[Home]SilentPublic

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Bloggers are involved in participatory journalism because the mainstream press isn't doing a good job reporting the news. They are quickly becoming the silent public in the mainstream journalism world. Because of timeliness, ethics ane economics, many readers have quit turning to the mainstream media for their information. Many bloggers have the idea they are writing of, by and for the people and they are re-working the entire ojectives of the mainstream media. Bloggers are primarily citizen reporters, not professional journalists, and they write solid news stories and not re-write the "canned news releases" as many mainstream media outlets do.

The "true Journalist" is becoming obsolete in America, as no one distances themselves between advertisers and newsmakers like government agencies. They lack the awareness with the real world. Bloggers refuse to remain silent and think they are making the world a better place to live in. They seem to also feel traditional journalism is manipulating society in some way, and are focused on not excluding readers from news happenings. The bottom line is bloggers threaten the entrenched journalists of the media giants on their own turf.

If one doesn't read newspapers, they are able to see clearly and objectively, how the newspaper business is supported by a marketing system, which in turn rests upon a regular subscriber base, which in turn leads to decline in the content and quality of articles, and how this in turn is supported by a readership that keeps subscribing blindly and without maintaining a critical eye with respect to content. This new media has rendered newspapers unable to tout the superiority of paper media as a channel for news.

Citizen reporters tend to focus on their own personal interest. As long as citizen reporters are clear about taking responsibility for what they write, this approach actually gives them credibility on a different level when compared to professional journalists. The credibility demanded of professional journalists is not limited to personal responsibility, and in fact "social responsibility" tends to take on greater weight.

What will probably happen is the reader's newspaper pattern may be one whereby the consumer glances over one nationwide paper daily, and checks independent online newspapers for stories specific to his or her individual interests. The survival of independent Internet newspapers will depend on how they can position and sell themselves. Independent publications would lose reason for existence if they try to implement online the "something for everyone" approach taken by the major newspapers.


While think this essay faithfully reproduces many of the myths of the blog GroupIdentity?, I don't think they are accurate--nor necessary. But first, note that many news blog postings are spurious rumours or blatant falsehoods, well beyond the typical RumourMill where accountability of the gossiper is still a liability. Blog culture often reflects the worst of high school culture in that sense, complete with the chirlish popularity contest that encourages the hyping up of emotions. That is not to say that blogs are bad, just that they aren't perfect; they come with their own set of problems just like "mainstream media". If they didn't, that would be a bad sign since it would mean no one was using them. They are, in short, slowly becoming mainstream.

But they aren't mainstream yet. While newspapers may be declining in relevance, 24 news channels have ascended. CNN is huge GlobalMedia?--and yet it's losing out on its home turf to another player. Fox News which is infamously anti-Enlightenment in its reporting has climbed to the top of the 24 hour news channels in ratings and is a powerhouse in setting the pace of the American national mood. I don't think mainstream journalism is at all dead, or likely to be overcome by blogs. Mainstream citizens remain mostly ignorant of blogs let alone what those that produce them are saying (and the vice versa is probably also true) at this point in the adoption life cycle. It's an unknown how society will eventually accommodate blogs, which are here to stay, but it's important to note that humanity rarely throws out a popular mass medium. We just add more MassMedia.

I'm making all these criticisms because in the Internet stands to reproduce the standard pattern whenever new information technology is introduced in society. The "elite" (wealthy in our capitalist society; coastal in China; 'aristocrat' in Iran) who maintain access use it to reinforce their own situation. The SilentPublic is not the bloggers, but those off the 'Net. The DigitalDivide? is the real SilentPublic in a network age. Blog culture is incredibly demographically skewed, so while bloggers may stop reading newspapers and they may not watch Fox News, understanding the rest of the voting population is also very important. The suggestion underlying the text here that bloggers will withdraw from this wider society (out of contempt) and become a GatedCommunity is of concern.

By the way, I truly believe in blogs as PeerToPeerJournalism. I am way more informed, much earlier (often weeks before) from reading MetaFilter and DayPop than I am from television. But that is not the same as editorial bias, which is the political problem address by this page.

Finally, discussions here are painfully America-centric, which is an anachronism in many ways in this GlobalVillage. -- SunirShah

Professional journalism is already aware of the power of blogs and using blogs as part of OnlineJournalism?. So the days of the idealistic bloggers may soon be gone. Journalism long found out that it is much easier to sell influencing public opinion than to - some way - objectively inform the public. With respect to SilentPublic: maybe we have two types: those that don't talk because they prefer to (online silent public) and those that don't talk because they aren't part of the system because they prefer to or don't have the means (offline public). -- HelmutLeitner

Based on a few of recent situations I've observed, I've come to suspect that part of the reason for silence is fear of the potential consequences of speaking out. I found this particularly striking in a medical clinic where people were kept waiting for over three hours past their appointment times, which was particularly striking given that at least a dozen people had obviously been given exactly the same appointment time to meet with one of two doctors. During the resulting conversations, it quickly became apparent that everyone was sufficiently annoyed to discuss this openly with strangers, but conversely, was too worried about 'the conseqeunces' of complaining, to do so, in spite of freely admitting that this experience was by far the 'norm'. I also noticed the same type of reactions to the security and customs screenings at the two airports I used last week, as well as at the Canadian banks. My tentative conclusion is that many people are so concerned about becomming involved in a disagreement and its potential consequences, that they would rather remain silent. This is, of course, a different motivation than that which underlies the SilentMajority of voters, the members of which have simply dispaired of being listened to, or of being able to find an effectively different candidate. -- HansWobbe

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