Monday, December 13, 2004

Blogging in America - A Skewed View

Via The Asian Age we found a rather negative first article of a series on blogging entitled Blogging in America: A view from the Old World by Bertrand Pecquerie, writing out of Paris for which describes itself as "the global network for democratic media". Pecquerie - in an article which in fact seems to have little understanding of "grass roots" democratic media - expresses his

"hope my selection will be appreciated as a European's interpretation of the American scene".

As someone living in Europe, we could not let Pecquerie's statements go unchallenged.

Pecquerie - apparently not realizing that many people in the world do not regard e.g. Le Monde (and similar mainstream newspapers) to be the sole fountain of truth - writes incredulously about the emergence of the Drudge Report (per Google Zeitgeist, Popular Media Queries) as a main source of news for Americans:

"What is amazing about this piece of news is that very few people seem to be worried: the emergence of blogs -- not just the Drudge Report but its newer cousins such as Wonkette, InstaPundit and Daily Kos -- is now a part of the American media landscape. Organizations with hundreds of staff -- including professionally trained journalists and small armies of fact-checkers -- are now measured as equals to a single person working out of a basement. But nobody seems to care!"

Do the mentioned blogs gladly see themselves regarded as "cousins"? One really has to read the rest of the article for a good chuckle. Moreover, the Drudge Report main page has a plethora of links - ALSO to "old" journalism. He apparently does not realize that the Drudge Report - whatever its admitted defects - made its name by scooping established journalists (who had rejected the story) on the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky affair and has since had an audience of millions.

By comparison, "news reporting" in France is heavily subsidized by the government and tends to be extremely one-sided due to lack of competition. Indeed, the government even controls the price of newspapers. Anyone who expects fair and impartial investigative news reporting from government-subsidized news media is kidding themselves, regardless of whether the staffs of such media are two or two hundred.

Pecquerie's article is therefore marked by wishful thinking about mainstream journalism as he writes:

"I am, by now, perfectly aware of bloggers' arguments regarding the CBS affair concerning the "60 minutes" report about George W. Bush National Guard service. It is said that, thanks to the "guys in pajamas", truth emerged very quickly. To be frank, I'm not fully convinced. For the following reason: CBS' competitors would have done the same job, criticizing the sources and the conclusions as they usually do. But it would have taken days and days."

Or weeks and weeks, or months and months, or years and years, or not at all....

Besides, CBS' competitors did do the job, and that job was done by bloggers.

Bloggers did not have "fewer" resources at their disposal concerning the "forgery" aired by CBS. Rather, by a combination of blogging efforts, they probably had "more" resources at their disposal than the mainstream could muster - or, more importantly, did muster. Mainstream journalism merely relied on the opinions of a few experts and was solidly beaten by bloggers who went beyond such a noncritical approach.

The lack of critical news reporting in France, especially toward its own politicians, is commented in the posting entitled "French Journalism 101: How to put on the kneepads" at E-nough!, the blog of two females living in France, one American and one French.

Pecquerie's visualization of a blogger as someone "working out of a basement" indicates a lack of understanding of the persons driving the blogging movement (many highly educated, numerous legally-trained, blogging from offices). He also seems out of touch that a blogger with a laptop (and optimally wifi) can blog from anywhere in the world, even from the poshest cafe on the Champs Elysées.

Blogging may have its drawbacks and not all bloggers are our cup of tea either, but Pecquerie's thinly researched article is an example of the kind of one-sided journalism that led to the rise of blogging in the first place.

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