Citizen Blogger

June 05, 2005

Mainstream Media's Inability To See The Forest For The Trees

How do Bloggers take control of defining the medium of blogging to the general public?

Before reading my first blog, my initial impression of them came from how the Mainstream Media (MSM) defined the Blogosphere (that whole pajama wearing, ne'er-do-well thing), but soon after my attention turned to the Blogosphere, I saw it as a beautiful garden where free thought and free speech grew like never before: The Forest.

In Peggy Noonan's article at the WSJ, she makes a valid point that the MSM may have "freedom envy" of Bloggers, but it may also be that mainstream journalists, and their employers, suffer simple bouts of fear from their belief that certain blogs threaten their particular subject of expertise. If they journalistically cover a political, current event, business, or technical beat, etc., they mostly see only those blogs which cover similar subjects and represent a threat to their livelihood: The Trees

To eliminate the threat, MSM often defines all blogs by those few threatening trees, mocks them as being irrelevant (and consequentially the entire Blogosphere) and at best chooses to ignore the forest and at worst willing to burn it down. When is the last time you read a newspaper article heralding the virtues of blogging as free speech?

Free Thought and Free Speech are the cornerstones of Free Societies and Free People. In toto, the medium of blogging (its programming and formatting) should be considered an invention that stands on its own and, to me, ranks with the printing press, telephone and the Internet itself when it comes to historical milestones of free speech and movement of information. Paper, inks and books existed before there was the printing press, but the press made information more accessible and allowed those with the means to publish in mass; computers and the Internet existed before there were blogs, but the technology used for blogging allows information and interests to be easily shared by anyone willing. And whereas there will be advancements in weblogs, the invention of personal, professional and societal expression via inexpensive self-publishing, with the ability to interact and link to references that support ideas, is already here. One day, the creators and nurturers (the Winers, Sifrys, Gillmores, Searls, Johnsons, Itos, boing-boingers, and many others) of this great invention will be duly and historically recognized by the general public for their pioneering work in self-publishing as free speech. And if the MSM doesn't get a grip on what they're doing, they may be historically recognized as the "status quo" who tried, but failed, to derail a beacon of free speech.

So, I see two points of action Bloggers can take:
1) Encourage MSM to embrace the forest of free speech and promote the Blogosphere to the general public for the beauty it represents and not dismiss it for the pain it causes them. Bloggers, don't allow MSM to go unchallenged when they pick on a few trees and define the whole of blogs by them--all great inventions can be used well or misused; we can read an inspirational essay or a hate speech in books, but we don't condemn books on the whole; when we place a phone call, we can access assistance or a scam, but we don't debase telephones. Bloggers can help MSM see the magnificent forest that blogs represent while lessening their focus on fear of loss; mainstream journalists count on free speech, and they are an important part of its future success; they will remain the professional spearhead (due to influence, power, and access) in moving information and news. And together, Bloggers and Mainstream Journalists can provide a valuable balance for one another as we all race toward a better future.
2) Step out of the Blogosphere and help define the grandeur of it to the population at large. From Internet websites to the campus commons to the Town Square, Bloggers can promote and define blogging and the Blogosphere in toto beyond what MSM does. Let everyone know that weblogs are an important and historical milestone of free thought and free speech. Suggest to others how a multitude of subjects, expertise and personalities are involved in the Blogosphere to where almost anyone can find something to enchant them. And when a writer like Kevin Maney at USA Today delivers a jab at blogs by belittling the trees in order to dismiss the forest, bloggers should be quick to correct them in public and help them see the bigger picture. It shouldn't matter if blogs are personal or political; it's not important if someone blogs about food or technology; blogs offer the freedom to express and interact that's unmatched by any other medium or invention, and if MSM wants to call that a fad or novelty, bloggers should help MSM find an appreciation and desire to support the highest level of free speech for all.

For those who doubt and demean the importance of Blogs, I hope you'll read about Jozef Imrich who risked life to escape communism and lived to express his thoughts; and see what blogs mean to Sharon Brogan who finds great passion in life from blogging since her illness has weakened her; or listen to the sincerity of a lone voice in Baghdad attempting to connect to the West. Their thoughts and links can be found on the "Why I Blog" page at DeepBlog.com--and for an even wider spectrum, check out the many voices at Global Voices Online who are speaking out around the world in order to improve our planet.

So, I'll ask again: How do Bloggers take control of defining the medium of blogging to the general public? How about a concentrated effort to encourage all Bloggers to promote the Blogosphere to the world through publicity, promotions and advertising? Here are a few ideas to create the tools needed and if you have additional ideas please send them to info at deepblog.com.
1) A flyer contest: Bloggers design and submit a flyer that promotes and defends the Blogosphere in toto as a historical milestone of free thought and free speech.
2) An Audio PSA (15sec. or 30sec.) contest: Bloggers write, record and submit an audio public service announcement that promotes and defends the Blogosphere in toto as a historical milestone of free thought and free speech.
3) A Video PSA (30sec. or 60sec.) contest: Bloggers create a short video public service announcement that promotes and defends the Blogosphere in toto as a historical milestone of free thought and free speech.
The flyers and PSAs can be created from any region and in any language. Bloggers can vote for their favorite entry, and a few good prizes can be awarded.

Why a contest? A contest can create publicity and coverage. As well, the above flyers and PSAs can be downloaded and circulated by any blogger for promotion almost anywhere (events, schools, governments, personal, etc.) And with a little help and good luck, we may even hear and see them on the radio and television. The first phase of DeepBlog.com was to combine great ease with great Blogs so that newcomer's will have a good first impression of the Blogosphere while developing a simple understanding of it. The above represents the beginning of phase 2 where we'll reach outside the Blogosphere and try to encourage those who know little about blogs to approach, investigate, appreciate, and support them. If bloggers get involved, DeepBlog.com will create additional pages to be used for organizing contests and information, and I'm pretty sure that OurMedia.org will provide storage for files.

Lastly, throughout history, many great inventions have been misused by those who want to profit from them or attacked by those who won't profit from them. As far as the first goes, bloggers do a pretty good job at policing themselves, but free thought and free speech, and the great inventions that provide new possibilities for them like the Blogosphere, sometimes need a little help in thwarting those who choose to reduce its potential. Bloggers shouldn't let MSM be the only voice to define blogs to the general population--especially when MSM refuses to see the proverbial forest for the trees.