10 November 2006

Trusting Our Blogs

Over at The Information Soldier, Aníbal muses (in Spanish) on how he's come to rely on local bloggers for his "take" on Our realities, as opposed to the "foreignized" versions We seem to be getting from Our media.

Although I feel his point was well-made, The Soldier tossed the ball in My court for a more complete analysis. As they say, Soldier, your command is My wish.

The tendency to seek out alternative media or non-standard aspects of the traditonal news media has been well-observed in the States. Bloggers have directly influenced the political process by zeroing in on key issues (usually mistakes by politicians) and only later do the traditional media pick them up. And the phenomenon of a growing number of young adults eschewing the nightly news in favor of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and (in My case) Countdown with Keith Olbermann is well-documented.

Less well-documented is a recent study that indicates that the amount of content in national news shows and "comedy news shows" is just about the same. In other words, you're just as likely to receive hard facts and weighed analysis with Jon or Stephen or Keith as with Katie and the hairpieces.

And therein lies the rub, as Billy (Shakespeare) used to say. For just as you can learn as much as with a serious teacher as with a funny one, We prefer the funny ones. Not just because they're funny, but because We get them. We feel We understand them, know them, can connect with them. Instead of ol' serious face, We get "Nice Guy," "Smart Aleck" or as a friend of Mine thinks of Olbermann, "Sexy Keith."

The problem for traditional media grows exponentially as We are increasingly deluged by data and information. As I wrote a while back (learning to learn and the Socratic Method) unless context is provided, information will not become knowledge. Most people rely on others for context, many can provide it themselves (self-teachers), but any method that can increase contextualization will (a) make learning easier, (b) provide an expanded perspective and (c) create trust.

Funny teacher: makes learning fun, you "see" more, you like him or her because you feel you get him or her, so you develop a bond of trust.

Who's considered the most trustworthy "anchor" in the States right now? Many have voted for Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show. (He does rate much higher in popularity than the murderous loser in the Oval Office.) That doesn't mean Jon is a better news "reporter," only that We think he is...because We feel better with him than with the others.

And that (finally) goes back to bloggers. Aníbal himself points out he trusts local bloggers (including Yours Truly) more than the media. He found voices that resonated with him, that viewed the same world he lives in and commented on it in a personal way he could identify with. That's context. Agree or disagree, The Soldier feels a resonance with what he reads and eventually develops a feeling of trust, so in the end, he moves away from traditional media and relies more and more on what he feels is a truer (more in tune with his own) vision.

All consistent bloggers have one thing in common: a strong need to share. In order to feed that need, the blogger must adhere to certain principles: Be clear, be interesting and above all, be passionate. In essence, be honest and forthcoming so that the sharing creates and builds trust.

What The Soldier and many others see in traditional media is the opposite: unclear, slanted views verging on hysteria that turn Us off and make Us leery. I'm not saying that bloggers don't lie, go ballistic over trivia and are all as interesting as gift-wrapped boxes on your birthday (November 12th, n'est-ce pas?)--what I'm saying is that bloggers are already closer to earning Our trust than the discounted media because blogging is personal and it is in that personal context that bloggers can make the greatest impact.

That Aníbal urges local bloggers to "Puerto Ricanize" their blogs is a good thing. I hope I succeed in doing that, but if I don't, I hope The Soldier or someone else I respect will tell me how to make the needed corrections. Because The Soldier is right: Given Our current situation, Our media dominated by an outlook that's best described as "Americanized modified by Mexican/Venezuelan hybridization" (it's worse than it sounds) and a seeming paucity of rational voices aimed at finding ways to achieve progress, Our best bet is blogging. On Our blogs We can blast away, illustrate, pontificate, evaluate, denigrate, compliment, solve, display and do so much more to Our heart's and mind's content. But We need to remember, too, that We have no better, no more powerful topic, than Ourselves.

[Note: This post turned out longer and more involved than I expected. But I'd hate to have The Soldier feel My effort was weak and have him bark: "Drop and give me 20!!" Because I know I'd answer: "Twenty what?...Sir."]

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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