After a week, Rubel — a blogging aficionado and practitioner who writes about the narrow topic of how blogs and participatory journalism are affecting the practice of public relations — says he definitely lacked the depth of knowledge of current events gained in a normal week. “I felt a little naked,” he says, having received the basics of the week’s news from blogs, but not getting the real meat. —Steve Outing
—The Blog-Only News Diet (PoynterOnline)
Of course Rubel got a shallow perspective on the news… his experiment involved only reading the blog entries (and, presumably, whatever excerpts from other sources the bloggers chose to post). He didn’t follow the links that bloggers cited. The bloggers held big steaming slabs of meat out to him, but he ignored them in favor of the garnishes.
This is a fundamental misuse of the medium of hypertext. If you write for traditinal print, you have to define your terms, and put in all the necessary background and context, so that your reader can construct something of significance out of the information you have provided. When you write for hypertext, you can simply link to the background, definitions, and context — the sequential paragraph just isn’t the main conveyor of meaning in hypertext prose.
Rubel might just as well have printed out these blog entries and read them on a park bench — he’s reading the words, but the words are only part of the medium.
While it’s very clear to anyone who has spent time in message forums or blogs that many people don’t actually “click through” to check sources, still, to create an experiment that deliberately preculdes click-throughs probably won’t end up measuring anything about blogs.
Like a good journalist, Outing doesn’t offer any criticism directly, but he does link to Jeff Jarvis, who claims Rubel’s experiment is a PR stunt. (Rubel responds & Jarvis re-responds in the comments.)
Blogs do serve as a platform for opinion, but there are countless blogs that I value not because I agree with (or even care about) the blogger’s opinions, but because the blog is a great source for intersting links.
Via Torill Mortensen, who cautions, “Some blogs can act as news sources and contain journalistic coverage of a topic. But don’t confuse the channel and the medium! A blog is a channel for many different genres, and not a newsmedium.”
Maybe my next scholarly project will be an experiment in which I watch TV with my eyes closed. Or maybe I’ll read only words that have no vowels in them.