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Horst Prillinger studied Communications/Media studies/Journalism and English at the University of Vienna, where he currently works as a librarian, teacher and university lecturer.
He uses weblogs to communicate with his students. Horst likes Asian food, weird movies, and travelling by underground.
Main Weblog: http://www.aardvark.at
“Are You Serious?” — the potential and the reality of weblogs as mass media, and why they matter
This paper attempts to challenge a few preconceived notions about weblogs as mass media, in particular the notions of ‘seriousness’ and ‘importance’ that are commonly bestowed on it. It also attempts to show that the communicative scope of the weblog as a form of expression lies significantly beyond the mere publication of ‘news’ with which it is commonly credited.
Weblogs are the most democratic mass medium that currently exists. In contrast to all other mass media, no technicalities other than Internet access and weblogging software are needed; everybody with little or no technical knowledge can publish a daily electronic journal for a potential audience of several million.
As a consequence, weblogs have often been seen as journalism, or even as the medium that will one day replace ‘traditional’ journalism. This in turn has sparked a long-standing discussion whether weblogs are journalism or not, to which the answer should be obvious: of course not!
A look at weblogs reveals that only a minuscule percentage would count as journalism; instead there is commentary, opinion pieces and punditry in abundance; similarly there is lots of semi-automatic republication of unverified news and rumours. Closest to journalism are those weblogs that can be seen in the tradition of the feuilleton; they come from anywhere in the grey zone between private experience, fiction, satire and plain banality.
The phenomenon of weblogs has contributed to the dilution of journalistic values such as careful research, the use of multiple sources and the whole editorial process that ensures that the published information is correct and valid. Indeed many weblogs are proud of doing away with this process. In effect, it does not matter. As a truly democratic medium, weblogs are not about what is true or not, but about what concerns one particular person. Their whole point is one individual’s distorted point of view.
Our society is hungry for these highly individualistic views of the world, be it for the gratification of social needs, their entertainment value or the novelty factor. Weblogs are, in a way, tiny ‘reality soaps’ that make it possible to ‘connect’ to people that are likewise minded, just as for others they allow voyeuristic glances into other people’s private lives.
But they are much more than that — they effectively turn all notions of what mass media are on their head. Content, newsworthiness, even truth do not matter any longer. Different rules apply. To take weblogs seriously (which we should), we must not take them too seriously. Weblogs are not journalism; quite on the contrary, they might just be beginning to revolutionise our concept of journalism. We’d better take note.
last update: Friday, July 23, 2004 at 10:32:29 AM-----------------------