Blogging the Waltz


I am going to try not to make this a navel-gazing exercise, though it may come across that way, but I think it may be worthwhile to examine where blogging/web journalism did things well and did not do things so well yesterday, since I think it's fair to say that that was the first true instance of widespread statewide liveblogging of breaking news in Tennessee. This includes a self-examination of PITW's efforts (myself very much included).

(UPDATE: Some communications I have had indicate that I am not being clear about something: in this post, I am talking about bloggers generally, not just PITW, though I include us in the pile. No, I don't provide specific links because, frankly, I'm too tired and lazy to do that right now and it's just about to be Memorial Day weekend. You'll just have to trust me.)

First, some of the good:

1. I have heard from many people about how much they appreciated the abililty to follow news on their computer screens as it was happening while they were at work. There's a lot to be said for that, especially since computer screens allow one to appear to be working much more than they would if they kept heading off to the break room to watch television every five minutes.

2. Blogs got to the initial story (emphasis on "initial"--see below) in much speedier fashion than the MSM. The most significant thing blogs/Web sites have done is shatter the barrier between when news is happening and when MSMers decide the public should know it's happening.

3. Because of their very nature, blogs created instant synergy among each other and their readers. Blogs pushed the story, readers commented, and the blogs went forward with some of that information or corrected information they had posted. One example: My mistaken statement yesterday that Memphis Mayor Herenton might have fallen under initial suspicion because former Senator Roscoe Dixon was his aide. Not five minutes had passed before I received emails telling me that Dixon was actually the aide to Shelby County Mayor Wharton. I fixed it immediately. Now, that's interactive media.

Now, for the other side.... 1. Yesterday provides evidence for the proposition that while blogs can beat out the MSM in terms of speed, the MSM can still beat the pants off of blogs when it comes to depth. Follow the time stamps and one can see that it was only a matter of time before we bloggers started deferring to places like The Tennessean and the TV news stations for even more information. That's not a knock on bloggers per se, just an observation that the MSM still has the resources. One blogger can only do so much when that blogger has other things to do.

2. (This one is not unrelated to the above.) The MSM was, on the whole, more accurate than many bloggers (including myself) on a few elements of the story. For instance, there were not--thus far anyway--12 people under indictment, though that was the very real understanding out there among many folks (including yours truly) along the hustings. Also, some people named turned out to be only tangentially related to the story. Corrections were made as time went along, and all postings were--where necessary--couched with the notion that some of this was speculation, so all's well, but still, the MSM, while slower, probably had much a better batting average.

3. Bloggers may be getting just a tad too full of themselves with regards to the MSM. They're not all that bad. Yes, good on bloggers, but bloggers need to watch the hubris before it gets out of hand. The fact of the matter is that newspapers and TV stations are under more restraints than bloggers--especially legally. If Joe Bob Blogger makes a mistake, it's highly unlikely that Joe Bob Blogger is going to get sued. The worst that happens is that Joe Bob gets some pissy emails. If The Tennessean screws up, though, its deep pockets and wide-ranging audience make a lawsuit worthwhile.

These are just random thoughts, and I can definitely change my mind on some. What say all of you?

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