After reading many of the early critiques of blogging, I noticed one fairly common theme: the idea of the “pajama charge,” or a group of people writing out of their basements while sporting nothing but underwear and a t-shirt.
This critique on web content is a tale as old as time. For those who grew up in the internet age, it is strongly engrained in our psyche to take everything we read on the internet extremely loosely. After all, anyone can edit Wikipedia, right? And anyone can spout their opinions on a blog, right?
Well, quite frankly, yes. Yes, anyone can edit Wikipedia, and anyone can pour their soul out on a blog. We’ve all seen reports on fake news, and I’m sure we have some familiarity with Breitbart. There are still places on the web that blatantly publish misinformation, or drastically alter the truth in a way that some label as “alternative fact.”
Yet, during this regression of content, I strongly feel that we are also seeing just as much – if not an increasing amount of – credible content. While you still have your fair share of crazies (insert reference to tin hat guy in mom’s basement), there is also this expectation that bloggers in particular are not all trolls, but people who have valuable insights worth reading. That was the case with Talking Points Memo, Little Green Footballs, and many sports blogs that all played roles in challenging the dominant narrative that mainstream news media was putting forth regarding an official story.
Now, I want to make it incredibly clear that I do not advocate for people to believe everything they read on the internet. That’s just wrong. What I am suggesting is that the internet user who grew up in the digital age has a type of “online literacy” that helps them filter through content that is legitimate, versus content that is clearly not credible. Blogs like TPM caught on at a time when the internet was still a developing platform. The public was still figuring out how exactly to utilize it as a tool for business, news, or whatever else they felt was important. Now, the Internet is here, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon – unless China or Russia can help it, but I’ll leave that topic for tin hat guy to explore.
The established nature of Internet 2k17 has drastically altered the playing field for our bloggers and digital muckrakers. News organizations, along with most of the general public, understand how to navigate the web. They know how to find what they want – and with the advent of social media, they know how to share that content, and even create micro-versions of that content on their own.
Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: time to talk about social media. With this new online literacy, Internet-users are now hopping in on the content creation-train in their own tiny – albeit, maybe a tad self-serving and lazy, as some might argue – way. They are flocking to Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other forms of social media as a way to contribute their two-cents to the topics of the day. While this may not hold the same integrity as a blog post, there is no doubt that these bloggers are utilizing social media to spread their ideas and even discover new ones. It is essentially what we saw in the early days of blogging, but replace a search of the entire internet with the search of a hashtag on Twitter. As soon as you type a hot topic into that little search box, you’ll be inundated with millions of comments from Twitter-users all over the world who all have something to say about it. Of course, there is much more noise to sort through. But at the same time, there is much more access to what communities across the globe are thinking and feeling about a certain subject.
Bloggers and independent news outlets realized this. As some of the first outlets to experiment with the digital world, they are typically the ones at the forefront of the trends, figuring out ways to use these platforms to their advantage. Take Democracy Now! for example. They have an entire position devoted to social media and outreach. The description includes:
Foster alliance building and networking amongst Democracy Now! supporters, likeminded groups and organizations, and journalists/bloggers/editors
Help generate content for and manage Democracy Now!’s social media platforms, including: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, SoundCloud, Tumblr, Instagram & Pinterest
Monitor the Democracy Now! social media platforms and identify ways to engage our audience
Of course, it might be of interest to note that this is an internship position, which most likely warrants a plethora of socially-conscious millennials applying for the post. However, Democracy Now! has done something really important here. They have recognized the power of this platform, and they have implemented a position that will work to filter through the noise of it all. They are making connections with the communities they cover, which can often lead to more in-depth and inclusive content.
Basically, they’re taking the spirit of the blogger one step further by adding in this new element: social media. Of course, the same arguments that people have against blogging still hold – anyone can post anything on Twitter or Facebook, in the same way that anyone can post anything on Wikipedia or the Internet in general. To me, this means that we need a role that can filter through all that – like the social media position at Democracy Now!. We need an increased sense of digital literacy, and we need bloggers who can apply that digital literacy to expand upon their reporting.
And hey, if they choose to do that in their pajamas from the comfort of their own basement, who are we to stop them?