USAToday examines the TV exposure CNN is giving to Blogs, Bloggers, and the news they make.
Mainstream media continue to be wary of Internet bloggers because the reporting and opinions on their websites are often not subject to journalistic checks and balances, such as editing and rules on sourcing.
But Jon Klein, a former CBS News producer who jumped to an Internet venture before being tapped to run CNN a few months ago, says that there’s no sense in ignoring the “blogosphere,” which is why he has created a daily, four-minute segment on Inside Politics.
“Inside the Blog,” which kicked off Feb. 14, is the first daily segment on cable or network TV dedicated to people whose reporting and opinions appear on the Web.
“We want to demystify blogging,” Klein says. “We want to peel back all those layers and also do a reading of the blogs that our audience doesn’t have the time to do.”
This is a good move for CNN, but don’t think for a moment that the news network is giving equal billing to the blogosphere. Read between these lines…
Inside Politics host Judy Woodruff says that “not being a child of the Internet, I confess I was skeptical when Jon first suggested the segment. I viewed the blogs as pure opinion, no reporting. But I’ve come to see the segment as a tool for getting at a new, unpredictable and increasingly influential place on the political landscape.”
But, she says, “the one thing I’d like to see us do more of is explain who the bloggers are. We could tell more about who they are and where they get their information. The only thing stopping us from doing that now is time.”
So, Judy wants to “understand” bloggers and find out where they get their information? Perhaps she’s still skeptical? At this point she can’t help but draw a solid line of distinction between bloggers and news reporters. Fine. Problem is, she’s already identified herself as someone foreign to the blogosphere, so she’ll need to take a lot of time and do much research before she draws that line fairly. If she wants to do her research in between commercial breaks or 2 minutes before the segment, I’m afraid her focus will continue to be on how bloggers are amateurs (less credible) and “real” reporters are professionals (more credible).
Jeffrey Cole, who runs the Digital Center at the University of Southern California, calls CNN’s new segment “an interesting idea.”
“Occasionally the blogs are the extra eyes and ears that can be on to something,” he says, and “summarizing what the blogs are buzzing about provides good insight into current interests and developments.”
But, Cole says, the Internet also has its share of oddballs. Though they can be entertaining, “the key is that CNN not promote them to greater significance than their ideas deserve.”
Yes, there are oddballs, and some of them get on the air and make fools of themselves. As Jeff Jarvis said, there are risks that come with the MSM’s sudden excitement and acceptance of bloggers. Once in awhile, you’ll put the nut-job on the air. Hopefully, it won’t happen a lot, but regardless of the frequency, it shouldn’t serve as an excuse to broad brush the blogosphere as the home for wackos.
CNN Executive Jon Klein sums up with this…
“Don’t treat bloggers as some kind of freak show at all. They take them very seriously,” Klein says. “Bloggers are as multi-layered as any other source of debate or dialogue, and it’s a mistake to write them off as one thing or another.
“They are fertile ground for doing what good journalists do: find out who they are and what they are saying, and how accurate are the things that they’re saying and how useful are the things that they provide.”
Indeed. If CNN sticks to this edict, the reputation and credibility of the blogosphere will increase in stature.
But will it last?
If a little healthy competition develops between CNN and Bloggers, I predict a quick end to their daily television segment on blogs. Just as you don’t hear any mention of ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX from the lips of Judy Woodruff, you won’t hear the word “blogosphere” from any TV network news division when citizen journalism stands on equal ground.