Blogs in Big Media

One would think the Big Media would quit “discovering” blogs by now. There have been hundreds of stories about blogs in major papers and newsmagazines over the past three years or so. Nonetheless, TIME weighs in with “Meet Joe Blog — Why are more and more people getting their news from amateur websites called blogs? Because they’re fast, funny and totally biased.”

Blogs act like a lens, focusing attention on an issue until it catches fire, but they can also break stories. On April 21, a 34-year-old blogger and writer from Arizona named Russ Kick posted photographs of coffins containing the bodies of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Columbia astronauts. The military zealously guards images of service members in coffins, but Kick pried the photos free with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. “I read the news constantly,” says Kick, “and when I see a story about the government refusing to release public documents, I automatically file an FOIA request for them.” By April 23 the images had gone from Kick’s blog, thememoryhole.org, to the front page of newspapers across the country. Kick was soon getting upwards of 4 million hits a day.

What makes blogs so effective? They’re free. They catch people at work, at their desks, when they’re alert and thinking and making decisions. Blogs are fresh and often seem to be miles ahead of the mainstream news. Bloggers put up new stuff every day, all day, and there are thousands of them. How are you going to keep anything secret from a thousand Russ Kicks? Blogs have voice and personality. They’re human. They come to us not from some mediagenic anchorbot on an air-conditioned sound stage, but from an individual. They represent — no, they are — the voice of the little guy.

And the little guy is a lot smarter than big media might have you think. Blogs showcase some of the smartest, sharpest writing being published. Bloggers are unconstrained by such journalistic conventions as good taste, accountability and objectivity — and that can be a good thing. Accusations of media bias are thick on the ground these days, and Americans are tired of it. Blogs don’t pretend to be neutral: they’re gleefully, unabashedly biased, and that makes them a lot more fun. “Because we’re not trying to sell magazines or papers, we can afford to assail our readers,” says Andrew Sullivan, a contributor to TIME and the editor of andrewsullivan.com. “I don’t have the pressure of an advertising executive telling me to lay off. It’s incredibly liberating.”

Most of the rest of the piece is the same old, same old. Trent Lott. InstaPundit. Yada yada yada.

Wonkette gets a mention as a top five “Blog to watch,” along with Fark, BoingBoing, InstaPundit, and something called Rebecca Blood. This is one thing that continues to annoy me about these stories. I get that most people still don’t know what blogs are, even though it baffles me given all the coverage. But the lumping in of Farc and BoingBoing–huge sites, to be sure–in with political blogs is a head scratcher rather akin to listing TV Guide as a news magazine.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. “What makes blogs so effective?”

    Nothing. There are less than a handful of blogs that get any real traffic, and all they are doing is acting like clipping services with a small amount of commentary. It’s hardly anything worth writing about.

  2. My pet peeve is these articles always mention Instapundit. Nothing against him; I think he does a good job showcasing smaller blogs, and he’s humble, etc.

    But the reporters should take an extra five minutes, once in a while, to research another blog. Like OTB, for example. 🙂

  3. I take it back; that article mentioned plenty of bloggers.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Yeah!

    InstaPundit is still probably the most influential of the political blogs, although some of the Leftie blogs (Atrios, Kos, and Talking Points Memo) are comparable if not higher in daily traffic these days.

  5. Dodd says:

    Rebecca Blood was one of the original “A-listers” and even got a book – called, appropriately enough, The Weblog Handbook – published about 2 1/2 years ago. She’s also exceptionally nice. I emailed her and asked if she’d sign a couple of copies of her book for me to use as prizes when I had the First Anniversary Caption Contest in 2002 and she not only signed three for me, she offered to pay for them (I wouldn’t let her) and mailed them to my winners at her own expense.

  6. joy says:

    Well, slashdot is probably the best known and longest running tech “blog”. I’ve been reading/participating there since ’99, before Dave Winer came up with his blogging idea . Even though there are always comments about the readers and such, it is pretty much THE place you want to have your tech story to break.

    Also, Fark, I’d admit to reading it, but then I’d sully my pristine reputation.

  7. James Joyner says:

    joy,

    Sure–those sites are huge. But they really don’t have anything to do with what the story was about.

  8. bryan says:

    I don’t know if I’d characterize slashdot as a “blog.”

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