Friday, April 17, 2009

Metablogging on WAR investigations

In response to this question from Phil Munger at Progressive Alaska: "What is the most important thing I learned about our on-line community during the Ross nomination process?" here is a little metablogging:

One of the topics I frequently blog about is that of community--community in the physical sense and also in the virtual sense. A community is not made of people who all think the same way, it is people who share a space. Bloggers share the blogosphere, although they are, figuratively and literally, all over the map. The community of Alaska bloggers is connected by links and the readers who traverse those linkages--and by the effect their words have on the rest of the world. Wayne Anthony Ross' nomination brouhaha further emphasized for me that Alaska bloggers are a VERY powerful force for investigative journalism, essentially because we work together, piecing together parts of a story, confirming research by others and catching errors or refuting rumor or lies.

This is not to say that blogging is journalism--it's a different animal--but by taking advantage of the biases or interests or skills of the different bloggers out there, a group of bloggers can focus in on all aspects of a situation in a rapid, in-depth, interconnected way. Rather than one tight story with all the loose ends tidied, one gets a big tangled knot of a discussion/investigation with lots of threads leading off into other arenas. And some bloggers, of course, have a penchant for trying to make sense of the whole, so we get overviews, too. (I think the medium lends itself to being succinct. Mostly.)

With Ross, we discovered several people and issues, emphasizing and researching that which interested us--so a full picture developed of who Ross was, what this nomination might mean for many different groups (Natives, gays, women, children, lawyers, gun collectors, hunters, legislators, etc.) as well as the overall state overall, what the process of nomination entailed, the relationship of the governor to her nominee, and so on. And by developing this picture over many days and many blogs, many people learned about him—and obviously decided that he wasn't making a pleasant view. We achieved influence.

There was an interesting news story on Democracy Now! this morning about how an investigation into the murder of a journalist was solved by newspeople from different media and papers working together. The Chauncy Bailey Project was, to the reporters working on it, a novel sort of collaboration (rather than a competition to, say, get the story out first), but this happens all the time on the web. Bloggers rely on collaboration, in fact, through linking and quoting other bloggers, through the people who comment, through anything on the web or that can be placed on the web. And these days, that's pretty much anything.

When we make a conscious effort to collaborate, to make, in effect, a temporary intentional community, we've got a good chance of discovering the truth of things--and that, I think, speaks for itself. Certainly it did in this case.

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