Role of the Bloggers

Many skeptics (yup, there are few in every field) refuse to see the importance or significance of blogs. They berate bloggers and call them pompous…on their blogs. The Bloggers Collective group had one such idiot in recent times but I bet you have met your share of such closeted individuals. Another debate regarding the ‘use’ of the blogs centers on its dependence on the mainstream media; that there are turf battles between the two often adds to the debate. Two eminent media personalities, Chris Anderson and Malcolm Gladwell exchanged points trying to highlight this factor. Gladwell firmly believes in the power and capabilities of the mainstream media:

Has the level of self-regard in the blogosphere really reached such dizzying heights that it can’t acknowledge the work that traditional media does on behalf of the rest of us? Yes, the newspaper business isn’t as lucrative as it once was (although it’s still pretty lucrative). And it doesn’t seem as exciting and relevant as it once was. But newspapers continue to perform an incredibly important function as informational gatekeepers — a function, as far as I can tell, that grows more important with time, not less. Between them, for instance, the Times and the Post have literally hundreds of trained professionals whose only job it is to sift through the mountains of information that come out of the various levels of government and find what is of value and of importance to the rest of us. Where would we be without them? We’d be lost.

But Anderson rightly points out that he is looking at it the wrong way. Citing the Pew survey on bloggers, he emphasizes that most of the bloggers cite “sharing life experiences” as the primary reasons for blogging. The topic of “politics and government” ranked a distant second (11%) and I might add “voicing personal opinion” as the sole incentive for this topic. Anderson underscores the fact that is least understood in perception of blogs is that, “it’s a mistake to see the blogosphere only through the political lens. And outside of politics, bloggers tend to take far less of their lead from mainstream media.” He also cites Megan McArdle (“Jane Galt”) in his support:

Bloggers and journalists have different strengths; when done right, they complement each other. Good bloggers have extensive local knowlege and excellent feedback mechanisms; by definition, some of my readers know more about any topic I write on (or blog on) than I do. Journalists have breadth, time, and reach. No blogger can spend the kind of time researching and writing a story that I do, because my paper relieves me of the burden of earning a living elsewhere. Nor can many bloggers afford to, say, pick up and leave Washington to report on Beirut for three years, thus combining in one person expertise on US politics and the Middle East. And a single blog, or even a group of blogs, has difficulty functioning as a one-stop shop for the major news of the day, because blogs are, by definition, idiosyncratic.

I hope Anderson’s and McArdle’s arguments are understood in placing the role of blogs in the right context. Adroit bloggers never hope to replace the mainstream media; they simply work in niches that the mainstream media would not worked in anyway.