Why Blogs Matter: Social Security and the News

There's a very interesting interview with William Greider about Social Security (no, really, it is worth reading). But I think part of the interview highlights why blogs and other non-traditional media forms have such power (italics mine):

TL: How does this play out in day-to-day reporting?

WG: My sense from the way stories are written is that unless you have the "facts" of pseudo-scientific evidence, editors don't want reporters making any observations on what they learned as reporters. This supposedly makes them more "objective," but it does the opposite. They become more one-sided in their reporting.

TL: Doesn't that make them more disconnected from the public?

WG: Yes. Reporters and editors are disturbed to learn that growing sectors of the public do not trust their reporting. But this is the natural result of one-sided reporting. It reflects the unconscious class bias of the media--looking up to selected expertise that's in power and looking down on the everyday citizens. In the old days, when I started as a reporter, newspapers were far more diverse and representative in speaking to and for the variety of popular perspectives. Each newspaper might have its bias, left or right or something else, but there were countering opinions and perspectives that tended to keep the other side more honest. That variety is pretty much gone now, so lots of citizens are finding their own ways to inform themselves, putting their faith in the bloggers or other renegade sources. Who can blame them?

There's also an interesting point about elitism:

TL: Who are the losers in this paradigm?

WG: It's pretty obvious. I start with the conviction that people in every station of life are not stupid. Most people are pretty capable of forming opinions and insights of their own, based on their own experiences and what they see happening around them. They don't get everything right but--guess what--neither do the governing elites, the economists and policy wonks who tell us what is correct thinking. The financial collapse and economic breakdown are dramatic evidence of elite failure, yet I see most media reporting still relying on the same old sources as if nothing went wrong. In a functioning democracy, what the people think would be regarded as a vital source for informing democratic debate. That is what the people lose--their seat at the table.

As I often write on this blog, it is impossible to be dumber than David Broder, so maybe the rest of us should occasionally be allowed a seat at the table? Just a thought. And there are consequences to this elitism:

TL: Do the losers care?

WG: As we are learning every day, most of them gave up on the press a long time ago. They realized that newspapers were not on their side. There was no longer that old-time relationship. People got the feeling that newspapers weren't speaking for them. The new technologies give the "losers" new options for how to inform themselves. Some of these are half-baked or worse, but people will keep exploring alternatives and refining what they are willing to trust. The crucial point I am trying to make is that this process of citizens in a democracy keeping themselves informed does not belong to private enterprise. It does not depend on finding the right business model. People must find a way--and I think they will--regardless of whether newspaper and broadcasting owners want to assist them, or merely make money.

When I was in DC during the past week, what struck me is how utterly useless The Washington Post was overall. Most of the time, it was either uninformative or 'misinformative.' Throw in a hefty dose of turgid, boring writing (and remember, they're paid for that), and it's not clear how this is a profitable long-term business model. Having spent far more hours than any human should in the Philadelphia airport Tuesday, I can say the same thing about cable 'news.' It's just not helping.

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