Mass vs. Local Media: Which Defines Blogging?

Some people think that blogging allows for local news on an unprecedented scale: a local blogger can cover things live and on the scene, invite comments from those who were there or were affected by the event more immediately, and allow for reflection by a community empowered by information – it isn’t hard to put up a question on a thread and ask people to comment and talk to each other.

If everything I’m saying sounds utopian, it is. There has to be something underlying this reasoning that’s wrong and not ascribable to “people are really rotten and hate their communities so that’s why local news isn’t seen as the true power of blogging.”

To me, there’s a category mistake occurring when one says “look at what a blog can do locally.” Is blogging technology itself a medium partial to local information gathering, or is it a manifestation of mass media?

It’s absolutely the latter. It isn’t just where you’re getting your blog from – i.e. I get mine from Google [ed. 3/17/2009 – I used to be on Blogger], which isn’t exactly a local brand. Nor is it the immediate exposure of a blog to an audience that could be more global than local (even a local blog needs this exposure, since it needs to get on the map in some way in order to appeal to the community it’s blogging about).

There’s something underlying the principle of blogging which makes it inherently mass media. I think the key is actually not in blogging itself – blogging is pretty much writing – but in us. As individuals, we don’t just take in local news: we very much gravitate towards larger issues, even when we understand nothing and the issue could be none of our business.

You would have to completely reorient an individual’s mind in order to persuade him that blogging is great for local journalism and should be used nearly exclusively there. I remember a conservative campus newspaper conference where we were told “write about the events at your school, that’s what the alums want to hear about, not what you think about Clinton.” It sounded great, except that most of us were taking classes that dealt with federal policy and technical issues of government at higher levels.

If we were silent about that in order to provide only localized coverage, we wouldn’t have been true to our education. Add to this that a lot of campus corruption was so petty that to report on it would have made everyone else sad for the human race. You need a sense of a “big story” in order to report even at the local level. Where does that sense come from, I wonder?

That doesn’t mean that blogging shouldn’t break local stories. It has great potential for that, quite obviously.

But it does mean that local media is not prior to mass media. Mass media comes first, and local media is a variety of that institution. In a deep sense, every blogger is competing with The New York Times, and why not? I’ll reread my own entries rather than read Maureen Dowd, I know that.

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  1. Good points- you are entirely right- especially about Maureen Dowd (about which I’ve always been wanting to ask a simple question, why!) there are really good local blogs but more often blogging is about the national news if it is about news at all.

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