Sunday, July 17, 2005

Blogs Away

Here's this week's WashPo Magazine cover story on blogging, bloggers, politics and the rest of the media.
What's blogging doing to the tone of American politics? Suppose that the heat of political rhetoric could be charted on a scale of spicy foods. What you hear and read most days in the mainstream media ranges from unseasoned oatmeal to Franco-American Spaghetti-Os in a can. Whereas the political blogs pick up somewhere around a Taco Bell burrito and range all the way to the vindaloo you might be served by a sadist chef in Bangalore.

And later...
In a sense, bloggers take us back to a time long before the birth of the mainstream media. It was a time when America was a Babel of contending political voices. Every cause and party and ambitious upstart launched a little newspaper -- there were Tory papers and revolutionary papers, Federalist papers and Democratic papers, Free Soil papers and pro-slavery papers.

The fact is, Americans have always loved to argue. For every adventurer and striver who settled the New World there was a disputant and a critic. The entire expanse of Europe was not large enough to contain the dissenting spirit of William Bradford and his band of Mayflower pilgrims. Better to crowd into a leaky wooden boat, brave the Atlantic and scratch a living from the frozen, rocky wilderness than to stifle their disagreements with the Church of England. And no sooner had they built Plymouth Plantation but they were arguing among themselves. By 1624, just four years after stepping onto its famous rock, the little colony was riven by "private meetings and whisperings" and "a spirit of great malignancy," according to Bradford's history of those years.

They might have enjoyed blogging.

As far as media themselves are concerned, blogging is obviously the biggest development to have grown out of the online world. People in the media always knew online news had to become something more than a simple electronic combination of print and broadcast. I think the answer to what that something is is found in blogging, for it offers the ultimate reader interaction and control, something print and broadcast media could offer only minimally. I think the real thing to watch out for over the next few years is to see how blogs evolve in their handling of the news and how MSM sites respond to that. As I mentioned in a post after it happened, I had breakfast a few months back with Tim Franklin, the executive editor of The (Baltimore) Sun, and a good deal of our time was spend talking on how the Sun's website could improve my modelling parts of it on blogs. The other thing, as I think is evident from the WashPo story, is to observe how politicians and government officials respond to this media development.