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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Legacy media, the blogosphere, and the intelligent design controversy

A friend wonders whether legacy mainstream media are having any better luck yet understanding what the intelligent design controversy is about. I replied saying that I am not sure that it matters, because their circulation is slowly but surely slipping. And so is their cultural significance. They are being replaced by the blogosphere, for better and worse.

Sometimes the coverage will be better and sometimes it will be worse. With the intelligent design controversy, for example, you are usually far better off reading the blogs or listening to audio of both sides than you are reading or viewing typical news coverage. That has been true ever since I started watching the controversy systematically in 2001.

In May of this year, I gave a workshop at the joint meeting of the Canadian Church Press and Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada on the blogosphere. There I noted,
The blogosphere is 30 times as big as it was 3 years ago, according to sources, with about 70,000 new weblogs are created every day. A new weblog appears every second. Who blogs? - roughly 60 million, could double in the next year. Many blogs are read by nobody, some by thousands. On the average, about 200 people a day read mine.

Yes, the creation of new blogs will level off, of course. Yes, many blogs just disappear. And yes, many are of indifferent (or awful) quality. But don't mistake legacy media grousing about the blogosphere for prophecy. Don’' mistake what I am saying for prophecy either. Consider rather how the drift to new media impacts YOUR operations.

And I quoted,
“Scan the headlines of 2005 and one question seems inevitable: Will we recall this as the year when journalism in print began to die ?”
- Project for Excellence in Journalism, State of News Media

A newspaper is a boat, a highly evolved mechanism designed and built to float in water. Blogs are bikes, built to cruise in another environment. Now, you can pull a bunch of planking off a boat and add wheels and pedals, but that won't make it as light and maneuverable as a bike."

- Blogads’ Henry Copeland
(LA Times March 7, 2007)

Will print newspapers even exist twenty years from now? Judging by the pile of newspapers that stack up in my recycling bin in mint condition each week, the odds can't be good.

– Patrick Ruffini, The Information Hunter-Gatherers, March 10, 2007

Slowly but surely, the marketplace is coming to be dominated by a rising generation unaccustomed to the touch of newsprint at their fingerprints. It's not just that everything is moving to the Web. It's that the notion of broadcasting to the masses is dying. The audience used to passively consume content; now they're information hunter-gatherers, cobbling together a customized diet of information from the Web and their TiVo. To succeed in this environment, your media has to be interesting every time out or the viewer will time-shift to something else. That's different than the days when your name had to be Dan, Peter, or Tom, and the 6:30 time slot was your megaphone. – Patrick Ruffini, The Information Hunter-Gatherers, March 10, 2007

Generally, a related development is that legacy mainstream media are no longer able to simply control public perceptions to advance an agenda with which its owner, writers, or advertisers feel comfortable. Cornelia Dean of the New York Times was not able to get a persecution going against young earth geologist Marcus Ross, for example, though her article makes obvious the fact that she was trying. Increasingly, legacy media have been reduced to actually trying to find out what is going on in the intelligent design controversy.

Here, I talk about the way in which legacy media have functioned as the best friends of the intelligent design guys, totally against the media people's own intentions and wishes - ensuring that far more people now read ID books than ever would have otherwise. I'd love to write a book some time about how and why that happened, especially about the role of the evil wizards at the Discovery Institute (har, har) who have time and again - apparently effortlessly - made both negative legacy media coverage and the normal behaviour of frantic Darwinists work in their interests.

That is not, of course, a mystery, let alone a plot. I am uncertain about whether it even required exceptional intelligence. It required exceptional realism about one's own environment, of course - I would be inclined to call it hyperrealism, but that sounds too much like art gallery lingo. Anyway, back to work. I don't blog for a living, after all, and I have a couple more stories to put up before I can go back to my day job.

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