I realized that it’s very easy to sit here at my computer, read an article and find 20 holes in it – just like it’s easy to sit in the backseat of a car and tell the driver he or she is speeding, or should have stopped sooner. Does that mean the person wasn’t speeding or shouldn’t have stopped sooner? Of course not. The media has made some mistakes in these stories and, in large part, I’ve pointed them out. It’s important to do that.
However, I should have done that with the same understanding that Vennochi mentioned. It’s not easy to get a story exactly right as a singular writer or even organization, as we all live within a bubble. Furthermore, even with an editor, the same editors are the ones reading from the same authors, every day. The environment that’s created is still insulated and incapable of thinking about all the different facets of the story. That’s not a knock on the media or the Globe because, as I’ve indicated quite clearly on this post, I’m obviously suspectible to it too.
Joan Vennochi was sparked to send me an email today based on a comment I made on BMG. First, I should applaud any Globe writer who’s spending that kind of time actually reading the comments on blogs – because, as any frequent comment-reader can attest, that takes dedication. In the comment (and on an earlier blog today), I criticized Lisa Wangsness for not interviewing bloggers – and instead ripping their quotes off a website. Doing so eliminates any chance for bloggers to qualify statements in a thoughtful manner, so I found it somewhat annoying. Yet, the way I expressed my annoyance almost automatically assumed Lisa was doing it to sensationalize the story, but Vennochi disagreed.
Every day, bloggers comment on what journalists write, without ever calling the journalist in question to ask for additional perspective,explanation, etc.
Let’s be honest, it would be nearly impossible to do that, be it because there are just so many bloggers, so few journalists or the fact that it’s rare to see a full-time blogger – and they have to keep up their day jobs.
To further complicate the matter, while bloggers can write as much as they want and as frequently as they want, Vennochi made the equally poignant point in our emails that writers in the media have strict word limits in which to tell their stories. They can’t get every viewpoint, factoid or side of the story in any article. It’s as equally impossible as every blogger calling a particular journalist before they criticized their work.
Vennochi brought up one final note: the MSM has to deal with something that bloggers, largely, don’t. Bloggers, including your’s truly, can often be “mean.” Of course, “mean” is a subjective word – rarely are bloggers (that I read, anyway) mean-spirited. However, one person’s snark is another’s outrageous post.
Journalists and columnists are at a disadvantage – they’re supposed to be unbiased (Howie Carr notwithstanding) and can’t be so snarky.
So what do we all do? How do we bridge this MSM/Blogger Divide? For one thing, we need to develop better relationships. Part of that is trying to be more constructively critical and less snarkilicious. Just as importantly, it means doing more to reach out to one another. Vennochi obviously understands that; she’s done quite a bit to reach out to bloggers in this situation.
Furthermore, maybe when bloggers criticize the media – which is necessary – we need to focus more on being constructive and less on being snarky and personal. I’ll readily admit: that’s a hard sell. Half the reason people read blogs is to see what will slip by a blogger’s fingers and for the giggles. Yet, it’s a tight rope that must be crossed.
However, that’s not where it should stop. Any blogger will admit this: bloggers need the media – and the media greatly benefits from bloggers. When I’m harsh on the Globe – or other media sources – it isn’t because I hate the Globe or the media, it’s because I love to hate it. In fact, I devour it like a vampire who loves humans. So it’s important that the MSM and blogosphere develop a better relationship. Ultimately, most of us want the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think we should necessarily be “friends” – to see how bad that kind of relationship can be, ask Judy Miller. After all, she protected her “friends” even when they were lying to her about Iraq, without having to worry about any risks due to the anonymity Miller granted. No, we need a relationship that’s more like a friendly rivalry – two groups of people who really like each other, yet always try to outdo one an other when it comes to the big game. They’re the kind of people who are willing to work together in order to achieve success, even though they’re on different teams and have different goals.
How do we get that to work? There are probably hundreds of things we should do, but today I’m going to offer one idea. Maybe what we need to do is further develop the concept of citizen-journalists. A lot of bloggers out there consider themselves citizen journalists: they’re the type of people who write about stories that the media may not cover or cover well enough. Often, they break stories that the media covers later. They’re the type of people who do a lot of good. In a day and age when one of the reasons why the media comes under more criticism than ever is, in great part, because they’ve had to cut back on real journalists due to a lack of resources, citizen journalists could be the cure.
With thousands of citizens out there who are already investigating, doing serious research and then blogging about it, it’s time someone tap into their full potential. I don’t think someone has to be a genius to figure out there’s a mutual opportunity here: the media can both create, find, develop and publish important stories – with a cost-effective, outsider’s perspective – and create a better, mutually beneficial relationship with the kinds of people who both blog and read blogs. Furthermore, writers and editors would be exposed to new people who would stop the stifling insulation. Bloggers, on the other hand, would benefit from creating relationships with real, professionally trained journalists. Both sides would work together and better understand each other, ultimately bridging the difficult gap Vennochi pointed out to me today, when I checked my email. Maybe then, stories in the media and bloggers would be better and finally settle into roles that befit this new generation of news.
What other ideas do you all have?