Question from week 4

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

A fierce war between the mainstream media and blogs is underway. With the proliferation of blogs, the authority of mainstream media outlets has been challenged. As channels of the transmission of information, who turns out to be more influential in informing the public and shaping public opinions?

The following comics posted by Ross Miller sum it up very well!


Picture by ncomment – Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC 2.0)

According to the bar chart below posted by Ben Vershbow, it’s evident that mainstream media outlets such as New York Times, Washington Post, BBC etc., still play a leading role in informing the public. However, it’s also amazing that some popular blogs are not far behind.



Blogs and MSM: comparing influence

Picture by Technorati‘ –Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The unshakable status of MSM outlets can be explained by the following reasons. In the first place, the “editorial independence” owned by bloggers is double-edged. On one hand, as “both editor and publisher” themselves, bloggers are granted the opportunity to “reach a global audience” (Allen, 2010: 114). Nevertheless, the grassroots foundation of the blogosphere is also an inherit disadvantage. Originally serving as a platform for expressing personal emotion and sharing life stories, the blogosphere is still an “unfiltered environment” where rumors spread easily (Drezner & Farrell, 2007: 149). Also, due to the lack of fact-checking and deep investigation, a large amount of information in the blogosphere is superficial and even misleading. People are often dazzled by too many options, and ultimately turn to MSM for relatively reliable information.

Additionally, today’s MSM outlets have discovered the benefits of “collaborative structure”, which used to be unique to the blogosphere. Despite the fact that the blogosphere has provided today’s web users with a platform where “all voices can be heard”, however, “not all voices attract equal amounts of attention” within the blogosphere (Russell et al., 2008: 136). This has partly resulted from the transformative renovation of MSM in the recent decade. According to Russell (et al., 2008: 136), a large amount of MSM outlets have begun to use the “internet as a new distribution channel.” For example, today many professional journalists have started their own blogs. In comparison with news stories released by amateur writers, newspaper blogs are “carefully planned and checked” (Russell et al., 2008: 136).

Furthermore, “interactivity” has been established between readers and MSM outlets. Newspaper blogs allow comments and discussion about news. Some successful ones serve as “extension of their op-ed pages” (Russell et al., 2008: 136). The French daily “liberation” is a good example. During the period of the 2005 riots in France, the Liberation “used blogs as an essential aspect of their coverage” (Russell et al. 2008: 137). The public were encouraged to respond to questions raised by editors and comment on those issues through the newspaper blog (Russell et al. 2008: 137). The integration of blog content and reporters’ writings helped to reflect a more vivid and accurate image of the 2005 riots.

 2005 French-youth-riots

Picture by Antikafirphobia –Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC 2.0)

As far as I am concerned, in the information era, the relationship between mainstream media and blogs isn’t incompatible. Instead, as regards to the issue of democracy, in order to create a healthier public sphere, the MSM and blogosphere need to establish a co-dependent relationship.


Allen, R. (2010), The Impact of Blogging. Available from: http://RobbieAllen.com [Accessed: March 28, 2011].

Drezner, D.W. & Farrell, H. (2007), “Web of Influence”, Foreign Policy, Available from: www.foreignpolicy.com [Accessed: March 28, 2011].

Russell. A, Ito, M. Richmond, T and Tuters, M, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp.43-76


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