A lot of mainstream media journalists (and now some big time CEOs) are steaming mad at bloggers. They have some legitimate concerns. But reading between the lines I think there's something more going on. Something about transparency, accountability and closing the gap between what you say and what you do.
Take a look at what Vanity Fair contributor Michael Wolff said in a public discussion:
"I want to stop rambling and finish up by telling you why I don't want to write a blog. Because I don't. At some point in the '50s Truman Capote was asked about Jack Kerouac, and he said, "That's not writing, that's typing," which is to some degree how I feel about blogs. I even hate saying the word blog. I hate being forced to say the word blog."
"When I look at that particular blog piece of software I react viscerally. I said, "Oh, I don't want this. I don't want to be part of this." There's that scene in Doctor Zhivago where the professionals and the intelligentsia are reduced to having to walk with the hoi polloi, and that's what I feel when I'm forced into this blog stuff."
At the conclusion an audience member asked Wolff: What role do you see blogs playing in the new ecology of information? They seem to have an impact. And Wolff revealed what really bothers him besides being near the hoi polloi (the rest of us):
"Well, they do have impact. Part of it is actually involved with a kind of further devaluation of information because what it sets up is this constant second-guessing of information. Which is not necessarily bad but it does lower the value of all information. You undermine that authority of information. But having been around this business now for some time I've learned that nothing lasts too long. By all rights, 18 months from now we should be looking back at this and all kind of embarrassed to say the word blog – I hope. (emphasis and ital are mine)
Wolff sounds like Eric Cartman bellowing at Kyle and Stan on South Park, "Respect My Authority!"
What Wolff calls "constant second-guessing" is just rigorous fact-checking. And its only when those facts don't check out does a journalist (or executive) like Wolff lose his or her authority. Blogs are simply allowing us to watch authorities more closely.
This watching of authorities will extend to every part of our business life. If a company advertises that customers should expect to be delighted the blogs will be watching to see if they deliver. If an executive makes an announcement that their company will do something the blogs will be watching to see if they follow through. And all the PR flacks in the world won't shield a leader from looking like a fraud or a hypocrite if what they say doesn't match up to what they do.
And as Jeremy Bentham observed, "The closer we are watched, the better we behave."
The blogs will be watching so closely it will be painful (for some). For the rest it will be the accountability we need to vigorously follow through.
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