searching for quick news stories and bloggers are providing them. However, others can say that bloggers do not conduct the real investigation and thus are not presenting the whole story. Michael Skube of the Los Angels Times is among the group that believes bloggers only skim the surface of their stories. As he said in an August 17th article, “the disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger” (Skube). I disagree. While Skube tries to discredit bloggers, I think that bloggers help expose stories that national newspapers or news networks would have ignored.
A story that was not covered and finally established blogging as an important form of journalism was the threat America faced from terrorist prior to September 11th. The attacks “created a huge appetite on the part of the public to be part of The Conversation,” thus propelling blogging into forefront” (Welch). Now, people take it upon themselves to question authority. With everyone contributing, dissident press has grown dramatically in the last six years. Yet, some people still question its credibility.
If this class has taught me anything it is that a single voice is powerful enough to bring about change. Voices such as Ida B. Wells, William Lloyd Garrison, and Huey P. Newton were the leaders of dissident press decades ago. Like real journalist of their time they investigated stories, used eye-witness accounts, and tried to discover the truth. Ironically, these tactics are used by bloggers today. In fact, “the only real between what they do and the work of professionals journalists is that most bloggers lack the credentials to gain access to sources as easily as their journalist cousins” (Outing). Serious bloggers do not let that stand in their way and that is why I believe their role in dissident press is just as valuable as a trained journalist.
Bloggers are not only important to journalism, but also society because of the stories that they uncover. Without them Walter Reed, the Hurricane Katrina timeline, and especially our blog topic, debate reform, would not be as popular. Their ability to start a conversation and have other people correct or strength their argument is an art not found in many other places. I also believe that because bloggers do not let the people or organizations they are criticizing defend themselves, blogging is appealing to many people who are not interested in professional technicalities. Consequently bloggers are controversial.
People argue that because bloggers do not ask for a response from the other side, they are unfair and biased. However, bloggers, and especially dissident journalist, are not supposed to give equal time to both views. In the 1830s Ida B. Wells did not allow pro-lynching articles to appear in her newspaper. Dissidents try to persuade. So, just because one type of journalist cannot do it, does not mean another should not be allowed. This is also applies to the use of unconventional writing. Bloggers may not have the most crisp or grammatically correct sentences, but this does not ruin the validity of their statement.
While blogging for the class project I found the conditions of blogging to be very relaxing. This is another reason why the bloggers role is expanding in the dissident media world. People feel comfortable writing nonstop for twenty minutes then publishing their articles with no questions asked. Bloggers are free to write about any topics that interest them. Because the rules are hard to outline I believe bloggers have an advantage over traditional journalist. Therefore blogs in the form of entertainment and dissident media will continue to grow and become even more popular.
Without waiting to confirm the facts, bloggers force news stories to the front page. They create a conversation that may motivate people to take action. Posting blogs once a week about a certain issue made me feel that I was doing something good. I felt involved and made it my responsibility to make the reader feel the same way. If our articles were in a newspaper not as many people would have read them and they definitely would not have received hits from all around the world. The idea that someone in Europe could have read my articles is exciting. It appears that although bloggings influence is immeasurable it can only continue to grow.
Blogging certainly has the capacity to be a form of dissident media, but the Talkmonkey blog that our class maintained was not truly dissident media. As Streitmatter defines it, “in order for a publication to merit the mantle of ‘dissident’ it not only had to offer a differing view of society but also had to seek to change society in some discernable way...The publication’s primary purpose must have been, in short, to effect social change” (Streitmatter, xi). As I view it, our blog did not champion social change at all. It focused on the 2008 presidential election and generally stayed within the two-party dichotomy of our political system.
Although I do not think our blog was a form of dissident media, I do think that blogging has the best capacity out of any other media source to be used as a tool for social change. This is for several reasons. First, activists are more knowledgeable than the general population about a wide array of issues. It is first our responsibility to educate ourselves around an issue, accomplished through talking with our friends and other activists, gathering information online, reading zines, and examining the issues from a mainstream as well as radical perspective. We don’t view this as academic or forced because it is motivated by our passion for justice. One must learn before one can teach others.
Second, groups and individuals are always looking to raise awareness about the causes they’re passionate about. This mindset lends itself very well to blogging. They can create a blog, for free, that enables more people to become exposed to the injustices in the system and learn strategies for creating change.
Third, activists in general are not afraid to speak their minds. They denounce government repression, corporate domination of culture, and fight for every oppressed person and animal around the world. Since we spend so much time speaking about these issues within our communities and in the outside environment as well, it is only natural that we take our arguments and post them in a blog for people to read on a national scale. It would strengthen and increase the influence we are able to have, thereby helping our causes. Since other activists would probably be our target audience, I think that some good debate could ensue in the comments between those who disagree on tactics or approaches to change. I would have loved for our site to be more interactive and feature “news as a conversation” which the Poynter article talked about.
Fourth, activists are always on the lookout for reliable and quality news sources not owned and exploited by the corporate media. We are wary of speaking to mainstream media about our planned actions because we are afraid of the way they will portray us and pigeonhole us. Yet a blogger who is unapologetically more progressive and less corporate is less intimidating and activists would feel more comfortable being interviewed by them. A well-maintained blog with a wide or specific focus that is operated by a collective of like-minded radicals will appeal to those who are tired of the same opinions from every mainstream media source.
The experience of posting my writing on the internet drew mixed emotions. At first I was really nervous about the whole class and many potential strangers reading what I had to say. Before my first blog post I was scared that I would have nothing to write about or that what I did have to say would sound stupid. However, once that first post was done all the nervousness and pressure seemed to melt away. I often discuss my views on various issues with friends and this helped me to overcome what lingering shyness existed within me to make the weekly blog posts. I feel that this class has given me the confidence to possibly start my own blog in the near future. I have definitely been reading others’ blogs much more due to this experience as well.
What I accomplished from posting on the blog was mostly gaining confidence in my blogging ability and writing. I wish I had not been so confined in what to post about, but I know that parameters are necessary for cohesion and structure. I actually really enjoyed posting about Radical Cheerleading, one of my passions. I got to include cheers and pictures of our squad, which was fun. One of the most valuable things I have gained from this class and our blogging experience is a deeper knowledge of critical theory. I plan to use elements of that approach in activist work in the future.
Outing, Steve. “What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers.” Poynter Online. 20 December, 2004.
Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America. New York: Columbia, 2001.
29 November 2007 COMM-275-001
Dissident Media: The Blog?
More than halfway through the first decade of the twenty-first century, no source of media is producing quite as much ‘buzz’ as the blog. The term ‘blog’ is a portmanteau of the words web log, while the oft-used ‘blogosphere’ refers to all blogs and their interconnections. The advancement of the blogosphere can be traced back to the onset of the Internet. The concept of blogging, that everyone can share opinions, facts, or fiction with a potentially receptive and interactive e-audience, puts power in the hands of every interested Internet user on Earth. These users are embracing this power with enthusiasm. Just how big a phenomenon is blogging? Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 or so months (Sifry). According to Technorati’s chief executive David Sifry, fifty million blogs had been tracked as of July 31st, 2006, and approximately 175,000 new blogs are being created each day. That translates into about two new blogs for every second of the day (Sifry). Logically, this all means a new face of media the likes of which has never been seen before. One question remains however: is blogging likewise the new face of dissident media?
Streitmatter believes that for something to deserve the title of dissident, it has to both “offer a differing view of society” and “champion a particular cause” (xi). If this is to be the accepted definition of what and what does not constitute dissident media, then the answer to the aforementioned questions is merely maybe, or better yet, it depends. As previously noted, there are tens of million of blogs in existence, each of which offers a different (i.e. personal) “view of society.” Furthermore, some blogs even champion causes: there are leftist blogs and conservative ones, human rights blogs, and animal rights too. The list goes on. Thus, while blogs as a whole cannot be considered, with confidence, dissident, some certainly can.
Nevertheless, the Streitmatter definition is not the only one. Therefore, others must be considered to determine whether blogging is or is not dissident media in new stripes. More common definitions of “dissident” include differing from the mainstream, and departing from established and accepted belief or standards (Define.com). In this sense, blogs as a whole can be considered dissident media. This is so by virtue of the fact that blogging is a new medium, an unconventional and neoteric one. It often looks down on mainstream media and mainstream media returns the favor. It re-writes all the rules in terms of what can suitably constitute and editorial product. As Michael Skube aptly pointed out, bloggers today “have all the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations.” Blogging is dissident media here because it is an alternative media.
The problem with the above definition, some might argue, is that it proves that blogs are dissident, but not that they are dissident media. This indeed is a point of contention in the public discourse surrounding the blogosphere. To label something as dissident media, one affords it the presumption of journalistic undertaking. Blogging’s critics assert that it is not journalism. Consequently, if blogging is not journalism, then it makes no sense to consider it dissident journalism.
Matt Welch is not so quick to write bloggers off. He states that they contribute “personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge” (24). Steve Outing even goes so far as to proclaim that ‘real’ journalists can learn a few things from bloggers. Some of the most prominent of these are to allow news to be a two-way “conversation” with their readers, to account for mistakes more readily and graciously, and to let themselves get “personal” with their writing every now and then.
Dissident AND Mainstream?
Furthermore, Outing also imparts what bloggers can learn from journalists, and points out a phenomenon that has heretofore passed under the radar; journalists and bloggers are working together in more ways than one. For one, mainstream media has opened its doors to the blogging world; the New York Times’ blog numbers among the most read. In return, “citizen journalists” are placing new emphasis on factual reporting. Most notably, journalists and bloggers are sharing information and sources. He remarks that almost “all journalists traffic privately in gossip, anonymous sources, and thinly veiled juicy items -- they just don't usually get to throw those things into print, and so they IM these tidbits to us bloggers. Bloggers are really just the id of the journalism world."
All this reciprocated interaction sheds light on one last point. With all the ruckus that blogging is causing in the public sphere, and the near-ubiquity of bloggers in the world today, can it be considered anything but mainstream? If it is mainstream, it cannot also be dissident- at least not according to established understandings of the term.
Is blogging a form of dissident media? That is demonstrably a question of definitions, and perhaps also a demonstration that established definitions are inadequate. Regardless, bloggers are a voice (correction: many) to be reckoned with in today’s world, and they do not plan on departing the blogosphere in any e-ra soon.
Outing, Steve. "What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists." Poynter Online. 23 Dec. 2004. 30 Nov. 2007 .
Sifry, David. “State of the Blogosphere.” Sifry's Alerts. 7 Aug. 2006. 28 Nov. 2007
Skube, Michael. “Blogs: All the noise that fits.” LATimes.com. 19 August 2007. 29 November Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution. New York City: Columbia UP, 2001.
“Dissident.” Define.com. 29 November 2007.
Welch, Matt. "Blogworld and It’s Gravity: The New Amateur Journalists Weigh In." September/October 2003.
Vargas, Jose A. "Storming the News Gatekeepers." Washington Post 27 Nov. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007 .
Kurtz, Howard. "Jailed Man is a Videographer and a Blogger But is He a Journalist?" The Washington Post 8 Mar. 2007.
"Politics and Sports with a Southern Accent." Red State Diaries. www.redstatediaries.blogspot.com.
Skube, Michael. "Blogs: All the Noise That Fits." The Los Angeles Times 19 Aug. 2007.
Welch, Matt, Mallory Jensen, and Jacqueline Reeves. "Blogworld and Its Gravity." Columbia Journalism Review 42 (2003).
A few months ago “blogging” was word seldom used in my vocabulary. When I pictured a blogger, an image of a brooding adolescent detailing everyday woes on a laptop came to mind; little did I know I would be identifying myself as a blogger in the upcoming semester. I soon realized that blogging is more than a diary; this new form of media has successfully made waves in American society. Blogging, whether concerning politics, environmental issues, or fashion, is about stating one’s agenda, opinions, and critiques in order to propel some kind of change. Blogs are now being brought up in legal issues, written about in national newspapers, and in our case even brought into the classroom.
While blogging started off as a form of dissident media it has evolved into a type of mainstream media. It is easy to find a blog on almost any topic by quickly doing a Google search. While there are some political blogs in circulation to make a daring and different statement, most are likely to be discussing the same issues that appear in the Washington Post each day. Surprisingly, many bloggers “reject the label ‘journalist,’ associating it with what they contemptuously call mainstream media,” (Skube). Apparently the horrors of admitting to being “mainstream” far outweigh the benefits and respect that come with the title of journalist; perhaps bloggers just understand that it is not a title they have truly deserved or earned. Bloggers are not journalists. For the most part, they “have all of the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations,” (Skube). Bloggers do not have editors, deadlines, word limits, or even a specific topic to cover. Bloggers can write without any restraint on their emotion or language because at the end of the day, unlike a journalist, their jobs are not on the line. A Washington Post article on legal issues and bloggers quotes lawyer Martin Garbus as saying, “I would define a journalist as someone who brings news to the public. It’s a definition that might cause journalists some discomfort because it opens up the gates,” (Kurtz). While some bloggers might be skilled at writing, most are unlikely to have the same training and proficiency as a journalist. Garbus’ definition means that any person rattling off information on the internet can be considered a reporter.
Since bloggers have clear differences from journalists, it is unfair for them to be legally tried as a journalist would be. Bloggers do not have the option to join the Writer’s Guild and do not have the same legal protection as a journalist. Some instances contradict this (as of 2006 bloggers are protected under the California state’s reporter shield law), but generally bloggers have different rights than journalists. This became an issue when Josh Wolf, a 24-year-old blogger, was placed in jail for refusing to hand over a videotape he shot of a violent demonstration to the mainstream media (Kurtz). Wolf says there was an understanding of the confidentiality of certain footage between himself and those demonstrating. The filming taking place publicly in San Francisco, along with Wolf’s lack of journalistic merit, are two strong forces against him in this case.
Previously I was careful to state that blogging has become a “type” of mainstream media. From what we have learned I think that some blogs are mainstream and some are dissident, just as there is The New York Times and underground newspapers. Perezhilton.com is merely a tabloid posted over the internet. However, I did encounter many intelligent, well written, original, and opinionated blogs in my research. One in particular was redstatediaries.blogspot.com, a political commentary by an independent residing in Alabama. Blogs like this pinpoint what bloggers contribute to journalism and those reading them; “personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge,” (Welch 24). Blogs should not just be there to report; they are meant to bring up issues the blogger feels mainstream media might have missed or glossed over, while at the same time conveying humor and human interest. They do not need to be perfectly edited, full of impressive quotes and pictures. Blogs can only be dissident through their imperfection. Blogs are “a reminder that America is far more diverse and iconoclastic that its newsrooms,” (Welch 24).
While I am not falling on my knees to worship bloggers, my opinion of them has changed throughout this semester. Sitting at the computer late each Thursday night, trying to come up with a topic that was not only newsworthy, but interesting, proved far more difficult than I would have imagined. I can appreciate the time and effort it keeps to maintain a blog. Even more so, I recognize the ambition and dedication it takes to gain a following to read your blog once you have worked the kinks out of it. I still do not see bloggers as journalists, but I do think they play an important role in the media.
The Times They Are A-Changin'
Our modern society’s growing dependency upon the internet has revolutionized the ways that we purchase goods, book travel, communicate, and recently with the advent of blogging, the way that we obtain news. Some have cited blogging as form of citizen journalism that poses a multitude of positive and negative effect upon the media. While print journalists have spent time and money acquiring the credentials they need to succeed in the industry, a large influx of untrained, amateur journalists have taken dissident approaches to delivering news. As bloggers do not have editors that filter and revise their stories, blog stylistic methods immensely differ from that of print journalism, yet a blogger’s ability to constantly update and revise content acts as safety net. While this makes blogs more prone to spelling, grammatical and factual errors, it simultaneously offers the reader an opportunity to deliver news in a creative, alternative and decisively dissident manner.
A Dissident Revolution on the Internet
When I began to write for TalkMonkey, I could not help but compare the content and style of my stories to the articles I wrote for The Eagle as a staff writer. I discovered that blogging’s free, lenient structure allowed me to employ more humor and personality in my stories than I was able to with The Eagle. In the Columbia Journalism Review article, “The New Age of Alternative Media,” author Matt Welch states that “with personality…comes a kind of reader interaction far more intense and personal than anything comparable to print.” (24-25) This heightened sense of interaction found online comes about through readers’ ability to comment on, critique and question my writing, whereas with my Eagle stories, the reader’s only option was to acquire my opinion. What ultimately distinguishes my stories for The Eagle from TalkMonkey is the notion of dissidence I felt while writing for the latter. However, it is this sense of journalistic liberation that triggers the most criticism of the medium of blogging. In his article, “What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers,” Steve Outing states that “some bloggers are too quick to publish anything that falls into their laps – without bothering to vet the material to determine if it’s accurate, or to consider the consequences of publishing it.” (2) Outing suggests that with this freedom comes a responsibility on bloggers’ parts to “adhere to a mission of accuracy and accountability,” at least if bloggers want to be respected by their print journalist contemporaries. (2)
What distinguishes blogs from newspapers is the readers’ ability to interact with writers. Journalism stories typical end when they are published, whereas on a blog, a story is debated, further analyzed and occasionally revised. Blogs, more than ever, are “becoming the watchdogs that watch the watchdog,” and this is understandably threatening to print journalists, because in addition to reporting, bloggers are presented with the ability to write, edit, design, and publish on their own accord, and this can be seen in blog’s stylistic differences. (Skube 1) Blogs typically do not abide to the inverted pyramid style of news writing and tend to take longer to reach the story’s central point, and therefore, it is inherently dissident in its structure. For instance, when I wrote my blog post on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial speech at Columbia, I was able to employ humor: “I couldn’t help but feel as though I was watching an episode of Maury where some disgruntled housewife called out her unfaithful husband and had the paternity test results to back it up.” This obviously would have been deemed unprofessional had I written the same analogy for The Eagle, yet it undoubtedly enhanced my report’s personality.
After 9/11, there was a public outcry that “created a huge appetite on the part of the public to be part The Conversation, to vent and analyze and publicly ponder or mourn.” (Welch 24) In Outing’s account of “What Bloggers Can Learn from Journalists,” he included a quote from media executive, Jeff Jarvis, who prolifically stated that “news is a conversation, not just a lecture.” (4) Critics of blogging often view the medium as deeply biased, for most bloggers fuse news stories with their opinion on the matter; yet presenting an author’s opinion often triggers an emotional response from the reader, and blogging boasts a means of responding through debate. In their article, “Gathering Voices to Share With a Worldwide Online Audience,” Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman conclude that bloggers are revolutionizing communication – independent of traditional forms of media – by drawing attention to widely-ignored issues and “to share ideas and brainstorm with circles of colleagues and peers who are interested in similar subjects or issues-topics that tend not to be a focus of mainstream media stories.” (46) It is ultimately this alternative approach of delivering the news that makes blogging dissident.
In lieu of the widespread decline in newspaper subscription and readership, some question if blogging will replace traditional print journalism. The fundamental problem in this logic is that it suggests that print journalism and blogging cannot survive together. Blogs are revolutionizing the way that we communicate, utilize media and attain news and blogging ultimately presents readers with abilities print journalism cannot alone. Considering society’s ever-escalating dependency upon the internet for news, it is imperative that blogging and print journalism not only exist harmoniously, but collaborate to offer readers thorough accounts of events that fuse facts, multimedia and creativity.
Conclusion: A Second Look at TalkMonkey
When I signed up for the humor section of the blog, I was not entirely sure what my duties would entail. At first I figured that I would have to search for befitting political cartoons and YouTube videos that denigrated politicians. When I wrote my blog posts, though, I began to discuss such hotly contested issues as homophobia, tasering and racism, and I discovered that I could easily explore the topics with the lens of humor. I felt that I offered an ample supply of the hard news one would find in a print journalism article, yet I spiced the stories up with a dose of humor. I honestly did not really notice how the rest of my humor group members handled their work, as TalkMonkey was an extremely decentralized blog; indeed, we had our duties, yet I found that most writers, including myself, tended to handle their stories through their own style and voice. This dispersed approach to posting posed some obstacles, as many writers were not sure when they were responsible to post. At the same time, though, this made TalkMonkey the experiment that it was. We were bestowed a great deal of freedom with our writing, and while this freedom was intimidating at times, it demonstrated how the media is evolving and our individual roles in the equation
MacKinnon, Rebecca, Zuckerman, Ethan. “Gathering Voices to Share With a Worldwide Online Audience.” Nieman Reports (Winter 2006): 45.
Outing, Steve. “What Bloggers Can Learn from Journalists.” Poynter Institute (2004): 4.
Outing, Steve. “What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers.” Poynter Institute (2004): 2.
Skube, Michael. “Blogs All the noise that fits.” Los Angeles Times (2007): 1.
Welch, Matt. ""Blogworld and its Gravity"." Columbia Journalism Review (2003): 24.
The Internet has become a vital part of the modern day world. People turn to the Internet, not just for e-mail, entertainment, and research, but also for news and information on the things going on in the world around them. Beginning in the 1990s, Americans began deserting not only newspapers but also the major networks, going to cable TV, the Internet, and forms of new media that seem to be born each day . Theses days, it is so easy for almost anyone to access the Internet, and have a hotbed of information at their fingertips, and contribute their own assortment of information, as displayed by the class project for Dr. Danna Walker’s Dissident Media class.
It has given anyone the opportunity to be a journalist; reporting on topics they see fit, and putting them out there for the world to see. It has served to bring those, young and old, into the public discourse, giving those who may have felt voiceless prior to the Internet . The world of blogging has taken off since its birth in the early days of the Internet and millions of people have created blogs. Online blogging sites like Blogger.com are so user-friendly, that they “allow anyone, no matter how little Internet savvy he or she possesses, to create and maintain a blog” .
Blogging has taken the role as the most recent from of dissident media. “They [newspapers] have become so ubiquitous in cities over a certain size, during decades when so many other new media formats have sprung up, that the very notion that they represent a crucial “alternative to a monolithic journalism establishment now stains credulity” . Blogging is providing an outlet for those fed up with mainstream media. Bloggers have become the dissident voices of the new millennium.
Blogging has grown immensely from its early days. It is no longer merely an online record of the Web sites the person visits, but a source for information itself; including news, opinions, and discourse . Blogging has allowed the everyday Joe to get his ideas out there for people to read. As many of them do reference other websites they have visited, they provide connection and discussion. They allow, “through hyperlinks from publications to permanent Websites, for readers to be informed, not merely of the most recent event—as in daily newspapers and TV news programs—but to be continually reminded of the movement’s overall mission statement, goals, and past accomplishments—a service that traditional news outlets refuse to provide” . They are bridging gaps where mainstream media has failed. They are able to provide people with the most up-to-date information, while at the same time linking this to past happenings and other matters that may add insight.
Bloggers are providing insight and discussion on all sorts of topics. Since almost anyone can blog, “almost every criticism about blogs is valid—they often are filled with cheap shots, bad spelling, the worst kind of confirmation bias, and an extremely off-putting sense of self-worth”, but in turn there are also those who provide sophisticated contributions, claiming large readership, instilling change . Many blogs have grown such followings that they seem to hold comparable circulation to some mainstream media. With numbers of visitors per day in the 100,000s, these dissident forms of media seem to be making a huge impact on the world.
The size of the numbers is not the only thing so astonishing. The mere fact that those 100,000s of people are from places all over the world shows just how much influence blogging is gaining. Blogging has been able to provide the world with something that conventional form of media has fallen short in doing, bringing together people from all over the world to discuss and share their thoughts and ideas. “It allows individuals in far-flung locations to come together, to share, and to build the strong ties and sense of community—united in ideology even if separated by geographic distance—that foster a true grassroots movement” . There is also the fact that bloggers have gained ground as “citizen journalists”, in 2004, gaining press credentials to the Democratic National Convention .
They are instilling discussion in matters of great disputation, and the need for some reform, and are gaining ground. Blogging is “changing what is euphemistically called the national conversation” . The assignment that our class was given on creating discussion on the issue of renewing political debate is a testament to this. We sought to inspire dialogue through demanding reform of the political debate structure, and we did just that through our blog talkmonkey. We were able to experience the blogging world first hand and create our own dissident media. We wrote about what we wanted to change and how we wanted to change and found those that supported our cause and linked to them in attempts of creating larger interest and involvement. Though the effectiveness of our blog itself is not as great as we would have liked, we still made lasting contributions (as they will be preserved on the Internet) to the world of blogging and dissident media.
Skube, Michael. “Blogs: All the noise that fits.” Los Angeles Times 19 August 2007.
 Streitmatter, Rodger. “Voices of Revolution; the Dissident Press in
 Welch, Matt. “Blogworld and its Gravity”. Colombia Journalism Review. 2003
 Vargas, Jose Antonio. “Storming the News Gatekeepers; On the Internet, Citizen Journalists Raise Their Voices”. Washingtonpost.com.
Blogging and Dissident Media
Society’s advancement of communication technologies creates more outlets for the voices of others to speak their minds and let people know about what is going on. Some of the foundations of this country rely on the ability and freedom to communicate all sides of an issue. As we move forward in the 21st century, people see blogging as the next and newest form of a counter message to society. Blogging faces many challenges in order to accomplish this task.
In an opinion editorial piece in the Los Angeles Times on the 19th of August 2007, Michael Skube wrote about how bloggers create a lot of noise, but do not back up their statements with journalistic style fact-checking. Though Skube’s point may not necessarily be true, Skube’s statement and sentiment brings up a more pressing point about how blogging is treated within mainstream society. The general statement in society is that bloggers are highly opinionated people who yell about issues/problems that may or may not exist.
In an article for the Columbia Journalism Review, Matt Welch writes about how people were fed-up with mainstream media and how ineffective they were at reporting what happened after September 11, 2001. Welch believed that this event caused the explosion of interaction within the blog-sphere. Welch correlates that this explosion of interaction gave blogging more credibility within mainstream media.
The problem with Welch’s position is that he assumes the blog-sphere gained credibility with the increase of bloggers. Welch does not take into consideration the idea that people who blog may not be people who want to be these citizen journalists that take up causes and try to be good journalists and uncover stories. Welch does not take into account people who just want to sound off about an issue and not really fact check or people who blog about personal items or non-political subjects, like sports and entertainment.
This is the quandary blogging faces as it moves on through the century. Blogging has the potential to become a more trust worthy place to receive news and be the new form of dissident media in the world. The major problem would be that those bloggers who try to be legitimate and trust worthy would have to disassociate with other bloggers and become their own entity. But since there is this concept of a blogging community or the blog-sphere, it seems unlikely any rift will occur.
Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at
What will most likely happen is that blogging will become integrated with other social web interactions like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, creating something that resembles the end of the flash animation Epic 2015. In the flash animation, they predict a huge communications war between Microsoft, the conglomeration of Google and Amazon, and the New York Times. The future of the internet and blogging will be completely personalized to what we want and what we find interesting in the world.
Since this will most likely be the fate of blogging, it would be very difficult to classify blogging as a true dissident medium. If certain respectable blogs were to remove the blog umbrella from their identity, then they would be dissident. But blogging as a whole will not be dissident due to the fact that so many other things encompass blogging.
I personally tried my hand at creating a blog, but the blog only proved my idea about how blogging is not necessarily dissident. It was a sports blog and how I felt about certain issues in the major sports I liked. In no way shape or form was I trying to be dissident with this blog. This was only for my personal amusement and trying my hand at blogging. A lot of times, I did not even feel like writing a post for the blog. It felt like another class assignment I had to do. It also did not help that before coming into this class, I did not read any actual blogs that could be found on blogspot.
My Broadcast Journalism I class also created a blog, but for the shear purpose of posting the podcast we created onto the internet for people to listen to. Our goal was to get this out to as many people as possible. The stories we wrote and talked about were all mainstream stories, but they were taken with more of an alternative flare. Now our podcast is now up on iTunes and everyone can listen to it. So we have become more of an alternative source of mainstream news and not dissident, though we had no intention of being dissident.
The blog-sphere has the potential and desire to be dissident, but due to the over-arching umbrella that blogging covers, it can only become personal information or alternative sources of mainstream media. Dissident media will use the internet and blogging as part of an overall arching concept that the newspaper industry uses by combining print editions, web editions and word of mouth of their story and other information. This is how the new of dissident information will be spread across the world.
You would think that something as high-tech as blogging would be an easy feat to overcome. With such smart minds in our university, you would think that thirty or so college students would get it right. You would think something James Kotecki can do in his bathtub (Kotecki, James) that we would be able to do it with full concentration. However, there were definitely some differing views on the blog. Why couldn’t we all just get it to work? Whatever the case may be, if it did or didn’t work, I’ve gained more of an understanding of the blogging and online culture. There is always a lesson to be learned with every experience you go through.
Most people would say that this was an utter failure. They would say that the blog was just a mess, a cluster of random posts smashed together about an array of topics that really didn’t have any relevance to each other whatsoever. I would have to agree with the observations made, and that there was no actual dialogue between any of our classmates. Just because people get their opinions out there doesn’t mean that anyone is reading them.
The fact that there is no dialogue between the bloggers and the bloggers with the outside world makes this blog not really a blog. Jeff Jarvis, a popular blogger with BuzzMachine, says in an interview with ponyter.org that “news is a conversation, not just a lecture. The story doesn’t end when it’s published, but rather just gets started as the public begins to do its part – discussing the story, adding to it, and correcting it” (Outing, Steve).
However, the same thing that diminishes the whole idea of a blog also gives it strength to the argument that it actually worked. There has always been talk of a “marketplace of ideas,” and blogging just enhances that reality. It’s so easy nowadays to just sit at your computer and post something you feel passionate about on a webpage. Getting an idea out there is more accessible to everyone. Since more and more blogs are being made, the word about certain issues can reach the officials in government and actually make a difference.
But, I digress; most of the blogging experience was thwarted by the apathy of the class as a whole. Most students saw this as more of a grade then as a way to propel social change. If you want an online revolution, there needs to be a passion to want to change it. Also, half of the class was apathetic about politics since the beginning (myself included). If we don’t have anything constructive to write about an issue (if we don’t know much about it, if we think it’s boring, etc.), then the blog crashing and burning was inevitable.
The blogging that counts is always by someone who has shown an interest in politics (or whatever they’re blogging about) their whole lives. We saw this with Josh Wolf, who got arrested for his actions as a blogger. In an interview with his mother, she said that “even in high school, he was standing up for things that weren’t considered popular” (Kurtz, Howard). In high school, what most people would consider the normal behavior of a student was not what Josh Wolf exemplified. He was not a “normal” kid when growing up.
If the more vocal members of the class would have spoken up and sparked a little fire in the hearts of the rest of the class, the blog project may have worked better. If there was a reason deeper than a grade for people to post new and exciting things, then the buzz of our blog would have been larger. As we have seen with many of the dissident presses in our nation’s history, getting together an army of people who think the same thing and the same way is the only way that any change will occur.
Even though much of my blog experience was pretty crappy, there was a lot that I learned about the power of the online word. With mainstream news stories, they feel so rehearsed and cookie-cutter. With blogging, the writing is very raw and people are allowed to say whatever they want. There’s no editing by a higher power. It’s just you and the words. There is so much editing in mainstream news companies that the voice of the reporter could be censored by their bosses. Blogging allows the blogger to be their own boss on how things should be done.
Since blogs are so easy to find online, the audience that reads these blogs may not have read it if it wasn’t for accessibility. The less popular ideas are given the spotlight they deserve through the invention of the blogosphere. The “marketplace of ideas” is in full effect with the online world. The structure of a blog is so much less intimidating for the audience as well, so this is another reason why these unheard of ideas are being pushed the forefront, and the people with the small voices can finally be heard by the big dogs.
All was definitely not lost; I can’t stress this enough. Our words and thoughts are permanently etched onto a webpage that everyone who has a computer can access. Although most of us are not experts in any fields, someone might stumble upon our small little blog and say, “Hey, this person has a point!” The point of a blog is to bring about social change, and with every set of eyes that lays their sight onto our blog, then the mission of the blog has been fulfilled. Changing one person’s opinion at a time may be a little long to bring about any sort of revolution, but it’s still one opinion that was changed because someone made a good argument on a blog. Taking baby steps is still moving forward.
Kotecki, James. "James Kotecki." James Kotecki. 28 Nov. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007
Outing, Steve. "Poynter Online - What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers." Poynter.Org. 20
Dec. 2004. 30 Nov. 2007
Kurtz, Howard. "Jailed Man is a Videographer and a Blogger But is He a Journalist?..."
Washingtonpost.Com. 8 Mar. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007
The blogosphere is one of the most recent and sweeping changes in modern day communication. Blogging is the simple practice of posting one's ideas, stories, or basically anything on the internet. Through posting blogs, people are able to get their ideas heard and connect with other like-minded individuals. Blogs cover every topic under the sun—from recipes to coverage of the Iraq War. A unique aspect of blogging that has contributed to its booming popularity is the fact that anyone can blog. It's simply a matter of getting online, visiting a blogging website, and posting a blog. There are no credentials necessary and people can write whatever they want, whether informative, accurate, or neither.
This new media has already transformed the news. Bloggers are able to instantly get news stories out to the public. Live-blogging (going out to an event and blogging as it is happening) is gaining popularity, especially while America is gearing up for the elections. The 2008 Presidential election is keeping the bloggers busy, and this is seen most clearly in video blogging. Candidates have been getting online and releasing videos for the public. You Tube is just another facet of the blogging world.
Through both print and video, people are spreading their ideas and getting their voice heard. This is making Big Media nervous. “We've owned the printing press for centuries; not the people have the power of the press [through blogs]. They are speaking and it's our turn to listen and engage them in conversation” (Outing 7). The general public has taken matters into their own hands and, after the massive journalistic failures and shortcomings revealed in the Iraq war coverage, maybe it's for the best. But blogging does compromise integrity; there are no guidelines or ramifications for lying. It is this freedom that inspires bloggers to continue—they will never be censored for saying what they believe. Also, the blogging world is a new way to find undiscovered talent. “You've got tens of thousands of potential columnists writing for free, fueled by passion, operating in a free market where the cream rises quickly” (Welch).
Big Media is facing a lot of problems. According to a poll conducted earlier this year, more than half of Americans say “US news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate and don't care about the people they report on” (E&P). This shows the trend of disenchantment and disinterest in mainstream media outlets. 24 news channels and newspapers are losing their credibility. They are no longer the only source for information for the people. Blogs are a way to actively engage the public; to continue examining the story even after it's published. This interactivity is the exact thing Big Media is lacking. Corporations are interested in merging and money, whereas people are interested in stories. Blogs are much more honest and transparent, though not always more accurate. Through posting a blog, a conversation is started and the public is needing more conversation and a little less action.
While blogging is helping information get out and enabling people to get involved, it's not always a good thing. People can post whatever they want, regardless of relevance or accuracy. There are no journalistic standards and, while this can help people get their voices heard, it can also lead to misinformation. During the 2004 Presidential election, Wonkette.com printed false rumors about John Kerry knowing that they were most likely fictitious. When asked why, bloggers stated “I publish anything because I can” (Outing). This statement shows that blogging is much more about the freedom to publish the news than the accuracy of the news. Despite the lack of regulations regarding fact-checking, blogs are often very credible and informed. They've been instrumental in breaking stories that big media ignores. Without the blog world and other means of communication, even such recent controversies like the Jena 6 may have stayed under the radar.
In order to learn more about the blog world, we created a blog at Talkmonkey. The goal of our blog was to encourage political debate. This format allowed us to post ideas and for other classmates to respond to these opinions and offer their insight. We tracked the blog's growth in class and were able to see that quite a few people were looking at our blog. The experience taught me the impact that blogs could have. Simply by typing in a Google search, people can stumble upon blogs and their ideas and views can be challenged. It's a unique environment that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and skepticism. These elements have been lacking in Big Media for quite sometime, and the public has responded with blogging.
Critical Theory teaches the importance of questioning the dominant paradigm. Blogs seek to fill the gaps that have been made in the fabric of media. They're working to reclaim reason, unmask power, and contest hegemony (Brookfield). The blog world provides a free marketplace of ideas, unfettered by power and regulations. This new, independent media is both exciting and terrifying. The power of the internet is growing and blogging is at the forefront of this movement. Whether for or against it, blogging is the wave of the future.
There is debate about blogging’s credibility as a form of journalism. The purpose of journalism is to get important stories out there for the public to know about. Blogs, in many cases, as well as other alternative publications are, in fact, responsible for breaking important stories that at first were viewed by the mainstream media as unimportant or too controversial to report. It’s obvious that the mainstream media won’t cover issues of social justice due to the fact that their main source of income, advertising, is funded by the very entities that are the cause of many injustices.
When corporate capitalists are funneling in money and keeping mainstream media outlets above water, the programming of these outlets becomes predictable and in a way censored. With car commercials and gas companies’ advertisements, how often does the public hear about global warming on the six o’clock news, despite the fact that it is important and it affects everyone? So now the question is if the mainstream media won’t cover important issues is it really credible? I would say not.
There are blogs that are not credible sources either, however, once a blog gains credibility and notoriety, the blog can participate in some pretty important reporting. There are many issues that aren’t touched by the mainstream media prior to being blogged about. For instance Faye Anderson who considers herself a citizen journalist, “blogs about illegal immigration constantly and wrote extensively about the Jena Six case well before MSM started covering the racial conflicts…She credit black bloggers, alongside black radio, with closely following the story.” (Vargas) Also with the mainstream media being very anti-Chavez and not as inclusive of news about Latin America, there are blogs such as the Latin American News Review that offer another side of the story.
Of course not all blogs very credible and most are not used as journalistic outlets. Michael Skube questioned the credibility of blogs, and wrote of how some non-credible blogs bring all other blogs’ credibility into question. If one really considers this an argument than one might question CNN’s credibility when the E! channel airs nothing but shallow gossip and rumors about celebrities. This argument doesn’t really hold water.
With the growth and popularity of the Internet, journalism is also more accessible to people who not only might not have the most popular opinions, but have very little money. Blogging has really revolutionized dissident media because it’s cheap. In Streitmatter’s book, in almost every chapter there were stories of how dissident publications had trouble staying afloat with the denial of most advertising revenue. Printing and distributing is expensive. With blogging, both of these aspects of publishing are free.
In the United States it is the Constitutional right of the people to the freedom to speak, assemble, and “the existence and toleration of a diversity of ideas and opinions within the free press”. John Stuart Mill advocated for a free marketplace of ideas. With a homogenous mainstream media, blogs are covering what they are not, enriching journalism in this country, as well as all over the world. Blogs are the voices of those without the funding to publish in print, and those voices come from a much different place that aren’t clouded with special interest groups agendas.
Blogs also are accessible to people all across the world. The Internet is easy to use and free to look at, minus a monthly wireless subscription. With only a few keystrokes people can have access to all kinds of news, minus the ninety-nine cents per article one has to pay to read the New York Times online. Also many young people today spend hours on the Internet. Even spending one day without it seems impossible. (Walker) Knowing how dependent people, particularly younger generations are on technology, this is great way to gain readership.
Also another great aspect of using the Internet to broadcast one’s thoughts is that it reaches across national borders. The video blog of Comandante Marcos of the Zapatistas awing revolutionaries everywhere and even our own blog that got hits from around the world is proof that blogs have a unique way of communicating internationally.
There are many things that make blogging an optimal form of dissident media. There’s a backlash due to a non-credible homogenous mainstream media, that leaves people looking for news elsewhere. Blogs are free and have no publishing cost, and blogs cast a wide net of readership with their accessibility via the World Wide Web. Blogs are the newest avenue of publishing for activist journalists everywhere, and no matter how disenfranchised someone is or how far away someone is, blogs allow people to be heard.
1. Skube, Michael. "Blogs: All the News That Fits." The Los Angeles Times 19 Aug. 2007.
2. Vargas, Jose A. "Storming the News Gatekeepers." The Washington Post 27 Nov. 2007.
3. Walker, Danna. "The Longest Day." The Washington Post 5 Aug. 2007.