No sooner do I ask a question about how blogging would rate as a media development than I get an answer. At Online Journalism Review, blogs are the biggest thing since the Big Bang.
There’s something inherently fun about playing God. How else to explain the popularity of the third-person “God games” that have ruled the videogame charts? And when I got my two-year-old son the Little People farm scene and garage, he would play for hours, choosing the fates of those cute little plastic figures.
For way too long, it has been the mainstream media (MSM) that’s played God with the American public, telling everyone what’s news and what’s not, what to play up and what to downplay. But 2004 was the year the power started shifting, that the Little People, if you will, started to tell the gods of media what the public really wanted.
And most of that shift happened during the crucible that was the presidential election season. The year dawned with Howard Dean getting slavish press attention for his groundswell of Internet support, both in money raised and in activity on his sizable group Weblog. The campaign ended with the blogosphere quickly trashing documents in the controversial “60 Minutes” report on President Bush’s National Guard service. Even before there was a full report on what went wrong at CBS News, Dan Rather announced he was leaving his long-time anchor post.
In between, the bloggers became the place for news for political junkies — even if it was from within the news organizations, such as ABCNews.com’s The Note or National Review Online’s The Corner. The mealy-mouthed, straight-laced MSN accounts of sound bites on the campaign trail were easily trumped by bloggers who graded the debates, argued over the Bush bulge and derided polling techniques as well as political contributions from journalists.
Not surprisingly, humorists such as The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and Ana Marie Cox (a.k.a. Wonkette) scored high as influential media icons as the “real” journalists’ credibility faded. The blogosphere and online media has always been the perfect venue for personality-driven content, forwarded e-mail jokes and all-out rants.
Of course, the bloggers weren’t the be-all, end-all for 2004. In the political realm, advocacy groups used the Net to take their issues to the public and the media, while political candidates dallied with online ads but never really made a major economic plunge. Plus, the radio world was rocked by Howard Stern’s defection to satellite radio and the podcasting craze.
And citizen journalism started to sprout in small communities around the country, with Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media” book becoming the bible for media operations trying to tap into participatory journalism. Gillmor himself even announced plans for a grassroots media startup company, right as two other high-profile ventures, BackFence.com and Pegasus News, came out of stealth mode.
Once again, I polled colleagues to find out what they thought were the important events, people and media outlets of the past year, while also nudging them for predictions of the coming year. The following is a selection of their comments, along with their Top 5 lists of the most influential people and happenings in the changing media realm.