Thursday, June 07, 2007

Facing The Beast

If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism. ~Hunter S. Thompson

"Did you guys sit up here so you can throw things", I quipped to Amani, Amber and Rusty who sat on the front row of the Brown Room in the Commerce Club.

By nature, bloggers are a rough and tumble bunch. We are not insulated by brick, mortar, cubicle walls and layers and layers of editors and legal teams. Every day, we throw our stuff out to the world and expect to get some thrown back. Living in the harsh evolutionary world of online communities, we also instinctually give back as good as we get.

So, of course we sat on the front row.

We had gathered for the Atlanta Press Club's discussion on "New Media: The Changing Landscape". The panel consisted of Mark Bauer of WSB-TV, Lea Donosky of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Lila King of CNN Interactive and John Patton of ThePort network. Given this particular make-up, I placed the over-under of those sitting behind name cards understanding our world at 1. I really do not like losing. Good thing there wasn't a bookie around because I would have lost a bundle.

It didn't take long for the fireworks to start. The second question of the evening questioned the credibility of blogs. A hilarious sidenote. I discovered later the person who posed the question was not even a member of the press. According to friend standing nearby, she was a woman who just wandered in off the street because she was bored.

But no matter the source, there it was. The dreaded "c" word. The discussion became heated at times with such phrases as "gatekeepers" and "guardians of democracy" tossed around like poor hapless cows caught in a tornado. At one point, a person even painted bloggers as "entertainment". Hadn't heard that one before.

Then something interesting happened. The panelists interceded. Mark Bauer told a story of working at CNN in the early days when the network was not even allowed in the pool at the White House. Lea Donosky pointed out the first "citizen journalist" in this country was Thomas Paine. She even called out her fellow press members, including some of her co-workers, on certain pre-conceived notions.

It was difficult to say if minds were changed. Certainly, some of the stalwart defenders of the old ways were not swayed. It was hard to not be frustrated when someone who claims to be a "guardian of the truth" continued to repeat urban myths about the quality of new media. But, if the panel and the people who approached us afterward were evidence, the voices of disbelief and wariness continue to fall by the wayside.

And the conversation will continue. We in the new media will continue to challenge those in the traditional media. We will continue to agitate. We will continue to defend. We will continue to demonstrate we are more than entertainment. And we won't be hard to find.

We will most likely be the ones sitting on the front row.

You can hear a podcast of the panel discssion here.


Grayson: Atlanta, GA said...

In a way, I'm grateful that there is always some voice warbling the same 'ole "blogs have no credibility" yadayadayada. That's always our cue to jump in on that issue! It's an inevitability we now come to expect.

And also the "why don't bloggers go out to stuff and report?" inevitability statement. Love that one, as it always presents the perfect opportunity to point out just exactly where, had they bothered to read out blogs, some of the many exciting places we have graced with our delightful, editor-free presence...

From the Gold Dome to the backyard to the frontyard to strip clubs to rooftops to parades to political rallys to purpose driven drivel to skanky bars to the Yacht Club to martini bars to bars-in-general to church to movie production sets to NPUs to to hurricanes to tornadoes to Tuxedo Road mansions to Burger King managers (name that tune) to discussion boards to rattlesnake-ridden yards to recording studios to state fairs to synagogue to the Waffle House to Twist to Paris to Kabul to the mountains to the prairies to the strip mall to the farm to jury duty to Wilson's mic to the beach to the 'burbs to the social media conferences to dance class to a loft to a dive to get my nails done to weddings to funerals to laboratories to soccer games to delivery rooms to emergency rooms to surgery to waiting rooms to the dentist to screening rooms to screaming matches to bed to Manhattan to Broklyn to Jersey to encounters with cars hoods from bikes to soup kitchens to church to hell and back to press conferences to the vet to sheer wide heaven to estates to piney woods to trials to bedsides to mental hospitals to rehab to the spa to the shrink to get a haircut to conventions to knitting class to the store to courtrooms to barns to back roads to Second Life to Washington to the White House to summer camp to LA to the Punchline to see a man about a dog to concerts to traffic snarls to pools to country clubs to Lenny's to cocktail parties to the stadium to newsrooms to the neighbor's kitchen to Starbucks to Manuel's to the bathroom to boardrooms -- and always back to Manuel's.

And of course anywhere and everywhere in between.

I'd say bloggers pretty much have EVERYWHERE covered. Imagine the sheer ignorant bliss of anyone who would think otherwise.

Jacqui said...

There are many steps between ignorance and an enlightened. So I don't think the panel on Thursday was going to change too many. For many, it was their first public discussion about blogging where there were actually 'live' bloggers in the room.

It was a shame that majority of the Atlanta Press Club board did not attend. Many of my colleagues in that group could have benefitted from the discussion.

Glad for the attendance by bloggers and hope that you will all be at the Atlanta Press Club's next "new media" event.

Amber Rhea said...

You couldn't keep us away if you tried! ;)