Bloggers become new watchdogs in the media

E ason Jordan’s resignation from CNN has seemed to make many people aware of a new revolution that’s taking place. And much like Gil Scott Heron predicted in the 1970s, this revolution will not be televised, and it will not be brought to you by corporate sponsors. Instead, this revolution, against the corporate controlled media, is being waged by computer addicts, who spend hours upon hours holed up in their rooms in front of their monitors, dripping ketchup from their Carl’s Jr. burger onto their keyboards and sipping up their Dr. Pepper. They have mastered a new weapon — the blog, short for “Web log.” A few conservative bloggers took notice of Jordan, then CNN’s chief news executive, who allegedly commented that the U.S. military may have held a role in killing journalists in Iraq. This sent shock waves through the online world and soon his comment had gained enough attention and attracted enough pressure that Jordan felt he must quit. Moreover, liberal bloggers have recently prompted a White House reporter to quit his post amid newly revealed scandal. Across ideological lines, bloggers act as a watchdog of the press, ready to strike when needed. Perhaps the growing influence and prominence of blogs will cause members of the mainstream press to finally take notice. The masses have not been too pleased with the press as of late, and it’s a lack of trust and faith in the news media that drives their malcontent. Last week, the Associated Press published a story in which it was revealed that Manadel al-Jamadi, who made headlines as a prisoner when the Abu Ghraib scandal surfaced, was tortured to death. The AP story reported that it was unclear whether the Bush administration approved of such methods for CIA interrogations. Abu Ghraib stinks of this administration’s Watergate, only this time, there’s no Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to bring it all to light. Maybe that’s the future role of bloggers — to become the Woodwards and Bernsteins of the 21st century. Jeff Jarvis, who publishes a blog at buzzmachine.com, has said that the real target of bloggers’ attacks should not be individual journalists, with the hope that they will lose their jobs, but blogs should instead aim at uncovering the truth the mainstream media seems reluctant to discover. This ideal version of a blogger already exists in Jarvis and others. Salam Pax publishes a well-known blog from Iraq about the conditions of the war, providing another perspective than the one readers see on television or in the newspapers. That is the ultimate purpose of blogs — to bring voice to the voiceless. This makes them idealistic in that freedom of the press perhaps no longer only belongs to the people, or corporations rather, who own them. Certain blogs, like Jarvis’ and Pax’s, have taken on the intended role of the press that was lost somewhere along the way. And bloggers do not rely on the same routines that other journalists do, the most notable being the use of official sources. When official sources make up a majority or the entirety of a story, the press becomes a mouthpiece of the government. Unfortunately though, it’s this same divergence from news routines that could make getting news from blogs sketchy. Blogs usually do not employ editors or fact checkers to verify the accuracy of the stories they publish. The blogging universe has been likened to the black market of journalism, as it allows for easier and cheaper access to a media outlet. It also calls into question the quality of the product, though mainstream media’s quality has been called into question, too. Blogs bring a perspective largely ignored by the press, while at the same time offering a place for readers to comment and give feedback, something missing almost altogether from the corporate news outlets. What these blogs will mean for the future remains to be seen. As of now, they do not appear to be dying out. In fact, they grow in strength daily, like a biblical David growing more powerful and preparing himself to challenge the giant Goliath of mainstream media. Hopefully, important people at these Goliath-type press outlets can learn something from their challenger and start to mend their ways, rather than pandering to big business and government. Because, like it or not, bloggers have surfaced to lead the revolution against that. In all revolutions, promises of freedom keep the little guy fighting. And it’s those little First Amendment freedoms, of speech and the press, that exist at the centerpiece of this, the Battle of the Blogs.

James Zvonec is a graduate student in mass communication.