Trust and the blogosphere

Trust and the blogosphere.
Everywhere I go as an evangelist for New Media and citizen journalism, I encounter the same question. How do you know you can trust the validity of what bloggers report? The question is often buried within statements like, “I dismiss that whole thing (blogging) completely, because there’s no way to know if it’s being written by some 13-year old somewhere.”

The question is understandable, but it stems from Modernist assumptions about the news media. It assumes that trust is somehow imputed to professional journalists through their education, their position within an editor-governed entity, and the history and traditions of that entity. This elitist assumption is a common self-delusion among journalists but has no bearing in reality. Firstly, the Jayson Blairs of the world have proven the fallibility of the vaunted institution of professional journalism, but, more importantly, professional journalists have no more right to claim trustworthiness than anybody else. That determination is reserved for the reader, viewer, etc. And public trust in the news media has never been lower.

The self-governing nature of the blogosphere is perplexing to traditional journalism types. There is no hierarchical blessing granted to one but not the other, and this flies in the face of their training and the history of the press since the days of Walter Lippmann.

My response to the question is to ask another. “Who grants this trust to you (journalist) in the first place? Upon whose authority is it based?” This is a question most journalists have never honestly considered, for it is assumed that the anointing takes place somehow during the education and employment process. This is artificial and illusionary, for trustworthiness cannot be so granted. That power belongs with those from whom the trust is desired.

Frankly, I trust the blogosphere more than I do the traditional press for two reasons. One, deception is quickly weeded out by others within the blogosphere, and I find that refreshing. Two, the blogosphere isn’t governed by the artificial journalistic hegemony called “objectivity,” and it is, therefore, more honest. That, too, is refreshing.

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