Can Bloggers Give Mainstream Media A Run For The Money?

One of the perennial questions about the role of blogging and bloggers in the evolving media landscape is what standards for responsibility, accountability and ethics one can expect from them. The matter, basically, is one of credibility. The argument is often framed as a comparison of the relative reliability of traditional – pre-internet, if you will – news media and their contributors, with that of the blogosphere and bloggers. Proponents of traditional media often argue that the formal structures and processes for gathering, vetting, and delivering news, information and opinion provide the kind of quality control for their “product” that one cannot expect from the fast-and-loose, editor-less world of blogging.

Having worked in both media to some extent – my first reaction to such discussions or arguments is frustration. Any discussion that frames this as a pure “either-or” proposition is not dealing with reality; no single medium operates in a vacuum; the media for the collection and dissemination of information interact with each other, and always have.

The days of news papers as sole providers of that service are gone. Even before the internet, radio and television played a complementary role to print media. News of coups, riots, earthquakes and other events – very often broken by media outlets such as BBC World service, CCN and so on. These have come to play a very integral role in the lives of a lot of people around the world. We often find out about changes in government and acts of God from these news services. The next day, newspapers fill in the picture with news, views, and interviews. In the same way, blogs (and other related tools such as micro-blogging services like twitter) now extend the spectrum of information media to an even more immediate level.

Of course, it is the more inclusive nature of blogging that is really being alluded to above that is often the root of much more of the critique of blogging. The point made is that since anybody and his dog can start a blog and start “reporting” and expressing opinions, we should not trust anything that is posted on a blog. I exaggerate the starkness of that argument, but that is what it bolls down to.

The main argument, as it is more soberly made, is that traditional news media organizations have a structure in place for researching, confirming, and double-checking information before it becomes the part of the public record; the implication being that blogs don’t and therefore their content is by definition is of lower quality and less credible. As I see it, there are two problems with that picture.

Firstly, while bloggers may not have a staff of editors and fact checkers, blogs live on a very tight feedback loop and have to compete in a very competitive ecosystem where any mistakes are almost instantaneously noticed and are mercilessly debunked or validated. The only major “scandals” involving fake content on blogs that have a wide readership have been in the US. For example, “Lonely Girl 15” briefly became a Hugh phenomenon – till it was discovered that the person putting out a detailed look at her life was not a real lonely girl but an actress performing for professionally-produced videos. On the other hand, every year, one or two major newspapers in the US have had to own up about writers who had fabricated stories.

Conclusion

The blogosphere and other “new media” have added a new dimension to the media landscape, with a whole new set of strengths and weaknesses. As both old and new media have to share the information collection landscape and compete for audiences, they will have to work out what roles they will play in this brave new world – and how they will check and balance each other.

Sohail Qaisar is a professional writer from GamesHT.com, where he shares informative reviews, previews and articles related to video games, hardware and technology. Checkout his review on Nokia N9 Mobile.


20 thoughts on “Can Bloggers Give Mainstream Media A Run For The Money?”

  1. @Sohail – Great points you raise here; it is not an either/or argument. I think it is mostly a matter of ethics and integrity and neither is limited to any one specific medium. Like you said, traditional media – like the other kind (blogging) has had to own up to less than stellar qualities in their writers.

    But to answer the question in your heading; bloggers can give mainstream media a run for the money.

  2. Cyza says:

    Interesting written information. For me I think the traditional newspaper still have its place in the world. Maybe the market share has dropped but there are still people who relies and prefer reading physical newspaper. However, the beauty of the online media (including blogs and online news) is that they can be produced by many people. Yes, the integrity of the news published by bloggers may be doubtful but these are alternative news to the one that is controlled and being fed by certain government. So, the blogs and online news should be there but the publisher should maintain their integrity in providing news.

    I rest my case.

  3. fas says:

    Very rightly said, because there is the criticism which bloggers bring to the table.

  4. Sohail says:

    @Cyza and @Sharon Fiberesima, thanks for your interesting comments and I like your way of thinking. But remember 1 thing, Blogs have to maintain integrity of information what they are providing, and must not break the trust and hearts of people around the world by providing false information.

  5. Sohail says:

    @Cyza and @Sharon Fiberesima, thanks for your interesting comments and I like your way of thinking. But remember 1 thing, Blogs have to maintain integrity of information what they are providing, and must not break the trust and hearts of people around the world by providing false information.

  6. Sohail says:

    @Cyza and @Sharon Fiberesima, thanks for your interesting comments and I like your way of thinking. But remember 1 thing, Blogs have to maintain integrity of information what they are providing, and must not break the trust and hearts of people around the world by providing false information.

  7. What is Seo says:

    I’d agree with what you said about traditional media and how the other kind has had to own up to less than stellar qualities in their writers.

  8. SohailQaisar says:

    @Cyza and @Sharon Fiberesima, thanks for your interesting comments and I like your way of thinking. But remember 1 thing, Blogs have to maintain integrity of information what they are providing, and must not break the trust and hearts of people around the world by providing false information.

  9. Tribalblogs says:

    I agree with @Sharon Fiberesima and that this is about integrity. Anyone can start a blog but only the talented, creative and ethical will bother with fact checking and other vetting processes. Of course, not all blogs are journalistic endeavors. In fact, most aren’t. I have both a humor blog and blog about blogging and writing. I rarely do any reporting on either of the blogs figuring I am not going to be able to break news. I do comment on the news and offer my opinion. While I have the right to comment on any topic or news story I prefer if I want to keep my readers (who trust me) I must abide by journalistic practices and not run around writing stuff that is untrue or sensationalistic just to garner traffic.

    The bottom line is that to be a good writer you must respect the craft and trade. To write articles to enflame people or talk outright lies is unethical whether you are a blogger or Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.

  10. Blogging is indeed relevant in this day and age as it gives the little guy a voice. Traditional media is often put on a pedestal by the uninformed, which I personally find baffling. Albeit having a staff of editors and overhead does not mean they (traditional media) are revealing the truth or better yet the truth that aligns with one’s beliefs. I recall learning many years ago that media (insert: blogs, TV news, print-etc.) is just a window they (the publisher) wants you to see-the way you interpret could drastically differ. Thus, it is important to retain one’s integrity when providing others with information.

    Happy blogging,

    Jason

  11. Jame says:

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  12. I’ve always questioned the integrity of traditional media. Some of the things they mention on MSNBC makes me wonder if I’m even living on planet earth!

    I prefer reading blogs over news print as well. I just got this local business newspaper the other day with a column in it written by a so-called SEO guru. While he mentions some useful tips, some of what he says is bogus. Where were the editors and “fact checkers” when this was published?

  13. BradNordstrom says:

    I never knew what Mainstream Media was until you pointed it out on this post.

    Thanks For Sharing,John

    Bradley Nordstrom

  14. Olave says:

    Dont you mean CNN not CCN? Immediate feedback for correction!

  15. Data verification has always been a primary concern when it comes to the Internet in general, not just blogging. Anyone can make claims and circulate them, and very few online journalists would cite sources.

  16. tinagleisner says:

    Love your description of the information landscape as it helps portray that the means to publishing or finding/digesting information is endless as it really is on the web

  17. Nice post John. Bloggers have evolve in many different ways from the past and I don’t believe that this idea is impossible.

  18. Americas News Now says:

    Absolutely.

  19. Tina Gleisner says:

    The struggle appears to be more about revenue & control and the journey has just begun

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