Blogversation 2

Evan Dawson (here and here), and Ontario GOP have posted entries on our discussion concerning journalism and blogs.  (Update:  Exile from Rochesterturning posted here.) Evan asks a follow-up: 

Where do you guys see the traditional media (and more specifically, the traditional local media) evolving?  And perhaps more importantly, where is the traditional media currently failing in its coverage, style, or presentation?
The old model for local media is that print and television provide the passive reader/viewer with a pre-selected set of news.  The new model is an active reader/watcher on the Internet selecting from numerous sources of information.  Though the current local media outlets will remain relevant, we're already seeing the rise of a number of alternatives:

  • Rochester has an active Wiki (community-authored site) that serves as a guide to Rochester.  The restaurant section is very actively edited with lots of comments about new and well-established places.  There's an event calendar that gets some use, and if it were better software, it would get more.  The next generation of sites like RocWiki could replace the current what-to-do, where-to-go guides produced by local free and pay newspapers. 
  • At the neighborhood level, is an example of a community site where neighborhood residents can exchange news, talk about businesses, contribute to an event calendar, and post for-rent and for-sale notices.  I see these community sites replacing the special sections of papers devoted to neighborhoods.
  • As more government information is available on-line, sites will be built to process and present that information.  One example that Rochester sorely needs is a site like ChicagoCrime, which takes electronic police reports and plots them on a Google map.  ChicagoCrime is a much better version of the traditional police blotter that appears in newspapers.
  • Organizations like local PTAs will begin to take over some of the coverage of newspaper staples like school board and city council meetings. 
  • Blogs aren't just for politics - specialists in all areas will increasingly post to the Internet.  Local examples include Jayceland for events, our local Martha Stewart, ljcfyi, food bloggers like RaChaChow and the bikers at RocBike.  All of these niche blogs supplement or supplant local feature coverage in papers and on TV.
Sites like these, and new sites which I can't even imagine, will lessen the impact of traditional newspapers and TV.  But TV and print will remain.  The sites mentioned above are mainly a labor of love, and a lot of the original reporting generated by TV and print is the kind of work that goes beyond what hobbyists can accomplish today.

The problem that I see in the Rochester market at the moment is the brittleness of corporate media.  Gannett, for example, is having a hard time dealing with the fact that their 20%+ profit margins are being eroded.  Their response has been to invest heavily in Internet properties and shrink their traditional newsgathering staff.  This seems like a shortsighted response to me, because their Internet sites are just empty shells without the quality journalism generated by their news staff, but I don't have to answer to Gannett shareholders.  I assume other corporate media will cut staff as soon as margins are threatened.

So, Evan, a question for you.  Video on the Internet, and the rise of Tivo, are probably going to cause advertisers to think twice about WHAM and other local media.  Is this happening yet?  Do you think your job is in danger if it does?


Two other things that the traditional media brings into play are trust and balance.

When you get into a blog, there is a real chance you may get misinformation. You don't know the people you are dealing with and you can't just call or visit them.

Just look at Ontario Republican or Rochesterturning to get a look at how unbalanced they are. They see the same world through different lenses, even cover hard news stories with a political slant.

The two points made above do not include this blog, which I find very informative and balanced. Rottenchester is a big Massa fan, but there are times you wouldn't know it.

I agree that there's going to be a role for traditional media long into the future, and part of it will be the trust and balance you mention. I just think the "mindshare" for traditional media will shrink, and these other outlets will get a good bit of the time and attention that was previously devoted to local newspaper and TV.

And thanks for the compliment.

Political blogs seem to lean either right or left, and I don't think that enough people spend time on blogs that are contrary to their own thinking.

It is interesting, entertaining and enlightening to post a comment on a blog that runs contrary to the blog's conventional thinking and then get jumped on by everyone.

Elmer, I try to read conservative blogs, but there aren't any good ones. I read one called Balloon Juice for years, but then its proprietor switched parties and became a Democrat. (I still read the blog and still think of him as conservative.) I do read many conservative columnists.

The trouble at the national level is that if a blog doesn't worship George Bush it isn't classified as "conservative." And a blog that worships George Bush is by definition not a good blog.

Exile - I don't think any blog that "worships" anyone would be worthwhile. I would hope that you and Rottenchester would take a congressman Massa or a President Clinton or Obama to task for something they did that you would consider bad for the country or the congressional district. It will be interesting to read both your blogs if we have a Democrat President and/or a Democrat Congressman.

Andrew Sullivan is the only "conservative" blogger I read but he's far from a mainstream conservative, and certainly not a fan of Bush.

Elmer - President Obama make a mistake? Inconceivable!

I will have the answer to Evan's second question up later tonight, but in the mean time, I wanted to respond to ElmerK's comment about my blog's "balance." The first post I ever published indicated that the purpose of my blog was to "support[] local Republicans in the county, as well as to show my support for state and federal Republican candidates, e.g., Rudy Giuliani. Obviously, most of my posts will contain my personal biases, but frankly, which political blog doesn't?" I have never claimed to be an "objective" political critic, nor would I ever do so. Frankly, I have issues with many who claim to be "objective," be they journalists, bloggers, etc, in that it is nearly impossible to not have one's personal prejudices influence one's opinion on a matter, especially on political issues. When I claim that certain members of the MSM are showing their "liberal bias," my concern is not that they have such a bias, but that they pretend to present themselves as "objective" in their reporting when, in fact, they hold personal prejudices that prevent them from being completely objective (and I'm sure liberals have the same issue with conservative journalists doing the same thing). As for me, I do not hide my conservative viewpoints, and the name of my blog has the word "Republican" in it, which certainly gives fair warning about my blog's content. If one doesn't like it, that's fine, but I will not pretend to be "objective" when I'm not.

As for Rottenchester's blog not holding a certain "political slant," I entirely disagree with that assessment. He's a proud progressive, and he writes from that viewpoint. However, I would say that he's not a kneejerk liberal and he rarely gets nasty or personal, which is why I prefer his blog to other liberal blogs.

Ontario - I think that Rotenchester tries to show both sides of every story - I mentioned that he is a Massa fan, but his readers are better informed than readers of more partisan blogs.

The country needs to find middle ground, but people on both sides of the issues don't like to compromise.

I don't spend much time on your blog simply because I agree with you on many things.

RochesterTurning is an enjoyable experience for me. I argued with many of them just recently after I expressed my opinion that there shouldn't be gay marriages, just civil unions. Some of them responded with holier than thou attitudes, but others were willing to debate this issue in a civil manner. I like to do this for three reasons:

1. It makes me rethink my positions
2. Hopefully it makes them rethink their positions
3. It is a good thing to have dialog with the other side.

I think there's a difference between "objective" and "balanced".

"Objective" implies that some impartial arbiter is finding the "truth" in every story. That is, I agree, impossible.

But the press can give a full, balanced airing of all sides of a story, and try to dig up and present all related facts. Granted, if they're truly ideologically slanted, this is difficult, but I think most MSM does a decent job at this.

I think partisan blogs can have degrees of balance, and it all comes down to whether they're willing to acknowledge and take seriously the arguments from the other party.

Elmer, you're a good sport in our comments and I commend you for it.

If I ever start to write about a Democratic president the way the Powerline blog (say) writes about George Bush, I want someone to kill me. Not stop reading my blog, kill me.

I should also add that I do read some of the local conservative blogs (such as OR's) and I respect the effort they put in, though I disagree.

My Bush-worshipper comment was aimed more at national blogs like Red State and Free Republic.

Exile: For as much as we disagree, I do agree with your answer on whether what we engage in is "journalism" and my blog is much like yours in that we "make little effort to be impartial." However, I do entirely disagree with you for stating in this comments section that any blog that doesn't worship Bush is not consider "conservative" on my side of the aisle. True, there is an element on the Right that has this mindset, but they're exponentially decreasing in numbers. That's not to say that I, like you, believe that Bush is a terrible president, but there are a number of issues where I disagree with him and have no trouble saying so. Same with McCain, and even Rudy. They are all fallible conservatives in my mind, but given the choice between one of them in the White House and a liberal Democrat, I would strongly prefer the former.

ElmerK and Rottenchester: Growing up a Rush Limbaugh fan in the mid-90s, I always remember him saying, "I am equal time" when responding to criticisms concerning the need for "balance" on his show. When I started this blog, it was the only pro-Kuhl blog in the district. My approach has been to report or comment on the happenings in the district from my perspective, and if it's not balanced enough, then there's the Fighting 29th, Rochesterturning, Albany Project, Kuhl Watch, etc, to provide said balance.

Nevertheless, there are some occassions where I believe that I have given a "balanced" viewpoint, or at least, haven't been an attack dog against liberalism. One only needs to read my praiseworthy comments about Barak Obama to realize that I believe he is a great candidate for the Left, a view where I actually agree with the likes of the Kossacks. Of course, that's at the present moment. Should anything surface in the next few months that would change my view on this, I'd proudly pounce on it, but at this time, if the Dems want a candidate who is more liberal, has a better shot at winning in November, is squeaky-clean scandal-wise and actually likeable, then they should be proud that Obama appears to be the presumptive nominee. And I'll admit that I wish conservatives had an Obama on our side this year, but we'll just have to wait for the Bobby Jindal bandwagon when the time comes. I am, of course, waiting for that unforced error where the Dem nominee turns out to be Hillary, but we'll see what the results are tonight.

True, there is an element on the Right that has this mindset, but they're exponentially decreasing in numbers.

I hope you're right! And I wanted to be clear that I was not accusing you of having this mindset.

OR: Just to be clear: There are two questions:

1. Is your blog balanced?

2. Can the media in general be balanced, and is there a difference between balance and objectivity?

The second question was the one I was trying to address in my comment. I think the mainstream reporting media can be balanced, but not objective.