Notes: Panel: The Blogger as Citizen Journalist

by Suw

Note: feel free to add to these notes, tidy up, etc.

Stowe Boyd
Sean Holman
Jeff MacIntyre
Hossein "Hoder" Derakhshan
Brian Lamb, moderator

Missed Sean Holman. Sorry.

Hossein Derakshan
Impact of internet in Iran beyond just blogs and journalism
Blog in Iran are windows - repressive regime, resistance to regime, all those things are making blogs very significant in terms of windows into what's happening. Frist thing you'll see in iranian blogs are major changes amongst new generation of Iranians - more tolerant, self-expressive, etc. than their parents. Hav e open comments, women are more active.

Blogs are functioning like bridges in Iran, connecting different parts of the society. Because of changes there are social islands and blogs connect them. Connections between genders, politicians and people, Between peopel who live in Iran and ex-pats. Couple of million Iranians left Iran after the revolution. Blogs are acting as cafes wehre people can talk about important issues like the nuclear programme, or possibility of attack on Iran by US. Not controlled by gov't so provides a unique free and unlimited space for this kind of discussion and critical debate. Can connect this idea to the idea of public sphere, and can see that happening in Iran.

Stowe Boyd
Not a journalist and worried he was in on false pretences. Corante is social media, social based media activism. Corante is a pioneer in the blog publishing space. 300% growth in readership since Oct, 500,000 readers per month now. Many blogs are dedicated to social activism in some way or another. We don't ahve a single platform, we don't get together and hammer out what we're trying to do. Based on the 'pamphleteers' of the 1860's - that's where we get the name from.

PubSub most linked to list we are 4 ahead of some news site.

"you have to be the change you want to make in the world" - Ghandi. Part of the desire to make an influence on the world requires passion. Need to work it through with your community, your thoughts and passions.

Marc Canter paying bloggers to promote stuff - Marqui. Explictly mentioning the product in their blogs. Most of the writing about Marqui hasn't dealt with the products, but the controversy.

Discusses the controversy over the flu vaccine problem, how the limited vaccines were goignn to be distributed, but that discussion had no success because it couldn't link through to the right people.

Also, Ernie Miller on Copyfight argued against the Induce act. Had big impact.

Sean Holman
Editor. Had some success covering provincial politics in print. Opinion and commentary are easy - it's easy to tell people about missile defence, etc. because all it takes is your brain. What is more difficult to do is actually digging up information, bringing your readers new info that they don't know about. that's the fundamental aspect of journalism.

On this front Canadian bloggers have not done a good job. They had no impact on the election campaign. There was a message board, called Free Dominion, where someone dissected a campaign add and found some sort of subliminal message in it - very subtle aboutwhether a gun looked as if it was firing - and that was picked up and resulted in a story in the media. But those sorts of success stories are a rarity, in canada anyway. More successful in the States.

The States has more in the way of bloggers talking about what's going on, which makes it easy for the bloggosphere to do the most basic journalism - dissecting and evaluating what is being said. There is little in Canada to dissect, and the media is for the most part not that diverse.

Comment from the floor: the politicians are more boring. Don't have anyone as nefarious as Tom DeLay in the US.

But maybe that's because people aren't paying attention. Maybe if we paid more attention they would say something interesting. Bloggers are commenting more on US politics.

Commnent from floor: spend less time looking at the people, and look at the issues instead. Need to dig deeper into background and context.

Stowe: The States has gone through an interesting transition where the media is going to the bloggers, news gets broken by the bloggers first, and the media are tracking blogs to see what's hot, then the media guys do the research from those hot stories.

Sean: There is also a distinction on different types of coverage. He's focussed on politics and bloggers are still ripping the mainstream media - dissecting and contextualising.

Q: What prevents journalists from Canada making the story interesting to us. It is not because politicians are boring.

Sean: That's a large question. I think a lot of it has to do, and this gets off the topic of blogging, but it has to do with the way thtat the political system runs - it's dominated by party systems where individual politicians are subsumed by the parties. Journalists focus on one or two major stories of the day and they don't work on making it interesting.

Jeff: There are cultural differences twixt Canada and US, the industry doesn't really allow deeper commentary in Canada.

Sean: unless you're going to be a full time blogger, there is no existing coverage to feed off. And that's frustrating for a lot of people in Canada. Resources are really limited.

Media concentration is also a problem. Among other things, all the big-paper content is behind payware-archive barriers.

Stowe: You don't have to feed off the media, you can do your own research. E.g. Jeff Jarvis digging into complaints about a program which turned out to be from just a few people.

Karl: Comparing the US and Canada is not valid - because they are not the same size. There are archives on the web so saying there is no media to discuss is not correct. The culture is different.

Some of the Québec papers have their archives online, e.g. Le Devoir.

Floor: bloggers aren't talking about celebrities and cults of personality. Canadians are doing something different to the US bloggers.

Hossein: Iranians - seeing much more political debate and discussion. Why blogs aren't so popular in Canada - in a very embryonic stage, and there's potential for them to be more active.

Sean: Essential to have an active blogosphere that doesn't just opine but also have original thoughts.

Stowe: If people watch more TV they use the internet less. People switch from news on TV to news from the web.

Hossein: media coverage is important in bringing blogs to the attention of the people. In Iran you see hundreds of references to weblogs.

Sean: mainstream media in canada is still reaching larger numbers of people [suw: isn't that a given?] If that is the case, that the mainstream media isn't picking it up, how do you get the attention.

Stowe: if you wanted to make changes, how would you do it? If people wanted to make a difference, then it's a matter of starting a group blog and collectivise.

Floor: Catch 22 - everybody in the media reads blogs but no one mentions them but because no one mentions them they are not seen as a legitimate source.