What are these things called "blogs"?

In the past week, I've been approached by a number of people who have been introduced to this and other blogs through a series of letters I wrote to the Hudson Star Observer. In these conversations, it's become clear that most people have heard the word "blog," but hadn't seen one or really knew what one was. It's sort of like "Big Foot." There's a lot of that about Big Foot, yet few have ever seen him or her.

Blogs have received much attention and have been associated loudly with the right-wing side of politics. However, there are left-wing blogs, personal diary blogs, family picture blogs, etc. Being a new blog in town, I'm not sure which political direction this blog will tilt. There is a list of contributors in the upper right corner. A couple I know and the rest I've never met in person. I assume everybody joining this blog is an adult and they are entitled to their opinions and I hope to provide a forum for them. Even if they aren't adults, their entitled to their opinions. Time will tell...

To give some insight into what blogs are, I will share something out of the July/August 2005 edition of the Columbia Journalism Review (http://www.cjr.org). The article is titled: The Crowded Theater -- It's time for American journalism to rise out of its defensive crouch. It is by Douglas McCollum, a contributing editor to CJR.

The article discusses the current state of investigative journalism in the US and discusses examples like the Newsweek story about the Koran toilet flushing article that contributed to a deadly riot in Pakistan, Watergate, the Dan Rather/Bush memo incident, etc. The article also touches on blogs and the role bloggers are playing in today's news world. The changing technological forces in our world have spread TV news viewership around to many networks, newspaper readership is continuing to drop, talk radio is echoing louder and louder, the bloggers are starting to play a part of the business of news.


Increasingly, every utterance of the so-called MSM (mainstream media) is scrutinized by cadres of bloggers who have combined excess downtime with a ready distribution network. At their best, such blog-swarms represent a welcome antidote to sloppy journalism and ensure that important information is vetted and disseminated. At their worst, they become a gigantic amplifier for cranks and malcontents.

The bleeding center of this battle pits conservative bloggers against the MSM they so despise. Let's dispense with pleasantries -- the bloggers are correct that working journalists, as a group, are more liberal than the general population (the more interesting question, which no one ever seems to ask, is why). For instance, a recent survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that only 9 percent of journalists describe themselves as politically conservative, as compared with 38 percent of the public at large. Much of the ambient energy of the conservative blogosophere is dedicated to forcing the MSM to concede a liberal bias. It's as if, being partisans themselves, the right-wing bloggers can't abide even the concept of objective assessment of fact. Nor can they imagine professionals who mistrust their own leanings, and try to report past them.

Objective journalism is nutured by the assumption of shared values. It was the common burdens of depression and war (world and cold) in the last century that reinforced the idea of an objective press, a high-minded model adopted in response to excess of the earlier "yellow" journalism. That social consensus was put to the test, needles to say, during the Vietnam and Watergate eras. Since then, the notion of consensus itself has come under increasing pressure both in and out of journalism, and many of those who've tried to stay in the middle of the road have gotten squashed -- on the bench, in the media, and in Congress (studies of voting trends show that it is twice as polarized in Congress as it was thrity year ago). The separation of the polity into two evenly divided camps has left precious little room for moderation in any walk of public life, and the press is among the institutions feeling the ideological squeeze.
When I have discussions with right-wing bloggers, I always hear the "mainstream news liberal bias" tag line frequently. My question to them is "Are you talking about the 5:30 network nightly news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC?" When they say yes, I ask for examples of this liberal bias. I also ask how much "news" is even on those shows? Gee, they all have 10 minutes of commercials, 10 minutes of hard news and 10 minutes of fluff news. What impact does that have on people? Especially since most don't even what it! Most of these people are parrotting talking points they picked up from Rush Limbaugh or host of other conservative media figures. Think about it...

In college, I studied journalism and after college I worked at weekly newspapers for a couple years. I was trained to get both side of the story. Twenty-five years ago, practicing community journalism in western Wisconsin meant long hours, low pay, lousy benefits and a non-existent benefit plan. On top of that pile on the local cheapshot artists and malcontents who publicly attack you for every misplaced comma in the current edition and you got a job few last long at.

I have a great deal of empathy for our local newspaper people. It takes a certain dedication to keep covering those meetings, crimes, weddings, deaths, fires, birthdays, parades, community events, high school sporting events, i.e., the daily life of the community you live in. When I see the local reporters being attack be certain groups of people in the community -- people who have absolutely no clue what it takes to get the paper on-time week after week -- I'm reminded that it is part of the benefit package of newspaper reporting.

Are newspapers perfect? Nope. Could they do a better job? Yup. When you strip away the newsprint and wash off the ink that make of your newspaper, you are left with a people. Like the rest of us, they are imperfect humans and could all do a better job. Unlike most of us, they are under constant public scrutiny.

Unlike some blogs site, I won't pretend this blog is a legitimate news organization. Rather, I would like to think of it as a park bench -- maybe one sitting up in Prospect Park overlooking the St. Croix River valley -- where we can sit down and discuss the world we live in and try to figure things out like rational human beings.

When there's a war going on, everyday is Veterans' Day

A salute to our blog neighbors ONTHEBORDERLINE for removing their picture of a group of their people celebrating by holding up a Confederate flag. That is completely their decision and we support their right to freedom of expression. I have no intention of playing the "taste police" role on this blog site. ONTHEBORDERLINE has to decide for its collective self what is in good and bad taste.

Remember, there are serious things taking place in our world. There was a thought-provoking story by Thom Shanker in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sunday titled: 'Patriotism lite' irks those serving.' Below is a partial excert. The full story can be reached at this link: www.pioneerplanet.com

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.

From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: If America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?

There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.

There are no concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past.

"Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us," said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq.

Members of the military who discussed their sense of frustration did so only when promised anonymity, as comments viewed as critical of the civilian leadership could end their careers. The sentiments were expressed in more than two dozen interviews and casual conversations with enlisted personnel, noncommissioned officers, midlevel officers, and general or flag officers in Iraq and in the United States.

Charles Moskos, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University specializing in military sociology, said: "My terminology for it is 'patriotism lite,' and that's what we're experiencing now in both political parties. The political leaders are afraid to ask the public for any real sacrifice, which doesn't speak too highly of the citizenry."

Whether you are for, against or increasingly confused and/or frustrated by what is going on in Iraq, our soldiers deserve our support. Likewise, both citizens and soldiers need to know what our future expections should be concerning the war in Iraq.


Please Help Me Understand the right?

Why do they scream for smaller government, less involvement, yet want to intervene in who gets married, privacy, and other personal issues?

Why do they want choice among schools yet do not want to open the doors to any child, they want competition yet they want the field to be slanted towards privatization. Tax dollars should equal each child but the private schools should have the right to not take a child with disabilities or child that is english language learner. I don't have a problem with school choice as long as the playing field is level.

They believe Public Education is a crime against all taxpayers, they are being forced to pay for public education, yet isn't it the same argument to state that I don't drive on certain roads so I shouldn't be forced to pay for the service to those roads, or due to the recent police controversy in Hudson I want to hire my own P.I. so my tax dollars shouldn't go to City Hall (I fully support our police department and what they did, this was just an analogy)!

I don't understand a group of people that can state they are 100% American yet be so cold, so brutally disrespectful to anybody that does not have the same view. Why so hateful towards educators...they had a choice to become educators and choose a different profession so be it!

These are just a few issues that I just don't understand...Right wing fundamentalists, help me to understand!