The universe seemed to be conspiring yesterday to keep me from getting as much as I could have out of yesterday’s WCCO TV-hosted "bloginar" at a Dunn Brothers in Minneapolis.
I left the office at 5, traffic was a bitch so I got there at about six and then practically from the moment I walked through the door, I started getting work-related emails that distracted me; after the event, I had to leave right away so I really didn’t have much chance to mingle and get to know some of the bloggers I follow.
Still, it was a very interesting evening. And the most interesting thing, I think, is the mere fact that a local television station is convening bloggers.
There’s a bit of an awkward dance going on right now about what the relationship between bloggers and journalists should be. We bloggers still have an inferiority complex when it comes to mainstream media while many journalists are a bit intimidated by the whole wild west of the blogosphere.
It made eminent sense, then, for the headliners, as it were, to be two people who have lived in both worlds: WCCO TV reporter Jason DeRusha and the MinnPost’s Eric Black, formerly of the Star Tribune.
DeRusha and Black were a draw, for this crowdâ€”precisely because they
are mainstream names. I suspect that if WCCO-TV had headlined the event
with local bloggers instead of â€œnamesâ€ like DeRusha and Black,
attendance would have been lower.
Perhaps attendance would have been lower but the draw was not because DeRusha is a "name," it’s because he’s the darling of the Twin Cities blogosphere. He earned that distinction because he’s built credibility (as has Black, though he’s far less ubiquitous) by doing as the Romans do: He blogs, he comments on other’s blogs, he Tweets, he uses Facebook and Flickr…he’s one of us.
This type of gathering has the risk of becoming a bit narcissistic and self-indulgent; bloggers and journalists talking about…bloggers and journalists. And, indeed, that was what much of the evening was devoted to. That’s fine for those of us who are interested but there are a lot of bloggers who could care less, so it would be nice to see a variety of topics if these bloginars continue.
But, of course, I am interested in bloggers and journalism, particularly the economic module upon which investigative journalism can survive, if any.
While advertising budgets keep moving online, television advertising is still considered effective by many advertisers, so local TV hasn’t been hit nearly as hard as the newspapers by the migration of budgets online. The newspapers have been decimated by the combined forces of shrinking ad budgets, craigslist eating their classifieds revenue, and an upcoming generation for whom print is a nuisance, something that clutters rather than informs.
If you buy, as I do, that our society needs some type of mechanism for the public accountability role that investigative journalism fills that the previous economic model for print journalism in particular enabled, then the apparent death spiral of newspapers should be alarming.
Indeed, the whole rationale for the bloginar was to introduce area bloggers to WCCO’s blogger ad network. I’m a bit skeptical about the viability of such a network if it is to merely deliver banner advertising.
I don’t profess to have the answer, but if we want expensive investigative reporting–the kind that is beyond the resources of individuals or even bootstrapped citizen journalism organizations–to be a part of our public discourse, then we need to figure out how to do it.
Maybe it is the Minnesota Public Radio model but I think MPR is the exception.
Google became wildly successful because they figured out how to precisely match users’ commercial desires with commercial information only at the time users want it. Is it too late for someone to emerge as the Minnesota Google?
DeRusha talked a bit about mainstream media’s role as sort of API for raw news. That get’s close to where I think mainstream media can settle in as an aggregator of citizen generated content and a convenor of the citizenry. There’s a lot going on across the Minnesota blogosphere that right now is impossible to know about.
There’s gotta be money to be made by positioning yourself at the center of it all, providing the raw materials, and then aggregating, categorizing, filtering, and analyzing the output.
Google gets better by the day because of all the user behavior data they collect. Imagine the insight somone could gain (and the precisely targeted messages that could be delivered) by accumulating all that data.
As I said, I don’t know the answer but I sure hope someone comes up with one.
Afterward, they handed out prizes from their raffle, beginning with WCCO beach towels, of which Afterglide (a guilty pleasure) won one, then came some spa gift cards followed by–and here’s where I started paying attention–Twins tickets, which, I won!
Damn. Thank you very much, WCCO.
Other coverage of the bloginar: