Friday, May 29, 2009

The Responsibility of the Blogger

The Responsibility
of the Blogger

While America may boast the best paid bloggers, it certainly does have the most important. That distinction goes to bloggers like Hao Wu of China, who was imprisoned for 140 days for writing about “subversive subjects online”, and Omid Reza Mirsayafi, a 29-year-old cultural blogger who died under mysterious circumstances in an Iranian jail after being sentenced to two years for insulting “the Supreme Guide Ayatollah Khomeini”.

These so-called “cyberdissidentsweren’t writing fiery polemics online calling for the overthrow of their country – quite to the contrary, they dared to write the truth about their oppressive governments, usually couched in satire to tone down the sting of their reporting. They knew full well the danger of writing what their newspapers were afraid or forbidden to print, but they understood that it was their responsibility to their country, the international community, and themselves, to use the most powerful mode of communication in the world to expose injustice and call for change.

While we can breathe a sigh of relief that America is not a tyrannical state like China or Iran, we should not be so quick to pat ourselves on the back. According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2008 analysis, the United States ranks a dismal 36th among the world’s nations for freedom of the press and the “efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.” America’s ranking ties it with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, South Africa, Spain, and Taiwan, and sets us behind considerably behind countries like Namibia (tied for #23), Latvia (tied for #7), and Luxembourg (tied for #1).

Some may dismiss this ranking as another shameful legacy of the Bush years, but we are almost certain to once again tumble lower on this list under the Obama Administration as the nation’s newspapers quickly perish and the few surviving news sources fall victim to both devastating newsroom cutbacks and media consolidation.

However, while it may well be too late to save our newspapers, it is not too late to save journalism. That’s where bloggers come in.

At this year’s Brooklyn Blogfest, hundreds of bloggers from New York City came together to discuss “why we blog”. Some bloggers said their motivation was self-expression; others wanted to focus on an interest; and Jake Dobkin, founder of The Gothamist, got the strongest response by offering strategies to make money from blogging.

Unfortunately, all of these reasons are tantamount to teaching a student how to write great poetry, and then telling that student they should use their newfound gift to get a job writing greeting cards.

What is extraordinary about the Blogfest is that it brings together hundreds of passionate, thoughtful, observant, and talented writers and photographers, who are concerned for their communities and the welfare of the people around them. What is a failure of the event is that the bloggers are never told that together we outnumber the reporters at the New York Times and if we were all worked together as citizen journalists we could rival its worldwide influence.

Hao Wu and Omid Reza Mirsayafi understood intuitively the responsibility of blogging. They realized that blogging is a force so powerful that it can even stand up to Big Brother. Information, discussion, investigation – these are the core foundational components of democracy. Blogging is the most extraordinary tool in the history of media because it is the only weapon that truly levels the playing field between the haves and the have-nots and lets independent reporters write on a platform as accessible to the public as the largest television network.

As yesterday article’s “How Politicians and their Publicists Took Over the Press” from the True News blog made clear, the death of newspapers and the shrinking of America’s media has allowed politicians, developers, unscrupulous CEOs, and their ilk “to spin, scheme, and steal with impunity”.

The only recourse the citizens of this country have is to speak out wherever there is silence and ask questions whenever the explanations we are given are inadequate. Blog about the shady building going up on your block, blog about how your local elected official never returns your calls, blog about the sorry state of your child’s school.

Write the stories that are unwritten, and write the stories that have already been written better. If you do so, your fellow bloggers will follow your lead and eventually all of us might have the information we need to really know what’s going on in our world

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . The NYPD around Bloomberg shield him from reporters, something that never happen during the blood and guts Rudy Giuliani's administration. Giuliani never called a reporter a disgrace, he called them some other names. Good question Azi, you caught the mayor talking out of both sides of his mouth, which he has been doing the entire campaign. Creating jobs while the city is losing hundreds of thousands. Ask Speaker Quinn and the 27 bums on the council who voted for the Term Limits extension the same question. Bloomberg goes after a reporter here In a Term Limits Question, Bloomberg Sees ‘Disgrace’ and here Bloomberg pisses off reporter and here The Politicker and here Breaking News: Bloomie does it again! . . . Bloomberg want you to know $TIMULATING WAY TO LEARN A TRADE The city will pay for 90 people for medical training . . . You get the feeling for her reelection campaign Queens needs something to oppose Bloomberg on so she can refute the charges that she is the mayor's puppet PLASTIC-SACKS TAX AXED BY COUNCIL . . . He knows Future of newspapers is digital: Murdoch... . . . Watching Rev Sharpton and Eric Adams Black cop killed by white officer . . . The Daily News gets confused that Paterson press spins are just that, never ever intended to become real policy. Paterson real problem he does not have the political power to gain legislative support for any changes Editorial: Do it, Dave Gov. Paterson has drawn a line in the sand with the Legislature, vowing to enforce a strict limit on spending growth. This is one commitment that Paterson must keep. How much did Rattner and Morris' Play to Play rip offs of the pension fund cause this? State Pension Fund Takes A Big Hit, DiNapoli Reports Plunge in State Pension Fund . . . The Shame of New York Prince Harry asked when will the WTC be finish

Road to City Hall Katz's conflicts-of-interest From the NY Observer *** Bloomberg Thinks He Looks Like Elmo *** Bloomberg to reporter: You're a disgrace *** Manhattan District Attorney Candidate Seeks to Raise His Profile Richard M. Aborn *** Don't Ask Mike Bloomberg About Term Limits *** Bloomberg Blasts Reporter Over Term Limits Query *** Testy Bloomberg Calls Reporter a ‘Disgrace’ *** Union shocker: UNITE-HERE boss faces ax in labor war *** Many transit workers not eligible to vote for Roger Toussaint's successor *** Bloomberg calls reporter 'a disgrace' *** Dan Janison writes that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s ability to stay on-message *** Michael Schenkler writes, “We call upon Senator Schumer to step down from his protect-Gillibrand crusade.” *** The Queens Courier has some local endorsements *** Weiner drops out, has he turned his back on the city and his supporters? *** Sen. Gillibrand is asked why she should avoid primary *** Mayor-for-life's latest mini-snit: Guide to the perplexed

Pay to Play 'Tough' News expose spurs Housing Authority car-use changes *** Ralph Nader alleges that former DNC Chair and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe offered him money not to run in key states in 2004 *** NY comptroller to make announcement on pension *** Nader: McAuliffe Offered Cash to Leave Battlegrounds in '04 - Wash Post

An unprecedented demand for public-school seats is compelling the city to reopen an Upper East Side elementary school closed eight years ago for low enrollment *** A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW FALCONS' NESTS ON NY BRIDGES *** JERSEY'S SHORE SHOT IN VILLAGE *** BULLET GRAZES GIRL *** BQE CRASH HURTS 60 *** NYPD NIGHTMARE: COP SLAYS COP IN MISTAKEN-ID HORROR *** Zoning does not = city planning From the Gotham Gazette *** NYPD's crime numbers real or phony? From Gothamist *** Highline Expensive new park will be difficult to maintain From AM-NY *** NYPD officer fatally shot by friendly fire *** Police Officer Fatally Shot in Harlem *** Savings on Labor Allow Work on Residential Skyscraper to Resume *** New Program Links Parents to Children's School Records *** Man who claims subway sodomy sues NYPD for $220M *** Bloomberg to reporter: 'You're a disgrace' *** NYC teacher caught having sex with 14-year-old student in classroom... *** One of year’s largest leases signed *** Manhattan apartment rents sinking *** Schwarz family member upbeat on Toys' takeover *** SoHo restaurant Zoë files for bankruptcy *** Queens: Day Laborers Feeling The Recession Pinch *** At Last, Parents Will Get Access to Student-Tracking Site *** MTA offers mobile transit directions *** Prince Harry aiming to steer clear of controversy on New York trip *** Safety drives riders' tepid reaction to taxi-pooling plan *** Quinn calls fee on shoppers who pick plastic 'off the table' *** Share-a-cab's a 'win-win' for ChicagoShare-a-cab's a 'win-win' for Chicago *** Tenants in Harlem protest poor condition of apartments *** Charles Bagli notes how falling labor costs helped development get underway at the World Trade Center and other sites *** Investigation Continues Into Shooting Of Off-Duty Cop

Albany DEMS WANT SHELLY'S PLAN WATERED DOWN plan for mayoral control of the schools *** New York Chief of Insurance Stepping Down *** New York Chief of Insurance Stepping Down *** NY’s top insurance cop quits post *** Cuomo Widens a Probe Into Immigration Fraud *** Paterson Names a New State Budget Director *** Cop on Hiram panel in same station that probed assault *** There are more staffing changes in the governor’s office *** New taxes are about to go into effect in New York state *** Lawyers for Sen. Hiram Monserrate want to quash the indictment for allegedly beating up his girlfriend because one of the grand jurors works works in the police precinct that investigated him *** Some Democratic Assemblyman are pushing for less control than in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s plan *** The game of Paterson administration "musical chairs" also includes press secretary Errol Cockfield, Robert Megna as budget director and the rumored departure of several other officials *** State Pension Fund Takes A Big Hit *** Gov. Paterson questions management of first-place Mets *** Queens: Day Laborers Feeling The Recession Pinch

President Obama BAM, ABBAS TALK PEACE *** O'S PLEA FOR HEALTH CARE *** O, INCORPORATED WOULD AWE ROBBER BARONS *** Obama calling for better security for computers *** Obama urges halt to 'drift' in Mideast peace talks *** Gates: No reason to build up US troops in Korea *** Bush says he misses seeing servicemembers, WH food *** Obama moves to curb road-building in forests *** Obama calls on Israel to halt settlements... *** Obama Offers Prime Posts to Those Who Helped Bankroll Campaign... *** Obama Tells Hollywood Dinner: 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet'...*Video... *** White House spokesman blasts British newspapers... *** Bush: Information We Got Saved Lives *** Pentagon Plans New Arm to Wage Wars in Cyberspace *** Newspaper Writer Dragged Kicking And Screaming From Near Air Force One *** Obama: Health Care Now or Never *** Bush defends interrogation *** Generals back W.H. on abuse photos *** Gibbs slams Brit press, rape pix claims *** 'Cyber czar' announcement *** Obama walks fine line at Abbas meeting *** Clinton's hard line on settlements *** President Obama Must Not Stifle America's Dynamism - The Economist *** Obama, Incorporated - Rich Lowry, New York Post *** Obama’s European Energy Vacation - Max Shulz, The American *** Alone at the Table: Can Obama Engage Kim? - Michael Hirsh, Newsweek *** Defeating a Mad Man With Nukes - James Lewis, American Thinker *** Obama Can't Be Soft on North Korea - Christian Science Monitor *** Bush Defends Interrogation Policies - Detroit Free Press

Supreme Court Debate over who Sotomayor is a sensitive one *** NRA'S BIG GUNS HOLDING FIRE - FOR NOW *** BLOG TEEN'S SUPREME IRE RIPS SONIA AS A FOE OF FREE SPEECH *** Sotomayor's views on abortion rights are unknown *** Obama says health care changes must come this year *** Abortion Rights Backers Reassured on Nominee *** Sotomayor's net worth probably on low end of federal judiciary *** Why Pro-Choicers Shouldn't Fret Over Sotomayor *** NY1 Exclusive: Sotomayor Faces Ballot Box Discrepancy *** Nominee’s Links With Advocates Fuel Her Critics *** Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament *** The Empathy Issue The crucial question in evaluating Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice is not whether, but how, she relies on empathy or emotion in rendering decisions, Brooks *** Top GOP Senator Repudiates Gingrich, Limbaugh Comments About Sotomayor: "It's Terrible" *** Princeton key to knowing Sotomayor *** Sotomayor no fan of campaign cash *** W.H. urged to address 'racist' charge *** Cornyn: Leave Sotomayor alone *** New ad touts 'Primera Hispana' *** Supreme predicament for GOP *** The Washington Times writes that the mainstream media has given Sotomayor a pass *** An examination of Sonia Sotomayor’s relationship to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund “seems inevitable.” *** Sherpa Plays Crucial Role in Confirmation Process - Mike Memoli, RCP *** Americans Support Sotomayor For Supreme Court, Poll Finds

Congress & GOP D-DAY FOR THE DEMS SOUL-SEARCHING OVER SECURITY *** Dems Tried to Bribe Nader? *** GOP insiders : Don't fight Sotomayor *** Advice to GOP: Rebut and confirm? *** Moran site flags McAuliffe mailer *** Dodd's first ad features Obama *** GOP ad: 'Pelosi's Crowd' *** RNC tries to pull its own Pelosi ad *** Cantor endorses Whitman *** House Gun Foes Mistakenly Vote with the NRA - CQ Politics

Wall Street Mess Economy's fall still bad - even if less steep *** FINAL COUNTDOWN GM BONDHOLDERS GET LAST-CHANCE OFFER TO SWAP DEBT *** VERSACE'S BUSINESS MODEL STUMBLES ON THE CATWALK *** U.S. Seeks Balance at Auto Firms *** Tenants target Fannie Mae for upkeep dollars *** Revlon to eliminate 400 jobs in restructuring *** It’s Thankless, but He Decides Madoff Claims *** The Big Inflation Scare
Does the big inflation scare make any sense? Basically, no. And I suspect that the scare is at least partly about politics rather than economics., Krugman *** It’s Thankless, but He Decides Madoff Claims *** Dell, Its Quarterly Earnings Down 63%, Predicts Recovery *** Campaigns Address Today’s Anxieties by Looking Back *** More Homeowners Facing Foreclosure *** Financial Overhaul Raises Questions *** GM in Last Lap to Chapter 11 *** Dell Warns PC Market Hasn't Hit Bottom *** P&G to Expand Lower-Cost Line-Up *** Nader and Weissman: Obama's GM Plan Looks Like a Raw Deal *** GM and the U.S. Taxpayer - Los Angeles Times *** U.S. Needs a Plan for Longer-Term Budget Mess - Washington Post *** Here Come the GM Bankruptcy Parasites - Daniel Gross, Slate

International COWBOY DIPLOMACY FOR NUKE KOREA *** Caught in China's Tight Flu Net *** Ahmadinejad hands out potatoes to buy votes... *** After Waterboarding: How Can Terrorists Be Made to Talk? *** Iran: U.S. Hired Mosque Bombers *** Ireland Injects $5.6 Billion Into Bank *** In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble *** North Korea Fires Again *** Berlusconi Can't Shake Sex Scandal *** China Takes On Swine Flu *** Child-Executions Debate Roils Iran Vote *** Israel Rebuffs U.S. on Settlements *** U.S. to Urge China To Shop, Not Save *** Taliban's Foreign Support Vexes U.S. *** EU Vote Makes Officials Nervous

National ON CLOUD $9: CHEAP AIRLINE'S SALES TAKE OFF *** VIRUS KOS FBI E-MAILS 9 DAYS - & COUNTING *** Expectant moms packing on too many pounds *** Schwarzenegger proposes 5% cut in California employee salaries *** L.A. Unified School District cancels bulk of summer school programs *** California could be the first state to cut student aid while hiking fees *** Holy Craps! How a Gambling Grandma Broke the Craps World Record *** Forests and the Planet With the rain forests shrinking and the planet warming up, it is crucial that the right domestic and global incentives are put in place, NYT Ed *** Arnold Wants To Terminate 220 State Parks *** Share-a-cab's a 'win-win' for Chicago *** Taxing Health Care - Wall Street Journal

Media & New Tech OH, WHAT A TWIT! TWEETING ROKER SORRY FOR TAKING JUROR PIX *** ERA ENDS FOR 'LATE' GREAT 'TONIGHT' WON'T BE THE SAME WITHOUT LENO *** LIONSGATE TO SELL 49% TV GUIDE STAKE *** BING IS THE THING GOOD REVIEWS, BUT GOOGLE'S STILL AHEAD *** FINALLY, IT'S CURTAINS FOR AOL TALE *** CONDé NAST'S LEX-ODUS BECKMAN LEFT BEHIND AS TITLES RETURN TO MOTHER SHIP *** Newspapers Collude to Save Themselves *** Tucker Carlson Says He’s Going to Save Journalism *** Future of newspapers is digital: Murdoch... *** Jay Leno Moments *** Microsoft’s Search for a Name Ends With a Bing *** Declining Book Sales Cast Gloom at an Expo *** Time Warner Board Backs AOL Spinoff *** Arianna Tells WaPo's Katharine Weymouth: Journalism Must Be Strengthened, Not Just Saved *** Google Wave: Google Introduces New Communications Platform *** ESPN Cuts 100 Jobs, Expects To Create Others *** 'Bing' to Take On Google *** Unilever to Test Mobile Coupons *** 10 Ways Twitter Will Change American Business

People and Places What Word Did She Spell To Win The National Spelling Bee? *** Lost Lincoln Letter Revealed *** Roosevelt Island's spooky ruins saved from extinction ***