Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Doonesbury takes pot shot at bloggers

UPDATE: The headline change was prompted by a poor word use. I also decided to clarify my own pointed comments regarding their feedback system below as well.

I encourage you to read the strip, then pass along your comments.

I've copied my comments to them below because they moderate all comments to their site. I challenge the Doonesbury staff to publish my comments on their site, in full, as I will do here on OpenGeek. Of course, having read through the comments, I have no real expectation of that actually happening.

Let me clarify that just a bit. I've got a real problem with sites that offer "samples of comments recieved" or anything similar. Moderation of comments is totally ok. Given spam, hate mail, morons, etc... the use of moderation to keep interaction clean is a good thing. However, publishing samples clearly serves another goal; namely, to keep tough questions out of the public eye.

Having read the samples they offer for review, I find them dated and lacking relevance to the topic at hand. This limits the utility of the feedback in that non-timely comments, however supportive or not, fail to provide both the publisher and reader any real value and there lies the problem. If the effort does not add value, why bother to produce the product?

This is exactly what I sent them, with spelling errors corrected for publishing here.

Your most recent characterization of bloggers is off the mark and in poor taste. I would normally ignore such a pointed thrust all things being equal. However, things are not equal these days. Traditional media sources have largely marginalized themselves in their general failure to act as the check they have been in the past.

Internet Bloggers have filled this gap quite nicely and should be encouraged for their efforts, not punished as your recent strip does.

A growing number of Americans are seeking answers to their questions on policy. The reality is our softball traditional media coverage, old media if you will, is not up to the task. This gap, too large to ignore, has been filled by bloggers.

In your defense, the blogspace remains a messy one. Recent estimates put the number of blogs in the 10 million range, painting a picture of reckless publishing sans the many editorial checks in place we are accustomed to. A healthy skepticism is not only warranted, but mandated if one is to make any sense of the medium. At first glance, the blogsphere is a dicey proposition indeed.

Having said that, old media attacks on blogs fail to account for their highly distributed and interlinked nature. Where old media depends largely on editorial review to check stories, the blogsphere works on journalistic integrity, ethics and relevance to build reputation, trust and thus readership. These things, combined with the distributed nature of the medium allow worthy blogs, regardless of their ideological stand, to rise above the fray and be heard thus:

a solid blog that embodies the highest journalistic standards of form and conduct, lacking relevance to the larger issues at hand, will enjoy both a worthy reputation and a small but loyal readership appropriate for the subject matter addressed; such a blog will be cited and linked where it's relevance adds value,

a relevant blog, lacking journalistic integrity, may enjoy a substantial readership, but will lack the reputation necessary to gain loyalty and trust; such a blog will not be often cited and linked by blogs that do embody proper ethics,

a blog that embodies both ethics and relevance will see a growing audience and trust that sets them apart from other lesser blogs; said blog will be often linked and cited by other worthy blogs as well as by lesser blogs, thus making them an 'authority' where the subject matter at hand is concerned.

This process is as effective as any editorial review process is. This process is by the people, for the people and about the affairs of the people and embodies the very best of our American values. Publishers compete on their ethics and ability to remain relevant with the result of their collective efforts being timely and valuable news and information for their readers.

Bias is permitted and it's negative effects diminished, compared to the strict consolidated hierachy that rules old media, through the ability for interested information consumers to compare and contrast many news sources together in their search for truth and information relevant to their lives. While this point is as valid for old media as it is for blogs, the latter also act as a check on the growing problems of bias and non-relevance media consolidation brings to the table.

Our old media coverage of events has clear gaps today. These gaps have been filled by blogs, the result being more complete news and information coverage for everyone. Blogs also check old media in that informed (and uninformed!) commentary related to old media publications is now a reality, published in real time for all to consume and consider.

It is no longer possible to publish news with the expectation that said news will be simply consumed sans fact-checking, bias awareness and additional commentary being a integral part of the process.

This is the gift, for better or worse, the bloggers have given us and I for one and quite happy to receive it.

My own niche blog exists at http://www.opengeek.org