Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Brookings New Media Panel

Posted this over at my normal blog, and I figured I might as well add it here too, as it's rather relevant:
well, i've just returned from the brookings panel: The Impact of New Media. overall it was an interesting event, though hardly cutting-edge or anything. i figure that once the brookings institution holds a panel on blogging, the whole medium has more or less peaked (i see that tommy has already made fun of people who keep saying that, but i still think it's true, though not witty). but it was good. the brookings people tried superhard to be interconnecty and accessible to the internet and bloggers. there was a live webcast; several bloggers liveblogged the event while watching the webcast; the bloggers' thoughts as they liveblogged were shown on a big ass movie screen to the people attending the conference; and ruy teixeira blogged from the event while huddled on the ground in a corner of the room. SO META! i got the feeling, while watching the panelists watch the liveblogging screen, written by the livebloggers watching the panelists, that i was in an inescapable vortex of meta blogging hell.

wonkette, andrew sullivan, jack shafer, jodie allen of pew and ellen shatner of talkradionews.com were the panelists, and EJ dionne was the moderator. a lot of talk had been made about the fact that no "real" liberal bloggers were invited, but dionne pointed out that yglesias, josh marshall and kos had all been invited, but for one reason or another (including the fact that at least one of them never responded to the invite) didn't make it.

first off, i have to say that dionne is just as cute as a button, and i thought he did as good a job as possible of moderating. he was engaging, funny, and directed the discussion without being terribly forceful or annoying about it.

shafer, shatner, and wonkette, i thought, didn't really have too much to add to the discussion. shafer was entertaining at times, but then at one particular point when off on this strange rant about how slander is all in the mind of the person being slandered; i believe his quote went something like "one person's slander is another person's truth; it doesn't matter if i slander you and the courts find i didn't slander you and then you are still mad at me because i slandered you but it's not really slander and blogs can slander all they want!" yeah, his particular remarks about slander made just as much sense as my recap of them. other panelists tried to point out that slander does, in fact, exist in many cases; slander is not in the mind of the beholder - there is objective, factual slander - but shafer wasn't having any of it for some reason.

surprisingly, my favorite panelist was andrew sullivan, who arrived late to the panel. he has a very shiny, very red head, weird glasses, and talks in a strange hybrid english-american accent, but he probably reflected my own personal opinions about new media the best; ie, he was somewhere in between "blogs are the savior of the universe" and "blogs are the drug-addled rants of the uninformed proletariat." he thinks that blogging is a new literary genre, that it's more about commentary than real reporting, and that bloggers have to be true pariahs and outsiders in order to effectively comment on topics, otherwise they run into too many conflicts of interest or problems with hurting people's feelings. he did get whacked out though, talking about the women in the blogosphere argument that's been running around for a while. his opinion: blogs will always be dominated by men and that women aren't in any way being discriminated against. basically, i felt the gist of it was: women aren't saying anything worth linking to, so if they're not well-represented, it's their fault. at that point i went and stepped on his namby-pamby glasses and powdered his head, which was blinding me.

jodie allen also had some good points, i thought. she seemed to be less interested in the over-discussed point of "is blogging journalism?" jesus christ. who cares? it is, it isn't, it's different, it's the same, blah blah blah. she was more into "what the hell is going to happen with this medium, how are people going to intwine it with their news gathering, how will journalism pay for and sustain itself, and how can traditional journalism adapt to new media and use it to its advantage?" these are the serious questions that panels like these should actually address, and the kind of thing i want to work on at northwestern. she said she believes that in the Future! we'll all carry around little flat screen displays, on to which we can download newspaper articles, web surf, listen to audio and watch tv clips. this sounds kind of whacky, but i wouldn't be surprised if something like that eventually did replace or at least give competition to the basic print newspaper.

what she also said that i really believe in is that people are, more than ever, becoming their own journalistic assemblers. we're not passive consumers of traditional news sources; we're picking and choosing what we listen to and read and compiling, in essence, our own bureaus or, like, staffs. like we're the crazy newspaper editor and we decide that kevin drum is going to our go-to guy on social security; abu aardvark will be who we read for middle east coverage; kriston will give up the hott arts coverage; and for an overview of stuff and if i need to look up a particular point, i'll still read a lot of the washingtonpost.com site every day. and it's all delivered immediately and directly to your desktop, especially if you have a good RSS reader or a bloglines account (which you should really look into; i think the adaptation and integration of RSS is going to dictate and control a lot of the future of online journalism).

anyway. i'm getting a bit nerdy. overall: panel, fun, not incredibly revealing, but not a bad way to spend two hours getting out of work. and ana marie cox was wearing some nice shoes. but it's true - she really does make too many sex and drinking jokes, even in person. it actually got uber annoying. but her incorporation of the phrase "circle jerk" was probably the funniest and truest part about the entire panel.