Sunday, May 11, 2008

Open season on bloggers

Recently a number of sports writers have expressed their disdain for bloggers culminating with Buzz Bissinger's expletive filled tirade on Bob Costas' HBO show. The arguments, which are not confined to the realm of sports blogs are familiar: blogs are filled with lies, bloggers are mean-spirited, there's no fact checking on blogs, blogs value speed over accuracy.

What old guard journalists like Bissinger don't seem to understand is that the reason blogs even exist is because they fill a vacuum. Whether it's a more humorous take on the world of sports or a more serious look at what's going on in Cuba, bloggers fill the vacuum.

What Bissinger and even Costas himself say is true, of course, to some degree about some blogs. There are unscrupulous and inaccurate bloggers. But there are also unscrupulous and inaccurate newspaper reporters, columnists and editors. Jayson Blair had credentials, fact checkers and editors and still he managed to have plagiarized and fictional stories published as news in the New York Times.

There are literally millions of blogs out there. Most are read by only a handful of people, but a precious few have readerships larger than some newspapers. As the target of Bissinger's wrath, Will Leitch of Deadspin said, the blogosphere is a meritocracy. If a blog is widely read it's purely a reflection of a connection the blog's writers have made with their audience. In Miami, if I want to read a newspaper I only have one choice. But if I go on the web I can find opinions and reporting from a variety of sources including blogs.

I was drawn to blogging because I realized in this wild frontier was an opportunity to draw attention to something the mainstream media in America had ignored for far too long, the dictatorship in Cuba. Not only that, the very same media had a hand in the establishment of that dictatorship.

Last year, NBC News produced a two-hour Today Show special, live from Cuba. During 120 minutes Matt Lauer did not name a single political prisoner despite the fact that there are well over 200 of them on the island. In fact, by my count, he only uttered 12 sentences that could be considered mildly critical of the regime. If Buzz Bissinger and his colleagues don't like the influence that blogs have in this day and age of declining newspaper readerships then they should do their jobs.

Blogs are a venue in which individuals can express views that may not be the most popular and share them with others that hold the same views. What is happening on the internet is no different than what is happening on your TV dial. In my business it's called fragmentation. There's a vast amount of content being developed that appeals to many narrow audiences. If you like classic cars, there are collector car auctions, if you like interior design there are home improvement shows.

Bissinger's criticism rings as hollow as a network executive in the 1980s might have sounded if he complained that ESPN was ruining sports.

Recently, the courageous Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote about being denied an "exit visa" to leave Cuba and accept a journalism award in Spain:

They forget that in cyberspace my voice can travel without limits, leaving and returning without asking for permission… It does not matter if they have kept my passport. Since one year ago I have another, on which, in the section for nationality, appears a short word: “blogger”.
Whether Buzz Bissinger gets it or not, I'm proud to be a member of the same blogging nation as Yoani Sanchez and others who cover unpopular and politically incorrect topics.


Randall H. said...

Well said, Henry. Blogs are filling an important void and it makes the "mainstream" media nervous to finally have a little competition. They're not so used to having their facts checked, broadcasts questioned, and points-of-view criticized.

The blogosphere has done wonders around the world for free speech, democracy and human rights. This scares the hell out of the established media and oppressive governments.

Napoleon was right, "Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets".

Gayle Miller said...

I am a blogger. I am also a trained journalist (The Ohio State University School of Journalism).

Blogs are public enemy number one because they cannot be controlled, corralled or censored in any way - there are too many of us and we are, in some senses, fairly elusive.

And a lot of us are very good at our 2nd jobs. Would John Kerry's fanciful "Christmas in Cambodia" been exposed without the blogsphere? Absolutely not and we owe the Kerry Haters blog for their persistence and intelligent pursuit of that story.

The same will be true when the downfall of Barack Hussein Obama is chronicled. Many of the very troubling facts about this "form over substance" candidate have been unearthed via the blogsphere.

Would the attempted judicial lynching of 4 innocent students at Duke University been examined in such detail and exposed so thoroughly in the absence of Durham in Wonderland (a fabulous blog)? Maybe Nifong would still have his law license (and still hold public office) and those 4 INNOCENT young men would still be being railroaded by an unscrupulous prosecutor and a substance-abusing, prevaricating sociopath named Crystal Magnum.

Those who are afraid of the blogsphere don't understand the self-regulation we welcome and the positive results we can effect. Or maybe their fear is based on their loss of control over the information flow in this nation. Either way, we're here and we're doggone good at what we do. Deal!

Blogosfera de Cuba said...

Citación de reunión de todos los bloggeros Cubanos
¿Sabes que vamos a reunirnos todos los bloggeros Cubanos en Europa Y Estados Unidos?

ahhh.... si no lo sabes ve a la pagina de información donde hay una pilaaa e cosas. no importa como pienses, como seas o donde estas. Solo importa que seas Cubano o que ames a Cuba esa isla de todos. La intención es el acercamiento y el diálogo entre todos los cubanos. Porque todos los Cubanos somos lo mismo.

La blogosfera cubana sigue ampliándose, y con ella crecen las ideas y expectativas de sus bloggers. Al convocar este Primer Encuentro de Bloggers Cubanos pretendemos traspasar el mundo virtual del blog y encontrarnos, en un ambiente de reflexión, con personas interesantes, a muchas de las cuales habremos leído en alguna ocasión, pero que nunca hemos saludado en persona, y a otras que seguiremos leyendo después de conocerlas, que reflejan todas el tema cubano en sus bitácoras.

Siendo el blog un instrumento de opinión, y también de reportaje, en Blogueando a Cuba tendremos oportunidad de compartir experiencias en temas tecnológicos, culturales y también nuestros puntos de vista sobre el futuro de la nación cubana a la que pertenecemos, incluyendo a la comunidad de bloggers que viven en Cuba. Reforzaremos con ello la creciente popularidad de este formato de comunicación. No faltará tampoco la parte lúdica y la música cubana, bien común cuya excelencia nos une, por encima de las fronteras y los rencores.

Creemos que será un evento enriquecedor, plural y abierto, de seguro un referente para futuros encuentros y una muestra del factor de progreso que constituyen ya las redes sociales y la Web participativa. ¡Te invitamos a unirte en este propósito!


Voluntario pero sin escopeta.

Grupo organizativo de bloggers por un sueño

-oe esto me suena a citación del comité militar....
-nooo está bien así
-esto suena raroooo
-que no coompadreee que esto es un fiestón Cubano
-oeee se va a caer la barbacoa con tanta gente
-tate tranquilo y cuelga el telefono que yo creo que nos están oyendo.
-ta bien.....¿cuando empezamos??

nonee moose said...

Good post, Henry. The blogosphere is vast and untamed. And challenging. And, fortunately, democratic (little d). Here's to keeping that way.

Cheo "El Gallo" Valdés said...

Hola Henry, I have read several of your posts, and I must say that you are absolutely on the money, especially on your analysis of the current political landscape in this country.

I invite you to check out my blog at whenever you have a chance and any feedback from you would be an honor. ¡Cuídate!