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Missing the Point, Redux

Bertrand Pecquerie, in a guess blog posting on CBSNews.com (I’m doing one later this week), sums up:

In the U.S., people blog but they don’t vote. Virtual democracy doesn’t seem to have any affect on real democracy. In Europe, we vote (last week’s elections in Italy, for instance, had an 83% voter turnout), but we blog in the political sense very little. Which democracy is the most vibrant?

So, for the second week out of three, CBSNews.com is featuring a piece (here’s the other, and my response) that questions the foundation of the emerging genre we call citizen journalism. In both cases, representatives of the traditional Fourth Estate are doubting the usefulness of the Fifth Estate of bloggers and others who don’t fit into the neat boundaries of the professional class of journalists. In both cases, they raise interesting questions that devolve into straw-men attacks.

Bertrand’s equation above — more blogging=less democracy — is laughably spurious. I mean, the old East Germany had 99.999 percent turnout and not an ounce of officially permitted independent thinking: Now there was a democracy, right?

Professional journalism does not gain credibility by casting stones at the bottom-up media, which definitely can use some improvement as it veers into journalism but is not trying — at least not in my view of things — to replace the traditional media.

Pecquerie suggests that citizen media is just another bubble. By what standard? Does he truly think that people, having discovered their ability to voice their concerns and pass along their knowledge to neighbors and others of like interests, will suddenly decide to shut up? I do not.

I agree, in part, with some of his critiques of U.S. media in the run-up to the Iraq war. It is almost beyond question that the American press failed as a whole — with some honorable exceptions — in its solemn duty to question authority on behalf of the public. But that has nothing whatever to do with citizen journalism; it was a failing of big institutions all on their own. They didn’t need anyone’s help.

  • See also Jeff Jarvis’ response (he and I are Pecquerie’s joint targets in the citizen media world).

3 Comments on “Missing the Point, Redux”

  1. #1 BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » My co-conspirator responds
    on Apr 16th, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    [...] Bertrand Pecquerie of the World Editors Forum, went after citizens’ media, Dan Gillmor, and me at CBSNews.com. I responded here. Now Dan responds to the second of two attacks on us citizens at CBSNews: In both cases, representatives of the traditional Fourth Estate are doubting the usefulness of the Fifth Estate of bloggers and others who don’t fit into the neat boundaries of the professional class of journalists. In both cases, they raise interesting questions that devolve into straw-men attacks. [...]

  2. #2 Dave Goldstick
    on Apr 17th, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Just as our government is set up with “checks and balances” so does the blogging “Fifth Estate” provide a similar mechanism for the media. Why should Bertrand feel threatened by common people such as us? One must wonder. Looking forward to your piece on CBSNews, Dan.

  3. #3 Kaaiman » Niet bloggen, maar stemmen
    on May 30th, 2006 at 7:28 am

    [...] Pas op, zegt Gillmor. In de DDR stemde altijd 99,999%, maar dat kun je toch geen democratie noemen? [...]