I was glad to see the News Sentinel's Kevin Leininger at the New Media, New Rules event Thursday. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that he wrote a column about the event - it's always interesting to see the dynamic between blogs and traditional media. Much of what Leininger said makes sense but, in general, him and Nathan Gotsch are off-base about the premise of blogging.
To both, blogging is a medium for creating a respectable, perhaps even competitive alternative to traditional media. But this view of the blogosphere is too simplistic and Gotsch's approach of lecturing people on this "one size fits all" approach is probably a big reason why many people were left with a bad taste in their mouth.
The beauty of blogging, and the internet, is that it's whatever you want it to be. Contrary to Gotsch's opinion, there's absolutely nothing wrong with blogging about your dog. The blogosphere is truly a free market environment - readers can pick and choose what they want to read and they're not limited to 2 daily newspapers and/or news outlets. In fact readers can go a step further by creating a blog to discuss topics they feel might be getting overlooked. Not everybody strives to break the next big story. Many of us simply like to discuss politics and this medium gives a new group of friends where we can do that.
Leininger wrote speed is no substitute for accuracy, context, credibility, fairness and other standards of traditional journalism. Of course not, but who exactly is making the contrary argument? Traditional media have erected this straw man in order to justify their own work. But the truth is there wouldn't be a good political blogosphere without good traditional media. Also, whether they want to admit it or not, we can do things they can't and vice-versa, and it has absolutely nothing to do with accuracy, fairness, etc. If you don't meet basic credibility standards then readers will simply avoid your site.
At the end of the day there will always be somebody there to tell you the "best" way to do something because it's how they do it. But ideas, technology and consumers all evolve and the blogosphere is part of that evolution. Can it help candidates, or increase voter turnout or anything else politicians want to use it for? Certainly, but there's no roadmap to do that. Some people will be successful and others won't - welcome to Free Market Journalism...