Saturday, May 15, 2004

Some Ivan Weissdom

Ivan Weiss writes in from Vashon Island:
I read the entire manifesto. Having spent most of my life in daily newspaper journalism, most of it rang true to me. Since I read your blog every day, I know where you're coming from with this.

Rather than respond to all of it point by point, please let me offer a couple of things to think about. Hopefully these will clarify and refine the message somewhat.

1) In discussing the role and the potential of the blogosphere, you danced all around the central point, but never nailed it. Each mass media outlet is "one-to-many" communication. Blogs are "many-to-many" communication. In mass media, the feedback channels are constricted. In blogs, they are wide open. The "many-to-many" nature of the blogs gives them the "self-correcting" nature you referred to.

There's nothing new about the term "many-to-many," of course. I mention it because of the effect I have seen it have on people who haven't heard it before. I can almost see the light bulb going on over their heads as they begin to comprehend what it means,and where it might go.

2) It means democratization of news gathering and news analysis. It means real and serious competition for the mass media. It is making manifest, in relative warp speed, the full flowering of the process described in Daniel Boorstin's "The Americans: The Democratic Experience," and R. Buckminster Fuller's "Utopia or Oblivion" (both highly recommended).

3) Boorstin also described the process in the volume that preceded "The Democratic Experience," "The Americans: "The National Experience," in which he presented an irrefutable case for the American genius for ad hoc social organization. I do not know if you have read this book, but your call to action is in this grand tradition.

4) Boorstin again. If you haven't already, please read "The Image," in which he rails against made-up shit (he calls it "pseudo-event") which is created as an abstraction, or a derivative, and covered as if it were real news. In this scenario, celebrity becomes its own reason for existence, which you allude to. This book was written in the mid-sixties (!) Thirty years later, I was still getting blank stares from newspaper editors when I told them they were wasting too much time on pseudo-events.

I blog on Daily Kos. I am not interested in being a gatekeeper, even though that's exactly what I was in 30-plus years on the wire desk at the Seattle Times. And I'm not interested in pontificating about events in Iraq or in Washington DC.

I'm here in Seattle, and there's plenty to write about that I see and hear and participate in first-hand. somebody needs to observe. There are enough people out there who just bloviate. I like to think I know where what I see and hear fits in the big picture, and that I know who my audience is.

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