PRESSthink in Boston

From Jay Rosen at PRESSthink -

There are more than 3 million weblogs on all topics, but the ones that have drawn the most attention, and won credentials in Boston, are mainly about politics and public life - with no pretense of neutrality. Dave Winer, who has been doing his blog since 1997, calls a weblog "the unedited voice of one person."

I think the bloggers have something to add:

They don't know in advance that what they are doing is meaningless; if they did, they wouldn't do it.

They don't assume that a ritual is an empty ritual simply because it obeys a script, since this is the very essence of ritual, as any Boy Scout or churchgoer can tell you.

Although we're told that "bloggers wear their politics on their sleeves," and things like that, politics is a personal matter for most of them - not a professional interest. Their communication style is citizen-to-citizen, rather than expert-to-layman or media to "mass."

Journalists are sent by their editors and bosses to cover the convention. Bloggers are "sent," in effect, by the people who read their accounts and find use for them. Some bloggers heading to Boston have been asking their users, "What do you want to know about when I get there?" How many reporters do that?

People have subscriptions to newspapers. People have relationships to the blogs they follow. Here's what Amy Wohl, a blogger herself, wrote on July 21: "Those of us who are watching the (convention) from afar will be counting on those of you who are blogging from 'inside' to try to see the real story - the one the official journalists won't write. Be curious, be candid, be passionate, and try to tell us not just what you are seeing and thinking, but why."

Journalists have learned to split themselves off from the public, and talk about it as an "other," almost a thing with behavior patterns of its own. Bloggers are more embedded with the public, which to them is not so much an "it" as a "we." David Weinberger, whose blog reports will run on the Boston Globe's Web site as well as his own, wrote: "I can't even anticipate how cynical or filled with spirit I'll be; I am, after all, perfectly capable of crying at a good political speech."

Journalists think good information leads to opinion and argument. It's a logical sequence. Bloggers think that good argument and strong opinion cause people to seek information, an equally logical sequence.

What do the bloggers bring to this? My short answer to the press is: everything you have removed. For journalists the politics at the conventions is no mystery - this is a marketing moment and there is nothing to discover. To the bloggers, or at least to this one, there is always mystery when hope and belief coalesce around a human being, a candidate. And even though I know that will happen, I am still going there to discover it.

FULL COLUMN from the Opinion section of Sunday's Newsday:

Bloggers will file reports from Boston that could close big gaps in the media's coverage

Jay Rosen is chair of the journalism department at New York University and the author of PRESSthink.

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