Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.
Since the inception and rise of blogging there has been increased debate about its ability to override elite media institutions and become a more informative and democratic source of information. It has ‘added a new dimension to the production and consumption of news journalism around world'(Adams 2006:1) which has produced fear in existing media organisations. Media students and the public have pondered Russell’s question (Russell et al 2008:67) in order to establish the future of the media industry and discover how the public can be most effectively informed.
The argument that blogging develops a more democratic media forum is a strong one. The editorial independence that allows bloggers to write about what they want when they want increases their ability to inform in a non-bias manner. This works to overcome the problem that has been increasingly evident within elite media sources that skew news in terms of political opinion and personal agendas within elite ownership. ‘Gatekeeping practices have the capacity to create gaps and silences, giving voice only to those already holding power’ and therefore are ‘counterproductive to journalisms primary purpose to create an inclusive and diverse space for conversation between members of society about issues affecting their lives’ (Adams 2006:2). The influence of media magnate Rupert Murdoch on the news distribution within News Corporation has been highly publicized. He was a great supporter of George W. Bush Jnr. in American politics, as well as being known as a follower of the coalition in Australia.
This tie between politics and media demonstrates a steering of new distribution and, in turn, an obvious decrease in the ability for democratic news to be created.
Because blogging has a collaborative approach and each person has greater freedom of speech than that allowed in a large news corporation, there is greater scope for democracy to be achieved. In this sense, there is evidence for blogging being a more successful informer. Russell also mentions that this collaboration counteracts the financial resources that large newspapers have to gain information from government and corporate sources. Despite not having the pulling power to have questions answered, there is still the ability to uncover important stories, with the example of ‘network reportage that exposed the inadequacy and corruptibility of Diebold Election Systems voting machines’ (Russel et al. 2008:69) used by Russell.
Crikey.com is an example of an online independent publication that, although not a blog, emulates many of the functions a blog. This is because it does not have the influence of large corporations telling them what they can and cannot write about. Amber Jamieson (2011), a journalist at Crikey, says that she has ‘never ever’ been told how to write a story. She also says that because Crikey acts as a kind of watchdog over other media organisations and people leak things to Crikey, other journalists have sued the publicatons, something that does not normally happen.
One of Crikey’s main topics is media, which encourages democracy through it’s watchdog function.
However, the audience that blogging has is more limited than that of media elite and institutions. Only 28.7% of the world has access to the Internet and therefore have access to blogs (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm) . This 28.7% also then have to actively seek out blogs in order to consume the information that they offer.
I agree that bloggers’ ‘editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity’ (Russell et al. 2008:67) aids their influence as a democratic and informative source of news. However, the accessibility of mainstream news produced by elite media and institutions reduces the ability for blogs to become an effective vehicle for world-wide news distribution.
http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm > sourced April 25th 2011
Russell, Adrienne and Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Nazys Varnelis (ed.) Networoked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp. 43-76.
Adams, Debra (2006) Journalism, citizens and blogging. In Proceedings 2006 Communications Policy and Research Forum (2006), University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Australia.
Jamieson, Amber (2011) Interview 23 May 2011, Writing Journalism Lecture.
Other Interesting Articles:
Munge, Michael C. Blogging and Political Information: Truth or Truthiness?, Public Choice. Vol. 134, No. 1/2, Blogs, Politics and Power (Jan., 2008) (pp. 125-138)
Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell Introduction: Blogs, Politics and Power: A Special Issue of Public Choice, Public Choice, Vol. 134, No. 1/2, Blogs, Politics and Power (Jan., 2008) (pp. 1-13)
Scott Wright, (2009) “Political blogs, representation and the public sphere”, Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 61 Iss: 2, pp.155 – 169