Mainstream news reporters are no longer the only disseminators of news.
Blogs, also known as Web logs, have been breaking news recently. According to the University of California-Berkeley’s glossary of Internet and Web jargon, a blog is a type of Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal (or log) for an individual.
Some “bloggers” (individuals who maintain blogs) use their sites as entertainment only while others use them to break news and write actual news stories. One widely read example of a blog that breaks news is known as Drudge Report. Drudgereport.com has news stories as well as links to mainstream news outlets such as The New York Times and CNN.
Patrick Plaisance, a technical journalism assistant professor at CSU, said blogs illustrate the chaos of the Internet in both a good and a bad sense.
“The downside is that a blogger could be mistaken for a journalist,” Plaisance said. “The upside is that there is a proliferation of sources.”
Journalists, who have traditionally communicated news to the public, are no longer the only source of news
. Plaisance said bloggers would benefit journalism in the long run by challenging assumptions and altering the journalism landscape.
“Bloggers who have something to say and are responsible about it are really contributing to the pool of information the public has,” Plaisance said.
CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently reported a story with documents that shed a negative light on President Bush’s time in the National Guard. According to CBS, the documents the station had were 32 years old and produced by a typewriter.
After the episode ran, a blogger at freerepublic.com who goes by the screen name Buckhead questioned the authenticity of the documents. The Los Angeles Times later identified the blogger as Harry MacDougald. After the blogger questioned the documents’ authenticity, other news organizations began to do the same.
“Blogs have broken stories and they are only going to break more,” Plaisance said.
Ultimately the questions led Dan Rather to apologize for reporting the story and using the documents. Rather said in a statement released Monday that he no longer had confidence in the story’s documents used and that he was sorry for using them.
Bloggers were also the first to react when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made comments that some people construed as racist at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday. The comments eventually led to Lott’s resignation.
“Webloggers can have an opinion about anything and when they break news they get attention,” said Bill Chaloupka, professor and chair of the political science department. “It’s one more thing you have to be in touch with. It opens up more channels of communication, which is pretty interesting.”
Kris Kodrich, an assistant professor of technical journalism, said mainstream news media are still trying to figure out what to do with blogs. He also said blogs are difficult for the mainstream media to cover because in light of the recent “60 Minutes” story, blogs are not always a legitimate source of news.
“Blogs are a good potential tip sheet (for journalists),” said Kodrich. “They provide ideas but the information they provide needs to be verified from legitimate, credible and reputable sources.”
Kodrich also said news consumers need to be aware that many publishers and creators of blogs do not have the normal journalistic checks and balances that the mainstream media have. He said anyone can publish a blog, and just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s accurate.
“The key for consumers is to make sure they know who is putting out the blog,” Kodrich said. “If a blogger has no journalistic background, who knows where the information is coming from?”
Possible side box: Joe Champ – Media Effects professor @ CSU wrote in an email:
New media technology pattern:
1. Hope – For transformative potential. In the case of blogs the hope that they will democratize the dissemination of information
2. Fear – in the case of blogs people question truth and believed that a lot of unverified, potentially false and damaging information would be spread
3. Mixture of disappointment and relief – new media technology didn’t revolutionize the world … but didn’t destroy in either.
4. Complacency – just another one of the many mass mediated tools out there, with good, bad and so-so qualities that collectively play a big role in what our society is about.