As I noted in another post, Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, characterized blogging by the following: “Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.” Just today, (“Reliable Sources“, 01/01/06) Howard Kurtz, in the midst of a discussion about the decline in newspaper circulation, commented (with a smile) that “bloggers, as you know, have a grand old time kicking around the MSM, the mainstream media, but if newspapers went away tomorrow, where would they get their information?“ In both cases, they meant that bloggers just “chew” and “talk” about big news items in big media venues.
This is obsolete analysis at several levels. It is based, partly, on vanity–the “mirror effect”: big time national journalists only read blog posts that are about them, and assume that all blogging is reflective of (and reflexively aimed at) them!
Let me offer one example here–I elaborate on dozens more in my book BLOGWARS–of bloggers who are creating original content at the local level.
LOCAL WATCHBLOGGING–Government, it is said, is run by the people who show up. But most of us do not really pay attention to what government is doing–or doing to us–until it immediately affects our lives, unless good journalists call attention to issues that should concern us, whether down the street or halfway around the world.
While, as said, it is a stereotype that blogs, bloggers, and blogging are obsessed with “sexy” or high-profile issues–war and peace, abortion, media bias, and so on–and on “chewing” on preprinted news there are many other bloggers who focus on issues of less showy, local importance.
Take Bill Callahan of Cleveland, who blogs Callahan’s Cleveland Diary. Many of his posts concern city politics and city planning issues–from street repairs to utility rates. A lot of his content is clearly written and wittily observed, but you won’t see it being argued about on The O’Reilly Factor, or burning up the threads at Daily Kos or freerepublic. Although not headline material, the items and his analysis are important to people’s daily lives. In other words, it is what used to be called “hard news.”
A recent unsensational item about “ABANDONING NEIGHBORHOOD RETAIL STRIPS”.
In style and substance, the post is blogging at its best: detailed, well-researched, full of facts, adding value beyond what exists within the discourse of regular media and political speech, richly local as well as analytical. It is also good watchdogging, a blogger discoursing on stories people should know, if they could.
So, certainly, all political blogging is national–even international in the technical sense: What is posted on an “Iowa” blog need not stay in Iowa; it is available to interested, Internet-connected parties in Beijing and Timbuktu. The common coin of such a global town meeting has tended to be what I call big ticket “blogthroughs.” The Iraq War, abortion, the Bush presidency, and Supreme Court nominations have led many people to blogging, and has brought blogging lots of big media attention. But it is misleading to say that debating international headlines is all blogging is about. To the contrary, there are many rooms in the house of blogs.
A healthy trend is that more and more blogs are local: they deal with the potholes, the city council races, the school bond measures. I am not saying that bloggers can now, or ever, replace the morning paper, but to claim that without big media, blogs would all just shut down is, well, old media think and one of the reasons big media is in so much trouble.
Originally posted January 1, 2006 at PolicyByBlog