Why Blogging Cannot Replace Newspapers
Journalism has had a bad rap even since before the "yellow" era of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who regularly invented histrionic stories, ran fake interviews, doctored photos, and skewed to suit his own political agenda almost every event his papers published. Yet if we examine the overall presence of the news media in the last few decades, we have to acknowledge that it is a largely positive institution. Without a free, active, and responsible media, there never would have been a Woodward and Bernstein to expose Nixon's dirty laundry or any of the other great scoops, exposes and history-changing stories which have marked the post World War II media, both print and broadcast.
When the journalistic Pandora's Box of online news was cracked open barely a decade ago, no one could have at that time suspected that in very short order most daily newspapers in the world would soon be on their last legs, that the television evening news viewership would be outdrawn by any number of soap operas or tawdry reality shows, and that the seven billion people on this planet would have gone from a "reasonable certainty" that the news they received was as accurate as feasible, to a "reasonable uncertainty" that what they were reading had any relevance to reality at all.
Although the proponents of online blog journalism propose a fairly strong argument in that the overwhelming variety and participation on the internet of massive number of competing pseudo-journalists make it quite impossible to state an out and out invention as a true news story, that does not address the principle of skewing a story, a la Hearst, to suit particular agendas. Although the "such and such a celebrity has died" hoax is easily dismissed in a few hours from its first Tweet by the presence of the allegedly dead personality at a press conference, there can be no excuse for the irresponsibility of the "modern Vandals" who constantly agitate, scheme and devise for the sole self-gratifying "lolz" of watching the effects of their malfeasance ripple across the internet.
Thus the world's population enters a news scenario which is conceivably worse than those experienced in totalitarian nations where all news was propaganda. At least in those situations an intellectual can determine that everything is faked, and thus believe the opposite of what the medium is stating to be true. Instead, the current online news jumble resembles the famous story of the liar. "He lies 50% of the time and tells the truth the other 50% of the time... how do you ever know what is true and what is a lie?"
The thought of a newspaper or broadcast news organization without editors is unthinkable, yet the blogosphere has created a form of journalism where the reporter is the judge, jury, and executioner. At least in the old days a reporter who was caught faking a story could face dismissal, unlike today's bloggers who in the case of being caught red handed just close one blog and launch a new one under a different name. Online, anyone can call themselves a journalist, even though they may not even be able to spell it, and thus establish a soapbox to air their own particular vision of the world, powered by gray and black hat SEO schemes to draw as many gullible foolish readers into reading and believing their blather.
It is next to impossible to determine without digging into the background of each site (which most news readers are loathe to do) whether the Rumpton Herald is an established newspaper which has been publishing a print edition of record in Rumpton for over a century, or whether it's just the invention of some fifteen year old bored butthead Rumpton kid who is trying to discredit the boy who stole his cheerleader girlfriend.
After all, nobody knows what kind of dog (or monster) you are on the internet. As one of my Hubs today will surely demonstrate.