If you missed it, here’s a recap of last week’s Nightline program about bloggers and blogging. True to the blogging spirit, I’m working from my middle-aged memory. I didn’t take any notes while watching the program, nor do I want to take the time to review it—though it still resides on my digital video recorder.
This is my take on the program. Take it or leave it.
Bloggers, said Nightline, are wonderfully opinionated. Well, if you are on the wrong side of their opinion, then it won’t seem so wonderful. But the subjectivity of weblogs is what makes them so appealing. And, to some, dangerous. A blogger was asked if she feels that she should be subject to journalistic conventions such as having at least two sources for every significant news item. “No,” she said. “I’m not a newspaper.”
And yet she is. Nightline showed two computer screens, one with the New York Times online home page and another with a weblog home page (I’ll use BlueOregon as a nicely designed example). To compete with the New York Times newspaper you’d need many millions of dollars, printing presses, distribution channels, and lots of employees. However, anyone can become a blogger, With minimal expertise and $$$, in a few minutes you can have a weblog that can be read worldwide. And it can look just as good as the New York Times web presence.
Bloggers spoke enthusiastically about their love of blogging. How blogs are interactive, allowing readers to click on links that lead to more information about the subject, which lead to even more information, and so on ever deeper into the blogosphere. By contrast, traditional media are one-way streets where news and opinion are transmitted, but rarely permit responses by readers, viewers, or listeners.
Blogs create communities. They allow people with common interests to congregate in cyberspace, people who otherwise never would have been able to find each other. Amen. Whenever I peruse the TypePad statistics for my weblogs, I get a warm feeling as I see that someone from India, say, has used a search engine to find a post that I wrote on some esoteric subject. I realize that just a few people in the world care about my subject. But that person did. And I do. Two makes a party when it comes to weblogging.
Nightline featured a woman who was aghast that a state legislator was sponsoring a bill requiring that miscarriages be reported to a government agency. This wasn’t the main intent of the bill (which I can’t clearly remember), yet it would have been an unintended consequence of the way it was written. She fired up her weblog and began writing about the bill. Soon her posts got the attention of expecting mother’s groups and the like. Emails started flooding into the legislator’s inbox.
He withdrew the bill. And he wasn’t happy about becoming the brunt of a blogger’s righteous indignation. “Why didn’t she talk to me first?” he asked. When Nightline asked her the same question, she said, “I didn’t feel like I had to. He is a public official. The proposed bill was a public record. I have the right to express my opinions on my weblog.”
I side with the blogger, though I commiserate with the legislator. As bloggers become more visible and influential, they need to be increasingly careful that opinions are clearly separated from facts. In the blogosphere, these lines can easily become blurred. The anti-bill blogger spoke of how her original posts opposing the legislation got more and more garbled as other web sites passed on her words. Like the game where a message is whispered from ear to ear around a circle of people, errors accumulate with repetition.
All in all, though, watching the Nightline program left me standing prouder as a blogger. Blogging is helping to restore a sense of balance to media outlets that have gotten way too big, too corporate, too powerful, too unfair and unbalanced.
One of the most memorable images I remember from the program was when the moderator spoke about the above-mentioned woman pressing the “post” button on her weblog. Nightline showed a Formula 1 race and a voiceover something like, “Bloggers, start your engines.”
This is the power of weblogging, they said. One person’s opinion can become amplified into a powerful howling mass of supercharged outrage. If you’re standing on the track watching the energized blogosphere speed toward you, it can be an awesome experience.
Just ask Dan Rather.