Reports on the Demise of the Blog are Quite Exaggerated
Crisisblogger Gerald Baron makes a good point with his latest post. He recently participated in an oil spill exercise and was amazed at the lack of citizen journalism begin practiced there. He felt that this type of situation would be one in which bloggers would excel. A team of bloggers could pepper the web with video clips, stories and immediate engagement from the reading audience. Based upon the audience reaction, bloggers could drive the story, potentially highlighting crucial aspects that more traditional journalists have overlooked or ignored. Not incorporating bloggers into this communication network is a decision (active or not) that we might regret.
I feel very strongly that reaction to future crises, disasters and events will be driven by Web 2.0 social networking software. Immediate reaction will take place on a small scale. Twitter users were the first to hear about an earthquake in Mexico before the information was even posted on the USGS earthquake tracking website. Facebook provided an, “I’m okay,” outlet for Virginia Tech students and families. Within a day, bloggers will start to upload content, including cell phone cam videos, of the scene and begin to build reaction. During Hurricane Katrina’s assault on the Gulf Coast, DailyKos.com diarists compared photos of President Bush strumming a guitar and eating birthday cake with devastatingly powerful images of downtown New Orleans drowning.
Some of the folks working drill with Baron believed that “No one pays any attention to blogs.” Yet traffic at DailyKos.com peaked at nearly 22 million views October 2006. Granted, this was because it is a political site and that was a very political season, but you begin to see the types of numbers bloggers can command.
Baron noted the dismissive-ness of these professionals toward bloggers in general, and I agree with him that our public information folks ignore them at all of our peril. Citizen journalism, as it as been called, is a great and growing phenomenon. Gone are the days when Americans, and the world, depended on news anchors and tomorrow’s newspaper for reaction. People now expect to form their own opinions, and tell all of their friends about those newly formed opinions. Imagine the cacophony of information that will erupt during the next crisis. It will be there, we can ignore it and deal with the consequences later, or we can become willing and active participants in the social media and help to guide reaction before unfriendly bloggers do.