COMMON webSENSE

In “From Thomas Paine to Blogs and Beyond,” the author starts out sounding similar to Winston by stating that new journalism like new media is not an over night sensation. In fact journalism has been progressing since its inception in America with pamphlets such as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Journalism, even as news sources evolved into Big Media conglomerates, has always acted the part of the checker and balancer of American society. According to the author, muckrakers – who emerged at the end of the 19th century and sounded off about robber barons, cruel working conditions and the like, helped set the stage for the Progressive Era and set a standard for the investigative journalist of the new era.

Big Media inevitably devoured the small family owned presses in the 20th century and freedom of the press became more like a freedom for those who owned a press – as A.J. Liebling said. Radio and television began to infiltrate the newspaper monopolistic control over the news but those too also feel victim (or victor depending on how you look at it) to Big Media consolidation.

Big Media is not entirely a bad thing, though because with it comes big money and big power. The author explains that in his opinion the craft of newspaper journalism has never been better – mostly based on the power that large corporations have to “get the story.” Unlike independent or grassroots journalists, reporters for larger papers have more leads and more resources to produce more investigative pieces.

The author goes on to discuss the rise of the Internet, mentioning the important people and steps along the way that we have read in many or our readings by now. The author brings up a fresh point though when he compares talk radio with blogs. Howard Kurtz is quoted a “believing that talk radio predated and in many ways anticipated the weblog phenomenon – ‘both mediums reach out to and connect with a bunch of people who are turned off by the mainstream media.’”

The author points to 9/11 as the catalyst for blogs. During the tragedy people used blogs to quickly disseminate information and to voice their opinions on the situations and even to announce to friends and family that they were alive. In the authors view, people were tired of watching the same 24-hour coverage on mainstream media and sought to spread additional, more in depth and more personal information. Also, unlike the mainstream media, blogs were conversational so people could post their reactions and actually have them heard.

I don’t have much experience with blogs except for the ones that we use in this class, but I am becoming more intrigued by them the more that I learn about the (relatively) new form of communication. While I used to have a stereotypical view that people who created blogs were just lonely people writing personal journals that I wasn’t interested in and that people that read them only did so for the voyeuristic pleasures. I’ve come to realize the power of blogs as alternative sources of news – be it hard news of soft news like entertainment or music and I plan on exploring them more in the future.

In regards to how blogs have affected traditional media, I feel like at first the traditional sources might have been a little nervous, but a 1984 type nervous – thinking that such trends were going to take over the industry in a matter of months. Now I think they have adopted the new technology and incorporated it into their own plan. Many prominent newspapers utilize blogs on their websites and even pick up leads from sources like The Drudge Report.

Looking in to the future, I found an ironically applicable blurb from this month’s Wired which I read right after this article. The “Ping” article poses a question each month to people in a certain industry. This month is “What is the most overhyped tech trend right now?” Robert X. Cringely’s, creator and host of NerdTV, response:

“…What I think will happen is that the best bloggers and podcasters will eventually be subsumed into the professional media. After all, every blogger I know is trying to find a way to generate revenue. Blogging and podcasting will eventually morph into something that looks a whole lot more like The New York Times, and the Times will come down a step or two and learn to give up a bit of its patrician nature.”

Another thought provoking response came from Mike Masnick, President of Techdirt:

“There are plenty of tech trends that are clearly overhyped, but none so much as the idea that we need ‘the next big thing.’ We’re always looking out for what’s next and never taking the time to fix what’s broken. As soon as we notice that some technology hasn’t live up to its hype, we become distracted by the next shiny thing. For one, it would be nice if the promises were kept, the bells rang and the whistles whistled.”

–Ragan

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