U.S. News & World Report reported last week that several senior Republican senators — upon hearing that “blogs” had uncovered the Dan Rather scandal, helped to defeat Tom Daschle and pushed for the resignation of CNN executive Eason Jordan — demanded that “blogs” be added to their official Web sites.
Even though, as a Capitol Hill Web consultant told the magazine, most of them hadn’t the slightest idea of what a “blog” actually is.
It’s an amusing story, but the more I read about the weblogging phenomenon from traditional media sources — the more I hear about it from talk show hosts and pundits, and the more triumphalism, tribalism, and group hurt we’re starting to see from the “blogosphere” — the more I’m convinced that even “hip” reporters and tech-savvy bloggers themselves don’t really “get” blogs any more than those senior Republican senators do.
In truth, “blogs” are nothing more than a relatively new way of distributing information, just as radio, television, newsprint, and conventional Web sites once were. Blogs differ from other media in that they provide links for easy referencing, they’re more easily and quickly updated (and, consequently, many times less carefully edited), they allow for more interaction between reader and publisher, and there’s virtually no barrier to entry — meaning just about anyone can start his or her own blog. You don’t need to win the approval of an editor. You don’t need start-up money from a publisher. You don’t need a radio tower.