Bloggers vs. Journalism
Mieto Marinadi talks about how a column by Matti Wuori in Iltalehti is asking if blogs could be journalism and whether they will overrun the traditional media. I think the fact that the question is being asked now shows clearly how much Finland is not a front-runner in the information society game. In fact, this question is not even asked yet by journalists, but a lawyer.
You see, ~PressThink says the conversation on this subject is already over.
But in order to overrun media, there has to be first a Finnish blog that has something to say in a way that is interesting and new. I much enjoy the writings of Sedis, for example, and I am expecting much from Haltia (and some other political bloggers), now that the Helsinki City Council is starting its work. The new Finland for Thought (in English) keeps also asking important questions, and Kari Haakana is probably the foremost journalistic blogger in Finland. At the moment, Sami Köykkä of Pinseri and Alex Nieminen of sukellus.fi are arguably the most influential bloggers in Finland.
But this is not enough. I don't know whether it's even a good start. Most of the "internet discussion" in Finland is done in the scary, yet boring discussion boards of magazines, such as Iltalehti, Iltasanomat, Vauva-lehti, etc, and it is pretty much failing to impact anything. There is little danger to any sort of professional journalism from these discussion boards, who mostly just consist of rehashing the same arguments all over again. The USENET has been in existence for twenty years, and every time I go there, I see the same discussions but with different people. Or sometimes with the same people. It makes you wonder whether these discussion boards ever contributed something to anything, other than in the sense of community creation.
To me, blogs are different from the discussion boards because they are individualistic. A news group is usually referred to by its name, say "the people in sfnet.keskustelu.ihmissuhteet say that...". Similarly in a bulletin board: "Hey, I found this from Vauva-lehti..." On the discussion board, you lose yourself and become a part of a bigger crowd, all shouting at the same time. But a blog is attached to a real person (except for some weirdos who can't seem to be able to decide whether they exist or not). Therefore, whatever a blog says carries more gravity than a random rambling on a news board. It is essentially your own personal publication, and the comments are only a side story - much like "from the readers" -sections on newspapers. Therefore, bloggers are not a community, any more than newspapers are. Some bloggers form communities, yes, but blogs are far too good a ground for egocentrism for communities to become prevalent.
The reason that I find blogs interesting is that they might be the avenue to a real way for individuals (particularly non-journalists and non-politicians) to influence local and national decision-making; the real "information society" that the Finnish media and technology visionaries have been talking about for quite some time now. (I think we can count discussion boards out of this already.) Blogs can keep talking about forgotten facts that the main media is too busy or disinterested to cover, and blogs can also become "flash crowds", a huge number of unsatisfied people who run after a singular cause. This is a powerful thing, if used right - dangerous, if used wrong.
This is, BTW, one of the reasons I oppose the word "verkkopäiväkirja" (literally "net diary") as the Finnish translation of "blog": Creating a believable weblog about current matters is somewhat more difficult, when people automatically assume it is a personal cat-sniffing, oh-i-am-so-alone -angsty kinda thing due to the use of the word "diary". (So yeah, it's a pet peeve. I'm entitled to four, and this is one of them.)
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