BLOGGING IS DANGEROUS, radical and going mainstream, writes Mick Fealty in The Irish Times "Opinion & Analysis" section today. In the article, Fealty cites "the debacle surrounding the reporting of Liam Lawlor's death in Moscow (and) the entirely fictional Associated Press report of stranded citizens of New Orleans shooting at a US Army helicopter" as examples of "the need to be certain of the truth."
Fealty points out the self-correcting nature of blogging. "It is possible to blog badly, to misanalyse or to mislead, which many tens of thousands and perhaps millions of people routinely do. But they are largely unread. If bloggers are tough on lazy journalism, they are ruthless with fraudulent blogging."
Fealty defines blogging as "a technology that allows anyone to publish their work online, with little effort and, initially at least, little cost." He says there are 21.4m blogs today, with the number doubling every six months. (There are more than 1000 Irish blogs updated at least fortnightly.) From his article:
Blogging is about readers who write, who talk, who gossip, and who often expose new, otherwise hidden contexts from under the grand narratives that grow around public events.
Online, bloggers can pick a story clean from the moment it appears. They can track reactions from the early stages through to the analysis stage a week, a month, or even years later; often when the mainstream media have presumed the issue is dead.
This capacity to disrupt the normal news cycle is exciting for both the blogger and his audience. Of course, speed is dangerous. But then again, the blogger is not compelled by deadlines to tell the whole story at once.
Rather like a reporter's notebook, the truth is always emergent, contingent on someone producing another fact or story or challenging the veracity of those already presented.
Since its invention the internet has transformed old hierarchical pyramids of knowledge into flatter knowledge networks. Blogging has accelerated this process by multiplying the number of witers in relation to the number of readers.
At its very least, it gives individuals the means to disaggregate news bundles and the space to think aloud and share those thoughts with others.
Although Fealty tells readers about a "network of the web bloggers" and suggests a "community setting" exists, he doesn't mention the vibrant Irish information collectives of Planet of the Blogs or IrishBlogs.ie. Nor does he offer statistical evidence for his own well-run Slugger or mention the handful of Irish blogs that attract 10,000 viewers each week. Instead, he points to blogs by Daily Kos, Mickey Kaus, and Andrew Sullivan--each enjoying more reads today (no fewer than 700,000 each) than the current edition of The Irish Times will sell.
Things are changing in blogland. Analyst David Steven believes we will see a pronounced shift towards the brand of the individual writer. Yet that trend has not marked Ireland's blogosphere because the top 10 most-read weblogs have a strong group weblog presence.
Fealty ends his column by musing, "Blogging can be an interactive form of reliable journalism. It will continue to entertain, inform, enthral and offend. And, just as surely,it will continue to encroach on the media mainstream. But like that mainstream, it should never dispense with the absolute necessity to deal in truth, however fractured, contradictory or various it may apear in the ever quickening time of the internet."
Mick Fealty -- "Blogs: Exposing the Hidden Contexts" in the "Opinion & Analysis" section of The Irish Times, December 31, 2005.