The regulation (or perceived lack of) of blogs has been a pet peeve of the more traditional forms of media for quite a while now. They contest that there are no standards governing this new breed of journalism and that this somehow poses a threat to the public. They’re wrong. The regulation of the mainstream media is designed to protect the public from large organisations with a lot of power and influence, who may abuse this position. This issue is of even greater concern in the modern era, as media ownership becomes more concentrated in the hands of the few. However, in many ways, the dawn of the internet has lessened the need for this regulation, as people are less and less dependent on mainstream media for their information. We are able to do our own research, with access to viewpoints across the globe. In this context, blogging actually lessens the need for regulation of even the mainstream media. The fact that most people are still too stupid to do this research is besides the point.
In addition to this, and perhaps blogs have assisted here too, people now don’t believe the mainstream media to be unbiased and neutral, they can see through the facade. Equally, how many blogs boast the influence and power of the major media organisations? Speaking for myself, I doubt I have enough readers to be truly “influential”. I consider it a good day if I’ve even influenced one person to rethink their views on some issue. A perfect example of this can be found in my coverage of Live Earth and the Global Warming “Crisis” theory. When I used my blog to state that the event was a farce I doubt many people took it on board. Certainly, there were no comments to suggest anything of the sort (or search engine hits). And yet when the mainstream media began asking the very same questions, I suddenly saw a great deal of hits from search engines, as people search for terms like “Live Earth farce” and questions like “Where is the money from Live Earth going?” That shows disparate influence.
There are at least two further flaws in this argument, one for the UK regulatory system, and one for the US. In the UK, the PCA (Press Complains Authority) is a voluntary regulatory scheme, and the sole reason that organisations volunteer to be regulated, is simply that they want to avoid what they perceive (probably correctly) will be harsher regulation by the government. If I distributed a simple pamphlet in my neighbourhood with my own editorials on news issues (which is basically blogging for the Amish), I would not be regulated unless I chose to be, and it would be unlikely that, as such a small concern, I would actually go to the effort. Even if I did subject myself to this regulation, the PCA is pretty lenient on its own profession (unsurprisingly). Of course there are other, legal, regulatory factors, like defamation, but these apply equally to blogs as they do to other forms of media, so in that sense, we too are regulated.
And as for the US, where the main peeve of the mainstream media relates to privacy, the phantom constitutional right that is not actually in the constitution (even with a very broad interpretation), the argument boils down to freedom of expression (which is actually in the constitution) versus privacy. The mainstream media act as if the US judiciary haven’t juggled rights before, and yet if you look at the jurisprudential history of the US, courts have always shown a willingness to balance rights. Privacy and expression have been juxtaposed before, notably with the mainstream media itself. So, I ask you, why do they act like this is any different with blogs? Bloggers can be taken to court, and the same arguments will rage. Perhaps the concern is that where judges see Freedom of the Press as a commercial matter, individuals’ Freedom of Expression is normally seen as sacred. In truth, they’re probably right to feel as if courts are much less likely to enforce privacy concerns against blogs, but if the press had not allowed privacy to erode the law of defamation in the US (no doubt seeing privacy as the lesser of two evils) then they’d have less to bleat about now.
Ultimately blogs aren’t going away, so mainstream media will have to lump it.