Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Media, Bloggers, and Wikipedia

I am currently reading We the Media by Dan Gillmor, and it has me thinking about the changing nature of how we get our news and the changing nature of journalism in general. I am a blogger, but I do not consider myself a journalist; I am a technologist, and have been working in various technology jobs for more than 10 years. Lately, I have been fascinated by how technology is changing our behavior. Young people seem to spend quite a bit of time communicating with friends on MySpace, IM, email, and cell phones … technologies that were not in existence when I was in high school.

More importantly for this discussion is how we get our news. I tend to read the blogs in the morning before I read traditional news sources, and even with the traditional news sources like the Wall Street Journal, I also read those online. The last time I read a paper newspaper was over the holidays at my mother's house (she has dial-up and no television). I saw a study earlier this year (I cannot find it now) that showed how young people within certain age groups are getting more of their news online, instead of via traditional print media and television.

My reasons for getting news online and for actively reading the blogs are probably similar to why many people are shifting away from traditional print media. First, I get a much better variety of news. I can read articles in papers that I would never subscribe to, and I can read commentary from people that I might never meet in real life and have conversations about a topic via blog comments.

Second, the news is fresh. It did not sit around for hours waiting to hit the printing press. The news is newer, and lately the big stories have been hitting the blogs before they get to the traditional media. Scoble's recent move from Microsoft to PodTech is a great example. It was covered in the blogs before the press picked up the story.

The New York Times coverage of Wikipedia this morning prompted me to write this blog entry. The article talks about Wikipedia's policies to protect certain pages from vandalism. There was a flurry of activity in the blogosphere on this topic starting with Nicholas Carr predicting the Death of Wikipedia. I blogged about it along with many others around May 24 and May 25, so it is interesting to see essentially the same content in the New York Times on June 17.

I have been finding this delay more and more often when I read traditional media articles. The articles sometimes seem stale to me only because I already read about a topic elsewhere online before it reached the traditional media. Traditional journalists would be better served by more closely following the blogosphere. Some already do this, and these are the journalists who will survive in the new media world. Those that do not leverage the blogs and other non-traditional news sources will become the dinosaurs of the journalist world only to become extinct and die out over time as the fresh new stories get picked up by the new breed of journalist.

1 comment:

Eric said...

The tech sector might not by the best example to use for this. Almost by definition, they're going to be early adopters of new technology and the first to embrace it (sometimes beyond reason). Also, readers of tech blogs and readers of the New York Times technology section are going to be two completely different audiences... much of the latter may not even know what Wikipedia *is*, which factors into how it may get reported. (Further, I'm not sure that Scoble leaving Microsoft is the best example either - to read Memeorandum that day you'd think it was the biggest story in the history of technology... I'm not sure the blogosphere collectively kept a sense of perspective on that one.)

If you look outside the tech blogosphere though you'll see the mainstream media still leads. Blogs are very rarely primary sources for news in the politics sphere, for example - while bloggers excel at doing research and fact checking, they rarely break any stories and they rely heavily on the journalism done by reporters.

I actually agree with the majority of what you're saying though, I'm just playing devil's advocate and nitpicking a bit. There's little doubt that what you describe is where things are going... but they're not quite there yet. Sometimes when you're on that forefront of new technology, it's easy to forget that most of the world is still lagging somewhat behind you.