Sunday, May 01, 2005

Blogs, the Sixth Consecution

Blogs are the best thing to happen to journalism since the First Amendment. I’ve been spreading that all over the Blogoshpere in comments on other posts discussing the impact of blogging on the MSM. I figured I should come home and explain what I meant by it.

The first consecution came from the ability to communicate on a higher level than any animal had ever done before. Our sharing of complex thoughts and ideas lead directly to our success as hunter/gathers through planning and coordination. Language provided a means of conserving experiences and discoveries through education of the next generation. The accumulation of knowledge greatly contributed to our settling down in one place and ultimately to civilization.

The second consecution came from the development of communication through symbols such as writing. Before, information had to be handed down verbally from one generation to the next through stories and songs. Legends and myths developed but personal observations and credit for individual initiatives were lost through the limitation of people’s memories. Writing allowed the composer thoughts to come down directly from him (or her). Information could be catalogued, history was recorded, and education was enhanced such that anyone anytime later could receive the information and put it to use much more efficiently or productively than the direct descendent.

The third consecution came from the development of single letter type face and printing. With this, information became available to the general population as never before. The public slowly gained access and the ability to read became a public need. Mass media came into being. Information spread into every nook and cranny of the civilized, and then uncivilized world.

The four consecution resulted from the formalize recognition of the right of freedom of expression best typified by the rights specifically stipulated in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Because of the role information played in the American Revolution, freedom of the press was protected in the new nation. Those who control the power of the governments have vested interest in controlling the flow of information, and the First Amendment has been a check to prevent that absolute control. With protection, reporting information became a trade, a school of thought and study.

The school of journalism is to the school of English and History what the newspaper is to literature and history books. Writing is like playing a musical instrument or performing a physical feat, it must be practiced to be mastered.

The fifth consecution came from the development of instant communication first with the telegraph, and then the telephone, followed rapidly by radio, television, and then the internet. Anywhere can be everywhere. We are visual animals and visual is the embodiment of communication today. Reality is a contest between ignorance, spin and exposé.

And then along came the blog. It was said you only had freedom of the press if you owned one. With blogs, that is no longer a constraint. It’s not just the freedom of expression but the new medium in which it now operates. The MSM is now being held accountable like it never was before. Not letters to the editor, not emails, not the threat of or actual legal action, not competition from other MSM, not new forms of MSM, not books or movies about them, no government action, no condemnation, no petitions, no demonstrations or strikes, nothing has had the impact that the blog is having on MSM. The only other influence having this impact was the communist scare in the fifties and the fear of being labeled soft on communism or a “fellow traveler”.

I have long been disenchanted with the state of today’s MSM, but I do not believe and still can not see this massive liberal bias I hear and read so much about. While I think there is much that is wrong with the MSM, it is nothing so noble as patrician politics. It is something more based and common than that.

The blog is causing a resurgence of professionalism is journalism. Feedback is instantaneous and massive. Hacks, the excessive use of unattributed sources, and sloppiness are being questioned and found wanting. Even the old hands are feeling like the new kids wondering if they will measure up, if they can cut it, if their work will be accepted and not questioned or ridiculed.

Are blogs just a passing fancy like disco or bell bottom pants and MSM will one day return to its supremacy in what is and what is not news? Only time will tell. But blogs may very well be an indicator of the sixth consecution.
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