I've been a newspaperman since I co-founded my junior high paper at the tender age of 12, about 36 years ago. My final decision to become an ink-stained wretch was made in the heady post-Watergate days, the apex of journalism's nobility and the calm before the anti-"Media" storm. Back then, it was still possible for a young reporter to think of himself as a kind of knight who could change the world with his typewriter.
Clearly, things have changed. The idealism of young journalists has lost its edge, the world doesn't care too much what we say anymore, and the typewriter is a dusty decoration on my credenza.
And now I -- and many like me -- have been demoted from "knight" to "MSM." This blogging acronym for "mainstream media" oozes a certain flippant disrespect, as if a life in journalism is not merely the least qualification for a blogger, but might even connote to Blogospherians an intolerable cowardice, arrogance or treachery. Many -- maybe most -- bloggers might just as well hang out a sign: "We don't want your kind 'round here."
Today at LibertyBlog.com, I see the equivalent of 'yo mama" cyber-tagging: "The MSM is crowing that it, not the blogosphere, had the upper hand in Katrina coverage. There’s only one problem with that: The MSM got the story—It was all Bush’s fault!—wrong. Should it count if people believe you, but you’re lying? Unlike in Rathergate, where bloggers were read and right, history will repudiate MSM coverage of Katrina. "
Maybe I'm too new at blogging to understand the nuances. The blogosphere is certainly not a utopian society, free of prejudice, deception, crime, or other sins. It's merely an extension of the old-model society, like a neighborhood on the other side of the Monorail tracks. So I'm not particularly surprised that the "Old Guard" of the Information Age (the so-called MSMers) are held suspect by the New Guard (bloggers.)
But I'm curious about why. I hear regularly how the MSM lacks fairness (OK, and balance) but increasingly I believe that aggressive news-consumers aren't truly seeking reporting without bias ... they want reporting that reflects their own bias. "Fair" is a report that generally supports the reader/viewer's established opinions ... "unfair" is a report that allows for divergent viewpoints. Thus, the mainstream media, in striving to allow for differing views, cannot avoid being labeled as "unfair" ... and thus is demonized in the blogosphere (and apparently everywhere else that a person would be jealous of his opinions.) And in the Blogosphere, we are allowed to seek out the "fairest" opinions/reporting, i.e., the ones that fit our biases.
In my short blogging experience, I have sensed not just disdain for each other by both bloggers and MSMers, but a mutual paranoia that either might be the death of honest, accurate, important, genuine and noble information exchange. Personally, I believe more information is better than less, so I am not threatened by the Blogosphere, and I see its value in transmitting information that transcends the basic restrictions of mainstream media, namely space, time and mass audience.
I worry a little about the blogosphere's "Tower of Babel" and information-anxiety, but they don't keep me awake at night. Will the whole world soon turn to bloggers (and away from MSM) for information? It's doubtful. But to supplement their minimum daily requirement of knowledge and entertainment? Absolutely.
I really want to know, from non-MSM bloggers and MSMers alike, is the blogosphere a community that is made better or worse by your co-existence? Why should one side be viewed more or less skeptically than the other? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses in this diverse community, vis a vis MSM?
Talk to me, bloggers.