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.
1995. Poynter University. 27 Nov. 2007 .
Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution: the Dissident Press in America. New York:
Columbia UP, 2001. 275-278.