Blogger, Journalist, Citizen

By Martin Bosworth

This week I am front-paged on ConsumerAffairs.Com with a story that explores the blurred line between what we traditionally consider professional journalism, and the new democratized media of alternative news sites, bloggers, podcasters, and vloggers.

In a way, this harkens back to the debate over credentialing. I am firm in my belief that the marketplace of ideas will determine who succeeds and who fails once you boil away all the extraneous crap, and citizen journalism is no different. Yes, there are millions of bloggers out there with an Internet connection and an opinion, but the ones who truly succeed–the ones who vault from simple opinion to cogent, researched, smartly discussed analysis–are the ones who will rise to the top.

It’s an incentive to all of us who have bypassed the traditional route of journalism degrees and humiliating entry internships getting coffee for editors: STEP YOUR GAME UP. We have to be ten times better than any old-media representative, because incumbency is the ultimate advantage. Luckily, I think we are up to the challenge.

Read the article and feel free to share your thoughts.

9 replies »

  1. Excellent article, Martin. As John Milton wrote (in Areopagitica), “Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do ingloriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple: who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” Add “credentialing” to “licensing and prohibiting,” and that brings Milton entirely up to date.

  2. Ahh yes, back to Milton. And back to the missing assumption that I’ve noted before. It never seems to have occurred to Milton (or any number of other thinkers whose brilliance contributed to our Constitution in one way or another) that a person who was free to pursue learning would choose not to.

    As stated, Milton’s assumptions here fall short of what is truly required for Truth to triumph. “Free and open” isn’t enough – we must add “informed” to the mix.

    The Internets murder billions of innocent photons each day in disputations that are free and open, and in most of those cases Truth would be justifiably afraid to show her lovely face.

  3. Methinks thou dost misdoubt Truth, comrade. “Informed” is important, certainly, as is “not owned by just five companies,” but it’s important to begin with this assumption, that in a free and equal combat, Truth will win, and the democratizing influence of the Internet will help make it happen.

  4. This is pure ideology, Robert. You can put two equal idiots in a room and they can debate in a free, democratic fashion until the cows come home, and in the absence of “informed” all you’re going to get is noise.

    I’m not arguing that “informed” replaces the other components. There’s no rule that says you can only have two assumptions. Free is obviously critical. Equal is of particular importance for a guy like me who grew up further down the status food chain than a lot of the people I’ve had to deal with in life.

    I’m saying that Milton needed one more assumption than he had. Although I fully understand why they never talked about it – from their perspective, passing up the right to be informed would have looked a lot like passing up a wagonload of money.

  5. Man, I step away from my post and the intellectual bar now requires a pole-vault to get over. Wow. 😉

    Honestly, my comment would be this: “What is it to be informed?” What does it mean? Are you informed if you have the ability to spout facts? Or is it one’s capability to analyze those facts and create a cogent thesis of opinion? Both? Neither?

    There are treasure troves of information available to us that were never accessible before–reading Gavin’s work, for example, is a delight to me because he provides a perspective that is so culturally and politically alien to my own that it demands more understanding. (Even if he’s wrong. :)) But if we sift through the detritus of data and create ideas to push, is that truly being informed? Or does it simply mean you’re looking for facts to suit your bias?

    I consider myself an informed person, but Socrates said that the first step towards true wisdom was admitting you know nothing. Too many people sit comfortably in their shells of bias and only seek out the facts that are convenient to what they wish to be true. The strongest truth-tellers are those who will step outside their shells and share knowledge with others so that they, too, can be bettered.

  6. You know, I have this bad habit of using the word “smart.” I like smart. Respect it. The problem is that I often make the mistake of assuming that others know what I mean by the term. Truth is, “smart” is, in my mind, a complex amalgam of things ranging from “how many bits of data are there in your head?’ to education to critical thinking ability to innate intellectual capacity, and them some. I have been planning to write that particular essay – “What is ‘Smart’?” – for a couple years now. I need to get on it, because I think what I mean by smart and what I mean by “informed” are closely related.

    For the moment, it’s not one thing. It’s several things, and some of those things work together. I suppose somewhere out there is a complex mathematical formula that would capture it all, but we’re a long way from discovering it….

  7. Very good points, Martin. We certainly learn more when we recognize how limited our own experience and intellectual framework are. And that’s what I appreciate about your writing, and Gavin’s, and Sam’s. We can all bring our perspectives to the table and learn from each other.

    And again, I agree with you, Sam. Data is just zeros and ones until it is ordered by principles of organization and critical thought. I look forward to your piece on “smart” and “informed”