City Paper is not for tourists
On Monday, bloggers around the world are encouraged to devote their energies to blogging about the environment—-and nothing but the environment. As the narrator of this video explains, with all the ungrammatical, tautological gravitas she can muster: “We’ll be doing what bloggers do best: blogging.”
Blog Action Day’s slogan is, “What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day?” Very little, I imagine. After all, plenty of other media outlets publish articles about the same issues every day—-without gimmicky excuses for covering them—-and don’t presume any shifts in the international consciousness. Blog Action Day seems to figure that if everybody blogged about the same thing at the same time something big would happen—-like that old bong-hit discussion about whether the earth would fall off its axis if everybody in China jumped at the same time.
Blog Action Day also plays into stereotypical, and often wrong, notions about how Old Media behaves. It’s a new version of the old complaint a) that big stories are always under-reported; and b) that media are obligated to make activist responses to those big stories. Anybody who’s worked at a news outlet (or read a comment thread) has heard it a million times: “How come the media isn’t reporting on [insert injustice here]?”
The obvious retort, as San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll once put it, is simple: “How did you hear about it?” What’s usually called “under-reported” is often simply under-cared-about. I type “Darfur” into the Google News search field, and more than 15,000 results spring up, referencing stories from the AP, BBC, New York Times, and other outlets that are allegedly ignoring this big story. What do you think happens when I type in the word “environment”?
Besides, didn’t bloggers get into blogging precisely to avoid these sort of top-down dictates about content? I don’t doubt that a few blogs that make covering the environment their mission—-Treehugger, Gristmill, and Worldchanging, most notably—-will take advantage of the opportunity to make a bigger noise about themselves. But Oct. 15 has real potential to show bloggers doing what they do worst: unthinkingly glom onto short-lived Internet memes, point fingers without evidence, and make a serious issue look faddish and unimportant.