Old Patriot's Pen

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

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Truth or Fiction?

Who's telling the truth - Internet bloggers, or the Mainstream Media (MSM) elite?

There's a minor war taking place in the United States today, pitting the "journalism" profession against the "amateur" authors on the Internet - the people that create and maintain "weblogs" - personal web documents open to all. Some of the broadsides, especially from the MSM, have been wicked - and poorly aimed. One of the chief complaints of the MSM is that the bloggers are "amateurs, who have no standing in the journalism profession".

In one respect, the criticism fits - most of us haven't gone to journalism school. Just because there's a school for it, however, doesn't make it a "profession". There are no tests, no certifications, for journalists as there are for doctors, lawyers, and many others that truly ARE "professionals". Nor is journalism school all that strenuous to get through (of course, neither are "schools of education", but that's another story). Most bloggers - those that aren't under 30, at least - have as much experience with the world as the average journalist, and have that experience to share with the rest of the world. The argument can be condensed down to one clear question: does the experience of the journalist or that of the blogger best suit the question being discussed?

It would be good if every journalist could set up a file that others could access and read, listing his/her training and experience, and providing links to what they've written. Bloggers have archives, which not only include their words, but the comments their words have inspired from others. We, the general public, can access those archives and see what our blogger hosts have said, sometimes back four or five years into the past. While a Lexis/Nexus search can provide some indication of what a journalist has written, many of those articles are no longer accessible except in a limited location, and quite frequently at more than modest expense.

Most Lexis/Nexus searches don't cover what's been "published" on the Internet. Posting anything to the Internet is a valid form of publication - information, opinion, and even spurious comments have been recorded and made available for public consumption. My very old Funk & Wagnall's Standard College Dictionary defines "publish" as "1. To print and issue (a book, magazine, map, etc.) to the public. 2. To make known or announce publicly; promulgate; proclaim." Both of those definitions can be said to relate to the Internet and electronic dissemination of one's words. The old-fashioned publishing industry doesn't want to admit it, but the truth is, the Internet has supplemented, and in some areas replaced, formal (solid presentation) publication, just as radio and television have supplemented, and in some areas, replaced, printed newspapers and celluloid movies.

This brings us back to credentials: what credentials do I have to post things to this weblog? What are the credentials of other Internet posters? How do those match up against the "professional" journalist?

I've posted some of those credentials on the sidebar of my weblog. I think every blogger should do the same. Then let's all demand the same type of information from those that criticize us!


Blogger ~Jen~ said...

Great post.

I don't suppose "political addict" counts as a blogging credential does it? *grin*

8:51 PM  
Blogger Frater Bovious said...

Interesting aticle. Also interesting that "mainstream journalists" seem somewhat miffed with "bloggers" getting any attention.

It seems to me that whether or not a blogger is a journalist is pretty much the same criteria used to determine if a journalist is a journalist. Are they being read?

The difference being, before internet and web logs, publishing was an expensive proposition, and to be a "journalist" you had to have some demonstrated marketability.

To put it another way, to be considered a journalist, you had to be published. If you weren't published, you were not really a writer.

Now, all of a sudden, there are people for whom the act of writing and the act of being published have merged into one seamless whole. With a web log, writing is publishing.

So, the ground rules are changed. Marketability, always something of a measure of readability, is being replaced by pure readability as a measure of readability. Bloggers who rise to some prominence do so because they are readable. Sales and money aren't the determining factor. Prose, and only prose, is the determining factor.

Bear in mind, of the teeming millions of bloggers, there are a handful that have achieved prominence. It's not like everyone has a large readership.

For me, however, I liken this blog thing to more of an online pub, kind of like Cheers, where people go and talk about things that matter to them with friends and associates. Like your favorite pub, if you have a thought and you speak it, you need to be able to defend your idea. Or you will be called on it. The feedback is nearly instantaneous. It is a crucible for developing research and style and otherwise enhancing your abilities to write. But, it is less about expression of ideas as it is about exchange of ideas. Something that main stream media has had only minimal access to, or desire for.

There are blogs I read daily. These folks have much more credibility with me than any talking head on TV. And more than most pundits. Because I've met them on the field of battle so to speak, and developed respect for their positions.

As to whose telling the truth? Well, we are all giving our opinions. It's just that bloggers are more accessible, and don't have as much money invested in their opinions. That keeps the opinions real, in my opinion :p

Structurally, it seems there is a better system of checks and balances, and therefore more potential for truth, in the blogging world.


7:09 AM  
Blogger ~Jen~ said...

Frater, great comment, as usual. :)

I love blogging, and I love our blogging community. The exchange of ideas continues to enthrall me.

10:01 AM  

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