Before I started working on a book on blogs (BLOGWARS) almost all my research was on photojournalism and its famous icons and mediated imagery of other kinds. Obviously it is of great interest to me that blogging has driven the great controversy over visual coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah war. That prompted me to write my “Photojournalism in Crisis” essay for Editor&Publisher which I posted on here at PBB and was picked up my many blogs.

Some updates…

E&P EDITOR DEFENDS WAR PHOTOGRAPHY

Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor&Publisher has published a major “DEFENSE OF WAR PHOTOGRAPHERS” against attacks by bloggers. (See Part I and Part II). Very much worth reading in counterpoint to my original E&P piece as well.

BLOGS AND THE MYSTERIOUS AMBULANCE INCIDENT

“Zombie” of zombietime.com has published “THE RED CROSS AMBULANCE INCIDENT: HOW THE MEDIA LEGITIMIZED AN ANTI-ISRAEL HOAX AND CHANGED THE COURSE OF A WAR.”

This is an important post—perhaps when a future history of blogs is written “The Red Cross Ambulance Incident” will be considered a landmark of the genre. Certainly it moves forward the great “fauxtography” debate, but more than that it helps legitimize bloggers as people who both comment upon and create media content.

As noted here in PBB, once upon a time, Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, in one of a series of professional dismissals of bloggers, summed up their contribution to the information society with the following: “Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.”

Well, remember Perlmutter’s rule on blogging—you can find a thousand blogs to support any generalization about blogging. It is true that, according to one study and lots of blog reading by me and my students, about half of blog posts make reference to news items that have appeared in newspapers, television, and so on. But in the short time since Keller made his comment, his paper and others have “blogged up,” especially on their Web sites. Also many bloggers are many media and political elites. In December 2005, Keller’s Times started creating blogs for some of its reporters. News organizations send out calls to “on-the scene-bloggers” (with cell phones) when breaking news occurs, as was the case after the London Bombings–what Steven Livingston calls the “Nokia Effect.”*

But “chew” implies adding nothing (but spit) to the original product. Clearly, though, bloggers like “Zombie” (and many of his ideological counterparts of the left as well) don’t just find a political datum and run to tell us about it. They help seek out knowledge and organize it, create cross-links, and uncover and present data and interpretations that we might have never otherwise found. Blog commenters add to the process through “you might want to also look at” contributions to threads of discussion and debate.

Of course many people in the past and present–like, say, me–devote many hours to studying media content in depth. I find it hard to believe, however, that in the pre-blog media system the kind of original analysis displayed by Zombie would have penetrated past an academic article or a newsroom discussion. Again, it is not a question of agreeing or disagreeing with the Zombies of the bloglands, but whether or not the marketplace of ideas is enriched. Cleary, it is: read, think, create your own “report.”

And, of course, blogmedia spills now regularly into big media–the Zombie report makes Fox News.

*Steve Livingston, “‘The ‘Nokia Effect,’” In David D. Perlmutter & John Hamilton, eds., How New Technology is Changing Foreign Affairs Reporting (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, [Under Review])

Originally posted August 24, 2006 at PolicyByBlog

One Comment

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    Original Reader Comments (19)

    Perlmutter, if you’ve got any skeletons in your closet, now might be a good time to clean house.

    Your essay for E&P initiated quite a little dust up, and some folks who assumed you too were among the faithful aren’t going to approve of your apostate ways.

    Repent now, or face the Inquisition.
    August 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBlack Jack

    i have no skeletons in my closet; they are buried in my basement.

    but seriously, i like to think that i defend indy blogging to my friends in the msm and i defend msm to my friends in blogging. both will live and i hope help each other to inform us all better about our world. checks and balances are the American way…
    August 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterpbbeditor

    School’s about to start. If you’re interested in how MSM’s bias distorts how events are portrayed, have a look at Media Research Center’s report on the coverage of immigration demonstrations.

    http://www.mrc.org/SpecialReports/2006/sum/sum082806.asp

    August 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBlack Jack

    Do you have a response brewing to Mitchell’s columns?

    Any reflections on the latest hot water he’s in?
    http://townhall.com/columnists/column.aspx?UrlTitle=why_we_dont_believe_you&ns=MaryKatharineHam&dt=08/28/2006&page=full&comments=true

    Cheers!
    August 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterThe Scrutinator

    The world of blogging is quickly changing as professional blogging sites now flourish, on topics ranging from entertainment “news” to political commentary. Still, it is a changing world as more and more individuals find hosts for their personal blogs and notes on websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Ultimately, I think that blogging is the newest form of discourse in our democratic society…a great way to exchange information and learn about the world around us. It’s establishing credibility in blogging that still has a way to go.
    September 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Smith

    The general public looks to the news in all forms as truth. We assume that what we see, hear and read is correct. Most people don’t want to take the time to research the news, so instead they pick up a paper or watch the news to become informed in 30 minutes. As a journalist, you have an obligation to the world to speak the truth. You need to learn to keep your biased opinion to yourself and report the neutral side. This comment may sound very naive, but I think the majority of the world is naïve towards journalism.

    Bloggers can help keep journalist on the straight and narrow. I do think it is our duty as Americans to question and call out the truth when we see falsehoods. However, it goes both ways. You can’t always believe a blogger is speaking the whole truth either. You need to be aware of where you are getting your news, and if you question, do a little research, dig deeper and check sources.
    September 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersd

    Blogs offer a different perspective on the news. We have to be careful not to associate blogs with cheap reporting. The rise of blogs was a sudden one. I didn’t even know what a blog was a year ago. And here I am now, posting a comment! I think we just need to be careful in choosing blog sites. Like everything else, there will always be the good ones and the not so good ones.
    September 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Grass

    The Zoombie report goes after an example of what it calls fauxtography, but how do I know the report isn’t an example of faux-facts? The report looks slick, but there’s no author listed and when I went to the main Web site, I couldn’t find any information about who’s behind it. That sent up red flags right away. Before I buy this version hook, line and sinker, I would want to do more research to find out who’s behind Zoombie, who authored the report, and what’s Zoombie’s track record for getting the facts straight. Without that background, I’m only interested in the report as a starting point.
    The beauty and the curse of the Internet is that just about anyone can post anything– real or fake and it’s up to the reader to figure it out. In the blogosphere, it’s reader beware. Would you buy a house just because the the ad said it was “great”? Or would you do some more investigating to make sure you weren’t investing in a money pit over a toxic waste dump? Readers must look at information posted on the Internet with the same skepticism. Luckily, the Internet & its search engines make comparing sources easier than ever. Bottom line– people need to treat news & information (from blogs to newspapers to broadcast news) like a product: do the research, shop around and make decisions based on more than one source of information.
    September 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBOWOT

    I am new to the world of blogging so my opinions are relatively naïve. I don’t look at blogs sites as news site. To me, they are simply opinion sites. If I want to find out about current events I am going to look in the newspaper. If I want to know what other people think about current events I will read their blogs. Both are beneficial, they simply offer different perspectives. I think that blog sites can be important for our society, but I also think that readers need to be aware that the person that wrote the blog may not be an authority on the subject.
    September 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLynda

    I don’t think the Blogosphere is something that stands in opposition to the Mainstream Media. They are not natural enemies. In fact, they are apples and oranges. The blogosphere is a tool, a resource…it’s a printing press that is only as controversial as the voice that controls it. If anything, the blogosphere is forcing readers to become more aware of how they get their news–and that can’t be a bad thing.
    September 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Watts

    I’d like to see mainstream media employ some of the bloggers that continue to take them to task, but give them independent editorial control. ESPN.com has an ombudsman that writes once a month and generally talks about how ESPN won’t shut up about the Yankees/Red Sox. If cnn.com were able to link to an independent blogger, their resulting credibility might increase as a result of being criticized.
    September 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

    I would say that the bloggosphere will be welcomed into the world of respected journalism when it adopts the mechanism of peer review–but it already does this, in a fashion. Certainly not in the manner of scholarly journals, which result in something like an 8% publication rate for all submitted articles (versus the 100% publication rate for independent blogs), but in the sense of forming community/consensus opinions on a given blog product. The problem, of course, is that no amount of public shaming can drum a blog out of existence… only out of relevance to the MSM. But even sites that become the object of ridicule to the overall blogosphere will manage to keep a dedicated following. Like, I don’t know–Andy Rooney.
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDirk Diggler

    Thanks to the internet, the world continuously grows into a more complex place. This kind of complexity makes it even harder to figure out whether or not a story is true or a source reliable. How can we know whose perception of the “Red Cross Ambulance Incident” is right? Is the blogger next door more reliable than the well-known journalist on the spot? Biased question, isn’t it? And consider this: Weren’t we taught that news media are credible? Rethink it. The blogs will contribute their bit.

    The analysis of the incident is pretty convincing, though. As a matter of fact, its pictures tell a different story than the ‘official’ one does. Refuting this is not easy. And though the interpretation of events seems random, it is not. Blogs are liable to be a battleground for ideologists (and the news media as well). It is a question of education, isn’t it? So let’s improve it.
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJack Bauer

    Is it really taking this long? The fact that we’re still discussing the impact of blogging (on a blog) indicates that many people are still in the impulse-response sine wave of reacting to something new. We’ve gone from a discrete/finite system (media conglomerates decide what’s news) to an open system (Anyone decides what’s news and the collective “you” picks what to read). The internet has NOT made the world more complex. You just get to see it. Sooner. With counterpoints. Sure it’s uncomfortable, but journalism should be darn uncomfortable.
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWillyOck

    My own exposure to blogs is limited as well. When Dirk Diggler makes the comparison to Andy Rooney, I almost fell off the couch laughing because, sadly enough, that is my generic, utterly uninformed view about the practice: that anyone can offer any viewpoint, no matter how valid or inane, and yet they receive equal footing.

    As mentioned in my previous post, it takes time to generate credibility. If blogs are to be taken more seriously by mainstream outlets and the public at large, they would do themselves a great service to immediately issue corrections to any factual errors. In addition, it would also be fruitful to display credentials of some sort – I think this is why some 9/11 conspiracy theories take flight – there seems to be an inclination to go with a “gut reaction,” preconceived conclusion, or pure conjecture for the heck of it…rather than scholarly analysis by experts in the field.

    Rather than situate themselves on the outside looking in, bloggers (and the public) may be better served by engaging in a more focused and reasoned analysis. Just because there’s a little smoke doesn’t mean the building is on fire, and bloggers should not assume that anomolies automatically equal conspiracy.
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Colbert

    The Internet allows for millions of people to express their opinions and feelings about a million different topics. For that, the Internet is great. The Internet is also great because it allows those millions to post all of their great opinions and feelings and still remain unknown to the world. Anonymity allows for such opinions to take place on the Internet. People who have no credibility to any particular subject are posting comments as to what needs to be done or that person should do this. While their thoughts may make sense some of the time, more than likely it does not. It is like me commenting on how Paris Hilton should dress. I just don’t know. That is what blogging has become, a bunch of statements by anonymous people. We do not know these people, so what they say is correct? I don’t think so. While blogging has its benefits, one must read postings with questioning.
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjohn doe

    I read blogs daily, and use them to get access to stories that would otherwise be buried by the mainstream media. Is this the equivalent of “chewing” on stories already reported? Perhaps, although there is usually much more insight (and oftentimes, research) done during this “chewing” than your higher-profile reporters put in. This is why you now see many mainstream media outlets actually basing reports on blog findings – because many times the bloggers are doing the “real journalists” jobs for them.
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFloydMaster

    Bloggers should remain part of the counter-culture of U.S. society. Once something falls into the category of “mainstream,” it becomes suspect.

    To hang with “mainstream” puts you in the company of those who need watching.

    It is the W.C. Fields thing: Why would anyone want to join a countryclub that would admit someone like them?
    September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGordo

    This is the first time I have ever read/written a blog so bear with me. It seems like there are obvious positive and negative aspects to this new feature. Pro bloggers would say that blogging helps generate ideas and connects people across the world in ways that may not have been possible before. Yes some of the ideas may not be good ones but at least it gives people a chance to talk about their beliefs and interests. Negative aspects to blogs would be, again, people may have bad ideas they like to project onto the world, such as racism or a love for Hitler. I think the world would be better off without those ideas but hey, thats just me.
    September 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOatmeal

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