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The danger of newspapers in the blogosphere

The corporate takeover of the internet was inevitable the minute corporations figured out how to generate a profit from it. Back in the early 90’s, the internet was relatively free of corporate interests. Though, by the end of that decade corporate interests had largely taken over the internet in the areas of commerce, news, and marketing. Avid internet users, such as me, often gave up on the idea of the internet being a free and corporate-less world. But, then there was blogging. In the late 90’s blogging was as a relatively unused resource, except for the technologically oriented. But, it was a new medium, it was free from corporate interests, and it allowed internet users to say whatever they liked, do whatever they wanted to do, and voice their opinions to the world. Blogging creates a social opinion, one that is free of forced partisan bias (government influence) or corporate influence. Its our (common people) finest form of communicating with one collective voice.

However, today blogging is often characterized as a ‘new medium’ for information distribution. New mediums generally attract big business. Sure enough now there are more and more corporations entering the foray of the blogosphere; be it for human resource purposes or using it as a new medium to reach potential customers. But one thing that bothers me is that newspapers are now starting up corporate blogs. What’s the point of a newspaper having a blog if they have editorials? In my opinion, the newspapers should butt out of the blogosphere as they are only infiltrating this medium because most people are realizing that mainstream media is, especially in Canada, very partisan and very useless. By having journalists enter the blogosphere via corporate newspaper websites; a two tiered structure will develop in the blogosphere whereby independent bloggers will not be considered credible because they are not ‘professional.’ (More on that near the end).

In contrast, I for one find corporate (non-newspaper) blogs very interesting and useful. If anyone ever reads the blogs from the employees of Microsoft or from Google, you know what I mean. The Microsoft blogs often have very interesting information on them; whether its how to write a new type of computer algorithm or what it’s like to work in the Hotmail department, etc. These types of blogs serve a purpose; it opens readers to a world that very few people ever experience. Though, I do find it interesting when someone who is working for these tech companies has a blog and blogs about what its like to work there, or asks his/her readers for advice on various issues. Sometimes Microsoft uses its bloggers to test new ideas, it gets people involved with the everyday process, and that’s kind of cool. Now don’t get me wrong, these bloggers are forced to abide by a certain set of rules (don’t talk about pay, new products, etc), but at the same time, they are not a news organization, and therefore, these employees use it as a medium to voice their opinions about various issues.

But what really pisses me off is newspaper bloggers. No, not an everyday journalists that has a personal blog, such as Andrew Coyne, but blogs that are actually located at a newspaper website, such as the new Toronto Star blog. Firstly, isn’t this what editorials are for? Why can’t these journalists write these ‘blogs’ in the newspaper? I mean that is the essence of editorials! What real reason do they have to enter the blogosphere? None. Have our newspapers become so pro-big business that they won’t let their journalists be critical or say what they actually think? What benefit does corporate blogging actually have to a company’s profit? Especially for a news agency! Although, I can think of a few ideas such as advertisement, I cannot think of any way they could generate material revenues from a blog. Or, maybe they plan on making blogging a subscriber based business model whereby a reader pays a fee to access a blog. If that occurred, I would sell my computers, and never use the net again (ya right) but you get my drift, the one last medium us users have against big media would finally be ‘corporatized.’

But anyway, back to my point. The idea of blogging is essentially that you can write a post; share your opinion and thoughts. And if you write a really stupid post then your readers will leave you disparaging comments and you are kept in line. In addition, the purpose of comments is to generate discussions, to propagate the flow of information, to test ideas, and post theories. But these newspaper bloggers don’t have a comment section; they can just spout off their partisan tripe and not be held accountable for their opinions. They therefore fail to meet the essential element of blogging: propagating discussion through feedback and comments. To me, what they are doing is not blogging, its corporate propaganda. Harsh words, I know, but what else are they good for, especially in today’s age of a left wing dominated media industry (in Canada).

Journalists are considred professionals and therefore are considered more credible then bloggers. But that is a joke because journalists are not ‘professionals’. A professional journalist is different then the normal meaning of a professional. A professional, in general, is defined as a person with a technical skill who must abide by strict rules of conduct, guidelines, and are accountable to a governing body (such as a doctor, accountant, or lawyer). If they breach their respective rules, then they can have their designation taken away. A professional journalist is therefore not a professional in the truest sense, they are just good writers who fact check and investigate (usually they just steal bloggers ideas). But either way, journalists are still considered 'professionals' in the sense that they are deemed to be credible. Consider this, if you’re an accountant that doesn’t yet have his professional credentials, yet you are very knowledgeable and your work is impeccable, your work will not be considered as ‘good’ as the work of an accountant who has received his professional designation. Irrespective of the quality of work, the simple fact that you do not have a professional designation will cause others (who know nothing about the profession) to believe the ‘professional over the ‘non professional. That is what will happen if newspaper companies begin to dominate the blogosphere, a two tiered structure will emerge, and the average Joe’s opinion will become irrelevant. By ‘professionalizing’ blogging, corporate newspapers can then discredit any blogger who isn’t with a corporate newspaper; it will create a two tier structure within the blogosphere. Independent bloggers will be viewed with added skepticism because they are not ‘professionals.’

The only reason, in my mind, that newspapers are attempting to ‘blog’ is to attain market share and to control the influence of the blogosphere. Its not for money, no, there is no money in blogging, but it’s to eliminate dissent or crush any ‘rumors’ that may turn in to stories. Why would they do this? Well, same reason why none of these lazy ass ‘investigative’ reporters in Canada haven’t looked into the Oil For Food scandal and how it links to the Liberals, or Paul Martin’s 165 million dollar subsidy whitewash, or even the 2 billion dollar over costing of the gun registry. Newspapers have the power to bring these scandals to light, they have the power to hold our government to account, but they don’t, for whatever reasons you can think of. Unless some corporate blogger can give me unarguable reason why those stories are not front page news, then I will change my opinion on the topic. The beauty of blogging is that one blogger posts a rumor, other blogger’s research it and the rumor may eventually become a factual story, which then is usually mentioned in the media.

If there is a two tier structure, however, newspaper blogs can be used to stop rumors from developing into stories (i.e. Dan Rather), which could then hurt the interests of certain elites (John Kerry). This is what I believe, blogging is becoming an all too powerful means for the regular Joe, and unless your on cloud nine then you realize that media controls the masses, and is used to protect the interests of the elite. Blogging is powerful: Dan Rather was disgraced because of bloggers. They proved the big media wrong in the 2004 presidential election. The notion that journalists some how have an elite status over bloggers is stupid. In general, good, independent bloggers have proven to be just as good as professional journalists. But back to my point, by having ‘professional’ journalists enter the blogosphere, thus creating a two tier structure, the average blogger will be discredited and the power of the blog will be reduced to another tool of the corporate elite. And once again, the one medium that us ‘nobody’s’ have to voice our opinion will once again be taken over by corporate interests. And that just pisses me off.

-M. K. Braaten
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5/16/2005 10:44:00 PM

Just choked! But you are right - wtf is the point of a newspaper blog if you can't post comments? It's still one-way communication, just like the newspaper is (for the most part).

Now, I'll bet these sites sill offer "edited" comments, or "comment of the day" sections where the journo gets to pick his or her favorite ego-stroking comment to broadcast to the world after filtering through mounds of negative comments. Goodbye Toronto Star, hello People's Republic of China blogs!

And that's nothing compared to "Internet 2" as powered by Maurice Strong's Manyone web browser that will operate independently. I think this will give way to a two-tiered internet where the "credibles" get to be on internet two and the rest of us have to jive on the "old" internet.    

5/17/2005 04:13:00 PM

I share some of your fears but the genie is out of the bag and it's way too late to be stuck back into it.
In the blog world, credibility is the key for what you are trying to do, whether it's investigating, commentating or humourizing (which is where I usually end up being).
The same reporters who have zero credibility on dead trees will not suddenly become credible with a blog.
Actually, though, for some real laughs, they should join the world. We would have the laughs -- at their expense.
Free Canada!    

5/23/2005 06:02:00 AM

Unfortionatly, this is the result of the capitalist society we all 'buy' into. Essentially we are entering into an era that will reveal the ill-conceived notion that a free market economy could become so intricate, so scientific, as to effect every aspect of our lives. Think about it. Really step back and think about the possibility that our very lives are becoming more and more encompassed in the 'neo-American dream' of making money. Not houses with picket fences, not 2.3 children, for these have been 'discovered' to be the result of having, and making money. In the rational society we live in today it should come as no surprise that we, as a whole, have evolved into capitalist savvy consumers. After all, now that religion was 'discovered' to be a hoax, what else are you going to attribute the meaning of life to?

This is not to say that free market economy/society is or will be detrimental to our ever-expanding western society. One may even argue that it was/is a vital piece of the puzzle that is global democracy. It seems we have passed the point of no return on the road to a true 'global village' so the issue of global democracy will no doubt become a topic of world leaders. If we must now become members of the global economy/society it could be argued that the most congruent cultural symbol among the millions of formerly independent worldly cultures is the idea of money. In order for any society or economy to survive the players (i.e., everyone!!), must have their goals and objectives aligned. What other 'entity' exists that can objectively ensure everyone is ‘on the same page’?

It could also be argued that capitalistic societies/economies can better ‘control’ (for lack of a better word) certain social issues that are fast becoming epidemics. The solution to virtually every complex problem in recent history can be attributed to, in a capitalistic sense, the allocation of resources. Whether human, monetary, or knowledge, the solution to a capitalistic problem is resources. If the pervasiveness of capitalism is becoming so great as to effect our very way of life, then, logically, wouldn’t it be in the common interest of the people (as meant in its most general of terms) to harness the power of capitalism and use it to create the picture of the so called ‘utopian society’? Whether or not capitalism is the “ideal” basis on which to form a society or economy is not being contested in this argument. Merely it is professing that capitalism has become a dominant force in our lives and shows no signs of slowing. In capitalistic terms, this represents an opportunity to develop a tool that will put the organization in better position for future profits, after factoring the social effects into the NPV.

And thus…. I get to my point. In order to prevent negative capitalistic outcomes, such as the newsmedia’s need for power or the mockery that is Canadian government, there needs to be capitalistic ‘punishment’ in an opposite and equal direction. Take for example the modern stock market, where every aspect of business is down to a science that theoretically revolves around information. If all information is known, no party is worse off or better off for reasons without merit. If we can adapt this capitalistic ‘science’ to society we may be able to better understand, and thus solve, the social/economic problems that plague the capitalistic ideology.

Until we solve the inherent problems in our capitalistic society we cannot expect the government or economy to be without them. After all, isn’t a democracy meant to reflect the will of the masses?


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