A week or two ago, I had a conversation with a couple of coworkers about the use of blogs/social media to gather information about subjects (and hence justify why I spend so many hours on Google Reader). They were fairly skeptical of the ability of blogs to do the same job that the New York Times or the Economist did.
Although we didn’t settle the debate (it takes time to convince the uninitiated), I had three basic responses:
- Speed – Services like Twitter are now so fast that there is even some talk about leveraging Twitter as an early warning system/communication system for disasters.
- Insight – News agencies don’t always provide insight or analysis. They relay talking points and soundbytes. They wrap it up with fancy “wrapping paper”, but they don’t reliably provide useful insight. Blogs can be a great source of insightful commentary and background — especially for things that are out of scope or out of the reach for many traditional news sources.
- Reputation – One issue my coworkers had was that nobody was regulating what bloggers said. “Why should you trust what a blogger has to say?” I replied, “Why should you trust what the New York Times is saying?” The answer to the original dilemma, of course, is to only read blogs which you trust. “But how do you know who to trust?” You don’t. But, while you might not know if you can trust a single random journalist from a single newspaper, thanks to the power of blogging, I can quickly read blog entries by Ezra Klein, Greg Mankiw, Megan McArdle, and Tyler Cowen and not only get four insightful accounts (often with sources for me to get more information) from people I trust more than a random reporter for a newspaper, but compare their accounts and perspectives to formulate my own informed opinion. Not so easy to do with even a newspaper editorial section.
Moreover, its not like the traditional media aren’t using Twitter/Wikipedia/blogs to do their own research: (HT: PhysOrg)
An Irish student’s fake quote on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia has been used in newspaper obituaries around the world, the Irish Times reported.
Shane Fitzgerald, 22, a final-year student studying sociology and economics at University College Dublin, told the newspaper he placed the quote on the website as an experiment when doing research on globalisation.
Fitzgerald told the newspaper he picked Wikipedia because it was something a lot of journalists look at and it can be edited by anyone.
“I didn’t expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers? I was very surprised about,” he said.