david garcia on Thu, 1 Dec 2005 10:03:59 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> FW: [IP] Craigslist Planning To Shake Up Journalism

Bloggers as Media Parasites
(Of course I mean "parasite" in a good way:)

"Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite em little fleas have smaller
fleas and so on ad infinitum"

These discussions on the shifting boundaries of the media landscape/ ecology and
the position of "citizen journalism" "blogging" "tactical journalism" or whatever
the buz word of the moment is, was well addressed by a feature on BBC's Newsnight
last week

The Newsnight feature (which at the time of writing) can still be found on their
website under the title "WarBloggers" was based on the report by the excellent
Paul Mason who is officially Newsnights "business and industrial" correspondent.
(Mason made his reputation in 2003 with a series of three reports on China's rise
development. But his recent reports have gone well beyond his brief and last
week's War Blogger indicates that he has been given wander the editorial liberty
to wander into ever more interesting territory).

The War Bloggers piece examines the role of bloggers in forcing the Pentagon to
admit to using of "white phospherous" not simply as means of illuminating enemy
positions but (like napalm) as a means of burning the enemy and (given the
indescriminate nature of the weapon) any body in the viscinity. The Blogger
"Insomnia" highlighted" a piece in The American army magazine "Field
Artillery"which calls the technique "Bake and shake"-first you burn them, then you
blow them apart using high explosives.

Mason goes on to describe how it was not only the Pentagon who was shamed by the
revelations but also the mainstream news services who had neglected the many
reports and a great deal of evidence that had been in the public domain for more
than a year. Having failed to adequately examined the case for going to war, the
"4th estate" now stand accused of lacking enthusiasm in the search for truth". But
what more complex than these sloganising is the way that this report showed the
complex relationships operating between the different scales (including time
scales) of media practice. The bloggers do not often "break" a story but over an
extended period persistently pick over details and sifting the evidence long after
the "news caravan has moved on".

In words which echo Raymond's aphorism "many eyes make all bugs shallow" Mason
declared that "if a story is going 'no where' for journalists the blogosphere can
continue to focus the power of many minds on collectively sifting minute details".
Revealingly Mason goes on to describe, what he sees as his changing his role as a
journalist from being "Guardians of Truth" or Gate Keepers filtering the evidence
into "umpires" (the name for a referee in the game of Cricket) "sitting in the
middle of competing accounts which are out there whether we like it or not".
Although we will dispute Mason's self appointed role of "umpire" with all the
traditional BBC claims of impartiality which this term smuggles in, the piece was
at least attempting coming to terms with the potential of networks (seldom
realised and progressively undermined by the gate keeping function of search
engines) of presenting competing versions of reality rather than claim that there
is only one official version.

An important aspect of the report was the way in which it relatavised the "heroic"
role of the blogger. Bloggers (for the most part) feed of the work of journalists
who are their number one source, both independent and mainstream. Bloggers are
parasitical in the best ecological sense of the word, combing the fur of the media
searching for bugs. In the case of white phospherous story we see it traced from
Alkud, Islam On-line, and numerous claims of humanitarian workers in the field to
the counter claims of sites such as those found on US administration's
"Identifying Misinformation" and on to a multitude of Blogger responses filtering,
commentating and drawing on various sources. Instead of thinking about just
blogging we need to observe the cumulative effects a whole raft of independent
media (which include reports from humanitarian agencies on the ground) in which
blogger commentaries become magnified within an alternative public realm and into
which the mainstream media are eventually dragged kicking and screaming. Most
interestingly the area which is least examined is that which lies between the
mainstream media and the bloggers. The independents upon whom both extremes of the
media feeding chain increasingly depend but rarely acknowledge.

And this commentary, drawing as it does from a report from a mainstream media
source finds itself embedded in the reflexive loop "and so on ad infitum"

David Garcia

----- End forwarded message -----

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net