December 10, 2004

Blogs Provide Insight Into Kitchen Table Conversations

Via The Sideshow we find a very interesting column from the public editor of the Oregonian discussing where blogs fit into the national media. Reflecting on the number of readers that want to have the paper provide more coverage on what happened on our elections and the voting irregularies, he notes that today there is a disconnect between the journalists who have a short attention span and the readers who don't feel like a topic has gotten sufficient attention from the media.

The limited coverage also reflects the evolving relationship between newspapers and Web logs, commonly known as blogs. Skepticism about those blogs among the press is well-founded; several theories and rumors abound on blogs, including many regarding the election, and often are discredited. But newspapers that ignore significant issues on the Web do so at their own peril; they're ignoring topics that matter to many readers.

"It's another reminder that the blog has become an important force in our lives, but that just because something is there, it doesn't mean it's more authentic or more real," says Tom Rosenstiel, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "But it does mean that it deserves to be examined."

Rosenstiel says the press needs to do a better job of tapping and vetting what is discussed in the blogosphere -- because blogs often pick up on what matters to many people. "We're not very good at capturing the discussion going on around the kitchen table and the water cooler," he says. "That's what the blogs can do better than the press can do.

And if a significant number of readers have questions about the election process, the newspaper has a responsibility to address those questions. Americans already are skeptical about major institutions, and a recent Harris poll shows 16 percent of those who responded thought the elections were not conducted fairly.

I'll bet that 16 percent would be significantly higher if the problems being discussed on blogs were covered so that most Americans were aware there were a number of problems in the last election that needed to be aired and corrected before we have another election. Just like the Urkrainains, we deserve to have elections that everyone trusts were fair.

One of the big problems with this last election is that we need to take so much on faith. We have believe them when they say that the exit polls didn't work correctly (for the second election!). We have to trust them when they claim that everyone who tried to vote was able to vote for their candidate. What if most Ohioans voted against Bush and his policies? How would we know? Since we don't have solid data that validates this claim, we have to trust that partisan election officials were completely fair even when we know they worked hard to elect one candidate over another. And it doesn't have to be this way. We could have elections that we know are run fairly and that we could revalidate after the fact. It's only when we have fully transparent, accountable and verifiable elections that we will once more have the assurance that the person with the most votes gained them legitimately.

It is good to see that a few blogs are continuing to keep this story alive until we can discuss whether or not we can fix the problems that we have with our elections today.

Posted by Mary at December 10, 2004 01:05 AM | Media | Technorati links |