BlogHer Voice of the Week: Odd Time Signatures
In the past month, tens of thousands of barrels of oil gushed out of BP's broken Gulf of Mexico oil well to collide with, among other wildlife, news media that have changed dramatically since the Exxon Valdez oil spill horrified national television audiences in 1989.
One man expressed dismay with the quality of news on BP's spill, including blog coverage:
"Where's Walter [Cronkite]?" asked blogger Mark Bernstein, voicing his concern even science blogs covering Deepwater are doing a "lousy" job. Invoking Cronkite, oft-touted as the "most trusted man in America," Bernstein criticized blog coverage of the disaster:
"Where the hell is our press – amateur or professional? Where did the blogosphere go?...Yes, it’s a technical story with numbers and everything, and it’s inconvenient to cover and there are no cool pictures of naked ladies or stolen Apple products. C’mon folks: we’re better than this. Do the work."
In response, Karoli of Odd Time Signatures wrote the essay News, bloggers and oil spill coverage: You get what you pay for.
A blogger known for her exhaustive coverage of topics, Karoli reported assessing 3,000 pages of information on deepwater drilling and responded to Mark Bernstein's question.
"Mr. Bernstein, your problem isn’t science bloggers; it’s the Culture of News." wrote Karoli, going on to explain that the Culture of News dictates not only that all problems be solved in "five easy bullets" but also be "simple" with "pretty pictures" or, if none are available, someone to "blame." The ultimate insult, she added, is this Culture's false impression that bloggers "don't need to eat or make house payments" while encouraging the kind of "superficial, manipulative reporting" that uses emotion to overcome "reasonable thought and questions" across media.
In her post, Karoli reviewed and described how covering Hurricane Katrina via blog was quite different, in her opinion, from covering subterranean spills in the Gulf. She read a 582-page contingency plan and deduced that it was inadequate because BP was not required to consider a gusher 5,000 feet below the surface. She also voiced her concern that her take on the issue is "superficial" because she is not a scientist, hard data is difficult to come by and, hey, no one is paying her to do this.
That lack of investment in answers is her biggest concern. Where, Karoli asks, is popular demand for substantive investigative news reporting? Or are people getting what they want without it, via news-lite? That, she fears, is the answer and a real problem:
"Bernstein’s complaint is the same one we all have, but there are no easy answers and there is no avuncular Walter Cronkite to make us all feel better about what’s going on. In his absence, the press is opting for the shrill, blaming tone instead of one more honest and firm, to our all of our detriment. But then again, we get the press we ask for.
"There. is. no. plan. There. are. no. easy. solutions. ....In the meantime, don’t blame the bloggers...
"The success of sound-bitten superficial news speaks more to those who consume it than those who report it."
For her articulation of supply and demand in news reporting, and her call to take personal responsibility, Karoli of Odd Time Signatures is our BlogHer Voice of the Week.
Thanks to everyone for continuing to send in your nominated posts. Remember to nominate individual posts, not entire blogs, and keep them coming! If you want to check out all these posts, check out the BlogHer Voice of the Week archive.
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Lisa Stone, BlogHer Co-founder
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