May 7, 2009


Ryan Tate at Gawker didn't like it what David Simon ("David Simon: Dead-Wrong Dinosaur") had to say about bloggers and citizen journalists at yesterday's Senate hearing. Specifically, he didn't like Simon saying bloggers and citizens journalists aren't filling the role of professional journalists when it comes to covering government institutions.

To hell with that, Tate writes, because while he covered restaurants and hotels in the East Bay he met a few bloggers in Oakland who covered meetings with deep, obsessive concern: a newspaper reporter who spent a few years covering a town much like Baltimore — Oakland, California — I often found that bloggers were the only other writers in the room at certain city council committee meetings and at certain community events. They tended to be the sort of persistently-involved residents newspapermen often refer to as "gadflies" — deeply, obsessively concerned about issues large and infinitesimal in the communities where they lived...

Collectively, these bloggers are doing just what Simon suggests: attending meetings, developing sources and holding government accountable every day.
They may be doing fine, important work, but they're not doing just what Simon suggests. If they devote themselves to a beat and follow certain standards (like not getting deeply, obsessively involved in the issues they cover), then, they'll be doing what Simon suggests. If they fan out across the country and cover big towns and small (not just Baltimore and Oakland), submit their work to editorial oversight and to strive for accuracy, fairness and accountability, they'll be doing what Simon suggests. And if they do, it's likely they'll want to get paid for the work.

Tate singles out the work of Echa Schneider, who blogs at, and points to a column in the San Francisco Chronicle as proof of her bona fides. She, however, seems less inclined to see herself as a replacement for professional journalism. From the Chronicle column:
When I called her Wednesday, [Schneider] reluctantly accepted a compliment as the city's No. 1 blog site, then complained about Oakland's lack of news coverage...

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