Blogging Into the New Age

The Columbia Journalism Review offers a special report on The New Age of Alternative Media this month, with several articles on blogs and blogging. Highlights include:

  • From “Blogworld and Its Gravity
    [T]hese amateurs, especially the ones focusing on news and current events, are doing some fascinating things. Many are connecting intimately with readers in a way reminiscent of old-style metro columnists or the liveliest of the New Journalists. Others are staking the narrowest of editorial claims as their own ? appellate court rulings, new media proliferation in Tehran, the intersection of hip-hop and libertarianism ? and covering them like no one else. They are forever fact-checking the daylights out of truth-fudging ideologues like Ann Coulter and Michael Moore, and sifting through the biases of the BBC and Bill O’Reilly, often while cheerfully acknowledging and/or demonstrating their own lopsided political sympathies. At this instant, all over the world, bloggers are busy popularizing underappreciated print journalists (like Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn), pumping up stories that should be getting more attention (like the Trent Lott debacle), and perhaps most excitingly of all, committing impressive, spontaneous acts of decentralized journalism.

  • The Media Go Blogging, a short guide to blogs associated with major media outlets.
  • Killer Apps“, a too-short examination of the technological forces driving blogging (and vice versa). “In 1999 there were dozens of blogs. Now there are millions. What happened?”
  • From “Terms of Authority“, a look at the fate of authority in these days of distributed intelligence, comes this description of “the public” as an idea:
    The public is an idea because it takes imagination to conceive of such a thing – the great mass of people spread out over the nation but in touch with the same events, leading private lives but paying public matters some attention. It becomes more than an idea when people act on it, as Jay Leno does in his nightly monologue on the day’s news: “You all saw this, right? . . .”

I’m not one of these people who salivates over every mention of blogging in the press, or that even cares whether blogging ever achieves “mainstream success” (whatever that is). But the CJR is a smart magazine, and the pieces on alternative media included in this special report show it. Blogging — and publishing alternative weeklies, and writing ‘zines, and broadcasting commercial radio or television — isn’t important as a demonstration of technological proficiency in and of itself. Media is, in our modern mass society, our way of being society. It is literally and redundantly the medium in which we live and the mediator between us as individuals and us as millions of people sharing the world-space we live in. Blogging is exciting right now, in some cases because it’s new, but also because it is, finally andafter much, much hype, a way for individuals to actively engage media, to control, even in a small way, the medium of their identities. And that’s no small thing.

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