Journalism education and tips for journalists

Monday, September 13, 2004

Conversational blogs

Here authors discuss their views on subjects or areas that spark their imagination or inflame their passions.

They have an opinion they wish to share. They are not blogging to relieve internal pressure, as confessional bloggers do, but to initiate a conversation. This opinion is syndicated, typically by RSS, throughout the blogosphere, gets commented on, linked to, reposted and discussed by a number of other blogs and bloggers. A meme develops. Comments beget new blog entries which in turn develop, deepen or die. These are real conversations with all the strengths and weakness of conversation. They can be unstructured, unsavoury, often nasty, sometimes profound, occasionally enlightening, mostly entertaining but sometimes brain-numbingly boring, mean and outright stupid. And, as in life in general, we tend to think that conversations we start are “better” than most others.

These discussions can be of great value. They allow access to useful sources of information from areas often inaccessible to mainstream journalists.

One of the more famous is the Baghdad blog which was a source of alternative information and experience from a war-threatened, then war-ravaged Iraq. The blog, written by Salam Pax, has since been published in book form.
[ There was a controversy in blogging circles as to whether or not Salem Pax actually existed. Journalist Peter Maass wrote an entertaining and interesting piece on how the elusive Salem was actually his

There are also blogs ( I write this from the perspective of a european journalist) from culturally and intellectually inaccessible (to me) areas. Muslim girls discuss their lives, Chinese students, ethnic minorities in large cities, sub-cultures – these peripheral areas are reported on from the inside and commented on by the outside in a dialog that is seldom available.

The point here is that there is interactivity, communality, argument and discussion. And speed. It is amazing to watch a issue spread.

A timely example is the current affairs program 60-minutes on the "Bush AWOL letters"

On Wednesday night, CBS News released four memos it claimed were written in 1972 and 1973 by George W. Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard. In one of the documents, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian writes that a Guard official was "pushing to sugar coat" Bush's training evaluation; in another, Killian suspects that Bush is "talking to someone upstairs" about getting transferred. Within a few hours of the CBS report, bloggers were questioning the authenticity of the documents. By today, the doubts were on the front page of the Washington Post
And Jay Rosen has this to say:
PressThink: "Here are some quick thoughts-- not about the charges, which seem serious to me, but about the general atmosphere and what's at stake if this turns into a political scandal.

Four things to stick in the front of your mind:

* It completely elevates the episode and charges it with political and cultural tension that the anchorman, Dan Rather, presented the CBS report Wednesday Night accusing Bush of disappearing from Guard duty. If Sixty Minutes had presented a damaging story of that kind at the height of an election campaign and it turned out to be based on forged documents, that would itself be a crisis. But it was Dan Rather on Sixty Minutes, and it is now Rather on the hook if the documents are fake. (Indeed, Rather told the Los Angeles Times, 'I'm of the school, my name is on it, I'm responsible.') That brings in Rather's celebrity, the corporate iconography in which an anchorman is always involved, the succession drama at CBS News now that Rather is 72 years old, and the enormous venom out there for Rather, who is seen on the Right as a man of many political sins. Thus, PowerLine wrote: 'This would appear to signal the end of Rather's career. If the documents are ultimately accepted as forgeries, which seems inevitable to us, he can't survive.' All of which means this is not just a scandal, but a cultural theatre for it, and that's different."


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