(response to “Why I Blog,” “Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press,” and “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.”)
Essentially these three articles discuss the societal transition from print journalism to online sources, such as the blog, and how this shift undermines the power of the press.
In “Why I Blog,” Sullivan discusses the role of the blog and how it differs from typical journalism. Blogs are the “spontaneous expression of instant thought.” Unlike journalism, which in its most immediate self is “daily” writing, blogs are “hourly” writing. Bloggers do not need to wait until “every source has confirmed” or necessarily worry at length about “committing words to the world.” Deadlines are determined what is happening now. Blogging is therefore contains more “free-form,” it is more “accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.” Blogs are a form of “literary liberation.” But because both broadcast and feedback are “instantaneous,” the connection becomes more “personal,” and enables a more “brutal” interaction between blogger and reader. This “open-source market” of interaction is always adjusting and evolving, allowing the “collective mind” to quickly sift out bad arguments and bad ideas. The only thing is sometimes the bad have more of a voice and is able to “dominate conversation.” “A successful blog therefore has to balance itself between a writer’s own take on the world and others.” Blogs, like other forms, can not provide a “stable truth or a permanent perspective.” Bloggers are controlled by the course of time. Sullivan argues that in this way “the message dictates the medium,” but I think you could also say that the “medium” has the ability to “dictate” the “message.”
In “Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press,” Rosen explores how the internet has impacted political journalism. Rosen believes print journalism was previously defined by the following three categories:
1. The sphere of legitimate debate
2. The sphere of consensus
3. In the sphere of deviance
But with the coming of “blogging and the Net” these structures are being broken down. The press used to be able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with “relative ease” because the people on the receiving end were “atomized”— connected “up” to the media, not “across” to each other. The internet allows us to “locate each other, share information, trade impressions and realize [our]number.” Which causes the “sphere to move away from journalist definition. This “sentiment” now “collects, solidifies and expresses itself online.” This new form is known as the “echo chamber.” Because people can connect “across” or horizontally online, they are able to deviate from the press’s authority. “[Assuming] consensus,” “[defining] deviance” and “[setting] the terms for legitimate debate is weaker when people can connect horizontally around and about the news.”
And finally in “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,” Shirky defines the unthinkable as the ability for sharing capabilities to “grow,” rather than “shrink” due to the unpopularity of walled gardens, the efficiency of digital advertising, the dislike for micropayments, our resistance to online education, and the fact that “old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online.” Online life has proven unable to be regulated by litigation. “Hardware and software vendors would not regard copyright holders as allies, nor would they regard customers as enemies.” All the “imagined outcomes” of the internet (“save the unthinkable one”) came with the belief that the newspaper could retain its “organizational form” and merely needed a “digital facelift.” But in these assumptions we are not recognizing an unfolding “revolution.” Shirky argues that it is similar to the introduction and acceptance of the printing press. “People are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place.” Print journalism has been intertwined with economics since its beginnings. Previous difficulties and costs of printing forced all those involved to use “a similar set of organizational models.” The internet completely upset “the competition-deflecting effects of printing cost” i.e. everyone pays for the “infrastructure,” and then everyone gets to use it. According to Shirky, now is the time for experiments and may ultimately “give us the journalism we need.”
I think it’s great that the transition to the internet has allowed us to discover new writing and sharing capabilities in forms like the blog. I also like that this also enabled us to break with media vertically and grow horizontally. But as someone who wants to pursue photo journalism, this fact serves as the major reason this career choice is diminishing.