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Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The death rattle of old media

Instapundit wrote this: "TOM BROKAW defends Dan Rather, compares bloggers to jihadists, and observes: "I don't think you ever judge a man by only one event in his career.""

Anyone who's ever watched ANY CBS news program for three consecutive weeks would have to be brain-dead NOT to see the bias in the news staff, from the lowliest reporter "in the field" to the exhalted figure of Dan Rather himself. The rest of the "Big Three" - ABC and NBC - wouldn't fare any better. Nor would CNN, and even Fox has its moments.

Do these people really believe the inhabitants of "flyover country" are all stupid? Don't they have any idea of just what kind of people live out here? From the comments flying back and forth among the talking heads of New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the answer has to be, yes, they do think we're all stupid, and they have no idea what any of us are like. Their only point is that we're not where they are, and we're not in THEIR business, so we're nobodies.

These same people have an equally low opinion of bloggers - those "silly guys in pajamas, who have no accountability". Again, it's an ingrained disdain for anyone that isn't one of them.

Perhaps someone in the blogosphere should create a compilation of the skills, knowledge, and experience of the blogging community, then compare it with the "stars" of the major network newsrooms. There are at least five lawyers, a couple of ministers, more than thirty authors, a couple of dozen college professors (in a number of different fields, none of which is journalism), several military officers, dozens of serving and retired noncommissioned officers, many of whom served in our military intelligence offices, several doctors, schoolteachers, policemen, business owners, computer programmers, busdrivers, and who knows what else. Bloggers range in age from pre-teens to people even older than my 58 years. Bloggers also have readers - from less than a dozen to hundreds of thousands. Charles at Little Green Footballs has 1500 or so people online all the time, and 50,000 or more unique visitors a day. He has more than 100,000 commenters registered with his system. The Truth Laid Bear has an "ecosystem" based on average "hits" for almost five THOUSAND bloggers. Individual daily "hits" range from the 100,000+ of the top four, to the bottom hundred or so who get fewer than two hits a day. While those numbers may not rival the 40 million viewers any of the network news stations claim to have, it DOES take a bit more intelligence to log onto the Internet than it does to turn on a television.

Between competing bloggers and their over-achieving readers, there is nothing that won't attract a few dozen TRUE EXPERTS on ANY GIVEN SUBJECT in just a few minutes. Today, with one home in three having Internet access, with virtually every major public school (from elementary through college) having access to the WorldWide Web, with millions of people getting online at libraries, Internet cafes and other public forums, the potential of drawing a crowd is huge. The people that read the information they see on the Web are also capable, in more cases than not, to post comments, to link to other sites that may be interested in a particular bit of information, and to share the information with as few as a couple of people, or in some cases, with tens of thousands, using a couple of mouse clicks. If the information isn't factual, someone who KNOWS it's not factual will rebut. In some instances, huge debates involving hundreds of individuals ensue. Sometimes it leads to a consensus, sometimes it doesn't, but it's ALWAYS both entertaining and educational before the debate subsides. These stories are not 30-second (or less!) sound bites, but may last for days, a few even weeks.

The media elite may sneer, and refer to bloggers as "losers in pajamas", but the truth is quite different - the truth is that bloggers cover more, and to a greater depth, than any main-stream media organization CAN. A relevant subject on the Internet may attract a half-million comments posted on several thousand blogs by more than 150,000 different people, some of whom are in the top twenty people in that field. Frequently, those comments are linked, so a reader can follow comments across dozens of blogs easily and conveniently. Combining the blogosphere with search engines such as Google, Yahoo , Lexis-Nexis, and a few of the other major search engines gives the average "pajama-clad blogger" access to as much, and sometimes more, information than the newsroom researcher can afford to check - they just don't have the time, the resources, or the energy. What's done by a handful of people in the newsroom of any of the MSM organizations is done by tens of thousands of readers, and hundreds of bloggers.

Finally, bloggers cover more of the news than even the best newspaper. If every small town in America had at least one resident blogger, every bit of relevant information about virtually any event in this nation would be online for the entire WORLD to read in 36 hours. There aren't that many bloggers yet, but the numbers are growing rapidly. The day will come - and soon - when news is available from everywhere, about everyone, to everyone, within hours. The regular television broadcast lasts 30 minutes and covers eight stories, all but a couple repeated during each of the two or three daily broadcasts. If only the top 200 bloggers posted one story a day, they would post 20 times that many stories. Count the number of true news stories in the average daily newspaper, and it's under 200, maybe close to 200 on Sunday. Count the number of new stories (not several bloggers covering the same story, but NEW, first-time covered stories) - it's in the hundreds EVERY DAY. In addition, updates and comments are added constantly throughout the day, and perhaps for several days.

The big heartache - for the news "profession", and for the people - is that this resource is readily available to the newsroom, if only they'd quit looking down their nose and do a bit of research into what's REALLY happening in the blogosphere.

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