06 January 2012

Bloggers vs. The Media: who tells us what's worth talking about?

The following is a portion of a comment thread posted on Glenn Greenwald's blog that recalled an interview with NYU Professor Jay Rosen. In the interview, Rosen discusses mainstream media's "ability to infect us with notions of what’s realistic," which Rosen claims " is one of the most potent powers press and political elites have."

It's a snippet from a 2009 interview posted on Salon.com, and it's a great short read. Here's some relevant sections from the comments:

Me (some paragraphs omitted):
The Tea Party and the Occupy movements each represent ideologies that are more or less within the sphere of deviance. But the conversation, carried by the web, is pushing these ideas into legitimacy.

My question is, what role do journalists play in weighing fringe ideas when doing a story on a popular subject with two traditional modes of thought? Is there justification needed for bringing in fringe ideas, or can it just be done? Also, is it necessary to balance fringe ideas from either side of the political spectrum, or at least try to?
 A user named perrybarber replies (first paragraph omitted):
The point Professor Rosen makes about the media dictating what is or isn't "deviant" dialogue hinges on this phony balancing act of presenting one viewpoint and then presenting another as "opposing," an opposition that too often only echoes and amplifies the previous perspective. This is a useful trick for the Sunday morning political talk shows but it does little to illuminate the issues they purport to present so fairly. Professor Rosen is right: the internet, with all its pitfalls and contrivances, may be our salvation because it can connect us directly to the officeholders and candidates we need to be able to evaluate wisely and accurately based on what is actually true about their views before we entrust them with our confidence or our votes.
My response (some parts omitted):
As an institution, the press cannot cover all ideas, it just doesn't have the time or resources, but bloggers can. And the web gives them an avenue to develop ideas and hone them through interactions with others. In this way, bloggers supplement mainstream media, and vice versa.

My question was this: What role does the media or the press or institutional journalism — which I deplore but still believe in — play in examining new ideas? Do we rely merely on our own internal ethical judgment? Popular support? Google analytics? Peer review?

The press needs to be more cognizant of its decisions and stop pretending it is objective, but at the same time, making decisions to cover one argument over another does a disservice to other opinions.

perrybarber, I see your point, but just because an opposing view supports, through framing, its opposed view (if that's what you're saying), doesn't mean that journalists should ignore opposing views.

Diversity of arguments is more important than opposing arguments... The "two-sides-to-a-story" and right/wrong, left/right, black/white mentality that the press exacerbates needs to end. But if there are 37 opinions on what to do in Afghanistan, is a single journalist supposed to cover all 37 opinions just because they exist?

This may be somewhat of a hyperbole, but one can see that the quantity of ideas and information available online can make such situations closer to reality than we might readily admit.

I also should say that thinking any one thing (the internet) could be a salvation to our woes greatly underestimates the magnitude of human deviance, especially by “officeholders and candidates.” Propaganda and misinformation will likely flourish in the information age more than any other time in history, and only time will reveal the magnitude.
Radical and "crazy" ideas are, in my opinion, the best kinds of ideas because they have the capacity to force us to change our thinking. The current climate seems to call out for such ideas, and fresh thinking is always a societal tonic. And we need it. Bad. 

How do bloggers and mainstream media work together to bring new ideas to the table? What role should they play? What designates an idea worthy of conversation, either in the blogosphere or elsewhere? Are all ideas equally valuable? Why or why not? 

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