I think about the evolution of blogs as serious news sources probably way more than I should, but as an educator and journalism junkie, I can’t help but try to figure out what effect bloggers are going to have in terms of media literacy and consumption. I’m in the camp that says traditional journalism has some serious problems ahead, that more and more, forms of participatory journalism are going to cover the news that people consume. I think by and large that people who do any thinking at all about their sources of news have lost faith in the accuracy and trustworthiness of what’s being reported. It’s just becoming way too hard to separate fact from opinion and story from advertising. Trouble is, of course, is that there are too many people who don’t give what they read or hear a second thought.
William Safire opines about the usefulness of bloggers in a journalistic sense today at the New York Times. He suggests that as advertising grows, bloggers will come in from the “meanstream to the mainstream” to eventually deliver “serious analysis and fresh information.” But then he says this:
On national or global events, however, the news consumer needs trained reporters on the scene to transmit facts and trustworthy editors to judge significance. In crises, large media gathering-places are needed to respond to a need for national community.
That just strikes me as so typical of what we expect from Americans as citizens of the world. Study after study shows that we have no real pulse on the rest of the world to begin with. Ask what Gaza is and most people will probably tell you it’s a big band aid. We can’t keep track of what happens in Kansas much less in Kiev. So, Safire says that yes, we can use our brains to sift through American news, but on that oh so foreign international front, we should just sit back and get the regular spoon feed of ideas and information.
Bunk, I say.
Look, we have an opportunity here to really teach ourselves and our kids to be active consumers of news, and in doing so, to be better informed and better prepared for the troubles that certainly lie ahead. And there is a new formula evolving for doing just that. It’s built on the idea that lots of amateur reader/editors can do just as good if not better job than a few professional ones who are beholden to some company or some stock. It says that this isn’t just an American thing, that it works the same way around the world. And it says that the “The Daily Me” really is now the responsibility of all of us; we need to find and construct our own newspapers, aggregated from RSS feeds and the like.
I know that it’s much, much more complicated than that. And I also know that most people aren’t going to want to put in the time. But I’m also hoping that we can use the vast amounts of information and news that we now have at our fingertips to show students how interesting the world really is.