Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The Difference Between Free Blogging and Commercial Journalism
This is a reaction to Journalists As Bloggers by Dave Dizon of ABSCBN News and a recent dustup between "old media" and "new media".
TAKE A GOOD LOOK around Philippine Commentary. Do you see even a single advertisement? Do you think I make a any money practicing my Freedom of Speech and Expression? NO! I most certainly do not. But also, what are my expenses for foisting my ideas on whatever hapless reader drops by, for releasing my memes into the blogstream, so to speak? NONE! On this single website and its obvious circumstances you can glimpse the economics of what I call FREE BLOGGING.
Now pick up a newspaper like the Philippine Daily Innuendo (PDI) or visit its website. Or better yet, take a trip to the ABSCBN complex on Mother Ignacia Street in Quezon City. Consider the economics required to produce either a single issue of the paper or evening news broadcast. Think of the huge organizations involved, the offices, printing presses, studios, electronic equipment, broadcast facilities and BILLIONS of PESOS involved in these fortresses of what I call COMMERCIAL JOURNALISM.
The differences between Philippine Commentary and PDI or ABSCBN News are huge and obvious. For one thing, Philippine Commentary can not and does not generate news as such, (that's why it's called by that name). I get all my primary information from the "old media". But I can publish my opinions at cost that is virtually nil compared to either of these two leading sources of the news, which of course have their own stable of reporters, pundits and "bloggers" whom they must support with salaries, benefits, facilities, etc. using their income from advertising.
This very simple fact--that I can express myself virtually for free about both their news and opinion content, yet potentially have the same audience as PDI or ABSCBN has several important consequences.
First, I am not beholden to the owners of these Main Stream Media (MSM). I have no editor, secretary or camera men to watch out for and work with. I don't really have to be sensitive to the commercial and proprietary interest that makes their work possible.
Second, and as a necessary corollary, my counterparts within these organizations are in fact constrained by those organizational, commercial and proprietary interests. Much as those writing for the main stream talk and brag about "Freedom of Expression", I can tell you with absolutely certainty that Free Bloggers are freer than them to honestly and forthrightly express their opinions and commentaries about news events and the opinions of others. Even bloggers (who are not attached to those media outlets) that carry advertising are freer than them, because usually there is a very different relationship between bloggers and the "advertisers" that magically appear on their sites.) In a way, commercial journalists can NEVER be the same as FREE BLOGGERS, even if they start to write and publish blogs, because the audience KNOWS they are part of a huge commercial, self-interested, self-protecting enterprise. The Philippine Daily Innuendo runs hundreds of blogs, but everybody knows they dare not attack the Sacred Cows of the Prieto-Rufino families that own the paper, no matter how its editors proclaim "Press Freedom."
Third, while the MSM conceitedly talks about having things like Codes of Professional Ethics, "editorial oversight", "vetting" and so on, these mechanisms are ALL nonetheless subject to the conditions of the commercial relationships that allow them to operate and do business in the first place. There is a carefully orchestrated balance between "Freedom of Expression" and the commercial and proprietary interests. Indeed, once you get past the front pages or top quality broadcast programs, and begin to consider the grand bulk of what is published in newspapers like PDI or broadcast by ABSCBN, you immediately encounter the main body of mediocre, venal, puerile and just plain mindless ENTERTAINMENT content of these media organizations, which cater to the lowest common denominator of society.
As a blogger, I do not have to address my work to the market in which Commercial Journalism operates. I do not have to pay reporters or producers to survive, or watch what I say because some pencil neck in an ad agency or the telecomms (which supply nearly 80% of the income of some commercial media) might not like my saying they belong to a cartel or sell some lousy or dangerous product or service. I don't have to worry that the owners of Google or Blogger (my hosting service) might not like what I say.
In the ultimate analysis, what is happening here is what I have previously called a Gutenberg Moment. Technology from the great bastion of liberty in the world is revolutionizing the way humanity shares ideas and opinions. It is as if I have been given my own printing presses and broadcasting stations with (potentially!) global reach which cost virtually nothing for me to operate.
That is a huge advantage over the MSM -- but only if my ideas and opinions are in fact somehow more appealing to the potential audience, if they have viral and memetic power.
What Free Blogging has done is to give Commercial Journalism real competition in the MARKETPLACE FOR IDEAS, unencumbered by special interests, unconstrained by the need to appeal to the lowest common denominator, to respect Sacred Cows, or suppress what we really think about things.
The World Wide Web of blogging levels the playing field, but only to the extent that Free Bloggers actually have better stronger, more viral ideas and fitter memes.
Welcome to the purest arena where Darwin's laws of evolution can operate to ensure the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.