Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft
The terrifying power of the bloggers Paul Carr Monday June 28, 2004 The Guardian
Last month, the Boston affiliate of America's Fox TV network ran a news item about a new craze sweeping cyberspace. It turns out that, all over America, young people are using their "computers" to create "websites" full of information about their daily lives. Or, as Fox's breathless reporter put it, "to catalogue the details of their lives on webpages created for them, by them ... just blah-blah-blogging." Yes, that's right. Blah-blah-blogging. Incredible. I wonder what burgeoning technological trend Rupert Murdoch's news machine will uncover next? Mobile tar-tar-telephony? The rah-rah-radio? Far-far- fire? The devil may have the best tunes but it'll be a long time before he works out how to upload them to his aye-aye-iPod.
Fortunately in most other sections of the media, attitudes towards blogging - and online journalism in general - couldn't be more different. Not only are major news organisations rolling out blogs of their own, but in the past 12 months the influence of bloggers over their print, television and radio counterparts has grown massively. Consider a decision made by organisers of this year's Democratic National Convention (DNC), next month in Boston. So keen are John Kerry's men to get their message through to the people of Blogistan that for the first time they have issued press accreditation to political bloggers. Just try to imagine any major political organisation recognising blogs in the same way this time last year and you'll realise how far bloggers have gone up in the estimation of those in power. Or, in the case of the DNC, those who will probably be in power next year. Voter fraud notwithstanding.
An even more impressive example of how web journalism has started to influence the mainstream media comes from America's newest radio network, Air America Radio. The New York based station was set up as a liberal challenge to the dominance of US rightwing talk radio in the US. Through affiliates in cities from New York to Honolulu, angry liberal voices such as Al Franken, author of the anti-Bush bible Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and Hollywood's Janine Garofalo are finally taking on rightwing blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. But unlike Limbaugh and O'Reilly who frequently replace research and reason with rage and rhetoric, Air America's hosts are armed to the teeth with hard, up-to-the second facts to support their relentless Bush bashing. Their sources? Blogs. And the blogging bloggers who blog them.
And the influence of the web on Air America's output doesn't stop there. The station's relatively small affiliate base - 11 stations, compared with the (very appropriate) 666 that broadcast Limbaugh's show - means that a large percentage of listeners choose to listen online, via the live audio feed at airamericaradio.com.
The effect of this is to guarantee a large web-savvy audience for the station, an audience for whom it is perfectly natural to visit the shows' official blogs and to comment on what they're hearing, as they're hearing it.
· Paul Carr is editor-in-chief of The Friday ThingAxel H Horns