Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Are bloggers journalists?

The comments included in this Information Week article are indicative of a general misinterpretation of blogs and blogging. Blogs are important in that they are yet another example of the disintermediation that will continue to have profound effects on media, communication, as well as on commercial markets.

But blogs are nothing more than a very convenient and user-friendly web content management system. As many of the comments in the InfoWeek article suggest, being a blogger doesn't make you a journalist. But neither does having to answer to an editor or publisher. Journalists can be bloggers, and bloggers can be journalists. But the real journalists, regardless of whether or not they hold the accepted credentials, will emerge because of the quality of their work.

Of course, that's my idealism talking. There is a disturbing body of evidence that the quality of journalism offers no indication of the size of the audience for the work. And it seems increasingly apparent that despite the ongoing criticism of the media for its bias to one political perspective or another, the viewing and reading public exhibits a tendency to drift toward outlets that support what they already think, rather than taking the time to consider opposing viewpoints to arrive at a more reasoned and reasonable understanding of what's really going on in the world.

Blogs offer at least the potential to change that situation by offering ideas and opinions that do not have to answer to sponsors -- or, for that matter, public opinion. But it remains to be seen if people will take advantage of the diversity of opinion offered by blogs, or if they will simply gravitate to the comfort of the familiar.

Two decades ago I read Gerard K. O'Neil's fascinating book, 2081, a prediction of life in a future that today seems far less distant. O'Neil spends the first half of the book examining the future as depicted in various SciFi novels. His conclusion offers some insight into human nature. In his analysis, O'Neil found that the authors invariably overestimated societal change and underestimated technological change. These observations ring true today. We enjoy technological advances beyond those ever dreamed of even twenty years ago, but whether we use this technology to reshape society in some positive way is still a matter of speculation.