Thursday :: Apr 8, 2004

Being The Media

by pessimist

Back before I was invited to join the staff at The Left Coaster, I was merely another amateur Diogenes, searching for the truth in news coverage of the faults of the Bush (mis)Administration that I was sure was out there somewhere. We were only hearing about the confident assertions of BushCo operatives, the recitation of platitudes that prosperity was just around the corner, that tax cuts were the answer to everything, that Saddam was behind 9/11 and Osama, etc. etc. blah blah blah .... and no one in the media seemed to be covering anything in any detail that didn't come from a White House press release.

Here in LA, we have a Pacifica station, KPFK, which was bravely attempting to broadcast such coverage, even under conditions of direct interference from a station broadcasting Broadway show tunes from Mexico at high power on the same frequency. Despite this travail, and many others, KPFK still got out an important statement that affected me directly.

Back during one of the anniversaries of the Kent State Massacre, I heard a speech on KPFK given at Kent State by Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, examining the sad state of the major media outlets and their right wing news slants, which he concluded with this statement: "Don't fear the media - BE the media."

I began to visit the sites of the more well-known bloggers - Billmon, Kos, CalPundit, Atrios and Hessiod - and noticed that certain stories appeared there well before the major media even made the slightest mention of them. I remembered all the fuss Matt Drudge raised when he spread the story about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, and came to the conclusion that Jello Biafra was right - there really IS a way to get the word out. By participating in the discussion threads, I attracted the attention of Left Coaster Blog Lord Steve Soto, and thus here I am - a part of the blogosphere and in a position to assist with the monumental task of awakening Somnambulent America to the dangers of the BushCo Matrix.

While we bloggers haven't yet scored the big victory (the removal of George Warmonger Bush and the PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse from power), we are gaining high-visibility admirers:

A mash note to the blogosphere by Arianna Huffington [Abridged - ed]

Although I've only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, I've been a fan -- and an advocate -- ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leader into the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene.
I remember, around the time of the Lott affair, being on a panel organized by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society. It was filled with a number of familiar talking heads, including Larry King and Sam Donaldson. We were discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of mainstream journalism. At one point I launched into a rant about all the stories that I felt were important but were not getting covered by the big media outlets. My fellow panelists, on cue, leapt to the defense of their mainstream brethren, pointing out that many of the stories I mentioned had, in fact, been covered on TV or by the big daily papers. And indeed they had. Sometimes in 90-second news packages and sometimes even on the front page of the New York Times -- above the fold.

But that, until the rise of the bloggers, was that. Issue noted. Let's all move on. Reporters for the big media outlets are obsessed with novelty, always moving all-too-quickly on to the next big score or the next hot get. The vast majority of mainstream journalists head in the direction the assignment desk points them.

That's when it dawned on me: The problem isn't that the stories I care about aren't being covered; it's that they aren't being covered in the obsessive way that breaks through the din of our 500-channel universe. Because those 500 channels don't mean we get 500 times the examination and investigation of worthy news stories. It means we get the same narrow conventional-wisdom wrap-ups repeated 500 times. As in "Dean is angry."

Paradoxically, in these days of instant communication and 24-hour news channels, it's actually easier to miss information we might otherwise pay attention to. That's why we need stories to be covered and recovered and re-recovered and covered again -- until they filter up enough to become part of the cultural bloodstream.

Bloggers are armed with a far more effective piece of access than a White House press credential: passion. When bloggers decide that something matters, they chomp down hard and refuse to let go. They're the true pit bulls of reporting. The only way to get them off a story is to cut off their heads (and even then you'll need to pry their jaws open). And because blogs are ongoing and daily, indeed sometimes hourly, bloggers will often start with a small story, or a piece of one -- a contradictory quote, an unearthed document, a detail that doesn't add up -- that the big outlets would deem too minor. But it's only minor until, well, it's not. Big media can't see the forest for the trees. Until it's assembled for them by the bloggers.

I also love the open nature of the form -- the links, the research made visible, the democratic back and forth, the open archives, the big professorial messiness of it all. It reminds me of my schoolgirl days when providing the right answer wasn't enough for our teachers -- they demanded that we "show our work." Bloggers definitely show their work. It's why you don't just read blogs -- you experience them.

All of which has made the blogosphere such a vital news source in our country -- and has made me besotted with blogs.

There you have it, from a professional. We bloggers are doing something right. As Jello Biafra encouraged, and as Arianna Huffington observes, we ARE the media.

pessimist :: 5:01 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!