Blogs vs. Traditional Media

A story from The New York Times about niche retailer Target brushing aside a blogger’s complaint regarding its Times Square billboard has stirred up a renewed ideological debate on whether the blogosphere should be treated with equal respect as traditional media.

If there does not appear (from the aggregate of comments on the story) to be any conclusion on whether the new and old forms of media should enjoy equal status, one thing is quite certain: that blogging is not going away, whether traditional media likes it or not.

Whether the two forms of media should be treated with equal respect is beside the point. The important thing is that blogs should be, and in most cases are, a constructive, value-adding force, at least from the educated readers’ viewpoint, as they essentially serve to break down the oligopolistic distribution of news and opinions by world-wide mainstream media, whose control is increasingly concentrated in a handful of media empires whose ultimate aim is to profit (in terms of money and political power) rather than to truthfully serve as objective news sources and moral beacons of societies. In the case of China, the existence of blogs cannot be more meaningful than in the present repressive environment in the media industry.

Below are some of the more enlightening comments that popped up on the news story:

Some blogs are simply people deep in self-absorption, and for whatever reason, want to share that self-absorption with everyone else.

Some blogs exist so that people can call each other names. Some are aggregators of original content from other sites.

But... some are very good alternative media, with well-written original content and good reporting. So, I guess the answer is "depends" - ennuiacres, D.C.

At this point in time, blogging is an unrestricted method of expressing personal opinion without the standards of traditional media outlets. Bloggers, by definition, can hide behind whatever persona they wish to present. Honesty and truth are difficult to track and/or confirm when there is no trail of legitimate responsibility behind the writer. With provenance will come comparable treatment. - FLD, Texas

I do think that bloggers should be treated in the same manner as traditional media outlets.

The trick is to figure out which media outlet is the appropriate one to use. Depending on the blog, the model to use could be tabloid newspaper, special interest group pamphlet, petition, serious newspaper or magazine, scholarly article, school child's essay or letter to the editor, which are in traditional media terms treated with widely varying degrees of respect.

Not everyone who publishes a blog is worthy of being treated seriously, anymore than anyone who has access to a printing press or typewriter should be. In this case, it's the message, not the medium, which should be most important. - JLK, Taiwan

Bloggers have earned a place at the table alongside 'traditional' media. All media must be consumed with a healthy skepticism. Once readers do that, bloggers and 'traditional media' stand equally. A journalism degree and an 'approved (traditional) outlet' are no longer enough. TV and newspapers squandered their rights to loyalty with hidden bias and poor standards. Bloggers are earning their place in the world. They can do so with accuracy and clear disposition of their point(s) of view. The readership they attract and retain is the standard, just as it is in the 'traditional' world. - Robert, NJ

Real journalists tend to have some education as journalists and some exposure to journalistic ethics. They maybe even had to pass a class or two in college dealing with the legal and ethical issues in their profession.

There is not yet anything resembling a professional code of ethics for bloggers. And anyone with an Internet connection who can type can call himself or herself a blogger. It's the Wild West out there.

In view of that, I don't think bloggers should expect to be treated like real journalists. - Patricia, Pasadena, CA

It depends highly on the blog. Just as the credibility of a traditional media source depends highly on the source itself. To say all blogs are the same is foolish - there are some blogs out there with very high quality content, just as there are some blogs without.

The term blog itself is a bit of a misnomer - some blogs are merely glorified journals whereas others attempt to serve a higher purpose. - Jana, New York, NY

Blogging is a form of communication that is here to stay. It's a public opinion forum and along with meaningless 'one liners,' a great deal of intelligent and expressive opinion is offered.

The key word is "opinion" and when it's well informed, it's well worth reading. If it's biased or pointless as I see it, then I move on. Isn't this what all of us do with 'talking heads'and talk show hosts? Isn't this what all of us do when we read a newspaper, magazine or journal story.

Blogging is a public response to the issues of the day, the events that shape our lives. And the internet is a new and powerful means of access for any and all of us to voice an opinion, ask a question, offer criticism.

Target, like any seller of merchandise or services would much prefer a letter of complaint. Why wouldn't they when they only need respond, if they do, to one tiny voice. One hundred blogs critical of store practice or policy makes public what the private sector wants to keep private.

If the criticism of one is voiced by many, then it's time to pay attention to a forum that is far more powerful than 'letters to the editor;' to a forum that is not going away.

That some bloggers are not who they say they are, so what? That some use silly names, so what? In the end, we agree or disagree. We can accept or reject what we read. We can respond or not to what is being said or to the person who has said it.

The media does not have a 'lock' on who can say what, when they can say it and in what kind of forum they may be heard. Blogging is a 'voice' heard within a specific time and place. It's my responsibility to read, evaluate and determine for myself what I consider to be informed opinion.

Let reporters and journalists do what they do. This is what I do. This is my blog and I do not have to present journalistic credentials to anyone before I can be heard. - Miriam Summ, San Diego, California