Northern Voice 2006: my day one

Today was the Northern Voice 2006 blogging conference’s first day of two days. It was a more informal open day that the kids are calling MooseCamp [nv], to go with the theme of having a moose in the logo.

I had originally intended to write a full day review, but that post ended up being a bit too combative, so I’ve deleted it and decided to give it another go after taking some downers and letting my faux j-school rage subside.

I think I made the mistake of attending the more philosophical sessions, as opposed to the ones that focus on the nuts, bolts and HTMLs of blogging. So instead of learning much new about the technical aspects aspects of blogging I intended to learn about the societal impact of blogging, podcasting, video blogging and all of this internet thing.

The general thrust of most of the sessions I attended, such as John Anthony Hartman’s "We are the media" and Kurt Cagle’s "Blogging and the future of (the) media" was that blogs and the internet were awesome tools and the big media companies had best watch out because bloggers are coming to get them.

Which I think shows a generally failing to understand what journalism is. Bloggers tend to be pundits, the cyber equivalent of a Robert Novak. Sometimes they might get a tip from someone, but very few bloggers go out and report. They might, like we often do here, link to a story reported by a major media outlet and then comment on it, but that doesn’t make us reporters anymore then yelling at my television during a hockey game makes me Don Cherry.

How much more of an idiot can I be? Find out after the jump.

A lot of new media believers will point to Rather-gate [wp] as the moment when the blogs surpassed the traditional media outlets, but show me the sequal to that. I can point to countless stories broken by university papers [var] but I’m not going to suggest that you’re going to put down the Globe & Mail and get all your news from The Varsity.

At best there is a symbotic relationship between blogs and the traditional media. Smart media outlets like the Guardian have their writers keep blogs, and syndicate their feed via RSS to make it easier to access for readers and bloggers.

Between sessions I picked up a copy of the Ubyssey, the student paper of UBC (Northern Voice 2006 is being held at UBC’s Robson Street Campus) and it was a far better source of new (as opposed to linked) information than most local blogs. Blogs are great if you want a review of a movie, or a local eatery or you need an opinion on where to buy shoes or to relate what happened in the bloggers life. But so few have the time to, or are even interested in, doing proper journalism and get two sides to the story, interviewing people, fact checking and so forth.

It’s quite likely that soon all media will move to the internet, but those traditional structures will still be there. We may read The Globe & Mail or watch the CBC online but our main source of news will still be an editorial department.

Blogs and independent citizen driven news outlets may have a role to play in the new world of online journalism but in general they aren’t there yet. To talk about how they’re going to change media as we know it is sort of like calling up the Vancouver Canucks scouts to come see you’re son play hockey when he’s five years old. Maybe one day, but we’re not there yet.

Having said that I’m looking forward to day two of Northern Voice 2006, and hopefully I won’t get beaten up the other bloggers for this post tomorrow.

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