The age old argument of Blogs Vs. Traditional Media. Only this time it’s from Kottke. Head over here. The fight is between Blogs/ Citizen media/ “Traditional” media and NY times. Clear winner in 6 out of 8 trials: Blogs.
Couple of days back, I remember discussing with a friend about Wikipedia. “It’s a sort of an everyday affair, looking up things in Wikipedia; traditional encyclopedia or reference material is now synonymous with dusty yellowed books in bookshelves that no one bothers to look at”. Although the argument that Kottke bothered to verify is old, it is relevant now, considering the significant increase of blogs in the blogosphere.
Approximately three years ago, when I started blogging, it was an obscure thing to do. Probably the number of blogs could be counted – or listed by a blog directory. I had to painfully explain what it was to people, who wished to know what made me sit in front of the computer always. “It’s a sort of an online journal. You can put in any content you want”. They’d then curiously ask, “But who would read it? What use is it to people?”. That is not the case anymore. Many traditional media now cite blog references – Digit, a monthly tech magazine carries the best of tech blog references. And after the Tsunami help blog and (more recently) Hurricane Katrina help blogs that were widely publicized, people do consider them seriously.
That is a healthy trend because, far from being “an online journal” where one can write about how they cleaned the cage of their pet rabbit, blogs now carry stories that appear in papers only after a couple of days. It’s become rather habitual to see someone quote from the morning paper, a story of a turtle that befriended a hippopotamus and reply with a smug look on the face, “Oh that! That appeared in ‘Boing Boing’ a couple of days back”. There is variety, and there is little room for mis-information. Most bloggers double and triple check their facts before posting them, because in the present days of what I call “Superior Search Engine Technology”, it’s impossible to lie or deliberately provide wrong information. Blog readers, clever as they are, tend to check for accuracy of the information. I was once told by a reader of mine that she thought I’d got my facts wrong and correct me. She searched prior to correcting me, and found that it was not so. Several other times, I’ve not been so lucky. People bother to find factual inaccuracies or gaping voids in arguments. I read several comments regularly where blog readers conspire to trash some poorly written posts or posts which lack content, but nevertheless are widely read.
Newspapers aren’t ready to let go easily, too. They have enabled RSS feeds for their editorials. One newspaper recently went to the extent of creating a new position – that of an “Ombudsman” whose responsibility is to try to enhance the credibility among its readership and maintain the high ethical standards involved with traditional media. However space constraints and Pointy Haired Bosses restrict the depth and the width of editorials; and so, to get an unbiased opinion of what the journalist thinks, people resort to their blogs instead – which is “Free Press” in the truest sense.
Having said those, I don’t think Blogs will “replace” traditional media altogether. Nor will they be called “alternate media” anymore. Traditional media’s reach is enviable. Several people still swear by editorials that appear in the print form. Blogs can never reach to that level. There may be a day when people start to rely upon blogs for their source of news or gossip. Then too, I don’t think people will stop their subscription of the daily paper. Even if it gets dusty and yellowed over time.