Journalism\’s Blind Spot

I’ve been reading, and regularly commenting on, the new Business Week blog Blogspotting, by Stephen Baker and Heather Green. So far, it’s pretty interesting.

Yesterday, Baker posted this short item: Mainstream press barely mentions blogs. Here, he notices one aspect of the same blind spot I’ve been seeing. Mainstream media (MSM) professionals generally seem unaware of blogs – or their knowledge extends only to limited, uninformed cliches. Why this profound lack of curiousity?

I took a stab at the bigger picture in the following comment…

My comment to Stephen Baker’s blogspotting item:

As a journalist with many MSM colleagues and connections, and as a blogger, it seems to me that many MSM professionals have an odd blind spot when it comes to blogs.

First and foremost, I think this comes from a profound, unspoken reticence in MSM to learn or adopt anything new, especially where technology is involved. Most journalists, in my experience, are surprisingly techno-resistant. Not really techno-phobic, because they don’t fear technology per se. They just already feel so overwhelmed with and absorbed by their current tasks that they resist having to learn anything new.

I’ve trained many journalists and editors in how to use the web, e-mail lists, feeds, and other online basics. I’m consistently astounded how far behind the learning curve journalists (especially print journalists) are on just about every aspect of online technology – even if technology or the internet is (or could/should be) part of their beat!

Also, MSM professionals have some very rigid but often unspoken assumptions about what constitutes “worthwhile” information. When I broach the subject of blogs or podcasts with most reporters, they immediately voice skepticism that such venues (which “anyone” can create and publish) might be worthwhile or trustworthy.

I usually counter that with, “Oh yeah? You mean like news releases?”

The value of interactive, audience-create media for journalists often lies in its lead potential, and in its ability to help a journalist gauge context and the diversity of views on nearly any topic. But too many journalists are too hung up on whether bloggers are “official” or “accountable” according to traditional MSM criteria, and thus they miss out on these opportunities for leads and context.

Which means they fall still further behind. I don’t see this changing anytime soon, much to my chagrin.

So yes, there’s a bit of exclusiveness – even snobbery – that’s quietly infiltrated our profession. Journalists and editors often perceive themselves as a special class, with unique informational rights and privileges. It seems to me that blogs and other aspects of online, participatory media are devouring those myths. MSM journalists will probably be the last to see this or admit it, however.

I touched on these themes recently in this article: Journalism: Class, Craft, or Faith?

– Amy Gahran

ALSO, Don’t miss Baker’s followup article, posted today: Mainstream media’s alleged strategy on blogs. There, he notes:

“I take issue to a comment to today’s earlier post from a reader named Jay. He suggests that the subject of blogs barely came up at the Overseas Press Club banquet because their ‘biggest threat is coming from blogs and the longer they can downplay their power the better it is for them.’ This assumes that we MSM types …have a common strategy. …We may have common blind spots. But don’t confuse that for a strategy.”

Exactly! Common blind spots are the problem here, I think. I really don’t see any anti-blog strategies on behalf of MSM. (Although there are unproven allegations that CNN might be sabotaging critical blogs, worth mentioning because some company or news outlet probably will try that strategy at some point.)