Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Of Mice and Blogs

One of my oldest friends, Steve Tomer, just started his own blog. It's the fashionable thing to do nowadays!

It's fashionable now to have your own blog, but more importantly, they reduce the opportunity cost of acquiring new information. That was one of my thoughts on blogging when I had barely started mine. As Hayek wrote, knowledge is dispersed throughout society. Blogs facilitate an inexpensive but extremely efficient method for a lot of people to contribute their own unique bit of knowledge.

Chris Masse recently pointed me toward Jack Shafer's recent MSN Slate article on blogs. Mainstream media, naturally, was overjoyed when a lot of major blogs jumped the gun, dismissing the "Schiavo memo" as another fake. But Shafer missed the point.
Professional journalists have it all over bloggers when it comes to reporting. The first generation of bloggers tends to resist taking off their PJs and donning hip-waders to report the news from the swamp. Reporting is a learned skill, and experience counts for something. Also, professional news organizations pay for airplane tickets, hotel accommodations, car rentals, libel insurance, editing, and other resources to make reporting happen. How many unpaid bloggers will cover a war from the shrapneled front? A handful. Maybe.
Has Shafer never heard of the blogs by ordinary citizens in both Afghanistan and Iraq? A few are all you need, and as the countries' infrastructures are repaired and the economies improve, you'll see more blogs. They're the voice.

"Reporting is a learned skill"...see the arrogance of mainstream media? Since when in the several millenia of human civilization has anyone needed to go to school just to tell others of the news? I went to the Great Social Security Debate (as I call it), held in Manhattan last month. I never went to any school of journalism, yet I probably scribbled more furiously and took more notes than any professional reporters there (using an old-fashioned pad and pen).

Bloggers' advantage is that they can just be there. Like Hayek's essay "The Result of Human Action but not of Human Design", it doesn't have to be planned for bloggers to go somewhere and cover the news. They can be present by pure happenstance, which is no problem since there are far more bloggers than journalists. And sometimes, like my "coverage" of the debate, we can go to the news. Again, since there are so many bloggers, our expenses are minimal. And if a blogger is responsible enough, he won't libel someone. (Actually that can apply to a reporter to. I wonder how high Shafer's premiums are?) Granted it's a bit different, since blogs can be excused as "opinion" pieces, but that still doesn't mean they don't report the news.

Not original thoughts, but something I whipped up before getting ready for work. I'm temping this week and part of next at the Ford Foundation. Our team is performing Active Directory and Office 2003 upgrades at night, so that we don't interfere with the staff.


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