Thursday, August 20, 2009

Harry and the Bloggers

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2009 at 9:51 PM

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When I recently interviewed musician/writer/comedian/actor and blogger Harry Shearer for a story about the upcoming local blogging conference, Rising Tide, Shearer had a lot to say about this newer medium

Here’s the rest of the interview.

Did you like so many others feel compelled to start blogging after the levee failures?

“I had already started this media criticism on the Huffington Post and being privy to what New Orleanians were hearing in our media — Times Picayune and WWL (radio) — versus what people were getting from the national media, I saw a great and growing disparity," Shearer recalls. "Since I had this national platform, I had the opportunity to fill that hole or correct that disparity and say, 'Wait a minute. That's not what we're finding out here.”

At this point, Shearer told me a story of how he called out NBC’s Brian Williams, asking Williams why the mainstream media only focused on the individual, tragic stories of Hurricane Katrina, but never told a national audience why the levees broke.

“They’ll tell sob stories until the cows come home instead of saying why.”

What’s the role of bloggers in this Information Age?

“I think some people are just blowing off steam. Some people see themselves as part of a movement; some people see themselves as trying to plug holes in the information structure. I think there are an awful lot of roles bloggers play.”

Are they journalists?

“I don’t consider what I do as citizen journalism. The real journalists are the people who actually do it like Mark Schleifstein and John McQuaid and Lee Zurik. Basically what I try to do is connect the work that real journalists do with a wider audience they might not be exposed to because they think Anderson Cooper is really covering New Orleans. I think it’s important to distinguish between people like us who are basically sort of tugging the nation’s sleeves and saying ‘Look what people are uncovering here, and the people who are doing the uncovering.’ I think there’s a big difference since I did actual journalism for a while, (and) I think it’s important to draw a distinction and not call everybody who blasts on the Internet a so-called citizen journalist.”

Do you read any of the local blogs?

“Every once in a great while. It’s not part of my regular thing. Sandy Rosenthal hips me to some stuff from time to time. And I see some others from time to time, but not day in and day out, no. I don’t read a lot of bloggers day in and day out simply because I’m trying to actually get information as opposed to opinions and secondhand things. I try to go as close to actual information as I can get.”

I did explain to Shearer that there were some New Orleans bloggers that were doing citizen journalism, and he told me to send him some links.

Any wisdom or advice for local bloggers?

“People who do stuff for free (he laughs) really don’t need any advice. If they were going to go into it for real, I’d say good writing never hurt anybody trying to communicate. People are doing this for free to just express themselves mainly, so they know what they’re doing.”

Any preview of what you’re going to address during your speech?

“No because I don’t know yet.”

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