Monday, January 24, 2005

Why Bloggers are more Accountable than traditional "Journalists"

Click here for AmazonHugh Hewitt appeared on Fox & Friends and CNN to flog Blog. Hugh described a predominant line of questioning this way: question seemed to me to be on everyone's minds: "Bloggers aren't journalists and so they are not accountable, right?" I'll check a transcript if one is posted when I get back to California, but I think that is pretty much how the question was posed, as opposed to the more neutral: "Are bloggers journalists?"

On both sets I tried to explain blogosphere accountability, and I may have been a touch short with Ms. O'Brien when I pointed out I have been a journalist for 15 years, in television, radio, print, and now text, and that of all the platforms, the blogosphere was the most accountable...

I didn't get to see the interviews and as an author of a (maybe) third-tier blog, do not get invited onto anything except for the Billy Cunningham radio show. And that occurs about as often as a meteorite touches down in Times Square. But I would answer that general question this way:

The same software technologies that spawned the blogosphere makes it -- at least -- an order of magnitude more accountable than traditional media outlets. Consider:

• The Comments feature on most blogs is the equivalent of, say, me interrupting Wolf Blitzer during a broadcast and peppering him with counter-arguments, pointing out his flawed logic, and otherwise providing instant, public criticism. Suffice it to say that traditional media has no such real-time, highly visible feedback loop.

• The Trackback feature is a sign of a story's strength. Consider the original Powerline Memogate posts that disgraced Dan Rather and helped bring about the current upheaval at CBS News: these are among the most tracked-back stories ever, a sign that other voices in the blogosphere not only believe the story but back its assertions and underlying facts.

• The Statistics feature is also a sign of strength. A site-meter, for instance, is a common tool on many blogs and helps a visitor gauge market-share... on a daily basis. I'm still waiting for most major news outlets to release real-time Nielsen-esque ratings for their various online op-ed columns, not to mention their traditional broadcasts and print subscription numbers.

There are a host of others self-correcting features related to validating the blogosphere: Technorati, referrer logs, and similar features help interested readers instantly ascertain story strength and logical consistency.

The first old-line media outlets to offer analagous capabilities will be at a significant competitive advantage.

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