Food for Thought for the Blogosphere

If you are like me, you are a fan of HBO’s The Wire. The final season of this show holds a mirror up to the media (namely the Baltimore Sun) and shows how it affects all aspects of life in the big city.

You may have seen a special promotional piece featuring David Simon, the creative force behind The Wire, explaining what to expect from the fifth and final season of the show. As Simon laments the slow death of the city newspaper, he makes some fascinating and intriguing comments on us in the blogosphere.

Though unintentionally, he throws down the gauntlet of what role we bloggers will play when the newspaper dinosaur is finally slain or (in his view) is completely emasculated by the diminution of political and social reporting in favor of human interest stories and perfunctory journalism.

Simon’s comments present a serious challenge, nay opportunity, to us bloggers as to how the important stories affecting our lives will be told. It is a question we bloggers need to answer.

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Make no mistake, Simon is a liberal democrat and we would agree little on solutions. He candidly acknowledges, as a former Sun reporter, that the way every story is told and the way every editorial decision is made emanates from a subjective point of view and that many journalists want to affect social change by reporting. His lament is that selling newspapers has replaced this “noble calling” and the result is that a closer inspection of politicians, policy and institutions is left by the roadside.

Simon says bloggers do a great job of providing commentary and presenting information from a different point of view but inevitably link to some reporter who has done the hard work of gathering the information and telling a story. This, in his view, is the eternal value of a newspaper and that the industry made a mistake by giving it away for free (by putting it on the Internet).

Simon is not entirely wrong. We bloggers, if we truly want to end the monopolistic influence of the Sun or the Capital or the Gazette, need to be able to tell the stories which are important to people. As long as we simply link to the reporting done by others, they control the agenda and perpetuate their built in advantage of a larger audience.

The blogosphere must concentrate more on telling stories, making news and giving our readers not just opinion but information they cannot get anywhere else. This does not mean that we must become full time reporters but we have an opportunity to wrestle away the mantle of media from the elites who have controlled it for so many decades.

Our victory will not be complete until we do that.

Many of my fellow bloggers have done this. Mark Newgent’s work examining the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, the in-depth reporting of the the Special Session shenanigans and the lawsuit which brought them to light and even the soap opera that is the Anne Arundel County Central Committee have broken real news and often have driven the local reporting in the newspapers. (Not to mention, the yeoman’s work of the O’Malley Watch gang.)

We have contacts in government and the community. We have many of the same resources the overworked newsrooms have (specifically the Internet). We are educated, net savvy and can write well. We also have the passion to tell the important stories.

The opinion page is covered, now let’s work on filling the front page.

I say, let’s take up this challenge and work for a future where the blogosphere can truly replace newspapers.

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