Is “the blog” a viable escape plan for card-carrying journalists?
Russ Imrie September 30, 2010
Thinking after I was sent: Downhill With the G.O.P., a web article byPaul Krugman, NYT, Sep. 23, 2010. On the surface, I agree with Krugman’s analysis, as far as it goes, which is not far enough.
Here’s why. Thursday September 23, I attended a seminar at the Palestine Center in Foggy Bottom, an institute funded by the Jerusalem Fund. Nice place, great programs, very glad I can occasionally attend one.
The event was “The New Media and the Palestine Question: Blogging Out of Conflict.” Okay, sounds good, with four major bloggers/academics on two panels with some question time. Want to see and learn details? Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center
But that’s not the point; neither is the “buzzy” topic “new media.”
l. to r. Jerome Slater, SUNY; Will Youmans, moderator; Adam Horowitz, Mondoweiss - photo R Imrie
M.J Rosenberg blogs at http://mediamattersaction.org/
Adam Horowitz blogs at http://mondoweiss.net/
l. to r. Yousef Munayyer, moderator; M.J. Rosenberg, Media Matters; Stephan M. Walt, International Affairs Prof., Harvard University - photo R Imrie
Couple of things that, to me, stand out as the point(s.)
One: all these guys Slater (SUNY), Horowitz, Rosenberg and Walt (Harvard) aren’t the [once-preeminent] major print journalists/pundits/purveyors/prognosticators of deliverable/discernable political blocs with traditional weekly/daily constituencies in a newspaper/major network news program/public service message industry that is almost at the “residue” stage.
The classic Fourth Estate is now delinquent and soon to be foreclosed upon or else can be found full of cobwebs up on blocks out by the barn in Idaho. So they blog or are intimately involved with blogging, a 1990’s web technology. That’s great. But blogging is now so 2000. I mean, I do it. Millions, and soon billions, will never see a blog, let alone read one, follow links, whatever, it’s too complicated.
What of the world can one see on an iPhone screen? At my age I can scarcely SEE that “rich content,” graphical interface stuff on a wee iPhone screen, let alone get a broad sense of intellectual span, critical information and good journalism [that is] accessible on it. Like me, the bloggers are struggling with an accelerating pace of change and relevance. Automatons and amalgamation software pre-emptively learn your proclivities and present “optimized” and “customized” content. This is already happening in Google (focused ads) and Amazon and at the mothership of connectivity, Facebook. It is the holy grail. There what they know you “like” is what you get (and who you get as ‘”suggested” friends.) This will happen with news and current events — it has already started. CNN’s Howard Kurtz talks about in this video. Makes it tough on writers.
Who will create that content? What about the 900-pound gorilla? How will they make a living from it? How will society determine what grains of truth to pay attention to? This is a problem for society and at the same time a technical issue for software engineers and entrepreneurs. Designing formats, tags, meta-data for displaying grains of news and “truth” seamlessly across platforms scaling from a wide-screen TV display to an RSS news feed on a laptop to an iPhone, and preparing for the world of touch screen tablets such as the iPad is an ongoing discussion content management people at sites like Razorfish are having.
And now to two (or is that too too?) anyway…One of the audience (which by the way included one raving ideologue of one sort or another – and this is where my partial deafness really comes in handy) who (and now the bad side of deafness when this gentleman spoke up right in front of me) identified himself (explicitly, in ways other than his well polished wingtips and a stylish gray pinstriped suit) as someone who works in the capitol forming Foreign Policy. “How do we get real information [now] on public opinion?” was his question, and it is a good one.
So. Back to the original, if off-target, Krugman spiel. Both parties are utterly floundering. The Repubs have NO other policy/political or moral aims at this point than getting in power again. Their constituency is wildly fragmented, from the moose-huntress, to a coven in Delaware, to Boner’s (oops did I spell that wrong) escapades with lobbyists and rhetorical leadership. The Dems are dealing with cringing stalwarts who grovel for votes in the shade of “fiscal responsibility”, backwash from campaign high-water waves of idealism, and dealing with Obama’s birthplace handicap (I am told that cadres of tea-baggers are in breathless possession of the ACTUAL ORIGINAL KENYAN BIRTH CERTIFICATE PDFs of our president) that is giving the Dems the heebie-jeebies. And this is to say nothing of two wars.
Both parties then, in the wilderness in and out of office, aim to achieve legislative power. This so they can actually do nothing more than assure their supporters get a piece of the pie. And the public is getting it. The Repubs are stirring up the throngs with pitchforks and torches for the usual assault on the castle. And if they swarm over the walls and eject the present tenants, will soon find themselves the target of that same mob. The moral “ground” is now a heaving, churning bog of floating peat where governance cannot happen as it has no ability to focus on the once discernable currents and events that government handles best. On this new global infosea, events happen at too high a frequency and are shoveled across too wide a bandwidth, for classical blogging to deliver the information government needs.
But the parties see such hapless governance as a side issue, and in a bit of irony, they see it as THE side issue — perhaps even as a QUALITY in the environment that can be exploited. As Stephan Walt related at the seminar, imparting some of his Capitol Hill experience, 99.9 % of Congress’s time is spent getting money. It is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It is an American problem.
Russell Imrie is a content producer, webmaster and American Indian blogger living in the Washington DC area. “Classic” blogging? My, times they are a-changing.