Media and the Heisenberg Effect

Originally uploaded by triviaqueen
Are bloggers reporters? If they document current events for distribution to an audience, what differentiates them from schmoes who work two floors up from a printing press?
Two things make the difference-- or you think they do.
First, reports and newspaper photographers get paid. Bloggers don't get paid in any more than online cred. The truth is much blurier. In real cities (I do not live in a real city-- I live in a town with Tiny-Man syndrome-- a town called Victoria), reporters earn good incomes-- five digit and maybe even six-digit salaries. In Victoria, some reporters trade across from reporting to careers at Subway where the money is the same, but the hours and job security are better. Photographers largely go unpaid as volunteers who get the privilege of special access to special events. Bloggers are also mostly unpaid. For every Perez Hilton, there are 10,000 Mike DeWolfes. My blog is my surrogate for a blanket email to people; people to whom I would rather not spam with paranoid rants and Internet flotsam. Whatever the reason, people blog. If you didn't pay a blogger, they'd keep doing it. If you didn't pay a reporter or newspaper photographer he'd put in his resume at the HMV. It would be nice if I got paid to blog, but I do not.

Second, reporters are respected and sought out-- you try to get them to do a story on you. By constrast, bloggers are skivey shut-ins who stopped playing WoW long enough to spew bile. Reporters and photographers get special access so they can feature and event. Great. The clear example of how special access doesn't do squat came up today. At the Oak Bay Tea Party, a new company had supplied the midway rides. While I never thought West Coast Amusements had any special mojo, when they were replaced this year, the contrast stood out. Random snaking lines intertwined throughout the midway in a chaos pattern. The worst line was the ferris wheel. It was a 45-min. Bataan Death March. I took my daughter off to another ride while my wife stood in the ferris wheel line. We stood in the other line, took the other ride and returned. The ferris wheel line had not moved. My wife and I tried to figure out what the hold up was. A scan of the wheel uncovered a dufus (see photo-- Hey, buddy, Billy Corrigan called from 1998: he wants his look back.), His seat at the top was rocking and rolling as he took photos with his telephoto lens and instructed patient/trapped riders on how to look and when to get out of the way. All the while, the line-up below got longer and longer. When I asked the operator what was going on, the carnie could only say, "He's from the paper. The newspaper." Oh-- he's from the paper-- that explains why he-- unlike the other riders-- could free-ball around the highmost seat without a seat belt or a restraining bar.

Here's the joke: for all of this pandering to the press, the Oak Bay Tea Party won't benefit in the slightest. This event runs three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. "Billy Wannabe" was taking snaps and screwing over the Sunday afternoon attendees. His pictures might run in the Monday or Tuesday newspaper-- that is unless some big blows up-- in which case his photos will NEVER run. These photos may show up 360 days before the next Oak Bay Tea Party. What's the good of that? Giving Billy this level of access does nothing for the event except piss-off dozens of attendees. It did piss them off-- some people stayed in the line-up for 45 minutes while he jostled for the right angle: a number of people gave up-- they likely made the decision that the Tea Party is too crowded and the line-ups are too long. Thanks, Billy.

I argue that giving press free reign and locking the doors to bloggers does nothing for the people who try to benefit from exposure. While Billy's photos may or may not show up 24 hours too late, a blogger could issue nearly real-time posts. Why would a blogger bother? While Billy is holding up the line, better photographers are left waiting in the crowd with nothing better to do than take pictures of a hapless "professional photo-journalist."


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